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    Question car running, no keys!

    Arrived at a MVA to find a newer model Toyota passenger vehicle up against the guardrail . Patient was out of car, minor injuries, and the motor was still running. Firefighter turned key to off position and removed key from ignition. Motor was still running! Damage to vehicle was to driverside front fender area. Had to remove negative cable from battery to shut off motor. Has anyone had this happen before and how? Car was not equipped with the remote start option.

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    I use to have an old chevy truck that would run if you took the keys out. The vehicle had not been wrecked, but it ran without the keys all the time. If you were good you could start the truck without any keys.

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    I had a Chev also that did that

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    A lot of cars have the actual electrical ignition switch under the dash mounted on the steering column. A small rod from the ignition key runs down the column to the electrical ignition switch. During an impact the rod can bend. This can result in the position where the key is removed can still leave the electrical switch on. Not very safe! The same thing applies to air bags still having power when key is removed. That is why the battery cable should always be disconnected.

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    sounds like a lot of chevys out there that don't require keys at all.
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    When a Chevy key gets worn down they have a tendancy to
    come out of the ignition while it is in the on position.

    As the tumblers wear it also becomes possible to start
    the vehicle without the key.

    Had a couple of them like this.

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    I don't think that being able to remove the keys with the ignition still in the on position is in question. Turning the key to the off position, and the ignition not shutting off is a whole different animal.

    Phil, since the damage was driver side front fender, was the steering column affected? This could translate to damage to the rod as Jim stated. Or, damage to the control module or wiring in the column that wouldn't allow the tumbler to deactivate the ignition.

    I've heard of using CO2, or even a dry chemical extinguisher in the intake. Cuts off the air and kills the engine. Same principle as the emergency shut off in your diesel fire trucks. Dry chemical is BAD for the engine though, so think about the urgency before using this method.

    Even in newer cars, the air intake tube usually comes out somewhere next to or below the radiator shroud to get plenty of fresh air and avoid the heat of the engine compartment.

    My opinion, cable cutters to the 'ol battery cables is quicker, lighter than the extinguisher, and less potential damage to the vehicle's engine.

    Jim, I have to disagree on the airbags though. All aibags have a capacitor that stores enough juice to fire the bags without the battery, in case the battery is damaged or dislodged in a front end collision. Much of the vehicles electric system (airbags, interior lights, lighter, some accessories, etc.) gets power directly from the battery, not controlled by the ignition. Disconnecting the battery does NOT automatically disarm the airbags. You have to allow enough time for the capacitor to drain before it is disabled.
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    We recently responded to a MVA involving a Ford Taurus that was doing the same thing. The car had been fleeing from our PD and crashed. One of the officers turned the switch off but nothing happened. Like you, we cut the cable to kill it.

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    Just a thought,

    If it isn't the battery making the car run what is it?

    I mean, Have you ever taken a battery out of the car while
    it was running and the car stays running? The battery starts the
    car and then the altenator takes over. So the car could still run after the cables have been cut.

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    Interesting situation. I think the easiest thing to do once you get the hood open would be to start pulling ignition wires to deny power to the spark plugs. In a newer car, pulling the battery cable would likely shut down the car since the battery powers the computers in the car. However, as it was pointed out, in an older car, the alternator runs the ignition system and the battery is pretty much just for operating the starter.

    As for extinguishers, I would bet that a dry powder would not do the job unless you can get enough powder into the air cleaner to entirely plug it up. For that to be effective, you would be better off the remove the air cleaner and dump the extinguisher into the intake. As for CO-2, they do work effectively for a run-a-way diesel, but I have not seen it demonstrated on an gasoline engine.
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    Originally posted by drkblram

    Never thought of the plug wires, I'm not so sure about reaching down in a strange engine to grab wires, I'd recommend GLOVES for that job
    Yeh... I agree with the gloves! I would be very leary of a transvers mounted engine as well. But for the old car that will run without a battery, it sure won't run when you disconnect the selenoid <sp> from the distributor!
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    Used a CO2 on a gas engine this summer, works fine, maybe a 2 second burst and the engine was dead.

    If you grab the plug wires you might get zapped, been there done that. If you're wet it hurts like hell, but I do not believe its a serious health hazard to a healthy person (sort of like peeing on an electric fence, not one to repeat such practices). Latex gloves are not thick enough to protect you from this shock.

    MikeF25, that's a good observation, if you just remove the cable from the battery it may continue to run anyway, however if you cut the cables, and seperate the 2 or 3 wires going to the post you will isolate the various sub electrical circuits.

    Most vehicles also have a relay box under the hood with the big fusable links (like big fuses) in it for the ignition and airbag systems (important to find this on a hybrid to pull the drive relays). If you start yanking the links and relays in there it should kill the engine also. However, if this box is crushed it might cause the engine to keep running as well.

    Golden oldie, ever put a potato in someone's tail pipe? If the exhaust system is in tact, blocking the tailpipe may also kill the engine, but any small leaks will allow it to continue to run.

    drkblram, those new higher voltage systems are yet another example of engineers run amok.

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    As FIRE304 mentioned grabbing plug/ignition wires can be a shocking experience, but It is not recommended to try this with any vehicle. There are some newer vehicles that run EXTREMELY high voltage ignition systems (particularily ford trucks) and there have been reports of major injuries and even cases of death when mechanics have made contact with these systems in DRY shop conditions. Now throw in some water and do the math. A good idea and a bad one all at the same time!!!

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    As an electronic engine controls specialist at one of the worlds largest Ford dealerships, I'd like to add my two cents...

    As to the original question, most engine control systems are powered not directly from the ignition switch but through a set of relays that is controlled by the ignition switch. These relays are often located in a power distribution box in the engine compartment. It is quite possible for the relays to become damaged in a collision and have their electrical contacts forced shut resulting in continued power supply to the engine control computer and thus the inability to turn off the computer (and therefore the engine) via the ignition switch.

    Use the CO2 if you can find the air intake leading to the airbox. If you can't find it, cut the large rubber hose that leads from the airbox to the throttle body and use the extinguisher there, or just crimp the hose over onto itself to choke off the engine. Be advised the engine may backfire if you do this!!

    The best option in my opinion is to locate the power distribution box in the engine compartment and just pull all the fuses and relays out. This will kill power to just about all of the accessories, relays, and switches in the vehicle. I haven't found a vehicle that this hasn't worked on yet, but of course, things do vary in life.

    As was pointed out, cutting the battery cable doesn't necessarily shut the vehicle down. While the engine is running, a majority of the vehicle's electrical power is supplied by the alternator which will often continue putting out power regardless of the battery being hooked up or not. Cutting all of the wires at the battery doesn't always work because alternator output is often routed to the power distribution box and not to the battery terminal.

    Sorry for the long post, keep the information coming.

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    I have an old VHS clip of a Florida car crash. Woman driver trapped. Firefighter in the back behind her holding spinal immobilization. Another firefighter in the passenger front seat attending to her injuries. Driver's door open; crews lifting the steering column up by ramming it from inside.

    Engine starts up all of a sudden and runs at full rpm. Car just sits there but the sound is deafening. People scatter. The firefighter inside the car has that 'deer in the headlight' look of panic.

    One firefighter tries to force the damaged hood open but is unsuccessful. Ignition switch turns but doesn't do anything.

    One quick-thinking firefighter shoots a dry chem into the crack along the side of the hood where the hood had buckled from the collision impact. The engine grinds to an air-starvation halt and everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief.

    Teaching points:
    Electrical system shutdown necessary prior to any extrication work

    Just because the engine is OFF when you get there, if you don't take pro-active action, it might not stay OFF.

    Ignition switch might not always work as you expect it to

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    A thought, one thing which should kill and engine, if cutting the battery did not, take the freshly cut positive cable and ground it to the engine block. This will cause an arc and should not be done if there is a danger of a gas spill involved. If the wheels are turning and you need it stopped NOW! touch that positive and short out the entire electrical system, it will fry the alternator, may damage the computer, but the engine will stop running.
    Last edited by Fire304; 01-14-2003 at 04:28 PM.

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    "it will fry the alternator, may damage the computer, but the engine will stop running." deploy the air bags?
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    As a mechanic with no airbag experiance (other than FD stuff) I would guess no, it should not set off the air bags, might actually disarm them quicker by discharging the capacitors, but that is just a scientific guess, not based on any direct knowlege. You are not applying any current to the system which is not already there, you are in fact taking it away. I would hesitate to do this, as I said it would arc, but say you had a person under the car, wheels turning, key did not work, you cut the cable, its still running, if you don't have a fire ex near by, ZAP!

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    My '70 Buick Wildcat ignition was like that. The lock was so worn out that you only needed the key to "break" the steering lock. We also had a '69 Mini (with dash mount switch) and on a good bump it would fall out. This was the first car I drove, and quickly learned that with a padlock key, I could get into the door locks and the ignition would turn. The only lock that was not worn out was the one to the trunk. I always prayed that I would not get a flat tire!
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    There would have to be an extreme set of circumstances going on before I'd ever stand by and watch, or personally, short out a car battery in an attempt to shut it down. My experiences with them have been such that this is the best way to get a good fire started. How about a pike pole or pick headed axe and tearing off the coil and distributor wiring?

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    I'd be a little leary of swinging an axe at a distributer that was still running, they spin at 1/2 the rpm of the engine, so you may find a bit of shrapnel flying off them. Not to mention the possibility of shearing off a major chunk on an alum block or busting the fuel rail on a newer car and starting a fuel fire.

    You're right about extreme situation, the only time I could imagine doing something that drastic (and not waiting for the CO2 extinguisher) would be spinning wheels with vic' under and ignition doesn't work/can't be accessed.

    When we were talking about grounding the wires, it was not the battery that we'd ground, it would be the wire going from the alternator to the battery, after cutting it didn't work, much less juice. Shorting the battery would most likely cause an explosion and should be avoided at all costs.

    If you're gonna wait for the pike pole, you might as well wait for the CO2 extinguisher. We're talking about doing this on the rush, with what's in your pocket.

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    One safety caution about being near any vehicle at a crash scene that has the engine still running. It may still be in gear. Don't get in front of (or dirctly behind it for that matter) while you are initiating a battery shutdown.

    Teaching point... Has your crew practiced shutting down a battery where the front of the vehicle is off limits? Try it and come up with your own options for this very realistic possibility.
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    Originally posted by rmoore
    Has your crew practiced shutting down a battery where the front of the vehicle is off limits?
    Thanks for the great idea, it will be tough figuring out how to get the hood open w/o standing right in front of the car!

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    Spinning wheels, vic underneath.

    That is tough. I'm not sure I would attempt opening the hood on that.

    Guess it would depend on the situation, but what about that very subtle weight shift while opening the door or hood, or if someone not paying attention leaned on the car. Car may get good contact with the road and take off.

    That would solve the problem of how to get them out from uunderneath it though.
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    Default Engine kill switch

    Went to a t-bone involving an older Mercedes a few months ago. I chocked the wheels of the still running car and reached in to turn off the ignition but the keys had already been removed by the police. We opened the hood and found an engine kill switch mounted to the block with a big red sticker that said 'STOP' on it. Car was a diesel, not sure if any other vehicles have this type of switch.
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