Ford touts it own horn – Click above to watch video after the jump

You'd think designing a car horn would be easy. Press the wheel, make it beep, and call it a day. It's more complicated than that, as Ford's Patricia Seashore can explain.

Ford adapts its horns to suit the needs of drivers around the world. Different cultures use the horn in different ways . As a result, vehicle horns must be tuned for the amount of use they'll receive, as well as the tone they produce.

In North America, the horn is used less for warning others ("Hey, watch it, pal!") than it is for friendlier communication ("Hey, I'm outside to pick you up!"). Ford tunes our horns to emit richer, more pleasing tones than past horns, but they're still designed to get your attention. South American drivers, on the other hand, get a horn tuned for short, rapid bursts of sound. In India, Ford installs disc horns that have a longer life than our trumpet horns, which is necessitated by Indian drivers' heavy horn usage.

Beyond cultural differences, Seashore's team also studies different environments and how they'll affect horn performance. Chinese drivers are serious horn users, so horn longevity is important. Chinese cars also need horns that can handle extreme heat and cold, plus a wide range of altitudes. Seashore says, "Altitude and temperatures affect the way sound waves travel – that's just physics."

Like we said, a lot of thought goes into your car's horn. Click past the jump for a short car horn quiz and some b-roll of horn engineers at work.
Ford Horn Quiz


Ford Horn Engineer


Show full PR text
Touting Our Own Horns: Humble Honker Far More Than Just a Beep or Blast at Ford

Around the world, Ford customers have unique horn-blowing behaviors
In North America, customers use their horns less often than elsewhere in the world – typically as a way to greet neighbors and locate their vehicles in parking lots
In other parts of the world, horns get more use – often as a traffic signal – and are made of disc horns, which have a longer life


DEARBORN, Mich., May 17, 2011 – Patricia Seashore doesn't like to sound off about it, but she knows better than most that there's more to a vehicle horn than a simple beep-beep or honk-honk.

In fact, this deceptively simple device actually takes into consideration customer horn-blowing behavior and its impact on the horn itself, including the amount of use, tonality and, sometimes, even physics.

"As Ford has expanded globally, we now have an increased awareness of what a horn is used for in all of our markets," said Seashore, Design & Release supervisor. "It's not the same all over the world."

In some parts of Europe, vehicles get two horns – on the steering wheel for traffic and on the back of the vehicle as an anti-theft system.

In North America, more and more customers are adapting their horn usage into a friendly greeting, and they want the horn to sound that way.

"We're getting away from using horns strictly as a warning," she said. "You'll hear them, of course, when someone gets cut off, or when something aggressive is happening in traffic. But you hear them, too, when people honk at a neighbor to say 'Hi,' or when they pull in a driveway to pick someone up."

Also in North America, owners use their horns as a locking confirmation to make sure their car is locked before they walk away, as well as a locator to find their vehicle in a crowded parking lot.

As a result, North American customers want a richer tone in their horns. That's why they are trumpet horns, named for the plastic trumpet on them that attenuates the sound and makes it more melodic. Most vehicles have dual trumpet horns, tuned to frequencies that are not unpleasant, but are just slightly discordant.

"While we don't want the sound to be too bristly, we don't want it to be too pleasant either," Seashore said. "We want it to, you know, grab people's attention a little."

Trumpet horns aren't the best solution for all vehicles. In South America, customers want a horn they can honk frequently in short stints, like a quick beep-beep.

In India, horns get far heavier use as drivers use them to help navigate through congested traffic and on less developed roads.

"We use a disc horn, which has a longer life, in a vehicle where the horn is part of daily driving," Seashore said.

Then there are customers who want both.

"In China, customers drive with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the horn. The horn is huge," said Seashore. "They use their horn extensively – but they want it to sound nice. So there we use something we call an electronic trumpet. It's a technology solution."

Global markets also bring climate concerns.

"China has one of the most extreme set of conditions, including cold temperatures and roads at 15,000-feet altitude," said Seashore. "So we're not only looking at customers' preferences, we must look at the physical environment of where the car is being driven.

"Altitude and temperatures affect the way sound waves travel – that's just physics."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 40 Comments
      Ducman69
      • 3 Years Ago
      The wiring of horns is also different in India. In western countries, you have to press the horn to make it beep. In India, the horn is by default on, but you can press the horn button to temporarily silence it, useful if you want to express your anger by making the horn sound in bursts rather than the constant wail.
      Brummie
      • 3 Years Ago
      As an Englishman I rarely use my horn, I just give a smug & superior glare and tut very loudly to show my displeasure!
      anonymous guy
      • 3 Years Ago
      I like the horns from the 70's Cadillacs ... they sound like a freight train coming at you. I've replaced the horn on several of my past cars to suit me. The "beep-beep" just doesn't properly convey the message I want to send. I need a stout "hoooooooooooooooonk" when I press the horn pad.
        dukeisduke
        • 3 Years Ago
        @anonymous guy
        They got that sound by using *four* horns. Seriously.
      Splicer436
      • 3 Years Ago
      I like the fact that most cars on the road today have way softer horns then they used to...because this way, what my 81' W123 lacks in power, more than makes up for with its loud horn. lol. Not that I use it that much, but still, it's nice to know it's there.
      htay9500
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Do I make you horny?" When I first read this I thought autoblog was going the wrong direction.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Jesus follower!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Interesting read, I never even paid attention before...I usually only use the horn when picking someone up or somone is about to run into me or cuts me off. Case in point...I was driving my old F150 about a month ago, and as I was driving to work this girl in a 2003 ish Accord starts to come into my lane(its a a big, white with chrome supercrew, how do you miss it? Ill tell you lol)...I honk the horn, no response, she is still coming over...I honk again and get near the edge of the road...she finally realizes she is about to hit me...I look over and what do I see? Girl has headphones one....SERIOUSLY? lol.
      AC2RC
      • 3 Years Ago
      My '03 F-150 would work fine with light pressure if you hit the center of the pad [ where the little horn emblem was !] In my '09 the emblem is still in the same place but if you push it nothing happens ! You have to push the edges of the pad with much more force. Yes they're phasing out logic !
      joejagent
      • 3 Years Ago
      I use my horn so infrequent when I do I hit the wrong part of the wheel and nothing happens (its sometimes difficult to see that little horn symbol embossed into the wheel). I remember one car (Capri?) where you had to hit the directional signal in to make the horn beep. Took a while to find that one.
      Shiftright
      • 3 Years Ago
      I hate the majority of horns found in today's cars which sound like constipated apologetic ducks. That's why I replaced the horn in my Honda with one from an 80's Fiat. Italians know how to make horns: sharp, higher pitched and loud, with just enough attitude to get your attention.
      Chris Goldrick
      • 3 Years Ago
      German horns are the best I've experienced, especially in older Bimmers and Benzes. I love how powerful they sound; they're the equivalent of shouting "do you realize how much of a moron you are because of not being able to stay in your lane!" Nowadays, I don't even bother, because nobody seems to care if they're about to cause an accident anyway.
        rgee01
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Chris Goldrick
        Maybe. Old VW horns were very feeble and weak.
      rgee01
      • 3 Years Ago
      Has VW changed their horns these days? They used to be the most pathetic of all horns - a very "umm, excuse me, hello? Please, if you want to... if you feel like it, could you move, please? Pretty please? I mean, only if you feel like it... if not, that's ok too!"
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