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Discussion Starter #1
You guys provide such excellent technical info. How about explaining the door locks. I have a special interest in this, since my wife, while driving solo in our 2000 Insight, was T-boned by an SUV a week ago last Sunday and since I wasn't there, I'm not sure if the fire department guys were right and the frame was bent, jamming the doors closed, or maybe my wife was just so rattled that she couldn't figure out how to unlock the doors.

The complicating factors are that the "Jaws of Life" guy really wanted a chance to dig into "one of these little hybrids", even though the accident was minor enough that the SUV hit the driver's side front wheel with low enough impact to leave half the headlight intact and didn't dent, buckle, or misalign the hood. The front quarter of the driver's door was mashed to about half it's normal thickness, but in the junk yard where I saw it, the driver's door still opened and closed normally.

The fire department suggests that after they destroyed the entire passenger side of the car, ripping the door off, that the frame perhaps flexed, releasing the binding pressure from the driver's side door, so now it opens, perfectly aligned. My wife only remembers pushing the key dongle a lot, trying to unlock the door. She's not very mechanically adept or curious, and she was upset, having been a few inches from the front of an SUV attacking from the left while she drove the Insight straight ahead through a green light.

The SUV driver, a college student, was driving her twin sister back to that sister's matching SUV. Most of the people in the world don't get it, do they?

This is what I believe about the locks, based on my own experience:

The plastic door lock levers on the doors that show the red stripe when the door is unlocked probably has a mechanical link to that specific door lock. This should work, even if the electrical system is down. The exterior door keys should similarly have mechanical links to the door locks.

The electric switch on the driver's side door interior electrically locks and unlocks both doors and the trunk, all at once. Similarly, the key-switch to the right of the trunk locks and unlocks all three of the car's locks at once. The trunk is opened with an electric push-button switch only. There seems to be no mechanical override for opening the trunk. If the electric system is down, the trunk can't be opened.

As a secondary question, what are the side windows made of? One of the fire department guys, after handing my wife (now sitting on the passenger side, having crawled there to try to open the door there) a blanket through the 4" open driver's side window. He asked her to cover herself with it, then walked around to the, at that point, untouched passenger side and started slamming the passenger side window with a small sledge hammer. He said he was doing this, not to extract my wife or to examine her. He was, get this, trying to smash the window right next to her head in order to avoid the risk of having the window break when he tore the door off the car. He thought it would be safer for her if he smashed the window first.

He couldn't break the window. He later explained that his usual window-breaking hammer was broken, so he was using a different kind of hammer.

Anyway, what is this window made of?

My final comment is that I'm impressed that my wife came out of this unhurt. The Insight held up pretty well, considering that it was hit by a vehicle probably three times its weight. I'm guessing the SUV was doing less than 5mph while the Insight was doing less than 20mph. The damage suggests that they met at a slightly obtuse angle, smashing the headlight and fender, pushing in until the SUV's bumper squared off between the Insight's hidden metal bumper (inside the plastic outer bumper) and the front wheel.

The Insight, having more momentum, continued onward and actually shoved the SUV (Way to go, little Honda!) so that the angle of impact shifted, ending with the SUV's bumper now squaring off between the Insight's front wheel and the driver's side door. The right edge of the SUV bumper mashed the driver's side door about a foot back from the hinge, buckling the door's sheet metal enough to expose the hinge.

Police estimated less than $3,000 damage to the SUV. The fire department said that the police said that the frame was bent on the Insight, but when I looked at the Insight in the junk yard, the hood was straight with the windshield and unblemished. Fenders one one side were smashed and on the other side were cut, peeled and mangled, but the hood was straight. I'm quite honestly unconvinced that the frame bent, though I would have expected it to bend, considering the angle and location of the impact. It SHOULD have bent, in a normal car, but actually looking at the car, with intact glass (except for one headlight), a straight hood and a driver's side door that opened and closed just like a nomal door, I honestly didn't see any evidence of a bent frame.

Still, the insurance company gave me a check for over $14,000, and because I forgot to change my tax status when I got married last year, I have a tax return of over $4,000 coming. I went back and ordered another Insight. I'm getting a red one this time. Maybe it's more visible to SUV driver's than the silver. Nobody hit my 1992 Honda Civic hatchback so far, and it's been on the road for 208,000 miles. I kept it as my pickup truck. It's red. Now, they'll match.

Thanks.
 

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if the key was in the ignition and it was turned on, the keyfob does not work. the locks can be manually opened from inside by pulling the lever backwards. also, the rear hatch will open if there is no electric power, you must use the key.

happy your wife was not hurt.

hope it doesn't take too long to get your next one.
 

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Glad she's OK...

Honda takes great pride in the strength of the passenger cage surrounding us Insighters (check out their website, the cutaway of the passenger cage is very illuminating). A hit such as the one your beloved suffered should have resulted in severe cosmetic damage, but not frame damage IMHO.

It's too bad the neanderthal with the small mind and a Jaws Of Life appliance was so savage with the hapless Insight. Love his "let's break the window first" logic... all your beloved had to do (I understand her inability to think clearly in the fog of an accident, but, absent arterial spurts on her part, he might at least have taken a couple of seconds and talked her through it) was reach over to the passenger side and flick the door lock open for their mutual benefit. Love you EMS guys, and I have a lot of firefighters and law-enforcement types in my Good Friends list, but sometimes you get yahoos in any field of endeavor, and macho-types run rampant in these occupations. Sigh...

I've heard that back in the 70's when General Motors was first designing door frame barriers, they went waaaay overboard with initial attempts, adding massive metal struts, a lot of weight, and making complicated interlocking inner-door gadgets to keep a vehicle from intruding into the cockpit... until some bright soul figured that the barriers only had to keep a vehicle out of your inner space until the tires broke traction and slid the offended vehicle sideways, simplifying things considerably. Thank goodness our cars are (mostly) built with real-world scenarios in mind, or we'd all be driving Hummer-looking vehicles to keep the lawyers happy (and I have a lot of lawyers in my GF list too).

Glad you got another Insight... we feel very safe in ours.
 

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wow

sorry about your loss

glad your wife is OK

and if you don't mind me asking... where are you located? I'd sure like to get my inexperienced brain into a wrecked Insight and start salvaging :D
that is.. if someone else didn't get to it first ;)
 

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locks, windows, and alarm system

The windows are tempered glass - used in all automobiles. It won't break into jagged shards like the window glass used in houses - it sort of crumbles into small pieces. Some automotive glass is also laminated - it's actually two pieces of glass with a layer of plastic in between. The layer of plastic helps to keep the crumbling glass from going all over when it breaks.

The hatchback pushbutton lock on my car works most of the time - not always. Fortunately, I read the part in the owner's manual about turning the key all the way to the right - this seems to mechanically unlock the hatch, then the button can be used to unlatch it. Unfortunately, the aftermarket alarm installed by the dealer isn't turned off when I open the hatchback this way, and all hell breaks loose. Anyone else have any issues with the alarm sytem? I don't have a manual for it, and can't even get the valet switch to work.
 

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Good to hear your wife is OK.

Just to show that the Insight can take a beating! It is well engineered. Most people have this misconception that bigger vehicles are safer. It is a poor excuse for them to buy a bigger vehicle, like a SUV. Recent studies have shown that SUVs tend to roll (it is basic physics) and when they do, the fatality rate goes way up.

Speaking of teenagers driving SUVs, there is a kid across the street with one of those huge SUVs with big tires. He's been driving it since high school. Parents must be rich because I don't think he can afford to fill the gas tank!

I don't know what that fireman was doing. Maybe he needed some practice with the "jaws of life" or something.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
No salvage available

Sorry to take so long to reply to all these great replies.

I had to hand over my title to the car when the insurance guy handed over the $14,000+ check. I guess I could ask which junk yard claimed it.

The cosmetic damage to the car was actually minor (except for the Jaws of Life, that is). It looked like the metal bumper was still fine, though the plastic bumper cover was probably irreparable. The fender was a total loss. Who cares? The headlight unit was oddly intact for about half of the unit and smashed/missing from the other half. The half that was still there was still aligned properly with the hood.

The driver's door was mashed badly enough that it probably needed to be replaced. The door frame seemed intact, though I didn't have an unbent door to test that theory. All I know is that the mashed door opened and closed normally. The latch worked fine.

I didn't get to sit in the car because the passenger door was jammed in across both seats. The wrecker guy needed a place to put the detached door and that's what he came up with.

The wheel probably needed to be replaced. It wasn't bent. I'm not sure that magnesium alloy wheels can be bent. Perhaps they break. This one had a straight, deep, cosmetic scratch most of the way across the surface, and there was a chink missing where this scratch left the wheel... a triangle perhaps an inch on each side. The broken piece would have required replacing the wheel. The tire was cut completely through by whatever scratched the wheel and fender behind it.

The hood was untouched, straight and aligned with the windshield. The evidence that the frame was bent:

1. The shape of the impact wasn't the shape of the front bumper on the SUV, unless that bumper was convex. It looked like the Insight was hit twice, or more likely, stricken at one angle, and then shifted to a different angle. The pivot point for this angle shift was the Insight's driver-side front wheel. That suggests that the front wheel took most of the impact. The Insight is sturdy, but I'd expect the front suspension to be part of the "crumple zone" and if you hit ANY car from the side, directly onto a wheel, there's a really good chance you'll bend the frame.

2. If the rescue guys were right, the doors were jammed by the bending of the frame, and the freeing of the door on one side flexed the frame enough to release the tension holding the other door. I'll never know if this is true, or if the general unfamiliarity with the car combined with my wife's emotional state to fool people into thinking the doors were jammed when they weren't.

3. The insurance company declared the car a total loss. While they might have done this just because of the enormous cosmetic damage done by the Jaws of Life, or by structural damage done by same, if the frame was bent, especially on a car of such unusual structure, they'd be more willing to pay for the car.

Initially, I think I needed a scapegoat. This conflicts with my spiritual beliefs about humanity:

I don't believe that some people are idiots. Rather, I believe that all people, at one time or another, experience idiotic moments. There's a difference between doing stupid things and being stupid.

The SUV driver did a stupid thing. Nobody contests that. She got a ticket for "failure to yield", which in Virginia is "careless and reckless", and she may lose her license for up to a year, which is quite appropriate, since it might help her recognize that driving is a privilege, not a right, and if you can't handle the responsibility, you shouldn't drive. Four college-age women and a cell phone in an SUV usually does not add up to responsible driving.

One of the bad things about SUVs is that they are designed to be a living room on wheels. Sitting in your den is not conducive to focussing on driving safely.

My wife probably did stupid things, too. When she gets emotional, she looses access to her impressively rational mind. She becomes extremely confused, and basically rolls up into a fetal ball and becomes useless for a while. Unfortunately, she didn't get enough time or help to recover from that state in order to find out for sure whether or not the doors were actually jammed or merely locked.

The rescue worker may or may not have done a series of stupid things. Likely, his decision process was corrupted by his clear interest in using his equipment whenever he feels he has license to do so. There have been legitimate cases where he has saved people from serious injury or death by making what others might consider to be extreme decisions, though in this specific case, it's quite clear that the physics of the impact to the car involved very little surge inflicted upon my wife, and there was no medical emergency that justified destroying the good side of the car to get at her.

Even if the frame was bent, it was bent because the impact was directly on the front suspension from the side. It was not bent because of high speed. From a standing start, the SUV crossed a median and one lane of traffic to hit the Insight. They don't accellerate all that fast. The speed limit was 25 and the Insight was doing less than that when it was hit. Note that the gash in the wheel was straight, not spiralled, so the Insight's wheel wasn't turning when it was hit.

Even if the decision was made that there was no way to open the car to let her out except for the Jaws of Life, I don't buy the idea that they had to do it on the side of the car she was sitting in. Likely, it would be safer to be farther away from their equipment while it is crushing metal and glass.

And back to the window glass. I already believed that the car used tempered glass, since that's the technology that is generally used on cars. Tempered glass is very strong and light and unlike any form of plastic, it is not affected by UltraViolet radiation in sunlight and it doesn't scratch very easily.

Meanwhile, the rescue worker said that there's a new plastic that car manufacturers are using instead of tempered glass because it saves weight. I suspect he's uninformed and trying to cover his butt, but I'd like a specific confirmation on the material used in the windows of an Insight.

Thanks.

Will M
 

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I can tell you that the front window is glass, and not some sort of plastic, from having a rock hit it. It behaved like glass :) Also, if you look at car windows there's usually some sort of info etched into them that describes what material they are. Plus if you've worked with plexiglass or acrylic or lexan, none of those materials even sound like glass when you tap on them. For that reason I'm certain all of the Insight windows are glass even though I only have actual evidence of the material of my front windshield.
 
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