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A week in the SS: For the record, I didn’t turn off our Camaro with my knee

Sections: Car Safety

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2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS Photo Shoot 031

This is where I set my steering wheel in the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS I tested just days ago. This photo is actually viewing the steering wheel from below my natural eye level. This would be roughly chest level on me. Anyway, the steering column was high enough that it would have been nigh on impossible for me to bump the ignition key with my knee, causing it to shut off the car’s power accessories. Regardless, GM has recalled every current-generation Camaro for exactly that issue, which a press release said affects primarily shorter drivers. That explains a lot, as I’m more than six feet tall. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

Here’s a short note to say I know all about GM’s recalls of late. We try not to get too caught up in recall stories. They’re the low-hanging fruit of the automotive journalism world, and we’d rather spend our time telling you about the latest EV charging station or awesome aftermarket head unit than grousing about the latest recall from an automaker.

Yesterday, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in social media and car blogs about Chevrolet recalling every current-generation Camaro — presumably including the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS we just finished testing days ago — to fix a problem with the ignition that could allow you to turn the car off with your knee. Let me just say this: I was in no danger whatsoever of turning off our Camaro with my knee. That’s the God’s honest truth.

I have to wonder at this point whether every little scare makes GM jump. They’ve been embroiled in controversy over their admitted failure to do anything about ignition switch-related issues on smaller cars that reportedly led to crashes and deaths. So it would be understandable if the slightest worry made them issue another recall at this point, I guess.

However, one thing that struck me about the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS I tested was how high the tilt-and-telescope steering wheel would raise. If you’re at all familiar with the act of “knee steering,” — don’t try to act like you’ve never done it, you guilty bastard — well, let’s just say that at six feet, three inches tall, I would not have been able to comfortably knee-steer the Camaro SS I tested after adjusting the steering wheel to my liking. And by “my liking,” I mean adjusting it to the point where the top of the wheel rim sits just in line with the top edges of the gauge cluster. Ergo, there was no way I would have bumped the key fob, which sits higher than the steering wheel rim, with my knee.

Having said all that, I did find the one-piece key fob odd in the way it fit into the key slot on the steering column. This is one of those “switchblade” key fobs with the actual cut key that flips out at the press of a button. It felt a bit awkward primarily because of the way the fob was oriented vis a vis the cut key. My hand felt awkward when I gripped the fob to turn the key at every start-up. But after starting, I thought nothing of it.

But according to GM, with my seat scooted all the way back, I wasn’t a prime candidate to have the supposed problem, anyway:

General Motors will recall all current generation Chevrolet Camaros because a driver’s knee can bump the key FOB and cause the key to inadvertently move out of the “run” position, with a corresponding reduction or loss of power.

The issue, which may primarily affect drivers sitting close to the steering column, was discovered by GM during internal testing following the ignition switch recall earlier this year.

“Discovering and acting on this issue quickly is an example of the new norm for product safety at GM,” said Jeff Boyer, vice president of GM Global Safety.

The Camaro ignition system meets all GM engineering specifications and is unrelated to the ignition system used in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars included in the ignition switch recall.

GM is aware of three crashes that resulted in four minor injuries that it believes may be attributed to this condition.

I guess shorter people are shorter not just in the legs, but also shorter in the torso than I, therefore they would logically angle the steering wheel lower than I do. Makes sense.

The press release from GM said the problem is going to be remedied by going back to a separate key with an old-school fob, a feature many GM vehicles have held onto, seemingly stubbornly, in this age of all-in-one fobs and pushbutton ignition.

That’s kind of a downer, and it makes me wonder: Will we see hyper-collectible 2014 Chevrolet Camaros crossing the auction block at Barrett-Jackson 30 or 40 years from now with their original, all-in-one switchblade key fobs? Because I can see a lot of taller drivers like myself who might just hang onto the original since it gives them no trouble.

Disclosure: Chevrolet provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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  • Chilly8

    There is an easy way to solve the problem of turning the car off with your knees, just set the drivers seat further back where your knees will not hit the ignition.

  • Thom Paine

    Let me get this straight, you bought a Government Motors vehicle, after the “bailouts” and G.M. is shipping American jobs to China as fast as they can, and your surprised your having problems with it? No company or politician is too big to fail or jail and you got exactly what you asked for. Screw Government Motors and its defenders. :)