CA BART EMP NSFJ (Not Safe for Jettas)?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

What a charming title for an automotive advice column: “ Queen of the Road.” No, it doesn’t appear in a Utah newspaper. But the California curmudgeon is as credulous as the spiritual descendants of the talking salamander. His/her reader posits: “I drive daily on westbound Highway 24 through Lafayette, usually in the early evening. On several occasions, as I pass by the Lafayette BART station, my little Volkswagen Jetta seems to lose power. I push on the accelerator but the car doesn’t respond, quite a nerve-racking experience in the middle of evening rush hour. I’ve found that if I downshift and accelerate, power is restored and I continue on my way.” The Queen’s edict: “It’s indeed possible that a magnetic field or radio frequency interference affected your car’s computer and caused the car to stall.,” as the LA Police’s investigation into an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) remote car disabler almost seems to prove. And there’s history here, dammit! “When the computers were first installed, in the 1980s and 1990s, cars would pull up at intersections and when the signs changed from ‘Walk’ to ‘Don’t Walk,’ their trunks would pop open. The cars’ trunk releases were picking up the radio frequencies from the ‘Walk’ sign.” Who knew? Now what?

The problem could be cured by wrapping the wire harnesses in the car in aluminum foil and grounding the foil to the battery negative. But since it only happens in this one location, it’s not worth the thousands of dollars that would cost, [automotive instructor at Las Positas College Brian] Hagopian said.

The Queen also asked BART spokesman Linton Johnson about the problem. He pointed out that there is a lot of distance between the BART station and the freeway and also said that the power at the station is grounded. But, Johnson allowed, “I guess anything is possible.”

Baseless conjecture! That’s how you become automotive journalist royalty. Now you tell me . . .

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • OhMyGoat OhMyGoat on Nov 10, 2009

    Hmmmm. Could it be the same effect that causes vehicles to mysteriously stall at railroad grade crossings directly in front of an oncoming train?

    • Commando Commando on Nov 11, 2009

      Hmmmm. Could it be the same effect that causes vehicles to mysteriously stall at railroad grade crossings directly in front of an oncoming train... No. You are confusing that with the magnetic field that attracts tornados to trailer parks.

  • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Nov 11, 2009

    Have we finally come up with the explanation for VW's electrical issues? I thought the EMF/Cosmic Rays excuse was just for IT help desks. On a serious note, it could be possible that the BART station puts out enough (or the right kind of EMF) to cause a car problems, but since electric trains (and other high EMF emitters) are not new or isolated, this should be something a car should be able to handle. Of course, this is VW, otherwise known as the company that can't make a working AM radio.

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