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Chrisla
04-19-2011, 09:31 AM
I posted this question in plot problems, then realized I should have posted it here.

I have a character, a young woman, who has fought off an attacker with her car keys, which she had in her hand. She gets in the vehicle (her husband's Ford Explorer) but it won't start.

I need this character stuck in this vehicle for the rest of the night, but can't think of a reason it won't start that is not coincidental (dead battery, etc.)

Is there anything the attacker could do in that short time? Even if she dropped the keys on the floorboard and had to search for them, I doubt if he'd be aware of that and dare to crawl under th vehicle to cut the fuel line, etc. And I don't think a flat tire would keep her from driving the vehicle.

Is there anything else (delayed maintenance) that could cause a problem? Something that would have indicated a possible problem earlier, so it's not coincidental?

I'd appreciate any and all suggestions.

Thanks.

mccardey
04-19-2011, 09:34 AM
I don't know your story - but if it's nighttime and she doesn't need to start the car again, how about

1. He attacked her while she was unlocking the car.

2. Thinking very quickly she hurled the keys away from her into the darkness (because she saw she'd be safer if he couldn't drive away with her)

3. He went after the keys and she quickly got into the car and locked the doors. So now she's stuck there, safe, but without the keys.

(I don't read a lot of thrillers, so if this is a well-worn story development, people should feel free to point that out. I won't be offended... ;) )

Dandroid
04-19-2011, 09:50 AM
perhaps the key had been damaged somehow and won't fit the ignition

Nick Blaze
04-19-2011, 10:04 AM
perhaps the key had been damaged somehow and won't fit the ignition
I was thinking this. If you combine the last two comments:

1. He attacked her while she was unlocking the car.

2. Thinking very quickly she turned, pulled the key out and bent it horribly, and fended off the attacker.

3. The key snapped in two when fighting or when she tried to bend it back (that happened to me once).

Other reasons I can think of are coincidental.


Is there anything else (delayed maintenance) that could cause a problem? Something that would have indicated a possible problem earlier, so it's not coincidental?

Of course. No oil means the car is likely to overheat. No power steering fluid means if she's too weak, she can't turn the wheel. Bad maintenance can certain make a car unusable after a time and downright dangerous, too. What about the belts in the car? If they've been squealing a long time, there's a (slight) chance they may snap.

Those are my suggestions. Most logical would be the first one, I think.

Chrisla
04-19-2011, 10:30 AM
Wow, I'm glad I posted here. Great lot of suggestions. Taking all of them into consideration, I'm thinking: She had her keys in her hand when she started to the car. The attacker grabs her and she fights, using the keys to jab at his face. She gets in one stab, which makes him release her. But she is in a frenzy, stabs again and hits his watchband, because he's thrown up his hand, to guard his face. She jumps into the car, locks it, then finds the key is bent and won't work in the ignition. I think that works! Thank you, all of you!

Dandroid
04-19-2011, 10:38 AM
you could go even more grisly if you wished...as in the key bent against his jaw or cheekbone...

Nick Blaze
04-19-2011, 11:00 AM
you could go even more grisly if you wished...as in the key bent against his jaw or cheekbone...
I like this. <3

shaldna
04-19-2011, 01:21 PM
I was thinking broken or damaged keys, but Nick beat me too it.

I know that over winter my lock freezes sometimes and I can't get my key into the door (I have a mazda 323) which means five minutes with hot water and deicer to try and get into my car.

AmsterdamAssassin
04-19-2011, 01:38 PM
If the key has become bloody and the blood has been inserted into the ignition lock, fouling up the ignition lock, that would also help. Car keys rarely bend, they're more apt to break, but, depending on the make, some have grooves/holes that could fill up with dried blood and foul up the works.

If it's a car breaking down: study combustion engines and you'll notice that there are elements necessary for combustion; if you remove an element, the combustion won't take place. Combustion engines are on the whole 'efficient' without needless elements. If one element goes missing, like a 'distributor cap' for instance, the whole system won't work.

shaldna
04-19-2011, 02:06 PM
Does the car have in immobiliser?

The one I have on my car requires you to plug a fob into a hollow on the dash, remove it and then insert the car key to the ignition. You have about 10 seconds to do the whole thing, and you can't start the car without the fob.

If she's used her keys to defend herself, it's possible that the fob has fallen off, or gotten damaged - they aren't as tough as they look. So while she could get into the car, she wouldn't be able to start it.

whacko
04-19-2011, 02:08 PM
Hey Chrisla,

Give the car automatic transmission. In her haste to get away she slams the car into drive then tries to start the engine. But automatics can't start in drive.

That happened to me once. I was sitting at a set of traffic lights and a guy on a motorbike came round the corner too fast and fell of his bike. I switched the engine off to check he was okay. He was fine. He jumped up, started laughing, said it happens all the time. Which led me to conclude that he should take the bus more often.

Anyway, I get in back the car and it won't start. The traffic lights change to green and the people behind me start to get a bit annoyed.

I thought I was out of petrol, but after a while I noticed that the car, a V8 Rover, was still in gear. As soon as I selected N, the engine turned over.

So no mechanical faults, just a head in the clouds.

Regards

Whacko

Fenika
04-19-2011, 02:08 PM
If I threw my keys off and then locked myself in a car, I'd spend the next few hours terrified my attacker would enter through any door. (I'd dive in the back seat for the knives and tire change kit, but I'd be armed and terrified). Mind you, my Chevy diesel allows more blind spots than a Ford Explorer.

If you go with the belt snapping, this happened to me while accelerating. It's very easy to wreck your vehicle when you suddenly lose power steering and brakes, particularly if you're upset after an attack.

Kenn
04-19-2011, 03:15 PM
The car will have a fuel cut-off switch that is activated in the event of a collision. All you need to do is get her to clip something quite hard as she is pulling away. It is easily reset, but I doubt she would know how or even that it exists (like everbody else!).

Graz
04-19-2011, 05:59 PM
Because it's a Ford

jclarkdawe
04-19-2011, 06:33 PM
Lots of possibilities. Some of these are car dependent.


Car moving and bad guy bangs and bumps hood of car hard enough to set off airbags, and cause the fuel shut off for collisions to kick in.
Car not moving and bad guy bangs and bumps car hard enough to set off the burglar alarm, disabling starting switch.
Key bent, but in the morning when she inserts it the other way, it works. Sometimes keys bend enough to not work one way but work fine the other.
Person is so excited she forgets to turn off the alarm system. For example, some cars you have to move the turn signals before you can start the car. Next morning when she's calm, car starts perfectly.
Forgetting to depress the brake pedal.
Putting automatic transmission into gear before starting.

Remember that people in a panic forget basic things. This is why drowning victims try to drown their rescuers.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

KellyAssauer
04-19-2011, 06:51 PM
Reasons why a car won't start:

Because it hates me. :cry:

My really lovely and ever faithful Ford... has a fob to unlock the doors. If the battery in the fob goes... no unlocky. You might (?) be able to short the fob out with liquids?

Like most cars, you can have the steering wheel turned to lock and not understand why the key won't turn...

There's always the battery, or some other unseen enemy.

Snowstorm
04-19-2011, 07:06 PM
In her struggle/fear during the attack, she could knock the car out of "Park". I think cars won't start if they're not in park. In the dark, she can't see that she knocked it into, say, "reverse". As the morning light comes up, she can figure out what happened, put the gear into park, then start up and drive away.

Aaron Wilder
04-19-2011, 07:38 PM
Has two simiar keys on her key ring (hers and boyfriend/husband's maybe) and jams the wrong one into the ignition, getting it stuck.

jallenecs
04-19-2011, 09:08 PM
Has two simiar keys on her key ring (hers and boyfriend/husband's maybe) and jams the wrong one into the ignition, getting it stuck.

Done this one myself. My ignition key and door keys looked very similar, but were NOT interchangeable. If she's in a panic, it's very possible for her to break that wrong key off in the ignition.

Aaron Wilder
04-19-2011, 10:26 PM
Done this one myself. My ignition key and door keys looked very similar, but were NOT interchangeable. If she's in a panic, it's very possible for her to break that wrong key off in the ignition.

Or to break the ignition key off in the door lock, which creates a dual problem.

skylark
04-19-2011, 10:47 PM
I need this character stuck in this vehicle for the rest of the night, but can't think of a reason it won't start that is not coincidental (dead battery, etc.)

Is there anything the attacker could do in that short time?

I'm not quite following this. If she's stuck in the car for the rest of the night, that's a fairly long time.

Has she killed him, or knocked him cold enough that he'll be out for many hours? If not, as soon as he wakes up, he'll still be here and so will she, if she's in the car and it won't start.

As far as being unable to start it goes, if it's not a new car, she could easily flood the engine when she tries to start it in a panic, keep on and on trying (the only thing you can do in that situation is leave it for a good long while) and flatten the battery that way.

PinkAmy
04-19-2011, 11:19 PM
If it's an older car and the gas tank isn't locked-- you can have someone pour sugar into the gas tank. Apparently it not only renders a car useless, it can ruin the motor.

debirlfan
04-20-2011, 12:09 AM
As far as being unable to start it goes, if it's not a new car, she could easily flood the engine when she tries to start it in a panic, keep on and on trying (the only thing you can do in that situation is leave it for a good long while) and flatten the battery that way.

That was my thought - I don't know about current models, but back in the old days, certain cars seemed quite prone to it.

Nick Blaze
04-20-2011, 12:37 AM
If it's an older car and the gas tank isn't locked-- you can have someone pour sugar into the gas tank. Apparently it not only renders a car useless, it can ruin the motor.

I'm willing to bet that pouring most anything other than gas into a tank can potentially hurt the car. I think Mythbusters disproved the sugar thing, though.

Hallen
04-20-2011, 02:49 AM
Key bending: maybe if it is done while it's in the door, but you ain't gonna bend one by stabbing a guy with it, no way.
Sugar in the gas: It might work, but it will take some time. She'll get quite a ways before bad things happen.
Flooding: If it's a model made in the last 15 years, it will have fuel injection and it's not going to flood no matter how much you stop on the gas pedal.
Transmission engaged: Everybody in the US drives automatic transmissions regularly so everybody should be familiar with the starting lockout. I wouldn't use that unless she figures it out pretty quickly. We all do silly things when we're panicked.

Belt snapping: It will stop the car eventually because of no water pressure and now alternator charging the battery. But, that's pretty darned random.

Airbag/Fuel cutoff: Unless the system is malfunctioning, it takes a pretty darned hard impact to get the bags to deploy and for the fuel to shut off. I wouldn't go that way unless you want the truck to be immobile because of damage too.

Keep it simple. She knows her battery is fading (maybe hubby tells her?), but it's still working. She leaves her lights on and that drains the battery enough where the locks work, but the truck won't start. This is assuming she's coming back to the vehicle after leaving it for a while. This is also assuming that the model she has doesn't have an automatic light cutoff. It depends on how old the truck is and how the lights work. Find a manual for it online and read up.

The bad guy couldn't do much unless he can get under the hood. It is possible to reach some stuff from under the vehicle, but it's not easy. Pulling wires off the distributor cap would be a sure way to keep a vehicle from starting. But why would the bad guy do this? His plan is to get to her before she gets in the truck, so why would he sabotage the truck?

Chrisla
04-20-2011, 05:55 AM
Well, it looks like I'm back to the drawing board, and there are quite a few good suggestions here.


The car will have a fuel cut-off switch that is activated in the event of a collision. All you need to do is get her to clip something quite hard as she is pulling away. It is easily reset, but I doubt she would know how or even that it exists (like everbody else!).

I didn't know this. Would hitting a curb do it? And is this true for all cars. I have her in an older model (88-92) Ford Explorer that has no alarm, and before electronic keys and panic buttons.


Has two simiar keys on her key ring (hers and boyfriend/husband's maybe) and jams the wrong one into the ignition, getting it stuck.

Might work, but I'm not sure how I'd know what models would have similar keys . . .


I'm not quite following this. If she's stuck in the car for the rest of the night, that's a fairly long time.

She's been in a casino, and the guy has been hitting on her. She thinks he's long gone by the time she leaves, but when she's in the dark parking lot, she realizes he's following her. At that point, it doesn't matter why the interaction happens. Maybe he's had too much to drink and grabs at her. Whatever his reason, she's understandably scared, and trying to get away from him and to safety. Once she gets in her vehicle, she doesn't even know if he's still there. He may be gone. But she's not about to walk back across a dark lot to the casino if he might be out there. He's a big guy and she weighs about 100 pounds. When daylight comes, she'll be able to see. He's not there, and she walks back to the casino for help. But she has been in that vehicle for three or four hours, he may be the only witness that she was there, and during that time, a murder has been committed. She inherits. So this is a crucial first scene to set up the conflict.

Has she killed him, or knocked him cold enough that he'll be out for many hours? If not, as soon as he wakes up, he'll still be here and so will she, if she's in the car and it won't start.

As far as being unable to start it goes, if it's not a new car, she could easily flood the engine when she tries to start it in a panic, keep on and on trying (the only thing you can do in that situation is leave it for a good long while) and flatten the battery that way.

This is a good idea. I'm sure she could flood an older Explorer, and in a panic, it's hard to stay calm in a situtation like that. I just remembered another instance where a car wouldn't start, and I panicked. I was about 30, driving on a foggy night, and took a long turn. I knew there was a railroad track intersecting the road, and when I felt a thump, I slammed on my brakes. I opened the car door, saw I was, indeed, on the tracks, but the car wouldn't start! I don't think that would work for this story, though, because, believe it or not, I had the presence of mind to make myself sit there for about five minutes before I tried to start it again, and it worked. On second thought, what if I hadn't? What if I'd kept trying to start it? And why would slamming on the brakes have that effect?


Key bending: maybe if it is done while it's in the door, but you ain't gonna bend one by stabbing a guy with it, no way.

Really? Some other posters said they'd bent their keys fairly easily. I never tried it, though, and they seem pretty rigid to me.

Sugar in the gas: It might work, but it will take some time. She'll get quite a ways before bad things happen.

Yeah, I thought about that and discarded it as taking too long. Besides, where would he get the sugar?

Flooding: If it's a model made in the last 15 years, it will have fuel injection and it's not going to flood no matter how much you stop on the gas pedal.

I'm back to this and it might be viable in the older Explorer, especially if she keeps trying too soon and drains her battery.

Transmission engaged: Everybody in the US drives automatic transmissions regularly so everybody should be familiar with the starting lockout. I wouldn't use that unless she figures it out pretty quickly. We all do silly things when we're panicked.

Belt snapping: It will stop the car eventually because of no water pressure and now alternator charging the battery. But, that's pretty darned random.

Airbag/Fuel cutoff: Unless the system is malfunctioning, it takes a pretty darned hard impact to get the bags to deploy and for the fuel to shut off. I wouldn't go that way unless you want the truck to be immobile because of damage too.

Keep it simple. She knows her battery is fading (maybe hubby tells her?), but it's still working. She leaves her lights on and that drains the battery enough where the locks work, but the truck won't start. This is assuming she's coming back to the vehicle after leaving it for a while. This is also assuming that the model she has doesn't have an automatic light cutoff. It depends on how old the truck is and how the lights work. Find a manual for it online and read up.

This had been my first thought. But my husband told me he'd never experienced a battery gradually fading--that it just fails to start. I had even asked him whether a left-on dome light could do it and he reminded me that I'd left the dome light on in my car for two days once without draining the battery.

The bad guy couldn't do much unless he can get under the hood. It is possible to reach some stuff from under the vehicle, but it's not easy. Pulling wires off the distributor cap would be a sure way to keep a vehicle from starting. But why would the bad guy do this? His plan is to get to her before she gets in the truck, so why would he sabotage the truck?

Agreed. And I think this guy was just a jerk who had too much to drink, and carried his amorous attentions too far. Once she fought him off, he probably split. But she doesn't know that. It's dark and she's scared.

Thanks to everybody who added suggestions. I hope my explanations make the problem a little clearer. Your suggestions have given me a lot of food for thought.

LoopyLinde
04-20-2011, 06:39 AM
Could you use the car not starting as a motive or opportunity for the bad guy to attack the woman? Meaning, the car problem came first. Then it wouldn't feel like a coincidence when it won't start.

shaldna
04-20-2011, 01:13 PM
I have her in an older model (88-92) Ford Explorer that has no alarm, and before electronic keys and panic buttons.

In response to your rep comment - older cars can have shop fitted immobilisers. My car is 23 years old and has one, the previous owners got it put in because they lived in a pretty rough place and didn't want the car stolen.

Lots of people here get them fitted, especially to older cars which are easier to steal. They are pretty cheap and easy to put in, but the car will not start without the fob. So an older car shouldn't be a problem,.

Kenn
04-20-2011, 02:33 PM
The car will have a fuel cut-off switch that is activated in the event of a collision. All you need to do is get her to clip something quite hard as she is pulling away. It is easily reset, but I doubt she would know how or even that it exists (like everbody else!).



I didn't know this. Would hitting a curb do it? And is this true for all cars. I have her in an older model (88-92) Ford Explorer that has no alarm, and before electronic keys and panic buttons.
Ford has been installing these for a long time and I am reasonably sure this model Explorer would have one. It is a safety feature that cuts off the supply of fuel if there is a rear end shunt (in case the fuel line has been damaged). Hitting a kerb would not do it, but backing into a wall or a post might. The switch is probably in the passenger footwell and all she would have to do is press a button. Assuming she knows there is a button to press, of course! The correct name for it is the 'fuel inertia switch' and it is perhaps worth a Google.

[ETA] I don't think Explorers came about until the early 90s. They were also probably fuel injected, which makes flooding difficult.

Aaron Wilder
04-20-2011, 05:05 PM
Might work, but I'm not sure how I'd know what models would have similar keys . . .



Hondas all have the same black key guard for the most part but I think it really just depends on who made the key. If it's a copy then most locksmiths or hardware stores can make a key with different key guards if you want.

debirlfan
04-21-2011, 09:02 AM
This is a good idea. I'm sure she could flood an older Explorer, and in a panic, it's hard to stay calm in a situtation like that. I just remembered another instance where a car wouldn't start, and I panicked. I was about 30, driving on a foggy night, and took a long turn. I knew there was a railroad track intersecting the road, and when I felt a thump, I slammed on my brakes. I opened the car door, saw I was, indeed, on the tracks, but the car wouldn't start! I don't think that would work for this story, though, because, believe it or not, I had the presence of mind to make myself sit there for about five minutes before I tried to start it again, and it worked. On second thought, what if I hadn't? What if I'd kept trying to start it? And why would slamming on the brakes have that effect?



Oh, in the situation you've given, I can definitely picture her flooding the car. She jumps in the car, upset and panicky, and jams her foot to the floorboards on the gas pedal as she attempts to start the vehicle. (With some cars, just touching the gas before starting the engine was enough to flood them.) If she doesn't know much about cars - or isn't used to driving something that old. there's a good chance she'd have no idea why it wasn't starting - and might continue pumping the gas pedal. After she finally gives up and decides she has no choice but to stay there in the car... well, the next morning, the car starts fine.

Royal Mercury
04-21-2011, 09:27 AM
I have a character, a young woman, who has fought off an attacker with her car keys, which she had in her hand. She gets in the vehicle (her husband's Ford Explorer) but it won't start.

I need this character stuck in this vehicle for the rest of the night, but can't think of a reason it won't start that is not coincidental (dead battery, etc.)

It's a Ford. It needs no reason to flake out. A fuse could have been kicked during the fight. It's on the side wall next to the driver's door.

It's perfectly believeable for a Ford to have a coincidental breakdown. The starter could have chosen that moment to strip a few gear teeth, it could have blown a head gasket just shortly before this incident, (which the MC hadn't noticed, and the motor had overheated, the gas gauge was wrong and the tank was empty. One of the vacuum lines sprung a leak. They all happened to our Ford Taurus. Or maybe, that the legendary hydrocillator could be functioning. ;)

Why was she outside the vehicle?

And a situation like that could have her thinking oddly. She could mistake keys and find they bizarrely don't fit. Or it could even be that if the key wasn't on a ring, it managed to get lost, out the window, or down the AC vent.

Phantom Rottweiler
04-21-2011, 05:57 PM
Gah I'm late to the party, but I have a sugguestion.


...I have a character, a young woman, who has fought off an attacker with her car keys... She gets in the vehicle (her husband's Ford Explorer) but it won't start.

I need this character stuck in this vehicle for the rest of the night, but can't think of a reason it won't start that is not coincidental (dead battery, etc.)

Is there anything the attacker could do in that short time? Even if she dropped the keys on the floorboard and had to search for them, I doubt if he'd be aware of that and dare to crawl under th vehicle to cut the fuel line, etc. And I don't think a flat tire would keep her from driving the vehicle.

Is there anything else (delayed maintenance) that could cause a problem? Something that would have indicated a possible problem earlier, so it's not coincidental?

I'd appreciate any and all suggestions.

Thanks.

As far as the attacker being the cause of the vehicle problem, maybe he noticed her fumbling for something on the floor and took a few seconds to slash the tires on one side of the vehicle?

For delayed maintenance...how does the idea of a fuel pump gone bad sound? You character(s) could have known about the vehicle/engine acting funny but not considered it important enough to get it into the shop earlier.

Likewise it could be a transmission that's been having problems shifting into drive, or a gearset in the trans that's gone bad but hasn't been fixed yet. (Torque converters going bad are horrible to deal with...)

Just a few more ideas to look at and kick around. :)