The top 10 most misunderstood car buttons
A survey by the UK’s Auto Trader reveals many motorists are in the dark about what basic symbols mean
Modern cars have hi-tech consoles that give drivers access to an ever increasing array of features, yet many drivers are confused by the most basic buttons.
A new survey conducted by the UK’s Auto Trader reveals many drivers are in the dark about what basic symbols mean, even those that have been standard in cars for decades.
The research, conducted by the UK’s biggest automotive marketplace, showed more than 1,000 drivers several symbols for buttons commonly found in a car's centre console to determine whether they understood their purposes. Drivers who claimed to fully understand what a symbol represented were asked to describe it in further detail.
The survey revealed more than 40% of drivers are unable to understand the function of window lock buttons when shown a picture of them. Cruise control, parking assist and Auto are also among some of the most misunderstood symbols.
When looking at age differences, the results revealed that while more than half of drivers (52%) did not understand the purpose of the parking assist button, it is those aged 55 and older who struggled the most. Nearly 62% admitted they were not aware of its function.
Drivers between 17 and 24 years found the recirculating air button among the trickiest to identify. This button cuts off outside air to the inside of the car, but one in two young drivers admitted they don’t know its function.
The survey found a vehicle’s MEM button is the least understood symbol, with 77% admitting to not knowing its purpose. The memory button isn’t included as standard in all vehicles and its function varies as saving a radio station or car seat position.
Similarly, the SYNC button has two potential functions: it can synchronise the passenger's temperature and air-conditioning settings to match those of the driver or it assists in making hands-free phone calls. Given its dual function, 73% of drivers admitted to not understanding its purpose, thus taking the second spot as the most misunderstood control.
The AUTO button, which automatically maintains a certain temperature when pressed, is fourth on the list. While 598 drivers claimed to understand the function of this button, when asked to describe it 48 said it referred to automatically starting your vehicle and 33 identified it as either “auto cruise”, “auto drive” or “autopilot”. Overall, fewer than 30% of respondents were able to correctly identify the button’s purpose.
The cruise control button allows drivers to maintain a constant speed without continuously pressing the accelerator. Despite being a common feature, more than 40% of all drivers admitted they did not understand its purpose. Of the 60% of drivers who claimed to be clear about what this button does, more than one in three answered incorrectly, with answers relating to petrol or fuel consumption, revealing a significant lack of knowledge.
When shown the image of a common window lock button, 41% of drivers did not understand its purpose. Even those who claimed to know its function often described it incorrectly, with answers ranging from “airbags” to “no smoking” and “underfloor heating”.
From the 626 respondents who said they understood the button’s function, only 60% managed to properly describe it as a window lock.
The snowflake symbol is designed to activate the cool air-conditioning. However, while 72% of people claimed to fully understand its purpose, only 28% correctly identified it as such. The rest appeared to believe it relates to cold weather warnings or icy road conditions.
Erin Baker, editorial director at Auto Trader, said: “Understanding a car's centre console can be challenging as symbols can vary between different brands. Our research has revealed many drivers, regardless of experience, face difficulty in deciphering the array of symbols within their vehicles. The problem becomes more pronounced with older vehicles, which may feature uncommon symbols like the MEM button.
Top 10 most misunderstood car buttons
1. Mem — 77% of drivers don't understand its purpose
2. Sync — 73%
3. Parking assist — 52%
4. Auto — 43%
5. Cruise control — 41%
6. Window lock — 41%
7. Traction control — 38%
8. Rear window demister — 32%
9. Recirculating air — 32%
10. Snowflake aircon — 27%.
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