Honk if You Honk (or Beep or Toot)

By Ford Social Member

You’re at a party mingling with strangers who so far have ranged from bankers to accountants. Numbers just don’t excite you, and now you’re looking at your watch trying to figure out if you can bail on this shindig. But then, the host introduces you to Patricia Seashore, and little do you know that the night is about to get a bit more interesting. You see, Patricia has one of those jobs you probably never think about anyone having – she’s the Ford Design & Release Supervisor, and with that comes a vast knowledge of horn technology, including tone and physics.

You see, there’s an art form to horns around the world, and Ford needs to ensure its vehicles’ horns properly reflect usage in each global market. You ask Patricia about this and she tells you that in Europe, vehicles have two horns – one on the steering wheel for traffic and another on the back of the vehicle as an anti-theft device. North America customers use the horn as a greeting and want it to sound friendly, and also to confirm the car has locked and as a vehicle locator in a parking lot. “We’re getting away from using horns strictly as a warning,” Patricia notes. “You’ll hear them, of course, when someone gets cut off, or when something aggressive is happening in traffic. But you hear them, too, when people honk at a neighbor to say ‘hi,’ or when they pull in a driveway to pick someone up.”

As a result, North American customers want a richer tone in their horns. That’s why they are trumpet horns, named for the plastic trumpet on them that attenuates the sound and makes it more melodic. Most of the vehicles have dual, trumpet horns, tuned to frequencies that are not unpleasant, but just slightly discordant. “While we don’t want the sound to be too bristly, we don’t want it to be too pleasant either,” Patricia reveals. “We want it to, you know, grab people’s attention a little.”

Riveted by her revelations, you dig deeper just as a party server brings by a tray of some weird-looking appetizer wrapped in bacon. What about those quick beep-beep horns? you ask. Those are prevalent in South America, where customers want a horn they can honk frequently in short stints. She further tells you that in India, the horns get far heavier use as drivers utilize them to help navigate through congested traffic on less developed roads. “We use a disc horn, which has a longer life, in a vehicle where the horn is part of daily driving,” Patricia says. And do get her started on China; she won’t disappoint, since those customers want both. “Customers drive with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the horn. The horn is huge,” Patricia explains. “They use their horn extensively – but they want it to sound nice. So there we use something we call an electronic trumpet. It’s a technology solution.”

Did you think we were kidding about the correlation between physics and horns? “China has one of the most extreme set of conditions, including cold temperatures and roads at 15,000 feet altitude,” Patricia points out. “So we’re not only looking at customers’ preferences, we must look at the physical environment of where the car is being driven.” That’s because altitude and temperature affect the way sound waves travel.

Later, as you pull away from the curb and the host waves from the porch, you gently tap your horn as a way to say goodbye and thanks, reminded in the moment that Patricia helped make that message loud and clear.
Ramon Cardona 06/13/2011
Patricia, please explain to me then the single tone, rather bland horn on 2008 Mariner hybrids. I purchased an used one in 2010 and had to spend 150 bucks to get the dual horns installed in the 2010 (and last) Mercury Mariner hybrids. More than a nice thing to have, the horn is safety equipment when needed to alert drivers of an error (like drifting into my lane when distracted with a phone or text or nav). I certainly hope that Ford does not install single tone horns on any of their vehicles so they can save $5 bucks or less per car. OK? Many thanks.
Michael Zambory 05/18/2011
I had to put twin train horns on my F250 Powerstroke. Ford should offer train horns as an option for their Super DUty trucks.
Toby Mcglothlin 05/17/2011
whatever sounds my rg makes
Susan Bellwood 05/17/2011
I honk but always have trouble finding the honker!!
Sonya Semos 05/17/2011
Hmm not sure lol
Josh Gnardner 05/17/2011
im a blaster!
Jeremy Beno 05/17/2011
teeter totter machine gun beepin with a ford escort horn at your pals! go america!
Mark Hanes 05/17/2011
"honk that horn, you paid for it" my motto...
Cannie Annie 05/17/2011
Everyone who knows where the horn is placed on a MK5 Fiesta will know how easy it is to mistakenly blast the horn.......I do it on purpose and blame the steering wheel...lol! ;)
Kezza Lowrey 05/17/2011
Honk Honk!! Toot Toot!! Beep Beep!!
Arlan Land 05/17/2011
My train horn works just fine for me. Too many obnoxious drivers here.
Alexander R. Ribakov 05/17/2011
oh I wish I were in the land of cotton!
Alexander R. Ribakov 05/17/2011
Whistling Dixie horn on my 94 f 150
Preston Wonders 05/17/2011
Chris Kendall 05/17/2011
I love the sound of my horn on my 01 Excursion
Bobby Williams 05/17/2011
i got a ford fiesta called doris, , she toots .
Jacob A. Chase 05/17/2011
Mustangs do honk.... The sweetest sound to alive! :)
Jennifer Hedlund 05/17/2011
Do Mustangs honk or Nay?
Jacob A. Chase 05/17/2011
I never knew that HORNS and PHYSICS could COMBINE..... Thats pretty cool! You Ford have some of the most interesting posts. Thanks Ford.
Rossco Fast Ford Watson 05/17/2011
Constantly beeping at broken down vauxhalls.
Arlan M Land 05/17/2011
I have a train horn on my truck because of totally obnoxious drivers here.
Joe Tedesco 05/17/2011
Too funny David...and true.
J.b. Wren 05/17/2011
That's a citation for improper use of equipment. Lol!
Cannie Annie 05/17/2011
Absolutely love the horn sound on my 2001 Fiesta......it's so loud and agressive, yet she is so quiet and cute looking! :)
David Burnside 05/17/2011
I haven't hit the horn in my vehicles in so long I can't remember what they sound like. People who blow their horn in traffic jams amuse me. If we could move, why would we be sitting there?lol
Michael Price 05/17/2011
want a dixie horn
Michael Price 05/17/2011
meep meep
Anna Callahan 05/17/2011
honk, honk, beep beep beep
Christopher Owen 05/17/2011
i always do after lunch at taco bell ...
Jj Munger 05/17/2011
Whatever sound a train horn makes....on the Excursion:)
Terrie Simunek Gulliford 05/17/2011
La Choo-ga
Colin White 05/17/2011
Honk if You Honk (or Beep or Toot)
Related articles