What is it about cruise control?

My daughter inherited a car from her recently deceased grandfather - my dad. It’s a 3 or 4 year old Ford Focus with very low milage (as he was getting progressively sicker about the time he purchased it). It’s just about perfect for her in every way except it does not have cruise control. Since she’ll be primarily using it to drive back and forth from college (Indiana to east coast) this would be a very nice feature to have.

I’ve called around to see about having it installed, and have been met by complete ignorance on the part of the mechanics. Even the local Ford dealer had no idea how to go about installing cruise control post factory, how much it might cost, nor even what parts are needed. One guy told me that it would probably mean replacing the entire wheel.

Is this so? Does anyone know what’s actually involved with intalling cruise control in a car that was built without it?

Googled “aftermarket cruise control” and got a bunch of hits, so you might want to “cruise” through some of them. There seems to be a difference of opinion on whether they are good or not.

In any case, here is one place that sells them.

Careful, though. If the car’s still under some kind of warranty, this installation may void it.

I put a Sears kit on a car I owned many years ago. Not for a rank amateur, but not difficult, either. YMMV on a car built within the last decade.

What is your philosophy about the usefulness of cruise control for her (honest question)? I have found it almost useless for East Coast driving my 12 years of doing it and nothing more than a “nice to have” on vanishingly few routes in all my life. I have always believed that it decreases safety at least for myself but I can’t speak for everyone. I have done more 1000+ mile marathon driving trips by myself than most and I have almost never used it even when it was there. Does she truly need it and is it really worth the money?

Why not sell the 3-4 year old Focus with low mileage and buy a Japanese compact that does have cruise control plus all the other bells and whistles.
I could ferry all my stuff back and forth to college in a Ford Fiesta.

You CAN get after-market cruise control and it doesn’t necessarialy void a warranty. We had one installed on our Toyota Echo (my husband has some damage to his lower spine and uses cruise control to help maintain proper speed with less fatigue). Unfortunately, I no longer remember the details about where we got it.

Personally, though, I don’t see it as essential for most driving.

The Dodge dealership was able to install an after-market cruise control on a used 1997 Dodge Neon that my husband and I bought in 1998. My husband will not own a vehicle that does not have cruise (whereas I hardly ever use it at all) and he would never have bought that car if they did not say they could install it. The salesman said that it was no big deal, and it didn’t void the warranty.

IIRC, it didn’t take long to install, maybe a day or two. It worked well for the entire time we had the car (until this May).

Depends on what part of the country you’re in. Out here, when you can go for a long time without even seeing a car while on the interstate doing 75+, it’d be really nice to have. I don’t have cruise control in my car, and while I didn’t care when I was in the back roads of Pennsylvania or the traffic of the DC metro area, I really wish I had it for my 4 hour drives up and down I-25. Of course, when I do drive a car with cruise, I then forget to turn it on.

A big advantage for me is that cruise control helps keep me out of trouble. Saves gas too. I set it as soon as I hit the freeway, even for short drives.

Cruise control to me seems like really unsafe feature. Not to mention the pointlessness of it. Still it is surprising it does not have it.

Maybe there’s another thread about the safety of cruise control. I think it would be somewhat on the plus side. But I don’t know.
Pointless? I don’t know that about either. In what way? Does your car have it?

Those who have actually studied the statistics would disagree with you. Drivers using cruise control tend to stay closer to the speed limit than those not using it. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did not find that using cruise control increased the number of accidents related to nodding off or inattentive driving.

The following is given to provoke thought and not anything you said because it seems reasonable on the surface. Staying close to the speed limit isn’t in and of itself a good thing. In the greater Boston area which is known internationally for its aggressive driving style, fiercely dedicated speed limit drivers are really and truly a driving driving hazard for themselves and others. This isn’t a subtle point either. Anyone could give you a dramatic demonstration by setting a car on cruise control at say parts of Route 24 or I-495 on an early Friday afternoon. The effect will be instant as traffic disrupts all around trying to deal with the new obstruction. Even though it is technically the law, it is still irresponsible and wreckless behavior.

I have never gotten a speeding ticket sense I moved to Massachusetts 11 years ago and I drive above 80 mph every single day and a doubt that I ever will. It is because I move with traffic which is the better goal in my mind. Cruise control makes a hard assumption that isn’t really warranted. I don’t think that I am the greatest driver in the world either. I just look at the appropriate conditions every few seconds and adjust to it. That could take me from 15 mph over the speed limit to 20 mph under it in a span of a minute if something like road problems or fog presented themselves. To me, that is what good drivers that I would like to emulate do.

The part that really makes me wonder is what piece of driving cruise control helps to fix. My foot is always going to be somewhere close to accelerator pedal and just resting it on it for control is at least as easy as anything else. It is a solution without a problem IMHO.

BTW, I had a 16 year old neighbor that was killed when his car on cruise control went into a ditch at midnight and hit a culvert at 60 mph after he fell asleep. There were no drugs, alcohol, other other contributing factors. He simply watched a movie with his girlfriend and tried to drive 15 miles home. I know that people say that anecdotes don’t mean much but the cruise control stats much be pretty sparse by there very nature and I find it hard to see how cruise control could save a life directly.

Your last point, Shag, is easy to address. The kid didn’t end up in the culvert because of cruise control. He fell asleep. Had he not had CC, he might have went off faster, or slower. There’s no telling. I’d venture that cruise control wasn’t really a factor in the accident.
And about people impeding the flow of traffic. That, I think, is a problem with lack of law enforcement, not the drivers who are obeying the law. If Mass wants their drivers to drive faster as a means to save lives, then they should raise the speed limits.
Anyway, no one’s required to use cruise control.
You are right that relative speed is the problem. But I’d stop short of requiring drivers to exceed the posted limits. Would you pay their (however unlikely) costs for speeding tickets?
BTW; I do tend to speed when I think I can get away with it. :slight_smile:

I have only had CC on one car, a Honda Accord that I sold in March.
I used it very frequently. In town to stop me exceeding the speed limit, which was far too easy to do and I have a couple of speeding tickets for being inattentive for a moment or two.

Same thing on motorways. Contrary to Shagnasty’s experience, the majority of drivers here will be shuffling along at 50~60 in the inside lane and setting it at 70 just kept the car rolling along nicely.
Where appropriate, the car wold accelerate past slower moving vehicles than drop back to the preset speed. Alternatively the slightest touch of brake or clutch pedal would kill it.
There were also buttons on the steering wheel to make adjustments to the speed (hand throttle - yay!)

I miss it.

I think that for a lot of drivers it can be an economy feature too. Many drivers left to their own devices will constantly accelerate then brake repeatedly which is not fuel efficient while maintaining a relatively constant velocity is.

Why would you suggest that? The Japanese cars are still likely to cost more, meaning pouring more money into a car without the knowledge of how grandpa took care of it. If the whole purpose is to get a “better” quality car, you should look at the quality ratings of the Focus. They’re on par with any of the Japanese or Korean marques.

I installed one a while back, then removed it from that car and reinstalled it in my next car, it was a aftermarket unit. It wasn’t the easiest thing to install, but it was not all that hard. The real part is since each car is different you have to custom create how to run wires and cables.

The way I see it is CC trades some manual control of a car for better knowledge of the speed of the car, which means less time looking at the speedometer, more time looking down the road and less time driving outside the speed range you would prefer to stay in.

I also notice a trend which may or may not be related to CC, sometimes someone will be approaching from behind, they are obviously going faster then me, as they are approaching. As the get behind me, some/many times within tailgating range they no longer are going faster but just hang there, instead of pulling into the left lane and passing, which some do also. I would think that CC users are less likely to tailgate (= safer).

I would never use cruise control in crowded city driving conditions like Shagnasty describes. That is not what it is designed for. My husband insists upon it because we often make 300 mile trips to Wisconsin, and a creeping leadfoot 80 past a weigh station will get you a ticket! I would guess that in most rural areas, staying close to the speed limit is a good idea.

We took a trip to Montana this summer, and my husband was amazed that people there stuck to posted speed limits. I said, “The limit is 75. Do you ever have a reason to drive faster than 75?” He admitted that he really did not. This might be an argument for more reasonable speed limits, but in the city, people are so used to exceeding the speed limit that they would drive 10 over even if the limit were 90.

In fact, I’m sure the OP was inspired by a desire to make their daughter’s long drive to school easier. She would probably never use the feature on the East Coast.

Where cruise control comes in handy is when the “appropriate conditions” stay constant, like on long, flat stretches of road with little to no other traffic. Maybe you never see conditions like this where you live, but they do exist elsewhere in the country.

I’ve seen “use cruise control” on lists of tips for saving gas, the idea being that it’s more economical to maintain a constant speed than to keep slowing down and speeding up. Sure, you can maintain a constant speed without cruise control, but it requires more care and more attention to the speedometer (and thus, perhaps, less attention to the road).