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Joe's Garage: How to blow your own horn

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If there’s one thing any New Yorker knows, it’s the sound of a car horn. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy, not to mention the daily additions these noisemakers make to an already troubling noise pollution problem.

Practically speaking, however, if used properly your horn is a much-needed safety device that can prevent accidents. The main function of a horn, which is often lost on impatient commuters, is that if someone drives next to you or if they don’t see you, you can beep at them for safety. They are for emergency situations only, a simple solution to an unforeseen problem.

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When cars were first built, horns pretty much resembled those you may now have on your bicycle. You would basically squeeze a rubber pump and a honking sound would fill the air. Today, there are many different and more sophisticated types of horns with electric, bulb and electromagnetic being the primary ones that come to mind. You also have bull horns, or the ones you can buy off a shelf.

Sometimes, when you choose a certain car, the horn can give it a little extra personality. Let’s say you have a car that has a European heritage, the unique sound that comes from a Ferrari horn, for instance, can add to the vehicles ownership.

But what happens when you need to replace one?

For most people, if you just need to replace the factory-built horn, the dealership can swap it out with a manufacturer original. They may be a tad expensive, but when it comes to safety items, it’s definitely worth it. These fixes don’t take very long, and you can usually be on your way in less than a day.

However, if you have your heart set on buying an aftermarket horn, there are some great options out there. Wolo, Viair and Hella are the best brands, but if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, make sure you are hooking everything up properly as you may have to modify the connection. I would recommend a certified shop to help you with this operation.

A word to the wise, if you plan on buying a super-loud aftermarket horn to put on your car, be careful. Some drivers feel like their current horns aren’t loud enough… I think they are wrong. What ends up happening is if you have one of these super-loud horns, and you startle the driver who’s drifting over into your lane? That loud, arresting sound could create a panic situation, and result in the driver over-correcting and losing control.

Also, if your one of those who thinks using your horn will assist in getting traffic to move faster – think again. It’s not going to change anything, and on some occasions, it could be extremely dangerous, as you’re putting undue pressure on someone who might already be in an uncomfortable situation.

Until next time, drive safely.

Joe Ferrer, is the owner of BS&F Auto Parts in New York City and host of the SPEED original series "Hard Parts: South Bronx " Tuesday nights at 9pm ET on SPEED