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Old 19 Dec 2004, 08:37 am
clifffreeling@yahoo.com
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Default Car horn question

Actually, two questions...

Just how is the noise produced? I know that large air horns,
sirens and such produce the sound by blowing compressed air
through holes, like playing a wind instrument, but how is the noise
produced in a normal car horn?

And as far as the circuitry, I noticed a while back when I
installed a new horn on my old Mazda, that the horn would honk
(even with the electrical lead connected) only when its mounting
bracket was touching car metal (grounded?). I notice this again
this week when I installed a new "actuator" in the center
of my steering wheel. Even when connected, and with the plates
in contact, the horn would honk only when the plates were mounted
in the wheel, not when holding them in my hands.
Just curious about this.

--
Cliff

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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 19 Dec 2004, 08:46 am
Nate Nagel
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Default Re: Car horn question

clifffreeling@yahoo.com wrote:

> Actually, two questions...
>
> Just how is the noise produced? I know that large air horns,
> sirens and such produce the sound by blowing compressed air
> through holes, like playing a wind instrument, but how is the noise
> produced in a normal car horn?
>
> And as far as the circuitry, I noticed a while back when I
> installed a new horn on my old Mazda, that the horn would honk
> (even with the electrical lead connected) only when its mounting
> bracket was touching car metal (grounded?). I notice this again
> this week when I installed a new "actuator" in the center
> of my steering wheel. Even when connected, and with the plates
> in contact, the horn would honk only when the plates were mounted
> in the wheel, not when holding them in my hands.
> Just curious about this.
>
> --
> Cliff
>


The horns themselves usually work by vibrating a metal diaphragm.

The reason that the circuit only works when it is installed is that yes,
it does require a ground to operate. Generally automotive accessories
only have a +12V feed, the ground is provided through the body/chassis -
unless of course you are working on a Corvette or Avanti or something
like that.

But anyway, generally how the circuit works is that there is a +12V feed
to the horn relay (mounted under the hood somewhere) and the ground side
of the coil is sent up to the steering wheel. The horn switch in the
steering wheel switches that to actual ground (steering shaft) - that's
why the horn doesn't work unless you actually install the switch. (the
reason that it is done this way is that the coil will limit the current
in the wire up the column, otherwise if it were switched on the 12V side
there would be a possibility of things melting if there were a short in
the wire in the column. with the typical connection your horn will
blow, but that's easily solved by unplugging the horn relay.) when that
connection is made, the relay pulls in and sends 12V to the horns
themselves. But as I stated above, most automotive accessories require
a chassis ground to operate - so that's why your horns don't work if you
are holding them in your hands.

nate

--
replace "fly" with "com" to reply.
http://home.comcast.net/~njnagel
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old 20 Dec 2004, 10:48 am
clifffreeling@yahoo.com
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Default Re: Car horn question


Nate Nagel wrote:
<snip>

Thanks Nate, that explains it pretty well!

--
Cliff

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  #4 (permalink)  
Old 21 Dec 2004, 03:49 am
Ted Mittelstaedt
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Default Re: Car horn question


<clifffreeling@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:1103561293.597961.146640@z14g2000cwz.googlegr oups.com...
>
> Nate Nagel wrote:
> <snip>
>
> Thanks Nate, that explains it pretty well!
>


One other thing, car horns are also marked as to the musical note the
produce. A and F are the most common, they make a chord. You can
also find horns that are C and make ACF to make a triad, sounds kind
of cool. I've also seen D as well in the bins in the wrecking yard.

Ted


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  #5 (permalink)  
Old 21 Dec 2004, 08:09 am
clifffreeling@yahoo.com
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Default Re: Car horn question


Ted Mittelstaedt wrote:

> One other thing, car horns are also marked as to the musical note the
> produce. A and F are the most common, they make a chord. You can
> also find horns that are C and make ACF to make a triad, sounds kind
> of cool. I've also seen D as well in the bins in the wrecking yard.


I think my old '75 Toyota Celica had two notes, because I noticed
after having owned the car a while that one of them died,
leaving me only one. But it's still kind of amazing how the volume
of sound is produced. I halfheartedly tried to take my old, dead
Mazda horn apart to see inside, but gave up as it was pretty well
put together.

--
Cliff

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  #6 (permalink)  
Old 21 Dec 2004, 01:26 pm
Steve
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Default Re: Car horn question

clifffreeling@yahoo.com wrote:

> Actually, two questions...
>
> Just how is the noise produced? I know that large air horns,
> sirens and such produce the sound by blowing compressed air
> through holes, like playing a wind instrument, but how is the noise
> produced in a normal car horn?


There is an electromagnet that pulls on a metal diaphragm (various
specific methods exist, just giving the generalities here) inside the
horn. As the diaprhagm moves, a contact opens and interrupts the current
through the electromagnet so that the diaphragm returns to its original
position, thus re-establishing electrical contact. Repeat 400+ times per
second... :-) The vibrating diaphragm is coupled to the outside world
via a tuned-length passage that resonates at the note the horn is
designed to produce.

>
> And as far as the circuitry, I noticed a while back when I
> installed a new horn on my old Mazda, that the horn would honk
> (even with the electrical lead connected) only when its mounting
> bracket was touching car metal (grounded?).


Almost all systems on a car utilize the chassis as the return (ground)
connection. That reduces the wire count by nearly a factor of 2, saving
weight, complexity, and reducing the number of potential failure points.

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  #7 (permalink)  
Old 21 Dec 2004, 05:20 pm
Dan_Thomas_nospam@yahoo.com
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Default Re: Car horn question

And creating another hassle: corrosion of ground points. Some of
us live in areas that get snow and other icy crud in the winter, and
the highways maintenance people like to save effort by using salt along
with sand to melt ice and give grip. The salt and water eats cars
alive, and when there's electrical flow through joints or terminals
that can get wet, the corrosion accelerates enormously.
A bad ground can be difficult to diagnose. A common one used to be
at the taillight: a bad ground on one side would make the other side
act funny. For instance, if you had the left turn signal on and the
right taillight was dimming when the left signal lit up, you had a bad
ground in the left light. The left signal current was seeking a path
via the left taillight filament, through the taillight wire to the
right bulb, and through the right tail filament to ground. Reversed
electrical flow through the tail wire caused the dimming.

Dan

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Old 26 Dec 2004, 10:35 pm
Dave
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Default Re: Car horn question

A lot of cars have floating grounds now that produce those results. I
noticed it 1st when I installed an aftermarket stereo in a Nissan Sentra for
a friend of mine. I always check to make sure it works before I lock them
down in the dash. Hers wouldn't fire up so I checked & double checked all
the connects. After then doubting my own expertise, I just slid it in the
dash so I could get a 2nd opinion and it just turned on. I grabbed it to
check for a shortage, and it went off. That's when I noticed that the
negative lead was basically a dummy lead. It had noting to do with the
supply circuit to the Nissan Sentra Stero. The frame in the dash was the
ground/neg terminal. I supposed Honda has adopted some of the same.
<clifffreeling@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:1103467043.926816.300460@c13g2000cwb.googlegr oups.com...
> Actually, two questions...
>
> Just how is the noise produced? I know that large air horns,
> sirens and such produce the sound by blowing compressed air
> through holes, like playing a wind instrument, but how is the noise
> produced in a normal car horn?
>
> And as far as the circuitry, I noticed a while back when I
> installed a new horn on my old Mazda, that the horn would honk
> (even with the electrical lead connected) only when its mounting
> bracket was touching car metal (grounded?). I notice this again
> this week when I installed a new "actuator" in the center
> of my steering wheel. Even when connected, and with the plates
> in contact, the horn would honk only when the plates were mounted
> in the wheel, not when holding them in my hands.
> Just curious about this.
>
> --
> Cliff
>



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