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Instructions on opening hatchback for dummies & nagging voices from Datsun
Dennis Wyatt RGB
Dennis Wyatt

Three months ago my remote entry to pop that hatchback on my 2017 Ford Focus stopped working.

I tried the spare key fob. It didn’t work either.

I was now faced with a dilemma. I had been driving the car for almost three years and I had no idea how to open the hatch manually. After a few minutes of aimlessly searching around the dashboard I pulled out the owner’s manual.

I finally figured it out thanks to Ford actually writing an owner manual designed for dummies as opposed to Apple and et al who assume if you buy an object that has the word “smart” in the name that you’re at least as smart of a 6-year-old that can figure their way around any electronic device on the planet.

I felt a bit like an idiot. But that was nothing compared to earlier this week when I dropped by Ford to see if the problem could be fixed.

I need to emphasize that the service representative was absolutely professional and in no way did he infer I was an idiot. I came to that conclusion on my own after he took the key fob and opened the hatchback within seconds.

How did he do it? He pressed the button twice with the icon of a hatch being opened. I was dumbfounded.

I had been opening the hatch for over 2½ years – or at least I thought I had been – by pressing the icon with the unlocked lock twice.

I was relieved that I didn’t have to shell out money to get it fixed. However, I was dumbfounded by the fact I had no problem using the key fob probably close to 4,000 times to pop the hatch and then one day I couldn’t remember how to do it.

Worse yet, despite looking at the key fob repeatedly to make sure I was not hitting the button with the door lock icon by mistake I never saw the button with the hatch opening icon right below it.

To say it bugged me is an understatement. I can hike across country, across confusing desert pavement in Death Valley with absolutely no trails to remote canyons with endless forks and return three years later and repeat my step and not need to refer to a topography map or pull out a compass. I can also go for a three-mile jog with my mind completely blank while paying attention to my surroundings and be bombarded with upwards of a dozen thoughts and/or things I need to remember to do. Then when I get home I can write them all down.

But somehow I couldn’t remember how to open my hatchback with a keyless entry when I was holding the answer in my hand.

I finally figured out what had happened. My previous vehicle – a 2006 Ford Escape – I drove for 12 years had a keyless remote where the rear lift gate was opened by two presses on the unlocked lock icon.

This was not the first time I owned a vehicle that either has stumped me at some point after owning it for years or just defied logic.

Technology speaking, the one that drove me up the wall the most was the Datsun 280ZX T-top. It was absolutely the coolest and most problem-free car I ever owned. It also was one of the first cars on the planet with an electronic voice that warned you if your door was ajar or if your seatbelt was not clicked. It also told you if your fuel level was low. It was designed to come on once every time at some point after you turned the ignition on if you had a quarter of a tank of gas left or less.

Unfortunately on my Datsun, it would not give me one warning but every 15 seconds it informed me I was “low on fuel” until I turned off the ignition.

The verbal reminder was preceded by two low-key gong-like sounds followed by a somewhat soothing female voice announcing “fuel level is low” twice and then another two gong hits.

It was annoying to say the least.

If a cassette tape (yes, I’m that old) was playing or the stereo on, it would be louder than the volume of the music. Datsun engineers obviously wanted you to hear it.

The louder you turned the music up the louder the warning would be making the gong-like songs extremely grating.

The first time this happened I ended up driving 12 miles before I finally relented, turned the music off, and let the only sound I could hear was the no longer soothing female voice as it obnoxiously reminded me every 15 seconds that I was running low on fuel.

I imagine the Datsun engineers thought that it would put a driver’s mind at ease being verbally reminded when they were running low on fuel. But the sharp “gongs” followed by what seemed more like a nagging voice than one that was reassuring then capped by two more gongs repeating is two anything but amazing. It was setting me on edge. Even without the stereo on the voice was set for a level of someone talking to you fairly loud but sternly.

This, of course, happened when I was 70 miles from running out of gas and had already planned to fuel up when I pulled into the next town some 40 miles away.

The dealership assured me “the voice” was only supposed to warn me once the fuel level was low whenever the engine had been running for more than a minute and there was less than a quarter tank of gas.

I took it in twice for the problem and each time the service rep thought I was whacked.

Finally, having my fill of being dismissed as an idiot I deliberately made sure I had less than a quarter tank of gas one day and drove to the dealership some 50 miles away.

I declined to speak with anyone but the service manager. When I explained the problem, he essentially said that was impossible implying the Datsun ZX was designed to be smarter than the driver. So we ended up going for a drive.

After the nagging voice came up the third time in a minute, the service manager — who just minutes earlier told me it only so once after the ignition was turned on — told me I could fix the problem by getting gas.


Without losing it I said what if I’m 50 miles from a gas station and the noise was driving me crazy. He told me just to turn the stereo on.

I couldn’t resist.

I turned the stereo on and then, just before the gongs were to announce the voice that I had grown to hate, I turned the volume all the way up.

To say the noise created was hideous was an understatement.

I got my point across. They fixed the problem by replacing some part I’m sure AutoZone never had heard of and did so at their cost as it was under the original factory warranty.

As tech makes everything “easier” to use including automobiles, it can lead us to losing our minds in more ways than one.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation.