by Scott Sowers
A stuck accelerator pedal is one the most dangerous situations that can happen to you in a car. Although a suddenly racing engine invites a certain amount of panic from the driver, the first thing to remember is to stay as calm as possible. The accelerator controls the speed of your car by regulating how much gas is going into the engine. The more gas the motor gets, the faster it turns. An accelerator can stick for a number of reasons including a manufacturers defect or it can something as simple as a floor mat catching on the pedal and pushing it down.
If you suddenly notice that the car is accelerating on it's own, take a quick look down to see if something is interfering with the pedal. If you see something, move the offending object and resume motoring to your destination. If the area around the pedal is clear, immediately try shifting the car into neutral. Don't panic and remember that shifting a transmission might involve holding in a button or pulling the gear shift towards you to engage the lever. If you're driving a car with a manual transmission, push in the clutch to disengage the transmission and shift into neutral.
Once you have the car in neutral the engine may start to rev even higher. Try not to let this distract you. As soon as you're coasting with a certain amount of control turn off the key while looking for a place to pull over. Flip on your emergency flashers to alert the drivers behind you and begin easing towards the shoulder. Remember that once you turn off the key you will lose power to the car's systems. If your ride has power steering and/or power brakes they will become manual once you turn off the key. It will be harder to turn the car and take more pressure on the brake pedal to bring the car to a stop with the key off but your emergency flashers should still work.
Ease the car to the side of the road while aiming for a safe location to land. Gauge your speed so you'll have enough momentum to get the car completely out of the travel lanes. If for some reason you can't get enough pressure on the brake pedal to stop the car, carefully apply the emergency brake until bringing the car to a complete stop. Once you're safely off to the side of the road, try putting the vehicle in park. If it won't shift, leave the car in neutral and fully apply the emergency brake.
If you have some mechanical skills and would like to attempt your own diagnosis, check again around and under the accelerator pedal to see if something is causing it to stick. You can also pop the hood and try to locate the throttle linkage that connects the accelerator to the engine. Check to see if the linkage is broken or stuck on something. If you are not mechanically inclined, don't even try to fix this problem by yourself. A sticky accelerator is serious business and should be left to somebody like the pro techs at your nearby Sears Automotive Center.