When was the last time you honked your horn? If you live in Fort Collins, Colo. , it may have been weeks or even months ago as opposed to Washington, D.C. , where you probably honked your way through the morning commute. But the nation's capital may not hold a candle to parts of Asia, where drivers use their horns so often that they have to replace them during scheduled maintenance, according to the Detroit News .
Even though most horns come from suppliers, automakers tailor those horns to suit specific markets. It's not always easy. Sri Lanka says horns have to max out at 105 decibels from two meters away while U.S. horns typically run 110 decibels. Markets such as India, where drivers honk more often in congested cities, have prompted GM to use tungsten diaphragms instead of steel to prolong the life of its horns. Meanwhile, Ford plans to introduce a longer-life horn that holds up better on bumpy roads.
"We look for the right sound for every vehicle," Ford engineer Victor Rangel told the newspaper. It's "kind of like an orchestra conductor, directing a really small wind section."
Horns will start to sound similar worldwide, GM engineer Jason Wong told the Detroit News. In China, for example, cars are moving from disc horns to trumpet horns, which play the traditional dual-note chord in most U.S. and European cars. Chinese drivers have been receptive to the new sound, Wong said.