The Reason Why Your Car’s Turn Signal Makes a Clicking Sound

Zmaj88, iStock / Getty Images Plus
Zmaj88, iStock / Getty Images Plus

The clicking of a turn signal ranks among the least-annoying sounds a car can make. Along with the flashing bulb behind the arrow in your car's dashboard, the gentle, rhythmic tick tick tick-ing tones are a sign that your blinker is working properly when you switch it on. Even as technology has progressed, this feature has remained a constant throughout generations of vehicles—or at least that's how it appears to drivers. According to Jalopnik, there's one thing that has changed, though: the actual source of that familiar sound.

The flashing turn signals began appearing in automobiles in the late 1930s when Buick made them standard in some models. Traditionally, the clicking sound is made via heat. Drivers would switch on their blinker, and the electricity would heat up a bimetallic spring in the car, causing it to bend until it made contact with a small strip of metal. When these two components connected, a current would pass through them and power the electric turn signal lights. The bimetallic spring quickly cooled down and returned to its original form, turning off the light, before the whole process started again to create a new flash. As the spring bent back and forth, it created a clicking sound.

The next evolution of turn signals used a similar trick, but instead of moving a spring due to heat, it sent the electronic pulse to an electromagnet via a chip. When activated, the electromagnet pulled up a metal armature and disconnected the current powering the light (or the opposite, depending on the relay setup). Without the pulse from the chip, the electromagnet turned off and the armature returned to old position and bridged the circuit providing power to the bulbs. As was the case with the thermal spring, the relay clicked every time it moved.

Up until recently, this was how most car turn signals functioned, but things have changed as cars have become more computerized. Many car manufactured today rely on computer commands to activate their turn signals, skipping processes that once produced the distinctive clicks. But the clicking sounds are something people grew up with, and drivers might be unsettled if they heard nothing after activating their blinkers. That's why the mechanical sound still exists in the computer era—even though in many modern cars, it's actually just being broadcast through the vehicle's audio system.

For a visual of how electronic flasher signal systems work in cars, check out the video below.

[h/t Jalopnik]

8 Great Gifts for People Who Work From Home

World Market/Amazon
World Market/Amazon

A growing share of Americans work from home, and while that might seem blissful to some, it's not always easy to live, eat, and work in the same space. So, if you have co-workers and friends who are living the WFH lifestyle, here are some products that will make their life away from their cubicle a little easier.

1. Folding Book Stand; $7

Hatisan / Amazon

Useful for anyone who works with books or documents, this thick wire frame is strong enough for heavier textbooks or tablets. Best of all, it folds down flat, so they can slip it into their backpack or laptop case and take it out at the library or wherever they need it. The stand does double-duty in the kitchen as a cookbook holder, too.

Buy It: Amazon

2. Duraflame Electric Fireplace; $179

Duraflame / Amazon

Nothing says cozy like a fireplace, but not everyone is so blessed—or has the energy to keep a fire going during the work day. This Duraflame electric fireplace can help keep a workspace warm by providing up to 1000 square feet of comfortable heat, and has adjustable brightness and speed settings. They can even operate it without heat if they just crave the ambiance of an old-school gentleman's study (leather-top desk and shelves full of arcane books cost extra).

Buy It: Amazon

3. World Explorer Coffee Sampler; $32

UncommonGoods

Making sure they've got enough coffee to match their workload is a must, and if they're willing to experiment with their java a bit, the World Explorer’s Coffee Sampler allows them to make up to 32 cups using beans from all over the world. Inside the box are four bags with four different flavor profiles, like balanced, a light-medium roast with fruity notes; bold, a medium-dark roast with notes of cocoa; classic, which has notes of nuts; and fruity, coming in with notes of floral.

Buy it: UncommonGoods

4. Lavender and Lemon Beeswax Candle; $20

Amazon

People who work at home all day, especially in a smaller space, often struggle to "turn off" at the end of the day. One way to unwind and signal that work is done is to light a candle. Burning beeswax candles helps clean the air, and essential oils are a better health bet than artificial fragrances. Lavender is especially relaxing. (Just use caution around essential-oil-scented products and pets.)

Buy It: Amazon

5. HÄNS Swipe-Clean; $15

HÄNS / Amazon

If they're carting their laptop and phone from the coffee shop to meetings to the co-working space, the gadgets are going to get gross—fast. HÄNS Swipe is a dual-sided device that cleans on one side and polishes on the other, and it's a great solution for keeping germs at bay. It's also nicely portable, since there's nothing to spill. Plus, it's refillable, and the polishing cloth is washable and re-wrappable, making it a much more sustainable solution than individually wrapped wipes.

Buy It: Amazon

6. Laptop Side Table; $100

World Market

Sometimes they don't want to be stuck at a desk all day long. This industrial-chic side table can act as a laptop table, too, with room for a computer, coffee, notes, and more. It also works as a TV table—not that they would ever watch TV during work hours.

Buy It: World Market

7. Moleskine Classic Notebook; $17

Moleskin / Amazon

Plenty of people who work from home (well, plenty of people in general) find paper journals and planners essential, whether they're used for bullet journaling, time-blocking, or just writing good old-fashioned to-do lists. However they organize their lives, there's a journal out there that's perfect, but for starters it's hard to top a good Moleskin. These are available dotted (the bullet journal fave), plain, ruled, or squared, and in a variety of colors. (They can find other supply ideas for bullet journaling here.)

Buy It: Amazon

8. Nexstand Laptop Stand; $39

Nexstand / Amazon

For the person who works from home and is on the taller side, this portable laptop stand is a back-saver. It folds down flat so it can be tossed into the bag and taken to the coffee shop or co-working spot, where it often generates an admiring comment or three. It works best alongside a portable external keyboard and mouse.

Buy It: Amazon

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When Does a President’s Term Officially End?

President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, leave the White House after President Ronald Reagan's inauguration ceremony in 1981.
President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, leave the White House after President Ronald Reagan's inauguration ceremony in 1981.
Clawson, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

You may be aware that newly elected U.S. presidents take office sometime in January—maybe you even know the inauguration occurs on January 20, specifically. What you might not realize is that it’s technically illegal for a president who’s leaving office to continue serving after that date. As the Twentieth Amendment states, “the terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January … and the terms of their successors shall then begin.”

In other words, a presidential term is exactly four years long, down to the hour. In the three cases where January 20 fell on a Sunday (since the 20th Amendment went into effect), the president took the oath of office in a private ceremony on that day, and the public inauguration was held the following day.

Though the four-year term limit has been in the Constitution from the very beginning, January 20 wasn’t always the start and end date. Until 1933, it was March 4. After the Constitutional Convention adopted the Constitution in September 1788, the old government—the Confederation Congress—ceased operations on March 4, 1789 and the Congress of the United States started running things. Getting up to speed took a little longer than expected, and George Washington didn’t end up getting sworn in until April 30. As Binghamton University history professor and provost Donald Nieman writes for The Conversation, March 4 became the official Inauguration Day starting with Washington’s second term.

A painting of George Washington's second inauguration on March 4, 1793, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris.The Foundation Press, Inc., Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

By the early 20th century, the long delay between officials winning an election and actually starting the job was causing issues—mostly in Congress. Members of Congress were elected in November, but their first session didn’t start until the following December, a whole 13 months later. Furthermore, their second session, which started the December after that, could only last until their terms ended on March 4. So, in the 1930s, Congress passed the 20th Amendment, declaring that congressional terms would begin and end on January 3, about two months after the election.

The president’s inauguration day got shifted to January, too, and the amendment also explained what would happen if a president hadn’t been chosen by that date. The sitting president wouldn’t just stay in office by default—instead, Congress could either appoint someone to serve in the interim, or it could decide on another way to select someone. That person would serve “until a President or Vice president shall have qualified.” Since that’s never happened before, we don’t know exactly what the process would look like.

As for what the president actually does during their last days in office, it’s not all long lunches and lazy walks around the well-kept White House grounds. There are usually plenty of eleventh-hour pardons to make, and it’s tradition for the president to pen a letter to their successor. President Barack Obama also sent a heartfelt email to his whole White House staff, thanking them for their years of support and encouraging them to continue working to uphold democracy.

[h/t The Conversation]