A Renault Mégane had a Cape Town family mystified when it jerked backwards up an incline of its own accord. But CAR technical editor Jake Venter had the answers...
Ian Schietekat, owner of a guesthouse, his family and their German guests were woken up just before 6am by a loud crash.
They rushed out and found that their German guests' rented car had crashed through a wooden fence.
Initially, everyone thought there had been a failed attempt to steal the car, but the gate was still closed, the car locked and the handbrake pulled up.
The police were called in but they too were left scratching their heads, with one officer saying “no vehicle can move if it is not switched on”.
In front of the crowd though, the car "suddenly made a type of roaring sound and gave two powerful leaps backwards, before it, thank heavens, was stopped by a hibiscus tree," Schietekat recalled.
However, Jake Venter said the car’s neurotic behaviour could probably be attributed to a combination of faulty electronics and a fairly strong wind.
The wind would be enough to generate a short in the starter circuit that would turn the starter motor, causing the car to move.
As for the handbrake, Venter said it was possible that the handbrake had not been fully engaged when the car was parked, in reverse gear, on the incline.
And the roaring sound made by the French car? “There must have been a cat inside or under the car!” Venter quipped.