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To Honk or Not to Honk: Automotive Horn Buying Guide

Your vehicle’s horn doesn’t get enough credit. Think about it – it’s a simple device that ensures you’re noticed when needed, and you can let out a lot of frustration through it, although I don’t necessarily recommend you do the latter. There comes a time when your stock horn wears down or just dies abruptly, and you’ll have to buy a replacement. What most people don’t know, however, is that buying an automotive horn isn’t all that straightforward. You need to take into consideration a couple of important factors in order to ensure you comply with the local laws and regulations.

The first and most important decision you’ll have to make when buying an automotive horn is the sound that it makes. You want to consider the loudness, and the particular sound because not all horns sound the same. For instance, a truck horn sounds different from a train horn. The two most popular types of horns are direct drive system horns, which utilise a small air pump that pumps air directly into the set of horns, and horns that use an air compressor and tank.

automotive horn

The sound of the horns will vary depending on the number of trumpets inside the set, and the size of each and every trumpet. Thinner and shorter trumpets produce a higher-pitched sound, while wider and longer trumpets produce a deeper and more aggressive tone. Generally, horns come as a set of 4, 3, or 2 trumpets that are designed to create a blended tone.

Further, you need to decide between sealed and non-sealed air systems. The main reason why horns malfunction is because the air compressor is installed inappropriately. You need to install it in a dry and clean location, otherwise, water or dirt can make its way into the piston chamber and compromise the compressor. Moreover, the manufacturer warranty doesn’t cover this type of damage. For that reason, many automotive horns come with a sealed air system, which basically includes gaskets that are externally mounted on the vehicle’s chassis.

And lastly, you need to consider whether you’re going to install the horn yourself or have a mechanic do it for you. The answer to this depends on your skill set and experience in working with vehicles. They’re pretty straightforward to install if you have the experience with 12V installations, otherwise, you’re probably best leaving the installation to a skilled mechanic. Usually, the most challenging part is deciding where to put all of the components, which may require a bit of creativity, especially if you’ve bought bigger air horns.