A suicide knob is a steering wheel attachment that allows you to steer a vehicle with one hand.  These knobs go by various names such as Brodie knobs, spinner knob, and necker knobs.  Using a knob allows a person to maneuver the steering wheel quickly. Before power steering was standard, it was much easier to turn the steering wheel using one of these knobs.  At the height of their popularity, there were many decorative knobs available in different shapes and designs. Today, suicide knobs are still popular with lawnmowers, boats, and forklifts for making sharp turns.  On cars, they function as a steering aid for disabled persons. For normal drivers, some people like driving with one hand using the knob as well as for its memory of the good old days.

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suicide knob on car steering wheel

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Knob Slang
Brodie Knob: Steve Brodie was a New York man in the 1800’s who became famous for supposedly jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge and surviving.  He did this to win a bet, a saloon, and gain fame.  Although people have disputed his jump, it was published in the New York Times, and his saloon became a museum for his jump.  His famous jump coined the terms “taken a Brody” or “did a Brody” to describe someone jumping off a high structure. The Brodie knob was named after him since misuse of the knob could lead to loss of control.  Very few have survived jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. Hence, by association, the slang suicide knob was coined.

Necker Knob: The term for necker knob came about from a benefit of being able to drive with one hand.  With one arm driving, the other arm was free to put around your date.  Necking is a 1960’s slang for caressing your partner on and above the neck. Sometimes also meaning to kiss and make out.

Lay a Brodie: This was a term for doing a half donut with your car.  By turning rapidly while accelerating, the car would spin the tires and do a 180.