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High Tech Autos

07/13/2012 11:36 AM

Consumers over the past few years have seen an explosion of hi tech features in the new automobiles. Satellite positioning systems, automatic parking and breaking systems, entertainment systems, etc. All of this technology adds cost to new autos and even the lowest cost autos available offer many of these "miracle" features. What the public fails to realize; it may work great; how could I have lived so long without it and it only adds a little more to the cost. In fact most people can afford the "latest and greatest", but a few years down the road when a hi-tech feature breaks down, how much will it cost to fix it? Those people who could just barely afford a new car, will be shocked to find out, they can't afford to have it fixed.

Another thing is insurance. The cost to repair cars damaged in accidents will sky rocket. There will be a lack of mechanics to fix these hi-tech toys. Insurance costs will go up to cover the higher costs of repairs. Not only the owners of these newer cars, but the owners of more conventional cars will be affected. I pay now a minimum for insurance because I drive an older car. I can see my insurance going up as it does for everyone across the board.

High technology is being forced upon us and we are buying into it. We don't see the future consequences. Remember when you could buy a no-frills refrigerator for under $500, just a few years ago. Now you can pay $2000 or more for the latest and greatest without giving thought as to repair cost. You know the more high tech, the more it will cost to repair. So where do we go from here?

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#1

Re: High Tech Autos

07/13/2012 12:56 PM

That is not necessarily true.

Which would you rather have, carburetors or electronic fuel injection?

How about starting your car in the Winter? I'll take fuel injection any day (except during a nuclear war).

The point is, electronics and technology has complicated cars, but it has also not only vastly lowered the cost of operation, but improved overall comfort and satisfaction.

OBD II has also helped to improve diagnostics of your car and it's free at Autozone. Sure, things can go wrong, but by no means is this technological boom bad in the larger picture.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: High Tech Autos

07/13/2012 5:44 PM

Sorry, but I'm afraid it is true. Do you remember when a person could work on their own automobile on a Saturday afternoon in their own driveway. Maybe you were not one of those DIY'er shadetree mechanics, but for a lot of us, it was a necessity and still is. The last time I had a car go bad, it cost me $1000 and that was just for the computer which I'm not capable of working on. Auto manufacturers love this hi-tech. It means more revenue for them when it breaks down. The public will have no other option but to pay if they want to stay on the road. I lived in New England for many winter years and never had carburetor problems. At least if it needed fixing, I could fix it. Not so with fuel injection. It's computer controlled and it costs a lot to have fixed by factory trained mechanics (high labor cost). Sure Autozone can diagnose your problem, but the cost of the parts to repair are high. Check the cost of an oxygen sensor or a fuel injector. Manufacturers seem to think we are all made of money and will pay for hi-tech, whether we can afford it or not. I may belong to a minority group, but my group is getting bigger every day. I live on social security alone; I drive a 2001 pickup truck and I do whatever maintenance I can myself. My electric window won't work, and I can't afford to have it fixed. You can imagine how long I drive before changing the oil. My brakes wore out and my son relined them for the cost of materials only. I'm happy for you as it appears maintenance costs are not your problem. I realize you answered this thread based only on your own experience, but there are many who will agree with me.

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#3
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/13/2012 6:58 PM

I understand your use of specific instances, but it is hard to get an accurate picture of the "universe" with a tiny sample size.

I did a quick search, but was not able to find what I wanted. I was looking for a graph of reliability of autos through the decades.

My position is that the reliability of autos have increased and I posit that one of the main reasons for that is the increase of technology in the vehicle.

I cited the obvious example where fuel injection was a major improvement in reducing service incidents and increasing reliability over carburetors. It is true that the complexity of the system increased substantially. You may have a few dozen parts to a carburetor, but hundreds of components in the electronic computer unit and fuel injection mechanicals. Additionally, you have thousands of lines of software code inside that ECU.

No doubt that ECUs and fuel injection components fail, but the net frequency of failure is lower.

From a shade tree mechanic's point of view I vividly remember constantly servicing and synchronizing the carburetors of my old Triumph TR-4s (plural, because I have owned many). I can not recall but one incident where I had to service my fuel injection and that was because of a faulty gasket caused corrosion on a connector. While I was able to replace parts, I would not be able to service the ECU on a component level.

Even if a car throws a fault code, I can at least pull into Autozone and get them to read it for free. That usually tells me what system component is at fault and I can replace it, so it is not impossible to do a lot of work myself.

My current car (2004) is not something that I can universally work on due to its complexity, but the frequency of faults is almost zero with 72,000 miles on the odometer.

There is ample evidence to show that he cost of ownership for cars has increased, but I think that is more tied to inflation, gas & oil increases, tires, etc.

Lastly, today's cars (if maintained correctly) easily exceed 200,000+ miles without catastrophic failures. Yes there will always be exceptions. However, contrast that to cars in the 1960s and 1970s where just getting to 100,000 miles was considered damn good.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: High Tech Autos

07/14/2012 9:15 AM

Lastly, today's cars (if maintained correctly) easily exceed 200,000+ miles without catastrophic failures.
I totally agree. I have 150K miles on my 2005 Chevy Malibu and the only thing i have had to repair was the front brakes. In the old days getting that kind of mileage out of a car was unheard of. If someone looks at the overall operating cost over the life of a newer car vrs the replacement of a car every few years then it becomes apparent.

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#8
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/14/2012 5:11 PM

It has been many, many years since I have worried about the cost or maintenance of an automobile, but, back in the day, I always wanted a 1950's vintage Checker. Why? Because I knew of several that, if all claims are to be believed, would still be running after 350,000 miles or so with no major repairs. I believe in the 1950's-1960's, Checker would claim 200,000 miles.

So, even in the early days (well, OK, 1950's is maybe middle age for automotive technology, not "early days"), quality and durability were possible- either people just weren't interested, or the major manufacturers saw more profit in limited-life products...

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: High Tech Autos

07/14/2012 5:32 PM

I always wondered if Ford purposely made bad valves to sell new cars. Just judging from my personal experience with them. I wonder if planned obsolescence has ever been shown to be a fact.

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#10
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/14/2012 6:31 PM

I doubt seriously that "planned obsolescence" has ever been a conscious strategy of any manufacturer. What most likely happens is that designs are rushed to production before being completely refined (dictated by product cycles, not design issues), then manufacturers are too busy with the next generation to worry much about fixing the older versions. Any time "fashion" plays in to the game, expect this (i.e., smart phones, for example- rather than fixing the older models, manufacturers are in a race to get the next generation out the door- they are going to slack on trivial details).

Now, the old Checker changed very little in design over the years, and was slow to introduce newer engines and other features (many of the new features they offered over the years were actually the result of legislated changes- seat belts, locking steering column, catalytic converter, etc.). Of course, they weren't producing primarily for the consumer market, so they weren't all that concerned with fashion, and could concentrate on improving their product over the years...

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#5

Re: High Tech Autos

07/14/2012 10:58 AM

The vehicles advancements are great. What would be nice is to be able to easily swap out components, and have easy accessibility to all parts of the engine. Not to have to pull the engine to fix certain parts, or have special tools. Easy belt and hose changes etc. A repair manual should come with every car also. Does anyone rate new cars on ease of maintenance?

All I need is A/C and an AM radio. Automatic windows and locks are nice, but not a big deal to me.

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#6

Re: High Tech Autos

07/14/2012 11:03 AM

Considering that mighty $$ has greatly diminished in value, but the application of technology in automotive has somehow equalized that through improved performance and efficiency. Specially true if you stick with basic and don't buy all the bells and whistles that they offer!

It is understandable that due to the same technology enhancements it also has made it a bit harder for a regular DIY's to do their regular maintenance routines. But DIY's can still do them without much relying on expensive garages and mechanics. DIY's can still do most of the maintenance by having the knowledge and understanding of some basic electronics. Time permitting I still do mine. The only different this time is the use of my multimeter tester, some resistor / capacitor decade boxes and the circuit diagram for the make and model of my car.

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#7

Re: High Tech Autos

07/14/2012 12:51 PM

I can agree that cars are much more reliable today than in the distant past. I had an old 50's Plymouth that burned oil, like a quart every 150 miles, but I feel reliability only applies to the mechanical parts of cars; I'm not so sure about the electronics. Inflation surely does enter into the picture. From my point of view, those 19" wheels on the new cars may look "cool", but they cost a lot more than a 14 or 15" wheel; do we really need them?

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#11
In reply to #7

Re: High Tech Autos

07/17/2012 12:03 AM

I have put bread on the table for the last 45 years by repairing vehicles. And there is no doubt that todays vehicles are lasting longer than before, but part of that is that we are driving longer average trips than before. And those reliable Checkers, they were assembled with standard automotive parts. Chevrolet engines. GM 400 automatic transmissions. GM steering boxes. Dana rear ends Also used by GM, Ford, Chrysler, Studebaker and International Harvester. GM steering coulombs.I think GM supplied the electrical systems also.

Some of the technology was forced by government. Crash tests. Emissions. Fuel mileage. We all know that big brother knows what is good for us.

I remember when six cylinder full sized autos were fine for normal driving conditions. But as we built heavier cars, and started to strangle the engines with emission regulations, there came a time when a Chevrolet Caprice could not be had with anything less than a 400 cubic inch engine. But as the manufacturers learned how to deal with emission regulations, engines got smaller and smaller again. and performance got better along with the fuel mileage. We now have 300 plus horsepower from today's six cylinder engines. Does any one else remember the 245 horsepower 454 engines?

Is there a technology issue for repairmen? You bet there is. Today there are still two types of mechanics. The old school wrench turner, and the computer geek that fixes cars with a Digital Volt Meter. The industry needs more joining of these two types of mechanics.

Remember speedometer cables? Gone with the wind. Not needed any more. The car's computer knows how fast the engine is running, what transmission gear it is in, and what the tire size is and the axle ratio. So if it already knows this, it just is cheaper to send the result of this information to a chip in the computer that sends a signal to the motor in the speedometer , or the voltmeter in the speedometer.

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#12
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/17/2012 1:25 AM

Do you think a faulty computer chip would be a good legal defense when faced with a fine for speeding? "Gee, Yer Honor, my speedometer says I was only doing thirty...When I took to car to the shop after I got the ticket, they told me I had a bad sensor on my transmission (or maybe it was I had the system programmed for the wrong size tires?)"...

Something tells me Yer Honor is not going to buy that...

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#14
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/17/2012 6:36 AM

Doesn't matter what your instrument tells you, you are still responsible as pilot in command for your actions.

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#15
In reply to #12

Re: High Tech Autos

07/17/2012 11:54 PM

No, not a defense, but normally judges will be more lenient when there was a defect, and the vehicle has been repairs.

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#13
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/17/2012 1:28 AM

bob c-

The fact that the Checkers were assembled from standard automotive components while achieving exceptional reliability suggests that the technology to achieve excellent reliability has been available for a long time...Which was my original point in bringing up the Checker. I am sure there are other vehicle brands out there that could provide similar reliability records over the years.

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#16
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/18/2012 12:04 AM

I think what made Checkers so durable and reliable, was the extra margin of safety that went into the cars to avoid the problems that arise from using parts that are marginal for the expected use. Things like the 400 transmission, when they might have gotten by with the 350 Turbo. Like having a cooler for the power steering system. Like an auxiliary transmission cooler that was sized big enough to keep the transmission fluid cool under almost any condition. Like stronger wheels. Things like that helped make them so reliable. JMHO.

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#17
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/18/2012 1:40 AM

Another, possibly primary, reason that Checkers were so reliable is that the owner of the company was primarily manufacturing cars for his own taxi company, not originally with the idea of selling to the general public...

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#18
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/19/2012 9:03 AM

I agree. Just another case of a manufacturer deciding to put quality first. And ultimately paying the price for that by going bankrupt.

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#19
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/19/2012 9:27 AM

I do not know the history of Checker, but it isn't simply quality that causes a company to fail.

Many companies offer an excellent product that perfectly fits a specific need for a fair price. However, what typically happens is another company offers a more generic product that meets most of the end user's needs at a lower price and the original company suddenly finds their once secure market share eaten away. By then it is too late to compete and they are out of business.

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#20
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/19/2012 10:03 AM

Exactly.

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#21
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Re: High Tech Autos

07/19/2012 6:37 PM

There is a reasonably good history of Checker on Wikipedia. Essentially, the original owner, Morris Markin, with the idea of building taxis (he later bought the Checker Cab Company). Taxis are subjected to a significantly different operating regime than most mass-marketed autos- continuous daily use in city driving, and, as anyone familiar with the typical company owned fleets, subject to abuse by non-owner drivers. According to the article, Checker built almost exclusively for taxicabs, not the consumer market. It is sort of the case of someone with the wherewithall building to his own specifications, rather than accepting what was generally available in the open market. The company essentially died when it lost its way, being taken over by another owner with visions of turning the Checker into a consumer product.

The point of bringing Checker up in this discussion is that quality and reliability have been attainable for many years. Mass production on the scale of the consumer auto market both dictates a "loosening of tolerances" and a short product life cycle demanded by popular "fashion". Don't blame the automotive industry completely for giving people what they think they want (although I am sure GM, Ford, etc. derive significant benefit from the fact that many people feel it is necessary to "trade up" every three years or so).

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