Event Horizon

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Here’s perhaps the single most important thing to know about any modern car (computer-controlled and fuel-injected; so mid ’80s and newer) no matter the make or the model:black hole pic

It will probably last a long time (15-20 years) before it needs major repairs. Far longer than pre-modern cars lasted before they needed work.

But when major repairs do become necessary, it’s usually time to think about throwing the car away.

My very faithful 1998 Nissan pick-up, for instance, is reaching this point.

The engine is still tight; no smoke – runs like the proverbial Swiss watch. No transmission issues (the original clutch is still in the truck) and even the paint looks great – despite infrequent washings and almost 20 years of sitting outside. But “little things” are beginning to go wrong – and many of these involve potentially big money. And lots of hassle.

The other day I climbed in, keyed the ignition – and immediately smelled gas. For obvious reasons, I keyed the ignition off – and began to investigate. There was a large puddle on the ground, immediately behind the cab. At first I suspected a fuel line leak. Which is what it turned out to be. Except the leak was not coming from a hose, easily and cheaply replaced. Rather, the leak was emanating – arterially spurting – from the rusted-through steel fuel nipple that’s pressed into a fitting that bolts to the gas tank and to which is attached the electric fuel pump (as in most modern vehicles). There is no fixing – only replacing.butter5

Nissan does not sell individual components, either – just the “assembly,” which includes the wiring harness, fuel pump and so on. It’s about $500. That’s for the part(s) only. Installation requires removal of the fuel tank – which entails work that’s beyond the skill set and tool set of the average DIY’er. I can do this job myself – saving the labor costs. But the fact remains that – unless you manage to find a viable junkyard part to replace the kaput component – this repair would involve some $500 in parts alone.

And if you have to pay someone to do the job, the bill will likely be around $800 for parts and labor.

To put this in some perspective: My pre-modern 1976 Pontiac Trans-Am has a simple mechanical fuel pump that’s secured to the front of the engine (easily accessible) with two bolts (easily removable). There is no “assembly” – no harnesses, no electronics. Replacement cost? $35 or so for the pump and maybe another $10 for a few sections of rubber hose and some clamps. Almost anyone can do the job, too.

But the take home point is that even if it were necessary to replace the pump every four years (and it’s not) the cost-benefit remains favorable for almost an eternity.

As opposed to the case with my modern pick-up.butter 3

Because it’s not just the tank thing. The same problem looms almost everywhere I look. While I was under the truck, I noticed how rusty the brake lines are getting. But it’s not just the lines. They are easily and inexpensively replaced – as they would be in my ’76 Pontiac. But the truck’s ABS components (including the pump and wheel speed sensors as well as the electronics that control the works) are neither easily nor inexpensively replaced. Couple hundred bucks – at least – for the parts.

Plus the install labor.

Or, how about the exhaust? My truck’s simple – for a modern vehicle – but it still has a pair of “02” sensors ($75 each) and a catalytic converter ($200 for a generic replacement; the factory part costs much more). But even if these mechanical components are replaced, the inscrutable “check engine” light is still apt to come on. Because in addition to the 02 sensors and catalytic converter, there are dozens of related (and integrated) electronic components that, together, comprise the truck’s emissions control system. The light might be triggered by a minor (but exasperating to trace) vacuum leak or there might simply be an “intermittent” electrical/wiring/sensor fault that’s impossible to nail down. As the vehicle ages, all these components inevitably degrade – and systematically begin to fail. You fix one thing, something else goes wrong. It often – inevitably – becomes an increasingly expensive game of whack-a-mole.check pic

And because it’s a modern vehicle – it will not pass the mandatory state safety/emissions inspection unless the “check engine” light is off and all systems are fully operational.

Here’s an other case in point:

A buddy of mine owns a modern Trans Am  (it’s a 2000 model). His clutch began acting up recently and he asked me to take a look. The problem was easy to diagnose. The slave cylinder – part of the hydraulically-assisted clutch mechanism (all modern cars with manual transmissions have this, by the way) was bad. But the fix is not easy. Or cheap. Getting at the bad slave cylinder requires removing the transmission.

Gotta love General Motors.

This is beyond my friend’s skill – and tool – set. I can help him, but if he had to go to the dealer or any other shop (as most people would have to) the cost to fix would likely be at least $500 – just in labor, to remove and reinstall the transmission. And I am likely low-balling the estimate.junked cars pic

A ’76 Trans-Am with manual transmission doesn’t have a slave cylinder. The clutch is engaged and disengaged by the driver’s left leg, without “assistance” (and the added complexity and future expense that comes with it).

This is why my ’76 Trans-Am still exists. While my ’98 Nissan (and my friend’s 2000 TA) will almost certainly not exist in 20 years’ time. Or even ten years’ time.

Modern cars have numerous virtues, chief among them that they’ll go for a long time without much attention beyond routine fluid and filter changes.

But they are fundamentally – necessarily – disposable appliances. It is functionally (and economically) feasible to keep a pre-modern car going almost forever.

But the modern stuff is built to be thrown away, eventually.

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  1. Did you see this?: “the used car market will be flooded with vehicles. In turn, that will drive down used car prices”

    “But there is a huge problem lurking just around the corner. The number of expiring leases will double during the next three years, meaning that the used car market will be flooded with vehicles. In turn, that will drive down used car prices and cause sub-prime borrowers to be pushed even deeper underwater on their loans. In due course, they will consequently default at even higher rates than would otherwise occur; [pushing used car prices down even further!?] and the losses after the repo man recovers the vehicles will be proportionately larger, as well.” …

    Thursday, November 20, 2014
    How Janet Yellen is Fueling The Next Subprime Bust
    By David Stockman

    Maybe now is Not the time to buy a used car in spite of increasing rates of inflation? It may, however; be The time to sell?


    I think something is wrong with one of the links at the top in the black horizontal band.
    When I click the ‘OldCars’ I get directed to http://ericpetersautos.com/category/motorcycle-corner/

    The rest of them work fine.

  2. Watch out! Larry, Moe & Curly are running a government agency for your safety.

    In a significant shift, federal safety regulators on Tuesday called on automakers to conduct a nationwide recall of vehicles that contain driver’s-side airbags made by the Japanese supplier Takata.

    The nationwide move, urged by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, would expand a recall that has been mostly limited to two states and two territories associated with high humidity. If automakers do not agree to expand the recall, the agency said, it will “use the full extent of its statutory powers” to compel automakers to do so. The call, though, was likely to create confusion among car owners.

    The agency said it had yet to make a detailed list of the models or model years affected. But the expansions will affect millions of vehicles made by Ford, Honda, Chrysler, Mazda and BMW, mostly from model years 2008 or earlier, said David J. Friedman, the agency’s deputy administrator, on a conference call with reporters.


  3. Is Compromise Possible?

    The world economy is more and more based on mutual theft. The US and fiat currency nations steal by issuing dollars for goods and services and never redeeming the dollars.

    The world steals films, music, books for free on the internet. Rap music samples other music. Things are copied wholesale and repackaged with little or no original work in them.

    There is this vast new wealth for most. But a market destruction for others. A group of creative people spend 200 million to create a movie like “Interstellar.” One guy goes in and records and uploads it, and now millions can watch it for free.

    Do we cage the guy who records it. Shame the ones that watch it for free. What is to be done? Thugs are preventing solutions from arising. We have to outsmart and circumvent them, I think. Imagining who is a good guy and who is a bad guy, is clearly inadequate, I believe.

    Trillions are borrowed in loans and never paid backs. Laws constrain the lenders from using the necessary means to collect on their debts.

    We can’t be anti-technology. Or wish to harken back to the good old days. How do we stop the thugs from leveraging new tech against us. What we need to be is principled, and to make new technology and economic developments work for us. Somehow.

    A compromise is an adjustment of conflicting claims by mutual concessions. This means that both parties to a compromise have some valid claim and some value to offer each other. And this means that both parties agree upon some fundamental principle which serves as a base for their deal.

    “Doesn’t Life Require Compromise?”
    There can be no compromise on basic principles. There can be no compromise on moral issues. There can be no compromise on matters of knowledge, of truth, of rational conviction.

    “Extremism,’ or the Art of Smearing,”
    It is only in regard to concretes or particulars, implementing a mutually accepted basic principle, that one may compromise. For instance, one may bargain with a buyer over the price one wants to receive for one’s product, and agree on a sum somewhere between one’s demand and his offer. The mutually accepted basic principle, in such case, is the principle of trade, namely: that the buyer must pay the seller for his product. But if one wanted to be paid and the alleged buyer wanted to obtain one’s product for nothing, no compromise, agreement or discussion would be possible, only the total surrender of one or the other.

    There can be no compromise between a property owner and a burglar; offering the burglar a single teaspoon of one’s silverware would not be a compromise, but a total surrender—the recognition of his right to one’s property.

    “Doesn’t Life Require Compromise?”
    Contrary to the fanatical belief of its advocates, compromise on basic principles does not satisfy, but dissatisfies everybody; it does not lead to general fulfillment, but to general frustration; those who try to be all things to all men, end up by not being anything to anyone. And more: the partial victory of an unjust claim, encourages the claimant to try further; the partial defeat of a just claim, discourages and paralyzes the victim.

    “The Cashing-In: The Student ‘Rebellion,’”
    There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube . . .

    When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute, when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it’s picked up by scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.

    The three rules listed below are by no means exhaustive; they are merely the first leads to the understanding of a vast subject.

    In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.

    In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins.

    When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.

  4. Where are most of the millions of cars made in the 1960s and 1970s? Gone. Crushed. Recycled because they became financially too expensive to repair vs what the car is worth. The same will happen to modern cars. People would cringe today at what got crushed in the 1980s for clunker laws alone.

    Will it be difficult to restore modern cars to absolute stock perfection? Yes. But good luck finding that OEM air (smog) pump for a ’77 too. Resto-modding is done frequently to avoid hassle and expense.

    Electronics are getting easier and easier to do it yourself. Expect micro-controller kits or engine management kids to replace the OEM controls of any desirable car and good enough for the undesirable. things are already moving that direction. There are many kits available right now for hot-rodding. Buy the relevant universal kit. There’s always been a way or a way gets made. Does this mean learning some new skills, to a degree, yes. Restoring cars always did.

    OEM parts from a dealer always cost big money. A quick search gets the price down a great deal: http://www.nissanpartszone.com/parts/nissan-pump-compl-fuel~17040-3s500.html

    Aftermarket stuff is even cheaper but you get what you pay for in most cases.

    I’ve had to replace things like rusted fittings, tap/die on threads on old cars too. I know it’s especially problematic on japanese cars, but I’ve had that experience since the 1980s and usually what I end up with is broken fasteners.

    I know we’ve had this discussion before, but to me it’s just different with modern cars.

    • I disagree, Brent – here’s one reason why.

      Yes, the cars of the ’60s and ’70s got thrown away when they got tired. One reason being that similar new replacements were available. At reasonable cost.

      That is no longer the case today.

      Even the trained factory technicians often cannot find/fix problems in modern cars – especially when intermittent. The engineers often can’t.

      Recent examples include the software gremlins Ford engineers have been dealing with in EcoBoosted F-trucks. The engine simply refuses to rev… sometimes. Leaving drivers dead in the water. And Toyota’s drive-by-wire throttle. The car accelerates on its own. Imagine these systems 15-20 years from now. Or even 10 years from now. Meanwhile, in a car from the ’70s, the throttle was controlled by a simple mechanical cable that any half-bright person could easily deal with if it got stuck or snapped.

      Is it realistic to believe that it will be economically/practically feasible to deal with replacing (or major servicing of) the SRS system (six air bags, seat sensors, wiring harnesses, etc.) in a current year car 15-20 years from now? The direct injection system? Who is going to spend $800 to replace the ABS pump in a 17-year-old car worth $2,000? (And, remember: The owner will be required to fix it – or junk the car – because the ABS system/TCS is part of the mandatory “safety” suite and all such systems must be working to pass “safety” inspection. With a pre-computer vehicle, such issues simply do not exist – because there are no got-damned computers, no “SRS” or “check engine” lights.)

      This fuel tank job I’m doing right now would be $1,000 or more for the average person – who does not have the physical ability, mechanical knowledge or tools needed to drop a gas tank, deal with a profusion of rusted/FUBAR electrical/physical connections, or hunt down a serviceable used replacement component at the junkyard and make it work. It is orders of magnitude more hassle and expense than unbolting a mechanical fuel pump and bolting in a replacement unit.

      The cost to replace an automatic transmission in the typical late-model car is now easily twice (or three times) what it was in the ’70s and ’80s. One can still buy (brand-new/custom built) a non-computer-controlled GM automatic (TH350, TH400, TH2004R with overdrive) for less than $1,000 with the torque converter. And no got-damned computer ECU to sweat. Ever. Have you priced the cost of a current-year/computer-controlled GM automatic with torque converter? And it’s not just GM. This is true across the board. It is common for a new/rebuilt late-model automatic to cost $3,000 or more. Not counting the install. Madness.

      Cars have changed fundamentally.

      • People junked them right through the 80s and into the 90s. The crusher laws encouraged it.

        My father had a 1969 Mach 1 mustang. The dealership employees destroyed the electrical system on it. Each time they touched it the worse it got. I spent my very early childhood in that car… by the time it was 9 it was rusted out, the carb didn’t work properly, the electrical system full of gremlins, the top loader had trouble getting into 2nd gear, and that’s just what I remember. I think it had 70 or 80 something thousand miles on it. My ’97 mustang is 18 years old. It’s had some rust in hidden areas that I repaired. It has 202,000 miles on the clock. The engine is flawless. 2nd gear sometimes won’t co-operate at high (near the red line) rpm. Everything works. But you’ll say I took better care of it. Sure. My father has a ’99 mustang…. It has almost 200K on it. More issues than mine, due to inferior care, but no where near the ’69.

        Expensive repairs… I remember my parents’ early cavalier…. wow. That was over 30 years ago. Another car dealership mechanics couldn’t fix.

        A rebuilt Ford C6 is a grand-1200 or so. A rebuilt AOD about the same. AODE same. What do you think they would cost -all new-? Rebuilding a trans is labor and parts mark up. The big cost for me? real mazda parts from the dealer. Breaking the ring gear on my mazda cost me over $2 grand with a new clutch. It’s a simple 5spd manual transaxle. New? I don’t remember but it was more than I paid to fix it.

        Most every car repair is very expensive these days paying others. The parts are marked up to high heaven and the labor is sky high. I had a steel power steering cooler line rust out on my mazda. It’s a 10mm steel tube bent in a specific shape with flares for the hoses and the mounting brackets. How much at the dealer? 90 effing dollars for the part. Now could I have made a replacement? Flared and patched the existing? Sure I could have. I’ve done that with mazda PS lines before. It’s hours of work. Also requires making 10mm work with 3/8ths. I paid the $90. It’s a Japanese car. I couldn’t even find it on the web for cheaper enough to justify shipping it.

        The market is what drives prices. Hobby cars cost less. I can’t even find a reman 6R80E for sale out in the wild yet. The 5R55S (up to 2010 Mustang) is a little more than the AODE. Here’s a site that sells all of these ford ATs: http://www.tomsrivertransmissions.com/id6.html?gclid=CKrU0tCf5sECFQcJaQodxFAAtQ

        If you compare a GM F-body do it yourself hobby prices to Nissan dealer prices you’re going to have a huge gap. I just stick with Ford Mustang stuff through the ages… apples to apples pretty stable. I doubt the F-body world is much different.

        There are cars for the masses that take stuff to dealerships, use ’em up and throw them away and there are cars where people make a hobby of them. The later are vastly cheaper for the people who can make a hobby of them. That free market or what we have left of it does that. Someone sees a need to make this stuff for the demand it gets done. Meanwhile the cars with little to no hobby demand? Better empty your wallet.

        As to ease of work, sure the pain of a job varies widely and often is worse on modern cars. But the average person doesn’t know how to replace a mechanical fuel pump on the side of the engine either. I’ve known helpless people who bought classic cars and then sold them because they were too much trouble and expense. Why? They were helpless people. The simple things that go wrong with the old cars were killing their wallets.

        • Yeah, Brent – but the fact is I could (and most decent wrench turners could) literally put that ’69 Mustang back into as new shape with basic hand tools and not much money – relative to a new car.

          Example (from personal direct experience): I can tear down/rebuild the V-8 in my ’76 Trans-Am (fundamentally the same as the engine in the ’69 Mustang) from the oil pan to the air cleaner – ready to run – for about $2,000 in parts and machine work.

          How much does the DI (or PFI) system alone cost on a current Mustang?

          • Building a ’69 Mach 1 from the ground up… well we are looking at $18,000 for the unit body, then bolt on panels that are not included and such so let’s call it $20,000. Then we have a crate motor from ford, that’s another $6,000, Now that’s a new engine. then a transmission, a nice new T5, that’s $1800… where are we now? $27,800 and we still need a lot more stuff. All in all painted real car it’s pushing $40,000 to build a ’69 small block sportsroof from the ground up yourself.

            Now if we want to use some old body shell that’s $3000, a reman/rebuilt engine, $2-3K, a rebuilt trans, a grand…. but it’s not new stuff. New stuff to new stuff…. used stuff to used stuff….

            Does a crate modern DOHC 5.0 cost a lot more than push rod small block? Certainly. 10-15% more. But neither is cheap. Take a look….
            Now depending on options the push rod engines can be more money. They certainly are on a horsepower basis. The cheap DOHC 5.0 has more power than the cheap pushrod small block. But for more money than the DOHC 5.0 one can have a push rod small block that has more… 6 of one half a dozen of the other….

            • C’mon, Brent…

              A $6,000 crate engine? Only necessary if the existing engine is not rebuildable. If the original engine is rebuildable (usually the case) it can be rebuilt – properly – for about $2,000. To “better than new” specifications. I have done it. Ready to run – from the oil pan to the carb.

              In contrast, a modern V-8’s ECU/EFI system alone cost more for the parts than it costs to rebuild the entire engine of a pre-computer/EFI car… Now add to this the cost of 2-4 02 sensors and a pair of cats for the exhaust… vs. just the pipes/mufflers and hanging hardware for the old car….

              You reference $18,000 for a new body. Not necessary – unless the stock body is damaged/rusted beyond economic repair. Assuming a basically sound body that just needs some light welding/patch panels, the cost is much, much lower than your $18k quote.

              The relevant point is that major repairs/rebuilds are realistically (economically/practically) doable with the old cars.

              With the new cars, you have to deal with all the electronic/computer stuff – which easily doubles if not triples the costs involved. And the complexity has gotten to a point of Rube Goldberg-esque absurdity.

              • You are using the prices for new parts at full dealer list for newer cars and comparing them to reman and rebuilt prices hammered down to hobbyist price points for old cars. That’s why I showed a 2010 Mustang AT rebuilt isn’t much more than an old ford AT. That’s the point of showing new to new as well.

                My point is apples to apples they aren’t that much different. Anyway, back to the fuel pump.

                I replaced the fuel pump assembly in my Mustang. I went with a motorcraft full assembly. Cost me $250. I could have replaced just the pump with an aftermarket piece for like $60 if I wanted to go that route. The piece that holds the pump was fine.

                Yes the aftermarket pump for my ’73 maverick is $20. But what if instead of the pump it’s the cam shaft that drives it? What if the engine’s bearings get wiped out because of gasoline in the oil when the seal inside the mechanical pump goes? The car still runs while pushing gas into the oil diluting it… You or me, $20 for the old car. The regular person might end up with engine failure even after having the pump replaced and the idiot at the shop doesn’t change the oil.

                What does rockauto have for a fuel pump only for a ’98 nissian frontier? Aftermarket… $20 to $100 depending on the brand. The pumps themselves are cheap and pretty universal. It’s that hanger part that’s specific.

                When an odd dealer only part or some part nobody sells separate goes, you’re going to have to take it in the…. that’s what happens. Always has. You’re forced to buy a sub assembly or it’s just outrageously priced. Old car, new car, whatever. The choice is either bend over and pay for it or make something and/or re-engineer it.

                • “New” is meaningless when “rebuilt” is effectively the same thing. As in, the castings are re-used, but all wear parts are either new or returned to “as new.”

                  For example, a “rebuilt” TH350 or TH400 – about $700 via Summit or JEGS. Built to better-than-OE, with only the case and valve body castings being re-used. Functionally, these are new units.

                  Same with a rebuilt (properly rebuilt) V-8 such as my Pontiac’s 455. The block and heads and intake are 40 years old, but once cleaned, bolt holes checked out and properly machined, these castings are effectively “new,” too. With new pistons, bearings, timing chain/gears, cam, water pump gaskets and so on – it’s a new engine.

                  Knock on wood – so far – I’ve never had a cam failure.

                  I agree that one can obtain some of the parts discussed for less than OEM (I bought a good used “assembly” from a local parts yard for $75) but it’s still a chore to drop the gas tank, remove the “assembly” from the tank, transfer my good parts to the good core, then reinstall the tank. Changing out a mechanical fuel pump is much simpler.

                  • Oh come on… There’s a reason I swore off remans. 🙂

                    Remans and rebuilds are very different from new and what isn’t replaced varies depending on the place doing the work. Then there is the quality of the new parts being put in and how the work is done. The only remans I could trust for most things are those sold by the manufacturer. Even those can be less than great cosmetically. Maybe I could use a transmission from someone known to know their stuff but not the bargain basement places summit and jeggs would use.

                    For $700 There’s no way in hell there are new gears and shafts inside. They simply cost too much. And none are listed in the description. Basic wear parts are replaced with made in (likely) made in China copies. Hard parts are reused from a pile of parts deemed ‘good enough. That’s what a $700 reman trans is. And the reviews are pretty poor.


                    BTW, on fuel pumps. Some vehicles don’t require dropping the tank. Mazdas have an access cover for the fuel pump under the back seat. At least all the ones I’ve had to deal with.

                    • My TA has a “built” TH2004R I bought from Phoenix transmissions for about $1,500. This is a custom-ordered unit, heavy-duty internals, manual/auto valve body, with a made to order high-stall torque converter. It is objectively better than new.

                      Sure, if you buy a starter or water pump over the counter from Advance Auto Parts, it’s likely made in China crap. But that does not mean there are not quality rebuilds out there.

                      TCI sells better than new TH350s and TH400s for under $1,000.

                      Good luck finding a quality rebuild/new transmission for any post-1990s car for less than $2,000. I have a buddy who owns a repair shop; I look through his internal price schedules (what he pays for a quality rebuilt or new transmission). Some of these boxes cost $4,000. That’s pre-install, without his labor added.

                      How much do you suppose the latest-gen seven, eight (and nine speed) units will cost to replace? CVTs? “Dual clutch” and “direct shift”?

                      It’ll be throw it in the woods time. How many will put $3k-plus into a car worth $8k… ? And even if they wanted to, they wont be able to (most of them) because unlike a new car, which can be bought on the seven-year-payment plan, you’ve gotta pay for repairs to the old car now. In one payment.

                      Sure, you could put the $3k on the Visa… and pay 22 percent interest, compounded monthly… .

                    • I already showed you ATs for up to 2010 Mustangs for $1350 or so. So that I won’t find them is hogwash, I already did. I just have to restrict myself to cars with a big hobbyist following for both new and old and either aftermarket or dealer for both. Make a fair comparison.

                      My objection is that you compare a range of hobbyist aftermarket competition beat down prices to full list dealer new of vehicles that don’t have a huge following. It’s not a valid comparison.

                      It takes time for transmissions and such to work their way into the feed of rebuilders and remanufacturers. The more demand for them the better. That’s what drives the prices down. Transmission shops aren’t going to close up they are going to find ways to do the repairs such that customers can afford it as they always have. Cars without a big hobbyist following will cost more. Always have.

                      When I compare apples to apples I just don’t see a big problem.

                      What you could make for a valid objection is how transportation appliances have diverged from hobbyist cars. For instance, my Ford Maverick is a Mustang underneath. The parts are common. Take today’s oh Fusion… it bares no relationship to something like a Mustang and this will hurt it decades down the road wrt cost of fixing stuff.

                      It’s not that the modern trans is too fancy… the same argument could be made of 60s and 70s transmissions compared to 1930s and 40s transmissions, it’s that there is more specialization. Specialization is the issue, if there is one, not complexity.

                    • Ok, $1,350… so about $500 more than a TH350 from Summit or Jegs. And the TH350 is “stand alone.” There are no sensors, no ECU. Your 2010 has all that. And those electrical parts will develop problems, eventually.

                      My point being: Not only are parts generally much more expensive for modern cars, there are many more parts (and thus, stuff to go wrong and cost money).

                    • Except I doubt I picked a bargain basement mass retailer’s price. It was some small outfit selling on their reputation which may be crap, I didn’t check, but their other transmissions are in line with the going rates. Anyway We’ve established that there are quality ranges involved. Your summit trans requires a few things too if you read the desc.

                      With electronics, when is ‘eventually’?

                      With proper engineering I should be dead before then. With bad engineering it should have happened by now. Same with manufacturing.

                    • Isn’t it an engineering axiom that the greater the complexity of a system, the greater the likelihood of a problem?

                      Think how exponentially more complicated a modern car’s fuel delivery system alone is relative to a ’70s-era car’s. How many different (and inter-related) things can go wrong. I grant you that – as a rule – these systems are amazingly trouble-free for a very long time. But when they do begin to develop hiccups… well, you’ll either need a big bankroll or a lot of skill/plenty of tools/time to deal with it. My current “project” is a case in point. Even leaving aside the rusted out fittings, if it were merely the fuel pump – though the part itself is inexpensive – one still has to remove the tank to do the job. That’s a big job; for most people, a trip to the dealer (or other shop) job. What do you suppose the labor is to drop the tank, pull the fuel pump/replace, then re-install everything? I’d guess a minimum of $200 – and prolly a lot more than that. To replace a fuel pump. Meanwhile, almost anyone with a basic socket set could replace the fuel pump on the ’76 Pontiac.

                    • Largely electronics are good or crap. Failure is early and often or it’s just about never. There’s not a whole lot in between.

                      Complexity? Vacuum mechanical anyone? mechanical linkages? That stuff went bad on old cars. Do I like it better? usually because I am a mechanical person. But I am not going to pretend it isn’t complex and prone to annoying failures when things aren’t exactly right.

                      Anyway back to where I was a couple posts ago. Mazda solved the issue of access with a little panel under the back seat. It’s not even old vs. modern, it’s thoughtfulness of design.

                      Here’s how it is for a mazda:


                      Oh and the japanese 10 screw thing has to go. Ford’s locking ring is better.

                    • Hi Brent,

                      That has not been my experience at all. I do a fair amount of “side work” – fixing cars for friends/neighbors. I also have two mechanic friends, one of whom owns a busy shop. A constant stream of late-model cars with electrical (sensor/ECU/harness) problems. The worst ones are intermittent. They come – and go. I mentioned in an earlier post the problems Ford engineers have been having with … something… in the electric/software bowels of EcoBoost-equipped F-trucks. Mash the accelerator – and the engine idles. It only happens sometimes. They (last time I checked) still haven’t figured it out.

                      My father-in-law owned a late-’90s Cadillac until about two years ago. He had to throw it away. Because the climate control went kaput – and the replacement cost was preposterous relative to the value of the car.

                      Sure, old-school vacuum hoses and such could be a pain. But at least they were physical things that one could physically touch and see. Software? Not so much!

                    • @Eric –
                      At one time an acquaintance worked for the aerospace part of TRW designing integrated circuits for the space shuttle & satellites. Interesting line of work if you have the brain for it.

                      One of the things I learned was that the five cent 2N222 switching transistor that you buy at Radio Shack came from the same batch as the $100.00 transistor Uncle Sam buys for the space shuttle. ??? He went through the heat/cool/heat/cool/ electrical stress etc. workout the $100.00 transistor gets and then measured before it is used in a circuit, the five cent one does not get the testing and has an X chance of being the same quality or Y chance of early, mid, late life failure. No one knows when. I doubt Nissan pays $100.00 for a transistor or IC chip.

                      Practical implications of electromigration

                      Electromigration decreases the reliability of chips (integrated circuits (ICs)). It can cause the eventual loss of connections or failure of a circuit. Since reliability is critically important for space travel, military purposes, anti-lock braking systems, medical equipment like Automated External Defibrillators and is even important for personal computers or home entertainment systems, the reliability of chips (ICs) is a major focus of research efforts.

                      Due to difficulty of testing under real conditions, Black’s equation is used to predict the life span of integrated circuits. To use Black’s equation, the component is put through high temperature operating life (HTOL) testing. The component’s expected life span under real conditions is extrapolated from data gathered during the testing.

                      Although electromigration damage ultimately results in failure of the affected IC, the first symptoms are intermittent glitches, and are quite challenging to diagnose. As some interconnects fail before others, the circuit exhibits seemingly random errors, which may be indistinguishable from other failure mechanisms (such as electrostatic discharge damage). In a laboratory setting, electromigration failure is readily imaged with an electron microscope, as interconnect erosion leaves telltale visual markers on the metal layers of the IC.

                      With increasing miniaturization the probability of failure due to electromigration increases in VLSI and ULSI circuits because both the power density and the current density increase. Specifically, line widths will continue to decrease over time, as will wire cross-sectional areas. Currents are also reduced due to lower supply voltages and shrinking gate capacitances. However, as current reduction is constrained by increasing frequencies, the more marked decrease in cross-sectional areas (compared to current reduction) will give rise to increased current densities in ICs going forward.

                    • Morning, Gary –

                      Thank you for this excellent explanation! I feel like (get ready, arcane reference coming) Ruk the Android (same guy who played Lurch) in Star Trek: That is the equation!

                      Perhaps a good mechanical analogy is metal fatigue. You can only bend/stress the piece so many times before it loses the strength it had and becomes weakened.

                      Even in a relatively controlled environment (indoor electronics, for example) the heat cycling eventually takes its toll. But electrical components in a car are subjected to heat and cold, moisture, dust, vibration… and all it takes is one not-so-great connection (somewhere in the harness), one failing switch/transistor/resistor… and lawdy have you got a headache.

                      I think most people don;t care, though – because most people don’t mind the monthly car payment; don’t mind noit knowing how the car works or how to fix it. Just throw it away and buy another.

                      Weirdoes such as me (and others here!) do object; do not want the monthly payment, the endless debt cycle.

                      When my money situation permits, I intend to buy a ’70s-era car or truck and update it here and there, but it will not have an ECU, more wiring than the Space Shuttle – and will be fixable by me, with hand tools, whenever something craps out.

                    • OK Eric – now let me give you the bad news. Corporations (like Ford) are knowingly traveling down the profit path of ‘just long enough to survive x cycles/ years/ months’ before all bets are off on their products. So things like IC chips, sensors, bearings etc. are made ‘just good enough to last’ that long. Borderline components is my way of putting it. It is a known casualty of the times and our loss of US made quality & craftsmanship of years past.

                      Sometimes (like Black & Decker & other Chinese transplants of old US names) they know full well their components are borderline at time of manufacture. Like the big expensive (for the purchaser) middle finger, but they don’t care.

                    • Yup – I’m hip …

                      Meanwhile, some of the old stuff was purposely over-built. An example being the Kawasaki Z1900’s engine. Anyone who’s taken one apart will know what I mean. The crank is effectively unbreakable and rides in roller bearings that seemingly never wear out. It is very, very hard to hurt one of these engines.

                    • I too end up as everyone’s ‘car guy’ and I’ve not encountered electronic failures like that. I know they do happen, I just don’t think they are so common as everyone will eventually have to deal with it.

                      The current ford F150 issue is a design issue best I can tell, not a reliability problem. That’s a very different animal.

                      Anyway looking on rockauto for random 1990s caddys show after market body control modules and fan control (climate?) modules to be about a $100-115 each. These are remanufactured aftermarket units.

                      The market is not going to leave such an opening uncovered.

                      Ever see the Jay Leno’s Garage episode where he has the mercedes with hydraulic everything… No electric motors. Hydraulic windows, trunk latch, etc. Ever dig into an old 60s T-bird with vacuum operating all sorts of stuff? I did, in a junkyard once out curiosity. People gave up on these older systems too.

                    • Got the tank back in yesterday (I wanted to git ‘er done before the “arctic plunge” arrives in a few days) and so that problem is solved and the truck runs great once more. But it nags at me that something else is going to go wrong – especially something expensive having to do with the electronic controls.

                      Sure, I remember vacuum/hydraulic controlled stuff (including the “hideaway” headlights that tended to stop working a few months after the car left the lot).

                      Still, the rule is the pre-computer stuff was much simpler, especially as regards the driveline stuff, including (and especially) fuel-delivery and exhaust. A carburetor bolted to a cast-iron manifold. Exhaust manifolds, some pipes and a muffler. Much less expensive to make/sell/buy. Much easier to troubleshoot/repair/replace.

                  • eric, I maintain a rebuild on a seasoned engine is better than new. All the measurements between the cam and crank are checked and those out of spec won’t be used. A rebuilt head is liable to last longer than a new one since it’s already seasoned and has been surfaced for straightness. Same for blocks. In the “good old days” racing engine builders scrounged through many blocks and heads to find the best “used” ones.

                    • To Garys and Eric’s points above:
                      All companies seem to be designing products that fail just around the time they launch the next big thing. Case in point: the iPhone that my beneficent employer/massa provides me starts acting up and showing severely degraded battery lifetime just before the new model is announced.
                      Japanese quality consciousness in the old days hurt them badly in the memory chip industry. Their products used to outlast the devices they were installed in (PCs, servers) but were expensive, so they lost the price war with the Koreans, who figured out how to make ‘good enough’ chips at much lower price points.

      • Eric,

        While I don’t desire to disagree with your premise–that mechanical is more simple than electronics–I do want to ask, how many of us know anyone who has had an issue with accelerator problems in a Toyota, Lexus, Scion, etc.?

        I’ll bet that not a damn person on this forum, or elsewhere, if they are honest. The “unwanted acceleration” problem never appeared until Toyota eclipsed GM as the worlds largest auto maker. Subsequently, it was short lived–one quarter, then GM, during the buildup to the bailout, became the worlds largest auto maker again. How convenient.

        I will make a disclaimer that I am Toyota biased. But, I would love for someone to show me where I err in this hypothesis.

        • Hi Ancap,

          I agree – and I ought to have clarified. I didn’t mean to imply Toyotas “suddenly accelerate.” I was just critiquing drive-b-wire’s inherent complexity/expense relative to a cable.

    • Brent, I saw a Merc 550D yesterday, really good shape still and not a wisp of exhaust. It would have looked great without those rubber bumpers they allowed themselves to stick on those cars though. I realize they had their arms bent and Euro jobs were of a different look. Still, that car would have been really nice looking still without the “look at me, I was made in the buggy bumper 80’s” look to it. What a shame.

  5. RE: “The engine is still tight; no smoke – runs like the proverbial Swiss watch. No transmission issues (the original clutch is still in the truck) and even the paint looks great – despite infrequent washings and almost 20 years of sitting outside. But “little things” are beginning to go wrong – and many of these involve potentially big money. And lots of hassle.”

    Welcome to my club. Seems like you’ve been gone for a long while?

    In the background some new car salesman is trying to hype a new car.

    In the other background some used car salesman is trying to hype some used vehicle that might be ok. But it’s $10,000 +.

    $500, or even $1,500, how’s that compare to the payments the bastards above present? What kind of vehicle are you gonna get for $1,500? Even $5,999? Not anything worth Jack?

    At least you already know what’s wrong with what you’ve got.

    Hell, you might even be better off buying a $500 beater and,… oh wait, that was in the days before Cash-For-Clunkers. Things are different now.

    That’s my thought. For whatever that;’s worth.

    Might as well buy a new house and tack the new auto loan onto it? How-Much-A-Month?

    /Sarc OFF.

    • Yeah.

      I’m going to give the truck a very thorough once-over once I get the tank back in. I’m debating selling it (I have another pick-up) chiefly to raise some cash – but also to avoid the proverbial Money Pit.

  6. Iv’e worked for new car dealerships as a tech for almost 20 years. When I go to the training center for new technology training there is a saying of “planned obsolescence” If they don’t do some of the things that make the vehicles more expensive to repair than replace,then we would never buy new cars. just look at the new radios that are integrated into the heater controls and more. that way you will buy the upgraded radio when buying the new car AND there is no aftermarket replacement either. Great site. Keep up the great work..

    • RE: “the new radios that are integrated into the heater controls”

      Wow. What the hell does that mean?

      Not to say I don;t get what you’re saying, but, HA! wtf is that?

      • Usually because the car has a touch-screen. The maker has replaced some of the discrete buttons (like fan speed and zone) with on-screen equivalents. If the screen or computer behind it breaks, you’re stuck with whatever the last chosen heating/cooling arrangement was. If that.

        I looked at the Mercedes GLK diesel last year (I liked it a lot, btw). But the replacement part for the touch-screen is $4000 at the dealer. This is for a bog-standard resistive technology touch screen, that isn’t particularly large (especially in comparison with a Tesla!), that technology firms have been making for a decade. “Proven technology” is the phrase. Yes, it’s in a custom plastic trim housing, but the screen itself? Maybe a $70 part.

          • Have you ever noticed they’ll take that car with the “bad” screen/control unit in on trade, make you think you’re not getting screwed too badly cause it is, after all, just junk like that. Then the dealer gets that part for a mere pittance or a used one, spends a few bucks for a tech to make the replacement and voila, next week, on another lot in another town that baby is being touted as having only this many miles and in excellent condition hence the premium price they have on it but the original owner walked away with that big hickey still stuck up his butt that will take a long time to heal, lots of paychecks later.

        • Lots of aftermarket touch screens out there. Plus things to replace them with Ipads and such.

          But touch screens in cars are a stupid idea.

          • BrentP, touchscreens are not only stupid but dangerous. I notice car windows are increasingly right on the edge of what’s legal from the factory and a lot of that is due to people not being able to see that screen. Of course it decreases inside temps too and helps in privacy also but primarily, I think it’s due to touchscreens. I hate the things.

            So what happened to the law outlawing monitors that can be seen from the driver’s seat? Don’t expect that cop to see anything but that big computer screen and his phone he’s texting on.

            We had about a 170 mile trip home yesterday on a slightly mobile parking lot called I-20. We passed a lot of people since you have basically two types out there, people speeding like hell trying to get somewhere before the huge pack does and those who do it every day and have just given up so most of those you pass are doing what? Yep, texting. You’ll know I decided I could text in a big rig when I don’t show up again. Hell, I can rarely even see what number is calling on my phone so I don’t even try, just answer it and then have to try to understand that it’s “Steve”, you know, the guy in India who’s trying to spam me into letting him fix my computer. As in his words a couple days ago, “you do have a computer don’t you?”. I love the way some of these guys are named Rick or Randy. I grew up with Ricks and Randys but they never rolled their r’s. What’s my name…..oh, you can just call me Apu.

  7. Absolutely right Eric. Although engines on late model cars can go much longer than their early counterparts, the electronics that control them will turn a fun Sunday cruise into a 17-hour nightmare if something as simple as minor resistance between one wire connecting to another – somewhere in the entire harness – rears its ugly head.

    Not to mention the expense of the required computer “diagnosis” and subsequent repair, if anything concrete was ever discovered.

    Naturally, as you suggested (and from experience) this only gets worse the more electronic alphabet soup is added, such as ABS, ESP, EFI etc.

    The moment a few problems spring up and cost almost half the worth of the car, it’s basically a write-off as more problems will only occur in future.

    The vast majority of this stupidity can be traced back to mandates. Ideas that sounded good on paper but didn’t care for the engineering problems caused in requiring control of all these systems for years, in all weather.

    Like adding wheels, engine and waterproofing to your desktop computer and expecting it to perform flawlessly under all conditions until you can hand it down to your progeny.

    • RE: “Like adding wheels, engine and waterproofing to your desktop computer and expecting it to perform flawlessly under all conditions until you can hand it down to your progeny.”

      If that doesn’t say it all.

      486’s, as door stoppers.

      Do you think a company which tried to produce an indestructible ever-lasting car would be criminal?

      …Don’t answer. Sheet’s clear.
      There won’t be any more cars built anywhere Near close to the perfectly running 1940’s farm tractor I saw the other day.
      Durability is old fashioned.
      Psft. It’s a shame.

      • True Helot. In this country I still see lots of old “Fergie” tractors chugging away in the fields. They even have club meets in places.

        The only reason they’re still working is that they were designed and built well and in great numbers. This means parts rarely fail entirely, take longer to wear out and are readily available.

        When my dad bought a country property about 20 years ago, there was still an ancient tractor there that hadn’t worked for some years, but all it needed was some power kerosene (jet fuel equiv sorta) and a shotgun ballistite cartridge to get it started.

        On your point about an everlasting car, I’m not sure if it could be criminalised, but it would have to cost a bomb as the manufacturer and their associated service centres would be broke in no time.

        Back in 1987 I was working for Nissan. That huge factory was making 245 cars a day, selling $16k cars that cost $8k to build. Obviously I’ve never seen their profit/loss statements but costs to make them here were escalating and the market was reducing slightly. They closed and moved overseas. Either their budgets are really tight or their shareholders lost a few cents.

        The same happened to Holden (GM) here some time ago. It seems that making cars in this country is fraught with difficulty for some reason, likely cost, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because the workers aren’t paid in Rupees..

  8. In some ways, modern cars make us very lazy. We get in, turn the key, and the vast majority of the time, the car will start up and we drive away not thinking twice about it. Many people have no idea what to even do if a car won’t start.

    That was not the case before 1985 for most people. The average car was not nearly as reliable as they are today. If you did as much maintenance to those cars as people do with today’s cars there would be many mornings you would be sitting at home with a non working car.

    Even if you didn’t do the basic thing of WASHING the exterior of a 1979 car, you could have completely rusted through body panels before the car would hit its 5th birthday! How many cars do you see with completely rusted through body panels (even on a car that is 15 years old) now a days? Very, very few, even up here in winter salt land.

    When I was a kid, we had a 1979 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon. When it was new it was a beautiful car by the standard of the day (had the fake woodgrain and panels). Its glory days were very short. By 1985, when we got our first mini-van, that wagon was ready for the junk yard. And it wasn’t just because we kids had destroyed the interior (which we had). Nope, all the bottoms of all the body panels were rusty, the doors and the fenders were RUSTED THROUGH (the hood was probably the only panel without rust). This was a car that was only 7 years old. The V-8 has just over a 100,000 miles on it, ran like garbage, left blue smoke in its wake, and the transmission was starting to shudder. (The amazing thing, when the folks traded it in, the dealer resold it to some sap within the hour, it was leaving the dealer with that guy about the same time we left with our shiny new Dodge Caravan! Somehow he kept it going at least another year, because we would see it once in a while!!. Does shows how old cars, even ones that were running junk yards were fixable).

    Compare that with what my folks drive today. Their 2005 Honda Accord is now older then that wagon was. It has over a hundred thousand miles on it. It has not one speck of rust, in fact the exterior still looks about as good as it was the day they drove it off the lot. It still runs like its new, no smoke, and the transmission feels nice and tight. My mom describes the car as nice but very boring, ha ha. Maybe she misses killing mosquitoes everywhere she goes.

    Your right though Eric that it will be electronics and car “inspections” that will send most of today’s cars to the junk yard. Back in the early eighties few cared that our wagon blew lots of blue smoke, we had plenty of company in the smoking department. Not so today.

    In fact my 2001 Chrysler minivan doesn’t blow smoke at all. But I still have to cross my fingers it will pass the every other year pollution test. Why? Because Damler- Chrysler made a faulty pollution control circuit board that fries itself in a matter of hours of being installed. So that stupid idiot light comes on, and guess what, they won’t test my van.

    The first couple boards were freebies, when it was still under warranty. As you can guess, there weren’t many in junkyards either when I had to foot the bill, as it happens to almost every van of its era. So I would have to get a replacement, put it in, and get it over to the test place and hope it didn’t fry again before the test (one time the light came on, when I was driving home, thankfully, from the test center).

    I had the dash out to fix something else, and I put black electrical tape around that bulb. So it doesn’t look lighted when the drone at the testing center looks at the dash. So far it still passes the test. I guess their sensors don’t pick up on that the board is fried. I think this is the last time it will pass though, so I will probably have to sell it to someone outside the testing zone. But outside of that, for an almost 15 year old Chrysler its been a pretty reliable vehicle. It won’t go to the junkyard because the engine or transmission is shot, it will go because nobody will be able to put a plate on it for a reasonable amount anymore.

    Those LCD screen are very cool when the car is new, but they don’t last long and are pricey to replace. And you know big brother will not let you drive with dead dash board screens in them.

    • RE: “Even if you didn’t do the basic thing of WASHING the exterior of a 1979 car, you could have completely rusted through body panels before the car would hit its 5th birthday!”

      I know I’m in the minority on this one, but I still think a large part of it is more due to the fact Brush-less car washes became more prevalent. (!) AND, cheaper!
      Remember the old car washes had these plastic strands that would whip at the body panels? Like a mini-sandblaster they would create a perfect rust growth surface?
      Not only that, ‘back in the day’ I Never saw a street sweeper. Today, I see them all the time in the city and along side the hyway brushing off the hyway shoulder.
      In the old days, when I would walk alongside the hyway (walking back from catching fishing bait) when a semi truck would go by it was like I was being hit by a light-weight sandblaster. I always had to look down when a semi truck would go by. …The last couple of times I walked alongside the hyway and a semi came from the opposite direction I didn’t experience any of that.

      Not too say old cars weren’t problematic, even with rustproofing. I knew a person who bought a new car in the 1980’s, they got Ziebart all around and thought they were covered. The car still rotted out, even-though it was washed frequently and garaged. The company declined to uphold their guarantee because the car rotted from the inside out, vs.. from the outside in.

  9. Modular components coupled with excessive use of plastics in modern cars make them difficult to restore. Electronics will be make them impossible to drive.

    For example:

    One of my neighbors owns a low mileage ’88 Eldorado that refused to start. Everything checked out fine but several mechanics later it was determined the resistor imbedded in the ignition key failed. The computer will not allow the engine to start unless a specific resistance is detected across the key. It took weeks to locate the correct resistor AND find someone to “repair” the key just so an otherwise fully functional automobile would start.

      • I did the same to my bike using some off the shelf Jaycar circuits after it was stolen. Without the dongle made from an old audio plug and the resistors contained within, hot-wiring on the street is impossible.

        Agreed it’s much harder when the unit is commercially made and difficult to obtain from another party.

        • RE: ” hot-wiring on the street is impossible.”

          I’ve thought about hooking something like that up in my PickupTruck, but then I got to thinking, very few people here even know how to drive a stick shift.

          …But still. I should prolly look into that. I’ll put it on the list of 100 things I need to do. Crap magic, I wish I could get everything done I wanted to do.

          • ” hot-wiring on the street is impossible.”
            Here’s another thought. It does not make it impossible, but less likely, because who would think of it? Open the hood and insert a simple knife switch between the battery ground post and cable.
            Or if you want to get a bit fancier (and upgrade the difficulty factor) put a magnet activated switch somewhere on the side of the car.

            • I used to just pull the fuse to the fuel pump. Car would start and run for a few seconds then stall as the pressure bled out of the lines.

              • I took it one more step. Just break the 12+ line before the tank /fuel pump. Put a hidden switch in the cabin or wherever & direct wire or via simple relay. Easy done – the engine turns over & all that like it wants to run.

    • not the best example since that is a well known problem with a simple fix.
      a quick search will yield thousands of results…..
      one example here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r9svRLEA6w
      many “new” car problems are that simple to fix but you are not wrong about overly complex systems being the downfall of modern cars.
      It doesn’t help when technicians are over reliant on scan tools and lack basic troubleshooting skills. Ever seen anyone replace coil packs, plugs and wires to try to fix a missfire caused by a vacuum leak?
      stoopid computers….. 😛

      • Oh yeah Bob, a few times. My sister’s car had a rubber plug on an extraneous hose fitting on the intake manifold that perished over the years and was sucking in heaps of air. Luckily she never got round to having it checked. I plugged it with a shaved twig off a shrub in her yard. Apparently she’d been running it in that condition for 3 years!

        My other sister’s car had a problem where the thing would suddenly run rough (port injection). A few times she took it to the dealership service (ow!) and paid $400 every time, but shortly after it’d run rough again.

        They replaced some sensors to no avail.

        One weekend when I was away from the Army, I went to adjust her power steering belt that was squealing its head off (common problem with this model) and as soon as I touched the car I got a spark off my finger. She’d just been out with it and it was still running – rough as usual.

        We shut it off and I reset the injection module by disconnecting the battery for 30 seconds. It immediately ran smooth. Buildup of static was confusing the module so I added a static strap. Problem solved for $2.

      • exactly, it’s the same as it has always been, the general incompetence of those doing repairs or the speed at which they must work or both. The code in the computer is just a big clue of where to look but old fashioned diagnosis still applies. That’s where ‘professional’ service often failed back in the day and where it fails still.

        • Hi Brent,

          Sure, but the systems are vastly more complex.

          Multiple (and inter-related) systems, with a profusion of sensors and harnesses (many of which are bundled and very, very hard to physically examine without complete removal – which can be a massive undertaking) plus the ECU, etc. The potential glitches/issues – especially as the system ages and degrades – can be (and often are) daunting to deal with as well as expensive to deal with.

          Meanwhile, consider something like my ’76 or your ’69.

          There is a carburetor. A “stand alone” fuel delivery system that can be placed on a bench and physically disassembled and checked out, problems with it easily and inexpensively fixed. And that’s the whole fuel delivery system. Well, except for the fuel pump – which we’ve discussed. Hanging off the engine, held in place by two bolts. Replace it for $30 or so in 15 minutes with basic hand tools. And some steel/rubber fuel lines. The gas tank.

          That’s it.

          Now, to be clear: I do not deny that the modern car – with its ECU and injected engine – will typically perform faultlessly for years without requiring much, if any, routine maintenance. That it will usually start immediately, every time, never stall or buck.

          But a point will come when the numerous – and expensive – components begin to fail. And at that point, the expense of keeping the car performing faultlessly will begin to spike upward like a hike up Everest. With the old car, such expenses never spike upward that steeply.

          Because its mechanical components are – usually – rebuildable. Unlike throw-away (and replace) electronics.

          A carburetor, for instance, can be rebuilt multiple times – and (assuming some idiot doesn’t warp the castings by overtightening, etc.) will last 40 years or longer. And even then, it can usually still be economically repaired when (as an example) the throttle shafts become worn. (And even if I had to buy a brand-new carburetor – hardly necessary when good cores are still abundant – the cost is about $500. For the whole thing. Nothing else to buy. You’ve just replaced the entire “fuel system.”)

          This is true across the board.

          I gave the example of the engine in my Trans Am. You know as well as I that such an engine can be completely torn down, cleaned, machined and put back together from the oil pan to the air cleaner with premium parts, restored to “good as new” condition – for a relative pittance (assuming one does the work oneself – which is something that can be done by almost anyone with basic mechanical knowledge, a decent set of tools, patience and a shop manual). And – as you probably know – a cast iron block can be bored out usually 2-3 times (so, it has 2-3 lives) while re-sleeving a modern aluminum engine is a huge big deal (and you can only do it once, with GM LS series V-8s. Then, throw the engine away and buy a new one.)

          How much will it cost to replace the direct injection system components on a new Camaro 25 years from now?

          Even a relatively simple aftermarket TBI system (such as those offered to replace carbs on old cars) typically costs $2,000 or more – just for the kit! As opposed to about $70 (last time I checked) for a complete rebuild kit for a Rochester Quadrajet, which – once properly installed – gives you a for-all-intents-and-purposes new carburetor.

          Now add to the to-do list:

          Cylinder deactivation/auto-stop problems. Variable cam/valve timing. Drive-by-wire throttle control. Individual coil packs for each cylinder. Multiple 02 sensors and harnesses. Multiple catalytic converters.

          And we’re just getting started!

          • Except I’ve been pushing modern cars into old age for some time now in one of the country’s harshest automotive environments.

            Modern V8s last a very long time without being rebuilt. One rebuild gets you to where? 600,000 miles?

            Anyway the market is already providing. Cars coming out today use networked devices. What people are doing is replacing stock stuff with aftermarket kits and whatever they like. It’s fungible computer hardware. The stock touch screen will breakdown but it can be replaced with some aftermarket device for cheap. This is what the market does. It’s been this way in computers for decades.

            There’s cheap adapters to connect new stuff to old stuff and old stuff to new stuff. This is where car electronics are going and in some cases have gone. Watch… we are going to see generic control modules that one flashes for the car uses an adapter plug and connects.

            Take a look at what is already out there with regard to universal engine management systems. It’s all for hobby and racing now… but just wait if there are mass failures of these systems in ordinary cars like you predict. They’ll make products that step right in. That is if they can undercut the existing rebuilders.

            The problem for restoration will be what it always is, model and year specific trim and other bits. There’s a lot more of it in modern cars. Less of it can be redone. Rapid prototyping technologies are probably going to fix this problem. Jay Leno is already using them for his collection of old cars.

            The market will deal with new technologies. That’s how the government’s efforts have been stymied for decades. But with the younger generation full of big city carless agenda 21 conditioning the government will probably begin a new its attacks on the old car hobby. They’ll force turning your ’76 into a static display. My ’73 won’t be considered “collectable” and get crushed. My ’97 crushed. That’s what we have to fear. These useful idiot millennial left-statists have no idea what rights are, hate the idea of property rights, and they are particularly viscous and deceitful and very anti-car. That’s the enemy. I’ve engaged them in debate to get an understanding of them… that’s where the trouble is really coming from.

            • 600,000 miles?

              C’mon, Brent…

              And even if the engine lasted that long (or half that long) will the EFI system and its myriad sensors last that long? The ECU? The wiring? The multiple 02 sensors and cats….?

              I agree with you (of course) on the rest… about the threat to the old car hobby, the rape of property rights, etc.

              • Ask the regulars here in the taxi cab business if I am out of line with that mileage figure for modern V8s. Especially including one rebuild.

    • Hi Brandon,

      Throttle body fuel injection (TBI) came online circa early ’80s. But these cars are still pretty simple. By the mid-late 1990s, TBI had been replaced in most cars by port fuel injection (PFI) and cars now came with complex computer controls (including “onboard diagnostics” – currently OBD II).

      Still, the balance between reasonable and batshit over-complex was maintained in most vehicles (I exclude luxury/exotics) until the early 2000s.

      It is now – my opinion here – completely out of hand.

      At least six air bags in most current-year cars.

      Four catalytic converters (and four O2 sensors) in many V-8/V-6 cars.

      Direct port injection (multiple fuel pumps; very high pressure).

      Traction control, stability control, yaw control.

      Collision mitigation (automatic braking), blind spot detection, 360 degree cameras.

      EDR (black boxes) and drive-by-wire…

      Just for openers…

      • Hi Eric, thanks for the reply. I’m trying to find that golden age. I believe you wrote an article once saying in was somewhere between the 1980s and 1990s.

        And I agree with your opinion that it’s getting out of hand. Decades from now, when self-driving cars are all that’s left, I’ll reminisce with my peers about the good ol’ days when we actually MANUALLY steered our cars… and when we could actually modulate, with a PEDAL, how fast we could go or how much pressure was applied to the brakes!! The kids will wonder how humans could have possibly survived with that level of control.

      • And the resources in materials and energy costs, esp. with the cats, consumes far more energy and causes more pollution than the manufacture and operation of the older cars did, those older cars that the gov/industrial complex says causes all our pollution and safety problems. Not to mention the vapor recovery systems at the pump that cost far more in fuel to make, ship and install than the energy that is present in the few fumes that are emitted. Overall, the new cars actually cause more pollution than the older cars that cost a lot less and used a lot less fewer resources to make. Something no one has ever noticed.

        • It would be very interesting to calculate/compare the total “environmental impact” of an old Beetle vs. a new Prius. While the Beetle’s tailpipe exhaust emissions would be greater, I’d not be surprised if the total emissions – including all the industrial emissions – involved in creating a Prius – exceed what the Beetle produces at the tailpipe.

    • RE: “anyone else love exploring junk yards?”

      Ya. Back in the old days when they had old cars laying around for years on end. Nowadays (at least in my area) they ship everything off to the scrapper if it’s been sitting for 45 days.

      Years ago I would do the walk-though and see amazing stuff from eras bygone. Then I had a big gap where I didn’t go. One day I did a walk-through and was shocked. Nothing but 45 day old wrecks.
      Pitty. …Not even the farmers seem to keep stuff around for long these days. A.k.a. “barn find”. Hell, even the old barns are an endangered species, barn wood goes for a premium.

      • That is very sad, Helot.

        I have a different problem. The junkyard around me has old cars, but is completely fenced in. You have to call the owner and if he has the part you need, he’ll get it for you when he can. But you can’t walk around the area to see what’s around/enjoy it.

        I’ve only explored a junkyard once but it was fun. I want to do it again before they all turn into 45 day wrecks.

          • I think the shysters and the insurance mafia have a lot to do with that too. A junk yard that I used to go to years ago would let their customers walk around the yard and even pull their own parts for a discount. One day somebody went into the yard and tried to remove a drum from a car he supported only with a bumper jack. He ended up getting hurt and sued the junkyard. After that, customers could not go into the yard anymore. The owner said the the reason for that was because the junkyard’s liability insurance carrier refused to cover any injuries to customers in the yard.

  10. In the 80’s (pre-Internet) I met a major airline pilot who liked to restore old Oldsmobiles as a hobby. He had a large old barn in the back of his property that was well maintained but was a little out of place in his upper class neighborhood. He said that he became frustrated at his inability to find replacement parts, so in his travels he would check locally for old Olds stuff and buy them up. His barn was full of 30-60 year old Oldsmobile parts that he sold via small magazine ads as well as restoring his own projects. He said he made money as well as supporting his hobby. A specialized junk yard if you will.

    I have often wondered if there wasn’t a business model in that specialized accumulation of stuff and maybe a small machine shop redoing things like the fuel pump you mention and selling on the net.

    • One of the things I’m discovering in my side project is that a certain customer base is not willing to pay what things cost. I add up my monthly expenses, add a little profit, and price accordingly. What I hear in return is: “Well, it should be free, like everything else on the internet.”

      I expect a boutique parts shop won’t hear “it should be free”, but they will likely hear “I’ve got a buddy that…”. You know they’ll be back (because their buddy is an idiot and will just screw it up), but is it worth listening to that over and over again?

      • I was talking with my friend who owns a body shop, (and does pretty good work) in his office one day when a potential customer came in. He listened, looked over the car, pulled some parts prices and gave the man an estimate. The guy looked at the estimate, and in an incredulous voice said that was way too much and that he expected it for 1/2 price. My friend said “I could go broke sitting at home getting drunk & watching TV or I could work your car for 1/2 price. Which do you think I would rater do?”

        The guy left and we continued talking.

    • RE: “redoing things like the fuel pump”

      I think those things are too far gone to make it worthwhile.

      If only.

      Also, I knew a guy who did the same as your Old’s guy. He bought Toyota trucks and tore them up for parts. He made good money. (I suspect one of our old regulars at EPA is doing the same, that’s why we haven’t heard from him in awhile).
      The old man I knew had the same kind of warehouse as your Old’s guy but most of the stuff he got he quickly shipped off to Washington state or Africa.

      Wow, Africa, I was surprised at that. It amazed me he could make money shipping that far.

      I learned a lot working with that guy, but he was Way old. …One day he handed me the handle to a wielding torch, at the last minute he unconsciously flipped it up so it was inches from my face. After a couple of similar sheet like that I reluctantly walked away.
      It’s too bad, too. Because that was one of those guys who could write a manual that even the official Toyota guys would be amazed at.

        • From what I can tell, 3-D is fine for plastic, but metals,… not yet.

          For sure I’d like to get on that bandwagon. And I think it has a Lot of potential, however; so far, I’m not seeing any opportunity. .. A failure on my part, no doubt.

          It was heart warming when my nephew tossed me a dice piece he made with one.

          Baby steps, leading to leaps and bounds.

          …It sure was a big-assed jump from woods shops class.
          And immediately practical, compared to chemistry class, and the idiots playing with capacitors. (..Not to denigrade those guys. Potential is everywhere)

            • That’s Quite incredible, Jason Flinders.
              I mean, Absolutely Incredible!!!
              Thanks for enlightening me. (Seriously, Thanks. i so dislike being ignorant).
              CNC is DONE! KaPut! It’s only a matter of time. Wow. That is so earth shattering from a fabrication aspect I can’t even begin to express it.

              I wished they would have spent more time talking about what happened after they shut that door they closed on the tube.
              …But such is priority.
              Revolutionary sheet.


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