It’s almost impossible to find a new car that doesn’t come standard with amenities that used to be expensive options such as air conditioning (usually, automatic climate controlled air conditioning), power windows and locks, cruise and (usually) at least a four-speaker stereo system.
But there are also items that used to be givens in cars that are becoming harder to find and – within a few years – will probably be nearly impossible to find. For instance:
* CD slots –
Music is delivered over the ether nowadays, via Bluetooth and Pandora and SiriusXm. Compact discs are so 1990s. They are the tape decks of our era. Relics of another time. A few new cars still have a CD slot, but the CD changer (remember them?) is history. Who wants to deal with the hassle of a stack of CDs – each of which having maybe a dozen songs on it – when you can access thousands of songs on a iPod or iPhone the size of a pack of cigarettes?
You may have had to deal with a “check engine” light coming on – and then having to get the “trouble code” cleared by a shop. Frequently, these codes are triggered by a fault with the car’s evaporative emissions control system. Perhaps you can see where this is headed. People not quite tightening the gas cap enough. So, gas vapors – very un-PC – escape and the car’s computer has a conniption fit. The car companies engineered capless fuel fillers to deal with this. Just stick the nozzle in, pump in your gas, pull out the nozzle – and the thing seals itself. You’ll also never have to worry about laving the cap at the gas station again, either.
* Analog gauges –
Old-timey speedometers and tachometers (and volt/temp/oil pressure gauges) with physical needles and fixed gauge facings are gradually fading away in favor of multi-configurable LCD flat screen displays. These have the advantage of allowing the driver to select from any of several displays. For example, you can toggle from oil pressure to volts to water temperature. Or change the look of the speedo. Or replace the speedo with GPS. The options are almost limitless. More stuff can be displayed in a given space (though perhaps not all at once). Flat screen displays first appeared in hybrid and high-end end cars but are becoming common in mid-priced cars and will likely be as common in all cars within five years as idiots lights and white-wall tires were back in the ’70s.
* Dipsticks –
Guess how you check the oil (and other fluid) levels in several new cars? It’s not by popping the hood and pulling out a dipstick. Several new cars don’t have them. Instead, fluid levels are checked from inside the car. Instead of popping the hood, you tap the app. Sensors tell you not only how much oil is in the engine but also its condition – and whether it’s getting close to change-it time. Some will lament the passing of the simpler – but dirtier – dipstick. But others will appreciate being able to check the level without getting their hands greasy. Or even getting out of the car. And also, getting the longest life out of each quart of oil. Many new cars come factory filled with (and require) expensive synthetic oil, which can cost $10 per quart or more. If the oil life sensors help you avoid changing the oil before it’s actually necessary to change the oil, it can save you a bunch of money over the life of the car.
* Drain plugs –
Related to the above, drain plugs on the underside of the engine are no longer there in a number of new cars. These are – for the present – mostly higher-end luxury cars such as certain Mercedes-Benz models. The assumption being that people who purchase $50,000 (and up) vehicles tend not to change their own oil. Instead, the oil is sucked out of the engine using special machines at the dealership. It’s neater – and it doesn’t require getting underneath the car. The downside, of course, is that if your car doesn’t have a drain plug (and you don’t have the special equipment to suck the oil out from above) then you have to take the car to the dealer for oil changes.
* Oval air filters –
Air cleaners are now almost uniformly air boxes. And the filters inside are squarish or rectangular rather than oval. The chief reason for the change is packaging. The old-style round air cleaner assemblies and filters took up a fair amount of space under the hood. The boxes allow the same (or more) surface area for filtration/air intake, but are more compact and can be fit into the engine compartment more easily. One not-so-great aspect of these air boxes, though, is that you sometimes need tools to open them to get at the air filter. It may be only a screwdriver, but that’s still more work than hand-turning a single wingnut, as we used to do back in the day.
* Ash trays –
Most new cars come with multiple cupholders, but not a single ashtray. If you like to smoke, you are out o’ luck. A few manufacturers still offer ashtrays, but they are extra-cost options. You must buy a Smoker’s Package. Otherwise, the “ashtray” will be lined with felt and meant for coins. Or plastic – and it’ll melt.
Remote transmitter key fobs (and pushbutton ignition) have already all-but-replaced the physical ignition key that dates back to the dawn of the automobile age. So long as the fob is in your pocket or purse, you can start the car and also usually unlock the car, just by touching the car (the door handle). Several new cars (e.g., the 2016 Ford Edge) don’t have mechanical pulls for the interior locks; the works are now entirely electronic and wireless, too. Just be sure to not lose the things as they can be very expensive to replace. Depending on the make/model involved, you might be looking at $150 for a new transmitter fob… vs. $5 for a new key.
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