The fuel delivery system in a new car costs more than the entire engine used to.
And still does – if you’re lucky enough to own a V8-powered American car or truck built before the mid-1990s. If you do, you can usually buy a brand-new/manufacturer-warranted crate engine for about $2,000.
Compare that with the cost of a modern car engine’s direct-injection fuel delivery system – resorted to as a way to eke out another 2-3 MPGs vs. port fuel injection.
You don’t want to know . . .
If you ever have to replace the transmission in a car built since about 2010, better have smelling salts nearby. The tab for an eight/nine-ten-speed or “dual clutch” automatic – which the car companies have resorted to in order to eke out another 2-3 MPG vs. a four or five-speed overdrive transmission – can run as high as $5,000 – not counting the labor to install the beast.
If the air bags go off, the car is usually a total loss. Even if the car itself could easily be repaired. Because just replacing the driver and front seat passenger air bags can cost several thousand dollars – before a cent is spent to fix bent fenders. It’s easy to reach the financial threshold beyond which the car is not worth fixing.
These are just a few of the Costs of Uncle – the costs to us of the regulatory burden imposed by the government.
But there are other Cost of Uncle not as obvious.
One of these is the cost of changing a modern car’s oil. Because for openers there’s more oil to change.
I began to notice this during the course of doing the background research I always do prior to writing a review of a new car. A trend became apparent: New car engines may be smaller – but their oil capacities are greater.
This is particularly apparent when it comes to modern four cylinder engines – most of them in the 2 liter-ish range and turbocharged, to make up for their small size and (absent the turbo) insufficient power. Ford’s 2.3 liter “EcoBoost” four, as an example, has a capacity just under six quarts – about the same amount of oil required by the 7.4 liter V8 in my ’76 Pontiac Trans Am.
It costs as much to change the EcoBoost four’s oil as it does to change the oil in my old muscle car, which has an engine nearly three times as large.
Costs more, actually – because the Ford requires $10-plus per quart synthetic oil. Which it does because it’s turbocharged. Turbocharged engines run hotter and their internals are subjected to additional stress because they are literally pressurized. That is (cue Dr. Evil voice) what turbochargers do.
They were generally added to increase the power of an already powerful engine. To make a sporty car sportier. The reason turbos are now as common as air bags is because they are being resorted to by the car companies to make up for power lost as the result of installing smaller engines in cars, including ordinary family cars.
Federal fuel economy fatwas have made V8s – and more recently, six-cylinder engines – as rare as ashtrays in new cars. You can still find them here and there, but they’re usually optional and not cheap.
Which is another Cost of Uncle.
V8s and V6s depress a car company’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) number.
The MPG difference between a six and a turbo four usually isn’t much – about 3-4 MPG overall is typical. It doesn’t seem like a lot – and it’s not, on a car vs. car basis. Hardly worth the fuss – or the cost.
A great deal.
If the CAFE average dips too low, the “gas guzzler” fines appended become onerous; the company is at a competitive disadvantage vs. rivals whose cars aren’t saddled with exorbitant “gas guzzler” fines.
The only way to tilt the scale back in the government’s favor is to sell fewer cars (and other vehicles, such as trucks and SUVs) equipped with engines larger than four cylinders. The easiest way to do that is to make engines larger than four cylinders optional – and extra cost.
This has the side benefit of recovering some of the money that goes to pay the fines for failing to meet the CAFE average.
Paid for by the people who buy the cars, of course.
Never the fatwa-issuers.
The saying has it that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and that saying is even more true when it comes to the Cost of Uncle. People fall for it every time when a glib-gabbling, Tele-Prompter’d politician promises to wave his authoritarian wand and give them cars that get better gas mileage, are “safer” or some other boon.
But none of it comes free.
Uncle’s minions simply take the credit – and hand the bill to the marks who thought they were getting something for nothing.
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