New cars can be insufferably naggy – “assisting” when you didn’t ask for it, turning themselves off when not appropriate – as at every red light,if equipped with ASS (automated stop/start). But there are some things about ‘em that are okay – and fair is fair.
Let’s acknowledge the good as well as the bad.
The good includes things like heated (and even massaging) seats – which are easy to get used to and hard to give up when the press car has to go back to the fleet and I go back to driving my almost-20-year-old truck that hasn’t got them.
There are some other things, too – and you may be surprised to know they have to do with maintenance, the thing that everyone knows was easier back in the day.
Let’s start with oil and filter changes. Especially the filter part.
They are becoming easier to get at – and remove. Sometimes, without even needing tools. Many new cars have their oil filters mounted topside rather than underside – or (worse) hanging off the side of the engine in an almost-impossible-to-reach place that requires such mechanical pilates as jacking up the car’s body so that you can snake your hand through the fender well to get at the thing.
For just this reason, even a “simple” oil change was often quite difficult for people not young enough or flexible enough or stubborn enough to perform the pilates – or who lacked a floor jack and other needful tools such as long extensions and special filter sockets.
It also made a mess – itself a deterrent.
Oil all over the floor and all over the engine, too – where it would then cook off after the work was done, providing a kind of industrial air freshener (or fouler) depending on how much or not you enjoyed the smell of burning oil. Which also sometimes burned you as it poured all over the place.
Well, after 100-something years, they finally figured out a better way. Mount the oil filter where you can reach it, right there on top of the engine. Or directly underneath, where it can be reached by hand and even removed without a tool, if it wasn’t installed over-tight by the last person who did an oil (and filter) change.
Some have a large hex-type head you can use an adjustable crescent wrench on. Easy! The filter itself is more and more inside the housing, too. Instead of tossing away the whole thing you replace the inside thing – the filter element.
Another thing that’s a lot easier – almost across the board, irrespective of make/model – is belt-changing as well as adjusting. Instead of dealing with individual belts, one for each accessory and so usually at least three (AC, alternator, power steering) you have just the serpentine one, which drives them all.
And which requires no adjustment at all.
You slip the old belt off by relieving the tension on the tensioner/idler pulley – which can usually be done with a socket or a crescent wrench. Slip the new belt on – the hardest thing is keeping track of the way it goes around all the pulleys, so take a picture before you remove the old one – and then let the tensioner fall back into place.
It self-adjusts, automatically.
And nothing is easier than not having to do things at all – like changing spark plugs, for instance.
Or at least, not once a year or even once every several years – as used to be the drill. It is now general for spark plugs to not need changing for 75,000 or even 100,000 miles – which means you probably won’t need to change them more than once or twice over the life of the car.
You will never have to adjust the choke – because cars haven’t had them since the early ‘90s. The modern car’s fuel system is almost entirely maintenance-free. The main thing that needs changing once in awhile is the fuel filter – which can be a PITAS because it’s often located inside the fuel tank. But that is counterbalanced by its occasionality – as opposed to the regularity of carburetor cleaning/choke/adjustment and the general fiddling which used to be the drill.
So while there’s certainly plenty to complain about there is also some to be grateful about.
As the great stoic philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius put it, balance in all things.
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