That acronym has two meanings – one of them having nothing to do with cars and so we won’t get into that, here.
It’s the other meaning – Designed to Fail – that’s worth explication. It isn’t quite the same thing as planned obsolescence – the designing of cars to be replaced, ideally as soon as possible.
DTF is more subtle.
The vehicle, itself, does not fail. But a part of it – often trivial, as such, but which is critically necessary for the continued operation of the vehicle – does. And that part seems to have been specifically designed not only to fail but to be exasperatingly difficult for the average vehicle owner to replace or repair, himself.
An excellent example of this is the plastic nib that Nissan installed in a hole in the brake pedal lever of a number of its vehicles, including my vehicle – a 2002 Frontier pickup. This plastic nib pushes in a small pin within the brake light switch, automatically turning off the brake lights whenever the brake pedal is not being depressed. All is well until – inevitably – the plastic nib falls out of the hole in the brake pedal lever – due to the inevitable aging (and shrinking/cracking) of the plastic.
When this happens, the brake lights never go off – even with the key in the Off position. The only way to get them to turn off – without replacing the plastic nib – is to pop the hood and disconnect the battery cable.
This is not a disabling problem – but it is a huge hassle, over a piece of plastic that costs less than $10 to buy. But which is extremely difficult to replace, due to the physical contortions involved.
You cannot even see the hole in the brake pedal lever that the plastic nib goes into – assuming you are limber enough to contort your body sufficiently so as to be able to look up, underside the guts of the steering wheel column. Because with the brake pedal up, the lever moves back in such a way as to make it impossible to see the hole.
There is almost no room for a head – much less hands.
There is however, a trick.
If you hold down the brake pedal – engine on, so it can be depressed all the way to the floor – you will then be able to see the little hole into which the plastic nib fits. The problem becomes how to keep the brake pedal down while simultaneously getting down – and back underside the dash.
One way is to have a helper hold the brake pedal down while you get down. But now you have their legs in the way. A better way is to cut a length of wood adequate to jam the brake pedal as low as it will go and then brace it against the steering wheel.
Now you’ll be able to get under there and see the stupid (or maybe not-so-stupid) little hole Nissan bored into the brake pedal lever that the plastic nib is supposed to fit into. But getting the replacement nib (you can also use a small bolt – it works just as well) into the hole is a whole new circle of Hell.
Everything seems to be in the way. There is a welded-in-place (to the steering column) plate in just the right place. To occlude both view – and access.
You can get your fingers within a few inches – but the last couple of inches are like the proverbial mirage in the desert. So close – yet so far away. If you have big fingers, forget about it. This almost automatically excludes most men – who tend to be the ones most likely to even try to fix this, themselves.
A determined person might use a hemostat or a pair of very long-nosed pliers to bridge those last couple of inches and slip the nib (or bolt) in place. Another field expedient is to use two-sided tape to stick the nib on a single finger and try to maneuver that one finger past the obstructions, then wiggle the nib through the hole.
It is an exasperating job that will defeat most people before they even try. But you can’t drive around with your brake lights on perpetually – unless you want to deal with an armed government worker. And even if you don’t have to deal with an AGW, you will have to deal with a dead battery – unless you disconnect it every single time you’re done driving for the day.
And then reconnect it when you’re ready to drive, again.
Ergo, most people will head over to their Nissan (or Honda or Toyota or any of several other brands that design vehicles with this infernal plastic nib that’s meant to fail) to pay to have it fixed.
It was designed to fail.
There is no other explanation. There doesn’t even need to be a hole in the brake pedal lever; just a bump sufficient to depress the pin in the brake light switch. Or at least, something metal and permanent rather than plastic and certain for that reason to eventually . . . fail.
This is but one example of that. There are many others – all of them more insidious than obviously planned obsolescence. Your vehicle has many miles left to travel. It is mechanically and cosmetically sound. But this stupid little part broke and without it, the vehicle is no longer usable.
And now – if you have fat fingers or aren’t extremely flexible and very determined – you’ll get to pay the dealer probably ten times what the piece of plastic cost, to get it replaced.
The last letter of which it has in common with the other meaning of that acronym.
. . .
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