Last Call- Cars Are Too Complicated Edition

One ring to rule them all. . .

It used to be you could fix most everything on a car with just a screwdriver and a set of open-end wrenches. And apparently, VWs needed even less than that.

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  1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    [youtube AcB5-jSqdH0 youtube]
    I have this screwdriver, incidentally.

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      I've seen that before! Love it. It takes me forever to change a VW belt, like five minutes.

    2. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

      fan belts, what are those? Aren't all fans powered by electric motors, controlled by sensors in specially designed shrouds?

    3. Ambersand Avatar

      You beat me to it. Pretty impressive. I've not yet tried that. I don't think I would either. I'd be the next video – girl loses finger and eye in belt changing, screwdriver launch sequence accident.

  2. Beatnikid Avatar

    It's gotten to the point where you can't even check up on fluids,
    Im looking at you Mercedes Benz….you and your sealed up engine bays.

  3. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    Yes they are. I think we as a people believe that whenever we face a new problem, that a new technology can solve the problem. I'm not an anti technology nut or anything like that, but I do think there are some serious flaws in that thinking.
    Cars too complicated? Well, I think the Toyota recall situation teaches us that they have become so complicated that it's genuinely difficult to determine what is going wrong. I have a 2006 Mustang. At about 1,200 miles into the ownership experience the dashboard presented me with a "yellow wrench" warning light. "Yellow wrench?" you ask yourself, well, that's the same question I asked myself. What the hell is this? A new warning light for a new piece of technology. (here comes another tie-in to the Toyota recall) The owner's manual, yeah, I had to read that to know what the hell was going wrong, stated that it was a failure of the electronic throttle control to properly communicate with the powertrain control module, and to bring the vehicle to the dealer.
    I know that carbs and throttle linkages have their own issues, but at least with those items, I stand a chance at fixing it. ETC, and PCM?? Nope, can't do that on my own, and of course, after the PCM was replaced, I had to bring in the other key, so that it could be programmed to the new PCM.
    0-60 in just over 5 seconds, and I average 21 or so mpg (yeah, lots of highway miles). That's hard to argue with, but I still think the real solution would be to work towards a situation where I don't have to drive 25-30K a year.

    1. Thrashy Avatar

      Now more than ever I'm glad that all of the controls in my car amount to a bucket of cables, gears, and levers. At the very least, car manufacturers could stand to take a page from the aerospace industry and include a manual reversion system…

      1. Ryan Avatar

        Unless you're Airbus and then well, sorry, we have another computer to back up the computer. If both fail or the impossible (wink, wink) loss of all electrical power, sorry, you are now a 167,000 lb out of control missle. There is a reason why Airbus airplanes return to the gate as often as they do. There is also a reason why Toyota is having the recalls taht they are. Changing everything to computer with no mechanical backup is a recipe for disaster. I'll keep flying my Donnie Douglas designed DC-9 and driving my VW bus. You can keep your Airbus and Toyota Camery.

    2. CptSevere Avatar

      Yeah, it's nice to drive a vehicle that you understand down to its very core. That you can diagnose and fix yourself, whose inner workings are no mystery because you've had your hands dirty working on those bits deep inside the engine, and you can conjure a mental picture of how things like the valve lifters work, because you put them there, and the workings of the front suspension, because you've had it apart at one point. This is an important part of the experience of owning a vehicle, to me.

  4. Joe Dunlap Avatar
    Joe Dunlap

    I have to agree with you on all counts Aerostar. It does seem as though ownership of a new car is just that and nothing more. There isnt much beyond washing, waxing (even that is almost irrelevant anymore) and vacuuming that an owner can do to his vehicle unless he is a trained technician working in the dealership of the vehicle he owns. Cars in general are becoming toasters. You just shake the crumbs out every now and then, and when it finally fails, you go get another one. The days of tinkering with your personal ride are just about over. Mercs arent the only ones with a sealed engine. BMW is there and you can count on the others to follow soon. I became a tech in 1972. Thirty years later the trend was staring me in the face, and I moved on to become an instructor training VW techs, and Ive seen more change in the last 5 years than in the previous 33, and there was a lot in that period too.

  5. Joe Dunlap Avatar
    Joe Dunlap

    The volume and pace of change in the automotive world is increasing at an ever increasing rate, and with it our relationships with our vehicles is changing just as fast. Whether thats a good thing or not depends on your point of view I suppose. For someone my age, it is not. I spent the 70s and 80s hooning several vehicles at autocrosses, doing it on the cheap with what was available and had a blast. I dont think you could do that now, unless your idea of hooning is sitting on a stool next to your car with a laptop plugged into the DLC. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, its just not for me. I prefer screwdrivers, sockets, and tin snips, thank you.

    1. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

      …..and it's not just cars (though obviously that's our focus here). But still, when a GE repairman came out to look at my fridge, I shit you not, he plugged a laptop into it and began running diagnostics. "Your last defrost cycle occurred 4.5 hours ago…."
      Unreal, my refrigerator has an OBD port.

  6. Maymar Avatar

    I hold a special place in my heart for a car in which it's theoretically quicker to swap an engine than change the oil.

    1. CeRuLeaNBLu Avatar
      Then open your heart for this my friend.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        That just makes me wonder why I'm not doing an unneeded engine swap this very moment (other than it being 1 AM, sub-zero, and I don't have a spare engine). I approve highly.

      2. Thrashy Avatar

        One half of my brain says, "That's totally awesome."
        The other half, however, insists that the motor mounts aren't torqued down properly, the clutch cable is obviously out of adjustment, and the axles are going to fall out of the transmission at any second.

        1. CeRuLeaNBLu Avatar

          I'm hoping the "Totally awesome shit happens in less then 50 seconds" weighs out over the "quibbles of road safety" for the majority of us and yes, I too was immediately tearing that clip apart from the get go. Quibbles aside, well done gents. I aspire to that level of automotive awesomeness. Tell me we can rebuild the engine of the Blueboy II project in less then an hour and I'm gonna hump something that can't hump back, that's a promise.
          Yes, you will hopefully learn more of the Blueboy II project when a certain fat-cat rich New Yawker gets back from his winter home in Florida and coughs up the dough for the land he has resided on for three weeks now here in good old North Carolina. You will be thinking unneeded engine swap when my local speed shop Phoenix Motorsports talks me into a freaking remote mount turbo slung aft of my rear axle on a '79 C-10! Help me Hoons, help me! 🙂
          Details to be revealed in the coming days.

  7. Alff Avatar

    Incidentally, the same part is made available to the owners of new Audis and Bimmers, except it's labeled "cock ring".

    1. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

      the only difference is that they are smaller sized.

      1. Ambersand Avatar

        And come monogrammed for a small fee.

        1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

          Pluses for all of you.

  8. jim-bob Avatar

    I do fear the future of the automobile. Up until now, the only way I have been able to afford to drive is because I can do 100% of the repairs and servicing myself. I cannot see that happening with the cars that are made now. So, while right now it is possible for me to drive a car from the 1990’s or early 2k’s and get away with it, how long will that really last until it becomes impractical? When that time comes, I will be forced into the constant race to trade cars before they run out of warranty. Either that or do the unthinkable and use public transportation.
    At any rate, I do feel that the age of the several hundred thousand mile car is over. The level of complexity that is involved with these new systems precludes it. Things were far better for the average consumer when these systems were analog and not wholly integrated with each other. At least then you would not find yourself with a failure of the throttle, brakes and steering being possible all at once. So, sadly, we now see the end of new cars rising to classic status. They just won’t be around long enough for it to happen anymore.

  9. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    I'm calling bullshit on this. I clearly remember using at least 2 pieces of gum the last time I worked on a Bug. And possibly a strand of baling wire, but that might have been on my '79 Silverado.

  10. lilwillie Avatar

    Dad and I were discussing the technology yesterday. After a day in which again he sat and watched and I played with scanners, dvoms and oscilloscopes to determine minute faults causing the CE light to come on for customers.
    I enjoy the technology to a point. I enjoy taking in a job that the dealer couldn't fix or didn't want to because they didn't want to take the time to dig into a problem they wouldn't make good time on. A broken wire here, a rubbed through wire there, a sensor that only fails after a 20 mile drive and sacrificing a small child to make it fail for a split second. I also enjoy the older stuff that my Dad knows and loves. I miss the days of popping a engine out in a hour. I miss being able to rebuild a TH350 trans on the bench and stuffing it back in with a few tweaks to change the shift points. I miss rebuilding carburetors and adjusting a distributor with a dwell meter.
    It just doesn't feel like working on a car some days when you get to just go through scan data and Mode 6 and see a certain item isn't reading right, test it and replace it and all is well.
    People even get sick of paying for it. They don't see you actually doing anything manual labor intensive. It is mostly thinking that fixes cars. Knowing the quirks and sometimes the silver bullets. People look and see me in a white T-shirt without a spot of grease on it and can figure out how I worked on 5 cars through the day.