By on November 16, 2013

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The idea of an old car is both a complicated and uncomplicated concept for car guys.

The complicated part is the age and engineering behind the car.

The age and engineering behind the car is also the uncomplicated part of the car and the reason for this article.

Clearly an older vehicle typically wore out quicker than a new vehicle because 100,000 miles on the odometer put them in the senior citizens’ home in most cases. The older vehicles were pretty tired after 100k and would usually start to blow out a fair amount of oil past worn-out piston rings compromised by an overly generous amount of gasoline from its carb/choke components.

A 2013 car will go longer, faster and better than a 1953, 63, 73, or even ’83 car. They are engineered to deliver maximum performance via a complex marriage between high-tech electronics and the internal combustion engine.

Most car guys look under the hood of the new vehicles and immediately wave a white flag of surrender because they see their own mechanical Little Big Horn or Alamo if they attempt to mess with the engine. Scotty from Star Trek would even be scratching his head these days because a modern power-train is like a Facebook relationship status: complicated. In fact, it is very complicated.

This tidal wave of confusion does not exist when a car guy looks under the hood of the old guard vehicles. For example, the idea of a water pump replacement is pretty doable because it is right in plain sight and not hidden behind a timing belt cover. A little pull on the fan of an old engine will show whether the pump needs to be replaced in the near future.

The starter on an old vehicle is typically pretty accessible, along with the generator/alternator, spark plugs and mechanical fuel pump.

A valve cover gasket replacement is pretty much a walk-through on an old engine and even a blown head gasket is no real cause for anxiety for most car guys. However I can vividly recall my own head gasket replacement story on my first car when I was 16 and the only complication was some really bad advice.

A buddy of mine got me access to his father’s heated garage and my buddy’s dad told me to put gasket glue on the copper head gasket. The man was a plumber by trade so I would assume glue was the answer to most of his plumbing seal problems, but his advice cost me a lot of time and another head gasket.

I had an old Austin with only one head gasket left in town so I did not make the same mistake twice with the second gasket.

Most of us love the old car culture because these old warriors remind us of an uncomplicated phase of our own lives when we rode or drove in these kinds of vehicles. The jury might be out on whether our lives really were less complicated, but a quick look under the hood reveals that the engines were definitely not as complicated by comparison to current engines.

The KISS Principle is still alive and well in the unmodified engine compartments of many old rides.

It is another reason why car guys love the old stuff: they can still wrench on them without a computer degree.

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145 Comments on “Old Cars and the KISS Principle...”


  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Looks like the engine on my tractor (int/farmall cub). Froze one winter and cracked the head. jb weld and it still works. I like simple. I love the economy that comes with technology.

  • avatar
    raph

    I suppose as a consequence of having to wrench on malaise era vehicles in my shop class as well as those cars being the extremely cheap first cars for me and my buddies modern vehicles don’t seem all that complex to me. Granted sensors and electric motors replaced the miles of vacuum tubes that used to live under the hood but modern engines really don’t send me running.

    GM’s LS engines are as simple as their SBC forebears (if not more so since all those paper gaskets have been replaced by rubber O-rings) and the only complex part of Ford’s MOD motors and its descendant the Coyote is the cam drive and even that isn’t terribly complex.

    The electronics can be intimidating but access to a OBDII compliant scanner or tuner plus a good factory manual and its troubleshooting logic tree can take a lot of mystery out of that.

    Although I agree with you on the KISS concept however safety and the environment coupled with (not necessarily enthusiasts) buyers involved in an acronym tech race (Hey my cars got DI, AWD, SMG, VVT, blah, blah, blah) are driving the market for increasing complex automotive systems.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I agree that with the proper tools and research, modern cars are not horribly difficult. Good mechanical aptitude always was helpful, though today an understanding of basic electrical principles helps a lot. I find the biggest challenge with modern cars is access; getting to the needed part often takes the removal of way too many other parts. Or, six special service tools are needed. I paid to have the timing belt replaced on my V6 Probe because of the very tight quarters and too much stuff to remove. I never paid anybody for a timing belt before.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    The irony is, if you own a classic car, you’ll do far more work on it despite its simplicity than something modern with high mileage. At least that’s been my experience.

    I’m sure the age of the car plays a part, but despite the simplicity of older cars, they sure seemed to leave you stranded a lot more often than modern cars do.

    I’m not that old, but even growing up in the 80′s, cars breaking down just seemed to be a more common occurrence than it is today.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      When I bought my first car in 1981, it was 8 years old, and had maybe 60K miles on it. I think I was either repairing or getting it repaired every month or two.

      Now my wife’s car is 9 years old and about the same mileage — but it’s only getting something repaired maybe once a year. And it’s reputed to be one of the unreliable ones!

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        This. The other things about new vehicles vs old is alot of the stuff on new vehicles is simple parts replacement rather than the learned through experience done by feel type things. I.e., there are simple it works or it doesn’t type repairs.

        For example setting timing. Old car with a timing problem: check distributor gear for wear, check busings to make sure no play in shaft, check cap and rotor, hook up timing light and adjust timing. New car: hook up scanner and check crank and 1 or 2 cam sensors, replace failed sensor. Car will be fixed for years until the sensor goes again.

        Same with transmissions, no TV cable vaccumm mod or governor to adjust periodically. Just the occasional solenoid to replace or internal repairs that are largely common to new and old transmissions.

        Personally, unless there is a cool factor involved in the old car, I’d take the new car anyday.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Age is the biggest factor for sure. For a car to have survived 30 years in any kind of workable shape is a feat in itself. My classics are fairly reliable, but only because the everything has been replaced. I drove my ’63 Thunderbird all summer without having any failures, but only because I set the points, replaced some hoses, cleaned and tuned the carburetor and replaced the water pump over the previous winter.

      I don’t think the point of the article was to argue that old cars are more reliable, they aren’t. They’re just easier to tackle yourself which can be a plus if you hate paying people to fix your ride, even if it’s infrequent.

      Like someone stated already, the modern iteration of the KISS principle is probably the GM LS engine. Very easy for the backyard guy to tackle mechanically, very reliable, and even the electronics needed to interact with the OBD system cost less than many hand tools.

  • avatar
    Syke

    There is a law of diminishing returns on the KISS principle once you reach a certain age. I usually mark the cutoff as around 1930 in an automobile and 1936 (Harley Knucklehead) in a motorcycle.

    From that date on, a car is essentially modern mechanically. Controls and actions are pretty much the same as in a 1970′s car, or later. Prior to those dates, however, you’re starting to deal with a level of mechanical simplicity that requires a change of mindset on the part of the owner. What we take for granted happening automatically (choke, spark advance, etc.) were manual and demanded a certain amount of expertise on the part of the driver.

    And don’t even start thinking of the engine tolerances back then. The realization that a rattling noise in a motor that would have told you that you blew the motor five seconds ago in something from the 70′s or 80′s would have given you a good thirty seconds to correct fifty years earlier.

  • avatar
    PeteRR

    So where is the intersection between KISS, reliability, longevity, and modernity? Mid-80s Benzes?

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I wouldn’t exactly call mid 80′s (if any era) Benzes KISS, unless it’s a pretty much stripped Taxi E-class version.
      I would think mid 50′s and mid 60′s American, preferably with a straight 6 ,is the best of both worlds. A lot of those cars can be upgraded with disc brakes and seatbelts easily too,(I think Discs are more ‘KISS’ than drums tbh)
      Either that or some Volvo 240/740, with a carburettor, and no power steering.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        AFAIK Volvo’s had been FI of some kind since 1976. You’d have to track down a 144/145 for a carb.

        Per Wikipedia:

        All 240s were fuel-injected in the US market; the carbureted B20 and B21 engines were not available due to emissions regulations.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volvo_200_Series

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Canadian market 240s were available with a single carburetor up until the 1984 model year.

          But yes, except for gray market, carbs disappeared off of US market Volvos in the early 1970s.

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          In Europe the carbs versions were available well into the late 80′s at least, I forgot tht there are certain market differences. I guess a lot of the emissions equipment keeps many US-market cars out of KISS even from the early 70′s

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’d say into the early 90s in Europe, where engines on cheaper or utility vehicles were still Cold War-era. Or things made by BL.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    The only thing that really bothers me about electronically-controlled cars is their on-off nature.

    When an old, non-electronic car needed a tuneup or a new part, it would fail gradually and you could tell when you couldn’t put the job off any longer.

    In contrast, an electrical part will work just fine – right up to the second it doesn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      But then, for no apparent reason, it will work perfectly again… and then it won’t… and then it will… aughhhhh!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Electronics in general can certainly be challenging.

        • 0 avatar

          And that is the rub. Older electrical systems used relatively poor connectors that allowed water to enter. The new wiring is far better, but harder to test. Chances are that you’ll never need to test it though.

          The electronics on new cars make things easier till it fails. Same story. Older cars had no electronics and the systems had very short lives.

          Spark plugs now easily will go 100k and there are no points to change.

          The basic mechanical components that we really care about: Rings, for example, are far better, but if you rebuild a flathead Ford, the replacement rings are just as good.

          For me, the emission control systems are overdone and often thay do very little. Sure, they the cars are clean burning, but we probably should rethink thos systems and throw out some of them.

          So, what really is better on the new cars? The drivetrain and syspension, piston rings, and steering components all are longer lasting and, hey, no lub jobs are needed. That alone is a big plus.

          Yes, we have come along way, but the emmission control system my grip. You can remove a good part of the system and the emission readings hardly change at all.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Emission controls, despite the early headaches, are what drove the electronic control revolution in cars. And that is directly responsible for vastly improved engine life, mileage, and performance of modern engines. Remember that the manufacturer has to warranty emissions for 80K IIRC. So even though removing a given part may not show much of a change in emission levels, it may affect long term operation.

            My biggest beef is the programming for optimizing regulatory targets may manifest itself in ways that affect operation. Two examples that bug me is transmission programming that always jumps to the highest gear and rev hang when you abruptly lift the throttle. Drive a carb’d car for reference and you see how much the slow rev decay sucks.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “Emission controls, despite the early headaches, are what drove the electronic control revolution in cars. And that is directly responsible for vastly improved engine life, mileage, and performance of modern engines.”

            Entirely too much credit is given to these rules. Things like EFI were already being used and in siginificant development well before smog regulations. Fuel economy improvements were inevitable due to fuel crises.

            What smog equipment gave us was 20 years or so of poor performing junk that took a lot of development to overcome and basically surrendered the dominance of the US auto industry.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Nice picture ~ the old standard ‘T’ Model Ford . I was an ‘A’ Model man for years , simple and reliable , they never left me afoot .

    Yes , I think the intersection is right in those ’77 ~ ’85 Mercedes , especially the Diesels .

    The funny thing is : all the Mechanics at the Shop where I work , easily work on moderns but when they see my oldies (I don’t own any moderns) they ask how the hell do I know how to fix it , even though my stuff is dead simple .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I don’t find modern cars to be particularly daunting. You need different tools, but I will take a car that can tell me what is wrong with it any day over one where I have to consult tea leaves to figure it out. Modern cars DO have more stuff to break, depending on how you tick the option boxes, but most of that stuff will not keep you from getting where you are going. And when all that complication results in a car that can manage 25mpg at a relaxed average speed of 105mph like my BMW did in Europe, sign me up.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “I will take a car that can tell me what is wrong with it any day over one where I have to consult tea leaves to figure it out.”

      ^ ^ This ^ ^

      Old cars are fun to mess with, but there sure is a lot of guess work. I much prefer to pull that code and know exactly what I’m up against

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        TBH, I don’t know which group I belong in. Modern cars aren’t all that different of you have the right tools, but they do have some safety and comfort features that complicate the work, and that I can live without. Also, old cars don’t leave much up to guesswork if you know them. (except 90′s cars, which were a mix, with tons of wires cluttering the simple parts, instead of the small chips we have now)

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Guess work? If you’re guessing, you’re not doing it right. Even on carbureted cars there are scientific controlled methods to setting mixtures and idle etc.

        The being said, DTCs can certainly help to get you pointed in the right direction, but the correct diagnostic methods will get you there DTC or not. Perhaps this is why so many modern techs go by the “No DTC = no problem” motto. They’ve become too reliant on the OBD system to give them a DTC and a trouble tree telling them what part to replace.

        I too don’t have any problem working on new cars, even the complex stuff. It’s just the complexity of things that pisses you off sometimes because of the necessary labor to get at what you’re fixing.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      +1 to krhodes1. I think what others find scary is the simple fact that things are DIFFERENT – not necessarily more complex – than they used to be. But, overall, cars have been getting more and more reliable, and basic maintenance is as easy (and often, less frequent) than before.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’ve got a 1967 Mustang (289 V8 and two barrel) and I guess I have a “resto-mod” philosophy. It will never been concurs correct but I make modifications that make sense to me and enhance my experience. Of course given that it has been in the same family since it was dropped off a transporter and onto a dealers lot in Ottawa, OH and I know what is original and what is not.

    MSD ignition, 14 in open element round filter, true dual exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers. Everything else is more or less stock style and as things are fixed or restored I make my decisions on which direction to go.

    The car doesn’t intimidate me mechanically I helped Dad with much of the maintenance back when she was his and we did all of our own maintenance for the old John Deere 112 and 210 that shared shed space with the ‘Stang. Unfortunately my job doesn’t give me the time to mess with it much. :/ Guess that’s what will keep my trusty mechanic in business. At least the older models make him as excited as they do me.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      That ’67 was still in the age of simplicity. One feature of later Japanese cars is the way they were assembled sequentially, burying the first parts installed. My old ’95 Altima had a problem with the upper timing chain guides getting out of alignment and causing a clicking noise.

      The fix was to simply remove them – they were deleted in later versions of that motor. To remove them, you have to disassemble the front of the engine! The book time for a Nissan tech to do the job of simply removing two unneeded guides is 8.1 hours of labor. For an independent shop, maybe 4-5 hours more.

      I was quoted $1100-$1200 for the job, including several gaskets, at both a dealer and independent shop. That sequential installation may be the reason the Japanese cars are so durable, but once you partially disassemble them and put them back together, there’s no telling what you have. I had the car repainted and interior cleaned instead, and traded it in for a used 2005 Buick.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        “One feature of later Japanese cars is the way they were assembled sequentially, burying the first parts installed”

        Ain’t just Japanese cars.

        My ’76 w115 Mercedes was occasionally like that.

        Replacing the heater fan*? 12 hours of work round trip, including pulling the dash and heater core.

        They had a saying, “Start by holding the heater fan up with a piece of string and assemble the car around it”.

        This was not a *fatal* flaw, as the fans often lasted 25-30 years without failure, of course.

        (* Why “heater fan”, not “climate fan”? Because there was a SEPARATE fan for the A/C.)

  • avatar
    sirwired

    If you choose well, and buy a copy of the shop manual, it’s not really that hard to work on a fresh-from-the-factory car. Some operations will take longer than the days of yore, but you’ll be performing those operations a LOT less often. Sure, it might take four or six hours to replace a water pump, but that pump might easily last 150,000 miles or more. Yeah, replacing a head gasket might be a bear, but a blown gasket will be the only reason you ever replace it. You’ll likely never need to touch the valves, pistons, rings, crankshaft, cams, etc. for as long as you own the car.

    Yes, a transverse V-6 under a tight hood is going to be a pain to work on, no matter what era it came from. But an I-4 will always be cake to replace the plugs (and those plugs might last 100,000 miles), and a browse through the Haynes manual before buying a car can give you clues on how hard a car is to work on in general.

    Modern engines are undeniably more complicated, but much of that complexity is “canceled out” with OBD systems and enthusiast internet forums. Troubleshooting a tricky problem an intermittent XYZ123 valve might be impossible on your own, but now it’s usually not any more involved than posting online: “Hey, I have an ’06 HeapOMatic with the V6. It hesitates at 3k after a cold start and is posting a Q3456 code. Any ideas?” That’s about fifty times easier than having to acquire encyclopedic knowledge about your particular make, model, engine, and transmission personally, even if that encyclopedia didn’t have to be quite so large as it would be today.

    I think it’s also led to less brand loyalty. Once you have years of toil invested in understanding, say, Ford Truck drive trains, you’ll never want to buy anything else because you need to start from scratch. Now, it’s no big deal to change brands entirely…

    I read a story not that long ago about some writer in SanFran that owned some 50′s car her husband bought as her daily driver. It was about as reliable as you’d expect. She always got comments on the street on how “they don’t build ‘em like they used to” and she had to restrain herself from snapping “Thank God they don’t!”

    No, I don’t miss those days at all. Give me a vehicle where I can’t see the ground when I open the hood that can go 150,000+ miles without stranding me once, only needs the oil done once or twice a year, (and a “tune up”? What’s that?) over some aesthetically gorgeous, spare, engine bay that is ready for the scrap-heap at 100k and requires significant maintenance every 10k miles or so.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      What you said.

      I’ve had the benefit of some formalized engine repair training (airplanes), plus I’m a mechanical engineer by trade. However, most people would rather not bother spending $100 on a shop manual so they can understand their vehicle.

      Today’s garages – even the dealers, sadly – don’t really do diagnostics, but rather plug-n-play with parts at your expense.

      Recently, my 09 Sedona was showing a knock sensor fault. By doing some research, I learned that it actually has 2 knock sensors. Close examination of the OBDII codes over time showed that both sensors were showing a fault at times. Knowing that it’s extremely unlikely for both sensors to be bad, instead I changed out the plugs and injectors – problem solved. The computer had also recorded a few misfires, which was an important clue. Since you have to pull the heads to change the sensors, I’m glad it wasn’t that.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    “The KISS Principle is still alive and well in the unmodified engine compartments of many old rides.”

    you touch on this in the article, but to put a finer point on it- “simplicity” in this case usually also means “doesn’t work very well.”

    “It is another reason why car guys love the old stuff: they can still wrench on them without a computer degree.”

    yep, another double-edged sword. It’s good that they’re easy to work on, because *you’re always going to be working on the blasted thing.*

    I get the love for classic cars. They’re from an era of this country which is not likely ever to be repeated. They were distinctively styled though often garish, restyled every year so you could easily tell a ’56 from a ’57, and came from a time where the features and tech we take for granted now were being introduced at break-neck pace.

    On the other hand, those classic cars were incredible pieces of junk. No corrosion protection apart from the external primer and paint, so they started rusting the day after they were built. “Simple” carburetors were so imprecise that if you made it to 100,000 miles without tons of blow-by due to cylinder taper, that was an *event.* hell, if you got to 50k w/o needing a valve job, you were doing good. Thank V-belts for killing water pumps regularly. And as much as people think they were rolling tanks, they would fold up into a ball of tinfoil in modern crash tests.

    edit: I guess sirwired posted while I was writing this. looks like we’re on the same page :)

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Have to disagree with you on several counts. American car inline 6s and V8s would easily hit 100K miles without any major engine issues – it was everything else bolted to the engine that needed rebuilding (alternator/starter/carburetor/alternator, etc). And of course you had to keep replacing gaskets and seals to keep the oil in.

      Got over 200K miles on our 1971 LTD 400M engine with only a timing chain replacement (no valve grinds, heads never came off), and my wife’s 1975 Nova 235 cid inline 6 made it to about a quarter million miles before it was given to a guy who ran it in a demo derby, won the derby, and was going to give the engine away afterwards because it was still operable.

      With older vehicles it all boiled down to proper maintenance – if one was willing to do it. There is no doubt that older vehicles needed more maintenance, but American-car drivetrain components (engines, transmissions) lasted much longer than the cars were kept on the road in most cases.

      And V-belts had nothing to do with water pump failure unless they were far overtightened.

  • avatar
    imag

    To me, the balance of modernity comes into play most in the driving experience.

    I have a car of an era (mid-60′s) in which you can *feel* the parts working. You can look at the bits and figure out the logic of them, from suspension to engine to steering. It is thrilling to drive down the road in an assembly of bolted together hardware that can be essentially understood. Upgrading it for the track is as simple as swapping shocks, adding chassis stiffening and rod ends with a welder and steel, finding bigger brakes that can be made to fit with a custom plate.

    Modern cars are not so different in principal, but the sophistication behind the chassis and assemblies is far higher than I think most people even understand (including me). A wishbone looks marginally like a wishbone, but the suspension geometry and components have undergone huge computer optimization. The new Chevy small block had massive amounts of computer simulation applied to every piece of hardware and programming, as has any modern motor. Every touch point, every inch of the unibody, and every mechanism has undergone similar evolution. They do not take kindly to a welder, nor do they need to.

    As a result, I think that modern cars drive like highly optimized systems rather than a collection of parts. Their sophistication is not something I take lightly. The refinement of the piloting (and passenger) experience is light years behind that of old cars. For driving in the rain, sitting in traffic, or getting reliably from A to B, they are, with few exceptions, seriously impressive jewels of automotive excellence.

    But I still love the driving experience of an old car. I like that I can grok the way it works, can see why someone chose to put a bolt here or a frame member there. I can hear it working when I drive, and I can hear it failing when it’s having an issue. With 10K-20K of individually developed parts, bits fail on a regular basis, but they are (mostly) easily replaced. There is a Zen in the Art of that experience.

    A late 90′s Toyota or Honda is, for me, somewhere in the middle. Parts had undergone a tremendous amount of optimization, but they were still really nice individual components. The cars still included screws to allow mechanical access. And they last an impressively long time.

    I think we are lucky to have the access to the best of all these worlds now. I am looking forward to swapping up to a new Mazda 3 for the regular trips. But I will keep enjoying the old sports car when I really want to appreciate the act of driving. When the self drivers take over, we will look fondly back at this era, I think.

    tl;dr: It’s all good.

  • avatar
    Roader

    “Most car guys look under the hood of the new vehicles and immediately wave a white flag of surrender because they see their own mechanical Little Big Horn or Alamo if they attempt to mess with the engine.”

    I wonder what percentage of people do repairs on their cars now vs. 40 years ago. Conventional wisdom says fewer now, but with the number and activity of car repair forums today, I wonder. Yeah, a DVM and OBD scanner are added to the toolbox. But the availability of instant advice on the forums might be inducing a bigger percentage of car owners to at least take a stab at fixing their own cars compared to the 1960s or 1970s.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “I wonder what percentage of people do repairs on their cars now”

      My guess is not nearly as many as 40, 50 years ago.

      I have a lot of nostalgia for the older cars I tooled and wrenched on, from the ’49 Buick Straight 8 with Fluid Drive to the 2006 F150 habitually in need of parts replacement, and everything in between.

      Too old now for all that bending, stooping, squatting and crawling, I’m giving serious consideration to Leasing my future vehicles, like so many other oldies are doing.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      The big difference is there are many cars on the road that don’t need repairs for the first 10 years except for replacing brake pads. They require maintenance like fluid and filter changes, new tires, new wiper blades, and that’s about it. Just wish people would change “lifetime” automatic transmission fluid and filters a couple times per decade.

      The people who keep cars longer than a decade have new things to fix like worn window regulators and fogged headlight lenses. Spark plugs centered on the top of the cylinder are easy to replace compared to spark plugs on the side of a push-rod V8. Newer old cars can have problems emissions control problems that are very specific to a particular model, but they’re usually easy to troubleshoot compared to Malaise Era vacuum leaks.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        ” Just wish people would change “lifetime” automatic transmission fluid and filters a couple times per decade”

        Can’t blame people, the manuals tell you that you don’t need to change the trans fluid, you just need to “check it”

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Ironically, sometimes the “lifetime” fluid lasts for precisely the life of the vehicle- which, of course, is George B’s point (a point which I realize is not lost on you, Lie2me).

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Oh, I understand, most people won’t. If they even bothered to do the scheduled maintenance they more then likely would go by the manual

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        On many newer cars, like our Grand Cherokee for instance, the transmission oil dip stick has been removed and the tube is sealed permanently at the top.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Oh god, don’t remind me of this idiocy with making transmissions with no dipsticks, just a check plug in the pan.

          I might as well just change the fluid in my car because I’d have to put it up on a lift just to check the fluid.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            No check plug in many cases, and no drain plug either.

            You have to drop the transmission oil pan and replace the gasket if you want to change the fluid.

            I had an ’88 Explorer manual transmission run dry on me because there was no way to check the transmission oil level.

            The damage was $1800 for a rebuilt-swap.

            Lucky for me, there was a similar wrecked Explorer at the junkyard and I was able to buy that transmission for about $600 (cash).

            If it had been an above-board transaction, it would have cost me at least $900 plus tax.

            I still had to lay in the dirt and pull that tranny out myself, but it was worth it.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            “You have to drop the transmission oil pan and replace the gasket if you want to change the fluid.”

            So, it’s as much annoyance as if you had an old car with a transmission filter you needed to replace every fluid change!

            Not that big of a deal. Annoying, sure, but not much more than replacing the fluid itself.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    For me, the 1990s are a sweet spot of sorts, speaking of Japanese cars here. Impressively reliable even now close to 20 years later, engine performance and fuel economy is close enough to modern cars to keep me happy. My personal vehicles have been 1 transverse I4 (Civic Wagon) and 2 longitudinal V6s (MPV and 4runner). All have had accessible engine bays and a timing belt job isn’t all that bad to do. Also, this was before the extreme focus on safety, EPA mileage ratings and “styling” which has lead to the current trend of gunslit windows and crap ground clearance. No tire pressure monitoring systems that make you buy a second set of sensors when for winter wheels. Less over-wrought interiors and straightforward ergonomics, with nicer materials.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Yes, my experience with USED Japanese cars of the eighties and nineties was also excellent.

      Aside from an occasional rubber timing belt, some brake pads or struts, which I could all easily replace myself in the driveway, the used Japanese cars I bought to keep my kids mobile in the eighties and nineties were sweet. Served them long and well. Required only scheduled maintenance and didn’t mind being neglected.

      Not so with the new ’96 Saturn I bought for my daughter, or the new ’88 Silverado I bought for myself. And then there was the ’92 Towncar I bought for my wife.

      These vehicles were designed from the git go to be high maintenance if you actually used them for what they were intended.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I have a ’98 SL2 that survived the relentless abuse of my father, brother, and then my own for 80,000 more miles (including a factory water pump that went to 149544 before seizing). The most expensive thing that’s gone wrong with it in 165 is I had the auto transmission replaced 500 miles ago because it was on the way out for a grand. In the 80K I’ve had it I have put maybe $1500 in repairs to it prior to the transmission (and the water pump/pulley/serp belt was 400 of this figure), and the car cost me $1500 in 2006. If you had asked me in 2006 what I thought of it, coming from a much nicer Grand Am, I would have told you its an embarrassing POS. Now I appreciate its simplicity and inability to rust (at least on the body panels, the hood meanwhile…). In all honesty I will take one of these as a beater over any other small car of the period.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          My daughter had the Saturn head gasket blow cruising on I-5 ~58K miles, setting me back $1100+ to have the Saturn dealer near San Francisco, CA repair the damage. And there was damage!

          This was not the cheapest Saturn either since we had it built for her College graduation gift with a sunroof, rear spoiler, 15″ Alloy Wheels, and optional fat tires.

          She loved it! Well, until she was out there all alone in the world without me to run interference for her and the least dependable thing in her life was her wheels. Without wheels, you’re lost in CA.

          Prior to the head-gasket blowing, the AC went out ~24K, which was covered under warranty. But she lost the car for three days and had to rely on the kindness of others to get to and from work.

          The Check Engine Light would come on, go off, and come back on again, intermittently, but 4 trips to the dealer (during the warranty period) failed to cure that, even though the Saturn would belch black smoke when that light was on, and run rough. No codes! And a loss of transportation for three days at a whack.

          What was not covered under warranty was the sunroof crank-handle that broke off and the parking brake lever that came apart in my daughter’s hand.

          When the manual transmission would only work in one gear (second), it was time to trade that POS for a brand-new 2000 Corolla.

          And everybody lived happily ever after.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’m guessing those were just the results of a typical botched “first year GM” launch since the SL changed for MY96. My SES light is also a little schizo but it means nothing so I just ignore it. Other than that I haven’t experienced any of those issues with mine, interesting how different our respective experiences have been.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            28-Cars-Later, I honestly don’t know if it was botched. It was our first and last Saturn ever.

            I bought it from a dealership in El Paso, TX, and the guy who owned the dealership and I play poker regularly. We’ve known each other for decades. He’s related to Federico, my American-born Mexican foreman. His wife’s brother helped me build my house.

            He felt really bad about my daughter having problems with the car in California, after she graduated and had moved there for her first real job.

            I told him I understood he didn’t built the car. He had a few of them like that he said, but he would do right by the owners if the cars were repaired at his dealership, even if not under warranty.

            He had watched my daughter grow up from a little girl to a college graduate and knew she did not abuse cars, so he was embarrassed that she got a lemon.

            I still play poker with the guy, so it hasn’t affected our friendship. But we don’t talk about it and he knows where I stand on GM. He still sells GM products today.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Agreed. My son drives a 1997 Toyota Tercel that we bought back around 2007 with 120k on it. Simple interior (look ma, window cranks!)with a quality touch and feel that makes newer Corollas and Camrys blush, basic mechanics (sure, being just shy of 100HP isn’t going to get anybody’s heart racing), A/C that’ll still freeze you out. That little beastie has over 200k on her now, original engine, original clutch/tranny. Other than basic upkeep and maintenance (changed oil regularly, belts all replaced, water pump replaced, stuff like that), it’s been dead-reliable. Heck, if I wasn’t in Saudi Arabia for the next several years, I’d ask for it back when he decides that as a young pilot in the US Air Force he needs something more in line with appearances (although he’s also about as cheap as I am and may well decide to keep it anyway!). But I guess a car like that wouldn’t sell today, which is a bit of a shame.

    • 0 avatar
      epsilonkore

      I agree, my 1994 Toyota Celica was easy to work on. Lots of room, easy oil changes and easy rebuilds. The interior was sparse but had decent squishy plastics, and it too was easy to work on IF it ever broke. The electronics were there, but in minimal form… just enough for efficiency and reliability but not enough for real performance… that would come in the next decade with more sensors and processing power. To me, 1988-1998 was a golden age of light, reliable, efficient and simple designs (from the Japanese at least) that I missed during the 2000′s.

      One thing I will say though, a 1994 Celica compared to a 2013 Scion tC (its spiritual successor) feels miles away less safe. The tC is decked out with 7-9 airbags, standard ABS, brake force distribution, traction control and twice the side impact re enforcement beams of the Celica (Add to that, 1994 was the first year Toyota put ANY re enforcement side door beams in their cars… to my knowledge one year earlier and I would have had NO beams in the door). So yes, today is heavier and more complex because of these safety features, but that is one complexity I can live with. Thankfully the electronics have improved efficiency enough to offset the weight gain in most respects.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    .
    Fuel injection, done properly, changed everything. (Think Toyota, not GM Cross-Fire Injection). Couple that with electronic ignition and your odds of the engine dying out are virtually nil.

    If I had a classic resto-mod, I’d dump the carburetor and distributor and install an EFI system and electronic ignition.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      PeteRR

      I’ve got electric ignition on the Road Runner. I’m considering furl injection, but the $2900 cost is a big lump to swallow.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @PeteRR, yeah its tempting with all those TBI kits now a days like MSDs Atomic EFI (just to name one) I’ve thought about a 4 barrel intake and fuel injection for the old Mustang. Although there are much higher priorities that I’ll be addressing first.

        Right now I’m very happy with having ditched the “points” for something much more accurate and consistent in the spark department.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          What sort of mileage bump do you think you’d get on something ridiculous like say, a smog strangled Cadillac 500?

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @28-cars-later, I postulate that you could strip all the smog crap off a late 70s V8, put a modern electronic ignition on it (replacing the tired original unit in some cases), add a tunable TBI unit from the aftermarket, full tuneup with timing set for the new parts, and actually REDUCE emissions from what it would have polluted brand new in the late 70s. I’ll bet you could get 20 mpg highway no problem at say 65 mph.

            Mileage? Well my old Mustang with 289 V8, three speed auto (hey shut up haters, I’m caring for a family heirloom), two barrel carb, full MSD ignition system, and non-original rear gear with god knows what gearing – but higher than factory is getting a consistent 20 mpg at 60 mph. I know that doesn’t sound impressive but in the 70s a family member managed to destroy the original 8.8 in rear and replaced it with a Ford 9 in scavenged out of a wrecked Mach I. The speedometer has read 20 mph high ever since (GPS verified now) and the original gearing would have been much more mileage friendly.

            Part of my plan for the car is to figure out what the factory gearing was and replace the center section of the 9 in with original gear ratios and a posi.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            It depends on the exact FI system you use. For the Caddy 500 I’d use the TBI system off of a Chevy 454 so with the computer controlled timing you can expect about a 10-15% bump in MPG and a 200% increase in drive ability compared to a properly functioning Q-jet. If the carb isn’t in that good of shape then you could do even better.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thanks for the response guys. If the tech becomes more ubiquitous I could see more older stuff being brought back to life with EFI and I doubt it would run afoul of your state’s classic/antique laws if you kept everything else original. Although I am not a professional mechanic, I personally have never worked with a carb and it seems like its becoming somewhat esoteric knowledge.

        • 0 avatar
          PeteRR

          I’m considering the F.A.S.T. Ez-EFI 2.0. I would also need a high pressure fuel pump and fuel regulator to match their system.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            They sell kits that include an inline fuel pump and everything you need for just a few dollars more than the no fuel system version.

        • 0 avatar
          69firebird

          @ Principal Dan…try this link to figure out what rear was in your Mustang http://www.mustangdecoder.com/instructions.html

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @69firebird, I’ve got the Ford Shop Manuals and they have the instructions for reading the codes. The car didn’t become mine until July and I didn’t get things decoded before the car went into storage.

            I do wonder though how someone blew an 8.8 in rear with the weakest V8 that was offered that year. A 9 in is bullet proof for whatever I might want to do and that’s an understatement.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Jack up the rear of car, index the driveshaft to the diff housing, and the tire to the body. Use skinny painter’s tape and a Sharpie marker. Turn the driveshaft, counting the number of revolutions to cause the tire to make one full revolution. To be more accurate, you can measure the diameter of the driveshaft with a flexible tape and divide out the fraction of the revolution since you will have a partial revolution plus two, three, or four full revolutions.

        • 0 avatar
          fiasco

          @PrincipalDan: if your Mustang still has the VIN plate on the driver’s door, the original axle code should be on it and easily deciphered using an online tool.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I’m with you. I consider myself fairly well versed at rebuilding a variety of carburetors (Holley, Autolite/Motorcraft and Weber are my specialties) but if I bought an old car to use as a fun cruiser during the summer, priority #1 is putting fuel injection on it. You can do it on the cheap by using a GM “2-barrel” TBI unit from the V-8 pickup trucks. Adapters exist to put these TBI units on practically anything and you can have the computer reprogrammed for your application. I wouldn’t be surprised if a 2 venturi GM TBI unit flows just as much fuel as a medium size 4-bbl carburetor.

      Priority # 2 is ignition, which would be done at the same time as the fuel injection. Even if you don’t want to invest in a whole distributor, you can buy a Pertronix kit and upgrade. I did this to a buddy’s 1966 Comet and it was a night and day difference.

      Priority #3 is disc brakes up front if the car doesn’t already have them. I detest front drum brakes, especially if you have to take apart the front wheel bearing just to pop the drum off to clean them or inspect them. I can tolerate them on the rear since the drum usually is just held on by the lugs and the performance improvement of rear discs is not as great as one might think.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        There are 2 different V engine TBIs one used on the 4.3, 5.0 and 5.7 and another for the 7.4 (454) the little one is around 600 CFM IIRC and somewhere in the 700′s for the 454 unit.

        The Pertronix is far from an upgrade and is a bad choice. A much better choice is to get a rebuilt distributor from a newer version of the engine and a early 70′s EM HEI module and a Ford TFI coil (Wheter it is GM, Ford or Chrysler). All told you’ll be into for less than the Pertonix and in the unlikely event that one of the parts fails parts will be on the shelf.

        However if you are going to go EFI particularly GM TBI then you want that same distributor but want to disable the mechanical advance and use the ign control module from the late 80′s/early 90′s GM truck you got the computer and TBI from. The computer controlled timing makes a big difference in driveability and MPG.

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          I have to disagree with your criticism of the Pertronix. For the money it’s by far the easiest solution. One clean drop-in module with a couple wires to connect, runs forever. Compared to hunting for this distributor and adapting it to that module…that’s supposed to be better?

          On that note, the wife had a ’71 Maverick many years ago that I converted to electronic with a $39 kit from JC Whitney. The sensor attached to the distributor baseplate with double sided tape, and ran off a little aluminum box. Never failed.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    None of this modern stuff would be so daunting if the gott-damned engine/tranny assemblies weren’t sitting sideways.

    I love FWD but wish there were an economical longitudinal layout possible. Sure would be nice to be able to see and get tools on stuff again.

    • 0 avatar
      PeteRR

      There is, in pickup trucks. Another reason for their popularity.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Transverse engine doesn’t have to be terrible for maintenance. I could do a timing belt and water pump job on my ’96 Vw Passat TDI in two and a half hours in my driveway. But, I wouldn’t touch the same job in my ’06 Jetta.

      The killer in that case was that the newer cars have an engine mount that passes through the path of the timing belt (this is a common design nowadays because it puts the engine mount very close to the engine’s natural vibration axis, so that less noise and vibration gets to the passengers). The older car had engine mounts in the traditional locations on either side of the engine (i.e. front and back when the engine sits sideways) and nothing on the front of the engine.

      The other killer was that for aerodynamics or styling or whatever, the base of the windshield was further forward, overhanging the engine compartment, so if anything needed access on the back of the engine (turbo, EGR cooler) it became a miserable job. But that issue is not confined to transverse engine front drive. Certain jobs on some late model Ford F250 trucks require removing the cab from the frame in order to gain access!

      Modern vehicles are designed to go down the assembly line easily; they’re not designed to be serviced afterwards easily.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        My car puts the thermostat right next to the exhaust crossover, meaning that you have to disassemble part of the exhaust system to change the thermostat. And it’s just cramped enough under the hood that a head gasket swap would probably require dropping the motor and swapping intake manifolds requires taking the hood off to get enough clearance.

        GM engineering at work.

        • 0 avatar
          PonchoIndian

          I realize its popular to dump on GM engineering but come on…

          How about having to drop the engine in a BRZ/FRS to do spark plugs…

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Well, GM was a pioneer in foisting “remove engine to replace sparkplugs” products on the marketplace… but they’re definitely not alone in engineered-in PITA maintenance.

            For example: my Toyota V6 (3.3L) has its oil filter designed in such a way that it always dumps out some oil when I replace it. Now before anybody tells me I should just buy filters with an anti-drainback flap, I would politely remind everyone that the law of gravity is older than the automobile.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            That just means that other companies are committing the same sins of engine packaging…and that’s depressing.

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            OK, this seems to be a common internet myth – name one GM car that you actually have to remove the engine to get to the plugs on?

            From underneath? Yes, in some cases. Through the fenderwells? Check.

            But remove engine? Never seen it and I’ve worked on about every GM car I can think of since the 1960s.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            “For example: my Toyota V6 (3.3L) has its oil filter designed in such a way that it always dumps out some oil when I replace it”

            Screw-on filters? LUxury.

            My Mercedes had a can filter in a separate can, with a through-bolt to the bottom.

            Every oil change, arm and part of the driveway covered in pitch-black oil.

            (Moral of the story? Someone always has it worse.)

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            @redmondjp- “actually have to remove the engine to get to the plug”

            No, not “actually” (or literally), just some internet exaggeration. ;)

            Cheers!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Modern vehicles are designed to go down the assembly line easily; they’re not designed to be serviced afterwards easily.”

        Exactly and its a big problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I believe the late ’90s Chrysler LH models were longitudinal engine/transmission with a transfer case to FWD. They were apparently designed to be easily converted to AWD, but might have originally been conceived to be RWD. That seems like the best architecture for flexible FWD, at least for the midsized and full sized cars. For smaller cars you give away too much interior space and need a longer wheelbase to accomodate the longer hood.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Most eras have had both simple and complicated car, mostly in between 1930 and 2000, as no one buys them anymore. I don’t think a Supercharged 1932 Dusenberg is any simpler to work on than a mid 80′s Honda Accord, but today no-one is interested in buyng simple uncomplicated cars anymore. Another thign with older cars is that they usually stayed on the safe side with parts and tolerances, since they didn’t have the tech to make every part perfect, (which is why a new Honda will have bolts that are half the size of the same ones on a 70′s Volvo)

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    I was born in ’73, so I grew up during the transition from KISS to the modern era. I remember my Dad working on our cars in his garage back in the ’70s and even ’80s (frequently, it seems). He wasn’t a mechanic, but that was what a lot of guys did back then–they serviced their own cars. He even taught me how to replace the oil filter on the hand-me-down ’82 Celica I got when I started driving, an act which damn near required a contortionist’s arm and where you couldn’t actually see the oil filter while you screwed it on or off. He also had a ’72 Chevy truck where you could open the hood and practically understand the entire engine just by looking at it.

    But now…even Dad won’t touch the insides of cars. On the rare occasion when they need servicing, he just takes ‘em to the repair shop like everyone else. As for me? Like most guys of my generation and younger, wrenching your own car is something you just don’t do. I’m a technically-minded guy. I work as a software developer, and can write and debug sophisticated applications, but cars are a total black box to me. Casual car repair isn’t even taught anymore for the same reasons everyone’s already mentioned. Modern cars are too reliable and complex to bother.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Oh come on, that’s a bit of a cop out. Regular maintenance such as tire rotations, oil changes, brake fluid changes, are WELL within the realm of a home mechanic. As are sensor replacement or cleaning, various filters, undercoating, brake jobs, etc. The complexity of most of these tasks is the same as it was 30+ years ago for most mass market cars. In addition to saving on labor, you know the job is done right and you feel the satisfaction of not being dependent on someone else.

      My dad went from doing all the work on his 1972 Soviet ZAZ 966 to doing his own oil changes on his 2009 RX350. The cartridge filter is a breeze to swap out. I’m getting ready to do my own oil change on my 2012 Civic, just picked up some Mobil 1 0W-20, and will order some OEM filters online. A few months ago I did a brake job on my ’96 4runner at my apartment garage, took a bit longer than anticipated due to rotors rusting onto the hubs but I got immense satisfaction of a job well done.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        +1 on everything but brake fluid, which is a little tricky. On my 01 Z3 3.0, in the driveway, I have done the following:
        replaced all cooling system hoses
        replaced water pump
        replaced radiator
        replaced expansion tank
        replaced intake camshaft position sensor
        replaced “DISA” valve that change intake runner length
        replaced portion of “rubber” intake pipe between MAF and throttle body that developed
        replaced brake discs (4 wheels)
        replaced brake pads (4 wheels)
        rebuilt brake calipers
        oil and filter change

        My biggest problem with oil changes is getting rid of the old oil. There used to be a gas station nearby that had a big waste oil collection tank. Then I found a police station with a waste oil collection tank. Now I have to haul the stuff the “recycling center” about 50 minutes (round trip) away. PITA.

        The last 3 repairs were trouble shooted with the aid of a code reader, although when the reader indicates a vacuum leak, it’s up to you to track it down the old fashioned way.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “But now…even Dad won’t touch the insides of cars. On the rare occasion when they need servicing…”

      Um, wasn’t this the ultimate goal of building better cars?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The latest KISS principle: the 3-year lease. No maintenance except oil and maybe tires.

    The (relatively) free market has provided this benefit as well: while cars have become safer, faster, more comfortable, and more reliable, they’ve also gotten CHEAPER in constant dollars. The $2000 you spent on a new 1971 Pinto would buy you an $11,500 Versa today. These two cars can’t even attend the same parties.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I’m considering Leasing for my next new vehicle. Don’t know what yet. Maybe a Sequoia 4×4, maybe an Armada 4×4.

      It won’t be the only vehicle I will have, but it will be our newest vehicle for long-distance travel.

      Like you said, if I need a grocery-getter, any one of the ‘los cheapos’ like the Versa can be had for relatively little money, and then traded every three, four or five years, before the factory warranty coverage runs out.

      That would indeed be KISS. Good advice.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        I agree and that’s a perceptive point.

        It’s kind of like a luxury car reality is filtering down-scale. All cars are now far too complex to consider DIYing anything but the simplest work. Why buy what will certainly become an expensive maintenance headache when the car goes off-warranty?

        This is difficult and unpleasant for the average boomer male to accept, but relationships with cars are now best kept short-term. I’m considering a lease for the first time ever.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “relationships with cars are now best kept short-term”

          This is so true! And as a 67 yo boomer I am beginning to acquiesce to the idea of trading every 3-5 years, depending on the length of the factory warranty coverage.

          From what I have learned from the Lease experiences of others is that at the end of the lease period, they will nickel and dime you to death with all sorts of ancillary charges and fees.

          So the alternative for many old people (who can) is to buy something outright, use it for the length of the factory warranty coverage period, then trade it for something new again.

          I was going to do that with the 2008 Highlander I bought for my wife, and then I decided to keep it because it had been such a great vehicle. So acquiescing to an idea and actually doing it are two different things.

          If you’ve had a great ownership experience with a car, parting can be such sweet sorrow.

          And I have difficulty parting with cars once I get them running right.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Being seduced to trade away self-reliance for convenience is something that smells funny to most of us boomers, particularly those who began adulthood with empty pockets.

            Nowadays I call the furnace guy, I call the plumber, I take my car to the dealership, I have my kids configure our computers…. all things which I would have fiercely resisted as recently as 10 years ago.

            It’s a perfect storm for us. As I get older, creakier and technologically further behind, the highly reliable sophistication of modern consumer products encourages (if not necessitates) more and more slippage of my grasp on “How Stuff Works”.

            And that’s not how I was raised or lived my active years.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            ….“relationships with cars are now best kept short-term”…

            Kind of counter intuitive to the general idea here that cars last longer and are more reliable than ever….I guess the vehicle you buy is the factor here as to churn and burn or keep. Pretty much most German cars fall in to the first category, but others, no. A big part of making retirement before 60 seem do-able has been driving older cars until they are a problem or ugly to look at. If the body goes or gets dented beyond affordable repair, out they go.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “As I get older, creakier and technologically further behind, the highly reliable sophistication of modern consumer products encourages (if not necessitates) more and more slippage of my grasp on “How Stuff Works”.

            And that’s not how I was raised or lived my active years.”

            No, you release old technology to make room for new technology. Create your cloud based home network by releasing your astute VCR programing capabilities

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            @golden2husky
            Well, I started out with simple cars that were cheaply built. It behooved one to learn the skills necessary to keep them running well past warranty because that was a real possibility for a young person who enjoyed fixing mechanical things.

            Now we have vastly more sophisticated cars that are also cheaply built. Interconnected electronic controls have been superimposed atop the basic mechanicals which themselves are increasingly inaccessible due to drivetrain layout and component proliferation.

            That stuff’s eventually going to break/wear out and what chance will an aging lawnmower-level mechanic stand with it?

            That’s my take on this topic, anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            @Calvin

            I just had this discussion yesterday with son & DinLaw who were trying yet again to get me to replace my XP machines.

            I said no, I need to buy tires.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Do you truly understand the technology behind today’s modern tire? Awesome stuff

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            I’ve been staring at zoom-ins of siping patterns for weeks. I buy nothing quickly.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Go to Walmart, you can get a set of tires AND a new PC for what you’d pay for tires anywhere else.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Really? Walmart? OK, thanks.

            What the heck, it won’t kill me to shop a little up-market just this once.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Tirerack is usually cheaper than Wal-mart. Then you can have anyone mount them including Wal-Mart.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I hate to throw cold water on this tire love-fest but MY experiences with Wal-Mart tires and tires from Tire Rack was not one worth repeating. After ONE experience with each I learned to avoid making the same mistake again.

            The tires were name-brand tires. Not cheapo no-names.

            The problem came in the execution, as in Wal-Mart forgot to install NEW valve stems, and the tires were either seconds or not the same quality as the high-priced variety.

            To me it felt like the tires from Wal-Mart were not round either. I know that is subjective but there was just something not right with them and they wore very quickly as if the rubber was too soft. Two of them developed Goose Eggs on the side wall as well.

            With Tire Rack I received truly outstanding, high-quality tires. First rate stuff at a fair price.

            Problem came with finding someone to mount them. NO SHOP NEAR THE GAS&SIP WHERE I LIVE WANTED TO MOUNT THEM FOR ME! (This was for fear of voiding the Tire Rack warranty in case of a possible claim later on)

            I ended up going to the Air Force Base Auto Hobby Shop to mount and balance them myself. I did buy the new valve stems at Wal-Mart. It took me more than a week to recover physically from that tire mounting adventure!

            Old people should not attempt to lift P265/70R18 tires repeatedly. It strains muscles not otherwise used, and long forgotten about.

            What I will recommend is national chain Discount Tire, and in the area of the gas&sip where I live, Martin Tire.

            Great Tires, great Service, great People, great Value! Free valve stems, free mounting and balancing, and free tire rotation every 5000 miles — all included in one fair price, and ALL manufacturers discounts are honored.

            These days I choose Michelin for the Grand Cherokee, Highlander and Tundra; Pirelli for the Elantra. I have yet to have a bad experience with them and I go through at least one set of 4 tires each year.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “Old people should not attempt to lift P265/70R18 tires repeatedly. It strains muscles not otherwise used, and long forgotten about.”

            Your greatest mistake was your timing. If you’d discovered this about 5-10 years prior then you

            -could have used it as the basis of a hip new exercise program
            -made money from the idea
            -never have to mount your own discount tires again!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            LOL! I’m just old.

            I get plenty of exercise doing what I do maintaining, refurbishing and rebuilding 14 rental homes.

            The things I lift and move often weigh more than tires but I also have the right tools for the job and hire in help.

            Deadlifting wheels and tires by one-self is a bit more strenuous.

            My last adventure was in 2008 when I put new Michelin on my wife’s 1992 Towncar after I bought her that Highlander, and got ready to sell the Towncar.

            So it’s been more than five years, and I learned my lesson.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “I get plenty of exercise doing what I do maintaining, refurbishing and rebuilding 14 rental homes.”

            Dude! “Renovaticise…” “Reno-fit…” something… nobody’s invented it yet. Functional fitness from drywalling/tiling/installing countertops/swinging a sledge hammer. Quick- to the patent office! (Heck, if somebody can invent the shake weight and make money off that.)

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Yeah, you got something there!

            But speaking of which, tire installation and rotation, when my wife and I returned from our recent long distance trip in her GC, I rotated the tires a day after we got back home.

            It was on a weekend and Discount Tire was closed. She had to take the GC on a business trip to Texas the next day.

            It took me almost ten days after to quit walking funny and slow, and all bent over.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            My experience with Walmart tires has been positive thus far. I have bought two sets from them, the first set were free because for what ever reason the charge never showed-up on my charge card, thank you Walmart. The most recent set were the same price as Tirerack, though Walmart’s price included installation and I didn’t have to hassle with finding an installer

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            That would be something if any retailer would forget to charge you for the tires!

            No such luck with for me. I’ve got 20″ wheels on that GC. Had to special order the Michelins through Discount tire at close to $500 a pop, paid for, in cash, up front.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            It was odd, I had gotten a $20 oil change at the same time as the $500 tires. The $20 oil change showed up in the next billing cycle, but the $500 tires never did. Again, thank you, Walmart

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            WOW! In my 67 years on this planet, I have never had that happen to me.

            Maybe I just have a dishonest face and people want their money up front from me. Could be.

            I get a kick every time I hand a cashier a $100 bill, even the newest ones, or a $50 bill or even a $20 bill, and they look at it, hold it up to the light, inspect it, as if they can tell a bogus one from the real ones.

            I use cash money almost all of the time, including while we’re on the road, so I handle a lot of cash money and that’s why I picked up a used Accubanker D64 counterfeit money detector for $25 at an estate sale many years ago and I have NEVER run across a bogus bill. NEVER!

            Your experience has me thinking about using my credit cards more often. Then again, maybe not.

            Too many issues with credit cards, I’ll keep them for emergency use only, or for ordering online.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I have worked on older and newer cars. My Miata is very easy to work on and has never left me stranded. Of course the car is only 24 years old and i should knock on wood. Our newer cars are only 2 years old and only have to be serviced once a year. I have the VagCom program for VW’s and i scan the cars once a year for errors but so far everything is perfect. My buddy had an old 2001 VW Beetle with about 175,000 miles on it and i scanned it last week for the up coming winter. All we could find were a few loose radio speaker wires. The newer cars are much safer and give better power and gas mileage. The paint jobs are better and they don’t rust out within 5 years.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Changing the oil on my 2007 Audi A3 is a pain. Yet I don’t mind putting a new cylinder head on the 1965 Lotus Elan.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I’ve owned 6 cars and I’ll be honest, all have included fuel injection. (87, 98, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004.) I feel like my current ride’s level of tech is the sweet spot for me, a 2002 with a 2.2 ECOTEC.

    The reason I say this is, I am totally in favor of OBD 2 and fuel injection and all that good stuff, but I don’t like electronic throttle. My 04 Mazda 6 V6 had the electronic throttle and you could always notice it thinking when you asked for power.

    Throttle position is the only control the driver has over the engine right? Air and fuel follow throttle position? So that’s why I would prefer a cable operated throttle, and electronic fuel injection as a sweet spot.

  • avatar
    old5.0

    It seems like we’ve been hearing this for years. I remember the doom and gloom in the mid-80′s when GM and Ford were switching over to port EFI. Now a five-year-old can re-program an EEC-IV. Compared to a new Mustang, a Fox is about as complicated as a ball-peen hammer. When I was a kid,, I helped a neighbor change the cam in his nearly new 89 GT. After opening the box, the instructions informed us that this particular stick required valve clearancing, so being two dumb kids we pulled the top end and fly-cut the pistons right in the block. Somehow, we got it all back together, with the added bonus that it actually worked. If an eighteen year old and his twelve year old helper could pull that off, what excuse is there?

    I remember the same doom and gloom about the switchover to the Modular in the Mustang, and how OBD-II was the death of hot-rodding. Those fears were unfounded, as was the B.S. about having to pull the 4.6 completely out of your new Mustang (by dropping it and the entire front K-frame/suspension out through the bottom!) to do anything more complicated than change the plugs. We put head gaskets in a friend’s 98 GT back then, and the deal took about 10 hours in poorly lit, unheated garage in the dead of winter. Didn’t even have to pull the engine.

    I agree that we buy old cars to relive a simpler time in our lives. That’s why I have a garage full Fox Mustang crap. Someday, my kids will be buying old beat-up 2015 Mustangs and Camaros, and I bet they won’t find those cars complicated at all.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Anyone ever have a tri-power car? That always seemed like it would be complicated.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Simplicity of construction has been replaced with simplicity of maintenance. Working on old cars reminds you of that but is still strangely satisfying.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    define ‘old’

    there’s no need for any 1980s car

    1990s cars is a different story…. something like a 1995 Camry which has a DOHC 16v port injected 2 litre 4 cyl. and a simple 4 spd automatic or 5 spd manual will last forever

    it has simple electronics and i think only has two airbags and ABS at best

    it has air conditioning and a DIN radio so if you need BT or GPS its all available… also basic conveniences like electric windows and central locking

    ironically cars like this go to the wreckers all the time but they are serviceable and would suit anyone not addicted to the new fashions

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      2 large problems with 90′s cars though. Even if they are reliable, not all of them are easy to work on,(aero styling, transverse engines) despite the basic mechanicals behind all the wiring. (20-30 year old airbags sounds scary, and expensive to replace)
      And 90′s cars were more often than not affected by sometimes extremely bland styling, and not many really ‘cool’ cars for enthusiasts to be enthusiastic about (with some exceptions though)which makes it less likely that people will be bothered to save them for a long time.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    “basic conveniences like electric windows and central locking”

    Crap, now I’m ashamed of the callouses I still have from cranking windows and working lock buttons.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’m somewhat divided by this. Now, at my age, I’m happy I don’t have to worry about dwell settings, spark advance for the distributor, points, etc, let alone breathing blow-by from a road draft tube in the days before PVC valves.

    Back in the day, I enjoyed tinkering around with my rides, but wouldn’t trade any of that maintenance for the effortless operation of a modern car.

    As for as owning an old car that requires all the aforementioned things as a labor of love and a hobby – well, that is a privilege!

  • avatar
    myheadhertz

    When electromagnetic pulse weapons (EMP’s) become practical, True KISS cars may be the only ones still running.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      There is an excellent 1959 book called “Alas, Babylon” which describes your scenario. As I recall, the nuclear blast survivors end up driving around in a Model T, since all other cars are rendered useless by the EMP.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    I couldn’t tell you how difficult my 2003 Silverado is to repair, because in 10 years and 130,000 miles, not a single thing has needed repair on it. I changed the spark plugs myself at 100,000 miles because I figured it was good preventative maintenance, and it was easy, but did not change the way it ran. Can’t get any more simple than never breaking, in my opinion.

  • avatar
    340-4

    I have owned and driven cars from the late 1960′s continuously since 1987.

    Ever swapped carburetors on a 396 in below zero weather?

    So much maintenance on them. Constantly.

    But they can be understood. They’re made of moving parts.

    New cars may be beyond the average person’s ability to repair (although I see you can buy OBD apps for your smartphone now!) but every time I park my ’67 and get into my ’13, I am amazed at how much better a new car is, how much more comfortable, more safe, and more reliable.

    Owning such a spread in age makes you appreciate these things.

    Kids today have no idea.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “Ever swapped carburetors on a 396 in below zero weather?”

      No, but I once changed an in-tank fuel pump in a snowstorm at night on my gravel driveway. The only good part was that half of me was shielded from the snow as I lay under the car, hoping the trouble light didn’t explode the tank of gas I was dealing with.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I was thinking about this yesterday and in all honesty, I feel like the difference was bigger between my Diplomat and my Electra (which had a one year age difference) than the differences between the Electra and my Lucerne (which had a 20 year age difference). A handful of parts could even be swapped between the two Buicks.

    How big a difference is there between Jeep Wagoneers or Land Rovers with decades apart in build date? A ’92 and ’05 Taurus don’t feel worlds apart (to me anyway).

    I’m not sure what my point is. I guess that what you drive makes a bigger difference than the age of what you have.

  • avatar
    ixim

    Ah, yes the good old days. I can remember Dad’s ’53 Ford. Let’s see: oil changes ever couple of thousand miles; new plugs, rotor, cap, points and condenser once or twice a year; a dozen or so Zerk fittings to grease every oil change (don’t forget the U-joints!); drain and refill the radiator spring and fall; adjust the brakes; etc. Plus the 20,000 mile tires, the 50,000 mile valve job, the 75,000 mile ring job (short block, anyone?), also, etc. The good news was that he and I could do most of this ourselves. Which we did, bonding several wintry mornings a year. He would have loved my new Chevy ‘Nox.

  • avatar
    Hoser

    I successfully repaired the starter on my 94 Ranger and brake caliper on my 96 Taurus this weekend for about $150 total.

    My 2005 Five Hundred is giving me AWD Malfunction lights I spent $600+ at the dealer last week to fix and it’s STILL COMING ON.

    I’ll buy the old stuff I can still work on for $100 in parts rather than the new stuff that the dealer can’t even fix for $600.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Well just wait…if ya like wrenching stuff, you will likely look back at the rigs of today as very user friendly, unlike the sealed transport pods that will come with a lawyer hidden in the source codes that snitch on unauthorized tinkering…minority report indeed!

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Things were for sure simpler back in the 60′s – 80′s. But on the other side of the coin cars today last much longer and go considerably longer without ever needing to go under hood than ever before. Shame that this new found longevity comes at such a price as today’s vehicles are looking more and more alike than ever and the interiors of most everything on the road is as dull and plain as ever with little to no color and very cold hard ambiance.


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