Piston Slap: Car Design Grab Bag!

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap car design grab bag

TTAC Commentator Towncar writes:

I have some piddling little aggravations and head-scratchers, and it appears those serve to entertain the B&B as well as anything.

  1. Black Pillars: When and why did the black B-pillar take over the world? Presumably it’s to make you think it’s not there and the car’s a hardtop, but there’s never been a single case where that worked — not one. Even on a black car, the finish is sufficiently different that you can tell the pillar is present.
  2. Colors: Why are there no good interior colors anymore — red, blue, green? The only current one I know of, fairly recent, is the Rhapsody in Blue interior on the new Continental, and you have to buy the ultra-highline Black Label edition to get it. Which brings up the question: why do so few interiors really match anymore? It used to be that two-tone interiors looked designed that way, but now they just seem to have been put together from parts for different cars.
  3. Gas Fillers: Have any of the fool engineers who put gas fillers on the passenger’s side ever tested this concept out by going through a gas line backwards? (By the way, this pertains to the G6 convertible you advised me to buy about four years ago, and belated thanks, it’s generally great.)
  4. Wipers: Why has the old-fashioned opposed (clap hands) style come back of late years? I saw some kind of little Ford with this lately, and I think a Honda or two. And pertaining to the newer parallel style, what determines which side the wipers “point” to? It’s almost always the passenger’s, but I can think of two cars having them point the other way — the suicide-door Continentals of the ’60s and the Avanti. Why?
  5. TPMS: OK, this is actually semi-serious. How good are these things? The G6’s dash display gives pressures, but seldom agrees with my trusty tire gauge at the best of times, and changes in temperature and even bumps in the road sometimes trigger the warning light. Can the sensors be adjusted and/or calibrated for accuracy? And are the retrofit kits you can buy for older cars any good?

Sajeev answers:

Your queries are well explained, so let’s get my answers out of the way so the Best and Brightest can also chime in, in a timely manner.

  1. Blacked out pillars give almost any car (save for pre-’98 Town Cars) a sleeker, less architectural look. Snazzier cars benefit from chrome B-pillars to integrate the greenhouse’s chrome perimeter. It’s a good thing to integrate the DLO (daylight opening) with integrated pillars, especially when the space between the glass is thin. (i.e. not the initially crappy long-wheel base Town Car)
  2. At some point, the market for old-school levels of color saturation — where everything from the headliner to the carpets were Ivy Green, Porno Red or Turd Brown — will come back. But we need to see such saturation elsewhere before the car business takes note. If bright colors show up in fashion, product design, etc., it will eventually come to more vehicles than the mega-blue Continental.
  3. Many of my cars have filler necks on the passenger side, and I fail to see the problem. Maybe a government-mandated location would help, but is that necessary? For me, Houston is nicely spread out, so it’s usually very easy to find an open pump on the “other side” of the station, sans backing up to one.
  4. The “Clapping” wipers are probably back because windshields are super long in today’s age of cab-forward design and super rakish rooflines, and probably because I reckon they clean more surface area directly in front of the driver’s line of sight, compared to the other style on vehicles you mentioned. To wit, the “parallel” style wipers must point to the passenger side to ensure there isn’t a huge semi-circular space of glass right in front of the driver’s face that remains unwiped.
  5. I had a TPMS sensor warn me of a slow leak on the highway, ensuring I was not surprised when parked/left/returned to a flat tire. I think these things are great, if annoying for the reasons mentioned.

Your thoughts, Best and Brightest?

[Image: Shutterstock user MJgraphics]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2 of 102 comments
  • Hooligans Hooligans on May 12, 2017

    Hi guys. I'm coming in late but just have to ask... So much of this commentary has centered on gas fillers. I live in rural Alaska and have never experienced "gas lines". Is this common? I've also lived in Austin, Texas and didn't experience this, but perhaps that's because I gassed up at corner stores as oppsed to waiting in line for cheaper gas. Just curious..

  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on May 13, 2017

    I think I can answer all of these, if someone hasn't already: 1.) It's cheaper to paint all the B-pillars in black (rather than in different colors); it also does fool people some of the time into thinking it's a cleaner look. 2.) It's cheaper to have only one interior color that kind of goes with everything--grey, beige, black--than to have several. 3.) Actually, from Consumer Reports, I remember reading that a collision is less likely on the right side (in America) than on the left. Maybe this isn't because it's cheaper. 4.) It's cheaper on models sold in both left- and right-drive markets (like the Ford Fiesta, Focus and Fusion/Mondeo) to have only one wiper setup rather than two for the same car. 5.) I have no idea. It's cheaper on the cars that I have owned not to have tire pressure monitors. See a pattern?

  • Bob65688581 Small by American standards, this car is just right for Europe, and probably China, although I don't really know, there. Upscale small cars don't exist in the US because Americans associate size and luxury, so it will have a tough time in the States... but again Europe is used to such cars. Audi has been making "small, upscale" since forever. As usual, Americans will miss an opportunity. I'll buy one, though!Contrary to your text, the EX30 has nothing whatsoever to do with the XC40 or C40, being built on a dedicated chassis.
  • Tassos Chinese owned Vollvo-Geely must have the best PR department of all automakers. A TINY maker with only 0.5-0.8% market share in the US, it is in the news every day.I have lost count how many different models Volvo has, and it is shocking how FEW of each miserable one it sells in the US market.Approximately, it sells as many units (TOTAL) as is the total number of loser models it offers.
  • ToolGuy Seems pretty reasonable to me. (Sorry)
  • Luke42 When I moved from Virginia to Illinois, the lack of vehicle safety inspections was a big deal to me. I thought it would be a big change.However, nobody drives around in an unsafe car when they have the money to get their car fixed and driving safely.Also, Virginia's inspection regimine only meant that a car was safe to drive one day a year.Having lived with and without automotive safety inspections, my confusion is that they don't really matter that much.What does matter is preventing poverty in your state, and Illinois' generally pro-union political climate does more for automotive safety (by ensuring fair wages for tradespeople) than ticketing poor people for not having enough money to maintain their cars.
  • ToolGuy When you are pulled over for speeding, whether you are given a ticket or not should depend on how attractive you are.Source: My sister 😉