Piston Slap: The Final Carbon Fiber Nail?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the final carbon fiber nail

TTAC Commentator gimmeamanual writes:

Hi Sajeev,

The recent article about the carbon fiber subframe by Magna and the comments predicting vehicle life-ending failures got me to thinking — in the last 10 years or so, has any automaker introduced an innovation or major shift from the norm that resulted in repair costs so expensive that the vehicle would be better off scrapped inside what one would consider its prime service life (say, 10yrs/100k)?

It seems we’re often too ready to predict gloom (turbos exploding, unrepairable aluminum trucks) and not give the engineering teams the credit they deserve. Yeah, some technologies do suck in execution, like the Focus DCT, but they don’t result in scrapyards filling up with otherwise pristine examples.

Sajeev answers:

I doubt such an innovation exists, the “drive vs. scrap” decision is often a death by a thousand cuts, not a single item. And it’s not necessarily about the engineering; more about modern automotive recycling operations.

But it depends on the vehicle’s design, parts availability and unique living conditions after driving off the showroom floor. A fully-depreciated Audi A8 with a trashed interior and electrical faults will likely donate itself to your next cooler fulla beer/soda cans. But damn near any 7.3-liter Power Stroke Ford with a blown motor? Someone will fix (and flip!) quickly with recycled parts.

To wit, carbon fiber subframes on a mass-market vehicle will also utilize the automotive recycling industry to ensure a good stock of perfect parts from flooded/rear ended/otherwise trashed examples. Sure, it’ll be more to replace than pulling out the kinks in a Camry’s metal subframe, but the threshold for being a complete write off might be higher than the naysayers suggest.

Most subframes are bolt-in, and I certainly don’t see Ford trying to weld carbon fiber to a metal unibody. So if Ford pulls the trigger on their upcoming 2020-ish sedan, don’t wreck one in the first two-ish years without comprehensive insurance. But in the year 2025? Expect junkyards well-stocked with used CF subframes, ready for shipment to your nearest body shop for bolt-in perfection.

I don’t see the doom and gloom equation. I see our automotive recycling ecosystem ready to take on this technological wonder on a large scale implementation. Off to you, Best and Brightest!

[Image: Magna]

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.

Join the conversation
3 of 23 comments
  • Slap Slap on Apr 27, 2018

    The problem using a salvage carbon fiber subframe is that it can be damaged yet look fine to an observer.

  • Goatshadow Goatshadow on Apr 27, 2018

    What are repairs on 8-9-10-speed transmissions like?

    • Jack Denver Jack Denver on Apr 27, 2018

      Automatic transmissions were always complex devices. Adding a couple of more planetary gear sets makes them slightly more complex (and expensive) but not by a lot. What is more important is that the transmission is a solid design and sized properly for the application. You can have a 4 speed auto that is totally unreliable or an 8 speed that is rock solid.

  • Wjtinfwb Over the years I've owned 3, one LH (a Concorde) a Gen 1 300 and a Gen 2 300C "John Varvatos". The Concorde was a very nice car for the time with immense room inside and decent power from the DOHC 3.5L. But quality was awful, it spent more time in the shop than the driveway. It gave way to a Gen 1 300, OK but the V6 was underwhelming in this car compared to the Concorde but did it's job. The Gen 1's letdown was the awful interior with acres of plastic, leather that did it's best imitation of vinyl and a featureless dashboard that looked lifted from a cheaper car. My last one was a '14 300C John Varvatos with the Pentastar. Great car, sufficient power and exceptional highway mileage. The interior was much better than the original as well. It was felled by a defective instrument cluster that took over 90 days to fix and was ultimately lemon law' d back to FCA. I'd love one of the 392 powered final edition 300s but understand they're already sold out and if I had an extra 60k available, would likely choose a CPO BMW 540i for comparable money.
  • Dukeisduke Thanks Cary. Folks need to make sure they buy the correct antifreeze, since there are so many OEM-specific ones out there nowadays (Dex-Cool, Ford gold, Toyota red and pink, etc.).And sorry to hear about your family situation - my wife and I have been dealing with her 88-yo mom, moving her into independent senior living, selling her house, etc. It's a lot to deal with.
  • FreedMike Always lusted after that first-gen 300 - particularly the "Heritage Edition," which had special 300 badging and a translucent plastic steering wheel (ala the '50s and '60s "letter cars").
  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.