am I getting old?

turbopete

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or is it really a case now of a car cannot be fixed without plugging it into a computer?

When I left school and started in the motor trade 21 years ago, cars seldom had any sort of diagnostic plug, and the ones that did, were very basic in there operation. now, we have, allegedly, been forced to have ever increasing amounts of electronics in the name of reducing emissions etc BUT are we really any further forward?

for example, I had a 1989 Ford orion 1.6LX (carburettor engine, 90bhp) that would sit at the legal motorway speed limit and return 40-42mpg. and if you knew how cars worked, you could fix it as there were no diagnostic plugs.

jump forward 15 years or so, and we have its modern replacement, the Ford focus 1.6 Zetec (EFI 16 valve engine, STILL 90bhp). electronics everywhere, OBD socket, etc, and can do very little without plugging a computer into the OBD port. A friend has one and at the motorway legal limit it returns 40mpg by his calculations.

so, in 15 years, we have gained weight in cars, added complexity and expense but no gain in power or fuel economy. so WHAT exactly is the point of all this electronic stuff if it doesnt improve MPG etc?

am i getting old, or is there more than me that would prefer to have the same fuel economy, but with less complicated (and seemingly unnecessary) electronics?

Discuss
 

television

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Electronics are cheap for the manufacturer.

We have laws now that force manufactures to incorporate SRS systems, emissions, tyre monitoring. People expect electric everything, but the snag is electrics do go wrong.

Joe who has been working in bills garage for 45 years does not have much of a clue about these things, or he thinks he does but is way out of line.

The answer is the socket under the dash, you just plug your kit in and you get an answer, much the same way as Dr Johnson's fix all medicine of the 1850's
 

Oarsman

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I'm with you Pete. I've still got a 1963 Triumph TR4 and it's great to be able to open the bonnet and know exactly what's what.
I can get up Sunday morning, strip the head off, decoke and polish. Put it back together, tune it and be ready to drive to the pub for lunch.
The diagnostic tools for that generation of cars were our eyes, ears and depth of knowledge..
Mechanics were just that...mechanics, not fitters.
 

mej

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I understand on the W212s, and no doubt others, the handbrake adjustment is by Star only!!!!!!!!!! How's that going to play when these cars are 10+ years old, and in places such as N Africa where the 123s and 124s were the staple transport and could be kept running by almost anyone? In any case, in many countries you may be hundreds of miles from a Star equipped garage.
 

television

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I understand on the W212s, and no doubt others, the handbrake adjustment is by Star only!!!!!!!!!! How's that going to play when these cars are 10+ years old, and in places such as N Africa where the 123s and 124s were the staple transport and could be kept running by almost anyone? In any case, in many countries you may be hundreds of miles from a Star equipped garage.

I guess that the 123,124 cars will still be running when the 212 is dead and forgotten
 

grober

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While the incorporation of electronic components in modern cars is perhaps inevitable it has afforded the manufacturers a huge opportunity to make their servicing proprietary to themselves and their franchised agents. This is evinced by the multitude of ways they make it difficult/expensive to access or interrogate their software/ systems to independent garages or individual owners. Even main dealers have to hook up their systems and your car to the factory now to upgrade software in real time via dedicated communication links. While this might be justified to an extent at a technical level= "no meddling with sophisticated systems by the untrained " I suspect its more to do with creating a monopoly and the generation of additional revenue stream . If its not deliberate its certainly having that effect.:(
 

mej

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Hence my stockpiling of W124s which the wife calls obsessive. Silly girl. My wife doesn't understand me..............................
 

R W

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Pete.
I used to think the same as you & sill do to a certain extent. But after reading old road tests on for example the 1600cc Cortina, road test MPG was 23 to 24mpg so cars have become much more efficient.

It is the emissions modern cars have to comply with that has had the negative effect on there performance. I was reading about DPFs & other emissions stuff modern cars carry, all this can reduce a vehicles performance by up to 30%. So getting back to your Orion,if it were in theory able to carry/use all the emissions stuff, instead of 90bhp it would be producing 60bhp & mpg would be upper 20s if you were lucky. The modern Focus passes all the emission tests & still produces 90bhp & 40mpg

I do agree with you though that they were easily fixed & mechanics had to use there skill & knowledge to diagnose & repair them instead of plugging in a laptop & changing components.
 
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mej

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We could no doubt argue on the validity of saving fuel against the cost in rare earth metals and other precious materials required to make these heavy computers on wheels. Not sure there's a net gain overall, but no doubt makes the CO2 emissions figures look good. Until you count China of course...........
 

Carabosse

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To be a hands-on car enthusiast you have to also be a computer geek these days.

Just a question of reskilling. ;)
 

Corned

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But after reading old road tests on for example the 1600cc Cortina, road test MPG was 23 to 24mpg so cars have become much more efficient.

Indeed.

A few years ago I used to work in an office which had an underground car park. My colleagues user to comment that they always knew when I had been to work the previous day in my E-Type. They said that even if they didn't hear it (unlikely in itself) they knew because if they followed me out of the car park any time up to half an hour AFTER me, they were still chewing on my exhaust fumes...
 

Corned

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To be a hands-on car enthusiast you have to also be a computer geek these days.

Just a question of reskilling. ;)

Yes, but a hammer costs £5.

A laptop, cable interconnects, disagnostic software, etc, costs £thousands.
 
OP
turbopete

turbopete

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  • Thread Starter
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I was reading about DPFs & other emissions stuff modern cars carry, all this can reduce a vehicles performance by up to 30%. So getting back to your Orion,if it were in theory able to carry/use all the emissions stuff, instead of 90bhp it would be producing 60bhp & mpg would be upper 20s if you were lucky. The modern Focus passes all the emission tests & still produces 90bhp & 40mpg

BUT is all the extra stuff REALLY doing any good? I mean, i used to get 50mpg thrashing a 1.8 diesel fiesta, whereas a newer, supposedly cleaner and more efficient cdi can, if driven in the same manner, be reduced to 20-odd mpg?

mechanics had to use there skill & knowledge to diagnose & repair them instead of plugging in a laptop & changing components.

Precisely my point. we dont have mechanics or 'technicians' anymore. we have computer whizz kids swapping parts on a car until they find a cure, which was supposed to be prevented by these very same diagnostic machines!!!
 

davidsl500

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Oh those happy days! When you tuned your twin SU carbs with a plastic tube stuck in your ear to balance the inlet noise (or if you were posh, you had a manometer) whilst keeping an eye on your Gunsons Colourtune Spark Plug..

The days when you would check where that engine knocking noise was coming from with the wooden handle of a large screwdriver held to your ear whilst you probed around the engine. Using the "rule of 9" to set your tappet clearance with the least amount of engine turning (only on some cars). Setting you contact breaker gap ( measuring the dwell with a meter if you were posh) and of course setting your basic engine timing with a bulb attached across the LT circuit.

It makes me want to go out a buy a classic just to gain the control back....At least you could tell at a glance what was approaching you in your rear view mirror back then instead of the "guess what it is" Euroboxes we seem to have now.

Though there are lots of things that I don't miss - watching a car go from brand new to a rust bucket after only a 5 or 6 years - that doesn't happen these days does it :rolleyes:.........

You do have to consider the level of safety in modern cars though and I know which one I would rather be in, in the event of an accident.
 

Corned

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... disagnostic software...

Just spotted my own typo. There could be a market for that kind of thing. Finally - software you would have, err, faith in... ;)
 

Gary Hanson

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are we really any further forward?
Yes, but possibly not as far forward as many people think. I guess that compared to 25 years ago, reliability is better, and cars tend to be able to go on for longer before they break down, but at what cost ?
When something does go wrong with a modern car, these days, it’s likely to be expensive, due to all the plastic and electrickery they’ve stuck on them, which can cost a lot of money to replace, and problems are less likely to be diagnosed by an owner because of this.

There's also the question of built in obsolescence. I'm sure many of the cars that are brand new now, today, will never get as old as a Mercedes W126, or a BMW e28, because of various factors such as the level of expensive technology, build quality or lack of it, quality of parts used, etc.


The answer is the socket under the dash, you just plug your kit in and you get an answer, much the same way as Dr Johnson's fix all medicine of the 1850's
That was the idea. And a good idea it was. It even sounded like a good idea. But I think maybe the ‘fix’ was better from a sales point of view than a practical one. In the same way that so called safety was ‘sold’ to us, the complicated technology they put in modern cars is sold to us as an improvement, which it is, to some extent. I just wonder sometimes if it goes further than it needs to.


I understand on the W212s, and no doubt others, the handbrake adjustment is by Star only!!!!!!!!!! How's that going to play when these cars are 10+ years old, and in places such as N Africa …..
A long length of stainless steel cable, some angle iron, an arc welder, etc ? Necessity is the mother of invention. I’m sure someone will work out a way of improvising. I saw a tv program once about old 1950s American cars in some out of the way place, being used as taxis. They’d put an extra row of seats in it, and when the back suspension broke, they used scaffold tubes in the place of leaf springs.

BUT is all the extra stuff REALLY doing any good? I mean, i used to get 50mpg thrashing a 1.8 diesel fiesta, whereas a newer, supposedly cleaner and more efficient cdi can, if driven in the same manner, be reduced to 20-odd mpg?
I don’t know about comparisons nowadays, because the fuel that was available back in the day was different. For example, a Jaguar 4.2 XK engine was designed to run on 4 star (or was it 5 star) leaded petrol, which obviously isn’t available anymore.
And even cars made more recently than that don’t always run as well or as efficiently on unleaded that’s mixed with ethanol, as they did on what was available when they were new.
I remember about 2 years after leaded 4 star was phased out, I had a Rover SD1, 2.6, and someone managed to get me about 10 gallons of 4 star leaded. The car ran so much better, and drove effortlessly compared to what it did on 97 octane unleaded. Did a lot better on the mpg as well.


davidsl said:
Though there are lots of things that I don't miss - watching a car go from brand new to a rust bucket after only a 5 or 6 years - that doesn't happen these days does it :rolleyes:.........

You do have to consider the level of safety in modern cars though and I know which one I would rather be in, in the event of an accident.
You’re right about the rust with some cars. In the 80s, I had a 7 year old Fiat, and the jacking points were unusable due to having virtually dissolved. And then there was the big hole in the bottom of the drivers’ door, and all that filler I had to put in the boot lid, and the front edge of the bonnet….
With 80s cars, I think the rust problem was the luck of the draw to some extent. I remember when I was buying and selling Mk2 Fiestas and I noticed that the ones that went the most rusty were made in Spain & Portugal. The ones made in Dagenham weren’t as bad, and those made in Germany were the least rusty.

I don’t think the bland character, the electronic systems overdose and highly labour intensive nature of modern cars today can be blamed completely on the manufacturers though. I mean, how many car buyers actually ask when they are considering their purchase, “How easy is this to fix, or service, or get parts for, and how complicated is it ?”.
Anyone remember the comparison on tv a couple of years ago of two modern cars, and how easy or otherwise it was to change a headlight bulb. One bulb was changed by the presenter in a matter of minutes, while the other was done by the RAC man, who had to take the front bumper and inner wheelarch liner off to get to it. It took him ages.
What I’m getting at is this. If consumers allow themselves to be sold cars that are not at all user friendly, ie you can’t service it or fix it yourself, and if those consumers don’t ask important questions prior to purchase, they are at least partly to blame for allowing what could be argued to be unnecessary technology to be foisted on them.

Modern cars are safer now, but with that there is a price to pay as well. Many drivers these days seem to live in a fools paradise, and believe that the safety systems on their cars will save them from their own stupidity. Which of course is not the case. I think the illusion of safety is greater than the actual degree of safety.
My old series 3 Jag didn’t appear to have crumple zones (well they hadn’t thought of that back in the 60s when that model was at the design stage had they). I was driving along one day and someone in a modern estate car pulled out of a side road, and then stopped right in front of me when he realized there were cars coming the other way too. It doesn’t matter how many airbags the estate car might have had. If that guy hadn’t floored it and got out of the way in time, he would probably have been badly hurt.
Sometimes when I drive it, people take the most alarming risks in tiny, modern cars, with safety systems which will supposedly save them from being killed by nearly 2 tons of metal without a crumple zone in sight when they see that the road isn’t clear, but pull out anyway. But the thing is, those safety systems won’t save them at all. Maybe they will just die in a slightly less painful way, with a side airbag to rest their shattered skull on while they bleed to death.

I think one of the things that tends to happen with modern or new technology, or computers, is that because something becomes possible, people will want to do it, no matter whether they need to or not. Why do we need a computer to tell an automatic gearbox to go into failsafe mode, when most of the time, there's bugger all wrong with it ? Why do we need a new mobile phone model every other week ? Or a new games console or whatever ? Why do seemingly ordinary objects, such as mobile phones or ebook readers, suddenly get evolved into a computer. If you follow this to it’s logical conclusion, soon you’ll be able to go into the chemists shop and buy an electric toothbrush that can also be used to watch youtube videos and read emails. Why do manufacturers seem intent on putting computers into everything ? I’ve got a computer at home, I don’t need or want one in everything else.
 
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mej

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old 1950s American cars in some out of the way place, being used as taxis. They’d put an extra row of seats in it, and when the back suspension broke, they used scaffold tubes in the place of leaf springs.

Cuba??
 

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A negative with modern cars which is not mentioned; is that they run to tight tolerances.

To save weight and power, thus improving mpg and emissions, the engines and associated
systems have much smaller relative capacity than previous generation cars.

Therefore, the oil capacity and coolant capacity is just enough to do the job, with very little leeway for any variance, before serious damage is done to engine etc .

So to ensure longevity of modern vehicles, it is very important to check fluids capacity and keep the levels at the correct levels.

That in itself causes a problem to many owners because the lengthy service intervals
on modern cars sends the message that nothing needs to be done until the next service at
say 15,000 miles, or when the light says so.

It seems that as long as the car seems to be working alright, many owners are happy to drive with a few warning lights on, until that next service.

Of course many cars do not make it to that next service with an engine that is still intact.
 

R W

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BUT is all the extra stuff REALLY doing any good?

Pete.
I think the little we save the planet by running a car with all the emission gizmos is a drop in the ocean compared to what some countries pollute the atmosphere. If they really believe our planet is under threat by pollution, the clean-up needs to be worldwide.

Another positive thing about modern car technology & maybe helped by oil quality. When I was an apprentice in late 60s early 70s we used to get cars in for engine overhauls with 60k miles on them, they were worn out. A modern car is just run in at 60k.
 


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