Automotive News

Vehicle Reliability Is Up, Especially in Powertrain

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Re: You Get What You Pay For (usually)
Critic   3/27/2015 4:45:50 PM
@patb2009:  I don't have a problem with electronic engine controls and powertrain diagnostics.  I do have problems with touch screens, voice recognition, bluetooth, video streaming, GPS, satellite radio, automatic power windows, theft alarm systems, multiple (even numerous) airbags, electronic steering, ABS, TCS, SCS, CSS, EPOS, automatic power door locks, multiple power seats with position memory, backup cameras, backup alarms, automatic mirror tinting, power mirrors with position memory, curve-following headlights, low-level lighting with color selection, instrument panel color selection, collision avoidance alarms, cruise control, automatic cruise control (automatic following distance), transmissions with large numbers (I have seen up to nine) foward gears that are controlled electronically, tire pressure monitors, heated and cooled seats, rear A/C and heat, rear entertainment systems, power sunroof, automatic power sunroof, power sunroof shade, loud exhaust mode, bat rockets, oil slick sprayers, machine guns, ejection seats, and on and on and on.  So much electronic crap that something is sure to fail soon, and it will not be cheap to fix it!

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Re: You Get What You Pay For (usually)
patb2009   3/27/2015 2:44:41 PM
Modern cars have too much electronics to be reliable.  There is a market segment for which simple cars with verry little electronic content woud be appropriate.


1) No way to pass CAFE without the high speed digital electronic ignition, direct rail

fuel injection and computer controlled spark voltages.  


2) I don't know what you mean about reliability.  Every car i have which had

fuel injection and electronic ignition went years without trouble.  Every 40, or 80K you do some serious work but, you never do anything with the plugs, points, rotors.


3) The computer diagnostics now tell you what's going on.

My brother drove a 1970 VW bug for years.  When i pointed out that he was spending

every 3rd weekend troubleshooting carbs and plugs, he went and got a tercel and then

upgraded to a honda. He now doesn't do car repairs.

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Re: You Get What You Pay For (usually)
Critic   3/27/2015 2:11:41 PM
@Offbalance:  "Today's cars are better built, more reliable, safer, get better fuel economy, require much less maintenance, and emit less pollution than cars 20 years ago. When adjusted for inflation, they haven't gone up in price that much. Yes, they are more complicated, and yes, can sometimes be tougher to diagnose..."

Better built?  If you mean more plastic is used, then yes.  It depends on the climate in which you live, and the amount of UV exposure, but in the Southern US, typically after about 20 years, the plastic parts are toast.  If you want to keep the car, you have to find replacement parts from Northern sources.  Plastics aside, I would still hesitate to say that modern cars are built better.

More reliable?  Yes, that is true, mostly.  However, issues that can stop the car dead are usually not issues that can be resolved on the roadside.  They require towing.

Safer?  A car is only as safe as its driver.  More safety equipment has been mandated because of unsafe drivers.  Airbags were first mandated because people refused to wear seatbelts!  If you wear the right kind of seatbelts properly, you really don't need airbags.

Better fuel economy?  In many cases, yes, but the price of gas has gone up, too!  I remember when gas was $0.289 per gallon in 1971.  In 2015 dollars, that is about $1.62. 

Require less maintenance?  No, maintenance is just delayed until the car is older.  To which maintenance items are you referring?  Maintenance items like oil changes, tires, battery replacements have not changed significantly.  We used to be able to lube front end joints via zerk fittings.  Now, there are no zerk fittings, so you don't have to do the lubrication, but you still have to replace worn parts if you keep the car long enough.

Emit less pollution?  Yes.

Cars haven't gone up in price?  Nonsense!  I paid $5,300 for a new 1978 Pontiac Firebird.  That's about $19,100 in today's dollars.  Firebirds aren't made anymore, but the Camaro was similar and a little less expensive because it was uglier and didn't have the same creature comforts.  Today, a similarly-equipped Camaro sells for about $34,500, almost twice as much.

Tougher to diagnose?  The average shade-tree mechanic might agree, but most modern cars are easier to diagnose- they practically tell you what is wrong.  You do have to be armed with technical information, so maybe it is more correct to say that you have to know more to diagnose a late-model car.

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Ford's poorly designed automatic transmissions.
Hank-4   3/27/2015 1:34:51 PM
I hope this means that Ford has hired some engineers who believe that simpler is better. I had four Tauruses and the AT was the Achilles' heel of them all. When I had the last one repaired, the local Aamco shop told me that the oil galleys in Taurus transmissions were insufficient in size to provided adeqaute lubrication to crital parts inside. He told me that his shop made a "good deal of money" rebuildiing or replacing these transmissions. I haven't heard anybody speak favorably about Ford ATs since they discontinued the C6.

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Re: You Get What You Pay For (usually)
Offbalance   3/27/2015 11:22:39 AM
Today's cars are better built, more reliable, safer, get better fuel economy, require much less maintenance, and emit less pollution than cars 20 years ago. When adjusted for inflation, they haven't gone up in price that much. Yes, they are more complicated, and yes, can sometimes be tougher to diagnose, but that is inconsequential when you consider the bigger picture.

I always chuckle when people say something like, "I wish cars were built solid like they used to be." I don't think any of us really want cars anymore that only last 100,000 miles, need maintenance every 3500 miles, and major repairs every 30,000 miles!

As an avid DIYer, I perform almost all maintenance and repair on my cars, and have noticed how much less time I spend underneath my cars than 20 years ago. My hybrids have hundreds of thousands of miles on them, and the only thing I've ever had to replace was one slightly flaky touchscreen.



I worked at a subsidiary of GM for 14 years, and have recently done projects for Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler. I currently have two employees working on projects for Ford.




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mr88cet   3/27/2015 11:17:06 AM
FWIW, my 2009 Prius (purchased new in late 2008, 91K miles now) has been "OK" for reliability - not bad, but definitely not up to Toyota's usual standards.

One problem area Consumer Reports mentioned Prius owners is the (engine) cooling system.  Mine developed a problem that turns out to be a common pattern on the Prius:  The water pump develops a small, but worth-repairing leak, and then a few weeks afterward the check-engine light goes on.  The code from the computer said that the three-way valve that moves cooling water/anti-freeze between the engine block, heater core, and a Prius-special heat-retention reservoir, died.  (That heat-retention reservoir is there to reduce the need having to run the engine to warm it up again;  I personally think Toyota was waaaaaay too concerned about maintaining engine temperature on the Prius.)  

Anyway, it turns out that same computer code indicating that 3-way valve is bad, can also come up just simply when the coolant level is low!  So, I probably fell for the same mistake as it turns out a lot of other Prius-owners fall for:  They replace the water pump, don't quite sufficiently fill the coolant level, a couple weeks later, the coolant level goes low, and the computer error code seems to be saying that that three-way valve is bad, when in fact the only problem is that the coolant level is low.  Admittedly, eternally way-too-busy me never really looked under the hood.  Obviously I would have checked the coolant level if I were aware that that same computer code could also just indicate coolant-level being low.

Oh well, at least I have a new three-way value!  :-) 

At this point though, I pretty much despise all internal-combustion engines - stupidly complicated, high-maintenance beasts...  Next car will be an EV.

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You Get What You Pay For (usually)
Critic   3/26/2015 11:10:29 AM
I don't know what the present figures look like, but about 15 years ago, I compared every Japanese car model with similar "big-three" (GM, Ford, Chrysler) models.  In every case, the Japanese cars were more expensive than their American counterparts.  It is not surprising, then, that the Japanese cars are "better" cars.

The Japanese found that many consumers were willing to pay a little more for a "better" (or at least perceived as being better) car.  Still, there are those who want to pay less for a slightly "worse" car.

Where are Japanese cars that are sold in the US designed and assembled?  In Japan or in the US?

Modern cars have too much electronics to be reliable.  There is a market segment for which simple cars with verry little electronic content woud be appropriate.


Elizabeth M
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The good with the bad
Elizabeth M   3/26/2015 7:45:47 AM
I guess there rarely is good news without bad news, but it seems that the good news wins out here. Hopefully automakers will find ways to deal with the problems of increased technology sooner than they have in the past so reliability will continue to be on the rise.

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