Bradley, it has not gotten better. I recently had the A/C serviced on a 2002 Chrysler. The car has over 150K miles on it. It runs great, though, and it still gets good gas mileage. It is a really nice car. Now, before having the under dash unit replaced, I had the system checked and recharged. That was not cheap. In both cases the mechanic (on an independent, one a dealer) thought it might be the evaporator under the dash, but becuase of the complexity of getting to it, they suggested trying something less involved, just in case that would fix it. It did not. The evaparator was not cheap, but the labor was 50% more. And, yes, they had to remove the dash. Why these things are designed this way I don't know. I really thought this would be avoided at all costs.
Of course, this has a long tradition. When I was a teenager our neighbor had a 1960 Bently S2. It was the first model with a V8. Now, what they did, was just to put the V8 in the existing body style. The previous engine was a straight 6. Well, to get to the spark plugs you removed the front wheels and undid a panel in the inner fender. How's that for design. You would think that for a car as expensive as a Bentley they would take some time to change the design.
We always had a running joke that on British cars, at least, all the ancillary parts were designed by inexperienced engineers.
Replacement of my 68 Corvette's heater core was time-consuming, not because of the factory parts that needed to be removed (There were no options like air conditioning), but because all my aftermarket stereo equipment that needed to be hidden behind the dash had to be removed. All amplifiers, crossovers, noise suppression filters were there and every wire had to be labeled.
I think my car was 25 years old at the time, so I wasn't too surprised that it's heater core had failed.
This problem has gotten worse because of all the "stuff" that needs to be crammed into the engine compartment. I remember stopping in Pep Boys to pick up a battery for a forner girlfriend's Sebring. We went in, purchased the battery and the clerk asked if we were going to pull the car into the service bay for installation.
I laughed and said no, as I figured I'd be done in a flash. Well, I opened the hood and, puzzled, I didn't see the battery - anywhere! I looked all over and finally went back inside. The clerks were laughing - they had a bet on how long it would take me to come back in.
Turned out that one had to remove the front left tire to change the battery.
I always worry with a job that big on something old. How many decrepit parts are in there just waiting to snap apart, disintegrate, or self destruct in the effort to get to the core? And what about that pile of nuts and bolts left over when you think your done? Were they really that important?
A friend has an old Mustang that had the same problem. His solution? Cap off the core. Sure, it's cold in the winter, but his fix took just 10 minutes and zero risk.
I feel your pain. I had an `86 Mustang that developed a leak in the heater core. The drawings weren't clear on what side of the firewall the core was on, but the core was darn cheap. I picked up the core and found that I would have to remove the dash and evacuate the AC. I gave it a try and gave up, instead I started pouring Stop Leak in every six months or so when the coolant level fell. I still got a 1/4 million miles on that Pinto engine before I gave it to my nephew.
This example of difficulty of dis-assembly is of no surprise here. GM, Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, Ford, and few other comparable imports are notorious for making their vehicles extremely easy to assemble but extremely difficult to dis-assemble.
I normally talk up Honda, Toyota, etc. since I do like the quality of their vehicles but when it comes to servicablity on them they are sometimes almost as bad as GM, Ford, and Chrysler.
There only a few companies that I have heard of which keep servicablity in mind when designing vehicles. Volkswagen is one of them they have a consistant record of keeping servicablity in mind at all stages of the design process. I wouldn't say they are perfect but they are significantly better at it than many of the other vehicle manufacturers.
CLMcDade, your story would make a good Made by Monkeys posting. You may want to send it in. You would need to include enugh detail to get it up to about 350 words. You can send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The photo says it all. I had a 1996 Olds Cutlass Ciera that was similar. One night, a thief had a problem with my Cutlass when he tried to steal my airbag. When I came out in the morning, the floor of my car looked like the photo in this article. I often wondered why he chose an Olds Cutlass, and how much time he must have spent getting the airbag free. He probably would have been better off choosing a different model. Maybe he learned from the experience.
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