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Are Old Cars Better Than New Cars?

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Dealer incentives
GTOlover   10/22/2014 9:00:35 AM
Let me start by saying that new cars are designed to be serviced by dealers, not the shade tree mechanic. I know it is sad that I cannot work on a new car without advanced knowledge of control systems, diagnostic computers, an a slew of special tools. I know one can simply drive to the local Autozone (or similar store) and they can plug in their code scanner. But that does not make the repair any easier. One advice I was given about new cars is to find a good dealer and stick with them!

On the other hand, I own many older vehicles. My newest vehicle is a 1993 Suburban. I have a laptop and cable that I can plug into the OBD port to monitor engine and transmission data. I have taught myself (online research and a few books) how to read and interpret this data. Unfortunately, it is obsolete for applying to newer vehicles, but the concept remains.

Now for the older cars. I have owned several Pontiac GTOs and Lemans. I can attest it is no picnic to change the spark plugs on the passenger side of the vehicle (those equiped with A/C). The oil filter on these Pontiac engine resides over the passenger exhaust pipe. You have to make sure the car is cool and then you have to "dance" the filter out to get it past the pipes. I currently own a 1972 mustang with a V8. It is even more of a challange to change these spark plugs as the shock tower are very close to the heads. I have even owned a 1955 Firedom Desoto. All though the spark plugs were easy to access, the spark plug socket did not fit that well into the valve cover opening (hemi head with plug in the middle). I ended up machining a socket to fit. And the oil filter was a canister facing upward on the backside of the engine. Opening it up drained oil all over the bellhousing, transmission, and back of the motor!

So in my opinion, yes new cars are nearly impossible to work on. But this is not a new problem. The problem has only grown in complexity.

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I'll Take New
tekochip   10/22/2014 10:48:15 AM
Well, somebody has to take a different view, and I guess that will be me.  When I think about how poor the materials and designs were back in the day I really feel that huge improvements have been made.  Suspension was terrible on older cars and I can't imagine getting up to 70 MPH with bias ply tires and the terrible suspensions of the Sixties or Seventies.  Weak valve springs, turbulent flow through heads, flimsy head gaskets, points, crummy plugs, carburetors, marginal lubricants. 

Yes, you need to read the codes to see why the closed loop system is acting oddly, but half the time it's nothing more than a traditional vacuum leak.

My plane still uses magnetos and a carburetor, so I get a constant reminder of what it used to be like, and when I feel the shudder of carburetor icing on climbout at only 1000' AGL I yearn for fuel injection.

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naperlou   10/22/2014 12:20:34 PM
Frankly, old cars are much easier to work on.  On the flip side, they needed more work.  I had small British sports cars as my first car.  I had all the tools to pull an engine, or anything else, and had to several times.  It was interesting and fun, but it was not cheaper than buying a new car and having it serviced.

Now, mechanics can, and do, rip people off.  I experienced it with my first new car.  It turned out to be something simple and inexpensive whereas the mechanic said I would have to rebuild the engine. 

I do agree that you need to deal with the dealer.  I have had a number of Chrylsers over the last couple of decades.  We had a dealer with a great service shop.  Chrylser dropped them (they handled many other brands as well).  The current one is not as good. 

So, take your pick.

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Re: depends
Circuitbreaker   10/22/2014 4:23:21 PM
My first car was a five year old 68 MGB with something like 50k miles on the odometer. Yes, it was easy to work on which was something I had to do just about every weekend. It was rusty and beat up and made all sorts of creaks and groans. My current car is an 09 Subaru going strong at almost 100k on the original exhaust and clutch. Changed the brakes, plugs and tires once. It is a little cramped under the hood but still within the means of a backyard mechanic. I will soon be doing the timing belt myself as part of the regular P.M. The body is solid with no holes and it doesn't make spooky noises when I push it. It doesn't backfire when you take your foot off the gas and it starts reliably in the cold. Best thing about it, the fuel economy is better than anything comparable from the sixties and it is way more fun to drive than the MG. My feelings about it, I'll take the newer cars for my daily drive and save the classics for car shows on the weekends.

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