I had a mid-90's Chev van. Somebody wiped out the drivers side mirror while I was parked in front of my sons house. I figured replacing the mirror should not be too big a problem as I have been working on cars for decades. So, I bought a replacement mirror, which was not cheap in itself. The big day came that I was going to spend a few minutes replacing the mirror. I took everything off that I could see was removeable and never got to the mounting for the mirror. To make a long story short, After a few hours and still not a clue as to how to get to the mounting, I gave up and took it to the local Chev dealer. I don't remember the cost as this was almost 10 years ago, but it was obvious that it took the Chev mechanic quite a while to make the repair. Talk about making something that the vehicle owner can not do himself, this was a perfect example. I don't know if that was the motive of the design or just a "Made by Monkeys" moment, but it sure was frustrating, especially to an experienced engineer that though of himself as a fair auto mechanic.
I have successfully replaced brake lines on quite a few vehicles, mostly Chrysler products. The lines tucked up safely on the frame rails fail because of rust, made worse by a serious salt accumulation. Replacing the lines is tedious but not hard. Mostly I would purchase good universal replacement lines and then use 5000 PSI industrial hydraulic couplings at the splices. They never failed in ten years.
REplacing the brake hoses was simpler, since the local oarts store kept the parts that I needed right under the counter, because they sold so many of them. That is a part that I would never have anybody else replace, since it is easy for the unknowing or lazy to twist the end off the mating metal line, resulting in a much larger repair price. If I want it done right, I'll do it myself, thank you!
Some of the components on an automobile should not be designed for easy replacement. For example, the brake line mentioned earlier. I want them tucked away so they will not be struck by road hazards. How often do they need to be replaced? I have never had to replace them in any of my family vehicles. If they do need to be replaced, I would like to think the car next to me or behind me has had the brakes serviced by a qualified technician.
Replacing the mirror is another thing all together, as the only real safety hazard would be to be struck by a mirror that fell off. They should be reasonably easy to replace. I have done it several time on vehicles I owned and my biggest headache was to get the door panel on and off without wrecking those cheap plastic devices that hold them on. I would prefer the panels were merely held on with screws like those used on the armrests. The little motors that make power windows work are also a bit challenging not to mention ridiculously expensive.
I went to school with another EE who ended up with a avionics manufacturer. One of his career assignments for several years was as a "maintainability engineer". He'd review designs and make recommendations to make servicing the equipment easier, things like using the same size (or limited variety) of screws/nuts for mounting, having all diodes facing the same direction on the CB, voltage test points identified and accessible, etc. He was the least liked engineer in the entire plant since what he said almost always got implemented but at the cost of rework and probably OT to meet delivery schedules.
The difference with avionics products is that maintenance is critical to keeping an airplane in service - it cost big $$ to have a plane sitting on the ground. These customers demand they be able to quickly get a replacement in, fix a unit without sending it back to the manufacturer and have all features be reliable. That need is not driving automotive products.
We can get easily serviceable vehicles but would probably give up the newest gadget and pay more for it.
I can't say I have ever replaced a side mirror before, but I have been inside of car doors pleanty of times and they all are about the same. I havn't seen much difference from foreign to domestic. The nicer cars seem to have hooks that hold the panel to the door shell instead of xmas tree push pins. Sticking your arm inside of a door shell isn't ever fun and the water shield never goes back on like it was unless you have the seem sealer and didn't stretch the cover. I do suggest a panel removal tool and a piece of felt to make it much easier and not marr the finish.
I sometimes wonder what drives these decisions - I have seen designs altered to utilize extra stock that was in inventory or to be able to use already certified parts so that the company didn't have to go to the time and expense of getting a new part that might be a better choice certified...
Also, I can't help but wonder if the designer really cared about accessibility. The automotive repair shop is probably happy to charge an extra 2-3 hours on a repair. I often dig into an appliance or electronics device that has stopped working to see if there is a fix within my capability and it seems more and more that accessibility has gone to the bottom of the priority list, with initial cost being the driving factor...if we are turning into a throwaway society regarding small electronics, unfortunately that poor thinking may be bleeding over to other areas of manufacturing.
I respect mechanics, the ones you can trust anyways! They have a pretty hard job in my opinion. They never know what they have to fix from day to day and they have to figure it out. I can do it with computers, but I am just not that good with cars, espcially the newer ones. I can fix a 79 but not a 2009.
I forgot to mention this. If you want to change the spark plugs on my car the shop will usually charge you to pull the motor. Ridiculous I know. My mechanic friend showed me how to use a come-a-long to winch it to the side and no problem. I always ask these guys before I start any fix on my car. They know all the tricks. Learning how to do it for the first time always is hard.
I had a very similar occurrence on my 2005 S-40 VOLVO. Broken driver's side mirror. On this model, the mirrors are motor-driven and adjustable from inside the car. Fortunately, only the external plastic cowling was broken and not the superstructure of the mirror itself. The movement was still operational but the looks were not too pleasing. After several conversations with my wife, (she won the argument) I ordered the entire replacement mirror. The cowling was not a repair-part item. I had to order the entire assembly. A neighbor up the street worked his way through college as an auto mechanic so I thought he would be a good bet and aid my efforts to get this repair done in a judicious manner. (Silly me!) We ended up having to take apart the entire interior portion of the door. So many parts that I took pictures of the assembly as we moved through the process. We did get the new mirror in place but only after a three hour "adventure".
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