Increasingly, it appears that no seemingly small fix-it job is a simple task any more. Thanks for sharing your story and lucky that you have the diligence and patience to stick it out despite running into some bumps along the way. Definitely would have been a sizeable repair bill had you relied on the shop to do the mirror replacement.
So, it seems that the author, who likely paid more to have an adjustable side view mirror in his vehicle, is being put out because the complicated fix was caused by the stationary (read cheap) version of the same mirror. Is that what this problem comes down to?
Your last statement is so true to my experience. I replaced the distributor in my 1993 Suburban due to an intermittent engine stumble (misfire). The problem did not go away and got worse. I spent 3 weeks, more money, and computer diagnostic software (reading ALDL data from ECM) to try and resolve this issue. I went back to the distributor that I bought from aftermarket 'big box' store. Replaced it with an OEM AC Delco unit. Truck runs perfect!
Moral of this experience, careful buying aftermarket. The do it yourself type, like myself, may be desperate and end up going to the dealer (luckily I have a friend who tipped me off).
The on line purchased mirror was the exact Nissan part number (verified at the dealer) and it came in a Nissan labeled box. On line it was about 40% less than at the dealer even with shipping. My job was in every way exactly the job that the Nissan service technician would have done except he would have had a couple of special tools to remove panels a bit easier than I did. I still think the designer traded manufacturability for serviceability.
I think you raise a good point about the inclination to make design decisions that trade up serviceability for manufacturability. Manufacturing and engineering have traditionally been more closely linked in terms of collaboration around design, although that's not to say they haven't had their struggles. The service department and service engineers, however, are definitely traditionally working in different systems from the engineering group, with a very different set of goals. To date, there hasn't been a seamless workflow or flow of communications between those two groups in any kind of widespread or sustainable manner. PLM vendors are definitely trying to change that story and PTC, specifically, is really starting to play that hand.
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.
Obviously the designers' chief concern is to design a a door that is cheap and FAST to assemble in the factory, and hung on the vehicle body with the mirror in place and electrically connected. Can you think of a method whereby a) the door would be easier to assemble from its' component parts and b) as many parts as possible (mirror, cable harness etc) would be common to other models? The time saved in assembly is initial purchase money saved. Of course, the design assumes that the mirror will last the life of the vehicle - which in most cases is not unreasonable. Bet you broke some of those snap filt one-time-use plastic clips.
The root cause is similar to the posting earlier this month about why the heater core is lurking deep inside the car's dashboard. It's just cheaper and faster to assemble the car that way. The higher the volume the more important assembly is and serviceability simply falls to the wayside.
I mentioned it before, but my most recent vehicle rant has to be the brake lines on my 2000 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. The brakes lines rusted out! I've never had a vehicle with that problem, but apparently, the GM supplier from 1999-2003 used some inferior steel and many people are having this problem, and there are talks of a possible recall. See here:
I have to say that it's a very scary feeling to push the brake pedal down and have no braking power! One of my front lines burst a year ago, and I spliced in a new piece of line, but this time they really failed and I knew they all needed to be replaced.
I'm cheap, and I'm a car guy, so I decided to replace the brake lines myself with pre-bent, stainless steel lines that I bought from Inline Tube.
Wow! What a job! When assembling the truck, General Motors obviously installed the brake lines onto the frame before putting the body (cab and bed) onto the truck. This means that there is next to no room to fish new, up to eight feet long brake lines into position. I had to unbolt the bed of the truck and jack it up to get access in the back. For the front, I unbolted the body to frame mounts on the driver's side and was able to jack up the body about two or three inches to get a little more clearance. Luckily I have other vehicles to drive, as this driveway project has taken me several weeks to finish (haven't had much time to work on it) and I'm still not done. I finally got all of the lines on last weekend and when I went to bleed the front brakes, one of the bleeder screws was totally corroded to the point that there weren't even flat sides to put a wrench on. And it was so frozen, even drilling and using an extractor failed to get it out, so I had to spend $52 on a new caliper.
I've replaced motors, transmissions, rear ends, clutches, and have done almost everything to a vehicle, but this has been one of the worst things that I've ever had to do....
This is not unique to the newer vehicles. I have had to replace the entire brakelines front to back on a 1968 GTO. The only wat to do this is to raise the body off of the frame!
Complex designs are a trade off. As stated earlier, the consumers want more features and options at a lower cost. That means designers have to design for assembly to lower unit costs and less concerned about service costs. Other than recalls or warrenty claims, service costs are born by the owner. Reduced vehicle costs with more 'standard' features is a marketing ploy to sell more vehicles (increase market share).
Couldn't you have left the old brake lines in place and re-routed new ones point-to-point? That's what plumbers do when they replace corroded water piped buried inside walls. Of course, it's easy for me to say. I would never attempt a do-it-yourself job on a safety critical componnent. Not just because of the 3 boys in the back seat, but because of the liability issues if someone else gets hurt due to ANY future mechanical malfunction in the vehicle.
"I would never attempt a do-it-yourself job on a safety critical componnent. Not just because of the 3 boys in the back seat, but because of the liability issues if someone else gets hurt due to ANY future mechanical malfunction in the vehicle."
Who would you trust to do a job on a safety-critical component? I only trust myself for any auto repair, safety-critical or other. I don't want mechanical malfunctions regardless of fault! It's not OK for someone else to get hurt, then blame it on the mechanic. I say make sure no one gets hurt!
Who takes responsibility for safety critical repairs? If a qualified mechanic makes a mistake and someone gets hurt, his fault is in not following procedures. If I do the job and make a mistake, my fault is in take on a job I am not qualified to perform. In terms of liability, thats a big difference.
I work in the auto industry and specifically with connectors... There are several potential causes for the issue reported...certainly the designer not discussing the connector placement with service is one... Others could be: No mounting surface near the mirror that had sufficient clearance to prevent rattle; No surface that would accept the available connector mounting style; Cost prevented design of a custom connector or fastener for the application... The designer could have simply found himself/herself between a rock and a hard place...
Good comment I_jhanson. I Started this one because I was particularly irritated by the observation that there was plenty of space, mounting surface, clearance, and routing opportunity to have done this better. The cable space from the mirror to the inaccessable connector is very nearly open enough to insert my arm. I am a retired aerospace and commercial product designer and have faced such situations before. I acknowledge that if is not addressed early enough in the design cycle it will not get changed for many very good reasons. This one I saw as simply making a couple of wires a little longer and not having to change connector or mounting and allowing the mirror change to be done in about five minutes in the parking lot. I doubt the mirror is preasembled onto the door before going on to the vehicle because it would make the door assembly very difficult to handle and stock.
Re an earlier comment, I did experience one of lifes small triumphs in making the change. I got all 11 of the little plastic door panel mounting clips out and back in place without destroying a single one.
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.
Battar: There is no room to leave the old lines in place, and no desire to leave the rusty old things there.
It's amazing the way that the lines are routed. The two lines from the master cylinder run down the top of, and then outside frame rail, to about under the driver's seat where the ABS module is located on the inside of the frame rail. The two lines loop over the frame to the module, then three lines come out of the module (two for the fronts, one for the backs) which also loop over the frame. All five of those bends by the ABS module is where mine were really rotted out.
I was looking online for some pictures, but nothing good. This is close, but the bends at the ABS block on my lines are angular and factory bent, unlike these home bent lines:
I could attach a picture of mine, but it doesn't seem to be possible on here, and I'm too lazy to host it. :)
GTOLover: I agree that OEM is better in some instances. I used the GM optispark (aka optipuke) distribution on my Trans-Am, as well as choosing GM O2 sensors. A lot of us noticed when tuning the ECM, that aftermarket O2 sensors did not perform as well as the GM ones.
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".
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 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 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.
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 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!
"If they (brake lines) 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."
This is an interesting point. What, exactly, is a qualified automotive brake technician? In most parts of the US, auto mechanics/"technicians" are not required to be licensed, certified, trained, or experienced. Any idiot can call himself a mechanic and start fixing cars. How do we, as consumers, shield ourselves from these idiots? How can we be sure that a service establishment will see that repairs are done "right," and what, exactly is "right?"
Unfortunately you are right on with your opinion of auto mechanics in entirely too many cases and I wish I had a good answer for you. In many cases credentials are posted on the walls of the waiting room/office. Other times you may have a referal or personal contact. It may take many trips before you have confidence, but how is that different from any other service you have performed? I have gone to dentists, doctors, barbers, and accountants with the proper licenses on display that did not perform their tasks to my satisfaction. It is a roll of the dice, but I think you are more likely to find a qualified mechanic making his living in a garage than you are if the guy is working out behind his house in the alley.
Here in St. Louis, we are very lucky to be the hometown of Ranken Technical College, which has an excellent automechanics program. So we can look for diplomas. But even then he/she may have graduated at the bottom of the class.
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 bought my daughter an 07 Kia about 3 years ago that was an ex rental car. She has had an occasional problem with the right side of the garage and has torn a few mirrors off. What great fortune I experienced, when I peeled off the little decorative plastic cover, lo and behold, three nuts, and a readily accessible connector! Took me about 10 minutes and it worked when reassembled. I have screwed up enough repairs to know that I was very lucky with this one. The second time she tore that mirror off, it was no problem. I get parts like that at an aftermarket place I found on the internet,rockauto, and their stuff has always been cheap, fit right and works. I do know the difference between luck and skill, and I was lucky that it all worked the way it was supposed to.
The number one objective in the design of a vehicle's assembly is ease of construction on the assembly line. There appears to be very little consideration on easing repair procedures.
In my experience servicing the 20 or so vehicles I've owned through the years, I must give the highest marks for service accessibility to my 1971 Citroen D Super. Crowded though the engine compartment was, everything was easily accessible with standard wrenches and socket sets. Truly amazing when I think about it. I was even able to change the front brake pads using only my hand. Perhaps it was because the model had been in production since 1954. I've cursed every other car I've owned since when it came to servicing. I should have been cursing the engineers, as they obviously could have done their jobs right.
You had to remove a door panel to get to an electrical connector for a door component? Not unusual! How much would more would you pay for a car that could have any of its repairs successfully performed by an untrained idiot? I think I'd prefer not to pay for that.
Removal and replacement of a door panel is an operation that can be done by a trained, experienced mechanic in a few minutes or less. I do realize that someone who has never removed the door panel of a particular make/model, and hasn't read the relevant service literature or been trained, might have to spend a lot of time doing it, and possibly break parts in the process. It is your learning process that makes the task difficult or labor-intensive.
Sometimes fasteners used to hold door panels in place break or wear out and have to be replaced. This is not a big deal, and the fasteners are cheap and readily available. When I need to buy fasteners, I buy 100 at a time and keep some on hand in case I need more later. Many fasteners can be used on multiple makes and models- they are not generally specific to one application.
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