Many cars don't seem to be designed for maintenance. I (or my kids) have had several GM cars where the oil filter is placed up behind the engine or covers that make it impossible to remove the filte and not dump oil all over the engine, your are and the ground. Why would you place the oil filter on the back of the engine with the rotation axis horizontal? Or on the right side of the engine(front wheel drive) where you WILL spill oil on the belts when removing the filter.(you had to turn the wheel hard to the right and remove a plastic flap to get at the filter) It was a throw away car.
Its not too hard to put the filter in a more accessable location - my Dodge and Fords cars have the filter behind, and slightly above the back of the oil pan and the axis of rotation is vertical so there is very little spillage and one can actually see the filter without mirrors.
The filter location problem and dipstick location is not a new issue. Having owned a 1955 Desoto Fireflite with the 265 Firedome hemi, this was a disaster to change the oil. It was a canister that faced up. You would remove the center bolt (convientently pointed up so you did not have to go under the car) and the oil in the canister would spill all over the side of the engine and exhaust manifolds. I suppose the idea is you do not care and just change out the cartridge filter and let the warm engine 'burn' off the oil. However, you still had to go under the car to drain the oil pan. So the order of operation was important if you wanted to stay somewhat clean!
The transmission was OK but it was impossible to change the fluid or flush it without some crossmember disassembly. The point is, even in the 50's maintenance was not an engineered feature.
As some readers have pointed out, are not designed for maintenance, which can be infuriating at times.
I was told by a car buf once that the car companies aren't interested in designing cars that are easy to work on because they make MORE money when you bring the car to the dealership for repairs. Anyone who has taken their car to a dealer for a repair knows that the experience is more like being taken to the cleaners!
It's a shame that a country that put men on the moon, can't (or won't design cars that are easier to repair.
Don't consider this a purely domestic situation. Many of the Daimler Benz transmissions are sealed. In fact at Chrysler corp the transmissions first were sealed, no dipstick and filler, while Daimler owned them. I don't know if this was to prevent medling or simply that they expected the transmission to go high miles without maintance.
Transmissions have become the weak link in car reliability. Engines typically last >200K, so now the trannmissions have to last longer, but they do not. There are numerous models wiht transmission problems. Honda Odessy,2000-2003; MDX, 2001-2004; Ford/Mazda- lots. GM in particular has been mentioned here- I find their engines are faily good, but all the ancillaries, especiall electicals, do not last. Even their "solid" 3.8 engine had faulty intake manifolds, 1998-2005 why could they not fix the design in 10 years?! Car manufacturers simply do not care about the consumer. "Build 'em fast, build 'em cheap, to heck with the consumer" seems to be their mottos.
Now that cars can go 100K miles without anything more than oil changes it doesn't make much sense to design maintenance access for a system that is not servicable. The economics makes sense; Save $3 per car by not installing access to a system that should never need attention outside of a garage. Now multiply this mind-set by 4 or 5 systems in a car (brakes, cooling system, spare tire) and spread that over 2 or 3 million cars and pretty soon you have saved enough to buy your way out of bankrupcy.
Elizabeth M wrote: I'm not an auto geek by any stretch of the imagination but that has to be one of the most poorly designed ways to check a car's transmission fluid level if I've ever heard one!"
The differentials on all cars are checked this way--you fill lubricant through the port on the side until it runs back out. And surely, Elizabeth, you check this level every time you change your oil. Why is is surprising that you might check the transmission lubricant the same way, and at the same interval?
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