Are New Cars Too Hard to Repair? | WheelHouse

Are New Cars Too Hard to Repair? | WheelHouse


– This episode of Wheelhouse
is made possible by FIXD.
Stay tuned to the end of the episode
for a special offer only
for Wheelhouse fans.
When I was in college I
drove a 1996 Honda Passport.
It wasn’t fast but I loved that car.
There was only one thing
that bugged me about it.
No matter what I fixed or replaced,
that dang check engine light
would always find its way to turn back on.
Lucky for me, that Honda
was easy to work on
but as cars get more complicated,
it won’t be that way forever.
It seems the American
tradition of repairing your car
on your driveway on a Sunday afternoon
is becoming less of a custom
and more of a distant memory.
Increasingly complicated systems
and reliance on computers
has made even regular
maintenance, like brake jobs,
out of reach for a lot
of owners of new cars.
So, how did it get this way?
And will you even bother to
work on your car in the future?
Let’s dig in.
As long as there have been
things that need fixing,
there have been mechanics.
Even before the car, there
were skilled repairmen
working on horse drawn carriages,
steam engines, bicycles,
anything that could be broken.
With the introduction of the
automobile in the late 1800s,
drivers started bringing
their busted rides
to these same guys who
had more than enough skill
to work on these primitive cars.
Machinists and blacksmiths decided
to devote their entire businesses
to automotive repair and maintenance.
Most dealerships opened
up their own shops,
and gas stations did, as well.
If you were in a car-friendly city
there was a good chance
there’d be someone there
to work on your car.
By the end of the 1920s,
there was an estimated 60,000
service shops in the US
but what if you didn’t live near a shop?
Well, you had to do it yourself.
When the Model T debuted in 1908,
it was many Americans’ first
experience with car repair
because tires blew out on a regular basis,
it was mandatory for drivers
to know how to change them.
Many owners learned how
to repair other problems
from manuals or experience on a farm.
It also became fashionable
to do small repairs
out of convenience and even fun.
The simplicity of the
Model T made it possible
for nearly anyone to get their hands dirty
and have a good time wrenching
as most repairs could be made
with a screwdriver, wrench, and a hammer.
The Model T might not have
been the most reliable car ever
but that’s okay because
it introduced America
to regular maintenance.
But not everyone was stoked.
Alfred P. Sloan was the President
of General Motors in the mid ’20s
and he thought Henry Ford was
stagnating the car market,
nevermind the Great Depression.
Sloan believed that Ford’s
one-car-fits-all model
was keeping owners from buying new cars
and he was afraid that people
would get used to buying
one car and maintaining it
for the rest of their life.
Man, that sounds horrible.
So, he came up with a plan.
Every year his brands
would release a new model
with features and new colors.
The goal was to make new
and current owners think
their car was out-of-date
and that they couldn’t possibly live
without these new features,
even if their current car was just fine.
This was a huge boon for the auto industry
and was the beginning
of what we would know
as planned obsolescence.
♪ Obsolete creation ♪
New models might have been coming out
but that didn’t stop people
from working on their cars
and making them better.
The ability of drivers
and home mechanics to work
to work on their
relatively simple machines
gave birth to the tuning scene
or as they called it
back then hot rodding.
(tires screeching)
The whole movement
deserves its own episode
but the fact remains
that hot rodding changed
the American car for decades.
Auto exects saw what the kids were doing
and decided to build their
own hot rods in the factory,
giving birth to the muscle car era
which reached its height
in the late 60s, early 70s
and trenching itself in pop culture
with films like Two Lane Blacktop
and American Graffiti
where it went mainstream
and later inspired the
super popular retro designs
we see in the Mustang, Camaro
and Challenger of today.
All of that was because people
had the ability to maintain
and modify their cars
in their own driveways.
It was kind of important.
But it won’t be like that forever.
Until the late 70s, there
weren’t a lot of ways to tell
if something was wrong with your car.
You just kind of knew or
it was really obvious.
Some of them had trouble lights
known affectionately as idiot indicators
that signaled serious
trouble with the engine
like low oil pressure, overheating,
or charging system problems
and an imminent breakdown.
Basically, it only let
you know about problems
that were patently obvious.
I mean, if your oil is
low, that’s kind of on you.
But in the 80s, the magic
of computers had arrived.
After the trouble light was
the malfunction indicator lamp
which was a little more advanced.
The MIL appeared in the early 80s
along with computerized engine controls.
On most cars, the IML could output codes
when two pins on the
assembly line diagnostic link
or ALDL were jumped the
lights would flash codes.
For instance, blink,
blink, blink, I don’t know.
Blink, blink, blink.
It was sort of like a Morse code.
You would record the blinks and pauses,
then cross reference
them in a service manual
and find out what was wrong.
These computerized
systems gained popularity
not because people
wanted them necessarily,
but because they had to.
In 1980, California said,
“Hey, cars are dirty but
it’s hard to measure it.
“If you wanna sell a car here,
“it’s gotta have an onboard
diagnostic system by 1988.”
So all the manufacturers complied.
But they all had their own
styles of plugs and systems
which didn’t really make
California too happy.
Furthermore, it could only
tell you about failure
after it happened and didn’t
allow for real time monitoring
which the California Air
Resource Board really wanted
for their new emission testing protocol.
This new monitoring
system was called OBD-I
and it was a step in the right direction
but didn’t quite meet expectations.
“Alright,” Cali said.
“We’ll try this again.
“If you wanna sell a car here in 1996,
you’re all gonna use a standardized system
“with a standardized 16 pin connector
“with a standardized pins
assigned to specific functions,
“also standardized,
“standardized electronic protocols,
“standardized trouble codes
“and standardized terminology.
“That last part is important.
“Now do it!”
The new connector was called OBD-II
and has been the standard since 1996.
It sounds super advanced
but the reality is
that any driver can monitor
their car’s functions
in real time with an
OBD-II reader light fix.
So now drivers basically
have their own kit system
telling them everything
that’s going on in their cars
and letting them know when a
problem might be on a horizon.
Naturally, this made
people even more eager
to work on their cars, right?
To find out more, I
went to Automed Car Care
which is right near our office
and talked to Abe.
He’s been a mechanic for
15 years and knows a lot.
– People don’t work on their cars
as much as they used to
before for multiple reasons.
The biggest reasons, I think,
is the amount of sophistication they use
in building the cars
nowadays with all the sensors
and computers they have.
You need expensive scanners
and tools to be able to operate
or even do small maintenance work.
So you can’t just have a
screwdriver or a wrench
and start working, taking
bolts off of the cars nowadays.
– As onboard monitoring
system’s got more advanced,
so did the systems they were monitoring.
Cars are no longer the analog
carburetted machines they were
almost 40 years ago.
They can be really, really complicated.
Take, for example, the new Volvo S90 T8.
This is the top trim level S90
and it comes with a turbocharged
and supercharged engine.
On top of that, the T8 is also a hybrid
within an 87 horsepower
electric motor on board.
And it’s also all-wheel drive.
On their own, each of these features
takes considerable knowledge to work on,
but together, it sounds like a nightmare.
But Abe didn’t really think so.
– I love the challenge and I love to learn
about how cars evolve
and the new technology
that they put in the cars nowadays.
It is difficult, but once
you get the hang of it,
just like any other profession,
it’s a pleasure to work on
cars and see how they evolve.
– Annoyingly, it’s this complexity
that has made cars today so good.
They’ve never been more efficient
or as safe as they are today.
But is that worth not being
able to do big repairs
on your own?
Will people even want to
work on their car anymore?
I’m not so sure, but Abe
brought up a great point
that I hadn’t considered.
– Not just cars, computers, phones,
it’s gonna keep on advancing in technology
and I’ve saw the transition
of how we also look at cars,
not just the normal individual
and how we find problems
and how to solve them.
I look at YouTube or
search YouTube or Google,
there’s a lot of forums that tell us
about weird problems and how to fix them.
So I do believe people are getting back
to working on their cars,
just because of the
availability of the information
you find online.
– People will always find a way
to work on their busted stuff,
no matter how complicated it is.
And with the abundance
of information out there
for you to find, the
only limit is finding it.
If you like working on your own car,
then you have to check our FIXD.
FIXD is a Bluetooth OBD-II reader
that connects to your smartphone
and shows you everything
that’s going on in your car.
That OBD-II sensor I mentioned earlier,
if your car is 1996 or
newer, then it’s got one!
FIXD helps you diagnose any
problem your car might have,
like a check engine light.
It even reminds you to take
care of regular maintenance.
I’ve got FIXD in my car and I love it.
You can monitor everything
from speed to mass airflow rate
and even things like engine torque
and intake manifold pressure.
FIXD is car care made simple
and they have a special offer
for Wheelhouse fans.
Go to FIXDAPP.COM/DONUT,
enter code DONUT at checkout
for 10% off your order.
Click the link in the description
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It’s awesome and it’s a
product that I actually like,
so please use that code.
We look at weird stuff in
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Follow me on IGN nolanjsykes,
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Wear a seatbelt, see you next time.


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