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What ever happened to vehicles just being mechanical?

I love my "truck." It's a 95 Chevy Tahoe and has taken everything I've thrown at it, including 7 years as a volunteer firefighter putting it places it shouldn't go. I love it because it is made well, it works like a truck, and the engine compartment is blissfully easy to work in. I replace the throttle body gasket about two years ago, and it was no problem because the engine is nicely accessible, and is mostly mechanical. We even replaced the A/C system last year. 200k+ miles, and still runs like a champ.

Last week we went down to the Toyota dealership to pick up a knob for my wife's car (92 Camry - 170k miles and still running like a champ too). I took a look at the new Tundra pickup truck, just as I have taken a look at the new Chevy Silverado and the new Chevy Tahoes. Besides the insane pricing for the trucks ($50k for a truck? You've gotta be kidding me!) I noticed one thing:

You can't work on it.

Oh sure, the Oil filter was easy to get to. And the spark plugs probably aren't that difficult either. But such a tiny engine compartment, every inch filled with this computerized thing that they use now for engines. They even had a pretty cover on it so that you couldn't actually see the nasty stuff running if you had to open your hood.

Don't get me wrong - Fuel injection is great, and some of the emissions stuff is necessary. But really, what ever happened to just making a good, solid truck that didn't have 700 computerized parts in it. For example, stability control. A nifty feature that detects if you are about to flip your vehicle and compensates by breaking or applying power to various wheels to keep you from flipping.

Growing up we had an anti-flipping system - it was called don't-swerve-hard-when-you-are-driving-fast and
if-you-weren't-paying-attention-you-deserve-what-you-got.

Ok, sorry for the rant, but really, people, don't buy a truck if you never plan on towing or hauling anything (or driving in snow or anything truck like). And don't sue Chevy or Ford or whatever because you flip your SUV because you were on your phone talking to some other soccer mom while you were yelling at your kids and drinking your Slim Fast. Because you can be sure that when I pick your kid up from the side of the road after you flip your truck, it won't be Chevy I'll be blaming.
Permalink Cory Foy 
March 7th, 2005
Your 1995 'Throttle Body' was not just a mechanical part. It was so simple (having evolved from a true carburator) because it WAS computer controlled. That's the 'simple' form of fuel injection -- replace the carburator with a computer-controlled fuel-injection system at the throttle.

What you're complaining about is "multi-point fuel injection", where each cylinder has its own computer controlled fuel-injector. You can get better gas mileage and power that way, and less emissions. But it is MUCH more complicated in terms of pipes and wires.

So the simple answer is: 'just mechanical' was too maintenance intensive (tune-up every 25,000 miles?), error prone (carburators regularly 'gunked up' and ran rich), in-efficient and polluting.

In the beginning (1975 through 1998 or so) a car-computer with throttle-body injection was a MUCH simpler approach. Now we've gone overboard again, everything multi-port, variable valve-timing, anti-roll-over done BY THE COMPUTER (yeah, I hate that). But it's not a mechanical versus car-computer battle. It's more a 'when do we stop throwing technology at problems' battle.

We rarely know when to quit.
Permalink AllanL5 
March 7th, 2005
Don't you think it has more to do with feature bloat? Manufacturers have to do something to "justify" the cost of that $45,000 pick-em-up truck, right?

I bought a new B-series pickup in the mid-90's for $10,000, all-in. A new one of those costs $15,000+ today. A fifty percent increase in ten years, which is well beyond the rate of inflation during that period. They've improved the engine a bit over the 94 model, and added airbags. What a bargain.
Permalink Valjean 
March 7th, 2005
Well, it's not a pickup, but my wife and I just bought a new Honda. Same model as our other car, and adjusting for inflation, about the same price. The differences I noticed are: Latch system, required by law; remote entry; cd player. Hey, I got remote entry and a cd player for what's basically the exact same car? Cool. The latch system is nice, too, as it makes it really simple to attach the car seat, and I won't ever have some twit accidentally disconnecting it because they can't find their own seat belt.

Sometimes throwing more tech at something is a good thing.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 7th, 2005
"But really, what ever happened to just making a good, solid truck that didn't have 700 computerized parts in it."

Progress happened. Suck it up.
Permalink Flasher T 
March 7th, 2005
I thought this was a software forum? You should think it is cool that there is a computer in your car - you can access it and tune it just like you can the mechanical pieces. This is what those guys at "car tuner" shops do (along with giant exhausts and underbody neon).

Mechanical stuff disappears when it is cheaper and more flexible to do the same thing with software.
Permalink  
March 8th, 2005
I'm with the original OP. I go offroading often, and as much as EFI engines have completely changed the sport (carb's at an angle didn't work too well), lots of new technology is just getting in the way of being a truck. I have traction control on my new truck, which is fine, but give me a switch so I can turn it off. Last weekend, I was going through sand and the damn thing cut on, which effectively stopped me dead in my tracks. I then sunk in the sand and had to winch out. After that I pulled out the freaking fuse and enjoyed the rest of my day. The problem is though, I also lost a few other things when I pulled the fuse (like ABS).

Oh well, I guess that's why 1985 toyota 4runners are almost impossible to find for KBB prices.
Permalink Jared M. 
March 8th, 2005
Its emissions & mileage stuff mostly. The newer CAFE and other epa regs make are forcing automakers to improve efficency at the price of more wear and nastier repairs.
Permalink Duff 
March 8th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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