Then and Now: Auto Repair and Maintenance
October 17th, 2013
It’s not unusual to find people who think of their 60s- or 70s-era cars as being superior to today’s products, but that’s debatable at best. For instance, amenities like air conditioning, power windows, power locks and power mirrors were expensive “luxury” options 50 years ago, but today it’s unusual to see even a base-model car that doesn’t have them. And cars are certainly safer than ever, with antilock brakes, traction control, vehicle stability control, airbags, crumple zones and seatbelts protecting drivers and passengers far better than 60s-era cars ever could.
Today’s cars also require a lot less maintenance. Here are some examples:
- 1940s and early 50s cars required periodic valve adjustments…which became a thing of the past with hydraulic lifters.
- Improvements in machining and flow of coolant in the block negated the need for regular valve jobs and regrinding of valve seats.
- Early 50s cars weren’t designed with oil filters or even oil pumps, relying instead on dippers on the crankshaft counterweights. The dippers would splash motor oil around the crankcase and onto moving parts, much like a lawn mower engine. Between that and the lack of detergent additives in oil, engines would develop carbon deposits and would have to be “de-coked” from time to time. De-coking involved running the engine with a thinned kerosene/oil mixture for a few minutes, hopefully eating away at the carbon and sludge.
- The routine tune-up of a generation ago consisted of replacing spark plugs, setting the idle speed and mixture on the carburetor, replacing the ignition’s mechanical breaker points, setting the timing with a timing light and replacing the plug wires and distributor cap. Tune-ups had to be performed every 30-35,000 miles; today, the carburetor has been replaced by fuel injection, and ignition, timing, spark advance and fuel metering are all governed by the engine control computer. There’s no more distributor or coil, negating the need for new plug wires; now, the tune-up is little more than changing worn plugs at about 100,000 miles.
- When a vehicle from the 60s or 70s would develop a problem, it was up to the auto repair technician to rely on his knowledge, his engine stethoscope and his experience to diagnose what was wrong. Today, a diagnostic code reader hooked up to the engine control computer can give the technician a huge leg up on figuring out what the problem is and point him in the right direction.
It’s certainly true that 1980s-era cars (foreign and domestic both) had more than their share of problems. Manufacturers were scrambling to meet government safety, mileage and emissions standards with technology that hadn’t matured yet. Add in some wrong-headed designs and indifferent build quality, and you had some underpowered, unreliable and generally pretty awful cars. Those days are long gone now, though. Tires, suspensions, interiors, electronics (that’s not even thinking about things like onboard navigation systems), drivetrains…it’s hard to think of anything in today’s vehicles that isn’t a drastic improvement over a generation ago, including maintenance. The result is a new class of vehicles that routinely run for over 200,000 miles, and can wring 27 mpg out of a V8 engine. Think about it…how long has it been since you’ve seen a greasy, frustrated dad by the side of the road with the hood of his late-model car up, trying to get it running again?
At St. Lucie Battery & Tire in West Palm Beach, FL, we hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at the progress in automotive technology. If you’re noticing any problems with your ride, we hope you’ll make an appointment with us for some preventive maintenance or auto repair!
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Tags: auto repair
Posted in: Auto Repair 101