Are newer cars worse than older ones?

Associate
Joined
2 Jul 2009
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I was having a chat with my next door neighbour about a car I'm looking at, when I mentioned it was a 52 plate he started to bang on about how cars today aren't as good as cars 15 years ago. Now this guy likes to tinker and is always underneath his car at the weekend with a spanner in one hand and a Haynes manual in the other.

Now what he said got me thinking. Back when I was younger I remember my dad buying old second hand cars and spending more time with the bonnet up than driving them but nowadays if something goes wrong, you just drop it in to a garage where a dude with a computer runs a program that tells him where the fault should be.

Has putting all these computer engine management systems in cars today made repairing and tinkering with them impossible to the average Joe?
 
Soldato
Joined
13 Mar 2004
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16,649
Depends how far you go back. If you look at an engine with points and condenser. That took actual mechanical still to work on and set up. Same with carb and vacuum advance.

Modern ecu takes that work out. Look at my old m3, I've done a lot of work to that but not even looked at the engine setup because its all set by the ecu.

But for that to function it needs reliable data from sensors to work optimally.

I believe the 90s was a good time for cars, its before the car makers really went on a cost cutting exercise and messed things up.
 
Man of Honour
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New cars are built to much more precise tolerences so engine blocks, etc, should be fairly bullet proof. Rust is no longer a big issue generally. But they are also built to a budget and so parts are not going to last as long. They also have considerably more comples components which gives more scope for something such as a turbo or sensor to fail.

The 90s was indeed a good time; cars were modern enough to be built well but simple enough to fix yourself (car is my sig is a good example).
 
Soldato
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The 90s was indeed a good time; cars were modern enough to be built well but simple enough to fix yourself (car is my sig is a good example).

Ha, mine were certainly good examples of how to fix something new every weekend! :p.......:(

I agree to an extent r.e cars from the 90's, the trouble is they're now getting so old that things like rust are starting to become an issue and the sheer age of components is causing failure, it can then become an absolute mission to get to said broken part depending on what's worn / rusted away around it.

Can't win really, depending on the car though a 2002 should avoid most of the latest set of things that absolutely will break and cost a fortune. As long as it's not a corsa, as they're the most hateful small car known to man.
 
Soldato
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High pressure fuel systems and direct injection along with the increase in turbo'd petrol engines (and the motoring publics attitude to care care and maintenance) all means cars will probably end up throwaway items.

Who's going to want to spend 2k on an 8 year old fiat 500 twinair or put a couple of turbos on a 123d or a HPFP on a 335i in 6 years time. Dread to think what ford and Vauxhall small turbo engines will be like in 5 or 6 years.

So much for efficient models if they all get scrapped before they are 10 years old. I could be wrong but just seems engines are over complex now.
 
Caporegime
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The drive for fuel enconomy and reduced emissions has meant they are certainly more technically complex, which means they are harder for the home mechanic to fix, more expensive to fix and means that there is more to go wrong.

But thats only the down side. The flip side is the advanced technology means we are benefiting from improved fuel economy, improved performance (Look at the Ford Eco Boost and Fiat Twin Air as an example) and i think overall improved reliability.

The problem is that reliability is only improved - not perfected. Meaning that cars still go wrong. Only now its a bigger and more expensive fault when the cars do break down.
 
Soldato
Joined
20 Apr 2007
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3,467
Engines are more reliable thanks to more advanced machine and metallurgy but it does come with caveats, the more precise engineering requires more precise oils, put a slightly incorrect grade in and you end up with various issues and troubles where a older engine simply wouldn't care and would keep going.

The second big note is 'what is a engine?', blocks themselves are and mostly have always been bullet proof, its all the extra bolt on bits usually for emission control that cause trouble. Look at a modern diesel engine, a recipe for a painful wallet raping disaster when old ones well known for being able to survive a nuclear strike will still be running when the sun burns cold.

But mid 90's Japanese, decent mechanicals without all the emission control junk, a layer of waxoyl and keep motoring into the post apocalyptic future.
 
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