Any parts on modern cars being made blatantly disposable?


He was afraid of new technology, but there just might have been some of his ongoing superstitious nature/paranoia at play as well.
Before the introduction of the Model T, he manufactured a large, fairly expensive car (Model K, perhaps??), and it was a failure.
Crazy old Henry decided that it had failed because it was powered by a six-cylinder engine, rather than the reality that it was just too expensive for the market at that time.
As a result of his conviction that the car was doomed by the presence of a six-cylinder engine, when it was time for the Model A to acquire a bigger engine, they went directly from a 4 cylinder to a V-8.
IIRC, Ford didn’t reintroduce a six cylinder engine until the early '40s.


I fixed my lcd Tv. Bad capacitors. Ten bucks worth of parts probably ten plus years ago. I like fixing stuff so now you would know someone who would bother fixing an lcd Tv. Beginning of the curve, paid $800 or so.
Sure there are no more parts to rebuild things, everything is replacement. Even for my thermostat had to buy thermostat and housing assembly. 60$ or so.


I think part of the whole issue is being able to get the parts you need, not to mention a repair manual that has that in it. If they are deemed not serviceable, you will have a hard time getting the necessary part even if you can get it apart and identify the failure point. I remember years ago stopping by a parts outlet and picking up a thermal switch for my Mr. Coffee machine. About $2, but you sure can’t get parts now. I replaced my windshield wiper mechanism in my Pontiac due to a socket joint that wore out. Just a plastic socket that probably cost a dollar but the whole mechanism had to be replaced for $90. I saved the old one that still had a couple good ones for the future, but otherwise you can’t buy them.

In college I remember going to the Pontiac dealer and picking up a relay for my wiper motor that wouldn’t stop. Yeah they sold those parts back in 1968. Plus you could buy those little cancel springs for the turn signal switch for 50 cents each. You had to take the steering wheel off but not anymore. But if you are going to pay someone $100 an hour to disable the air bag, and pull the wheel, you might just as well spend a few more dollars and put a whole new switch in.

Yeah if you’re a scrounger and an engineer, you might be able to identify the bad part without a manual and find a replacement somewhere, but I’m no engineer.


Had a 2000 Focus with the afore mentioned engine,great gas mileage ,little power, a lot of things happened to that car ,enough so that I will probably never buy a Ford car again ,I remember looking at that little over maintained engine in the shop ,with the bright green ,fresh ,coolant residing in the engine block and finding out the little stinker dropped a valve at 114K,the shop owner bought the car from us for peanuts and fixed the engine,ran it a while longer .
Never again will I buy a cheap Ford car(on top of that the dealer scalped us when we bought it -not a good business move)currently I have a fixation on Hondas and Nissans,mostly good service from those things (even the used ones) but most importantly I have a good dealer and service shop,I trust .


Airbags are a life saver but an economic older vehicle killer if deployed.


Those cars of which you speak have much nostalgic value and are also ones I could actually diagnose and repair. I would not like to drive most of them on a daily basis. I have become spoiled by modern vehicles. I like simply turning the key and hearing “vroom” every time. I like having the rear window and mirrors clear of condensation in 1 minute. I like much improved fuel mileage, emissions, braking, and handling.


All engines require no oil changes for the life of the engine provided you’re willing to accept the notion that the life of the engine will be overly short… :wink:

On the plastic parts thing… I’m often hesitant to condemn a company for making a part out of plastic without researching what’s actually going on because of the KitchenAid lesson:

KitchenAid as some of you will know makes stand mixers. If someone is serious about cooking, they’ve probably got one prominently displayed in their kitchen.

The old mixers were made with one plastic gear in the transmission. People found out about it and got very angry, because they didn’t want to be paying $300 for a mixer with a plastic gear in it!

So bowing to pressure, KitchenAid started making their new mixers with an all metal transmission, and people were happy.

Well, here’s the problem: That plastic gear was a sacrificial part. If someone tried to mix something that was too viscous (think large quantities of heavy bread dough), that gear would break, which would prevent the entire transmission from binding. You’d replace the gear and get on with your life.

Removing that gear meant that suddenly entire transmissions in these things were being wrecked, which means you’re buying a brand new mixer instead of a cheap plastic gear.

Sometimes plastic is not a bad thing, even in places where you might not automatically think plastic should be.


Great story with a great lesson. A 20 cent gear to protect a $250 mixer’s geartrain.

Much like an aluminum square key on a lawnmower flywheel or blade. Shear the key instead of breaking the crank if you it a stump.


I am all for plastic parts or intentional weak links such as fuses and shear pins to prevent more serious and costly damage. I recently experienced this on a blender. I had something jam in the blades and the plastic drive gear sheared. IT was a $5 part and is meant to do this to prevent other damage.

The plastic in the mower engines is being used as timing gears and camshafts. I found reports of a timing gear being destroyed when a mower engine backfired on shutdown. The plastic camshaft on my mower engine had worn down to where it was basically no longer a usable engine for mowing. I had always changed the oil and maintained the engine but it was designed in a way that it simply wore out with use.

A camshaft isn’t like a fuse in that it is a quick and easy part to change. This is something that will total an engine much of the time.


Based on how a lawnmower engine is constructed, I can see the value if you use a good composite material instead of metal for the cam gear. That’s directly connected to the crankshaft, which can bend if you hit a tree stump even when there’s a shear pin down at the blades.

I won’t go so far as to say I’m 100% sure of this, but I would think that having a shear point up on the other end of the crankshaft would help keep it from bending when you run over something you shouldn’t because you’re providing another outlet for the kinetic energy that has to be dealt with when the blade suddenly stops.

I’m not aware of any major lawnmower engine maker that doesn’t use plastic cam gears/shafts right now, but not all plastics are created equal. A good composite should last the life of the engine. A cheap one probably won’t.

I noticed with a brief google search of “plastic camshaft lawnmower” that I see tons of complaints about broken/worn Briggs and Straton camshafts, but most of the Honda complaints I find are “I found out it’s plastic, I think it’s gonna break” rather than “it has broken.” This suggests that Honda is using better materials than Briggs (which does not come as a surprise at all), and so the blame probably should rest with “crappy plastic camshafts” rather than all plastic camshafts.


The offending camshaft that started all this discussion was in a Briggs engine so there you go! I have a Honda engine that replaced this one, also with plastic. I hope this one holds up.


Actually I haven’t had a small engine apart in years. Just haven’t had to do anything to them beyond cleaning the carbon, carb kits, coil, and so on, so I’m not sure what’s in there. I wouldn’t be afraid to replace a plastic cam shaft though if that was the problem. Right now I’ve got over 500 hours on my B&S twin and still going strong but I hold my breath. In the 80’s (still have it but don’t use it) I bought a $500 Toro mower with a Suzuki engine. Everything was superior quality, but even on that engine the valve tappets (or can’t recall what they are called) were just bent sheet metal. The carb is the problem but the rest of it never failed.


Re Henry Ford, it was my conclusion that his continued great success resulted in his being isolated by sycophants who convinced him to just keep on keeping on while they rode the gravy train as he made more money than he could comprehend. His isolation lead him to overlook the automobile market (forrest) for all the Model Ts (trees). But I recall my grandfather who was born in 1880 and died in 1966. He was a hard working and intelligent man all his life but life and technology overwhelmed him but he didn’t know it.


Speaking of Henry Ford . . .

Have any of you guys seen “Henry Ford the man and the machine” . . .

Cliff Robertson stars, but IMO it isn’t a particularly good movie, or even one of Cliff Robertson’s better movies

It’s interesting, though, and the movie clearly shows Henry Ford verbally abusing and insulting his son, Edsel

It also shows Henry Ford playing around with a mistress

I’m not sure if it showed Henry Ford’s anti-Jewish behaviour and his admiration for the Nazis, but it also didn’t show him to be a very likable guy, either

I only saw it once, and I don’t plan on seeing it again, because, as I said, I didn’t consider it to be a very good movie. Not good enough to see twice, in any case


The way he treated his son was a well known fact but after he died he said he wished he would have treated him better. He said he did it because he thought he needed to be toughened up (my words) and didn’t like his drinking and life style. He was hoping to make Edsel more like himself. I dare say a fault of a lot of fathers out there.

I understand that he had some terrible aspects but I don’t have a problem separating his true accomplishments from his failures. Many many people who have accomplished much in some specific field have many a skeleton in the closet. I can respect the accomplishments while accepting the shortcomings.

The one thing though was like a lot of pioneers, is that he developed what he thought was the answer to the nations transportation needs. He stuck with that idea even as the world changed around him, but he just couldn’t accept the fact that his great no longer applied. Again I think we can find a lot of inventors that stuck with their invention far longer than they should and never change in time.


I looked into the plastic camshaft deal and found that there are several companies making these for their consumer grade products. Honda and Briggs are the big ones. Then there are some 4 stroke trimmers. People have had issues with ALL makes and models with plastic cams from what I can tell but don’t know the frequency of failure for each one. I guess 4 stroke trimmers were being replaced because of the failures.

I did go and look for cams for some of the commercial grade models such as the Briggs Vanguard and KOhler Command and couldn’t find a single plastic one so that tells me something…

I also found reference to a problem I have had with the Briggs Inteks dropping valves into the cylinder, resulting in piston and head damage. I guess some of the newer models have been modified so maybe they are better.

Unfortunately it seems that the consumer grade is being made “just good enough” for most who don’t care these days and not to last like products in the past. I guess it really doesn’t matter when most people don’t change the oil and treat their stuff as disposable anyway.


Consumer grade is being made because there’s a market for inexpensive lawn equipment (and everything else for that matter). The cheapest walk-behind commercial-grade Toro mower out there is over a thousand bucks. It doesn’t have self-propulsion or a mulching feature either.

If you slap on all the features mower consumers want these days - mulch, key-start, self-propelled, etc, you’re gonna end up spending enough on a mower to buy a decent used car.

Consumers want a mower with lots of features, and they consider anything over $400 to be insane (my neighbor thinks I’m nuts because I have an $850 Honda mower - I think he’s nuts because he keeps having to replace his mower every few years while mine just keeps on running, but I’m the oddball of the neighborhood in being willing to pay for quality).

Something has to give. It’s like the difference between Hyundai and Acura. Same technological whizbang goodies on both cars. They’re probably fairly similar in reliability at this point now that Hyundai really got its act together. But Hyundai customers don’t want to spend $50,000 on an Elantra. Something has to give. In Hyundai’s case it’s ride quality, fit and finish, etc.

In the case of the mowers, the high-feature-low-cost mowers are going to be less reliable because more reliable parts are more expensive.


I agree! High complexity and low cost are a bad combination. This is why you commonly hear about problems with the electronics of cars but not so much the engine, transmission, or other mechanical parts. The entertainment systems of many cars these days do EVERYTHING from controlling the radio, cruise control, HVAC settings, and more. Often these are buggy and prone to problems. I just wonder what will happen to these cars when the mechanical systems work fine but these systems fail outside of warranty. This may be the feature that makes cars disposable.

I agree that even cheaper cars like Hyundai and Kia have come a LONG way. I remember a guy who had one of the older Hyundai Excels (actually a Mitsubishi Precis but the same car) and it was total junk. They don’t make 'em like they used to and that is a GOOD thing!

As for plastic timing components in engines, the Chevy Aveo and others had this If you look at carcomplaints, timing belt failure resulting in engine damage is about the biggest complaint these have. This was an inexpensive car from the start so timing belt failure and the resulting damage is often makes these “disposable” cars. I agree that plastics may actually be a better material for many components of an engine but don’t really think they are good where stresses are high or a failure would be catastrophic. I know a guy who had a close call with his Aveo. The timing belt and all associated idlers, tensioner, water pump, etc. had been recently replaced at the proper interval with factory parts at a GM dealer. The engine started to run funny and there was a strange noise from under the timing cover. This guy was a car guy so he knew of the danger. He pulled the timing cover back and could see melted plastic on the backside of the belt. He tore the thing down the rest of the way and found that an idler had locked up and a nice flat spot had been melted out of the idler. He replaced the timing set once again himself this time with the same plastic components and promptly sold the car.

The Nissan Versa, Chevy Spark, Mitsubishi Mirage, Kia Rio, etc. all use TIMING CHAINS these days. I think this is good as someone buying an inexpensive car may be a little more likely to neglect maintenance and when the belt goes, so does the engine.


@Bing, you make a good point. Another inventor who hung on to his idea too long was Edison, who fought for years for DC current, long after it was proven that AC worked far better. It just wasn’t his idea. And he was a close friend of Henry Ford.


I’m familiar with the details of the old AC vs DC battle. However, it turns out that DC has a number of advantages over AC for long haul transmission lines. Not the least of which is more relevant today than in their time- the transfer of power between grids.

The biggest stumbling block to adopting DC for long haul lines has been the lack of an economical breaker system. Relatively recent developments have overcome that technical hurdle and you’re likely to see construction of DC bus systems in this country before too long…