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Disposable products/parts?

I work on computers and see this all the time. I don’t know if any car parts or systems have gone they way of some electronics I am about to describe.

In the old days, even cheap computers/laptops were more modular than they are today. You could remove the processor, RAM, and other components and upgrade them or re-use them if the motherboard went out. Nowadays I see lots of the lower end models are integrating RAM, the CPU, and such onto the motherboard. So, if the motherboard goes out, the replacement costs more because it also has to include the RAM and CPU as well. Another problem with this is that you cannot upgrade these units from how they came out of the box. So those who buy a cheap unit usually have to replace the entire thing as the repair costs almost as much as a newer cheapo model. People think that because the unit is cheap to buy, it should be cheap to repair. The $300 estimates for parts/labor usually shock them as they don’t understand they bought an essentially disposable unit. More expensive mid-level and better units are quite a bit easier to repair and upgrade. This seems to be more common on the cheaper AMD units although some of the Intel ones are going this way too.

Has the same thing been going on with car parts or systems? I don’t work on enough to see but was wondering if things are made so that other perfectly good parts must be replaced when one part goes bad. I am not talking about changing the water pump at the same time as the timing belt because it makes sense but something where you MUST change a part because of the way a system is made.

I haven’t seen that happening with cars much yet, but as hybrids and EVs become the norm it just might. Although I have noticed that cat converters are now being built into exhaust manifolds, making changing one much more expensive. They’re doing this so the converters will get hotter faster, but at a lot of cost and agitation to the car’s owner.

What I have seen happening is that emissions related items have become loaded with sensors and devices of all manner that simply never existed before. The EVAP systems have become an absolute nightmare. Individual parts can still be replaced, but trying to diagnose which individual part to change is becoming more and more difficult. The “trip level” is so low now that it takes very little to trip the light.

I should mention perhaps that way back when I was a young man we used to be able to change shocks without dismantling the car’s suspension… McPherson struts were yet to become commonplace. Still, that doesn’t qualify as “modular” because you have to disassemble the parts to change the strut… unless you use Monroe “quick struts”.

Case in point: the Chevy Aveo. The WHOLE CAR is disposable. After its about 3 years old hahah

I understand it with cheap PCs. 99% of the time nobody’s going to upgrade one. Replaceable parts make sense on a $1000+ one, not needed on a $300 one.

“Replaceable parts make sense on a $1000+ one, not needed on a $300 one.”

That’s absolutely true. When someone brings me a $300 computer (mostly laptops) to repair…I give them the estimated repair cost then advise them to go buy a new one. Most of the time the repair costs are greater than buying a newer model. I end up with a lot of dead computers and I give them to a local veteran who recycles them. It’s a win-win situation for both the owner and the veteran who just happens to be a very nice guy as well. I always have a good feeling when I pull out of his driveway after dropping off the computers. All is well with the world at that moment for me.

You used to be able to replace the brushes in the various motors in a vehicle, not you have to replace the whole motor, so yeah, cars are going that way.

As for computers, integrating the CPU and memory directly into the motherboard does lower manufacturing costs, but it also increases performance and reliability. With higher clock speeds, there is less time for the signals (bits) to travel from one chip to another, so the chips need to be closer together, or in some cases, integrated onto the same chip. The result is larger chips, but fewer of them, and fewer contacts to corrode or lose contact.

By the time a cheap computer breaks down, it is already past the point where the latest software will work on it, the operating system and the application versions on it are no longer supported with periodic upgrades. Its time for a new one anyway, says the guy using a Mac Powerbook with a G4 chip in it and hasn’t had an upgrade for 6 years because none are available and Apple won’t even talk to me (about this computer) anymore.

All of the automotive computer based systems are nor repairable…just replaceable.
You can’t even add or change the radio/stereo/cd player any more . There’s no one unit to swap out ! Amps, radio tuner, nav, lcd screens, power supply , knobs and controls…all components now.

ABS, traction control, AWD, air bags, nav, and even the lighting systems are integrated and componentized and near impossible to just …’‘fix’’.

The cheaper the product, the less repairable it becomes. The latest computers have on-board sound, video and RAM when not so long ago, these were all separate boards. Cars are no different. Where once the windshield wiper motor was assembled with screws, it is now crimped or staked together. Where once we had two tapered wheel bearings with races that got replaced with a hammer and drift, we now have unitized ball-bearing and hub packages with ABS sensors permanently assembled and non-serviceable. Electronics abound and all are non-serviceable by even savvy DIY’ers. Heck, it is tough to find a tech that can rebuild an engine anymore.

Advances in assembly technique make it much harder to service parts and systems on anything. It usually makes them more reliable as there are fewer things to fail, but when they do fail, you replace rather than repair.

You also get what you pay for whether it’s a computer* or a car. The cheaper laptops and cars are meant to be used up and thrown away. Perhaps the most repairable and upgradable cars are performance cars, as they are often designed to be modifiable. Speaking of repairable, I have an early 60s transistor radio where the transistors are in sockets on the circuit board, meant to be easily replaceable. Looking at the manual, I believe it even came with a spare transistor, though this has long since been lost. This was from when manufacturers regarded transistors as a new technology and expected them to need replacing over time, like tubes.

*(With the exception of Apple products, which are notorious for being extremely difficult for the end user to repair or upgrade, despite the high price)

*(With the exception of Apple products, which are notorious for being extremely difficult for the end user to repair or upgrade, despite the high price)

That is certainly true of the newer products. You can’t even replace the battery in the new laptops, they are integrated. That is why I’m still using my old Powerbook even though it is no longer supported by Apple and most new software will not run on it. The operating system has been upgraded as far as it can be, no more upgrades available. I’m on my fourth battery and its about at the end of its service life.

And like my 10 year old iBook G4, I bet you’ve never worried about computer viruses either. I’m running it until it becomes unusable.

“All of the automotive computer based systems are nor repairable…just replaceable.”

Yet there are several companies out there that repair clusters, ABS modules, etc.

I’m not saying it’s easy to repair these devices, but it can be done

On the older GM vehicles, you can’t even get a new ABS control module, They’re only available rebuilt, even if you buy from the dealer

Many electronic devices become obsolete so fast that if something goes wrong, it is often cheaper to buy a new improved version rather than repair the old one. For example, we purchased large screen television for $2000. After several years of use, our dog damaged the set. He had a ceramic bone and liked to “bury” it under the towel that was on top of his bed. He would then “dig” up his bone and shake the towel. Well, the bone stuck to the towel and as he shook the towel, he flung the bone right into the television set and there was a black hole in the middle of the screen. A new television with a bigger screen and higher definition cost $700–much less than the cost to fix our old set.
On the other hand, a mechanical device may be more easily repaired. We have a washing machine that is over 20 years old. It developed a leak from inside the machine. When the problem happened, I had a rehearsal or a concert every night of the week and other activities going on. I spent about 20 minutes looking at the machine and couldn’t find the screws that allow the front panel to be removed. I gambled the price of a service call, but did call a service company. The problem turned out to be a leaking tube to the bleach dispenser which we never use. I would have tried to find a hose of the proper diameter at an auto parts store, but the repairman ordered the tube and the main hose leading from the pump to the back of the machine. My total bill was about $148. I can’t buy a new machine for $148 and if I only get another year out of the machine, it was money well spent. As I said, had I been a little more patient, I could have fixed the machine myself for the cost of a 4 foot length of hose and a couple of clamps. We have an 18" push lawnmower that was made in 1988 that has a cast aluminum deck. The engine runs well and, because it is lightweight, my wife likes using the mower. Well, the lower section of the handle broke from metal fatigue. I was able to temporarily repair the handle with a 1/2" dowel rod which I forced into the handle, and then drilled into the handle and dowel rod and inserted some screws. However, I went online and found I could get a replacement part. The cost seemed high at $64 with shipping, but I can’t buy a new mower for $64. In the case of the washing machine and the lawnmower, I doubt that a new machine will wash my clothes any cleaner nor will a new mower cut my grass any better.
I have learned on many automobile parts, it is better for me to buy a remanufactured component rather than attempt to repair the old unit. I had the generator stop charging on my 1954 Buick. I looked at the generator and noticed one lead from a brush was broken. Instead of buying a remanufactured generator for $12.50 (this was back in the early 1960s, I bought a set of brushes for $1.50. When I put in the new brushes, I shorted the field coil and the generator ran wide open and was overcharging the battery. By the time I figured out what was going on, the generator had overheated and I had thrown a lot of solder off the armature. Even after fixing the short, the brushes would hop around on the commutator and the charging rate wasn’t steady. I bit the bullet and bought a remanufactured generator. A few years later, I bought a rebuild kit for the carburetor on my 1950 Chevrolet pickup truck. I spent a whole afternoon getting it right, and it was a single barrel carburetor with a hand choke. Instead of spending $2.95 for the carburetor kit, I could have purchased a rebuilt carburetor for less than $15. This was back in the early 1970s. For me it is better to replace a whole unit than attempt the repairs myself.

Could I borrow your dog?

@keith–Ironically, the set our dog messed up was a Sony. He is now employed by Best Buys–they send him to potential customers houses to evaluate their television sets. When our dog has performed the evaluation, the customer needs to buy a new set.

So do you get the Best Buy employee discount?

When I described what had happened to our old set, they were laughing so hard that when I suggested a discount, I think they took off $15.

I went through this with my touch screen monitor in my 86 Riviera. It was the first year out so some issues expected. At any rate it just started going black. Everything still worked but just a black screen. It was made by Zeneth so I figured it was a power supply and if I could get a hold of a schematic I might be able to ID the part and get a replacement. I finally gave up. It was pretty much only made available to GM rebuilders. I ended up just getting one from a junk yard for $400. Better than the new price of $2000 for a part no longer available. Half the battle is having the schematic and the repair manuals for the devices.

Now on the same car, my FM band started not working. I ended up taking it to a GM authorized speedo and radio shop for a new module. They had all the repair manuals, test equipment, and parts needed. I don’t remember what it cost but somewhere around $300.

As for computers, integrating the CPU and memory directly into the motherboard does lower manufacturing costs, but it also increases performance and reliability

Lower costs yes? Higher performance and reliability? Not really. The units have that soldered on CPUs are typically low end crap (low voltage, low performance APUs or cheap low voltage Celerons and the like. Faster CPU’s are still socketed. You’re not going to find an Ivy Bridge E CPU soldered on the board. But funnily enough Intel was threatening to get rid of socketed CPUs a year or so ago when they pulled out of the mobo market. But there was considerable backlash and Intel relented. So Skylake and Cannonlake will still be socketed CPUs.

Like @Keith; mentioned…motor brushes, but I’ll add alternator brushes to that. You used to be able to unscrew a plate on the back of an alternator and it was a simple job to replace the brushes with a new set, at a fraction of the price of a new alternator.
But I can also understand the reasoning. The mechanic replaces the brushes today and sends you on your way. Then 60 days later the stator, or a winding fails and you bring the car back complaining about the poor repair that was done last time. So it’s safer for the mechanic to replace the entire alternator.

I bought a new CH Air compressor years back, and had to take it back twice for a new motor and compressor unit twice. When it failed the third time it was off warranty and would have cost more for the parts than buying a new one. I dismantled it and found that one of the little brackets that held the brushes in place had broken. I fashioned my own from brass…twice the thickness and the thing has been running fine for the last eight years without fail.

I couldn’t believe that for such a small 50cent item they would toss the entire unit out.
It took little to repair it…pop the cover off the unit and they are right there. I tried to contact the company and they actually denied that it could have been a failure by poor design. A tiny bracket like that…1/32 on an inch thick…a vibrating compressor…it’s a no brainer.
Hell, replace the motor and compressor and all thats left is the tank and plastic covers.