New cars are too complicated for dealers or owners

I experience a vibration (like washboard road) every once in awhile in my 2009 ELement. (had same experience in recent Mazda X9. These are both AWD cars. Mazda dealer said it was the transmission and was going to cost $6k to replace. I didn’t believe it was the transmission but rather the 4WD engagement. It would go away by just touching the gas or break pedal. Transmissions appeared to work just fine on both cars. Still driving the Element. Both cars at about 100k miles. Current cars are too complex to get good service from dealers or for owners to service. ( M. Foster age 81)

Only if the mechanics at the dealership are not fully competent!

What you have described is symptomatic of problems with the transmission’s torque converter lockup mechanism, and this is frequently the result of not changing the trans fluid every 30k miles/3 years.

Your 10 year old car should have had its trans fluid and filter changed 3 times so far.
Have you done that?

Also, there is no reason to take a 10 year old vehicle to a dealership. I suggest that you search for a well-reputed transmission shop in your area (OBVIOUSLY, NOT Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, or–God forbid–AAMCO), and have them do a fluid/filter change, and have them diagnose any issues that might remain after they service it.


I disagree. I service all my modern cars and I am a DIY-er not a professional mechanic. I know pros at dealerships and independent shops that are certainly better than I am.


Concur w/VDC’s post above, these are the classic symptoms of torque converter (TC) shudder. The TC goes into lock-up mode above a certain speed, and comes out of that mode below a certain speed. Lock up mode – where the transmission input shaft is mechanically locked to the engine – is provided to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Sometimes this mode will start engaging and disengaging rapidly, back and forth, and produce the sensation you are reporting.

TC shudder doesn’t necessary imply the problem is the torque converter or the transmission. It could be an electrical problem, like a faulty transmission solenoid is all. The first step however is to verify this is actually caused by the torque converter lock-up function. Ask your shop if they can temporarily disable that function. Often that can be done by removing a fuse. If so you can drive the car and see if the problem goes away or not.

If the symptom goes away with TCS mode temporarily disabled, the next step would usually be a proper transmission service. If that helps, but doesn’t solve it 100%, drive a hundred miles or so and do it again. Here’s some further information.


Hi Marv41:
Are there certain road speed ranges that the vibration typically occurs at?

Does it tend to occur perhaps between 40 and 60, and start when you’re no longer accelerating, and last for only a few seconds?

Friend got a newer car and paid $2k for extended warranty. Had a trans shudder. They replaced valve body and torque converter so he got the repair for almost zero. After deducting his warranty cost, he broke even. Would have been better to have no need for repair and no warranty.

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It occurs to me that the ever amazing technological advances in automobiles is making older models outdated and obsolete before they are paid for and some before they are even sold.

Oh no, the “amazing technological advances” are making old models MORE desirable and MORE in demand, which is why used prices–especially used truck prices–have really shot up. Even cars which were regarded as cheap in their day have really gone up in value these past few years.


You know, yesterday I found myself working on a carburetor for a 1956 Chevy and also diagnosing a no-start on a 2018 Honda. I thought to myself how little these 2 mundane conveyances have in common.

I’m not sure I agree completely with that. Yes, there is a segment that prefers simpler technology, but there are advances in durability and economy that you can’t get with older vehicles.

300 horsepower out of a Chevy 350 was something notable way back when, now you get that power from an engine half that size that requires half the maintenance of the older one.

At the shop we have a 2015 Silverado that needs a new engine. This one still runs, but burns a quart of oil every 400 miles. 470,000 miles on an engine that has never had more than oil changes and spark plugs. That would never have happened even 20 years ago.


I completely agree with @asemaster. They don’t make 'em like they used to, and it’s a darn good thing. The devices we get today (cars and trucks, home laundry and appliances, entertainment, computers, etc.) are generally so much more durable, better performing and efficient than the old tech stuff that they are pretty much different machines altogether.

Everything has gotten more expensive while wages have largely stagnated. That means fewer people can go out and buy a brand new car anymore, which increases pressure on the used car market. That makes used car prices go up.

I have not seen any reporting which indicates that people are buying so many older cars because they’re avoiding the technology in new cars. Rather, I think it far more likely that they buy older cars because that’s what they can afford. If they could afford a brand new car, many who are shopping the used market would get new instead.

After all, a base model Accord today costs what the premium version cost in 1995, which saw a base model at $15,000 instead of today’s $24,000. Dunno about you guys, but I don’t know many people whose wages have gone up more than 60% since then. We experienced a very long period of little to no wage growth while prices continued to rise as normal. The retail market advanced as though wages had grown in no small part because of the easy availability of credit. If I can’t afford the premium Accord on my salary anymore even though I could back in the 90’s, I’ll just borrow money until I can. That gives the market no incentive to correct itself against stagnated wages, and so even though cars really aren’t much more expensive after inflation than they used to be, they’re less affordable, especially since it isn’t as easy to obtain credit anymore.

I have to disagree with you on that point.
If you compare the price of a big, new, HD flat screen TV today with prices from even as recently as 5 or 6 years ago, the price has declined dramatically.

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That’s a really hard comparison to make, because technology has changed so much in the TV world, with a lot more segmentation in the market. The high-end TV of the 90’s is below the lowest-end TV available today.

You can get a low-end TV for less than you got a standard TV for 6 years ago, yes, but if you want a high-end one you can be close to 5 figures before you’re done. And some are hundreds of thousands, with a few topping the million dollar mark. :wink:

In more normal TVs, the high-end-but-not-insane market generally sees prices in the 5-7k range, which is a whole lot more than we used to spend on TVs. That 5k gets you a 65" Samsung OLED. 3k would easily get you a 70+ inch DLP back in the day.



??? You can buy a GREAT 65" TV for about $2,000, a good one for $1,000, hard to claim that $5-7k is in any way normal.

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I owned and worked on many commercial trucks operated under very severe conditions(similar to UPS) in the late 70s and early 80s and they all exceeded 300,000 miles on their original engines while getting oil changes monthly at 6,000+ miles. There wasn’t a single mile of interstate/freeway on any route.

The rush toward the epitome of technological innovation in automobiles will likely lead to EVs but wherever it leads there will be a great many missteps along the way and for now much of what is touted as grand is mostly glitz. But that’s been true from the beginning. I don’t want or need an automobile that law would require me to total due to the cost of replacing deployed airbags or failure of an ancillary module that controls the stiffness of the suspension.

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The one issue I have with modern technology and its lightning fast developement is that it may soon get to the point where obsolescence occur so fast that car will be scrapped out because of a faulty climate control module that can’t be obtained.

There was a guy some years ago who bought a Lincoln Mark VIII for his daughter. Per the usual, the headlights quickly became garbage. New headlights could not be obtained either from a dealer, parts houses, eBay, or anywhere else. He scrapped the car because of the headlights.A salvage was not an option because all of the boneyard lamps are also garbage.

If this can happen with headlamps there’s no reason to think that a later model would not also suffer because of parts availability.

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Yeah, that’s great and all, but it’s gonna take a lot of raises to make up for 40 years of flatlining.

It’s comparing top end to top end. Kinda like you can still buy a GREAT Accord for around 20 grand today, but it’s not the top-end Accord you’d have gotten in years past.

Phone service is far cheaper. I paid $18 a month for local phone only in 1982, I pay $5.14 now including unlimited internet. My cell phone is only $35 with free long distance, text and data. A computer in my pocket. Streaming TV is $50 a month now vs inflation adjusted cable at $53 a month in 1982.

Lots of things have gotten outright cheaper… BUT there is a LOT more things we consider indispensable in 2019 that we wouldn’t even consider buying or were not available in 1982.

Plus wages, contrary to popular belief, have actually increased over that 40 years when adjusted for inflation for all 5 quintiles. 2017 data, omits the gains over the last 2 years. Even the lowest 20% are making more income when adjusted for inflation. It is just hard to see the gain on this scale The middle income group has outpaced inflation by quite a bit since 1967.



Technology seems to be both good and bad in cars these days. They get far better mileage, lower emissions, have more power, etc. They require less maintenance and overall run longer. The problem is that some expensive module goes out and this can total the car. I have a buddy about to trade in a Focus because it is about to go out of warranty and he is terrified of repair costs. He sees what the problems would have cost without it being under warranty and some of the repairs have been around the value of the car these days. The problems are often body control modules, transmission modules, and the power supplies that feed these items.

He also had a pretty catastrophic transmission failure once and the entire transmission was replaced. Apparently the 6 speed DDCT transmissions in some Focus models were especially bad and he must have gotten one of those.

Cars overall have gotten better but it isn’t like the old days where anyone can open the hood and there is a ton of space to work and only a few things there besides the engine. The problem is that there are so many things buried and so my systems that a simple repair can cost a fortune these days. Sure, it may not go into the shop often but when it does, WATCH OUT! Why does the climate control module need to be buried in the dashboard and take 30 hours to replace?

AS for electronics, that is my business. I see perfectly good 30 year old CRT TVs being junked all the time. Often it is older customers and they can’t believe I won’t take them for free. They were forced to replace them because their satellite or cable box no longer had analog outputs. You aren’t going to get 30 years out of a modern LCD TV. Yes, even the cheaper ones look better than an old CRT but your Wal-Mart Chinese special is often made to last the warranty and that is it. It costs more to fix so you just trash it and buy another. The sad part is that many of these cost to recycle and they get dumped. The environmental cost of these cheap junk needs to somehow be figured into the purchased price as it is with battery and tire disposal fees.

Cell phones are obsolete in 3 years or so. Computers might have 10 years of support life on a good day. Windows 7 is about to lose support. Yes, it still works but will become insecure once security patches are no longer available.

It really gets me how certainl appliances have gotten so computerized. A refrigerator doesn’t need to have a touch screen and all. I was at Lowes and some Samsung was prompting for an operating system update on the screen. I took a picture. Why do refrigerators require software updates?

I replaced my dryer with a Speed Queen about a year ago. The old dryer was a pretty basic unit but about 10 years old with an electronic control panel. It started to get a mind of its own and beeped like mad and strange times. I thought it was the cats up there playing with it at first but it was nothing or maybe a ghost. I could unplug it for a bit and that worked at first but the problem became more frequent. I was starting to look around for new units as the board was pricey and didn’t want to dump $400 into an old unit for a used board that could likely develop the same problems (It was a known defect).

The Speed Queen uses all metal parts and looks like something from 40 years ago. It is very basic and simple. They make models with electronic panels but the mainstay of these things looks like the same model from ages ago. They are simple and easy to service. Not everyone needs a washer or dryer that you can connect to WIFI and control with a smart phone app.

My washer has recently began to exhibit the same symptoms and I am probably going to get another speed queen.

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