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Praise, not a question

I have my first vehicle I have ever had without a distributor and the people here are great. Most of my vehicles even had a set of points.

My dad was an old school guy and I carry a lot of his traits with me so your information has been invaluable. I’m from the ilk that if the frame and body are still in one peice, albeit even held together by lots of rust, I will make it go down the road.

New cars (to me that’s anything that did not come with a distributor, so anything since about 1990) have problems that are intangible. You just can’t pull off a cap to find a worn rotor, pull off a valve cover and listen to valves/lifters, etc. so the experiences are invaluable.

Thanks so much to Car Talk and its community.

The people with real advice appreciate the praise. The problems aren’t so much intangible as they are new to our understanding. The ways that these parts tie into the computer are not too hard to learn. If you read a MOTOR manual that describes the various functions, you could fix some cars. The code reading tools can be useful. One guy with little auto experience used one to diagnose his 1990 Grand Prix. He changed the computer and the car ran. Last we heard, it was going and he did not like my recommendation to get a newer car. My advice can be good if you have enough money. The computerized age can give you a hint as to which system is causing the problem, and on a good day can be a silver bullet.

As you are beginning to see, although visual inspection is a useful tool, you need to have additional ways to find where (and why) the faults are.
You need knowledge to be able to understand (especially things you can’t see). You need diagnostic tool, also. The tools don’t have to be complex or expensive. Here’s a short list: 1. the repair manual. 2. diagrams (electrical, vacuum) 3.a vacuum test gauge. 4. a digital multimeter. 5. an OBD code (or, scan) tool. 6. fuel pressure test gauge.
For knowledge of the systems, this site (autospeed) has some very good articles which can help a lot in that area:

You’re very welcoome.

Personally I find that in order to understand the new systems it’s important to understand the “why” and the “how” behind them. Many people know that “if X happens it’s probably an EGR valve”, but don’t really understand what an EGR system does, how it does it, or why.

If you’re up to a bit of heavy reading, you may be able to pick up a used textbook on automotive fundamentals and/or any particular system from your local community college bookstore. I have my favorites, listed below, but there are lots of good books on the subject.

Auto Fundamentals
By Stockel, Stockel and Johanson
Published by Goodheart - Wilcox
ISBN 1-56637-138-4

Automotive Engines
By Crouse and Anglin
Published by MacMillan/McGraw Hill, (800) 338-3987
ISBN 0-02-801099-X

Complete Engine Performance and Diagnostics
By Robert Scharff & Editors of Motor Service
Published by Delmar Publishing / Thompson learning, (800) 477-3682
ISBN 0-8273-3579-2

Automotive Chassis Systems
By Thomas W. Birch
Published by Delmar Publishing / Thompson Learning, (800) 477-3682
ISBN 0-7668-0001-6

Fuel Systems and Emission Controls
Published by Chek-Chart Publication, (408) 739-2435
ISBN 9-781579-322496

There are so many knowledgeable people willing to contribute their time and expertise I can’t agree with you more.