Just to confirm some past discussions, here is an actual record kept for the first 50,000 miles of each vehicle since new.
- Dodge Dart GT, 1965 (The highest rated compact by CR for that year!)
Failed distributor shaft bearing
New ball joints
Machine starter armature
Torsion bar anchor
Failed ignition switch
- Ford Granada 1976 351 V8 (Average reliability rated)
Power steering leaks
Tie rod ends
- Chevy Caprice V8, 1988
No repairs or replacements for the first 50,000 miles
- Nissan Sentra, 1994
- 2007 Toyota Corolla
Replace serpentine belt ($60)
They seem to build them better than in the bad old days!
I experienced none of those problems with my 1965 Plymouth Valiant which was a twin to the Dart. My greatest complaint was that when driving through water the distributor would get wet and require popping the cap and drying the cap and spraying the points with CRC-556.
For me things were pretty good back then. But much has changed in the years since. Some to the better and some not.
I lived in the rust belt around the Great lakes at that time. The V8 was not half as good as the slant 6.
Engines today are far more reliable with far greater longevity and require far less TLC. They’re also much more complex to repair, albeit requiring repair less often.
Chassis have evolved more toward lower cost of manufacture at the expense of reparability than anything else. Tired dampers require very expensive strut changes now, whereas in the old cars it was an inexpensive shock absorber change. Changing a U-joint has been replaced with an entire half-shaft change. And contrary to popular belief, FWD cars with transverse engines were never about traction, they were about modular manufacturing, with an added motivation of better use of space.
Rust rot still exists but nowhere near to the extent it did many years ago.
Personally, I like the modern engines better. But I like the old chassis designs better. Styling had some really bad years overall from about the mid '70s through the '80s, perhaps arguably through the '90s. Fortunately, that’s beginning to improve a bit, largely by stealing from the '60s.
I liked the cars of the good old days from the 1940s through the mid 1950s. I think one reason I liked them is that I could do a lot of my own maintenance and repairs. For $10 to $15 I could exchange the carburetor or generator for a rebuilt unit. On the other hand fuel injection doesn’t require the maintenance that carburetors did, alternators don’t have the carbon brushes that wear down and I have never had a problem with the intank fuel pump that I had with the old mechanical pumps. I haven’t had any problems with the audio systems in any of my cars, but I did have to replace vibrators and vacuum tubes in the old AM only car radios. Unfortunately, all this reliability of new cars has,made me lazy and I don’t even attempt my own maintenance.
The Slant-6 was an extremely durable engine…one of the best for it’s day. Brother-in-law had one with well over 300k miles…engine was completely original.
But with all Chryco products of that era…keep a few ballast resistors around…and if you lived in the Rust belt…then get to know a good body-man. Everyone I knew who owned a Chryco product back had rusted front fenders…EVERY SINGLE ONE.
@MikeInNH The final reason for getting rid of the Dart was that the front sub-frame had rusted so badly that the car would change direction while going over diagonal railway tracks. I expected the car would just buckle up if I ever had to make a panic stop. Floor boards were repaired with galvanized sheet steel metal and metal screws and sticky tar cement.
By the time we scrapped the car at 13 years and 154,000 miles, the gas tank had rusted out, and many other components (wiper motor, alternator, starter, fuel pump, etc) had all been replaced. Strangely, the radiator, heater core, and transmission (Torqueflite) were still near perfect.
The engine used oil and two cylinders were down to 85 lbs.
The slant 6 engine, in some ways, bucked a trend. Many engines were moving to a short stroke design with the bore larger than the stroke. The slant 6 had a longer stroke that was bigger than the bore. However, it didn’t seem to develop oil consumption problems any more than any other engines.
The American Motors 232 6 introduced in 1964 (with 199_and 258 versions) and the Ford 240 cubic inch 6 which also had a 300 cubic inch version, introduced in 1965, were also good 6 cylinder engines and these engines were of short stroke design.
A kid that started driving in 68, surprised nobody mentioned points, Did not consider car repair and maintenance a hassle but fun at the time. Sure we spent a lot of time maintaining and fixing, me and my buds always got together to fix something. Well in the new world how complicated even replacing a bearing has become. We even got down to rewinding wires in an alternator or starter, or even talk about brushes, not an option these days. Had a bud bitching it costs $140 for an extra key, wanted an extra key for a new Kia, sorry the car will only accept 2 keys due to security measures. Now not to say my 4bl 4 cyl Evinrude was the easiest to maintain, but we are into disposable expensive parts in contrast to minimal cost for parts and a guys time to do it, no more guys time with minimal expense to maintain a car
One thing I notice now that’s different from when I started driving is that you used to see a lot of broken down cars by the side of the road, and at least once a week you’d run across someone that needed a push to get their disabled car out of traffic. That and the mufflers and other exhaust parts that littered all major roads. It seemed like nearly every day you’d hear someone cranking and cranking their car for a long time without starting too. These days you still see the occasional broken down car, but maybe 1/5 as much as 30 years ago, and it’s fairly rare to see mufflers by the side of the road. I do miss bumpers that would take at least a 5 MPH impact without any damage whatsoever though.
@Barkydog: I’m surprised that the Kia will only accommodate 2 keys being programmed. My 2006 vehicle with a chipped key and remote fob (not a Kia) will handle up to 8.
I’m trying to visualize a 50s car today with oil changes and grease jobs every 1000 miles. At $30 minimum that would come to 35x15=$525 per year if you drive 15,000 miles annually. Add annual coolant flush ($50+) and tune up with points and plugs ($65) and we are talking a tidy sum just to keep the car running.
We can thank the EPA for setting emission (50,000 mile emission guarantee) and mileage standards that demanded a clean running engine which in turn created electronic ignition, long lasting spark plugs, durable exhaust systems up to the Catalytic converter.
All these tough standards required better lubricants as well.
I would guess that most people had their cars serviced every 2,000 to 3,000 miles in the late 50s and early 60s @Docnick. And most cars were driven less than 10,000 miles annually. Flushing radiators is a somewhat new fad. Fifty years ago if a radiator appeared to be plugged up it was rodded out but otherwise it was ignored. Tune ups and valve adjustments were an annual job for most cars. For those who skipped the valve adjustments a burned valve would make them regret doing so. The EPA’s demands have resulted in car exhausts becoming much cleaner while increasing fuel mileage significantly and decreasing maintenance. Automobiles do seem to be becoming appliances to be used until there is a problem and then disposed of though.
“you used to see a lot of broken down cars by the side of the road”
In the '50s, when I was a kid, I noticed that there always seemed to be some overheating cars on the side of the road during the summer. Being very car-oriented as a kid, one day I decided to tally the makes of overheated cars and the majority–something like 60% of them–were Buicks.
I wonder if 50s-era Buicks had undersized radiators, as compared to other makes.
Man that’s a lot of overheated cars. I never saw many on the side of the road but tires seemed to be one issue. I do remember when we got our 54 Ford V8. We drove it up Mt. Rushmore in July. When we got to the parking lot, just about every other car had their hood up to cool them off. Seemed like mostly GM but out Ford didn’t overheat at all.
Its been a long time but seems to me every fall in the late 60’s, draining the anti-freeze and putting fresh in was part of the annual get ready for winter routine. Along with plugs, belts, filters, points, etc. I don’t think we ever flushed it much but new coolant and checking the freeze point was pretty routine.
I cannot speak to mechanical issues but I certainly am thankful for good defrosters and air conditioning in today’s cars. I started driving 40 years ago in a '73 Corolla with an all black vinyl interior. That car spent the next 14 years with a folded beach towel on the seat and a hand towel for wiping the inside of the windshield because the defroster was a joke. And the many long distance summer trips with no a/c and no radio. But then I was made of sterner endurance back then than now.
“the defroster was a joke”
Can we assume that you never owned one of the original VW bugs or Karmann-Ghias, Marnet?
I ask that because what was touted as a heater/defroster on those cars was a really bad joke.
I actually hacked into the duct on the rear of the driver’s side floor, and installed an electric booster fan from a '55 Chevy in order to get more than a trickle from the vents. However, my handiwork only boosted the output on the driver’s side. I would have had to do identical work on the duct on the passenger side, but–unfortunately–the generator was so weak that it could not have powered two blower motors.
With the old VWs, it was not unusual to wind up with thin ice deposits on the inside of the windshield.
@VDCdriver No never even drove a bug but my brother had a couple used ones. Riding in those gave me the decided ambition never to drive one.
You do indeed see fewer cars by the side of the road and also fewer burned out headlights.
Part of my job is reliability engineering. If you make something last 5 times as long and increase the quality control to six sigma, you will have fewer random failures and longer component life on that vehicle, regardless of how well or how poorly the owner looks after it.
Agree that when a failure does occur, the cost of repair is higher, but not 5 times as high.
There will always be reactionaries who long for the good old simple days when you could change a fan belt by the road side. I used to carry a tool kit and a spare fan belt.
Good maintenance and frequent checks will reduce roadside failures on any car. However, owning an English sports car, or any English car for that matter made planning a trip a logistical task with a lot of “what ifs” that had to be factored in. A VW camper van gave a whole new meaning to the term “adventure”.
The last well maintained car I kept track of with respect to failures was a 1984 Chevy Impala. It went 200,000 miles with only three unplanned or unexpected failures and covered 10,000 trips in the process. The problems included a blown rad hose, a leaking water pump (seal blew), and a windshield wiper motor failure during a rain storm. In military terms this was a 99.97% “mission availability”.
Nevertheless this car made more trips to the garage than either one of our Japanese cars. The components just did not have the same design life.
Another feature of current cars I appreciate is flat floored trunks in sedans. Sooooo much easier to load and unload everyday groceries and such and extremely easier to pack luggage for a trip than around the spare tire like trunks used to be. One of the reasons I insisted on using my ‘87 Olds Ciera instead of parents’ '83 Olds 88 for the pair of all summer driving trips I took Mom on out west was that my car had a level bottomed, easily packed trunk. Although smaller than the trunk in their car, my trunk actually held more and was far easier to load and unload.