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You can't work on your own car now!

I have been hearing for years that nobody can work on their own car these days with all the computers and such. This is so not true. I can remember guessing, changing parts just in case, etc. At least now a simple scanner (or even a mutimeter) can put you in right field instead of left. Still up to you to catch the ball but I prefer new car repair to old car repair anyday.

I agree, a scanner and a manual lets one do lots of stuff, if so inclined. Folks think about not being able to do old-fashioned ‘tune-ups’, forgetting that none of that needs doing these days.

After doing some of my own work on '70s cars I got away from knowing anything about cars for quite a while with my first mid-80s model. I believed the old wives tale that you can’t work on them now b/c of the computers. Well, a lot of bad mechanics & botched or substandard work later & I’m back into being my own mechanic. And you are right about it.

Though, there are trade offs. All of that computer management does also bring complexity. And, scanner, meter, manual or not things can get downright confusing sometimes - multiple interacting systems. All of that info management and associated systems just adds all of this other stuff to worry about.

Then there are very practical things like the amount of space you have to work in. My favorite vehicle to work on was a '64 Ford pickup. Beautiful in its simplicity. I could pop the hood and practically stand inside of the engine compartment next to the engine to work on it. Right now I’m contemplating having a shop replace my power steering lines for me - the only reason is access. All of four fittings to undo & reattach, but I have no reasonable way to access them. (I easily changed out the steering box itself in the pickup). All of that gunk (front wheel drive doesn’t help either, of course) just gets in the way.

Either way, you are right - they aren’t as inaccessible as the legend implies, and sometimes more accessible.

A lot of people also forget that the fundamentals don’t really change either - put some fuel & air in a sealed chamber, compress it, apply a spark and WHAM! Combustion.

Well it depends how expert you are in car repairing. If i am good at it i wont be bothered with technology and work in my car instead. :slight_smile:

It’s not always quite as easy as scanning the car and using a multimeter though.

What if the car is running poorly, no codes are present, fuel pressure is fine, and there are no mechanical faults with the engine? Then what would be your next step?

What if there’s a wiring or wire connector glitch and the VOM shows that circuit is good?
(Not that rare a problem either)

My own feeling is that cars are a lot more challanging today for a few reasons. One is that systems such as the EVAP system can trigger fault codes and be a bear to troubleshoot.

Another is that things were easier to access in the days of RWD longitudinally mounted engines with no or limited additional “stuff” stuffed under the hood. Today’s FWD transversely mounted engines with transaxles combined with the efforts to make the cars smaller and the interiors bigger (“packaging engineering”) has stuff everything under and/or behind something else. My '64 Fairlane with its 260 V8 was much easier to aork on than most of today’s 4-bangers.

Today’s security systems when they mess up can be impossible too.

And, honestly, I think as more and more doo-dads become common and more and more systems become integrated it’'s going to get worse. We’re getting to where even the lights are controlled by a Body Control Module that integrates lighting systems, security systems, and convenience features and runs them all by chip. Soon we’ll have electronic steering programmable for feel which will probably have integrated into its control chip input signals the VSS output. And I don’t think we’ll ever know the entire picture on throttle-by-wire.

Brake systems…that’ll incorporate ABS and Stability Control Systems…need I say more? That should mess the basic function up real good.

Intelligent variable valve timing…how much will that complicate things?

In summary, I think cars are now getting much more complicated. In farness, they’re also better performing, cleaner, and much more reliable than in the old days. I should calrify that for me the “old days” mean B.C…Before Computers. Carburators, RWD, points, and not much else.

While it is absolutely true that modern cars are much more complicated, I’ll claim that it is easier for the average person to do all the service required for, say, the first 100k miles, just because so little is required now. No more points/timing/carb adustments, etc.

Of course, when something tricky does (infrequently) go wrong, it’s off to the shop.

I think the biggest problem is the special tools you need to do the work. I had to run to several places before I found a manual (not pneumatic) impact wrench to change my rotors. If I had to pay over $100 for the tool, I might not have done it. I found this to be the case over 20 years ago when I needed an offset box wrench to remove the alternator easily. I got it off, but not nearly as fast as if I had the special Chevy tool.

I would much rather try and figure out a lack of power issue in my '07 Nissan Altima, or in my '98 Porsche Boxster than the same issue on the old '82 Monte Carlo I had 13 years ago. I never did figure it out, and eventually just junked the car, since it was in piss poor shape at the time, and i was too broke to keep throwing money at it, it couldn’t pass emissions at the time, and I couldn’t afford to pay someone else to replace all the missing emissions equipment all at once…

That old Monte had a billion miles of vacuum tubing, half of which was rotted and cracked.
The worst air injection system I had ever seen, most of which had been ripped out by the previous owner, and the EGR system that barely functioned.

Today’s cars have much less random vacuum tubing, typically no EGR system, as that is controlled with camshaft phasing, oil coil and injector per cylinder, so you can track an issue to an individual cylinder, and its typically much cleaner under the hook, since the engines are sealed tighter, and the seals last longer than they used to.

For my Altima, I could spend a couple hundred dollars, and have a replacement for each and every sensor in the car, plus a spare injector and coil stick, and should an issue come up, it should be easy to compare electrical readings of new vs old, and swap out the needed part in a matter of minutes.

The Porsche is just as easy. Getting under the car is the hardest part, since there isn’t a “hood” you just pop to get into the engine bay. I picked up a diagnostic tool that allows me to plug my laptop into the OBD-II port, and get real time readings from all the sensors. This helped me troubleshoot a CEL, which required the MAF sensor to be replaced. All good after that.

Some people just don’t like anything more complex than a rubber band, like my dad.
Can’t flaw them for that.


A lot of basic maintenance items are much more difficult to service. In the old days many mechanics use to change air and fuel filters, a distributor cap, or whatever and not even both with a labor charge. It was done as customer relations.

Try that now. Many of those basic maintenance items require special tools and are often not accessible without a fair amount of effort.
Example. The fuel filters on the Lincoln Marks, Lincon LS, etc. are buried inside the front fender and this necessitates removal of the wheel AND the inner fender.

Electrical? Don’t even go there. I spent a lot time on a very weird problem once and wound up cutting the harness open to remove some wires. Multiple tests with a VOM showed there was no problem with the wiring and even with those 3 foot long wires cut out and laid on the bench they still tested good. The problem was one of the 3 was faulty no matter what the VOM showed.
This was caused by multiple strands of copper wire being broken inside the insulation. The circuit was very poor and just good enough to trigger the VOM reading but not good enough to allow the circuit to work.

I’m in agreement with mountainbike and since things are simple I could use some help in the repair and maintenance section uder the thread about "Question for Oldschool Or…"
I’m whipped.

I loved my 56 chevy because you could sit in the engine bay while you worked on it. On the other hand, you did have to work on it more often say on my 85 truck.

I sincerely wish I could help on that one, my friend. I’ve read and reread the thread, strained my brain, and tried to think out of the box, but cannot come up with anything to add except dumb ideas like did you check the exhaust system post-cat for a restriction. I know you’re way smarter than to not do so, especially since you pulled the new cat off.

I’ll keep pondering, and if I come up with anything I’ll post, but you guys are already over my head on that one.

I much prefer dealing with a computer from 2005 than a carburetor from 1975.

Triedaq left the computer logged in, so I will respond. Triedaq used to service our cars but now uses the excuse that our present cars are too complicated for him to maintain. I know that he could do a lot of the work himself. His other excuse is that since the Earth is 3/4 water and 1/4 land that he should spend most of his spare time fishing instead of servicing the cars, so our independent shop has to take care of our vehicles.

Mrs. Triedaq

You sound like good folks, Mrs. T.

I myself am at a point in my life where age-acquired disablility has left me unable to do much of my own work. I can’t even change my own flat tire anymore. And after decades of more than one vehicle, I’m now down to one vehicle and living in a rural area with no public transportation. If I start a project that by its nature disables the car while working and find I need a part, I’m screwed. So I keep the work I do myself to a minimum.

well spoken.both of you.I turned sixty the year i moved into the city due to the proximity of my medical and legal folks.I have adapted to my age appropriate arena by becoming a patron of our Metro bus syst…Have y’all noticed?Busses,trains all have bike racks!I have 'gone green’with my carbon footprint is neglible now.I suppose I must make amends for all my Silverados,Heavy Chevys,Porshes and Hot Rod Lincolns.

I have to laugh!

I was visiting a web site for early 1970’s Mercury Capri’s (Ford’s in Europe) and there was a discussion on diagnosing a problem with an engine swap out of a recent Mustang. It reminded me of one of the lessons I learned when I first started - you need to know what the components do.

Choke? No, fuel enrichment! Mechanical / vacuum advance? No, engine map!

Us old timers need to get with the changes.

People who long for the days when they “had” to service their cars have too much free time on their hands. If I had to change the points on my cars today like in that dreadful British Leyland motor on my old SAAB 99, I’d give up driving.

A lot of basic maintenance items are much more difficult to service.

Changing the air filter on my wifes Lexus is a PAIN…Many cars are going this way. There’s a cover that covers the entire engine. All you can do without removing the cover is check the add oil…and check the oil level…THAT’S IT. To change the air filter the cover has to be removed (which has about 15 fasteners).

Other things are still easy…Changing the oil is very simple…Just did a front brake job…again simple…

I agree some things are far far better…Electronic ignition is one…Disc brakes is another…