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New car - or is it a wheeled computer?

Who's driving this thing?

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Kiwi Bloke26/03/2021 08:22:28
602 forum posts
1 photos

Don't read this if you can't abide grumpy old men ranting.

We have been looking for a new car. We have a Toyota Land Cruiser (100 series) and a Honda Accord, both bought new in 2005. Both have provided excellent, reliable service, have only about 160,000 km on the clock, are in good condition and are rust-free (a benefit of a benign climate). I have full, official workshop manuals, mostly obtained decidedly unofficially - and free! - however neither manufacturer will now sell me manuals (Toyota were happy to in 2005). I have therefore been able to maintain the vehicles myself and have carried out the only (thankfully minor) repairs necessary. I'm not scared of major mechanical work. There seems no reason why the vehicles should not continue to go on satisfactorily for years, and although reliability can't really be expected to remain almost perfect, I could probably cope with most repairs. So why look for a new car? Because our needs and preferences have changed: we don't really need the 'truck' or a 'sedan' these days, and hardly use either, because our go-to car is a Honda Jazz (economical, versatile, comfortable and dog-friendly). It's not exactly a compelling reason, but it turns out that the trade-in value of the Land Cruiser is massive (depreciation works differently in NZ), so that encourages the idea of change, which would therefore not be expensive - in the short term, at least...

OK, so look for a new vehicle. The problems and frustrations rapidly mount. Getting workshop manuals seems impossible (although I haven't yet fired up the TOR browser to see what's available on the 'Dark Net'. Even with manuals, modern vehicles' electronics and complexity are a nightmare, and it seems that the designers pay scant regard to the ease of working on the vehicle. From what one hears, garages don't intelligently repair, they just substitute major components until the problem disappears. If their diagnostic software doesn't provide the answer, they are at a loss. So the hapless owner is completely at the mercy of the manufacturer and its agents, whose competence cannot be assumed. I have sorted out friend's vehicles that garages couldn't - or which they damaged. It doesn't take many mouse-clicks to discover that manufacturers prefer to deny problems - especially during the warranty period - until the tide of disgruntled customers and/or a class action forces them to take action. Meanwhile, customers are driving troublesome, perhaps dangerous vehicles, as unpaid reliability testers.

The new vehicle search produced a favoured candidate (medium-large SUV), so we played with it for a 24-hour test. Most impressive, except that it is full of non-optional driver-distracting features, masquerading as 'driver aids'. And they don't work! Quite frankly, anyone on the road who actually needs or significantly benefits from the assistance of 'adaptive' cruise control, lane-keeping steering nudges, road-departure warnings, vibrating steering wheels, slow-speed following, 'brake hold', autonomous braking under the guise of 'collision mitigation', and driver-awareness monitoring shouldn't be driving. The manufacturers' implementation of this 'your car knows best' philosophy insults the competent driver and encourages the incompetent to drive when they shouldn't.

Eventually, one can discover how to turn off most - but not all - of these intrusive 'features', but the cruise control resolutely remains 'adaptive': during our test driving it saw danger where there was none, and sometimes unexpectedly slowed the car, even to a standstill, by firm braking, exposing one to the risk of being 'tail-ended', or of being considered an idiot driver by the following traffic. It enhanced neither safety nor comfort. The 'adaptive' bit can't be disabled, to provide 'dumb' cruise control, even though one would have thought it would require only a trivial amount of code. This techno-bloat is presumably because it is so cheap and easy to add 'features' in software, and any necessary electronic hardware is cheap too.

OK, so consider a different vehicle. Guess what? The tech. arms race means that all the competing vehicles have the same suite of billshut 'safety features'. Aargh!

Well, rant over. I'm not expecting advice as to what to do, but invite comment from others. Is it me, or have things got stupid?

 

Edited By Kiwi Bloke on 26/03/2021 08:23:11

Michael Gilligan26/03/2021 08:39:31
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18759 forum posts
922 photos
Posted by Kiwi Bloke on 26/03/2021 08:22:28:

[…]

Well, rant over. I'm not expecting advice as to what to do, but invite comment from others. Is it me, or have things got stupid?

.

No, it’s not you ... Things have got stupid.

MichaelG.

Jeff Dayman26/03/2021 08:45:50
2167 forum posts
45 photos

no doubt about it - things have got stupid with cars and trucks. They have been 4 wheeled computers for many years now, and are not designed for service at all. I have no idea what I will replace my current vehicles with - nothing I see on the market meets our needs and the prices are outrageous. An equivalent new truck to the one I bought in 2010 for $35000 CDN is now over $80000! Never get done paying for it!

I have been seriously considering just giving up the search and buying a $25000 CDN throwaway Korean made base model car, use it and in 5 years when it is worth nothing at trade in, decide to run it till it quits or scrap it. Much cheaper than an $80000 choice! (but no comfort for tall people, poor driving quality with the electronic "assists", and iffy safety in collisions)

European made vehicles are not an option for us, with prohibitive initial cost and outrageous repair costs here, a friend with a BMW 6 yr old was just quoted $8200 to replace some fuel injectors and ignition coils.

Cars and trucks have become appliances, boring as hell generally. Just my opinion.

Ady126/03/2021 08:49:26
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4690 forum posts
713 photos

Cars used to be a lot of fun, you would look for the most interesting-exciting model in your range

Nowadays cars are just a necessary expensive PITA and you look for the least-worst option

Edited By Ady1 on 26/03/2021 08:54:04

Chris Evans 626/03/2021 08:58:12
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1952 forum posts

I feel for you. I ran Series Land Rovers for 40 odd years, things don't get more basic. ( always ran an estate car as well for the wife and dogs)

When I retired I could only afford to keep the Land Rover or the vintage bikes and the bikes won the call. The Land Rover was replaced with a Toyota Rav 4. worst car I have ever owned and moved on after 4 months and replaced with a Land Rover Freelander 2, a superb car. I am now looking at something to run alongside the Freelander and went to see the new Land Rover Defender. Nice looking but as a working vehicle it fails to impress, I could not drive anything with a touch screen "Infotainment" panel. So distracting as to be dangerous.

Journeyman26/03/2021 09:05:13
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1021 forum posts
192 photos

No, not stupid just Artificially Intelligent although AI and stupid may well be the same!

Bought a new car at the end of 2019 a Seat Arona, a Spanish VW if anyone wants to know. The intention being to visit all the interesting museums and engineering attractions that I have never been to. Of course they are all now closed along with the rest of the country. So I have been nowhere and the car has remained mostly in the garage.

It has a plethora of automation and a control screen as big as the TV in the lounge. I have yet to discover most of the intricacies of the computer system but my pet hate is the automatic stop-start system. You will not convince me that stopping and re-starting the engine every time the car stops is good for the engine, efficient or fuel saving. I think it's a cunning plan by the manufacturers to cheat on the emissions figures. You can turn it off but you have to remember to press the button every time you drive the car. Nowhere in the software to set it off permanently and the garage says it can't be done (I don't believe them).

Only bitten by the anti-collision radar once so far when someone pulled in front of me from the outside lane, nearly got whiplash, I wouldn't have collided anyway and it was a good job there was no-one astern at the time. Most useful thing I have discovered is that it told me "12V battery low - Drive vehicle to charge" so I did that, still nowhere to go, so just drove around aimlessly for 20minutes!

The display screen is huge and overly visible but the air-con, and demister controls are small and hidden below it and illuminated in 'dark red' really difficult to find at a glance. Perhaps I can just ask it nicely... Oh yes you can speak to the thing although I haven't yet bothered to find out how that works.

Must be progress I suppose.

John

Edit: Typo

Edited By Journeyman on 26/03/2021 09:26:04

Oily Rag26/03/2021 09:05:43
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462 forum posts
147 photos

Invest in a classic!

I would recommend a Triumph TR4A IRS - wonderful entertainment that will keep your smile on your face for a long time. Don't know if the dog will appreciate it though.

Martin

Nick Clarke 326/03/2021 09:07:28
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1247 forum posts
49 photos

A few years ago we got rid of our third Renault Scenic because of intermittent non-starting.

When the card (no key) was put into the reader it talked to one computer which talked to another which checked the electronic handbrake was on or the foot brake pressed, turned off the electric power steering so it didn't try to wind itself into the kerb, and then released the steering lock and started the engine - only it didn't in our case. Oh and there was an alarm and immobiliser in there somewhere as well.

Took it to main dealer who explained they would swap out this and if it did not cure the fault they would swap out something else etc etc ad infinitem.

When we asked who would pay for all the unnecessary work and parts we were told we would have to.

Two things:-

  • We were very happy with the cars apart from this fault and would undoubtably had another - instead we bought a simpler MPV of a different brand
  • Where the main dealer was is now a building site.
Clive Foster26/03/2021 09:07:45
2817 forum posts
101 photos

Jeffs comment rings a very big bell for me.

Looks like I shall have to figure on keeping my Range Rover P38 pretty much forever. Which really makes me regret not splashing £6,000 or so on the best one I could find 11 years ago rather than settling for very decent at £4,000. However I never expected to keep it this long given fuel prices and old tech V8 thirst.

But the underpinnings are solid, rust issues minimal and pretty much everything outside the BECM, suspension ECU and engine management system is simple enough to be within DIY. Magicians can be found to deal with any (are) BECM issues. At least that monster is old style electronics with very limited microprocessor involvement.

Remarkably cheap to service too. Much to be said for old style live axels and a pushrod V8.

Given the P38 early reputation for being troublesome and hard to fix it's almost amazing to be saying that its easy to deal with. Easier than something even earlier and simpler actually. Obvious now how the early troubles were an indictment of the lamentable incompetence of most "mechanics" when faced with something cutting edge. However old tech the mechanics underneath, the P38 BECM et al really was cutting edge.

The BMW systems and costs really are outrageous. Computer does everything at a main dealer. Diagnostics are run. Fault identified and a tray of large bit made up to replace the whole sub system containing everything around the faulty part. Iffy injector? Out comes a full set with fuel rail, pressure regulator and part wiring loom. I imagine the bill comes with a little ampule of smelling salts to revive fainting customers.

BMW reliability reputation is the pits too.

Clive

Chris Find a P38. Peak comfy 4x4.

Edited By Clive Foster on 26/03/2021 09:09:41

Stuart Bridger26/03/2021 09:18:35
528 forum posts
29 photos

I am in 100% agreement with everything being said.
"safety" systems like lane deviation, surely i you can't keep between the lanes, you shouldn't be behind the wheel.
My biggest gripe is reserved for multi-function touch screens. With physical buttons, you instinctively learn the location and adjust the temperature. enable demisting, etc without taking your eyes off the road. How do you do that with a touch screen?
I will be hanging onto by 10.5 year old Saab as long as I can.

Nick Clarke 326/03/2021 09:29:31
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1247 forum posts
49 photos
Posted by Clive Foster on 26/03/2021 09:07:45:

Jeffs comment rings a very big bell for me.

Looks like I shall have to figure on keeping my Range Rover P38 pretty much forever.

I had an ex army Minivan in the 1980s that could have been called the P38 as that was what it mainly consisted of!

I'll go

p38.jpg

Howard Lewis26/03/2021 09:31:08
5238 forum posts
13 photos

Even small ,cars are not immune from the "I have invented a new whistle, so I will fit it, even when not needed" syndrome.

My wife and I each run probably some of the smallest and cheapest cars on the market.

One of the features is a speed limiter. Tried once and considered to be a possible danger. (Impossible to accelerate out of a developing emergency ) based on the proposition that my motor control, and powers of observation are so poor that I cannot see the speedo right in front of me, or lift off the throttle pedal.

Wish that they had spent the money on providing a back shelf that does not fall out when anything is placed in, or removed from, the boot!

Like predictive spelling, I do not believe that a computer knows better than I do what is in my mind.

(My wife abandoned one, otherwise excellent, mobile phone because the predictive spelling cannot be disabled )

Next thing, will it refuse to close the doors automatically until my fingers are out of the way?

So much for market research driving what WE want

Howard

Edited By Howard Lewis on 26/03/2021 09:33:30

Nick Clarke 326/03/2021 09:37:54
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1247 forum posts
49 photos
Posted by Howard Lewis on 26/03/2021 09:31:08:

Even small ,cars are not immune from the "I have invented a new whistle, so I will fit it, even when not needed" syndrome.

My wife and I each run probably some of the smallest and cheapest cars on the market.

One of the features is a speed limiter. Tried once and considered to be a possible danger. (Impossible to accelerate out of a developing emergency ) based on the proposition that my motor control, and powers of observation are so poor that I cannot see the speedo right in front of me, or lift off the throttle pedal.

Wish that they had spent the money on providing a back shelf that does not fall out when anything is placed in, or removed from, the boot!

Like predictive spelling, I do not believe that a computer knows better than I do what is in my mind.

(My wife abandoned one, otherwise excellent, mobile phone because the predictive spelling cannot be disabled )

Next thing, will it refuse to close the doors automatically until my fingers are out of the way?

So much for market research driving what WE want

Howard

Edited By Howard Lewis on 26/03/2021 09:33:30

I'm with you Howard - The criteria for my present car when I bought it 8 years ago were

  1. Does it always start?
  2. Has it a good heater?

In addition it is the first car I have had with Air Con (even if it does not work if kept unused) and Bluetooth and I have grown to like these as well.

But the interesting thing about your comment on doors and fingers is that in the past people WERE trapping themselves in electric windows which did not stop, and not only small children!

 

Edited By Nick Clarke 3 on 26/03/2021 09:39:44

RMA26/03/2021 09:40:07
282 forum posts
4 photos

Very interesting topic Kiwi Bloke and very true!

During the last twenty years or so we have seen a rapid evolution of cars. I can remember my parents old Ford with only one rear light, it took a long time to progress to something better, and about 50 years before heaters became standard! Nowadays electronics move so rapidly it's difficult to keep up with them, but in my opinion, it's all heading towards the driverless car whether we like it or not. The same goes for which method of propulsion we have. The consumer will have very little say in it! The problem is, in a crowded world, something has to change.

I note it didn't take long for the usual BMW quotes to arrive!

Peter G. Shaw26/03/2021 09:43:16
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1309 forum posts
44 photos

No Kiwi Bloke, it's not you. And you are not stupid. Modern vehicles are a right load of nonsense.

I first came across this perhaps 20 years ago when my Austin Montego developed a fault - it would start misfiring with all the attendant jerkiness. That vehicle was user maintainable - just, but thankfully no diagnostics were available. It turned out to be the wiring to the crankshaft sensor that was broken. No vehicle that I owned before then had ever had such a thing fitted.

The next time I came across this was a Ford Focus diesel which developed stuttering under hard acceleration. Local garage couldn't find it, so sent it to a main dealer for a £75 electronic diagnosis, the result being a collapsed fuel filter. I maintain that prior to then, the garage would have found that in time honoured fashion using a bit of logic and thinking.

Mind you, as an aside, that car was arguably the worst car I have ever owned. In 58K miles and starting from 27K I had three sets of tyres, duff fuel filter, new clutch, reconditioned engine, and some sort of exhaust gas analyser (not too sure of that last one). But that's nothing to do with the gist of this thread.

For the last almost 8 years/100K miles I have been running a Toyota Avensis 1.8vvt petrol estate. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, other than normal wear and tear has failed. It achieves overall 38.5mpg as against the 42 & 45 mpg of the two previous diesels. Tyre life is satisfactory at around 30K per set. And it tows our caravan satisfactorily. True it does have some superfluous controls, eg the switch to lock the passengers windows which only works on the one electrically operated window, the other two being manual. What am I going to do in the future, assuming there is a future for caravanners? Haven't a clue. The only suitable Toyota appears to be the RAV4 hybrid. It does make me wonder if I should try and find another petrol Avensis and put it away somewhere.

Despondently yours,

Peter G. Shaw

Howi26/03/2021 09:45:52
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316 forum posts
19 photos

dinasours, your all dinasours.........................devil

Kiwi Bloke26/03/2021 09:51:07
602 forum posts
1 photos

Well, Howi, I wish that were true. The dinosaurs were around for vastly longer than hominids have been - or will be.

Kiwi Bloke26/03/2021 09:55:13
602 forum posts
1 photos

Since we all know that we are better-than-average drivers, who have the market researchers found who appear to want this useless-and-incompetent-driver-support technology?

Mike Hurley26/03/2021 09:58:48
181 forum posts
69 photos

Recently bought a new VW*. Hate to say that it has lots of nice features and the electronics seem well 'balanced'. Yes, having been a car buff, doing my own repairs for years I won't bother to open the bonnet on this one (assuming I could find the catch anyway). It's like everything, change happens, often if you like it or not.

Haynes manuals, loved them - spent many a happy hour with them beside me under the car - they nearly went bust as people stopped doing many detailed repairs. But with those, if you remember the 'wiring diagrams' always were a bit spartan even 20 years ago. Even if you knew what you were doing car electronics back then could be a minefield!

Now for really 'we can do it, so why not? ' technology - saw an advert on the telly last night for Karcher pressure washers - and you can have a phone app to drive it! Why? Totally defeats me that one

Regards

*Other car makes are available

Edited By Mike Hurley on 26/03/2021 09:59:34

Clive Steer26/03/2021 10:01:13
47 forum posts
4 photos

I wonder how long it will be before, as in I Robot, driving a car in "manual" mode becomes a criminal offence. Also would "disconnecting" certain safety features be classed as modifications and invalidate ones insurance. Like many manufacturers now if they can't make much profit from the manufacture they make up for that in making it impossible to get a service without using their service centres.

This is the way Rolex operate now as they control all their watch spares and a service at one of their centres cost £300 upwards. I suppose they figure that if you can afford to by a £3K watch you can afford to pay the service charge and it's all part of buying into the product name.

Clive

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