Hi Wrenchtech. Actually I like bashing any company that does not have the best interests of the customer in mind. Chrysler has had a huge list of "firsts" going back to 1960 with the AC generator, (they copyrighted the term "alternator", but they don't whine and snivel when other manufacturers use it), electronic voltage regulator, electronic ignition, lockup torque converter, computer-controlled ignition and carburetor, (admittedly not their best work), domestic front-wheel-drive, peppy 54mpg Horizon Miser, minivan, (was supposed to be a Ford product but their fearless leader laughed at the idea), air bags, and anti-lock brakes copied from fighter aircraft. Every one of those things had a direct benefit for the owner and other manufacturers copied them a minimum of two years later.
Ever wonder why all cars look the same and have the same features and layout? It's because the current crop of engineers and designers can't come up with new ideas on their own. After years of building minivans, Chrysler couldn't think of putting left sliding doors on until Honda did it first. Now it's almost a necessity. It's critically important now that sliding doors and lift gates be motorized because we just can't be bothered to pull a stupid handle. We never had postings in these forums about doors not closing properly until we added a computer and motors to the system.
What has Chrysler given us today? Plans on dropping one of the most successful vehicles ever that helped pull them from the brink of bankruptcy, the minivan. No more paper service manuals. Everything is on computer and the internet. Stand in line, wait your turn, find what you need, tear the monitor off the wall and haul it to the car you're working on. Or you can "save paper" by printing what you need, using it, throwing it away, and printing it again next time. Of course we're told to save the printouts for future use, like you're going to be able to find them again. Wait a minute, they used to do that;... It's called a "book"!
What has GM given us lately? The Chevy Citation to hurry up and copy the Omni / Horizon. You could steer the car with the gas pedal, (I had one). Computers that have to have software installed over an internet connection to be programmed to the specific car. Hyundai allows anyone, including owners, to do that for free. Toyota and Chrysler allow anyone to do that for a small fee. Only GM ties that all up so only the dealer can do it, at a ridiculous cost, except for three computers as mandated by the government because they have an affect on emissions. How does blocking independent shops from working on their cars benefit the owner?
It is a well-known fact that salespeople at all GM dealerships are extremely high-pressure and are very good at squeezing the last dollar out of their customers, but I really sat up and took notice of their deceivious, (yeah, I know that's not a word), business practices in the mid 80s with their 100 percent failure rate on rack and pinion assemblies. They knew the problem was caused by grooves worn in the soft aluminum housing but their less costly repair was to install a new spool valve with new seals to get the car out of the 50,000 mile warranty. When the problem returned, it was up to the owner to pay for the proper repair, a new rack and pinion assembly and alignment. And the dealer-supplied rack had the same problem. It took the aftermarket rebuilders to develop a proper solution with a stainless steel liner. Way to take care of your customers, GM.
Anyone with a GM radio problem knows the frustration of having to go through the dealer to get it repaired since they dropped their hundreds of small service centers to two grossly over-priced centers. To lock up all the repair work for themselves, they stopped allowing us to buy radio service manuals or parts. The average cost to have an older cassette radio repaired is $450.00. Now, to prevent people from buying high-quality aftermarket radios, they designed in the Body Computer into the radio so it has to remain in the car and you must have it repaired. In the mid to late '90s, they had a 100 percent failure rate on their cd mechanisms. I'm sure they've improved them since then. Used computers from a salvage yard either won't work or must be programmed to the car by the dealer. For the most part these are computers that should never have been put in the car to begin with. We never needed a computer to select a heater mode or temperature. We never needed a computer to turn interior lights off after ten seconds. We never needed a computer to run a windshield wiper motor, power door locks, instrument cluster gauges, head lights, etc. But we have no choice now. These things are designed in on all new cars and we've been duped into thinking they're a good thing.
To listen to the advertising, you would think cars are more reliable today than ever before, but just read through these forums to see the problems people are having. It might be true that you see fewer cars sitting on the side of the road, but that doesn't mean the driver isn't roasting and his passenger is freezing because the dual-zone heater is acting up. What fool would ever have though the buying public could be convinced to spend extra money on toys and gimmicks like that?
GM still insists on using their archaic daytime headlamp system. I could build that into my Caravan, (if I was too lazy to pull the switch), with a ten-dollar relay that turns on the headlights AND the tail lights whenever the engine is running. GM does that with a computer to pulse the high beams at 80 percent of normal brightness. Shining high beam head lights into people's rear view mirrors is safer than full-brightness low beams? Of course not. And if turning the headlights on automatically for owners too stupid to do that in foggy or other appropriate conditions, why is it NOT just as important to also turn on the tail lights? Could it be the engineers didn't think of that?
There's no denying fit and finish is better on all cars worldwide than decades ago but that has nothing to do with the costs of repair today. We never used to need extended warranties, which are just service contracts, because common repairs didn't take up such a huge chunk of our paychecks. We could still build a clean, fuel efficient car with nothing more than an Engine Computer and fuel injection. If ANY manufacturer would offer that, I would consider trading in my '88 Grand Caravan, but until that day comes, I'm warm in my miserable Wisconsin winter, I have never once been stuck in snow where I couldn't get out by myself, (can't say that about my "redesigned" '95 model), the non-computer-controlled transmission is original and regularly pulls a tandem axle enclosed trailer that's bigger than the van, and I don't even need the trailer brakes to stop quickly. The power windows, locks, mirrors, and seat all work and without any computer involved. The last two repairs involved a used ignition coil and a nine dollar alternator brush assembly and an hour of leisurely labor. What could I possibly gain by buying a new vehicle of any brand?
Believe me, I am no longer a fan of Chrysler products. All of the things they have done that do not benefit their customers have been copied from GM and Ford. Trading "up" to newer doesn't mean better.
Sorry I didn't post the anti-theft system relearn procedure. I'm not familiar with it enough to know which cars that applies to. It's nice that the owner has a way to get the car going again, but explain the value of that system to them when they're late for work and their car won't start. Chrysler has a variety of anti-theft systems that I also stay away from. All of these systems from every manufacturer cause problems for owners. If any manufacturer could design and build a system that was guaranteed to let the car be driven by the owner with the correct key, I'd have no complaint. The problem is every time we add another computer or another toy, we know the owners are going to have more problems and complaints. But with slick advertising and smooth-talking salespeople, most people can be convinced new cars are a good value.
I've been noticing recently that a lot of cars have a push button starter switch. Don't you find it odd that someone at every manufacturer thought of that toy at the same time? Every manufacturer has high-intensity-discharge head lights which are a severe safety hazard to other drivers, but the fine folks at NHTSA are too stupid to recognize that. Those lights belong on poles in parking lots. Go stand under one and stare at it for a while.
Computers wouldn't even be so bad if we could eliminate or bypass them if we wanted to. Look at the type of vehicle a single mother is driving. All she wants is basic transportation to get to work or school to make a better life for her and her kid. She's driving a fifteen-year-old car. That means she might have a '96 Caravan; you know the one. It's the one with a computer-controlled heater system that loses its mind when the battery is disconnected or run dead. To reprogram it, which can be exceedingly frustrating when everything is working correctly, the AC system must be working. Do you think someone living paycheck to paycheck cares about air conditioning? Not in Wisconsin. But if it doesn't get fixed, the heater controls can't be calibrated to stop the lights from flashing. Besides the ugliness of the body and the strut towers that rust out way too quickly, that heater system and the very troublesome Body Computer are the reasons I will never own one of those piles.
The car designers are a lot like politicians. They've had an awfully long time to get it right but instead of solving problems, they create more. I've had a bunch of students who think it's normal to have $600.00 to $800.00 repair bills on their Grand Ams every six months. When I tell them I grew up with cars that had transmissions that lasted the life of the car, they don't believe me. Sure we have engines today that can go for more than 400,000 miles, but to insure we have problems along the way, we have interference engines now. Boy how we laughed the first time we heard of that stupidity on a LeCar. You can be sure I'll never get suckered into buying a car with that type of engine, but the average owner has no easy way of knowing which cars that applies to.
We have the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair near me every summer and one of the big attractions has to do with home-built electric cars. To get what these owners want, they have to build them themselves, often at a cost similar to buying a factory-built hybrid. But they don't want the factory stuff. They recognize that the Prius is one of the most expensive cars to own. And every one of those hobbyists will tell you about the silly electronics their cars don't need. Prius owners spend thousands of extra dollars to buy the car, then think they're saving the planet by buying a few hundred dollars less worth of gas.
I also live 55 miles from the nation's second largest old car show at Iola, WI. Annual attendance regularly tops 155,000 and almost without exception, everyone I talk with in my swap space hates the electronics on their cars. If the people designing and marketing new cars are so smart, why are they overlooking the wishes of so many people? You can't say people want this junk because they're buying it when there aren't any alternatives. Oh, wait. There is an alternative. I can keep on spending less than 50 bucks a year to keep my '88 model on the road.
Sorry for getting so long-winded again, but manufacturers need to know we're on to their customer-unfriendly business practices, their miserable choice of products, and that they're overlooking what a lot of people want. If someone will build what I want, and allow me to buy a used Engine Computer from a salvage yard without the silly need to program it to my car, I'll buy it.
Sunday, February 5th, 2012 AT 11:34 PM