Car technology - Any real advances? - Spanner
Having read postings on this site and many other car related sites I have come to the conclusion that since the first car rolled out over 100 years ago, there hasn't been any real advances in automotive technology since 1887.
Okay, so the 'modern' car has become infinately more complex and produces lower emissions, are safer to drive etc but when you read about all the expensive faults and failures, recall notices and outright design flaws etc you have to ask the question have we really advanced that far?

In my view, technology advancement should make products cheaper, simpler and more reliable - yet the opposite seems to be true. A modern car needs the diagnostic computing power of NASA or the brains of Stephen Hawking when it goes wrong yet garages and main dealers still mis-diagnose, replace major components 'in the hope' that a problem can be fixed or simply 'don't know'
The internal combustion engine hasn't fundamentally changed in over 100 years and in real world conditions, even average fuel consumption figures are only marginally improved over cars from a mere 20 - 30 years ago.
Car manufacturers are in danger of disappearing up their own tail pipes as they collectively pat each other on the backs as they comment on how complex they can make the next new model...
Before I go, I would just like to say that I do NOT hate cars - quite opposite in fact. I am a 37 year old petrol head but am just frustrated at the lack of 'real progress' in car design.

Any comments on this thread greatfully received.
Car technology - Any real advances? - SteVee
one example of a real advance is computer assisted braking.
The ability of an ABS / Brake Assist system to stop a car from high speed, on the straight or in a bend is astonishing.
On an early car with mechanical/cable brakes, these would need adjusting perhaps every 250 miles. The modern brake system just needs pads/disks and perhaps the occasional check.
Secondary Safety has also increased markedly.
I would also argue that modern engines/transmissions have moved on a great deal - especially for the non-petrol head, whi no longer has to worry about chokes - or even advance/retard on early cars.

Maybe different techniques are required now - like how to test a sensor as opposed to decoking a cylinder head.
Car technology - Any real advances? - Xileno {P}
"In my view, technology advancement should make products cheaper, simpler and more reliable - yet the opposite seems to be true."

Cars in real terms are cheaper than they used to be. When you add into that equation that, for example, a 2006 Focus is a massively better car than a 1996 Escort, then the price/quality issue is really quite staggering.

I think if anyone were to spend 10 mins driving a mass market car from the 1970's they would rapidly come to the conclusion that modern cars are hugely better to drive and are of course much safer and pleasant.

I expect there are a lot of people on this forum who have never heard of a king pin or grease nipple, never heard a grinding back axle or what a decoke is.

No, modern cars rule.
Car technology - Any real advances? - Number_Cruncher
>>I have come to the conclusion...

Sorry, but I think your conclusion is false.

If cars were as unreliable as they were only 30 years ago, the garage trade would be bursting at the seams. In reality, serious engine, gearbox, and diff failures have never been rarer.

Yes, there are teething troubles with some of the newer technology, common rail diesels spring to mind, but, this will be ironed out in time.

There are, ans always have been, garages, workshops and individual mechanics who couldn't diagnose or recognise their own hand in front of their face - the computer aspect of modern diagnosis just gives these types something else to hide behind.

In most cases now, diagnosis is much more structured and logical than it ever has been. Yes, this means that mechanics do need to be more skilled, but as a customer, you (on average) pay for much less of their time than ever before in the history of motoring.

While there are more recalls, this is an advance - a serious one. Mistakes have been made in the design, manufacture and assembly of cars since the first ones were built. Fair play to the ones who then go on to do something to put their mistakes right IMO.

Electronics, for all their complexity, are incredibly reliable. The number of ECUs replaced is vastly larger then the number which have actually failed. The low tech wiring and connections are much more likely to fail, but, poor mechanics find it easier to swap the ECU, and get the car off their ramp, so they can be doing some more lucrative servicing.

I do agree that a lot of gadgets on cars are excessive, but that's as much a function of marketing, and public demand as it is a measure of advancement.

You are right to say that the IC engine is fundamentally unchanged - it still draws air in, mixes it with fuel, burns it, and expells the scorching products. There, the similarity ends. White metal bearings, oil scoops on the big ends instead of pumped lubrication, sidevalves and thermo-syphon cooling anyone?

While gains in fuel efficiency have slowed during the last 30 years, for the last 13 of them, exhaust emissions have been significantly cleaner. Whether this cleanliness is a price worth paying is another debate though.

If there truly has been no worthwhile advance, I assume therefore that your daily driver is a Model T Ford?, or a Bullnose Morris?

Car technology - Any real advances? - Ian G
Mechanically there have been massive leaps: no more crank handles and de-coking etc, (although this could be down to fuel improvements too)

I think computerisation of the decision making has been quite startling, especially looknig at the newest Mercedes with automatic braking.

But yes the 4 wheels, 4 seats, roof and an internal combustion engine somewhere still remains unbeaten in the "best mode of personal transport" stakes.

I suppose hybrid cars could argue that they offer something "different".

Car technology - Any real advances? - Red Baron
It really repends at what level you aim the arguement!

Aeroplanes advanced from propeller to jet engine. Cars have not done this.

Perhaps fuel cell technology would present just such a step advance.

The biggest single advance in cars has been due to the invention of the PCB in the 1930s. I would imagine that all cars built since the 1980s would not work without electronics.
Car technology - Any real advances? - mgbv8
Which of todays showroom cars will still be "capable" of being used as a daily driver in 30 years time?

Just reading about electronic ignition failure and owner going back to points.

The Citroen DS is still ahead of its time!
Car technology - Any real advances? - Xileno {P}
Why is that a measure of progress? Why would I want to drive my 2004 car in 30 years time? I would want a 2036 model.

Agree with the Citroen DS being ahead of its time though.
Car technology - Any real advances? - Spanner
Most garages I know of are bursting at the seams. There are very few garages that are struggling to get work. Even main dealers have waiting lists for repair work and because the car industry run on 'Just In Time' delivery lead out times usually means spare parts have to be ordered in. Just look at the number of postings detailing cars that have been layed up in a dealers workshop waiting for parts to turn up.

If cars were more reliable than those of years past then this forum and others would be virtually empty of postings (apart from general info and enquiries)

A friend of mine owns a Freelander 2.5 V6 petrol. It has a full service history and is low mileage yet it remains sitting in the dealers workshop for the last 4 weeks awaiting an engine strip down/inspection due to overheating. Admittedly this amounts to a tiny percentage perhaps of all cars on the road yet its a cold comfort for someone who has spent hard earned money on a new car that should be reliable.

The adage Keep It Simple doesn't apply to car technology.

By the way, I don't run an old classic.
I have owned and worked on cars ranging from Daimler Double Six V12, Mercedes 350 SE V8, TVR 350i wedge (a great car in the dry)

I had the misfortune to once own a Vauxhall Vectra which despite its service history and condition suffered no end of problems.

The most reliable car I have owned is my current hack- a 1992 Peugeot 309 diesel with 164,000 miles. It is used as my daily drive to Stansted from Cambridge - averages not less than 50 mpg and I know that if it goes wrong I don't need the resources of NASA to fix it. It passes its emissions test every MOT test and costs two-thirds of s*d all to run...
That's progess and technology as it should be...
Car technology - Any real advances? - DP
I do sometimes wonder how much of the technology and design of modern cars is to bring about a tangible benefit, and how much of it is designed to make the lives of independent garages and DIY people as difficult as possible.

I have been on the receiving end of a dealer's inability to fix a persistent fuel system fault (with a Peugeot 306), as have several people I know. In one case, my sister in law was told by her Vauxhall dealership that the only way to sort her intermittently misfiring and "dying" Corsa was to change parts at her expense to "see if it made any difference". Of course this is more a dealership training/recruitment issue than a car issue, but it's still irritating.

I have two real whinges where modern cars are concerned. The first is the weight of the things. Each new model is heavier than its predecessor to the extent that the latest generation of "small" cars like the Clio tip the scales at more than an entry level Sierra or Cavalier of 15 years ago. This sits rather awkwardly alongside claims of increased environmental responsibility and efficiency. Heavy cars use more fuel, put more wear and tear on the roads, and give suspension and tyres a harder time than light ones. This relentless expansion of weight has all but wiped out any efficiency gains from more accurate fuelling and engine control.

My second whinge is that most new cars don't involve the driver in any way. You sit cocooned, operating controls that are power assisted almost to the point of self operation, and give no real feel of the mechanical parts they are connected to. Engine management and stability programmes can override your inputs if it thinks they're inappropriate, and as Clarkson once put it beautifully "Everything you ask the car to do has to go through some kind of electronic committee." In a family runabout or a motorway cruiser it's great, but in a performance car, it's much more of an issue. I personally think the current crop of hot hatches, for all their power and performance are actually pretty pants. The modern family hatch is now too bloated and "safe" to form the basis of anything truly entertaining in my opinion.

Plus points for me are modern diesels which are generally fab (if sometimes not the most reliable), and the fact that you are more likely than ever to walk away from a shunt. Trouble is I can't help thinking how much the latter has contributed to some of the appalling driving we see every day on the roads. I am as guilty of it sometimes as anyone else.

Car technology - Any real advances? - Spanner
Great to read your comments DP.
With reference to increasing car weights, when the new VW Polo was launched, it was actually heavier than the Mark 2 Golf which is a larger car!
I was looking through some old car brochures and noted average consumption figures. I realise the figures were not real world results - yet studying the latest car official MPG figures, then there has not been any real improvements in fuel consumption.

As per my post, my old Pug 309 diesel is only used for long trips. It has all the complexity of a pencil yet almost matches the latest generation diesel fuel consumption figures. However, I realise that it isn't as 'safe' as the latest NCAP 5 star models but as most accidents are caused by driver error then all the latest safety systems such as ABS are worth squat if the person behind the wheel isn't concentrating. It seems driving abilities have yet to catch up with improvements in car performance.
It's a shame that car technology doesn't utilise more aircraft methods of component design and material use. Compared to reliability of aircraft, the 'perceived reliability' of cars isn't even in the same ballpark!
I am not anti car I just hate the overtly complex and fragile electronics used in modern car construction and the built in obsolescence that the car industry is designing into their products.

Car technology - Any real advances? - Number_Cruncher
>>Most garages I know of are bursting at the seams.

Yes, there's lots of servicing to be done as lots of cars are doing lots of miles in our commuter age. The number of engines being stripped down represents a tiny proportion of work done by most garages. You'll find some mechanics coming out of their apprenticeships now who have only had the cylinder heads off a handful of engines; most of them, old ones at college.

>>then this forum and others would be virtually empty ...

It is virtually empty. If you consider the traffic that this site gets, and the fact that people would definitely post if they had a serious problem, the number of really serious faults that come up are minuscule. You really have to be unlucky, or to pick a particularly naff car, to be severely stung.

Once you strip out the threads which are like;

- how do I get the last drip or molecule of oil out of my car during an oil change?
- I have just filled my TDi with unleaded what should I do? {sentence edited to remove potentially offending comment - DD}
- my zippo has run out of petrol, should I use Shell or Esso?
- my garden gate squeaks, should I use Mobil 1 or semi-
- my headlamp bulb has failed, what should I do?
- my mechanic greeted me with a mask, cape, and a pair of flintlocks when I picked my car up, do you think I got good value?
- which brand of car air freshener do you use?
- would you put michelin or dunlop on your wheelbarrow?


... there are surprisingly few really serious problems.

Nowadays, it is the unusual engine which doesn't do 100,000 miles without needing to be stripped down, that's progress in my book.

>>A friend of mine owns a Freelander 2.5 V6 petrol...

Poor fellow!

Yes, you are right that if you have a major fault then you suffer, but that has always been the case, and probably will remain the case into the future - unless, there is a complete shift in the way we pay for our motoring. Power by the hour?

Car technology - Any real advances? - Altea Ego
Re cost. In real terms the price of a car has Fallen off a cliff in the last 50 years. My first second hand car cost me 15 weeks wages.

Reliablility wise, I know of no car 50 years ago that could do 150,000 miles with out at least a couple of complete engine rebuilds. Every weekend *something* (albeit just greasing nipples) had to be done every weekend (and that if you covered a huge total of 5000 miles a year.)

To think that car technology has not moved on? please! you obviously have a short memory.
TourVanMan TM < Ex RF >
Car technology - Any real advances? - Spanner
I never said car technology hasn't moved on I merely suggested that perceived or actual reliability hasn't increased in proportion with latest techological improvements, however I am not too proud to admit that I may have been a little hasty in certain areas.

It just proves what a great society we live in where we all have the freedom to post our comments and observations.

Respect to the forum. Long may it continue...


Car technology - Any real advances? - Spanner
Decades ago, if your car hit 100,000 miles you wrote to the sunday papers. I agree, 100K miles is nothing to a properly maintained car. Just look at the mileages on most mini cabs!

Yes, the Freelander is not my mates favourite car now but it is an example of how despite this age of computer aided design and construction, the manufacturers can get it so wrong.

I've certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons with my original posting. How about we all come up with the most reliable cars we have owned/driven etc?

Car technology - Any real advances? - Number_Cruncher
I can't imagine many people who would pay the premium required for aerospace levels of mandatory testing, traceability, code based analysis, controlled, inspected, assembly and documentation for car parts. Does anyone have any guesses how much more a car built to aerospace standards would cost?
I've certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons with my original

Yes! But a good provocative question IMO!

Car technology - Any real advances? - Red Baron
It is prohibitive and will not happen, ever!

An EEC for a Trent engine, for example, has a commercial value of half a million pounds. BUT it is engineered to last 30 years. They would last longer if it were not for environmental legislation or obsolescence.

How many people out there would be prepared to drive around in 30-year old cars?
Car technology - Any real advances? - Altea Ego
If it had as much thrust as a Trent? ooowww Quite some time I think.
TourVanMan TM < Ex RF >
Car technology - Any real advances? - madf
I used to own a 1929 Rilye, a 1946 Rover, a 1963 Mini, a 1971 Austin 1100, a 1980s BMW and a 1990s BMW and now a 2003 Yaris (plus lots of cars in between).

Cars today are built - imo - to aircraft standards of say 50 years ago..

ANy decent well designed and built modern car is in real (inflation adjusted ) prices at least half the equivalent price of 15 years ago

Is MUCH better built.
Will travel 100K miles with minimal servicing
and has a performance and fuel economy undreamt of 20 years ago.

My 1930s car maintenance manual (a curiosity!, never used) suggested grinding in valves after 10,000 miles, greasing every 1,000 miles, etc etc.

To suggest a 1960s Mini when new would do 100,000 miles on the original engine gearbox drivetrain and suspension would be laughable at the time.

Today if its equivalent: a basic Ford Fiesta or Aygo will happily achieve that..

Rust? What's that today? 20 years ago, cars rusted in front of your eyes.

50 mpg and 0-60mpg under 12 seconds? Impossible 20 years ago.

Car technology - Any real advances? - DP
50 mpg and 0-60mpg under 12 seconds? Impossible 20 years ago.

Still impossible with petrol power though.

The big advance really has been on the diesel side in the past 10 years. A good new generation diesel engine is really the only thing about a modern car that actually makes me go "wow!"

Recent trips in a BMW 330d and an Alfa 156 2.4 JTD 20v literally blew me away. Big dollops of oh-so-useable grunt, both feel effortlessly fast, both crack 60 in under 8 (the Beemer under 7 according to some figures) and both sound glorious. The noise the Alfa makes under hard acceleration is glorious - just a lovely deep chested five pot growl. I want one. Badly.
Car technology - Any real advances? - Big John
I have owned a couple of cars in the past that could exceed 50 mpg on a run, a 1961 Moggie Minor 948cc and a 1976 Datsun 100A, BUT....

0-60 - measured in days
Rust - The 100A caught a rapid and fatal version of rust measels.
Car technology - Any real advances? - Big John
I have some friends who own a 1923 Morris Bullnose that is designed to run on unleaded petrol (er leaded petrol wasn't invented). The manual did say that you had to regrind the valves every 1000 miles though!
Car technology - Any real advances? - robcars
I think 1 important point has been omitted from all the previous comments.

New cars are designed with a life expectancy on them; which the government and others are steadily trying to bring down.

Thats why all the electrics and silly other issues crop up; they are designed to last that life; no more. obviously some fail before this time.

personally I think they are over complicated with electronics and stuff inviting more problems, but once you get your head round the limited age of a car then it sort of makes sense.

(Goes right against the green issue of making things last and using less resources etc.)
Car technology - Any real advances? - madf
"Thats why all the electrics and silly other issues crop up"

They tend not to on well designed and built cars: eg Japanese. And their home market ensures cars last at best 5-7 years before they are scrapped iirc.

Just because the French , GM and other manufacturers can't design and /or build reliable electrics does not mean all cars are the same.

And we could have had the same argument 20 years ago with virtually the same comments.. all these complex ABS systems and power steering . Air conditioning? Too complex.. French cars are unreliable..etc.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose..


Ask Honest John

Value my car