Still Running


80% of Toyota’s Still on the the Road

That is a very sad sign. The fact that this car dealer, who’s identity I’ll marginally protect, would put up such a sign shows a great deal of defensiveness over the 10 million Toyota’s being recalled. My original vehicle almost 30 years ago was a Toyota and I really liked that car. I drove it into the ground, literally – it split apart on the highway and dragged it’s frame. That was quite the experience. But other than that it was a great car and very repairable. One of the things I don’t like about the modern cars is how much the automakers have made them unserviceable by the user. Same with other things too. Sad.

We were just talking about this sort of thing over dinner the other night. The cars of today are only marginally better than they were 20 years ago. A lot of the problems they’re having with recalling vehicles seems to be related to pushing the envelope of innovation too hard. Instead they should make things that work and then keep using them rather than changing the parts every year. Get in a good rut and stay there.

My tractor on the other hand is estimated to last 40 years. Probably more with care. That I like. Auto makers need to take a lesson.

Outdoors: 53째F/30째F Sunny, Pig Walk up Sugar Mtn
Tiny Cottage: 69째F/63째F

Spark o’ Day: What did the spiritual leader say to the candy man? “First my son, you must have good caramel.” -WJ

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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14 Responses to Still Running

  1. Melissa says:

    75% of all the Harleys ever built are still on the road today.

    … the other 25% actually made it home.

    I know, bad! But I come from a Goldwing home, so we take shots at Harleys whenever we get the chance.

    I understand the "if it 'aint broke, don't fix it" mentality, but our economy is based on innovation. I don't think we can stop, nor should we. Some things invented in the last twenty years are truly useful – antilock brakes and airbags come to mind. But I think you're right that car manufacturers are pushing too much innovation, too fast. It's a difficult balancing act.

    Planned obsolescence just makes me mad, though. Cheap plastic electronics are painful to work with, I think they're soul-crushing. I have a beautiful brushed aluminum computer chassis that will last as long as I can physically get a motherboard inside it – hopefully twenty years or more. And it'll look good the entire time.

  2. Ooo… You're bad with that Harley's joke. That actually went through my mind when I saw the sign above.

    I like innovation. I'm an innovator and inventor. But I want real improvements, not just change for changes sake. The new needs to be better. You hit on one of my favorites with the anti-lock brakes. I hate them. I know how to drive and break far better than anti-lock breaks do, automatic transmissions and the like. Anti-lock breaks are a half-way solution for people who didn't learn how to break properly and they get in the way of those of us who do know how to break. Cars need an off switch for features like that.

    Totally agreed with you on the last point!

  3. Latrille says:

    Airbags sck. The ones on my last two cars turned on their "alert replace air bag light" after just a couple of years. Nothing wrong with them. The auto man just wanted $250 each more. These are just one more way they suck us dry. Seatbelts, when used, are a better solution. People mistakenly think that having an air bag means they don't need to wear their seatbelt but they are wrong. Seat belts are better. I also have a friend whos air bags went off spontaniously and burned her face and hands.

    I think Walts point is they need to do more fine tuning and less big jumps. Get it right.

  4. Melissa says:

    Hm. I'll take your word for it about the anti-lock brakes. I've never found them to be a problem, but I'm also not someone who knows a lot about cars. I like my automatic transmission!

    I'm a bit surprised that you like Mac products, then. They're beautifully designed and built – not soul sucking! – but they give you almost no control over the software. You're pretty much stuck with what Mac wants you to have, and how Mac wants you to use it. They're the epitome of non-user-serviceable, to they point where they've released updates designed to physically break any iPhones that have been hacked. What part of 'I bought it, now I own it and can do what I like with it' don't they understand? Me, I'm an open source lover and working on my Linux nerd creds. Maybe you feel about computers the way I feel about cars, and vice versa. (Also, I secretly want an iPhone. But don't tell anyone.)

  5. Actually, you've got that all backwards about the Macintosh. I'm not surprised as it is a common misconception I've heard. It isn't true. I've been programming on the Mac, Windows, DOS, CPM, Unix and a lot of other systems since the 1970's as well as doing a lot of hardware work. I've developed my own software and there is a tremendous amount of other software, both free and paid commercial packages, for the Mac. As to hardware, I've repaired my own Macs many, many times over those decades – as well as repairing my DOS and Windows machines too. The Mac has the advantage that Apple has done a better job of integrating the hardware and the software. This makes it easier to program for. The elegance of design makes it easier, not harder all around. What I don't like is the failure, on the part of all manufacturers, when to design for repair, service and also end of life. That latter thing is starting to get some attention. This is good.

  6. Millie says:

    I love driving with manual transmission, but I also like power steering. I guess we have to try some innovations to decide if they are good or not. The hard part is admitting that we might not have made things better and going back to the way it used to be.

    I also love my Mac.

  7. David says:

    I have a fondness for enduring artifacts. I use an extensive collection of cast iron cookware, for example, all of which is seemingly eternal. My father's pipe wrenches have never gone unoiled, and I still use camel hair shoe brushes he bought in 1927. Similarly I treasure well made firearms, typicallly lasting generations. That said, innovation and real advances are frothing so fast in the world of computers that I'm reconciled to shifting my electronic footing every so often. Just now I'm in a year+ program to get my Systems Engineer cert (about the time I hit 65) and learning the sheer spread of what has been done in the last thirty years and is still to be encountered in the practice of IT makes me look around to see if I have scutes and a tail.

  8. Aye, that is a key, being able to pick and choose between advances we want and those we don't want. Part of why I don't like the antilock brakes is that it is a mission critical feature (stopping) that I'm giving up control of and it has not been proven to my satisfaction as being safe. I know too much about computers, mechanical systems, software and controllers to trust that its going to work all the time. One failure is one failure too many. Of course, break lines break too so even without antilock breaks there can be failures, they just add one more level of complexity to the system.

    Manual transmission seems to be abandoned by the car companies. This is unfortunate as it is more fuel efficient and simpler to build, maintain and repair. I haven't been able to get a manual in a long time in the vans.

  9. Our 1993 Toyota 4X4 just lost compression on a cylinder. That would be engine number 3 in 7 years. good money after bad. We're pouring over the manuals now deciding if it's work I can do. Surely there is a market for a user sustainable vehicle. Where Function comes before form.

  10. David says:

    Gotta add one here. Have you looked at the late 40s pickups and the modern ones? Not much difference in hauling capacity, but twice the sheet metal, instead of a simple box bed a two layer puff-out that contributes nothing to functionality?

    Additionally, why in H— would you put chrome and shiny, scratchable paint on a vehicle intended for real non-city use? I want to see a pickup with a finish overall like the baked-on bedliner materials, impervious to scratches, and ugly from day one!! Also, like Walter, I want something designed to be serviced in the field by the owner, with no automated systems superseding human judgement. I have a sci-fi start, in which I call that kind of thing "The Enduring Wave."

    I remember one Saturday a few years back, collecting open house signs in a rural southern california town, at about 105 degrees, when the wind blew shut the door on a modern
    Ford F-150 and the automatic door lock, designed for feminine security in the inner city, locked me out in the wind and heat with my woolen suit. I won't drive a vehicle with mechanical judgement imposed over my own. No experience with the anti-lock brakes, but so far haven't been killed by them.

  11. Farmerbob1 says:

    I will never again own a vehicle with electric locks, electric windows, or an automatic transmission. My current vehicle is a 1998 Ford Ranger. I bought it new, I will drive it until it’s dead or the parts get so expensive it becomes ruinous to repair it.

    Still on the original clutch at 250k miles, but the engine had to be replaced at 200k. Ran low on water twice when I was on long trips, and I lost the timing chain while at speed once. Those three things were certainly related to the early death. When the engine was disassembled, the inside of the block where oil moves looked new, because other than what was put in it at the factory, that came out at 500 miles, the truck never got a taste of anything except Mobile-1 full synthetic. Zero viscosity chemical interactions to create sludge. I almost regretted putting the new engine in it when I saw that, but there were time constraints, and replacing the engine was faster than rebuilding it.

    I also saw your Econoline van fuel economy article as well. With regards to fuel economy, you may want to consider this experiment. Put two tanks of super unleaded in the vehicle if the engine is rated to use it. The first just to clean it out and the second start tracking fuel economy. In my truck, over all mileage driven, I get 24-25 mpg on regular unleaded, and 29-30 on super unleaded. That’s a 20% fuel economy increase, and super unleaded usually costs around 10% more here. Nothing goes in the truck but super unleaded now.

    The best part? When I bought it, the truck was rated for only 24 mpg on the highway and 20 in town.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        If you decide to try super unleaded, I’d love to know the results, Walter. I’ve convinced quite a few coworkers to try it over the years. Some reported success and started only using super unleaded. A few didn’t get any meaningful results. The condition of the engine and age of the vehicle seem to matter, based on my admittedly small sample size.

        • Well, we’ll have two vehicles to test with and Holly does very consistent driving which will give good data. We have been recording our data for years on the regular unleaded. Something to look into…

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