Why New Cars are a Rip-off to Repair


Rev up your engines,
today I’m going to answer joey’s question, how many computers do modern cars actually
have inside them, modern cars have more and more microprocessors in them because of computerized
designs and manufacturing processes, now the average car these days can have at least 50
different microprocessors inside the car, while a tesla model s has 62 microprocessors
and a mercedes s class I guess it’s something with s, has over 100 different microprocessors
on one single car, now of course when I was a young mechanic they had no microprocessors,
the first ones were the early 1970’s when they went to electronic ignition, then they
had ignition control modules, and so you had electronic computer controlled ignition on
the car, back in those days everybody called them the black boxes, and if something went
wrong with a car the mechanics would say, oh maybe it’s something wrong with the black
box we don’t know how to check that out, I remember one of my father’s customers at the
gas station when I was a young mechanic had a ford and it had the new electronic ignition,
and the thing would die every once in a while and they’d take it to the dealer and it wouldn’t
die and they said, oh we don’t know what’s wrong with it you’re just going to have to
leave it here for whatever amount of time it takes for us to figure out what’s breaking
down, they were starting to have problems with the little black box the little ignition
control module that was breaking down, so I told my father, let’s just get one of those
and put it in, and yes back in those days it was just an educated guess on my part,
but yeah it fixed the car and it never stopped dying and the customer was really happy,
but you can’t just guess on a modern car, let’s say you got 50 of these different things,
how are you going to know which one of the 50 is breaking down you know, odds are only
1 in 50 that you’re going to guess right on that one, that’s where mechanic like myself
have to have all these fancy computers to analyse all those fancy computers to see what’s
going down when some of these computer modules start to break down, so you might well ask,
why are they putting all these computers on cars, well one of the reasons is because they
can and of course they can charge a small fortune fixing them because hardly anybody
is going to be able fix it even at the dealer they have problems with it, but a lot of it
has to do with ease of production, it costs them less money to make them because in the
old days if you had one main processor and it ran everything in the car, that processor
had to have a wire going to every single thing that it was operating, and with the abundance
of electronic stuff on our modern cars that would be an electronics nightmare, there would
be wires going everywhere, miles and miles of wires, so instead they put in small processors,
so they can independently operate things and all these processors can act independently
when they need to, they can get information from a main processors yes, but since there’s
so many of them in different areas, things can react faster like safety devices, antilock
brakes, traction control, all that stuff, because their based on what’s called computer
bus line, you have instead of billions of wires, you have a main bus line that a lot
of information goes back and forth on, just like say in an area like I am that has fiber
optic cable going to the house, you got different movies streaming, phones lines, computers,
everything running on one line, the can run at various different speeds and frequencies
so they don’t get messed up with each other, but of course this leads to one super big
problem if your car is wrecked or flooded, you got all these microprocessors all over
the place, if one of them shorts out, then when I plug my fancy scan tool in to see what’s
wrong, a lot of times it will do no communication, it will say no communication with bus, and
that doesn’t mean that you’re not talking to the bus going down the street, it means
that the system has shut down it’s information sharing and you got to figure out what shut
it down, let’s say you got a mercedes s class and there’s over 100 of these microprocessors,
you got to figure out which one of them is shorting the thing out, and it can be crazy
trying to figure that out, if you have a simpler car that only has 50 different microprocessors,
that’s still a lot of searching to figure out what’s wrong with the car, now years ago
it wasn’t as bad, let’s say a car had 5 microprocessors on it, well all you’d have to do was unplug
them one at a time, and if you got to the bad one when you unplugged it, then all of
the sudden your machine wouldn’t say, no communication, it would start communicating, and you’d know
that there was a problem in that system that you just unplugged, but when there’s 50 of
them or more in the car, good luck on that strategy, cuz some of these sensors their
inside the gas tank and the only was you can get to them is by dropping the gas tank, what
are you gonna do take the whole car apart and then unplug things one at a time, it gets
complicated in a modern car, and this had led to probably the biggest problem in car
repair today, there is a real lack of qualified technicians to work on modern cars, because
sadly but truly, many places are paying the mechanics less and less so that the owners
make more profit, their getting a lower quality of mechanics, cuz hey why should somebody
go to school for 2 or 3 years, buy thousands of dollars worth of tools, to make a job that
doesn’t really pay all that much, and as the cars get more and more complex, you need better
and better mechanics, not guys that are like, oh well that’s a crappy job maybe I’ll try
it for a while and try something else, and I read in a lot of these mechanic trade mags,
oh we need to train the mechanic better and this and that, but really they never get to
the root problem, if you’re not going to pay them enough, you’re not going to be able to
get people in to do all that hard work if their not going to be rewarded, because if
you keep making cars more and more complicated, yet don’t reward the mechanic who have to
figure that stuff out, your going to have a real problem where cars are going to break
and nobody is going to be able to fix them in mass, I personally see that all the time,
I have customers that will bring me a car and they’ll say, oh scotty I’m having this
problem and I’ll say, hey look your car is under warranty take it into the dealer and
get it fixed free, and they say, you know I took it into the dealer 5 times and they
never fixed the thing, I don’t care I’ll pay you to fix it, so really that’s not a good
system, they want to make them more complex their going to have to start paying the mechanics
who fix them more, or their going to have a bunch of cars that never get fixed right,
because let’s face it, cars are a major investment, it’s not like your buying a cell phone and
then if it break after a year or two you say oh heck, you throw it away and buy another
one, you really don’t want to do that with your car, now yes there’s a lot of stuff you
can do with your car as it ages, entertainment system when it breaks down, you can just use
your phone and get one of those little portable speaker systems that sound great and use that
for your music system, if a power window breaks in the back and you don’t really need to use
it you can just stop using it, but when it comes to the actual running of the car, all
those microprocessors have to work perfectly or you can’t drive the car, because you have
to realize in a modern car, you turn the key, you think the ignition switch it taking battery
power and then sending it to the starter, you got another thing coming, they don’t work
that way anymore, when you turn the key in most modern cars, it’s not 12 volts from the
battery, it will be a 5 volt reference signal a lot of times, then that goes to various
microprocessors, and they check to make sure everything is as it’s suppose to be, then
the computer decides, ok now we’re going to send electricity, and it sends 5 volts out
to a relay, then the relay bumps that up to 12 volts which goes to the starter to engage
on the engine and turn the engine over, and sure it’s cool that you can have a remote
that if you live up north you can point it out the window and start the car up so it
warms up in the driveway for you so you don’t have to go outside, but there’s a price to
be paid for all these microprocessors, and of course that’s, when they do break down
they can be a monster to repair, now you have to realize at least in the US these things
are here to stay, because the only way modern cars can get the gas mileage that they get,
have the power that they have, is through using all these computers to control everything,
electronic power steering, electronic ac system in cars, electronically activated automatic
transmissions, they all require these microprocessors in order to work correctly, so of course now
cars are just loaded with these things, which is one big reason that you never ever want
to drive a modern car through any type of flood water, it rains a lot here in Houston
if you watch the news, I’ve had many customers do that and even though the car drove through
the water and survived and they were driving it around, sometimes weeks, sometimes months,
sometimes even a year or two later, the electronics will go totally haywire, because most of these
microprocessors, their working on a tiny 5 volt reference signal not that much power,
and only milli amps of power, thousands of an amp of power, so any little corrosion that
gets built up from water getting in and starting to corrode the connectors, so somehow getting
past the seals and getting into the electronics will eventually destroy them, and then figuring
out what went wrong can be almost impossible, I mean if a car was wrecked that’s the first
thing I ask the customer, has your car even been wrecked if they have a weird problem,
they’ll say yeah the right front was crushed in, so then I start checking all the wiring
and microprocessors that are on the right front end of the car, but if it was flooded
who knows where to start checking it then, modern cars can have from 50 to over 100 different
microprocessors in them, your driving a mobile computer, well multiple computers when you’re
going down the road in any modern car, and since this is the Thursday segment where I
answer a viewers question, place your own question on the YouTube comments below and
I’ll pick the best ones to make a single video to answer your questions, and where else can
you find a guy with 50 years of experience of fixing cars to answer your own question
with a video, so if you never want to miss another one of my new car repair videos, remember
to ring that bell!

About the Author: Michael Flood

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