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[Phys-L] Modern cars and working on them...

From: Marty Weiss <>

There are no radios... no grandfather clocks... no cars which anyone can
take into their garage and work on. These things that we used to find fun
and intriguing to put together and repair do not exist any longer in the
world where everything is run by electronics and chips.

That certainly hasn't been my experience nor the experience of my
students. Modern cars are relatively easy to repair. The only difference
is that a glitchy carburetor has been replaced by a glitchy engine control
computer and injectors. You might be surprised how often a problem still
comes down to bad grounds.

The engine still runs when the correct proportions and timing of gas, air,
and spark are present in the combustion chamber.

Diagnosing and replacing failed components is the same as it ever was,
except that some of your diagnostic equipment is built right into the car.
Brakes still wear out, spark plugs need to be replaced, alternators fail,
batteries degrade. None of this would be foreign to the shadetree
mechanics of the 1960s.

Even performance modifications are common. Pick up any modern car
magazine. On some cars and trucks you can give it a "performance" tune
with a simple plug-in programmer. On others people have developed signal
processors to get around 'closed source' engine control systems. Other
people have developed complete stand-alone hobbyist engine control systems
(google Megasquirt).

Sure, many people just drive car appliances until they stop, but many MANY
people enjoy automotive work on modern cars, and many others maintain,
restore, and drive the older analog vehicles.