Change isn’t always bad
On The Road AgainJune 6, 2012 | 3,681 views | Post a comment
Most people don’t embrace change, at least at first. I can remember when bias-ply tires were the norm, and radials were around, but not very popular. The radials always looked like they were running low on air. They had that saggy sidewall look, and maybe they rode better and were even tougher against punctures with the steel belts, but they had a slushy feel when you drove. Of course, technology made them better, and you can’t find a bias-ply tire now without going to some specialty manufacturer.
The same is true for serpentine fan belts. When those came out, many of us complained that if you lost the belt, you lost everything, since it was all driven by the one belt, as opposed to three or four V-belts. Of course, the V-belts had to be adjusted individually, and tensioners were rare, so each had to be tight enough to avoid slippage, but loose enough not to damage component bearings. Add to this, new V-belts tend to stretch, so about two weeks after new belts were installed, they had to be re-adjusted -- individually of course.
Each component had two or more bolts that had to be loosened, the belt pried tight, and tightened back. It was very unscientific to say the least. Most serpentine belts have one spring-loaded tensioner pulley; just pull past the spring tension and slip the belt on or off in one quick motion. There are no adjustments since the spring does this automatically. It never needs re-adjusting, and the belt is never too loose or too tight. Additionally, most serpentine belts seem to last 100,000 miles or more.
In the early ’90s, R-12 freon-charged A/C units were phased out, replaced by 134-a. Rumor has it that Dupont’s patent on R-12 was about to expire, so all of a sudden R-12 was bad for the environment and had to be replaced. The new stuff, though, is corrosive and still could not be vented into the atmosphere, arguably worse, but who am I to resist change?
At first, it appeared that the new systems weren’t as cold, and there were other problems, but it seems they have all been worked out as well. R-12 charging ports are prehistoric, using Schrader valves similar to that of an inner tube, and disconnecting a charging line from service gauges often shot freon and oil all over the shop. 134-a uses clamp-on valve connections with shut-off valves, better any way you want to look at it. The caps that protect the service ports from dirt will often hold high-pressure freon in, even if the schrader on the connection is leaky.
And finally, there was the carburetor. That nasty mechanically set device that sat atop the engine just waiting to screw up. They got dirty, the float would stick, choke problems, etc. The carb couldn’t adapt to changing environments, such as altitude changes and so on, since it was totally mechanical. Fuel injection was around for quite some time, and as engine computers started to be the norm, and EPA regulations were getting harder to meet. Every manufacturer finally switched over to these systems. Some were crude at first, but even those worked better than a carburetor. Fuel injection is able to adapt to temperature, (ambient and engine temperature) altitude, power demands, even the rotgut ethanol the government is forcing down our throats. Fuel injection can change fuel mixtures instantly by reading information off of sensors and making the appropriate adjustments, and does so constantly.
Most of the above systems work flawlessly and are fairly reliable, certainly more so than their predecessors. Of course, the newest vehicles built today are becoming increasingly complex without a lot of positive gain in my opinion. They are making extended warranties nearly mandatory if you plan on keeping the car long term. But that’s for another column.
Send your vehicle maintenance questions to Jeff Deines. Email nkilbey-smith@wcn-online, putting “OTRA Question” in the subject line.