Sunday, October 23, 2011

There yet?

There was a 'not back' series that kept confirming that we were still looking at the idiocies of the finance world while letting engineers do their thing, such as deliver the 787. Of course, we know that there are engineering marvels all around and coming about every day.


This marvel of finance exploiting computing is not what it appears to be. In fact, the reality stinks; we'll somehow have to constrain the thing with regulations and moral imperatives. We don't have to count the ways these things can go wrong, as the stench as drifted even up to the heavens.


So, we're start another discourse that is more amenable to discussion and test. The automobile's expected life-cycle, for short. Ignoring, for now, issues of planning for obsolescence and other optimization schemes that increase the profit while reducing the utility and issues related to drive-by-wire (et al), let's just look at one vehicle.


Taken by an old digital camera.
Now, the make and model will be ignored, for now, to protect the not so guilty. The thing is of 2004 vintage and has 163K miles on it without any major breakdowns. Its companion, a little older, has over 149K miles on it.

The drift of the post ought to be apparent now. Yes, why ought we not think that a purchase of a new vehicle is a transaction that allows us to get something that will work for as many years as we want it to? Who can tell us what the life expectancy might be?


Insurance companies do this for people. They even put their money up front on betting that they can do the modelling correctly (however, things like the dead peasant must really throw them a curve ball -- who would think that bankers would stoop this low?).


Here are a few particulars, to support the query about how far this thing can go:
  • -- The miles have been mostly road miles (up to 80+ is common, where it can be driven like that legally and safely); the mechanic says that the brakes are just over 1/4 worn.
  • -- For driving habits, all starts are gradual; there is almost nil quick breaking (if it's necessary, it's usually due to some unexpected move by another car); for disclosure, usually the car has out-raced others in seeing who gets to the top of the mountain first (yet, the tach seldom goes above 2500).
  • -- It's on its 3rd set of tires. Judicious care about rotation, pressure care, etc. allowed maximal use to within 5/32nds of wear. Since I got a nail in the tire early, I used the spare for a pair. So, then the issue was managing the change over of pairs. A recent change of all four tires now has offered 10/32nds to play with.
  • -- Oil changes were kept, for the most part, around 3000 miles. The air filter was changed, at least, yearly but sooner if dirty (you would be amazed at how eight hours driving in rain on an Interstate can trash the filter). Since manufacturers claim that the oil monitoring is a great system, I've giving this a try (but, the mechanics say that they've had to fix many cars that pushed too far without an oil change).
  • -- The first major preventive work was changing the transmission fluid around 100K miles. This unit is one of the workhorses in mostly continual use.
  • -- The plugs were not changed until 134K miles. They didn't look too badly. A performance change, though, could be seen in acceleration and mileage.
  • -- The belt wasn't changed until 154K miles. It had no cracking. There was some stretching in certain load conditions.
  • -- Problems: the instrument panel went (could not see speed, drove awhile with a stop watch and eyeballing mileage markers - that only worked out in the country) and took $.5K for fixing. A sensor went but hasn't been changed (it's been out for two years, another story that will be written) since it only applies to startup conditions.
  • -- Oh yes, the windshield. It has about 20 dings, one starting to crack slightly. Insurance will change that; already has done this once. Needless to say, the wipers have been changed (but, they're kept clean).
  • -- Light bulbs have been pretty good. One headlamp and one taillight, so far.
  • -- Body work, interior -- only one ding that happened in a parking lot with a cart (intentional?); of course, trying to remove bug juice can be an issue; the interior doesn't have any real problems after 7 years. The thing still looks good when cleaned and shined up a little (never have added wax -- mostly hand washing).
  • -- Warranty work: there was one little recall item early on. Did not buy the extended warranty this time with the thought that I would self-ensure. Turns out that I saved the money. The manufacturer (or its representative) is still trying to get me to buy this type of insurance at 163K miles.
  • ...

There may be more to add to the list. Right now, we can ask two questions. Can this vehicle go to 200K miles without any major work? If so, what about 300K? One mechanic told me that he had just done the first brake job on a pickup with over 300K miles on it.


Now, as we know, the answer would depend upon several things which we'll get into. One thing is that all of the subsystems have some life expectancy. What are those? Where do you go to find these?

You see, people ask these questions all the time. No one seems to want to answer. Why? I can go to the web and find expected life of household items. Why not for auto systems?

I can tell you a lot about tires. The major worry there, for me, was tread and handling since I'm doing year around driving (only got stuck once in the snow -- the better tread was on the front tires at the time -- the thought, at the time, was safety over traction). The casing can have a very long life (hence, re-rubbering as we see with trucks) if cared for properly.


If there are places where this data is available, I, and others, would sure like to know. If it is there, how do we make it more than anecdotal?


03/27/2015 -- Almost 210K. See photo from Nov. 2014 (see some disclosures).

10/12/2014 -- Over 200K. This story is apropos: F250, 1M miles, 4 years.

06/24/2014 -- Over 198K. Wrote a review at Kelley's Blue Book. Also, updating the Talk page on Wikipedia. Latest incident was an actuator arm freezing (A/C system) after a battery failure. -- General question: With all of the recalls of late, are we seeing engineering cutting too many corners? Too, some of these were due to software issues; are they just hacking away? Where is the software engineering discipline?

04/25/2013 -- Over 180K, several weeks ago. Had the transmission serviced, again. It looked good. The first time was about 100K miles as this is one of the work horses. A recent failure was the water pump going out. But, with that fixed, the Rainier runs smoothly and quietly. On a business trip, I rented a new Buick and almost got hooked on all of the newer features that one finds nowadays. But, I'll be thorough in checking out all options before buying new. In the meantime, a couple of road trips are planned with the Rainier.

Taken by by phone camera but
modified to grey scale. 
09/17/2012 -- Approaching 180K. In the past year, replaced one failed sensor used to determine fuel mixture at start-up temperatures. Put on a new set of tires. Of late, getting queries about selling. Evidently, this year of Buick Rainier has built a reputation for reliability. 

Modified: 03/27/2015

No comments: