Reason Number Four Bazillion And Three Why I Hate Computer Controlled Cars

There is a reason my internet handle is Bustednuckles.
I have been a mechanic in one form or another for over thirty fucking years now.

I have worked on so many different kinds of machinery, cars, trucks, boats, equipment and Heavy trucks that I couldn’t list them all.
I got to thinking about it one day and about the only things I haven’t worked on are aircraft and submarines, seriously.

I even went back to school at 29 and got an Associates Degree in Applied Science for Automotive Technology with honors to learn how to work on computerized modern cars.
I then worked at a Lincoln/Mercury dealership for ten years.

I can say with some certainty that I absolutely detest newer cars.
They are absolutely fucking miserable COCKSUCKERS to diagnose and work on.

Today I got reminded why I quit working on the motherfuckers.

My sister in law has a 2005 Volkswagon Jetta with all the bells and whistles.

Six months ago the timing chains broke while she was trying to start it. Long story short, after days of hassling with the decision of what to do about it, she had a dealer find a used engine to put in the fucking thing.
The repair estimate was the same amount as a used engine plus removal and installation.

Volkswagon had a problem with that engine wearing out the chain tensioner prematurely and instead of coming out with a fix, they started putting different engines in them so the people with those certain model years were good and fucked.

A quick internet search on the subject will result in myriad horror stories of the $3500-$5,000 dollar repair bills and part time mechanics begging for technical help on how to replace them.

So two days ago the Sister In Law calls my wife, crying about this fucking car acting up again and showing symptoms of the same type as last time.

This is the same poor woman who just racked up $4,000 in vet bills for an old fucking cat she had that she wound up having put down anyway and who is not only still making payments on the engine swap but now has thirty grand in student loans to start paying off.

You can of course see what is coming here.

My wife started in on me to go look at the damn thing.

I have been working my homesick ass off lately and on my ONE DAY OFF, the last fucking thing I want to do is drive fifty fucking miles to go look at a car that I probably won’t have the slightest idea of how to fix if it is broken, nor the time to anyway.

So, being the nice fucking guy I am, after working until two o’clock this fucking morning, I head over there.

First, I told the wife that I didn’t have a code scanner and needed one because her check engine light is on and I need to know why.
These things aren’t cheap.

To my ever living amazement, she told me to get one!

Luckily, Harbor Freight is right on the way and just happened to have several in stock.

I ain’t stupid, I called first.
So I swing by and pick up one of these babies;


For the uninformed, not all code scanners are created equal and those cheap fuckers you see aren’t worth spit.

This one however, has the shit ya want.
Not only will it scan the cars memory and tell you what codes are stored, it will actually let you monitor the input sensors to the computer in semi real time so you can see what the engines computer is looking at.

You can do this while driving down the road.
It will also let you capture the screen when you see an anomaly in the data and clear the codes to turn the light off.

I have been wanting one of these fuckers for years but always told myself that I couldn’t justify the cost/benefit ratio because I don’t work on these motherfuckers for a living anymore.

So, I get over there with the scanner and a stethescope to listen and see if the timing chain is rubbing on the case.

After checking a bunch of stuff out, I hook it up and tell her to start it.

It starts kind of rough and the check engine comes on right away.
Beep beep, boop boop, bingo, the computer has detected a missfire on cylinder #1.

Who the fuck knows why, it ain’t sayin’.

Could be lots of things.

I clear the code and have her start it again.

Runs like a top.

Come to find out, this replacement engine only has about twenty thousand miles on it so the odds of the timing chain assembly being fucked up are pretty slim.

I tried and tried to get that fucking thing to act up again but I will be damned if it would even sputter once.

Drove it around while watching the data parameters and everything is optimal.

Are you fucking kidding me?

One fucking time, the engine misfires for some God only knows reason, the Check Engine light comes on and and she panics, I get to spend two hundred fucking dollars on a scanner, drive fifty fucking miles on my day off and all I had to do was plug it in and clear the code.

That’s it.

NOW, do you understand why I fucking HATE computerized cars?

She thought she was going to have to have it towed to the dealer again and the engine was shot and on and fucking on and extra bonus fucking DRAMA, because the computer saw a glitch in the data stream from a fucking input sensor and OMG, ARMAGEDDON!

This is why I personally only own and drive cars that do not have this unnecessary fucking horseshit and can not, for the life of me, understand why any sane individual would buy a fucking automobile that has the computational capability to basically drive its self like they have these days.

Do you know that a POS 1990 Ford Escort had more computer technology in it than the Lunar Landing Module did?
True fact.

The shit they have out now is truly frightening to an “automotive technician”.

It ought to scare the living shit out of you as a consumer.

People wonder why it costs so much to get their fucking car repaired.
The average mechanic these days has enough technical training as a medical practitioner and has to buy many thousands of dollars of tools to keep up with the pace of technology and the ever changing fastener technology.

I want to leave you with something to think about here.
On one hand, consider all the whiz bang technology they have stuffed into the modern automobile just for the sole purpose of increasing fuel mileage.
Forget all the other electronic add ons, just fuel mileage.

Now consider this.

The Ford Model T was first produced in 1908 and had an estimated fuel economy of between 16 and 21 miles per gallon and would run on gasoline, kerosene or ethanol.

That was a hundred and five years ago.

The newest car I own is a 1983 GMC Caballero.caballero

GMC’s version of the El Camino.
It is in very good condition, has a 3.8 liter V6 with less than 125,000 original miles on it and got an estimate 19-21 miles per gallon when brand new. The only thing electronic on that motherfucker is the ignition.

My 1964 Sprite gets over twenty miles per gallon and there ain’t a fucking thing electronic on that little bastard.

You people just keep on buying newest and bestest computerized shit.
When it breaks down,

33 thoughts on “Reason Number Four Bazillion And Three Why I Hate Computer Controlled Cars

  1. That’s why I drive a ’82 Benz, 350,000 miles, I have only invested less than 600 bucks in repairs for the last 8 years, gets 28mpg and doesn’t need a battery to keep running (only to start it) which makes it perfect for alien invasions (except every illegal alien I meet tries to buy it from me). Momma told me that there I’d nothing worse than a man who can’t work on his own car.

  2. This is not a computer problem, so why is a “door check” on a 2000 Malibu going to cost me $350? The door will not stay open, so I struggle to get out. When I have L knee meniscus surgery or L rotator cuff surgery, this is going to be a major problem! This is not even a mechanical moving part. okay, maybe it is. It is not a new or fancy car!

    1. If the door check is actually part of the door hinge assembly then it is a time consuming job because you have to realign the door when you are done swapping them out.
      If the hinges aren’t lined up you can either put a crease in the front fender, (been there, done that) or you can have wind and water leaks and possibly the door will not want to latch properly.

      Door hinges alone can be a giant pain in the ass to change to begin with.

      The redneck in me would find a small chunk of 4X4 that fit in between the door and the front door jam when the door was open.
      Put a small eye hook in one end and tie a piece of heavy string to it.
      Then you can pull it out easily.

      Just a thought.

  3. I’ve a very good local mechanic who I go to. Not only is all the special equipment keeping him broke, a high percentage of his replacement parts are faulty right out of the box. Sure, the company replaces them, but sometimes is something that takes half the day to change.

    It was hard to give up my 1982 240D benz with 500,000 miles on it, but the body had rusted out beyond all hope of reasonably priced repair. The mechaniclal vacuum pump was going, so I just spiced in a VW cruise control electric vacuum pump and it worked great. Ran 400,000 of those miles on veggie. My lovely wife loved that car.

    My 2001 Ford ES 350 is fun to drive and runs on veggie, but sucks hairy donkey balls to work on.

  4. My 76 motor home has a 440 with electronic ignition…really want to change that over to points.
    Try to find a distributor for that in Floriduh ! Hell a ten year old car is a rare beast here…

  5. I agree – computers are lousy diagnostics. I got a ‘Check Engine’ light that the code reader sez BAD KNOCK SENSOR. Semi inexpensive part but waaay the hell inside engine – major labor cost just to replace it. Luckily, old Auto Zone employee tells me to disconnect battery and reset system – if it comes back on, THEN check it out.

    You know the punchline – the light never came back on. That was 3 years ago. Damnable computers . . .

  6. My 2012 Jeep Wrangler has not one, not two, not three, but FIVE computers in it, all talking to each other via something called a “CAM BUS”. The clock on the radio is losing around 5 minutes per month. I checked out the Alldata and Chiseler has a TSB on it, that requires replacing *two* of those computers and re-programming both of my door keyfobs. To fix a fucking clock. WTF? BTW, I have a much better solution: Throw that POS OEM radio in the trash and put one that works well in there. Though it’s still more expensive than having Chiseler replace computers under warranty, but I get a radio that works well then (the OEM Chiseler radios suck, every single one of them, even the “top of the line” variants).

    That said, I marvel at the wonders that these computers can manage. For example, this thing’s got something called a “hill holder”. If I’m stopped on a steep hill with the brake on, it holds the brakes to keep me from going backwards until I hit the accelerator pedal to go forward. It also has something called “hill descent control” for offroading that will combine brake and engine to keep you at a consistent speed going down slippery downhill sections, listening to that ABS pump whining away and hearing my wheels crunching in the scree works much better than my old Jeep that didn’t have that computer stuff where ya had to remove the seat cushion from my puckered rear with a pair of scissors afterwards from doin’ all that slippin’ and slidin’ downhill. So yah, computers can suck, but they can also work pretty darn well, when properly programmed. So it goes.

    1. Tux, clear back in 99 when I quit working at the Lincoln dealer, Ford had ELEVEN computers on a Lincoln Continental that all talked back and forth to each other through a pair of twisted wires. It actually only used the one wire, the other was for redundancy. The wire was gold plated and it was called MultiPlexing.
      You could hook up a diagnostic computer to the thing looking for a problem with the fucking windshield wiper system and the damn ABS module could throw a code on the transmission!

      They had just come out with automatic wipers to go with automatic climate control, memory seats,mirrors, stereo and electric powered memory steering column position which could all be prepositioned for two different drivers.
      This on top of ABS, traction control, electronic ride and height control,power windows, power door locks,programmable transmission ,electronic power assist steering ,electronic engine control and a hydraulic cooling fan controlled by the climate control module and an eleven CD changer mounted in the fucking trunk.
      I almost forgot the low tire pressure sensors in the wheels.

      That was before they started putting in”entertainment” systems with DVD players and TV screens, thank God.

      Fuck that noise.
      The main wire harness had 144 wires in it clear back then.
      God only knows what are in them now.
      In this day with all the electrical shit in these cars it is realistically possible to do an insurance total just for damage to the wiring and components of a ten year old car.


  7. My first car, 1964 Chevy II 2 door hard top, hot rodded a little 305, 4 on the floor, shagged ass and got 20 MPG. IN TOWN.

    1. If you had to look it up what it was then you deserve to pay lots and lots to have one changed out. After all a heart is only a slab of meat that you could buy for under twenty bucks…why then should one of those cost so much to change out in a human lol

    2. Read a little more closely my physics master.
      You have to pull the front of the fucking car off.
      Bumper, radiator, A/C condensor, cross member and core support to pull the engine AND the fucking transmission and THEN tear into the motherfucker to get at it.
      It ain’t just one single chain either.
      Special tools are called for, you have to be able to lock both camshafts into the proper alignment and then and only then, can you actually proceed to start pulling the motherfucker apart.
      Lowball estimates are $3500.
      That is what a good , low mile used engine goes for.

      That is also twice what I paid for my GMC El Camino.

  8. As a former shade tree mechanic who, when young and poor, repaired my per-computer cars myself or I walked. Later (and more affluent) years brought company cars that were traded every three years before they started taking expensive shits. If I am lucky enough to live so long, my next new car will have at least a 10 year bumper to bumper warranty. Raising the engine cover on a newer car is a frightening experience to old farts like me . . .they are a sea of hoses and electrical wiring that completely obscure then engine. Thank God for skilled mechanics such as yourself and for all the help you have given me over the years..

  9. I bought the $49.95 OBDII from Harbor Freight (aka The Cheap Chinese Tool Company) on spec, thus ensuring I will never need it. 🙂

    Late model (’01 and up) Chrysler products have a simple way of getting codes. Turn the ignition key on and off twice, do it a third time and leave it on. The “check engine” light will blink if there are any codes. Count the blinks. If everything is OK it will blink 5 times, pause, and blink 5 more, just as an example. You can find the code sequences online. I had a ’91 Ramcharger (which I loved!) that would throw one code for a part the damn thing didn’t even have.

    Right now I’m working on one of the biggest challenges I have faced in forty years as a motorcycle mechanic. My veterinarian left her kids’ go-kart outside for God knows how long, literally rode hard and put away wet. 3hp Briggs & Stratton. If she’da taken it to a shop at $100 per hour, she’da saved money just by buying a new one. Water in the oil, water and rust in the gas, rust plugging up the carb, there was even rust inside an ALUMINUM engine. The carb fuel pump cover was broken too, nothing JB Weld couldn’t fix. I pulled the carb/tank which exposed the valve inspection cover. Figured I’d better check valve clearance while it was easy. No valve clearance, as in zip, zilch, bupkis. Pulled the head and valves. No one grinds valves any more so I did it VERY CAREFULLY on my bench grinder. Came out OK but that much lack of clearance indicates a very worn engine. I feel like I’m giving an old race horse a shot of go one last time, hopefully the thing’ll make it to the finish line before it drops dead. In return for this, the vet is going to show me how to clean out my dogs’ anal glands. There are some things money cannot buy

    1. I just read your comment Gord.
      That is a lot of wasted energy I am afraid to say.
      Harbor Freight has a Briggs clone on sale for $99 all day long, brand new.
      The horizontal shaft one.

      I remembered the Dodge procedure as soon as I saw you start explaining it. There is no reason the other builders couldn’t do that, none.
      I do see giving it a shot trying to get that thing running again as a challenge and having the vet show you that “procedure” will be a real money saver in the long run.

      1. I don’t believe in throwing things away that can be salvaged. Once I wiped and wire-brushed the rust off the piston and valve area, the engine was remarkably clean inside. No carbon buildup at all, like the head had been off not too long ago. I learned a lot about its odd little fuel system too whilst cleaning the rust out of the carb. Working on it is kinda fun because I DON’T HAVE TO! I’m hoping my wife will learn the doggie procedure better than I do. Heh.

  10. You are singing my tune with this rant for sure! The icing on the cake is how the state requires an annual inspection as a prerequisite for renewing the registration, and a check engine light is an automatic FAIL for the inspection. Every year I have to deal with a nonsense error code for leaky evap system.

    I marvel any time I look under the hood of something built before the mid 70s. There’s so much….room….under there! You could just about stand up inside the engine compartment.

  11. computerized cars are going to fill our junkyards so quickly and especially over the stupidest shit. BMW is one company that has had a CONTINUING string of computer problems with every model of car they’ve produced in the past 10 years. All coming down to really stupid things such as an anti-theft computer failure causing the entire ignition system to be locked out essentially bricking the car.

    Well ive been driving a 2000 jeep cherokee, that does in fact rely on a computer controlled fuel injectors/ignition system, but haven’t had any computer problems to date. So clearly not all computer systems are born equal. Some are much more simpler and robust. But for this reason alone I will never consider buying a new car filled with buttons and switches and fancy features up the ass, knowing that i might only get a decade of use before the computer bricks the vehicle requiring a very expensive replacement.

    And I thought 90s-early 2000s cars were designed to be disposable, this shit takes the word to a whole new definition.

  12. I cannot stand the fact that I am intelligent,fun,and hard working…..but…I am being held back in the job market because I am computer illiterate. Really I cannot ell you what an operating system is….what a hard drive is….the difference between hardware or software. I can barely use a fuckin’ cell phone. At my job….I am a class a truck driver…I am now required to use a computer just to ask for time off ( vacation….sick time etc; ) I haven’t taken time off in the last 2 years and have lost my vacation time because I cannot use the computer to do it. I am only 50 years old…..I want to just have a heart attack by morning….I don’t have the balls to kill myself to end this miserable situation called progress which is obviously inescapable by people like me. C’mon natural causes.

  13. I find it hilarious that I can easily group mechanics into 2 groups. Those with “it” and those against. Your computer does MUCH more than give a mile or two extra from a couple liters of petrol, case in point my 85 5.7l v8 chevy g20 van makes 130ish horsepower. My 01 escape makes 200 from a 3l v6 and my 5.4 l v8 excursion makes circa 300 hp. Computer diagnostics make diagnosing and fixing electrical and sensor problems extremely easy, some people are just geared towards shunning anything new because they have a fundamental lack of understanding extremely simple operating principals. These are NOT the kinds of people you want touching your car. That “scantool” you show is a piece of garbage. I HAD one and threw it away because it is useless for a real garage. What you need is a shop tool. Ie an autel maxidas at the very least. They will let you get into every system on these cars that gives us every benifit of modern tech like air conditioning or automatic spark advance. They will set you back a pretty penny though. Almost 1000$ . So basically you’re out the service cost of a half days operation of bisnuess to get a tool that will tell you exactly 9 out of 10 times exactly what is wrong woth the vehicle. As a locksmith though the expenses ive incurred are much greater. I have the ford ngs, the dodge dart tester, the gm tech 2 and whatever thst pos Mitsubishi uses. Still I think I bought all 3 for something like 2000$ and they all returned that investment within a week and I was able to write off the complete expense off the top od my taxes netting 0$ in losses deom being properly equipped.
    One can only imagine the insurmountable challenges you had to face when you went from 4 sided bolts to six sixed bolts. I bet that nearly put you out of business.

    1. Really.
      I have an Associates degree in Applied Science for Automotive technology and worked at a Lincoln/Mercury dealer for ten years.
      I was around when they first came out with Multi Plexing and did a shit load of electrical/electronics diag.

      Four sided bolts my ass.
      I’m glad you are making money at it and thanks for stopping by but you can have all of that electronic shit.
      When the fucker breaks down on the side of the road I hope you have that spendy high tech scanner in your trunk.
      It will give you something to do while you wait for the tow truck because you aren’t going to fix a damn thing with it.

  14. Ok am I the only one that sees this person uses too many F bombs and doesn’t Wright intelligently. Not to mention yes computers have problems but they make the world better and we continue to improve them to make life better. So if your mad you had to learn about new technology or buy new equipment join every other major industry in the world they all have to adapt to keep up but they don’t complain because in the long run its better for them.

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