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Old 22nd January 2017, 23:41   #1
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Default Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

The new generation of cars and also the authorised service centres and garages where these are repaired, are truly made for each other. The cars are hi-tech with less repairable but more replacable spares. The diagnosis is done with a laptop using compatible software and spares are replaced in most cases. The owner hands over the car and goes back. Or many a time, with the prevalent pick-up and drop facility, the car is picked up from his or her residence and dropped back home after repairs.

This is in contrast to the olden days of old generation cars. The owner reached the garage or the authorised service centre and in many cases spent time with his car. He (or she) many a time discussed about the necessary repairs being carried out at the garage and grasped details about the part/s being repaired, the replacements needed and the owner would be present during the diagnosis in most cases. The diagnosis by the mechanic was purely based on his experience and he would sometimes use a few tools to diagnose. The car owner was better informed about the several components of his or her car. No doubt, we had many who feigned ignorance even then, but the cars and the garages made them compulsorily learn a few tid-bits. Everyone had some spare time and the mad rush of today was missing.

Today the scenario is different. Except for a few really interested persons (we teambhpians are better always in this regard) most of the first time car (or even second or more time) owners are not aware of what components make up his or her car. The person drives a Maruti Swift VXi and when shown its air filter is unable to say as to what it is and whether it fits his Swift ?

Hence, we are now into a generation of more and more car illiterate owners who know the bare minimum, but are owning and driving the car.

Last edited by anjan_c2007 : 22nd January 2017 at 23:43.
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Old 23rd January 2017, 00:30   #2
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Default re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

I wholeheartedly agree with all the points you made, but there is a reason to this.

With cars getting more and more electronic, with sensors and error codes and fault logging, diagnosis is becoming easier for the mechanic.

Also, parts are no longer repaired anymore. They are replaced. So the general mechanical skill level has gone down both in owner and mechanic.
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Old 23rd January 2017, 00:39   #3
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Default re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

A little off topic, but I was thinking about something similar as I was on my home after picking up my car from the service station.

New cars are deliberately over engineered so that more parts can possibly go wrong.

Also, buying and owning any higher end vehicle today is a commitment with the dealership. The car can only be worked on by company specific workshops due to the unique proprietary parts/sensors of each brand. You are tied in to routinely paying fixed amounts for even a basic service for as long as you own the vehicle.

Owners usually don't know what parts go into their engine bays. My BMW 5 series doesn't even come with a conventional dipstick, I have to make do with a graphic display of the oil level on the iDrive screen. And what when that oil level sensor thing fails? One extra part I have to pay to replace, only so I can be inconvenienced all over again for no apparent gain.
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Old 23rd January 2017, 05:34   #4
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Default re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

Quote:
Originally Posted by anjan_c2007 View Post
Hence, we are now into a generation of more and more car illiterate owners who know the bare minimum, but are owning and driving the car.
Absolutely. And you have a new crop of "Service Advisors" at OEM authorised workshops, who for most of the time cannot differentiate an onion from a pinion.
Diagnosis and root cause elimination, to prevent fault repetition, is dead. Service advisors do not think anymore or try to logically deduce the cause of a fault.
It's true, that in today's vehicle's - with ever increasing electronic / electrical content there is less scope of "tinkering" but then it doesn't harm anyone to indulge in a little bit of "trouble shooting" via the gray cells instead of the laptop!
Most newbie owners are least bothered - as long as their vehicle is moving its all hunky-dory for them. I know of people who do not know the location of the jack in their vehicle and gets all fluffed up if they have to replace a flat tyre.
I guess people like you and me are dinosaurs, in this age of gigabytes and whizkids.

We still get a kick out of cleaning, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, meticulously the "botol carb" of the Amby and "setting" its jets!
We still like to crack our fingernails and bruise our knuckles under the bonnet of any new or old car we may happen to own - and why not ? Its my baby right?

So that next time i take it for its health check - up, (read OEM workshop), Papa will be there to make sure The Bad Guys don't hurt you

Touche
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Old 23rd January 2017, 06:52   #5
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Default re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

There are two sides to this argument.

Thirty years ago the car ownership in the country was very low, there was no internet (no team bhp)/barely one auto magazine and so the numbers of enthusiasts were few in number by that corollary. However even then there were people who were enthusiasts; my father being one who virtually stripped down his petrol CJ-3B and put it together on a weekend (though he did not possess any mechanical background but had a Master’s degree in Genetics). I remember our driver taking out the spark plugs every 3 months rub them with a sand paper and wash them with petrol, make minor adjustments to carburettor, distributor, and top up the radiator thrice a week etc. I remember driving to Kaza along with my dad thirty years ago and the jeep’s radiator would need to cooled down every half an hour because it was being driven in 1st gear continuously and the cooling system obviously was not able to cope up.

That was the nature of the beast back then and so people had to be involved in their vehicles’ upkeep so as not to be stranded on a back road in the middle of nowhere at an unearthly hour.

Contrast this with the scenario today; you can pick up your car keys and drive from Bangalore to Delhi without batting an eyelid and without any preparations whatsoever (no that I recommend it). Vehicles have come a long way in terms of their reliability.

Frequent maintenance work other than engine oil/filter (oil/air) change that is required in today’s vehicles is virtually nothing.

I open the owner’s manual of my wife’s Hyundai Santa Fe and other than oil/filter changes at every 6,000 km there is nothing the car requires till 60,000 kms which is when the transfer case/differential fluid coolant is required to be changed for the first time. The coolant is required to be changed at 96,000 kms. The first spark plus change is at 160,000 kms.

When was the last time that you checked the coolant level in your radiator; probably six months ago, right?

I would agree largely with the fact that quite a lot of the parts are not repairable in today’s cars and that has contributed to owner’s becoming less involved because they don’t need to as compared to let’s say owners of yore.

For majority of the car owning population cars is a means of transportation from point A to B; no more no less and therefore their involvement in their car’s maintenance is also proportionate. As long as the car fulfills that function the owners don’t want to be bothered.

And then there are the petrol heads like us who love to tinker with our cars/jeeps, who will read the owner’s manual cover to cover and stick to the maintenance schedules religiously. Who will look at our cars serviced longingly from the across the glass in the waiting lounge and go in to the workshop (provided it is allowed; strictly forbidden out here in the west on account of liability laws) to direct/advise the technician.

As the flow of information has increased and automotive knowledge/accessibility has not remained the realm of the high and mighty, the interest in everything automotive has percolated down to masses and percentage of people who are interested in their cars as a percentage of total car owing population has definitely gone up though in absolute terms the number of the car “illiterate” people may be very large.

Both these species will be around for quite some time till eventually the hybrid/electric cars take over and maintenance (at least the way we understand it currently) becomes a thing of the past. So enjoy it while you can………
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Old 23rd January 2017, 10:23   #6
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Default re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

There is one more factor to this. Most of the authorized service centers do not allow the owners to accompany their cars in the workshop floor. All you can probably do is, sit in a waiting room/lounge and see your car being worked on at best without knowing what the guy is doing. So that too is another deterrent for people from knowing these things.

No matter how reliable, if I am getting a chance to see the things being worked on in my car, I wouldn't bat an eyelid before going.
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Old 23rd January 2017, 10:59   #7
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Default re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

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Originally Posted by centaur View Post
...Most of the authorized service centers do not allow the owners to accompany their cars in the workshop floor. All you can probably do is, sit in a waiting room/lounge ....
Exactly. Most service centers have a notice board saying, customers not allowed on shop floor.

Sireesh Bommanahalli (Mahindra service center, BLR), had a customer lounge with a big transparent glass on the first floor so that you can keep an eye on your car, but it was positioned so badly that you can hardly see much. And the glass was very dirty.

These days, building a good rapport with the service advisor or the chief mechanic seems to be the only way to get anywhere close to your car, while it is being worked upon.

On second thoughts, with the shutter happy crowd around, a lot of pics from inside the service center can end up in the social media which isn't something desirable, especially if it is something that can paint a negative image.
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Old 23rd January 2017, 12:06   #8
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Default re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

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Originally Posted by Spinnerr View Post
On second thoughts, with the shutter happy crowd around, a lot of pics from inside the service center can end up in the social media which isn't something desirable, especially if it is something that can paint a negative image.
This risk can be easily mitigated by having people submit their camera phones before they get onto the floor. Anyway, in places where you can view your car from a distance through a glass plane, you can videotape/take pics as well.

On the contrary, if they actually have good practices at the shop floor, that will add to customer confidence and a general good will
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Old 23rd January 2017, 13:04   #9
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Default re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

Most regular customers aren't interested in their cars (as long as it works), technicians aren't interested either (beyond meeting their allotted numbers for the day), and the less said about Service Advisors, the better.

It's a win-win for everyone. The customer gets doorstep pickup/delivery, the technician doesn't have to interact with a pesky customer wanting to know what's being done and the SA gets to call you post-delivery asking for a 10/10 rating. The dealership meanwhile rakes in the dosh which most customers probably don't even notice in the bill except deducing/perpetuating 'heavy on maintenance costs' myths.

All good until something actually goes wrong, and nobody has an iota of an idea where to start looking, forget how to fix. Consequent part replacements follow the above cycle again, ad infinitum.
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Old 23rd January 2017, 14:24   #10
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Default re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

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Originally Posted by Mtv View Post
New cars are deliberately over engineered so that more parts can possibly go wrong.
That's quite a statement you made there, and not something I would agree to. I believe the intent behind the engineering is right and I am sure the motive is not to fraud the end customer (but we need to leave dieselgate out of this)

My point of view is as follows
The cars are over engineered to
1. Make them more reliable
2. Confirm to the long list of standards/regulations/etc that they need to comply with
3. Rely less on human interface for diagnosis of what is wrong.

Thinking about it, I feel it is quite logical, since labor today is not what it used to be and on top of that, there are even more cars running on road.

If there is an issue in my car, the first thing to check would be the diagnosis that the computer throws up. If it doesn't show anything, then the next logical step would be to rely on human diagnosis. Personally, I would prefer it this way.
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Old 23rd January 2017, 16:30   #11
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Default re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

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Originally Posted by vinit.merchant View Post
.......

The cars are over engineered to
1. Make them more reliable
2. Confirm to the long list of standards/regulations/etc that they need to comply with
3. Rely less on human interface for diagnosis of what is wrong........
The 'added reliability' bit is almost factually incorrect because a machine with more parts will always have a higher statistical probability of something going wrong, irrespective of part quality. Hand-wound windows vs. power windows for an example. Cable Vs. electronic throttle for another. Technology does have a part to play in overall reliability improvements at part level, because parts are built to much finer and consistent tolerances than a generation or two ago.

Over-engineering at the machine level has got more to do with convenience and your points 2 & 3, regulations necessitating technology that isn't practical (or feasible) to implement by non-electrical means. While electronics-assisted diagnostics help to a great extent, they don't eliminate the requirement of a trained mind to correctly interpret data. An error code may point to a specific component, but the apparent symptom still requires someone to deduce whether the root cause lies elsewhere. Our 'Technical Stuff' section has plenty of examples.

End of the day, electronic diagnostics is a fantastic tool, but it can be dangerous in the hands of someone totally reliant on it and feels no need to investigate deeper, which unfortunately is most A.S.S. technicians today.

Last edited by Chetan_Rao : 23rd January 2017 at 16:38.
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Old 24th January 2017, 10:11   #12
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Default Re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

Good discussion. And it's all the more relevant to the Indian space where - till only 20 years back - we had dinosaurs like the Padmini & Ambassador still on sale.

99% of the car owners out there want a ride that takes them from point a -> b reliably. They couldn't care less about what's under the hood. From that perspective, things couldn't be any better.

- Cars today are super reliable

- They have longer service intervals (10,000 - 15,000 km is the norm)

- Warranty periods are getting longer & longer. Everyone offers 5 year extended warranties now, with Honda & Toyota going up to 7 years. Considering that a new car is kept by its 1st owner for 4 - 5 years, that means he never has to worry about repair bills. Now, because he doesn't have to worry about repairs, what does he care about the technicalities? Zilch.

- The internet has been the greatest leveller. Not only does it keep customers better informed, but it also offers platforms to complain if a dealership fleeces you. What options did you have in 1995?

- A greater level of transparency. Even rogue brands like Skoda now publish their maintenance costs publicly on their website!

I'd rather spend time behind the wheel than at the workshop. And today's cars allow you to spend more time on the road .

Last edited by GTO : 24th January 2017 at 10:13.
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Old 24th January 2017, 10:58   #13
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Default Re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chetan_Rao View Post

It's a win-win for everyone. The customer gets doorstep pickup/delivery, the technician doesn't have to interact with a pesky customer wanting to know what's being done and the SA gets to call you post-delivery asking for a 10/10 rating. The dealership meanwhile rakes in the dosh which most customers probably don't even notice in the bill except deducing/perpetuating 'heavy on maintenance costs' myths.
Exactly the way to summarize the situation. In the end, we have people ranting about service costs. In the current generation of cars, we have more sophistication and gadgetry. These things might come to repair in the coming 5-10 years. Thats when hell will break lose in the market. The era of bare bones car is getting over. Now even roadside mechanics will have to deal with features like ABS, Airbags which are more or less becoming standard. No more ACs and 2 Din audio systems, welcome Climate control and Integrated audio. Now, if something goes wrong with these things, it will either be an expensive replacement, or a really talented technician to fix.

Even authorised service centers are mostly good in part replacement. Come to repairs, and they all walk away or goof up. It will end up in ignorant customers getting ripped off their money, or petrolheads turning out to be mechanics to fix their own cars, after learning from the internet or forums like these
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Old 24th January 2017, 11:11   #14
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Default Re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

I agree that with new modern cars, increased reliability and durability have made owners think less about maintenance. At the same time, average ownership ranges from 5-7 years, and most of the cars do not demand any serious maintenance during this period.

Along with new car owners, pre-worshipped car owners number is also increasing, and I am sure that with pre-worshipped car, owners are bound to think / research seriously about their ride and related maintenance. I have seen that generally owners with pre-worshipped cars history have better understanding of cars then brand new car owners. Detailed knowledge and understanding about your car, it’s internals, and repair / replacement / maintenance does help to make better calculated decisions when it comes to non-regular maintenance & repairs. Lack of knowledge also brings fear factor which force owners to sell out their niche cars just due to small niggles. Few days ago, I was at HASS reception and overheard a service adviser explaining regular service job list to an owner over phone. He sold 3M AC disinfection service to his almost brand new car saying that Indian city don’t come up with cabin filter hene it’s very much essential. Easy 1000/- bucks earned.
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Old 24th January 2017, 11:13   #15
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Default Re: Modern cars & their owner's knowledge / ignorance about maintenance

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
99% of the car owners out there want a ride that takes them from point a -> b reliably. They couldn't care less about what's under the hood. From that perspective, things couldn't be any better.

- Cars today are super reliable

- Considering that a new car is kept by its 1st owner for 4 - 5 years, that means he never has to worry about repair bills. Now, because he doesn't have to worry about repairs, what does he care about the technicalities? Zilch.

- The internet has been the greatest leveller. It keep customers better informed

- A greater level of transparency. Even rogue brands like Skoda now publish their maintenance costs publicly on their website!
1983-1998 The transition from the old ubiquitous Ambys and Padminis to the Marutis and Hyundais saw a spurt in reliability indices.

1998-2013 The next transition to MPFI engines and Toyotas pushed that up even further

However , of late , there have been a string of reliability issues reported across new gen cars and service centers and manufacturers showing a lackadaisical attitude to solving them.

I believe cars must have just the right amount of technology in them but too much of it , especially too much of electronics , isn't good ; same applies to modern aircraft like the A380s , 350s and 787s.
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