According To You: Part(s) of a Car That Still Make No Sense?

Late Model Restoration

Our According to You series is all about learning and enjoying the shared knowledge base of everyone here in the Hagerty Community. Last week we asked about car parts that are a mystery, items so hard to understand that one decides it’s not worth trying to figure them out. I started things off with the automatic transmission, and that certainly got the ball rolling.

As you will see below, there was some wiggle room for a different definition of “makes no sense,” one that’s just as relevant to this discussion. So have a scroll down and see what we came up with!

Printed Circuits

Printed Circuit Gauge Cluster
Amazon | Jetuplusllc

Jeepcj5: Gauge clusters make no sense to me. I’ve given up on more than one 1980-1986 Ford truck cluster after narrowing it down to that strange copper/plastic/sheeting stuff. So now two of my trucks have an aftermarket temp gauge and the fuel level is anyone’s guess since I never remember to write down the mileage at fill up.

Automatic Transmissions

2022 Ford Ranger Raptor interior console automatic shifter
Ford Europe

DUB6: Shoot, Sajeev, tearing an automatic transmission apart is easy – child’s play, really. Now, re-assembling one into working order, THAT will put most folks into a padded room…

Jeepcj5: I disassembled an automatic transmission from a junk Nissan D21 once, just for the fun of it. I still have some of the pieces as a display in my office at work. Even more amazing than the automatic transmission itself are the folks that designed and built those things back in the 1930s-1940s before computers.

Safety Baby Sitters

Nissan Lane Departure Warning Gauges

audiobycarmine: By your phrasing “Make no sense”, you’re really meaning “inscrutable”, “enigmatic” or “unexplainable”. I took it as “unnecessary” or “pointless”.

By that definition, I’d nominate most of the modern safety babysitters, such as lane-drift warnings, sensors for announcing a car beside you, and the myriad other detectors replacing actual human attention and awareness.

Sajeev: I feel the need to offer a counterpoint to your (valid) definition of my question. After renting a late-model Camry LE with these features, I found them to relieve a lot of stress while driving from Houston to Tulsa. I’m not some distracted driver, I just motored down I-45 and found the experience far more relaxing. Whenever I buy new car again, it will absolutely have these features. (And they will be turned off when encountering a road more entertaining than the Interstate.)

The Integral Valve in the Valve Cover?

Bimmerpost | DrivenByE30

TG: As far as the subject goes, 2000s era BMWs have this valve in the valve cover that essentially performs the function of a PCV valve. When they fail, you get full manifold vacuum applied to the crankcase, with all kinds of adverse symptoms such as lean burn codes, oil in the intake, whistling through the crank seals due to the vacuum, etc.

These wonderful little gadgets are part of the valve cover, and the proper BMW-approved repair is a new valve cover. Fortunately the aftermarket does offer just the valve, and if you are skilled enough to cut the old one out without damaging the valve cover and without putting a bunch of plastic shavings in the engine. That is a 30 dollar repair, at least!


Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters.

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: We Go Wheel-to-Wheel in Ford’s New Mustang Challenge Series


    Printed circuits? It is like a road map. What makes no sense. They are cheap and a part of electricity. Pretty clever. If you have a bad one often it was someone screwing it up.

    The auto Tranny is just pure mechanical and hydraulics. Again clever. No mystery.

    Baby sitting items. Yes many are not great and too often they make for even poorer skills driving. My wife’s SUV has too many false braking for shadows as it is.

    Where printed circuits get me is these multi-layered boards they have these days that have sandwiches of circuit traces 3 or 4 layers deep… gone are the days of tracing things out and kind of figuring out how it works… which I suspect is part of the point

    The truth is these were not made to be fixed just replaced. Also they seldom fail unless you monkey with the, left alone they work for decades.

    Flexible printed circuits are cheaper than point to point wiring. A conductor is printed on a flexible plastic and covered by a film with adhesive and sandwiched. The adhesive or the film is not totally oxygen proof and the conductor is not pure so it can corrode over time even if never wetted. Movement and vibration over time and the humidity in a vehicle is more extreme than you may realize. Materials have gotten better, but anything from the 80s/90s is on borrowed time.

    The problem with ECU multi-layer printed circuits comes with age>>the electrolytic capacitors puke their corrosive innards onto the board, wrecking them. What are you going to do with your new classic (1980’s and newer) ride when it won’t run and there are no electronics out there?

    58 caddy had printed circuits for dash light. The traces delaminated over time from the circuit board.

    I used to burn my own circuit boards back in the day. the new ones son plasstic just break more often.

    I agree with the author on some of the “nannies.” When the roof is up on my Miata, even with well adjusted mirrors, when you’re in a center lane, it’s sometimes difficult to see someone who thinks the right lane is for high-speed passing when the left lane is wide open. It’s nice to have a little head’s up on that.

    Sorry, but as long as a car has properly adjusted door mirrors, an interior rear view mirror and a driver with intact peripheral vision, there is no such thing as a blind spot.

    The problem I see is that I have to readjust the right side mirror on my Cayenne every time I want to get into the right lane. I adjust it normally to see if there is anyone there coming up on my right, however, that does not allow me to see if anyone is all ready there. This old man does not see them until they come up on the right side rear door. I can adjust it to see if there is anyone there, however I would much rather be paying attention to driving rather than fiddling around with some knob. That qualifies for a blind spot. My wife’s Honda has solved this problem. With a push on a button or the right turn indicator on, the camera comes on. I still have to avert my attention now to the screen, however, much improved system.

    If you can see the right side of the car the mirror is not properly adjusted. Same goes for the left side. The SAE actually had published a paper long ago about this. By tilting your head about four inches to the side you are adjusting, you should just see the door handle on that side.

    A convex mirror is made to solve this very problem. While the convex gives you “close up” view, the regular mirror “looks” further back.

    I attach convex mirrors to all my car mirrors to eliminate the blind spot. Cheap solution to a common problem.

    I’m really attached to the little one-inch stick-ons. Especially useful on tractors and “west coast” rigs. You don’t really drive by them; they function as a warning light. Any motion in them is amplified.

    Perfect solution! I have 3 cars and they all have these installed. Very inexpensive and problems solved!

    I find the camera on the right side mirror to be a blessing, lets you see if anything’s coming up quickly. A lot of people try passing on the right…

    Probably still a good idea on late model Camaro coupes. I like the idea of turning them off if annoying, though.

    Rented one on a visit to Arizona – view to the rear was basically like trying to see out of a mail box. Had a similar rear visibility reaction when driving a C6 Corvette ragtop.

    Actually, rear seat head rests make for terrific blind spots. Ask me how I know. I just bought a new Honda Pilot with the blind spot monitoring and I really like that. The rest of the safety stuff is annoying and I have disabled most of them. The one that gets me the most is rain sensing wipers. If I cant tell when I should turn on the wipers, then I have no business driving a car.

    Here in New Jersey, they have a law that dictates that you must turn the lights on when the wipers are on. So, there are a lot of characters that refuse to use their wipers. Because of them, we now have cars that keep the lights on all the time. Makes it a lot easier to see them coming.

    Agree. No cell phone or dash computer and a driver who is actually engaged in operating the car instead of simply pointing it down the road also helps. Auto pilots are best in aircraft and when the pilots stay in their own space. LOL.

    I disagree. If you feel less tension or anxiety because of these nanny gadgets, then you have no confidence in your ability to drive and you are being given a false sense of security that these devices will protect you from other drivers. In either case or a combination of the two you shouldn’t be driving.

    I agree with ffighter69 and I would like to ask Sajeev to open up this subject for further discussion. My current rides have ABS and traction control (fine) but no other nannies. I think that blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic monitor and possibly automated emergency braking have potential. But radar cruise control to me seems like the OPPOSITE of progress to any aware and thinking driver. I have attempted to use it a few times in borrowed or rented cars and inevitably give up after a few minutes of frustration. I am aware that the following distance can be adjusted. The biggest issue for me is that these things allow and encourage drivers to ‘relax’ in the passing lane waiting for the traffic ahead to speed up. And we all know that it rarely does so. It is unfortunately a settled issue in the USA that you often must pass on the right if you want to pass at all. I think (assume, really) that radar cruise encourages left lane banditry by lazy or uncaring people. Can anyone who uses radar cruise tell me something I’m missing here?

    “If you feel less tension or anxiety because of these nanny gadgets, then you have no confidence in your ability…”

    That right there is a VERY interesting if/then statement.

    If someone is passing you on the right then you (and probably someone else) are likely in the wrong lane. The digital nannies don’t cover that.

    Intermittent wipers that only have a couple of speeds, versus fully variable. Mazda had them as standard on most of their models, but until the ND, the Miata only had 2 speed intermittents. It was a great day when one of the speeds actually matched the conditions. The silly thing is, the fully variable switches for the 3, 6, and RX-8 are a direct swap… it took me 5 mintues with a phillips screwdriver to change it out. Why didn’t Mazda just use the same switch in all their models?

    In fairness, vacuum wipers were also infinitely variable. The entropy leakage of the universe being what it is, they usually varied more to the infinitely slow, but still.

    My dad has talked about the vacuum wipers in his late 50s English Ford that he daily drove in Louisiana in the early 70s. He said on a long hill in a heavy rain he’d have to let off the gas to let the wipers catch up so he could see again.

    I can testify that this is correct. When I was knee-high, we had a 1950 Ford Custom. The wipers would stall going up Bearden Hill on Kingston Pike.

    The noise that starting a car makes. You would think that by now at least the luxury car makers would have come up with a (nearly) silent way to start an engine. Why does everyone just accept the ‘whir-whir-whir’ noise that the starter gear to flywheel ring gear makes as being ok? A silent starting system would give any car a ‘luxury’ feel in my opinion.

    Sounds like you need to get an electric car so you don’t have to be annoyed by that awful starter sound!

    My E53 does just that. Mild hybrid uses the electric motor as a starter. Car just starts – no whir-whir-whir. Pretty sure other hybrids do the same.

    There was such a thing back in the 30s and 40s–called a Dynastarter (at least in Europe), and I believe there was a similar system on American cars. It was a combination starter and generator. When current was applied to it, it acted as a starter motor and–of course–started the engine. Once the engine was running, and the current to the starter was turned off, it became a generator to charge the battery and run electric accessories. Since it was constantly connected to the engine, there was no “clank–racheta-racheta” of a Bendix drive engaging the flywheel ring gear; just the sound of the gas engine turning over and starting…

    It never really caught on as it was heavy, expensive and at least somewhat complicated. And of course today with alternators providing AC power, it would be difficult to have an AC starter motor.

    Yep, Ive got a 1965 Onan marine generator that works like you describe; there’s an extra set of coils in the generator windings that are used to start the gas engine.

    Always cracks me up in the movies whenever a non-Chrysler is being started, the sound effect is invariably a Chrysler starter.

    The “Highland Park Hummingbird”! I personally like the sound of the gear-reduction Chrysler starter.

    OTOH owners of many twin cylinder motor cycles looked everywhere for a Coffman starter to replace the kick arm.

    I just love the sound my BMW E39 M5 makes a few milliseconds after the whir of the starter! It alerts you to what comes next! Nothing like the muffler delete option to wake you up!

    You have to go back to 1920s to Dynastart systems. a chain driven starter dynamow combination . totally silent.

    I like the sensors on my car, most of the time. They do go off when they should not sometimes. Automatic transmissions are very good now, and stronger than a lot of the manuals, at least in the ’70’s through the 2K’s. BMW is BMW, I’ve owned a 2007 R1200RT motorcycle. Had it for 5 years, and will NEVER buy a BMW ANYTHING after that! The engineers designed the final drive with bearing pairs that SHOULD be matched, but didn’t match them. Final drive failed at 68K miles. I had a 1979 Yamaha XS1100 with over 120K miles on it, still running well when I sold it, and nothing but usual maintenance.

    Agreed about BMW. Their engineers are so in love with their technology that they have ruined their vehicles.
    The bikes and cars are so complicated that they are difficult or impossible to repair. In addition to that, the new vehicles have a bungee cord attached to your wallet.

    Regarding the automatic transmission hydraulics, I once worked at a process control company that made pneumatic controllers. These things were designed in the 30s and essentially solved a 3 term differential equation all with air pressure, no electrics. Saw some mounted on exhaust stacks, spent 20 years at 400+ degrees.

    Automatic ‘Start/Stop’ systems that turn your car off when you stop and restart it when you let off the brake. I just don’t think saving a few ounces of fuel per tank is worth the extra wear and tear on your engine. Dumb idea. Not having a kill switch for that is a deal breaker for me when buying a car. I know GM didn’t offer one for at least a couple years. That’s a big ‘no thanks’ from me.

    Toyota has a counter that kills the starter motor after a set number of restarts, necessitating replacement of the motor and two sensors.

    ’21 Ford Edge

    1. Put foot on brake
    2. Push Start button
    3. Push Start/Stop defeat button
    4. Select D
    5. Remove foot from brake
    6. Drive toward destination

    And you know it will happen when somebody at the front of a long line at a stoplight with no way to get around them, their battery fails just when they need to get moving.

    Too many warnings. Sear belts, check rear seat for kids, back up alarms, etc etc. It jams on the brakes if someone is turning off in front of you, scares the daylight out of me with the alarm noise and the car behind almost rear ends me. You think I’m 10 years old?

    The engine light on all modern cars. Used to mean there was a catastrophic failure which needs immediate attention. Now it means a five dollar sensor went bad which will have little impact. Heaven forbid if anything worse happens. The dash alert who cried wolf.

    Most modern engine light have 2 modes. Amber for most emission issues and red for “shut the engine down now”

    There’s a reason why I prefer gauges over the 1D10T light, mainly because I’d like to know when to get over long before catastrophic failure! In my experience I can get a car over before the temp spikes and I ruin an engine with a temp gauge (or an oil gauge, etc.) Most times the Idiot light goes off right before the steam starts rising out from under the hood.

    I remember the first car I ever bought that had a “check engine” light. The first time it lit up while I was driving, I pulled over, opened the hood, and looked at the engine. As far as I was able to tell, it didn’t look any different than the last time I had looked at it.

    This might be unrelated, but back in the day the stupid low fuel light in my 84 Mustang GT would stay lit no matter the fuel level. I traced the wiring under the dash to a sensor that was approximately the size of an Atari 2600 cartridge. I couldn’t believe the size of the thing relative to its purpose…but it was 1984.

    You’re not wrong! I work in healthcare and some dialysis machines can have a preprogrammed ROM plugged into it with the patient’s orders. Its absolutely the Atari 2600 cartridge. They sold the rights off to a lot of electronics companies when they were having financial troubles.

    Not exactly on topic but my GLC300 has no dip stick. And ot takes a bit of time for the magic screen to get the oil level,,,,,,,,,after you go through 3 or levels of prompts.

    My second Range Rover Sport surprised me with no dipstick. It’s OK, but you have to check the oil level after the engine has sat off for about 5 minutes or you get an unavailable message.

    Put start stop systems on my list of things that make no sense. Then that brief stumble when it wakes up. I’ll push the button to turn the thing of if a flash isn’t available.

    Automatic transmissions are now electric as well as hydraulic and mechanical. The one that failed me was notorious for printed circuit problems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *