The penguin's motorcycling and Jeep blog

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What the fuck is the matter with cars?

Toyotas that accelerate because they feel like it or won't brake because they don't feel like it. Hondas whose airbags deploy with the force of a stick of dynamite. This shit that just came out where all the Jap cars seem broken is just crazy. But you know what? I ain't surprised, because the Japs have gone for that electronic shit big-time -- electric steering, electric brakes, electric throttles, electric everything. And when electronics go wrong, they fucking GO WRONG, unlike old-school shit.

My Jeep is old-school. The cable from the throttle goes to an air flap at the throttle body. I open the throttle, the flap opens. I close the throttle, the flap closes. A throttle position sensor, a mass air sensor in the air intake and two oxygen sensors on the exhaust manifolds send signals to a small computer that adjusts how much fuel gets injected by the injector. If the computer goes out, my engine don't run -- it doesn't suddenly decide to go zooming across the freeway at nine bajillion miles per hour. Same deal with my brakes. The brake pedal attaches to a hydraulic plunger. The hydraulic plunger pushes brake fluid into brake lines and forces the brake pads towards the disk. There's actually two plungers attached to my brake pedal (one in front of the other, one for the front brakes and one for the back brakes) so that if one of the brake lines gets busted, there's still two wheels that have brakes and will stop me.

All these new cars, though, they don't have that kind of old school setup. What they have at the top end of the accelerator pedal is a sensor that tells the computer how much you've pushed down the throttle. Then a motor under the hood opens or closes the throttle flap appropriately to make the car go slower or faster in the most efficient way that the computer has calculated. So if the computer decides that this flap thingy needs to be all the way open even though you've let up on the gas pedal, well, it'll do it.

Same deal with the brakes on the Prius, the Toyota that's been having the problems with braking. The Prius cars that have been having stopping problems, they don't got that old-school piston shit. They got *electric* brakes. You push on the brake pedal, and it signals a computer to start reverse-charging your battery, using the electric motor in reverse as a generator and incidentally slowing the car down. You push even harder, and an electric pump starts squirting brake fluid into the lines until the car stops. If the electric pump decides it's tired and doesn't feel like pumping, or if the computer decides the electric pump doesn't need to pump, you're fucking *screwed*.

Now, I've thought about upgrading to one of those new-school Jeeps with the electric throttle and shit. They get better gas mileage and you can fit bigger tires to them without worrying about breaking shit, because their wheel wells are bigger and their axles are sturdier. But I tell ya, there's something to be said for old school. I can't think of a damned thing that'd make the throttle stick on my hoary old Jeep, and same deal with the brakes -- yeah, old-school master cylinders wear out over time, but they fucking *give you warning* that they're going out, the brake pedal starts going down closer to the floorboard and you might have to pump the brakes, and that's when you know it's time to put another master cylinder in. But that electronic shit... when it decides it ain't gonna work, it just don't fucking *work*. Which is a big-ass problem if you're talking about *stopping*.

What we have here, ladies and gents, is a case where the geeks who programmed these cars have forgotten what the wrenches knew years before the geeks finished kindergarten: cars ain't a place to experiment with shit that could kill people if it goes wrong. I'm stickin' with my old school Jeep. Yeah, it's crude and ugly as shit, but you can fix the goddamned thing with a big fucking hammer and a pair of pliers, and it don't decide it's going to go galumphing down the freeway at a bazillion miles per hour just because some goddamned computer geek forgot to carry a digit somewhere in his code. As someone who programs computers for a living, I'm happy as a clam that the only computer in my Jeep is the one that handles the fuel squirters and spark plug sparkers. If they quit squirting and sparking, all that happens is that the Jeep stops going. Which sure the fuck is preferable to what those goddamned Toyotas with their little electric-motor-controlled throttle thingies have been doing, yessiree.

-- Badtux the Old-school Penguin


Kulkuri said...

All that electronic stuff if FM, Fucking Magic!!

BadTux said...

Nope, it ain't fuckin' magic, I do that kinda shit for a living. In its place, it's some good shit. I have far, far, FAR less trouble from electronic fuel injection than I ever had from carburetors, for example, carburetors were always having a diaphragm bust or a float sink or a leak at the throttle shaft or some shit like that which sent everything to hell in a handbasket.

But I can tell you this, based on my experience, a computer's place ain't in controlling the throttle plate, 'cause the failure mode in a mechanical throttle plate is always throttle-closed (thanks to multiple springs -- one on the throttle plate itself, and one on the accelerator pedal), while the failure mode in an electronically controlled one is wherever the divide-by-zero error in the computer code left it (i.e., someplace random).

In short, there's a time and place for electronics, but its time and place is for shit that, if it breaks, the car stops -- not for shit where, if it breaks, the car takes off like a fucking bat out of hell and varooms at nine bazillion miles per hour down the freeway or, worse yet, down the street in front of your house.

- Badtux the Computer Geek Penguin

One Fly said...

Years ago in a Colt Vista I believe a friend who is a very good wrench driving down the road and the damn thing downshifted or vice versa from 4th to 5th. Damn near shit. The shifter felt like it was shifting but was done with like 4 micro switches and other associated nonsense.

I agree I want a physical connection to the foot feet/brakes rather than to a computer.

I don't know how many but it's many motors mostly on the smaller side I care for that have electronic ignition some of which have been around for most of 20 years. Best thing that ever happened to guys like me. They just do not fail. I've got like three sets of points running around and they could go away as well.

BadTux said...

Electronic ignition is one of those things where if it don't work, then the car stops. Same deal with electronic fuel injection. I agree that both are a whole lot better than what preceded them, points and carburetors were a never-ending source of troubles.

- Badtux the Wrenchin' Penguin