22 April 2015

Car Control Ramble

An implication of the car makers being successful in locking out tuners and independent shops is also being able to force death on your car.

A good example might be tire pressure monitoring systems.

There's a little pressure transducer and radio transmitter attached to the valve stem.  It transmits to a receiver in the fender and that information is given to a computer to use for traction control information and to display on the dash.

Why is this luxury item on my car?  Because there's a law mandating it because of fallout from the Ford SUV rollovers.

Because a few idiots who couldn't drive had a blowout and died, we have to have these sensors on all of our cars.

No biggie, you say?

Well this is where the aftermarket versus OEM comes in.  General Motors wants $150 each for the sensors in my Corvette.  Rock-Auto can get the, GM approved, AC-Delco equivalent for $63 or I can pick a Dorman for less than $40 with Airtex and Denso also offering alternatives.  That's for a 2008 Vette, there are two other incompatible sensors for the 6th generation Corvette depending on what your model year is.

The reason I pick on this part is that it's what is called a "wear item".  The battery in them only lasts for so long, 5-8 years.  When the battery dies, you have to replace the entire sensor.

OK, have to have them by law, wear out by design, and the aftermarket isn't allowed to make replacements...  First they're going to be $150 and only available at the stealership (where you will also pay $100 each for installation).  Why $100, because they'll have the only sensor activation tool.

Let's take an aside...

On a 5th generation Corvette the sensors are not required by law, they're there because there's no spare so that the driver is alerted to when he's running zero pressure on his run-flat tires.  When the day comes to replace them, any tire shop can to the swap and he can follow simple procedure built into the car to let the computer know which sensor is in what position.

All of the cars under the mandate require some sort of sensor activation tool to program the location.

Guess what one of the lawsuits filed against the aftermarket is about...

The OEM's are correct that the electronics in the cars are complex and intertwined.  But most of the conflicts at present aren't about hot-rodders and tuners eeking out a couple more tenths at the track, but over maintenance and longevity issues.

NOW, what happens, if they succeed, when they stop making the part you're mandated to have on your car?  By present law they're only required to provide parts support for ten years from the date of manufacture.  What if they refuse to grant a license to the aftermarket to make parts to keep your car running after that?

What they want you to do is buy a new car.

People like me will not have the option to keep their car running.

It's already happened to Corvettes.  The optional monitoring system on the 4th gen is out of production from GM and there's no aftermarket for them.  GM, in this case, simply never published how the system worked and because it's a very rare option there wasn't a huge demand to make replacement parts.  The active suspension option is also in this boat.

The Lovely Harvey's Civic would now be an auto-corpse because it's needed two engine sensors replaced and it's a 2002.

I can always fall back on the Biscayne SS.  It's a '91 Caprice with a '96 Impala SS engine in it.  The basic car turned 25 this year (made on March 18, 1990!) and has 250k miles on it...


  1. Here's what that end-game looks like...


    1. We always thought the bloody rebellion was going to be about guns... It was clunkers.


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