A PSA About LED Retrofits

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Hamilton Felix

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This is very interesting. It also reinforces my conviction that I do NOT want any new cars, particularly GM. I keep thinking about possible points of failure and about feasibility of maintenance at home. Thus, I remain convinced the best cars were made from 1955 to 1970.
 

-Virgil-

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It's fine to say 1955-1970 cars are your favorites, because everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But "The best cars were made from 1955 to 1970" is so completely, objectively false -- by just about every measure -- that the claim cannot be taken seriously.

You appear to have decided you don't want any new cars. Fine, that's also a matter of personal preference. But "particularly GM"...based on how their turn signal systems are constructed? You don't think other makers' turn signal systems are significantly different from this, do you? They're not. And just what is this "maintenance" you imagine the turn signals require, that you wouldn't be able to do at home? Grumbling about how impossible it is to work on a new car yourself rings kind of hollow when you're talking about work that won't ever need to be done (at home or elsewhere). You also can't replace the breaker points, set the dwell, or rebuild the carburetor in a modern car at home (or anywhere else, because those parts don't exist).

I have my own fair share of gripes with modern car design, but let's keep it real: subjective preferences and tastes aside, cars have been getting objectively better and better and better for years. They last much longer, they break down much less often, they foul the environment much less, they do a much better job of protecting the occupants in a crash, and on and on.
 

Alaric Darconville

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This is very interesting. It also reinforces my conviction that I do NOT want any new cars, particularly GM. I keep thinking about possible points of failure and about feasibility of maintenance at home. Thus, I remain convinced the best cars were made from 1955 to 1970.
Ahh, yes, the good old days when we could work on so many things ourselves. It's a good thing we COULD because we invariably HAD to. I don't know how many times I've rebuilt carburetors, filed (or replaced) points, set the dwell and timing, checked/replaced vacuum hoses and spark plug wires and distributor caps. Sure, one can replace a starter on a Slant Six in about 3 minutes with practice, but that doesn't make a '65 Dart inherently better than an '01 Corolla.

Modern cars are cleaner, safer, faster, more agile, and safer, with often better heaters and better, more reliable air conditioners (using refrigerants that are so much less damaging to the environment), and are seemingly asymptotic to maintenance free (oil and various filter changes notwithstanding). Maybe some of those old '60s cars could be tuned to get decent fuel economy, which in some cases made them even more polluting than with their standard tune, could never be tuned to be as clean as any ODB-II-equipped car in decent condition.

Some of those old cars didn't even have PCV, rather it was just a road draft tube. Their timing advance was sometimes vacuum-operated, sometimes mechanical, sometimes a combination of both and ALWAYS a compromise. Their fuel systems were pretty leaky, too (not "dripping on the driveway" leaky, but evaporatively leaky (no PZEV back then).

Carburetion was similarly a compromise between a steady and clean(ish) idle yet allowing performance *and* economy over a range of RPMs and loads (with multi-barrel carburetors helping, but also complicating tuning). Early fuel injection systems were iffy. Valve timing, too, was not nearly as (technically) advanced as today, with our many excellent systems of variable valve timing, variable valve timing with variable lift, and such.

Modern fuel injection itself has contributed greatly to the likelihood a car's engine will reach 200K miles or more, with the very careful control of fuel such that very little liquid fuel gets past the rings, diluting oil and washing it off the cylinder walls.

For lighting, the very bestest of the best sealed beams don't stand a chance against (properly designed and manufactured) factory LED headlamps. Granted, that '65 Dart could be equipped with JW Speaker headlamps NOW, but back then the only LEDs were very very dim red ones.

In 2077, someone's going to be lamenting how cars today are terrible and you can't work on them yourself and BOY those cars from 2011-2026 were so GREAT and they'll be shown how terribly wrong they are. Like, "Your car uses GASOLINE and doesn't FLY? You have to DRIVE IT YOURSELF? Why did they even let people DO that? It doesn't have inertial dampeners? I mean, those 2021 Camry XSEs were pretty quick, considering, and they looked pretty nice, but heck, they don't even have OLED stop/turn/tail lamps and fully-adaptive headlighting, either! (Also, a real shame GM failed in 2025!)"
 

jtr1962

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You have to DRIVE IT YOURSELF? Why did they even let people DO that?
I think this will be a reality long before 2077. Probably the generation just born will be saying things like that once they're adults. Autonomous vehicles are likely 5 years or less from prime-time. And not long after that insurance premiums will probably rise so steeply for anything human-driven that most won't be able to afford to drive themselves. Probably a few years later we'll just ban human driving on public roads altogether.
 

John_Galt

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Self driving cars are a pipe dream. They'll be forcing us to live in cities to save the pristine wilds for hunting lodges for the ultra wealthy. So we'll all just be taking amtrak (lol), the bus or the subway to work. I do, however, look forward to the coming period of chaos when insurance companies attempt to force Drivers off the roads, and we have to return to the days of running triple distilled mash to fuel our way, shiny and chrome. I Will Be Witnessed, having said "F that, I've still got three pedals, a steering wheel and a tank full of gazzoleen."
 

Alaric Darconville

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So we'll all just be taking amtrak (lol), the bus or the subway to work.
Buses and trains are much much safer than cars per passenger-mile: https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/home-and-community/safety-topics/deaths-by-transportation-mode/

And don't discount passenger miles per gallon. When a fully loaded bus goes somewhere, that 4mpg becomes 216pmpg. A good public transportation system reduces the need to enforce traffic laws and investigate accidents. It reduces pollution. We'd have much more (and better) public transportation but car companies (like GM) tried to kill all that off.

But now we're straying from the original topic. It's one thing to mention all our cars being self-driving because it's futuristic (and, yes, it's almost inevitable that it will happen) but another to then get all doom and gloom about how we'll be forced to ride the bus and the ultra wealthy will get to do whatever they want. (By the way: The ultra wealthy pretty much already DO get to do whatever they want. You didn't see those rich dudes very nearly go into space in July this year?)
 

radellaf

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If I may offer some mundane technological quibbles:

Battery & tech:
Maybe this is a direct-drive vs regulated kind of argument:
Keyless not only entry (love it) but RFID enabled start buttons (with no ACC position). $10 key replaced by $400 _battery powered_, questionably waterproofed, technologically complicated device that "improves security" in areas of the country where that's just not a problem. 99% of the time they work (wife just got one). Not like a key can't fail (mechanical switch, or idiot user breaks off key trying to pry something and discovers brass isn't that strong). But I don't trust them, and there seems to be no backup. Yes, there's a secret driver door key to open the door (but not start). And, yes, but wow you'd have to read the manual, there's a special spot in the front cup-holder where it will power the RFID system (inductively?) even if the fob's battery dies. Whatever, don't trust it, don't want it, keys work just fine TYVM.

LED. Another staple of flashlights. PWM:
It should have been banned from the get-go. Low frequency PWM tail lights. They're visually annoying at night, to me. (anyone else?) And, hoist by their own petard, they pose difficulties for self-driving car cameras. There's also, quite simply, no excuse. If the tech is good enough to put it in a car, you can perfectly well put in current regulated drivers or kHz PWM.

Now, I'd love, one day, to have self-driving cars that don't need all these lights. AI is oversold ... for now. It won't be, forever. If anything else, I'd sure love it if the car could take over once I hit the interstate. My brain isn't at its best at 8am, and driving doesn't admit for any mistakes. I'm glad the safety systems are much better at sacrificing the car to save me, but I'd rather not test them. Oh, and ABS brakes are awesome. Unless you watch North Carolinians try to drive on ice with them. Then it's just sad.
 

-Virgil-

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Real, fully self-driving L5 cars (1) are a lot more than five years from "prime time", and (2) will still need headlamps for the cameras.
 

jzchen

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Most car manufacturers have the same technical repair info available to the public as to the technicians at the dealership. Instead of paper manuals they have switched to online/cloud based service subscriptions. Toyota and Honda which I have personal experience subscribing are quite reasonable. As you go up to the luxury brands pricing increases. Last I checked a long while ago BMW was reasonably priced, Mercedes $60/day. Sadly Porsche in particular seems to have stopped public/personal use access. Tesla with it's broad range of model prices is $100/day....
 

Alaric Darconville

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They might only need infrared headlights...
That would be a disservice to the vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians, and the like (and, of course, any real-live human drivers that might still be out there).

Also, for accident investigation, humans will need to review footage1​ that is easier for them to process vs. the greyscale image produced by IR cameras, or the image shown in a thermal camera.

1​Obviously these self-driving cars will have cameras going all the time for such purposes
 

Hamilton Felix

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I expect us to need headlights for a long time yet. Even if my car could see in the dark, I can’t. I do want to see and be seen.

Point taken about today’s cars lasting longer and having fewer maintenance intervals. But many of the possible (electronic) points of failure are unnecessary, often added because of government mandate. I admit my 2007 Corolla lasts a long time, and I can still do much of the maintenance that is needed. But because we have more cars than people and sometimes let them sit, and that can be an expensive education, be it slightly oxidized contacts in a critical switch or sticky disc brakes. My 1959 Massey Ferguson sits for months and still starts right up. Not much to go wrong on that tractor - and strangely, parts for old tractors can still be had. Let’s just say I find the cars of 50-65 years ago most enjoyable (though I’d use modern tires).

Self driving cars have been in science fiction for a very long time, described in different ways. I would not be surprised to see a system where you drive from the country to the city, your car’s computer computer shakes hands with the city’s traffic control while you input your destination, then you transfer over to auto drive. A communication failure would cause your car to automatically pull over and stop. I am 67 now, and come from a family where some of us live to 100, so I rather doubt I’ll see this in my lifetime.
 

-Virgil-

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Point taken about today’s cars lasting longer and having fewer maintenance intervals. But many of the possible (electronic) points of failure are unnecessary, often added because of government mandate.
So any part that's there by government mandate is unnecessary? OK, let's delete those items off the car.

Emissions controls. Every single one of them is there by government mandate, so obviously unnecessary. We're going back to the chunky-style toxic air of the 1960s, only it will be much worse because there are so many more cars driven so many more miles. And maybe we're going back to leaded gas, too? That was phased out by (yepper!) government mandate.

Seat belts, air bags, side impact guard beams, head restraints, safety hood and door latches, safety glass, collapsible steering column, double-circuit brake master cylinder, brake system and tires capable enough to pass specified performance tests, bumpers that are more than just ornaments, the horn, the fire-retardant interior materials and the leakproof-when-hit-in-a-crash fuel system, and all three mirrors -- maybe you can kinda use the vanity mirror in your sunshade to see back there, if you have one; that one isn't there by government mandate. Guess you'll just have to try your luck every time you're in traffic, so better kiss your wife and kids goodbye twice every morning, just in case.

Speaking of kids, you'd better keep a much more careful eye on them, because we'll be going back to the kind of power window switch that made it easy for kids to choke themselves to death or decapitate themselves. That assumes they live to be old enough to play with the switches, because effective child seats also exist because of (drumroll, please?) government mandate.

Everything that makes the car harder to steal is going away, too, unless your particular automaker was feeling charitable or you decided to pay extra for that stuff, so you'll just have to try your luck on that, too, every time you walk away from the car.

Non-glare surfaces in the driver's field of view -- no more! Just hold up your hand. Or don't bother; it's not like you'll have any speedometer to glance at unless the automaker chooses of their own volition to install one. If they do, it won't necessarily indicate anything useful, because the speedometer accuracy requirements are a matter of (envelope, please?) government mandate.

You'll have to really be on the ball if you're driving an unfamiliar car, because shift sequences will no longer be standardized by (survey says?) government mandate. Maybe it'll be PRNDL, maybe it'll be PNDLR, maybe it'll be PDNRL; how lucky do you feel?

Windshield wipers and defoggers that clear most of the windshield within a specified short time? Not any more! You'll take whatever useless minimal-cost items the automaker chooses to give you, if they choose to give you any, and you'll like it.

The car will not necessarily be equipped with any headlamps, brake lights, turn signals, side marker lights, or backup lights. While you're busy testing your luck even more in traffic, you'll have to roll down the window and use hand signals. That'll help with the defogging, anyway, and if you catch a cold...well...you can comfort yourself by remembering that there aren't any nasty, unnecessary government-mandated parts on your car.

Now: please go check in the back of your coat closet and see if you can find your thinking cap; it misses you! :)
 
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Hamilton Felix

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Somehow I kind of doubt that all automotive improvement is due only to government mandate. I’m not saying government has never done anything good, but we all know there’s nothing so bad that government cannot make it worse (present gas cans with spouts almost guaranteed to spill come to mind). I suspect consumers would still demand improvements and inventors would offer improvements even if government simply left them alone. After all, the people here want better lights, and not because government told them they needed better lights. Government HAS increased the adjusted real world cost of new cars, even as the real cost of appliances has gone down. I did have a car with the PNDLR pattern, and while I appreciate standardization, I think drivers should be competent with whatever they drive.

A discussion of whether it is government’s job to “take care“ of us and MAKE us safer is for another time and place, but I did notice something during my decades as a volunteer fireman/EMT: It is not the “safest” (in terms of handling, braking, maneuverability and general performance) vehicles that are least likely to be involved in accidents. In fact, it is often the “worst” (Winnebago, antique motorcycle, etc.) that have accidents only rarely. I’ve become convinced that “the nut behind the wheel” is by a large margin the most critical safety component.

I spent 45 years operating complex plants that did not have standardized controls - or frequently even controls designed by people who knew how to operate those plants. This often made things “challenging.” I watched electronic controls replace manual in many areas, solid state regulators and excitation systems replace old rotating equipment. I learned that every processor made will eventually crash, maybe tomorrow or maybe 100 years from now, so design must include safe operation when it crashes, along with timely field repairability. Yet I watched fools remove manual controls and destroy reliability and recoverability. But don’t worry, there was no shortage of government regulations and mandates. 🙄

I want better lights, brakes, HVAC, etc. but I know finding a politician or bureaucrat who truly cares about that will be an incredible challenge. The free market will bring us better lights (along with plenty of junk lights - Sturgeon’s Law always applies) because we want them badly enough to pay for them.

If you find a politician or even a government functionary who truly considers your safety & well being and mine to be more important than being seen as “doing something.” Please let me know. Such a rare bird should be preserved.😉
 
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