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How often do cars break down now compared to 30, 50 or 80 years ago? I am pretty sure most of the early drivers were quite good mechanics, these days? Not so much. I'm sure Mr. Ford would find modern cars very foreign.

A chair, clothing and even houses haven't changed much over the years either. Most designs only change bits at a time, slowly morphing into unrecognisable things.

True, but a minor head overhaul would have been about 1/2 an hour with 'roadside tools' (say to replace a valve spring) possibly during your trip to grandma.

Today that same repair would be a couple of days in the shop, requiring tens of thousands of dollars of specialty tools. Of course those springs don't fail as often as they did back then (a combination of improved materials science and engineering) but when they do the fix is out of reach, even for a trained mechanic without access to a shop with all the required specialty tools.

I don't think anybody carries a valve spring compressor in their toolbox. Plus you'd run the risk of dropping the valve unless you was really careful and good luck getting the keepers back in on the side of the road without a way to hold the valve up. Even then who has the parts with them to make this a 1/2 hour job? Cars are just as hard/easy to fix now as back then. Fuel injection is arguably easier to troubleshoot then a carb given the computers help.

This used to be s.o.p. in the early 20's.

Have a read:


The good old days of grease and spittle and they didn't even have duct tape yet!

That link is about replacing the entire valve (valves were a wear part, much like tires today, only with much shorter service life).

How often do cars break down now compared to 30, 50 or 80 years ago?

Major car failures in cars first 5 years fell by 1/3rd between 2005 and 2010.


So, I'd expect a lot less than 30 years ago.

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