Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Stepchildren Of The Automotive World

Cars are complex mechanical systems.  They are made up of many mechanical subsystems, each of which is complex in its own way.  The failure of a subsystem will frequently incapacitate the entire vehicle.  Frequently, but not always.

The failure of the clutch, or the fuel system, or the master cylinder of the brakes, those things will take the car off the road until the problem is fixed.  These are the beloved systems, the important ones.  Other systems almost invite neglect.

Let’s take a moment to consider the plight of the shock absorbers and the mufflers of the world. 

Many people in America, and most of the people in some other countries, believe that shock absorbers are good for the lifetime of the car.  They may notice that they are now forced to slow down to a virtual crawl to go over a speed bump, or that the car is doing some extra wallowing in turns, but it never occurs to them to replace the shock absorbers.  Shocks are the unseen, unloved stepchildren of the mechanical family that is a car.  We should pity them.

Mufflers don’t fare much better.  They do wear out after a certain amount of use, they rot out due to moisture and get louder and louder.  Replacing them, however, seems overly discretionary, and many people choose the noise over the expense.  Heard they may be, but also unseen and unloved.   It’s a pity.

All of this is due to the immutable nature of money:  once money is spent, it is gone.  It’s gone like yesterday, never to return.  Money is a very limited commodity in many households, and money that is gone is no longer available to pay bills or buy food.  In many households, neither shock absorbers nor mufflers will even be considered for the to-do list.

If you have a car, go to it now and push down on one of the front corners.  If the car jumps right back up to where it was and stops, the shock is okay.  If the car kind of bounces around for a while, you’re riding on the springs, pal.  If you need shocks, buy them.  If you ever need to brake hard in the middle of a high speed turn, you’ll be glad that you did. 

No comments: