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Why today’s engines are better by design
By Jack Biddle • 12/04/2015
REGULAR SERVICING MEANS MAJOR MOTOR FAILURES ARE UNLIKELY
Tony is in the market for a new mid-size vehicle but wants to know which engine design is best and most reliable these days.
“It seems to me engine performance keeps improving on every new model released while fuel consumption and vehicles emission levels are dropping,” Tony said.
“Does that mean engines have a lesser life span than they use to because they are under more pressure to perform? Whether it’s an SUV, sedan or station wagon I decide on, the exact make doesn’t really bother me as in my view, they all seem to look very similar to be honest, hence the question on engines.”
In general terms, the modern engine is far more reliable than it has ever been. We don’t hear about valve grinds, engine wear or bearing failures like in the distant past, plus the introduction of electronics has meant vehicles don’t drop out of tune because of mechanical wear and tear.
Provided routine servicing is kept up to date and high-quality fluids are used, then the chances of experiencing major failures, especially with the more established brand manufacturers, are a lot less likely than they were in the past.
I don’t think it’s about the reliability of a new engine or any other mechanical component, it’s more about the respective manufacturers and their distributors standing by their products if something unusual goes wrong.
Yes, they all offer some form of warranty and conditions do apply but loyalty to a brand once the warranty has officially ended is something that is often forgotten. I was recently involved with a vehicle that had suffered from a problem related to the turbo charger. The mid-sized vehicle was just on four years old, had travelled a little over 60,000 kilometres, had one owner and had been serviced by the particular dealer network since new. And it was the owner’s third new vehicle of the same brand.
Because the warranty period had expired, the initial invoice to repair the problem was in excess of $2500. No explanation was given as to why this failure had occurred.
After a call to the head office technical team looking after this particular brand, the invoice was dramatically reduced as a gesture of goodwill. The failure was in no way due to abuse or lack of care.
This scenario doesn’t make all turbo charged engines bad. Ford has cleaned up at the international Engine of the Year awards for several years now with their EcoBoost (turbo charged engine) technology. Other manufacturers have also fitted turbo charged engines on their mainstream vehicles, some for a lot longer than Ford, while others are looking to introduce the same technology on their new models in the near future.
Customer goodwill should never be offered automatically neither should it be expected from every owner. It should only be granted when appropriate to do so taking into account such things as long term ownership, service history, distance travelled or distributors coming to the party because they are aware of a known past history of failure.
Ten years or around 200,000 kilometres is generally accepted as the life span of a motor vehicle. As we all well know, our roads are full of vehicles that are much older and have travelled further. The aftermarket industry and many non-franchise garages do an excellent job of keeping those repair costs to a minimum.
As somebody told me many years ago, service departments no longer fix cars, they attend to customer’s needs. Who does that the best is the long term industry winner in my view.