Throwback Thursday

Popular Automotive Technology That is Disappearing

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Automotive technology has changed rapidly in the last few years. We want to take a look back at a few options that are being replaced by newer technology.

 

1. Belt driven engine fans

All cars have large fans on the radiator to keep the engine cool. In the old days, electric motors were heavy and sapped a lot of power, so they generally weren’t used for anything but the heater and dash vents. Being that the motor used rubber belts to spin the water pump and the alternator, why not use a belt to spin the fan too?

No room for an extra pulley or belt in here.
No room for an extra pulley or belt in this Mercedes.

http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/results/mercedes-benzThis is how most all cars and trucks were well into the 80’s. But in the race for better fuel economy, most passenger cars and trucks have switched to electric fans because the computer shuts them off to save power once the car starts moving. This saves gas by having less drag on the motor, and saves the life of your belts and water pump by having a giant steel blade hanging off the end.

My own project car came with a heavy steel fan like the one shown above, but I switched to a dual electric fan system because St. Petersburg is a hellish place for a car in the summer. Modern advances in brushless electric motors allow for very powerful fans that only draw the same amount of electricity that could run your stereo. Who doesn’t like better gas mileage?

 

2. Hydraulic Power Steering

Let’s face it, we are spoiled. You can probably steer your car with your pinky and have full control. Why? Power steering. If you have ever tried to turn the wheel with the engine off, you know that it can be a real workout. For the last half century, we have had a helper in power steering. Your car has a pump mounted to the engine that runs off a belt. Sometimes it is even the same belt used to run the water pump/fan that I described above.

This pump sends oil to your steering box to assist you when you want to make a turn. The problem is that unless you are very unhealthy, it really only takes a few more pounds of effort over what you can crank into the steering wheel. So your car has a power steering pump, fluid tank, lines and a heavy steering box that are so powerful you can steer with one finger.

Just like the belt driven engine fan, electric motors are so small & efficient that most new cars have them mounted directly to the steering rack, saving a ton of weight and freeing up space under the hood.

If all new 911 models have electric steering, it must be the way to go.
If all new 911 models have electric steering, it must be the way to go.

Imagine a long road trip. You spend a very long time running straight down the highway not requiring any help to steer the car. Why should you have a few hundred pounds of cast iron components sapping power from the engine? Hydraulic power steering will soon be extinct, and we say good riddance.

 

3. Heater Only Cars

Al Gore told you this would happen. Whether you believe global warming or not, cars get hot inside. It’s hard to believe that our parents stained their cloth interiors with sweat inside giant V8 powered land yachts. Air conditioning has been an option for over 50 years.

In the old days, it was tough designing and packaging the system under the hood because components were much larger and heavier. This meant that you had to pay significantly more when buying a car with A/C, so it remained a luxury for the wealthy. As technology has improved, the cost to build and integrate A/C is much less, so car makers have steadily lowered the cost of this option to make their cars more appealing.

Dealerships once kept a few new cars on the lot with no options so mean parents could ensure their kids would remain single. Who wants to drive to high school in a sweat box? Because dealers stopped ordering cars without A/C, car makers have all but made it standard equipment on new models.

When is the last time you saw a new car without A/C?
When is the last time you saw a new car without A/C?

We’re happy that new cars are much more efficient because it saves us at the gas pump. It also allows for a little more passing power if you have slowpokes in front of you. What bugs me is that since automakers are all moving forward with new technologies, they are probably saving money by eliminating old technology. Why can’t they pass the savings along to us?