Which cars out there are still good to work on for DIY mechanics?


Dear Tom and Ray:

After spending the day working under the hood of my 1989 Honda Accord, I found myself cursing the Japanese engineers who vomited this forsaken labyrinth into my engine compartment. Then I wondered: Which makes and models out there, made within the past 10 years, are the easiest for the average shade-tree mechanic to work on? -- Bill

RAY: I feel your pain, Bill. Your car is, in fact, one of the biggest pains in the ball joints for an amateur to work on. You couldn't access anything inside that engine compartment without taking off at least 10 vacuum hoses.

TOM: I remember the vacuum-hose diagram for that car. I think it weighed about 14 pounds. I think that was true for all the Accords from about 1984 through about 1990. And the '84 and '85 carbureted models were the worst.

RAY: That was the era in which vacuum hoses and solenoids were the preferred methods of emissions control, especially by the Japanese automakers, who insisted on maintaining high mileage while controlling emissions. Nobody really knew how to do that yet, so they were patching together anything they could find that would work. And to Honda's credit, the stuff did work. Its cars had low emissions and great gas mileage, and they were very reliable. But all that stuff
did make it difficult for shade-tree mechanics, who always ended up with 16 vacuum hoses and no idea where to reattach them.

TOM: The truth is, almost any car made in the past 10 years will be better. By the mid-'90s, carmakers were switching over to much more sophisticated computerized engine-management systems to control emissions. And by the late '90s, most of them had made the transition. So, today's cars have just a handful of vacuum hoses.

RAY: In my opinion, the easiest cars to work on are late-model, four-cylinder Japanese cars. Anything from 2000 on will be a piece of cake compared with what you're used to, Bill.

TOM: So, you got hosed, Bill -- vacuum hosed. But don't feel bad. So did all the rest of us who worked on cars from that era.

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