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Car maintenance 80s & 90s vs today

Chloe Martell profile

Chloe Martell

June 26, 2020

News 5 min read

I think it goes without saying that the way in which cars have progressed over the last 40 years is incredible. Whilst we may not have cars that can take us back to the future or ones that can fly, the cars we have today are still a far cry from the ones we had in the 80s. We’re taking a look at the differences in the maintenance and upkeep of cars in the 1980s and 90s, vs today!

Changing a tyre

Whilst changing a tyre is the same now as it was in the 80s/90s for the most part, there are some differences for today’s new car owners. Most cars these days have alloy wheels, and to protect them against theft they are supplied with locking wheel nuts (and a key that is unique to each set of nuts) for them to be removed for a tyre change and maintenance. In the 80s and 90s, most cars had steel wheels with plastic trims and had no need for locking wheel nuts (they weren’t really a target for thieves).

Another difference in tyre changing is in the 80s and 90s, you would often have a spare tyre in case you had to change it. These days new cars often come with a tyre repair kit, instead of an actual spare tyre. This consists of a pump and a can of puncture repair fluid to get you back on the road in no time. Of course, you can still pick up a spare tyre for your car, but the convenience of getting your tyre temporarily repaired with a handy kit is a great alternative in the short term.

Checking under the hood

Even with limited knowledge, it was much easier to work out what was what under the hood of your car in the 80s and 90s. A quick look and you could identify things like the battery, radiator, air filter and alternator etc.  These days, things are a bit more complicated to figure out. Today, some parts of the engine are hidden under casings to offer protection, which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, so it’s harder to identify what is what. This can also cause young drivers to be a bit more anxious when it comes to their own car maintenance – if you’re overwhelmed and don’t know what it what, you may be tempted to ignore the problem. The best thing to do in this case is to take it to a mechanic to have a look for you! You can even ask them about what’s under the bonnet of your car, so you know what to look out for next time

The electronic evolution

Back in the 80s and 90s, with a little bit of mechanical knowledge (and a friend or parent to show you the ropes), it was easier to figure out what the problem with your car may be by process of deduction. For example, it wouldn’t start on a cold winter morning, you would probably check the points and the spark plugs as these were the things that were often the problem. These days, cars are built with an onboard computer and ever-increasing number of electronic components which can make the issue more difficult to identify and rectify, so drivers are often reliant on taking a car to a mechanic who would plus the car if your car flashes a warning light and doesn’t start the advanced components in the car can make this more difficult to determine the problem. This means we are often reliant on taking a car to a mechanic to plug the car into a diagnostic system to determine the problem.

That being said – an onboard computer helps today’s drivers keep on top of their car maintenance by monitoring and flagging issues like low tyre pressure, etc.

How confident are young drivers today about car maintenance?

Cars have come on leaps and bounds in the latest 30-40 years and with this, some aspects of car maintenance have become more difficult for young drivers to do. Things like changing your own oil and oil filters in the 80s were pretty easy but these days, things like this can be a much more complicated job. A recent survey showed that parents of young drivers are much more confident in their car maintenance than their children. For example – over 58% of parents said they can definitely change a tyre, whereas only 37% of 18-24-year olds who own a car know-how too. The same goes for replacing windshield washer fluid, changing a car battery and replacing a headlight. We think this is a perfect opportunity for parents who know a bit more about car maintenance to help their children also pick up these valuable skills and build confidence in their car maintenance.

Whilst cars these days may be a bit more difficult to deal with on the maintenance side of things, they also have come on leaps and bounds in terms of the safety they offer young drivers on the road and the tech that can help drivers stay safe behind the wheel. Check out the differences in cars today and in the 80s and 90s in our blog all about it!

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Chloe Martell profile

By Chloe Martell

'As a new driver, I'm so eager to share my driving journey with you all - from when I was a learner, going through my test and all the aspects of my driving life now, including my love of cars!'  See more posts by Chloe

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