Home » Thrive on the road » Are new(er) cars really more reliable? Seeking a unicorn

Are new(er) cars really more reliable? Seeking a unicorn

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We are getting ready for another adventure into the remote deserts of Australia.  An important part of my preparation for the trip is to ensure our car is in top mechanical shape.  As I dropped it off at the mechanics this morning, I let him know that I had thrown an error code relating to the EGR (exhaust gas reticulation system) in the past week or two.  I had fortunately been able to use the Scan Gauge to not only get the car out of limp mode, but also been able to identify the fault to the EGR using this tool.

But it got me thinking.

We bought the car new in 2013, as a calculated part of our risk management strategy for our big lap in 2014.  We figured a new car would be more reliable than an older vehicle, and if we did break down, at least we would be covered by warranty.

And breakdown we did.  Almost 1000 km of corrugated dirt road from the nearest dealer we coasted to a stop beside the Cape York Development Road.  It seems that modern 4wd vehicles are not designed for thousands of kilometres of corrugations – nor are dealers adept at identifying issues or checking the car thoroughly at its frequent servicing schedule.  The full story of that adventure can be found here: http://project2014australia.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/returning-south-was-not-so-easy-our.html

To their credit, VW Assist were exemplary in getting us back to civilisation, and covered our flights, accommodation and rental car until we were back on the road.  But it was an expensive exercise for them, and perhaps it was my first warning bell that modern cars aren’t as bush ready as their predecessors.

And so here I am today with a faulty EGR valve.  This equipment is the Achilles heel of modern common rail diesel engines.  Part of the emission management system, it feeds exhaust gas back through the combustion chamber.  Unfortunately it can also leak, and if coolant or water enters the system, the water can also enter the combustion chamber, causing the engine to hydraulically lock.  This results in catastrophic failure of the engine.

My mechanic said it is unfortunately very common with all of the common rail diesels.  And as manufacturers struggle to meet Euro V and VI emission standards, it will only get worse.   It seems we have sacrificed reliability and longevity in the hunt for cleaner emissions.  Whilst I understand completely the requirement for cleaner air, it seems that manufacturers are only interested in getting their vehicles to their warranty end date and no more.

It is one of the fine balances of marketing and economics I guess… You make a car too reliable, and people only buy one car, meaning you slowly go out of business.  You make it reliable enough that people like it, and will buy a new one, but ensure that it doesn’t last so long that you go out of business waiting for them to return to your marque.  Argh.

So whilst I wait for the mechanic to call me back, I’ll just start looking for my next car.  It has to have the following features:

  • Simple mechanical engine that can be fixed on the side of the road with a piece of fencing wire or cloth tape, and a diagnostic port that I can plug in my scan gauge and know what is wrong instantly.
  • Loads of power to sit on the speed limit laden up hills but great fuel economy
  • No computers to fail, but must have some modern aids such as traction control, cruise control, stability control
  • A nice kangaroo proof bull bar – with air bags and crumple zones to keep us safe inside
  • Euro 6 emissions…
  • And blue tooth streaming, reverse camera, air conditioning…

I don’t ask for much do I?  Does such a car really exist?


Other thoughts as to what can make your adventures more comfortable can be found here:



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