Anyone Remember. . . ?

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Recently by Eric Peters: The Electric Car Imbroglio Is About To Get Even More Expensive…

Time passes – things change. Here’s a quick look at some of those things, for instance:

Once upon a time, you had two car keys – one to unlock the doors, the other to start the engine. Two keys went out of style sometime in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Newer cars have just one key that unlocks the doors and starts the engine. But they’re on the endangered species list, too. Physical keys are becoming fairly uncommon. Most new cars have a transmitter fob instead – and a button you push to unlock the door (and start the engine). Probably within a year or two, physical keys will be history. And in 20-something years, people will say, “do you remember when you had to put a key in the ignition switch?”

Heck, in 20-something years, probably the transmitter fob will be antique, too. My guess is they’ll key the car’s locks to the owner’s fingerprint – or some other “biometric” identifier.

How about a choke? That’s going back a but farther – to the late 1980s. Back when car engines got fed gas via carburetors, you usually had to set the choke when the engine was cold in order to be able to start the engine. The choke temporarily richened-up the incoming air/fuel mixture and was engaged manually either by pulling a knob out or by pushing down on the accelerator pedal, which tripped a mechanical linkage on the carburetor. Then, you’d have to let the car “warm up” for a minuet or three before it was ready to drive off. Otherwise, it would often stall out on you. Ah, the good old days!

Today, you just turn the key – whoops, push the start button – and off you go. Fuel injection systems have a cold start enrichment circuit, but no choke – and they do it all for you, automatically. Just get in – and go. No need to warm up the car. In fact, idling the engine will delay its warming up, wasting gas as well as keeping you cold because the car’s heater is also taking longer to “warm up.”

Cars without a Third Eye. Remember them? As Elvis used to say sometimes, it’s been a long time… .

All cars built during the past quarter century have the Third Eye – formally, the Center High Mounted Stop Light (CHMSL). The Feds require it – so we get to buy it. But the CHMSL was once a novelty item that some people added to their cars. You could buy them in the JC Whitney catalog.

Some studies claim the Third Eye has reduced accidents – especially rear-enders, because people react faster to the higher-mounted CHMSL than they did to lower-mounted regular brake lights. That’s probably true. It’s also true that the CHMSL is an aesthetic atrocity – and sometimes, adds a significant unforeseen cost to cars so equipped. Some CHMSLs have shockingly pricey bulbs – often, five or six (or more) of them – at $10 or $20 (or more) per bulb. As OJ used to say, look out!

Today, you can immediately spot a pre-modern car by looking to see how many brake lights it has. If it’s just the two, it’s pretty old. At least 25 years old – because the newest car to leave the factory without the CHMSL was built back in 1986. Anything after that ought to have the CHMSL.

Read the rest of the article Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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