An MIL (malfunction indicator lamp), or CEL (check engine light), is a tell-tale sign that a computerized engine-management system is in use. If it’s new enough to have one, it’s too new. Depending on the make, they started showing up in the 80’s, and by the early 90’s they all had them. GM kind of started the baloney, to increase the needed maintenance on their vehicles, and thus boost their profits. The added profits were so successful that Ford and Dodge followed suit.
Lawsuits were filed against the automakers for this unnecessary added garbage, worse performance, and added pollution, so they had laws passed to require it, so they could beat the lawsuits. Then they made them even more complex to counter the lower performance and added pollution, all while hurting fuel economy, but remaining cheaper than building quality vehicles. Since the 80’s, their goal has never been to improve their vehicles, it has only been to improve their profits.
1979 & 1980 were a major change in the big 3 American automakers. Henry Ford II was replaced by Philip Caldwell, who was not a Ford family member, Lee Iococca took over Chrysler, and Roger Smith took over GM. This marked a paradigm shift from quality to profit in all three. The previous competition to build market share through building better vehicles was replaced by greed. Build them cheaper, just give them the appearance of quality. Forget quality or safety, profits first. The pickups and vans were the most profitable, so their changes came slower. Much of the cost cutting went unnoticed, until reliability issues appeared, and repair costs increased. Due to the backlash, both Ford & Dodge/Chrysler changed their body styles, and later Chevy followed suit.
The mid to late 80’s was the beginning of all the ridiculous sensors, all of which can go bad, and which can be very misleading as to the actual problems, if there are even any problems. It has cost consumers trillions of dollars in unnecessary repair and replacement costs. Parts getting replaced needlessly when only the sensor was bad, and misdiagnosis of the actual problems, causing many unneeded replacements in an attempt to solve them. The politicians were complicit in this massive scam to bilk the consumers.
If you look beyond the hype we’re led to believe, simpler is almost always better, cheaper, and more reliable. Pre-computerized vehicles probably have less than 10% of the failure points than newer computerized vehicles. If you were to remove that added 90% plus of added failure points, vehicles would once again be much more reliable and longer lasting. What we are seeing in newer vehicles is planned obsolescence, and more needed repairs and maintenance, which is also more costly. Like so many other things in society today, they are designed to be disposable, instead of quality long term keepers.
In the old days, the majority of cars in wrecking yards were physically wrecked beyond repair. Today, most of the cars look good, but with failed engines, transmissions, or electronics. If that’s progress, they can keep it. I don’t want to have to buy a new vehicle every few years. I wouldn’t trade my 45 year old van for a brand new one of any make. I prefer the reliability and the easy fixability of my van. It was built in an era when quality was a priority, instead of a footnote.
"I can live like a king because I work like a dog." ~ An anonymous vandweller