Automotive Nostalgia: 8 Things That Have Gone The Way Of The Dinosaur

You can probably get through life without ever having to learn to write longhand; so long as you can sign your name, you’re fine. We type everything else, right?

It’s the same with many things car-related, too. No one today needs to know how to double-clutch, for example — unless you happen to own a car built before the 1950s.

The last twenty years of technological advances have added several items to the roster of obsolescent skills and things you don’t see much anymore, including:

1) “Choking” The Engine
Since all new cars have electronic fuel injection, there’s no need to set the choke (either manually, by pulling on a knob or automatically, by pumping the gas pedal) because fuel-injected cars don’t have a choke. They have a cold-start enrichment circuit — but it requires no special action by the driver. Just get in, turn the key — and go.

2) Threshold Braking
There are still a few cars that come without anti-lock brakes (ABS) but not many — and their days are numbered. So drivers no longer need worry about learning how to apply the brakes just hard enough to get maximum braking without locking them up and sending the car into a violent skid. The computer handles that now; the driver just slams the brake as hard as he can and the system will prevent the wheels from locking while applying maximum possible braking force to slow the car down. No more loss of steering control; no more black stripes in the road leading to a pile of broken glass and crunched-up sheetmetal.

3) Locking The Hubs
Virtually all 4WD systems today are either automatic or electronic. The onboard system either decides for you when to engage 4WD — or the driver does it by turning a knob on the console. The manly fun of stopping in the middle of a muddy road (or in a downpour), climbing out and manually rotating the engagement mechanism on each front wheel to engage 4WD is fast slipping into the mists of history.

4) Rolling Down The Windows
Have you noticed how few cars still come without power windows as standard equipment? Even the meanest little econo-boxes increasingly include power windows (and air conditioning) in the car’s base price. It’s become an expected “given” — and probably within three or four years at the outside it will be impossible to find a new car that still offers manual roll-up windows. (See also: Locking doors manually.)

5) Emptying The Ashtray
As smoking has become politically incorrect, cup-holders and power points have supplanted ashtrays — several of which, at least, used to be found in just about every new car. Today, if an ashtray is even available, you have to special order it as part of an optional “smoker’s package.”

6) Lubing The Chassis
Many new vehicles have no grease fittings — and so, don’t require the periodic attentions of the grease gun. They are “lubed for life” — which (according to automaker PR) reduces maintenance costs but also means that expensive suspension/chassis parts are also “throw away” parts that can’t be serviced, either.

7) Laying Rubber
It’s still possible to screech the tires and leave a pair of black marks in the road — but electronic nannies are making it harder and may soon render it impossible. Burnouts are irresponsible (though fun!) and the automakers are working feverishly to put under computer control any uncontrolled vehicle movement — such as a slip-sliding drag race-style launch. Traction/stability control systems are becoming omnipresent; they may soon be impossible to turn off.

8) Rustproofing
This is handled by the factory, which does a magnificent job of applying protective coatings that keep new cars from rusting out for many years. These days, it’s common for the body to outlast the engine — the reverse of what used to be the case. And it’s completely superfluous to buy a rust-proofing package beyond what the car got when it was assembled at the factory. That business has gone the way of the pet rock and Betamax.

This is a guest post by automotive columnist Eric Peters, check him out on the web at

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