Things You Won’t Find in Your Next New Car

It’s almost impossible to find a new car that doesn’t come standard with amenities that used to be expensive options such as air conditioning (usually, automatic climate controlled air conditioning), power windows and locks, cruise and (usually) at least a four-speaker stereo system.

But there are also items that used to be givens in cars that are becoming harder to find and — within a few years — will probably be nearly impossible to find. For instance:

* CD slots –

Music is delivered over the ether nowadays, via Bluetooth and Pandora and SiriusXm. Compact discs are so 1990s. They are the tape decks of our era. Relics of another time. A few new cars still have a CD slot, but the CD changer (remember them?) is history. Who wants to deal with the hassle of a stack of CDs — each of which having maybe a dozen songs on it — when you can access thousands of songs on an iPod or iPhone the size of a pack of cigarettes?

* Gas caps –

You may have had to deal with a “check engine” light coming on — and then having to get the “trouble code” cleared by a shop. Frequently, these codes are triggered by a fault with the car’s evaporative emissions control system. Perhaps you can see where this is headed. People not quite tightening the gas cap enough. So, gas vapors — very un-PC — escape and the car’s computer has a conniption fit. The car companies engineered capless fuel fillers to deal with this. Just stick the nozzle in, pump in your gas, pull out the nozzle — and the thing seals itself. You’ll also never have to worry about leaving the cap at the gas station again, either.

* Analog gauges –

Old-timey speedometers and tachometers (and volt/temp/oil pressure gauges) with physical needles and fixed gauge facings are gradually fading away in favor of multi-configurable LCD flat screen displays. These have the advantage of allowing the driver to select from any of several displays. For example, you can toggle from oil pressure to volts to water temperature. Or change the look of the speedo. Or replace the speedo with GPS. The options are almost limitless. More stuff can be displayed in a given space (though perhaps not all at once). Flat screen displays first appeared in hybrid and high-end cars but are becoming common in mid-priced cars and will likely be as common in all cars within five years as idiot lights and white-wall tires were back in the ’70s.

* Dipsticks –

Guess how you check the oil (and other fluid) levels in several new cars? It’s not by popping the hood and pulling out a dipstick. Several new cars don’t have them. Instead, fluid levels are checked from inside the car. Instead of popping the hood, you tap the app. Sensors tell you not only how much oil is in the engine but also its condition — and whether it’s getting close to change-it time. Some will lament the passing of the simpler — but dirtier — dipstick. But others will appreciate being able to check the level without getting their hands greasy. Or even getting out of the car. And also, getting the longest life out of each quart of oil. Many new cars come factory filled with (and require) expensive synthetic oil, which can cost $10 per quart or more. If the oil life sensors help you avoid changing the oil before it’s actually necessary to change the oil, it can save you a bunch of money over the life of the car.

* Drain plugs –

Related to the above, drain plugs on the underside of the engine are no longer there in a number of new cars. These are — for the present — mostly higher-end luxury cars such as certain Mercedes-Benz models. The assumption being that people who purchase $50,000 (and up) vehicles tend not to change their own oil. Instead, the oil is sucked out of the engine using special machines at the dealership. It’s neater — and it doesn’t require getting underneath the car. The downside, of course, is that if your car doesn’t have a drain plug (and you don’t have the special equipment to suck the oil out from above) then you have to take the car to the dealer for oil changes.

* Oval air filters –

Air cleaners are now almost uniformly air boxes. And the filters inside are squarish or rectangular rather than oval. The chief reason for the change is packaging. The old-style round air cleaner assemblies and filters took up a fair amount of space under the hood. The boxes allow the same (or more) surface area for filtration/air intake, but are more compact and can be fit into the engine compartment more easily. One not-so-great aspect of these air boxes, though, is that you sometimes need tools to open them to get at the air filter. It may be only a screwdriver, but that’s still more work than hand-turning a single wingnut, as we used to do back in the day.

* Ash trays –

Most new cars come with multiple cupholders, but not a single ashtray. If you like to smoke, you are out o’ luck. A few manufacturers still offer ashtrays, but they are extra-cost options. You must buy a Smoker’s Package.

Otherwise, the “ashtray” will be lined with felt and meant for coins. Or plastic — and it’ll melt.

* Mechanical keys –

Remote transmitter key fobs (and pushbutton ignition) have already all-but-replaced the physical ignition key that dates back to the dawn of the automobile age. So long as the fob is in your pocket or purse, you can start the car and also usually unlock the car, just by touching the car (the door handle). Several new cars (e.g., the 2016 Ford Edge) don’t have mechanical pulls for the interior locks; the works are now entirely electronic and wireless, too. Just be sure to not lose the things as they can be very expensive to replace. Depending on the make/model involved, you might be looking at $150 for a new transmitter fob… vs. $5 for a new key.

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7 Responses to “Things You Won’t Find in Your Next New Car”

  1. Kc says:

    $5 ignition key good luck finding one. For the last 10 years most have anti theft features that means they will be at least $20. A local toyota dealer has a nice scam – sell relatively new used toyota’s have the buyer sign the still owed by dealer form saying all is included nothing else has been promised and seal the deal. Most of us expect 2 keys when you purchase. The one key that’s needed is handed to you as you leave. “We’ll check with prior owner for second key and get back to you…”. The $250 for my keyless entry for my Prius I was aware of, a buddy feel into the same thing and for a standard key with chip for his used 2015 was not available aftermarket or locksmith $200 from dealer.

  2. Brother John says:

    Short version: Unless quality control improves to nearly spotless rates, resale values on these cars will rapidly approach nil: sensors will fail, and there will be no way to see what the oil is like; other sensors and lights will fail, and you will have a blinking dash going haywire and giving you a migraine while you drive through the night; your key battery will fail, and there won’t be a backup slot where you can at least get *into* the car.

    As for ash trays, those haven’t been in any newish cars I’ve seen or driven in nearly 20 years. Besides which, when I smoked, I never used one anyway. Who can smoke with the windows shut??

    • seenmuch says:

      DUMB!!!!!!! A few things……Removing the oil dip stick not the brightest idea anyone has ever had. …..

      !Newsflash! for all of the techies out there who believe in the real world you can live online never actually getting your hands dirty, in your high tech EV, hybrid or whatever……..

      Sensors fail giving false positive signals all the time. The older a vehicle gets the less likely all of the high tech sensors the less accurate they ALL become! Running out of oil in a 10-40k engine…..

      And without that data being given to the driver in a realistic way as these things age removing the dipstick will leave you in situation where you are not even be able to verify oil levels by the vehicle owner…

      Go ahead remove other things we can live without but please leave the drain plug and oil dipstick in place…..Or all of the high tech Vwonder machines will as they age quickly become very expensive doorstops or paper weights as the engines implode while drivers who think they are driving around full of oil(unverifiable) find to their surprise they have been driving around for weeks with an empty oil pan………

  3. tzx4 says:

    I read today on another site, this . . .spare tires. Ridiculous!

    Let’s just say I would never buy a car without a spare tire.

  4. LinuxGuy says:

    All this is great until it breaks, you can’t do what you want, or you have to pay for it. It will also cost more to buy initially.

  5. peter hicks says:

    Yes new is wonderful until you buy a Renault automatic where they seen fit to remove the drain plug from the transmission and fit a condition sensor for the fluid that is linked to a counter in the computer that you can’t access because of Renaults closely harder software/hardware hook up cable
    And to check the level you have to climb underneath undo a plug with the engine running in neutral if some fluid runs out its OK if it does not you need topping up until it starts to run out the level hole ,topping up means undoing the cable mechanism to access the filler plug to get to this I have to remove the scuttle panel and then the bulkhead panel .
    It is said by Renault that the transmission only ever needs topping up now and again while every other auto trans mfg in the world state fluid has to be changed at 30,000 miles ,meanwhile your Renault is pumping debris from the clutch packs all around the unit damaging valve body components /seals/bearings and bushings ,not forgetting clogging up the filter .
    Yes I love new design technology !

  6. peter hicks says:

    Vehicles today are being designed so its dealer only unless you go onto utube to find out how to do it your self, take the Renault’s for instance you have to take the front right off just change a headlight bulb , if your dephaser starts to get noisy your going to need a new cambelt plus tensioners and you might as well change the water pump while your at it ,and what of the special tools you have to have everything is being designed for dealer only ,they could afford to give you the car free because they are making millions in inflated service bills !