The Future of Maintenance

This past Sunday I had to replace a burned out brake light in my wife’s Hyundai Veracruz.  It’s a complete pain in the butt to get the tail light assembly off this vehicle because of how the assembly is engineered.  I looked online for tips on how to slide it out.  Plenty of videos, but in every single one of them the assembly just seems to magically slide out.  So, once I solved the riddle of how to do it, I shot my own video and put it up.

The confluence of two currents — digital engineering and planned obsolescence — has created a maelstrom into which the amateur mechanic has been sucked to his doom.  Over time, vehicles and major appliances have become increasingly hard for non-professionals to work on.  As a friend of mine’s grandfather used to say, “To work on a Model T you needed three tools: a rag, a screwdriver, and a pair of pliers.  And the rag was the most important one.”

Now, more than ever, it is essential for us to stop throwing stuff out and making more.  It drives me crazy when people go out and buy energy-efficient cars and appliances when the old ones were working just fine.  It’s often better for the environment to keep the old appliance because of the energy and resources required to make a new product.  Even though energy efficiency is ever-increasing, it’s often more efficient to just run the old one longer.

The Modulon

In my vision of the future, a car manufacturer markets a car called the Modulon.  It’s super easy to work on.  It comes with access to an online maintenance guide, and a cable that you use to hook up the vehicle to your computer or tablet so that you can run diagnostics.  Everything comes apart with nuts bolts and screws.

Built with industrial quality, the Modulon’s design changes as little as possible year over year so that as many parts as possible can be swapped between models.  Every part of the car is designed for longevity and easy repair.

The digital engineering files are available in the online maintenance guide as well.  This allows enterprising owners with 3-D printers to make plastic replacement parts at home, such as dash parts, trim pieces, and buttons, and those with laser cutters/sculptors to make metal parts.  It also allows custom fabricators to easily make fancy, custom parts and sell them in online shops.

Somebody should contact the guys over at Local Motors and pitch the concept.  Who knows, they might be down.  Hell, if I had the time, I’d join the forums and pitch it myself.

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