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What's the Life of a Car's Complete Electronic System?

Posted by mxyplx (My Page) on
Tue, Aug 7, 07 at 11:18

Does the electronic system which runs most of the car (oxygen sensor, airbag sensors, automatic brake adjusters, open door sensors, auto climate control, fuel injection system, spark control, EGR, computerized this and that, instrumentation and computer) die or begin to die of pure old age regardless of mileage? If so, what age might that be?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What's the Life of a Car's Complete Electronic System?

I've been driving a 1987 corvette daily for the last 3 years. It's got all that stuff you mentioned except air bags. The only thing that failed so far in the 45k miles I've driven it was the MAF burn off relay, which was a $10 part at NAPA. I splurged and replaced both MAF relays at the same time for $20.

I doubt there's a definitive answer to your question.

RE: What's the Life of a Car's Complete Electronic System?

I agree with gary__. There are so many variables: the design of the components (and where/how they are installed in the car); their initial quality; their upkeep, how you drive; and so on.

Electronics in a car that is garaged most of the time should last longer because they're exposed to fewer extreme shifts in temperature. A car that "lives" in the country likely will have its wiring exposed to less corrosive elements (smog, etc.), which could help it last longer. A car that is frequently exposed to high humidity (especially near salt water) suffers more than a car that is used in a dry area -- though that car runs the risk of dust causing problems or heat retention. People who do only short-hop driving run the risk of problems with their emissions equipment.

On a purely-electronic level, the chips and capacitors and circuit boards are fairly inert. They can last for several decades; certainly longer than 10.

Wiring -- especially rubber and vinyl -- will deteriorate over time because of the heat and flexure that is part of a running car -- though it will deteriorate more slowly in a car that isn't driven much or isn't driven in extreme conditions. Tire manufacturers are recommending that tires be replaced every six years or so regardless of the mileage on them; I would guess that hoses/belts/rubber components under the hood have a similar lifespan. The timing belt in my car -- a reinforced rubber belt -- should be replaced every 100,000 miles or every five years, whichever comes first. Repetitive motions also can damage electronics-related components, like trunk-light wiring, depending on design.

Then there's the question of what you can live without. A failed open-door sensor or a flickering trunk light is a nuisance, but certainly not a showstopper.

RE: What's the Life of a Car's Complete Electronic System?

OK. I'll keep it. I've begun to let some things slide. Prolly change the belt though whether it needs it or not.

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