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There’s a mod­ern de­cep­tion I des­per­ately need to make you aware of, a bla­tant liar who’s slipped right un­der every new car owner’s nose with­out them even notic­ing. Per­haps some of you have no­ticed and I’m not the only one propos­ing this con­spir­acy the­ory to a row of blank stares…

The main rea­son I wis­ened up to the wicked ways of this de­ceiver is be­cause I love, own and drive clas­sic cars. Rang­ing in age from 45 to just un­der 20 years, the lack of new-age gad­gets and lux­ury are made up for by charm­ing sim­plic­ity, grace­ful pace, patina and good-old hon­esty.

Gloss­ing over age-in­duced nig­gle, the sub­ject of my rant is the in­stru­men­ta­tion of new cars and i n par­tic­u­lar, t heir coolant gauges. You know the one, a lit­tle nee­dle which tells you the car’s “wa­ter tem­per­a­ture” or “heat” and usu­ally has an icon of a lit­tle ther­mome­ter float­ing in liq­uid. In some older cars, the scale would even show de­grees Cel­cius ( or Fahren­heit, over­seas) and here’s the crux: that lit­tle nee­dle was alive! It moved, depend­ing on pre­vail­ing con­di­tions and driv­ing style it would climb the scale in either di­rec­tion to show ex­actly how hot and both­ered your car’s en­gine was.

Slow and heavy traf­fic in sum­mer with the air- con on full blast? Yeah, that’s when it would lean to­wards the red mark­ing of its do­main and only drop back down when one or more of those vari­ables were re­moved.

I’ve also seen freez­ing days in win­ter where the H20 temp never reached “nor­mal”.

Right, if you’ve been in an old(er) au­to­mo­bile, I’m sure you’ll agree with all of this. What you should also recog­nise as the truth is that the coolant sys­tem in every sin­gle new ( mod­ern) car is either a re­mark­able in­stru­ment of su­perb per­fec­tion or the dial – that cool new coolant gauge – is a liar with its pants on fire.

Every mod­ern car, with­out fail, has a tem­per­a­ture gauge that steadily climbs to its nor­mal sta­tus and doesn’t move a mi­cron for the re­main­der of your jour­ney. Even if that jour­ney starts in the Arctic Cir­cle and ends by tow­ing a car­a­van up the side of a vol­cano. Noth­ing, no move­ment.

D’you see where I’m go­ing with this? They’re ly­ing to us, the lit­tle anti-freeze junkies. Even on a mild day with lit­tle to no traf­fic, an old car will al­ways show some sort of vari­ance in its wa­ter temp as the ther­mo­stat moves, fans kick in, driv­ing speed varies or the load / road changes.

A mod­ern car will do no such thing and I think I’ve fig­ured out why. It’s to lull us into a false sense of se­cu­rity and fur­ther numb the mod­ern driver from the alien tech­nol­ogy un­der their car’s hood.

The less they know, the bet­ter. The less they worry, the less they’ll tinker or an­noy the dealer.

Much like those stupid lit­tle blue and red warn­ing lights which have re­placed the coolant dial in some cars (cough, Honda) I have a sneak­ing sus­pi­cion that mod­ern wa­ter temp nee­dles will only go into the red once it’s too late.

And all car mak­ers are cross­ing their fin­gers that it never will…

My Dad will back this up be­cause one of his new cars over­heated and he only saw the nee­dle move at the last sec­ond; when it was too late. It didn’t climb grad­u­ally, it merely jumped into the red just be­fore the en­gine cut out.

The cause of this dilemma? A loose ra­di­a­tor hose. In all fair­ness, the rapid loss of coolant fluid would have re­sulted in a fairly quick rise in tem­per­a­ture and even my sea­soned mo­torist fa­ther may not have spot­ted it in time. But that brings me neatly to the fi­nal point of my rant–we’ re be­ing de­sen­si­tised by all these nanny sys­tems.

When I drive an old banger, I keep a very keen eye on the di­als. It’s part of the whole ex­pe­ri­ence, that wob­bly speedo, the pes­simistic fuel read-out and of course, the lively coolant gauge. It’s what I love about clas­sic cars, not only do they feel an­i­mated, they’re hon­est too.


If you can prove oth­er­wise, i.e. that mod­ern coolant gauges move be­yond the "nor­mal" state, please send me your story, pho­tos, proof, etc. I would love to hear from you!

H Some­one or some­thing in your new car is ly­ing to you...

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