HOW COULD THIS AFFECT ME?
Thousands of classic cars feature electronic components – and not necessarily cars that were expensive when new. From the early 1980s, mainstream vehicles like the Austin Maestro and the Rover SD1 had electronically controlled chokes, as well as ECUs to determine ignition conditions. For enthusiasts of more modern classics, more features are likely to be ECU controlled – if the ECU fails and there are no suitable replacements available, the car is effectively unusable. Where structural rust was what killed scores of 1960s, 1970s and 1980s classics, the primary concern of more modern examples is electronic failure.
Modern cars are equipped with Controller Area Network (CANBUS) systems, which allow each of the various microprocessors controlling vehicle functions to talk to each other without a large separate computer to act as a gateway. With up to 100 ECUs in a modern car, there are more failure points on the classics of tomorrow than there were are on older ones. If CANBUS-enabled cars suffer failures, the impact may be further reaching – the smallest problems could lead to significant components needing replacement. Acting now to develop longer-term solutions gives us a better chance of keeping these cars running.
It’s not just 1990s cars that are affected. Mainstream vehicles of the 1970s and ‘80s like the Rover SD1 use ECUs too.