Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News Analysis -

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.

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