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Redusernab Asks: What Will be The Next Automotive Operational Skill to Atrophy?

Robert Emslie April 14, 2017 Redusernab Asks 55 Comments

At one point in time, early in the automobile’s existence, driving a car required an intimate understanding of spark advance. At the same time the starting of said automobile demanded the use of a crank, and perhaps a compression release valve.

These, and other vestiges of automotive interaction have long since faded into the past, and a number of more modern activities are rapidly following them. Explain to a Gen-Y’er just exactly why we say to crank up the window. While they’re wrapping their melon around that, hit them with the concept of the clutch pedal. 

There are so many aspects of auto use that are falling by the wayside that it’s almost hard to keep up. Wait, you used to stick a key in a lock to get into your car? Ewww! As we run pell-mell into an unfathomable future, what now-common automotive practice do you think will be next on the chopping block?


  • Alcology


    • Kiefmo

      Heard a news report on NPR about this on the way to work this AM. They talked a bit about how automakers are “all in” on autonomous driving.

      However, I haven’t heard a ton about how the infrastructure and car ownership (sharing/service models?) will take advantage of machine driving.

      The fact that this is being approached as a bunch of individual cars driving themselves is stupid and will get us nowhere with congestion and accidents (as long as there are flesh drivers interacting with silicon drivers). It would be far superior in terms of traffic control to have all cars controlled by a decentralized service that makes decisions on speed, signals, etc.

      Difficulty: how are you going to get everyone into an autonomous vehicle overnight, which is what it would require?

      • Alcology

        Going to be rough. What would happen to all of the current vehicles too?

      • Sjalabais

        I just recently linked to it, but this article picks up some of these issues with a healthy dose of optimism. They’re also proposing all sorts of legislation that will reinforce some of the live decisions I have made along the urban – country line.

      • P161911

        I could see either certain roads (interstates/limited access highways) becoming autonomous vehicle only or maybe just certain lanes, similar to the current HOV or express lanes.

  • Desmo

    1) Telling apart the picture from rear mirror cam from a bunch of other pics on a confusing screen.
    2) Finding 1) again if lost in a submenu.

    • Kiefmo

      When our car with a backup camera is in reverse, all you can do is change the view of the camera (wide angle, standard, or bumper-facing).

  • crank_case

    Handbrake turns.

    • Kiefmo

      …are why I never had to rotate my tires on the FWD cars I drive in college.

  • Letstakeawalk

    Reading a map.

    • Alcology

      That’s already toast. My phone died on a trip I was in the middle of so I stopped at a gas station to buy a road map and found my way there and back again for a craigslist auto part purchase. It got me wondering if I hadn’t known to use a map, or how to read one, would I have just left the guy hanging.

  • outback_ute

    Adjusting a carburettor or distributor

    “Wait, you used to stick a key in a lock to get into your car? Ewww!”

    And then unlock the other doors individually

    • My daughters have never driven a car without a remote fob. Aside from the Thunderbird, I haven’t had one in 11 years. And that car (1993 Escort) had manual windows and locks too.

      • Alff

        My teenagers are the only kids in their circle who have not known the luxury of remote keyless entry. For them it is a secret shame.

    • Sjalabais

      + one separate key for the ignition. Because more keys = more cool.

  • Alff

    Panelbeating and welding sheetmetal.

    • For some reason the kids these days don’t even want to try doing lead bodywork.

      • Alff

        The genetic predisposition to such work has been eliminated from the gene pool, not coincidentally.

        • Nonsense! I don’t even have kids and… Oh.

    • P161911

      Every time you try to whack the plastic it just breaks.

      • To save you some time and money, I’ll point out that an English wheel doesn’t help.

  • P161911

    Turning a key to start a car. “You didn’t have a Start button!”

    • Kiefmo

      A start button? Pleb. A shift lever? How common.

      My car reads my mind and determines whether it needs to be in park, reverse, or drive, and the engine starts when I press the accelerator.

      • Yeah, I’ve had cars like that. Usually it’s a combination of worn shifter detents and a short in the relay side of the starter wiring.

      • I had a car like that. Her name was Christine.

    • AlexG55

      Things go in circles. The first car I ever rode in has a start button. Of course, you had to turn the key (and pull out the choke) first.

  • P161911

    I just had the thought, in 10 years, would giving your 16 year old a car to drive that didn’t have ABS, automatic crash avoidance, and some form of autonomous driving capability be the equivalent of 25 years ago giving a 16 year old a car with mechanical drum brakes and a non-tempered glass windshield?

    • Jeezy

      I’d definitely agree on automatic crash avoidance and low level autonomous driving being the norm in 10-15 years, though I think it’ll still be mostly restricted to high end vehicles (as a standard option), at least for the next few years. However, ABS seems to already be equipped on the majority of new cars sold in the last 10 years, and is required on all cars sold in the USA after 2010.

      • P161911

        I was thinking specifically of letting my daughter (who is now 5) drive something like my 1977 Corvette (if I ever get it back on the road) in 12 years or so time. For many years my requirements for a “safe” vehicle were: decent tires, decent brakes (preferably power, dual master cylinder, preferably front disc), shoulder belts in the front seats, padded dash (or at least a steering column that wouldn’t try to kill you), safety glass windshield. Not all the vehicles that I have owned meet these requirements, but most of the ones I have used for daily transportation have.

    • “…giving a 16 year old a car with mechanical drum brakes and a non-tempered glass windshield?”

      At 17 I angled for a car like that as a high-school graduation present but we eventually compromised on something newer without seatbelts. It was cheaper.

  • Dirty Dingus McGee

    1) Manual transmission operation. Almost there now
    2) How to change a tire. Run flats, and no spare in many now.
    3) Any type of maintenance. Can’t even find the engine with the plastic covers on them today.

    • LeaksOil

      2.- Fun fact. Not all cars without spares come with run flats or keep run flats on them. Some come with a can of fix a flat and a small compressor. I had a customer with one such car this week. Hyundai Elantra. Didn’t want to pay extra for RFT tires when replacing all 4. Went with private label 50k rated all-seasons instead.

      So with a tire blowout; this person is calling a tow truck.

  • I_Borgward

    At this rate, the only crank I’ll find on the inside of a car will be me.

  • How to shut a manual, sliding minivan door.

    • LeaksOil

      I have not one, but TWO manual sliding minivan doors (on the same minivan!)

    • 1977ChevyTruck

      The power motors on our 2006 Odyssey have died numerous times (tiny electric motors do not like gravel dust), making the learning curve for this skill rather steep (formerly power doors are HEAVY).

  • Batshitbox

    Parallel parking might fade away as autonomous vehicle technology creeps in. Self parking cars will proliferate before self driving cars.
    Then some do gooder will decide handling a gas pump is too dangerous and inefficient for humans, or we’ll go all-electric.

    • Fuhrman16

      There’s already a couple of states that won’t let you pump your own gas (New Jersey and Oregon I think?) at a gas station.

      • Oregon has been that way since 1951.

      • Batshitbox

        Yeah, Jersey for sure. I’m imagining you’ll pull into the fueling station (if you use dinosaur juice) and some robotic arm will mate with your fuel input port, dispense your fuel and ding your bank account all while you check your fame on social media.

        If your car’s electric, of course, you’ll just park on top of a magnetic charging pad.

      • Rover 1

        And countries too. Like Japan.

        • Mr.Roadrage

          Japan has had self-serve petrol for a long time now.

          • Rover 1

            I was there a long time ago, Thanks for the correction. 🙂

          • Lokki

            I’m in Japan right now, and yeah, there’s self service but nobody uses it…. the station attendants are still wiping your windows too… and some of them are cute girls.

            • Mr.Roadrage

              I suppose it depends on where you are . There are two self-serve stations in my neighbourhood and they’re aways busy. But then again, there aren’t any other options nearby.

  • Harry Callahan

    How to keep a carbureted engine from stalling when cold.

    • I remain convinced I’ll eventually master this.

      • Harry Callahan

        gotta master left foot braking…..

        • For my engines it’s also a matter of fiddling with the manual choke.

          • Harry Callahan

            Now THAT is a lost art!

            Fettling auto chokes too…

  • Clawbrant

  • The manual window winder is such beautiful and ellegant solution to raising and lowering a window. In some cars they were art objects. I hate to see them fade away.

    • Luxury Lexus Land-yacht

      One of the many things I really, really liked about the 1967 Doge A-108 Sportsman window van which was my first vehicle (for a lot of things, like being the first vehicle I ever rode in/drove/help fix/fixed/dented/etc.) was the fact the windows could be opened or closed completely with a grand total of 2 and about 1/3 turns of the crank.

      In fact, my first power-window car, a ’73 Coupe DeVille (owned in the early-90s), had the speediest window gear ratio in the linkages I’d seen until recently. The glass would borderline slam into the weatherstripping.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    My personal experience is manual door locks. When we were driving a carpool, the other kids never locked the doors because all they knew were power locks. I actually had this conversation with my daughter last week since we just scrapped a 96 Saturn that was our least vehicle with window cranks and manual locks.

  • Lokki

    It’s the little things that are going away without anybody noticing. My car has a self-dimming rear-view mirror, which I only remembered when driving a car without that feature the other night. My car also automatic on/off headlights which I never think about. Then there’s the fact it has no dipstick…which is just fine with me.
    I mean, hey! if the car wants oil, it’ll tell me.



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