Automotive Education

Start of Education of the automobile of today.


Ronald Reagan started a wonderful process, emissions control.  In 1981 we had one of the first major changes mandated to change fuel and its emissions from the automobile.  This was the Clean Air Act of 1981.  This was a milestone because it required oxygen sensors and three way catalysts (also called catalytic converters) to lower NOx (Nitrogen Oxide, which contributes to smog and acid rain).  What might have been a simple start to cleaning up our air started a change in how the automobile would actually become today.

The next stage of change would be passed Under George H Bush in 1990.  This was the Clean Air Act of 1990.  The bill set steps of evolution that would require how a vehicle would control its emissions.  Small changes had already been required, like a PCV valve (this component required engine crank case pressure to be put back into the intake and burned instead of venting it onto the ground).  Charcoal canisters were also already requires for fuel tanks to catch the excess fuel vapors and then when vacuum was applied these vapors would burn in the engine.  Like stated earlier, cat converters with sensors monitoring O2 content where in place.  The Clean Air act of 1990 set a level of changes that helped to change how the vehicles of today would operate.  For basically 70 years the gas engine went unchanged.  This is why the Automobile industry made so much money for so long.   They only had to change the body of the vehicle.  The drive train stayed the same.  That means they didn’t have to change the engine, transmission or any other related components for this time period.  Every upgrade was an option and the dealer installed that option not the factory.

Well to control emission standards set by the Clean Air act of 1990 computers had to be installed and were required to start monitoring everything.  The first level of communication was called On Board Diagnostics I or OBD I.  It was controlled by a rate of speed and communication that could monitor and change the rate in which fuel was burned.  Controlling this rate is important because at each engine speed and load, fuel consumption and completeness of burn, is different.  Well carburetors went out the window so to speak because they could compensate so little.  Their made range of good operation was between 2500 rpms and 4500 rpms for most vehicles under load (under load means while the vehicle is moving and operating).  They were good at one thing, dumping fuel into the engine, just like a toilet does in your bathroom.  With the death of a carburetors on vehicles manufacturers really had to invest some money for change.  Vehicle communications with OBD I set a standard of emission fails for problems with engine components that controlled emissions.  This was very basic to start but very important.

The next level of communication that was to be implemented was to come in by 1996.  This still was being set by the Clean air act of 1990.  This level of communication was OBD II.  This standard had many rules.  Before manufacturers could set what a code for an emissions failure was.  Now everyone that was an automobile repair technician could have access to the same information.  This also set a standard for each code’s meaning and a process to diagnosis the vehicle.  Before this only the manufacture could repair and retrieve the diagnostic information needed to repair a vehicle.  Now anyone could.  This Act also set where the communications connector would be and how an individual could retrieve the codes of failure.  Independent technicians loved it because they now had access to the same information that a manufacture dealer had and also could repair the vehicle from an emissions failure.  The Clean Air Act also set a standard for how long an emissions component had to be able to last.

So in order to really control emissions a new standard of engine had to be developed.  With emission controls being so tight and vehicles being so much more expensive to produce return repairs had to be less in order for a consumer to see buying the newer vehicle.  Vehicle engines went form lasting 80,000 – 100,000 miles to 250,000 – 300,000 miles, just to pass emission time lines.

But the two things that have been lost in all of these change involving vehicle emissions.  First to go was consumer maintaining of a vehicle.  We ended up with the consumers that knew when an oil change was due, tires needed to be changed, and how to put gas in a vehicle (the gas and goers).  When a consumer looks under the hood of a vehicle it looks all confusing and complicated.  They can’t deal with it!  But they also don’t want to pay to get it fixed because it is already expensive to own and make the payments.  The Second thing that was lost was a trained technician that follows a process to diagnosis.  One training class I went to called automotive technicians part replacers.  I was horrified.  Is that what we have become?  Absolutely not!

Why did this happen?  I think two reasons.  The instructor of the class worked for a parts company and that is the way the parts company saw us as technicians.  Second the education they were providing was about replacing more parts and condemning parts.  The instructor was not giving a proper process to follow for diagnosis and fixing the problem correctly.  Diagnosis must happen first!

So when it comes to getting great training look and talk to experience and trained technicians for support and where they to get great training.  Make sure that training has a process of diagnosis that is used and followed.  And if you really need help looking for great training then look to great web sites such as,, or  These sites can point you in a great direction for education and resources for support on a how to recognize a great repair facility and great trained technicians..


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About William Reny

Working with a great group of friends. Currently I am a featured writer for Yahoo Auto. I am a published author with Pearson Publishing as a contributor to an Automotive Technologies book. I was an automotive technician for 14 years and a USAF F-15E crew chief while in service. I have two of the best kids on the planet. I am a super-fan of The Man of Steel and read DC comics every day. Thank you all who read my posts, you are the reason why I write! Please leave a comment, feed back is appreciated!