As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm getting a 1983 Mazda RX-7 GSL soon. It's a car that is almost 30 years old and, as the seller told me, it comes with the classic issue with the old power window switches1. Fortunately, I recalled helping a friend in Florida fix a similar problem on his car in a fairly bullet proof way but couldn't recall the details. It's not something that you would find in a Mazda RX-7 Service manual; it's a complete mini-DIY project. You can find replacement switches for around $65 each on the web if you look hard enough but in doing so you retain the conditions that created the problem. You can fix it for less with a little elbow grease and the original switches, if not damaged too much, may last your lifetime.
I searched the Internet for hours last night - time pleasantly wasted as I was reading all manner of other things along the way. I gave up. This morning, I did an almost completely unrelated search and accidentally found what I had been looking for: adding relays to the power windows of a first generation RX-7. The page is 10 years old and will save me having to figure out the wiring schematics and picking the right wires on the harness - a process that can take hours or even days.
I do DIY. I document what I do. The brush bumper on that Mazda pickup to the right served me well in extreme circumstances for 2 years, as an example.
Stepping Back and Being Circumspect
This little issue is, on a larger scale, a much bigger issue. With the economy as it is, a lot of people have more time than money - tinkerer's paradise once the bills are paid.
With the RX-7s, there's a cult following - mainly performanced based because the Wankel engine has a devout speed following. We love our engines. No piston. Rotary. 12A. 13B. 20B. 26B, drool. We love these engines and the cars built around them and we happily share information between ourselves through forums like the RX7Club. In this, automotive enthusiasts around the world aren't different. Some of us like speed, some of us like restoration. We'll milk the last horsepower out of an engine if we can, we'll hypermile, we'll do all manner of things. We're the real people that live outside of an auto industry that, in the United States, was doing so poorly that technically every taxpayer should be sitting on the board of every large automotic company except Ford2.
Vehicle maintenance has become more complicated. There are no open standards when it comes to troubleshooting computer codes, each manufacturer has different standards because... well, I don't have a good reason. Haynes manuals have not become available for eBook readers, at least for the RX-7 - and even when they do, they will be in black and white with the same issues that they had before - diagrams sometimes unclear, sections of the manual that related to different models, etc.
We live in an age of technology, where content management is easily handled. The trouble publishers of the older books will have, though, is updating their content to take advantage of the color available on eReading devices and even smart phones. Where they published manuals on cheap newsprint and black and white, the potential is there for a lot more. It's unlikely that they will properly manage the content in a way that benefits the people who still use them simply because they think it's cost prohibitive3.
This, too, extends to catalogs. As much as I like the RX-7 parts they make available, the online Black Dragon catalog sucks4. The JCWhitney online catalog is pretty useful and well designed. For simplicity, I find the RockAuto catalog the best.
Toss in that most people probably haven't even heard of the resources available to make your own electric car in a period where gas prices are high and the answer the auto industry gives is telling consumers to buy new cars instead of creating more efficient replacement parts for the majority of vehicles on the road.
Stepping back like this, I can't help but wonder why we automotive and motorcyclist enthusiasts haven't scratched our own itch a bit better.
If there was ever an industry that could benefit from it's own community, it would be the aftermarket auto industry. Open Content. Maybe Wikis or content management systems. Maybe eBooks produced by people who bother to document things without falling into copyright traps.
All we need are people who are proud of what they do.
It seems like we already have that.
1For the electromechanically inclined, the first generation RX-7s that had power windows from the factor ran the full amperage through the switches themselves. While the switches were designed for this, they do corrode over time. A temporary fix is to clean the switches but this is less than ideal. The ideal solution is to use relays so that the switches don't have the full window motor amperage across them.
2 Ford didn't take taxpayer money. Remember that. This might be because they have a world market whereas GM and Chrysler don't.
3 I don't believe that it is, but I don't have all the market data. There are a few models for this I have thought of but haven't seen broached publicly.
4 That's actually not too hard to fix. I can do that rather cheaply.
5 We won't get into politics or the corporate disconnect from their customers.