Talkin' Torque: Engineers’ Questionable Decisions

December 2021 Column, Feature Brady L. Kay

This article originally appeared in the November 2021 issue.

For the most part I typically give auto engineers the benefit of a doubt, despite what I might utter under my breath when I'm elbow deep into an engine. No, they didn't design it this way because they hate me; it just sometimes feels that way. 

I often wonder if engineers have their feelings hurt a little when people start mix-matching trucks and engines. It’s becoming more and more common that an owner loves the look of his brand X truck, but would rather have a brand Y engine or vice versa. Naturally you have to assume if engineers were doing a better job there would be fewer conversion kits on the market today, or at least a few less "Fummins" trucks on the road.

Truth is, engineers have a tough job. In a lot of ways they're like offensive linemen in football. The only time you notice those big guys on the field is when they get hurt or when they commit a penalty. When they do their job and the team gets in the end zone, all the attention is usually focused on the running back who scored the touchdown or the quarterback who threw the pass. And yes, back in the day I was one of those salty linemen.

Engineers tend to get some of this treatment as well. It’s not that we ignore them, but when a truck is running strong and everything seems to be located in a somewhat reasonable place, no one is talking about those who helped design it. Throw in a hard-to-reach but often-replaced part or some odd design quirk or specialty tool needed to finish the job, and that can quickly change.

My truck recently left me stranded, and based on the symptoms, I feared I had done some major damage. Without any prior issues that day I had successfully towed my boat to our nearby lake for a day on the water. Luckily my truck didn't decide to go into lockdown mode on the launch ramp or during any of the other countless times I put my truck in park that day. Instead, it was at the manual car wash when I went to spray off the boat. The truck would start up like normal, yet I couldn't get it out of park. It didn’t matter that I had the keys; it was acting like I didn’t and I would have been thrilled to just get it in neutral since the line at the carwash bay was starting to pile up. I'll spare you all the details, but after "some" diagnosis time my friend whom I had called earlier got back to me and asked if I had brake lights. 

I checked and sure enough I didn't. I swapped out the 5 amp fuse that I had blown and just like that I could put my truck in gear again. I made a rookie mistake earlier that day when I forgot to unplug my trailer lights before plunging into the water, but why it took so long to pop the fuse I’ll never know. Does it seem odd to anyone else the truck goes into lockdown mode over a blown fuse?

My question to the engineers is, “What were you thinking on this one?” I know it's important to have brake lights, but is it really necessary to lock me out like that? Wouldn't a quick reminder on my dash display be sufficient? This is worse than an offensive lineman holding that leads to a touchdown being taken back. I'm throwing the flag this time on the engineers for unnecessary roughness and if it were up to me they’d be tossed out of the game for good. What’s next? My radio won’t work if I leave the tailgate down? 

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