What ever happened to the Automotive toolkit? -or- ‘How I learned to stop worrying and love my engine warning light’

Can you remember when cars came with their own toolkits

Some, of the likes of BMW and Jaguar were wonderful leather-bound hand tools inscribed with the proud makers mark – even the lesser car still had a toolkit. There was a time when all cars came with some tools to see you well on your journey…

I recently heard a guy with a new BMW see the warning sign come up that a rear bulb had blown, okay he thinks – no biggie. He’s passing an Auto store at the time, goes in buys a new bulb and for the life of him – there he is on his driveway and he just cant fit the new bulb

Some context – He’s Swiss, comes from a family of engineers who fixed things and as young man was the go to guy when you needed a kick ass sound system fitted in your GTi

In the end what he needed was a Hex Key – but as it had been years since he had tinkered with cars, he’d not got that memo… But what struck him the most was the lack of tools the car was supplied with, even to do the most simple of tasks – such as change a light bulb?!


There was even a time where – you’d even get a set of spare bulbs along with what was quite a descent set of tools, enough to get your E28 M5 on the road – if not then just far enough to find a garage

Then along came the engine warning light

This engine warning light was sold to you as ‘don’t worry, Sir just leave it to us….’ and in the early days of the EML even the Dealerships were ‘having to send the computer back to Germany’ with months out of action in a loan car, some customers opted just to ignore the their cars EML. We’ve all come a very long way, we’ve now got OBDII scanners and EML reset gizmos and such like

– But, I just can’t help but feel you’ve all been cheated…

I’ll elaborate here, the EML was more about return to base servicing than anything else – not you, your car or the environment. No, the EML’s been in the secret service of the car manufactures for decades. A full dealer level system scanner runs into thousands of pounds- only a fully spec’d up set up charging full whack can afford such kit. There are now for only a hundred pounds some seriously good OBDII scanners out there, the power is slowly returning to the folk who own their cars

What basically happened was this: A room full of schmucks, made up of business consultants, advertising/marketing executives and CFO’s – got together with a handful of consumer insight experts and did exactly this –

They took away your toolkit, then your ability to easily repair your own car either with your local garage you’d trusted for decades or by yourself on your driveway without specialist tools and computer equipment

Then, they fitted a system that forced you to return to base for your repairs

Then, they got you hooked on finance and changing your car every three/four years

By now you’d grown to love your engine warning light, you don’t even know if you’ve got a spare tire or even god forbid – a jack?

Your impotent, you don’t really understand how your car works, how to fix it even on the most basic level – nor do you care that you don’t even own it? Your stuck in traffic, on Facebook, driving the automotive equivalent of a microwave… Your now disconnected and enslaved by the very machine set to free you

And the downside?

Because of this, most of the high-end Car Dealerships now no longer have that many ‘Mater technicians’ left on the payroll – these are the guy who could strip an engine down to the last bolt and rebuild it in less than a day – Why?

Because there’s just no need for them anymore, along with the toolkits, jacks, spare tires, and driver/owner involvement. All the major manufacturers, have this problem – one created by self serving folk who don’t even build cars, just drove there to the meeting while on their phone – Then robbed you

The Future?

I’ve been aware of this for some time now, both as someone who’s worked within the Automotive industry and as an avid petrol head. I now have a fully kitted out workshop and have been restoring old BMW’s over the last few years – If I were to design a car for BMW today, I’d first start with the driver, not sitting in the car nor standing in the showroom – no, I’d be designing for the driver who’s at the track working away underneath their car in the pit lane

The future – is cars designed especially to be serviced, maintained and modified by their owners with the support and care of the original manufacture

I predict the return of the toolkit,
a very, very big toolkit!

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s