Five Examples of Easy Car Maintenance That’s Annoyingly Complex on Modern Cars

We don’t always complain about modern cars. But when we do, it’s because of oil and air filter changes that are way harder than they should be.

byPeter Nelson|
Porsche Panamera

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As cars get more complicated, so do their care and feeding. Some things that used to be quick and basic maintenance work (like changing oil, spark plugs, air filters, headlights) are downright annoying to do on modern cars, despite the fact those same cars have steadily been getting bigger every time a new body style comes out.

After some discussion in The Drive’s newsroom, we had to call out some cars that, whether due to design constraints, engineering constraints, or just being peak products of their respective chassis … are especially difficult to work on.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so we’re looking forward to hearing your modern-car maintenance complaints in the comment section.

Changing a 991-Generation Porsche 911’s Oil

Porsche Porsche

At first, this one is a sort of “well, duh” choice since it's rear-engined and German. Germans love putting filter cartridges in hard-to-reach places, and have been allergic to physical dipsticks for quite a few years now.

On the 2011-2019 991 Porsche 911, and possibly 992, it’s not just a matter of draining some oil and replacing a filter, as you have to remove some things to get to that filter, first—some clips, a trim panel, fan unit, and what Porsche calls an air guide. Oh, and it’s a good idea to disconnect the negative battery cable while it’s off, too, as apparently the fan can kick on randomly, and might do so when you’re removing it.

None of this is difficult, but it’s a testament to modern Porsches’ tight packaging and complexity, despite the 991 being noticeably bigger than its previous generations. It could also be a bit intimidating to the intrepid, newbie DIY wrencher who’s looking to save a little (or a lot of) coin over going to the dealership.

970 and 971-Generation Porsche Panamera Air Filter Replacement

Porsche Porsche

The fun doesn’t end with the Zuffenhausen brand, as a simple air filter replacement job—something that takes at most 15 minutes on the vast majority of automobiles—requires removing the entire front bumper cover on the 2010+ Porsche Panamera. You read that right, the whole bumper, and again, on a pretty large automobile.

And I thought it was a tad ridiculous to partially remove my 2011 BMW 128i’s front bumper to change the headlight. It was annoying, but it made slightly more sense than this. The Panamera’s filter change only appeals to the DIYer who is bored and loves losing Torx screws.

2015+ Ford F-150 Headlight Bulb Replacement

Ford Ford

We can’t bully German manufacturers all day (just kidding, we totally could)—let’s save some for other brands. Like one of Ford’s most recent iterations of its most popular truck, ever, the F-150.

According to this video, you have to access the F-150’s massive headlights via the wheel arch to change a headlight bulb. That’s right, remove a bunch of presumably weak fasteners, pull the plastic liner material away, squeeze your hand in there, and hope you don’t damage the fresh bulb after pulling its dead compatriot out. It’s a good thing that headlight bulbs are often sold in packages of two; be sure to buy two packages of two so you’re prepared for when the other side dies. Now I know why so many people lift their F-150s.

Lotus Evora Spark Plug Replacement

Peter Nelson Peter Nelson

Sort of like the 991 Porsche 911, this is another instance of accessibility being an issue when the engine’s thrown behind the driver.

The venerable Lotus Evora, with its Toyota-sourced 3.5-liter V6 engine, requires removing a bunch of non-engine components to access its spark plugs. This is denoted as a 30,000-mile service by Lotus, so for those who drive them a lot—first of all good on ‘em—be prepared to spend a bit more time doing this simple DIY job. Though it could certainly be worse, imagine if Lotus didn't install a removable panel.

Luckily, the plugs can be picked up anywhere for quite cheap, there’s no sense in paying Lotus-affiliated parts department prices. But still, removing a bunch of the Evora’s rear trunk (which is surprisingly spacious compared to the car’s overall tiny size) isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. Nor is climbing atop of said trunk and using a long extension and swivel to access the forward-facing plugs.

Still, at least this inconvenience is logical, as it’s a tiny car with transverse engine placement. It’d possibly be much harder if the engine were longitudinal, too.

Replacing the Spark Plugs on Any VQ Engine-Equipped Nissan

Nissan Nissan

Nissan’s VQ V6 doesn’t need more reasons to be a punchline. It already sounds like a trombone (or trumpet, depending on the aftermarket exhaust that’s attached to it) with a bad stomach ache.

But my gosh, the amount of work that goes into accessing its spark plugs is next level. Whether regarding its placement in the 370Z or 350Z, this doesn’t seem fun at all. Granted, like the Lotus Evora, it’s due to tight quarters—one must appreciate the fact that they’re comparatively, dimensionally small cars. But still, for an enthusiast car that was definitely sold with the understanding that it’d be a DIY/tuner’s dream (and it still is), you’d think they’d alter a few things for accessibility.

Though, it’s not like Subaru did that with the boxer engine in the Toyobaru family of sports cars—removing their coil packs is a big pain, particularly on earlier models that eat them like candy if you don’t do certain reliability mods.

With that, what are some overly complex cars you’ve had the pleasure of taking way too much time to perform basic maintenance on? Anybody swap plugs on a late-model V8 Chevy Camaro or E9X BMW M3?