Archive for Automotive

What to do about gas

Now that prices are dropping again due to decreased demand and the general global economic slowdown, the incentive for automakers to create and consumers to purchase more fuel efficient cars also drop. However in European states, their high gas taxes keep the demand up even in the face of decreasing fuel costs. How does America get there? By adopting a gas tax as well. But you can’t just all of a sudden add a 100% tax. There would be uproar and it would be bad for our staggering economy as well. Instead, adopt a 1¢ tax increase/month for the next several years. And then raise it to 1.5¢/month, 2¢/month, etc. This would help change the American mindset that we will have cheap oil forever. Of course even now we all want to decrease our dependence on foreign oil and do reduce our carbon footprint. But without a strong financial incentive, we will forever be locked in debate instead of taking quick action. This idea did not come from me of course. I heard it on NPR last night but I can’t seem to find the transcript right now. I think this is a great idea. It doesn’t cause drastic immediate change, but it will encourage people and car companies over the long run to reevaluate their situation and change their long-term plans.


Social Engineering

That is what the government aims to do with its legislature.

After writing that last post, I’ve been thinking about putting down some more thoughts…

So why not help us reduce our dependency on crude oil? Lobbyists. Old money. It’s really too bad that power corrupts. Because here’s what someone who really wanted to buck the trend could do:

  • Significantly raise taxes on gasoline. Why? Cause it would lower demand for it. Simple economics. Europe’s been doing this for years. Gas prices are like $7-8/gallon over there.
  • Create incentives for fuel miserly cars. Along with the tax increase on gas, this would encourage a lot of us to start using more fuel efficient cars. That right there would lower our consumption.
  • Fund research for alternative biofuels. Ethanol from corn is not the be-all, end-all cure. In fact, as we’ve seen recently, it creates more problems than it solves. First off, by using a human food source as a fuel source, we create supply problems. Corn farmers race to grow more corn because it sells better, which in turn causes them to abandon other crops. This raises the cost of food for everyone. Rice is at record prices right now. Second, there are more efficent biofuels out there. We need to reduce the leveraging power of lobbyists. And get people who know what’s going on to help solve this problem.
  • Fund research for more green technologies to generate electricity. Put more funding into solar-cells. There’s so much energy from the sun. And we don’t have to mine for it, refine it, transport it. Just convert it into electricity. We need more research in storage of solar energy. Just one example of a benefit: During summer months when electricity demand is at its peak due to cooling needs, solar power is also at its best in keeping up with this demand. IMO wind and hydro aren’t as viable because there just aren’t many sources of either. You need specialized locations. But with solar, anywhere there’s sun (basically everywhere) you can generate electricity. We just need to increase our funding to make more efficient, economical, robust technology.
  • Fund research into alternative energy storage systems. This ties into the solar power entry above. If we can generate a significant amount of our energy from the sun, we need better methods to store that energy when the sun is not shining. Currently, it’s very energy inefficient to create hydrogen, but with the right methods, hydrogen generation could be a very viable way to store the energy generated during the day from solar panels. Our cars at that point in time could be hydrogen powered, and that would be another method to eliminating our vehicular pollution.

We have the money, we have the scientists interested in doing this research, we just need our politicians to give us the respect and integrity we the people of earth are entitled to. Do what’s right for us, your constituents and not those that line your pocketbooks. Yes, in the short term raising taxes would make you unpopular. We would suffer as well. But in the long run, this is what’s necessary! We’re so focused on the short term these days, we don’t know how to make decisions for the future. Look at the Bush administration. There’s no long-term planning. There’s no big picture. Just deferring the debt til the next president has to deal with it. Do what’s RIGHT. Not what’s easy. Not what’s popular, but what’s truly right.


31.12 MPG


I tried my hand at these various techniques for my last tank of gas. The EPA rates the Element SC 2WD manual transmission as 18MPG city and 23MPG highway with a combined usage of 20MPG. Over the last part of this week, I’ve driven a lot of highway, a lot of stop and go, and plenty of city road driving. And that was my result. This is what I did:

  • staying under 60mph on the highways
  • trying to fix my throttle position when cruising (and let the speed go where it may — 45up hills, 65 down hills)
  • staying around 40mph tops on city roads
  • upshifting very early — i’m in 5th by 30mph
  • turning the engine off when i anticipate a >10sec idle time/stop lights etc
  • no a/c
  • not fussing about parking, just parking as soon as i get to my destination

Usually my mileage turns out to be a little under 20MPG, but this time it improved by over 50%. Some other things to consider regarding maintenance:

  • tire pressure, make sure they’re at least at what’s recommended on your door jamb
  • air filter — check it every year. a clogged one can quickly drop your fuel economy
  • excess mass in the car — clean out your car. extra weight means lower gas mileage

There are some interesting hybrid hypermileage techniques out there. Kinda makes me want to get a hybrid…but I just love manuals…


SCCA Autocross #1

@ Pennington Field



Post All Saints Day: All Souls’ Day

And I’m back from SEMA. In case you aren’t familiar, it’s the biggest show for aftermarket car parts and accessories. Lots of high profile manufacturers and tuners showcase their latest and greatest. Didn’t get to spend much time at the Las Vegas Convention Center where the SEMA side of thing were held, but I did spend a few hours on the first day taking some pictures. Those should be up shortly. Most of my time was spent in the B2B oriented AAPEX side of things. That’s where all the foreign undercutters were displaying their wares. Cheap labor = low prices. Overabundance of cheap labor = long term low prices.

Firefox 2.0 came out last week. The spell check feature is nice. It works like the auto spell checker in MS Word. And it works in any text box you can type in. Now I don’t have to try and hack the TinyMCE editor in Wordpress to get spell checking to work.

A tip: You can get rid of the green Goto button by going typing in about:config in the address bar and double clicking on browser.urlbar.hideGoButton to change it to true.


Rant: Lousy state of car audio

I’ve been looking at receivers and all of ‘em still suck! There aren’t any that don’t have multicolored flashing displays with gaudy bezels and chromed out plastic. Do they really think everyone who’s in the market is a 19yr old punk? And why do the LCD displays still use technology from the 80’s? Are they so cheap they can’t upgrade to higher resolution, easier to read visuals? Give me a nice analog knob and something discreet that doesn’t jump for attention everytime you turn it on. Come on, even Eclipse has gone to the dark side. You can’t get anything simple looking without spending the big bucks for their high-end units. And why can’t you put an auxilary input on all your head units? You cheap bastards.

“And that’s what grinds my gears.”


Cylinder Head Completion

I finally put all the parts back in and filled up the fluids. Cranked the starter several times to prime the fuel lines. And it fired up. But it was quite rough. I actually thought it was missing a cylinder. So I did some investigating. Traced my steps back to the installation.

I let the car idle for a few minutes and it started to smoke a bit. And I panicked and turned off the engine. Turns out the exhaust manifolds still had traces of penetrating lube. False alarm. Found a small coolant leak in the housing/hoses below the coolant pump. Minor problem. Since the car had been sitting so long, I was surprised it actually turned over. Then the second start attempt was made and it barely turned over. Time to slow charge the battery.

I came back several hours later still scratching my head. Pulled the spark plugs to make sure they were firing. There was adequate evidence that they were. However some were a bit more fouled than I anticipated. And one was coated in oil. Big scare. Then I realized it was oil from the machining of the head cause it was clear. It probably just leached into the cylinder when the valve opened and dripped onto the spark plug. Which explained the possible poor idle. Needs a bit of time to burn off. Then I fired it up again and drove around the neighborhood. Felt alright. Didn’t want to risk it and drove back after the engine warmed up. It was still smoking a bit after I got back but other than that, everything seemed good. Probably drive it some more tomorrow to break in the new valve job.

Pics to come later.


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