Monday, October 29, 2007

Octane Boosters and the Truth Behind Them

By Drew Shielly

Octane numbers are something we see every day and probably take for granted. We all know this is a rating means to measure a fuels resistance to pre-ignition, but how does that apply in a practical sense. Let's first assume you have a car that runs well on 91 octane. What could you gain by altering the fuel you fill up with. By going down to 87 octane you will achieve better mileage, but could risk detonation depending on your cars engine. By going up to 93 octane you might allow your car to advance the timing gaining horsepower. Due to lower BTUs per gallon you will give up a few miles per gallon. So right off you can see that it is a balancing act.

Looking closer at this, you notice that the extra horsepower comes from the ability of the car to advance timing and not the fuel itself. Higher octane fuel has less BTUs, but still nets power due to the timing advance and higher boost it can achieve. In modern vehicles with knock sensors the timing is constantly varied to achieve the best balance between performance and economy. Because this adjustment takes time, simply switch to higher octane at the track is not good enough. The fuel needs to be run in advance to allow the car to compensate for it. So using 91 all he time and then going to the track and filling up with 95 is not going to help your track times. You will have a faster car on the ride home though.

The other end of the spectrum is less octane. The down side here is the risk or pre-ignition and high EGTS. Both of these can lead to melted or bend pistons. Valves and the head is also placed in risk. If you have a modern vehicle it will detect this and retard timing to prevent damage. This timing modification is easy to detect with an OBDII scanner and it an easy to diagnose too fuel with too little octane.

Because of the above reasons, a lot of people turn to the boosters as a way of having both good fuel commonly and good performance at the track. The problem with them is most do not work. If you do find one what works, adding it to your tank a day before you go to the track can be beneficial. Despite the benefit, use boosters sparingly as most rely on MMT as a means of boosting the octane. Excessive MMT can cause problems with sensors, injectors, or even the exhaust.

By now you are probably confused again by what all of this means. To sum it up, if your car has no changes to compression, raised RPM limiter, or lots of boost, you should probably use whatever fuel the dealer recommends. If you have a race built motor, stick to a race fuel that meets the need of your engine. If you have a lightly tuned engine and enjoy the occasional track day, throw in a bottle of octane booster the day before and call it a day. Do not rely on boosters all of the time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Two Beautiful Car

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hybrid Electric Vehicles - Pros and Cons

By Levi Quinn

In the past few years, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have been getting a lot of press, both good and bad. As with any new technology-that is, any technology newly offered to the public-there are proponents and opponents to the wide use of HEVs. Pros and cons are bandied about freely, and it can be difficult for the average person to weed out any useful information. Here is a brief, simple synopsis of the advantages and disadvantages of HEVs.

The most obvious benefit of HEVs is lowered environmental impact. A vehicle that's powered solely by electricity produces absolutely no emissions. Admittedly, a hybrid vehicle does emit some carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but only from the gasoline-driven engine. If your vehicle is powered by electricity 50% of the time, it will reduce harmful exhaust emissions by 50%.

Hybrid vehicles are quieter, and cause less noise pollution-an important consideration in urban areas. The engine only runs when the vehicle is being actively propelled forward. Over time, this trait also cuts down on overall energy consumption.

Another obvious benefit is that HEVs run on a fuel source that is already readily available, and that does not depend on foreign oil. The United States already has numerous electrical power plants that are already producing vast amounts of electricity.

For the most part, hybrids are easy to fuel up. The majority of hybrid vehicles on the market today have batteries that can be plugged in and recharged; an adaptor allows most hybrid owners to "fuel up" their vehicles at home. Some cities make charging stations available, as well.

However, there are downsides, as well. HEVs use a lead-acid battery. These can take a long time to charge, sometimes as long as 10 hours. This is not so much of a problem if you're at home and plan on leaving your car to charge overnight, but it can be decidedly inconvenient when you're traveling. In the future, as HEVs become more prevalent, you can expect charging stations with the capacity to charge batteries in a fraction of that time will to become available.

Another drawback is that while hybrids do vary somewhat in the distance that they can travel on a fully charged battery, the average is about 60 miles per charge. Again, this isn't much of an obstacle for a hybrid vehicle, which can switch over to gasoline power at need-but decidedly inconvenient for a car with fully electrical propulsion (EV). In addition, the batteries have a limited shelf life-roughly three years-and are extremely expensive to replace.

Researchers are experimenting with other types of battery, such as nickel-metal hydride, nickel cadmium, and lithium-ion batteries. At present, these types could offer better performance, but the costs are prohibitive.

Lastly, the purchase cost of a hybrid vehicle is a major deterrent for many people who are considering "switching over." HEVs are still more significantly more expensive that their gasoline-driven counterparts. To some degree, decreased fuel consumption, better fuel economy, and reduced maintenance costs serve as a counterbalance to the higher cost. There are also governmental tax credits, at the federal and sometimes even at the state level, for individuals who purchase hybrid vehicles.

Is it worth it to replace your current vehicle with an HEV? That depends. Only you can say. Do your research, and do the math. Look at all of the different factors involved, and make an educated decision. Only you can know if an HEV is the best choice given your life, your preferences, and your budget.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Best Car Donation Tips To Save You Money On Your Taxes

By Helen Hecker

In the United States it's possible to donate a vehicle (usually a car, but it can be a boat or any other form of transportation) to certain charities, and in return be able to claim a tax deduction on your personal income tax return. A car donation may be accepted on the condition that the vehicle doesn't have to run but should be in towing condition. A charitable car donation may be worth more than a trade-in.

The new rules allow the donor to deduct only the amount the charity receives for the vehicle. Charities usually provide you with a release of liability when they take your vehicle, and after the car sells, they send you a tax-deduction form that explains how much they received for your car. There have been car donors who needed a new vehicle and they ended up buying donated and repaired vehicles.

You may have an old vehicle sitting on your property or on the street that you don't use very often. Make sure you have the title in hand if you call in your donation.

You can usually donate a sad-looking car that's not running, depending on the charity. The donor benefits from the donation by receiving a tax receipt for the highest possible value of the vehicle. It's good to know that when you donate a car, you'll get it off your property within just a couple of days, freeing up space in the garage, in the driveway or even your yard.

Your vehicle has to have all four of the tires inflated in order to be accepted. By donating a car it can eliminate spending money on repairs, advertising fees and the problems or liabilities associated with selling a vehicle. In some cases charitable car donors can still claim fair market value for their used vehicle.

If your automobile, truck, boat, motorcycle, RV or aircraft is no longer of use to you, it can still go a long way toward supporting the charity of your choice. Make sure to fill out the forms the charity representative gives you and have them ready for the driver when he comes to pick up the car. No need to pay for advertising, no loss of privacy and possible security risk, and no need to pay for vehicle registration, insurance, and repairs to keep your car in running condition while you wait for a buyer.

Also, if your car is running, consider dropping it off with the charity yourself to save the organization from paying for towing costs. For states that require smog certificates or safety inspection certificates, you can donate your vehicle without these documents. And some cars may not qualify for the tax exemption because of the condition they're in.

There are a few exceptions in the new tax law regarding the fair market value section, for example, you may base your deduction on the vehicle's fair market value if the charity sells it to a needy individual at a discounted price or if the charity uses the car as part of its mission instead of selling it. Some charities have the capability to repair or perform maintenance and get a donated vehicle ready for sale. A vehicle donation is allowed if you itemize your income tax return.

Whether it's the law in your state or not it's a good idea to protect yourself by having proper insurance coverage on your vehicle until it's donated. One of the exceptions to the new IRS regulations allows donors to still deduct the fair market value of their vehicle, provided the charity materially improves the vehicle.

If you donate a car you can get a tax break and help your community at the same time. Major charity car donation programs include: Kidney Foundation Car Donation Program, Target and Goodwill Industries. Whatever the case, your car donation, like any charitable donation, will get you a good tax deduction, will go to help someone in need and it'll make you feel good that you were able to help in some way.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Fuel Additives And Effects On Fuel

By Drew Shielly

We tested a common additive, Torco, to see if it could add performance to your vehicle or increase mileage. Before discussing this product, lets first address key differences between a racing fuel and pump fuel. The one everyone thinks of is octane. Under the US octane rating system AKI (Anti-Knock Index) pump fuel is graded as (RON+MON)/2. Meaning if a fuel had a RON (Research Octane Number) of 96, and a MON ( Motor Octane Number) of 90 its AKI would be 93. Race fuels can be graded on any of the standards AKI, MON, RON. So what is octane and why is it important for performance? Octane is what gives gasoline its ability to resist pre-ignition. As displacement, compression, boost, RPM, go up it becomes harder to keep the fuel mixture from igniting prematurely.

If under load or high heat, you experience knock with 87 octane, stepping up to 91 octane is logical step for both performance and longevity. If you experience no knock or timing pull at 91 there is no benefit to you stepping up to 93 or higher. Raising the octane further would only serve to decrease mileage. The additives that raise octane have less energy than the base fuel, effectively lowering the BTUs of the fuel. That is you will make the most power and have the best fuel economy with the lowest octane that is capable of preventing knock under your specific conditions.

Another major distinction between race and pump fuel is RVP (Reid Vapor Pressure). The easiest, overly simplified, way to think of RVP is as a system to rate the tendency for the fuel to want to evaporate. The lower the number the less tendency the fuel has to evaporate. In general racing fuels have a much lower RVP than would be found in pump fuel due to the poor starting characteristics that come along with low RVP fuels.

Burn -speed is another major difference. Race fuels are blended towards a specific application. The desired burn rate in a Kart at 16,000 RPM is very different than the target burn rate of something like a big-block V8 at 9,000 RPM. Too fast of a burn and you may experience less than optimum power. Too slow and your valves may be opening before maximum pressure is reached.

Without going into further detail such as specific gravity, dielectric constant, and numerous other variables, you should now have a basic understanding that there is a lot more to fuel than just octane. Altering these variables randomly can serve to be counter productive. For the purpose of objectivity lets look at one of the most common indicators. Octane.

Torco advertises that it can raise 93 pump to 107 when used in the highest concentrations. Tested in the highest recommended mixture we saw an AKI of ~99 though a secondary testing method. 8 full points from 107 if you assume Torco was implying 107 AKI and not 107 RON. This would mean it was raising 97RON to 107 RON. If you standardize the results on AKI you will see that 107RON is actually fairly close to 99AKI. This is much better than you could hope for with the more common additives such as with xylene or Tulene. If you assume $3.00 per gallon of 93AKI pump and $17.50 for a can of the Accelerator that works out to $6.50 a gallon. With race fuel such as VP and Sunoco in the $5.00 neighborhood this does not make since. On the other end if the spectrum, you could mix 1 can with 20 gallons. In areas where only 91AKI is available, this makes a little more sense at ~$3.80 per gallon to end up with 93AKI.

So an additives replace race fuel? No. Do they have limited applications? Absolutely. If you have a legitimate need for slightly more octane this is a great way to go. If you are tuning a highly modified engine for maximum power stick to race fuels.

Monday, October 01, 2007

5 Simple Tips to Improve Your Car Detailing

By Chad Hervig

Did you know that, apart from a house and the expense of raising children, an automotive is the most expensive item the vast majority of us will ever buy? Why then do we find it acceptable to neglect these expensive purchases? C'mon folks, let's get out there in the sunshine and give our cars a good cleaning! They love it, I know they do.

I used to run a pickup and delivery car wash business, and I quickly realized the importance of the following five tips that I'm going to share with you. Some may sound simple, but you'd amazed at how many of my friends and neighbors I see washing their cars the hard way.

I'm going to assume that everyone knows to spray your car down with water thoroughly before employing these steps. It dislodges the loose dirt and dust that would otherwise be swirled around with your mitt, and it also effectively cools the surface temperature of your car a bit before washing, which makes cleaning easier.

№1 - Clean the Tires First.

I never condone the use of harsh chemicals on a vehicle's paint, but on tires and rims it's generally a good way to go, simply for the time savings and the effectiveness of most cleaners (email me or visit my website for recommendations). I use a soft bristle brush and an old wash mitt. Do NOT use the same water that you're going to use to wash the car, since the brake dust and road tar that your rims accumulate, not to mention those harsh chemicals that you used to clean them, are not good for your paint at all.

№2 - Repeat After Me:

We wash the car from the TOP down! This is a simple tip, but most folks tend to forget it, instead just dunking their mitt in the water and slapping it up on the nearest body panel. Why does it matter? Not only does gravity dictate that dirt and water always run to ground, but you actually end up saving a lot of time, soapy water, and rinse water when you start at the top. Try it and you'll agree. I also find that it ensures a more thorough and consistent cleaning.

№3 - Don't use old bath towels to dry off your car.

I know it's easy to do it that way, but those towels actually aren't soft enough to keep from putting miniscule scratches into your paint. You won't notice it right away, but try drying the same car with crusty bath towels for a couple years, and you'll definitely notice a duller paint finish. But don't throw those towels away! Use them to dry your windows, rubber trim, door jambs, wheels and tires, really anything but the paint. What do you dry the rest of your car with? A chamois. I'll always prefer the genuine sheepskin chamois, but there are some competitive synthetic ones out there.

№4 - Cost Saving tip here:

Save your old newspapers for cleaning your car windows! You still need to use Windex of course, but old newspapers are essentially free and they actually do a MUCH better job of cleaning your windows, with drastically less lint than paper towels. Also, a wad of newspaper goes a lot longer before needing to be replaced. At the car wash where I ran my business, we used to dig the newspapers out of the trash cans. Free! Just grab a full page, crumple it up into a large wad, and off you go. For some reason, the color pages don't work as well, so try to use the black and white pages. Seriously, if you've never tried this then you'll thank me.

№5 - Use a damp rag on your dashboard and interior trim before applying the vinyl detailer (Armor All or similar).

When you spray your dash, your seats, the door panels, and everywhere else with detailer without first wiping it down, all that dust and grime just gets spread around, not really removed. This step is also free, and will save you money in Armor All as well. Take a clean rag, dampen it with water, and quickly wipe everything down. Take a peak at your rag. See? Afterwards apply your vinyl detailer SPARINGLY. Now that's a nice looking interior.

We spend so much money on our cars, and so much time in them, folks. I for one am glad to spend so much time in mine. Without my car I'm . . . well I'm a guy who's looking for his car. Let's send the right message about ourselves by keeping our cars in great shape!