Lifetime Fuel Economy: 39.49 mpg

Monday, June 30, 2008

Two aero mods in one day...

I finished the other wheel skirt today, and in response to a 6-2 vote on Ecomodder, I purchased some green Krylon Fusion paint (works on plastic). I used the paint already on my rain barrel, so I knew it was worth the $5 price tag. I got the skirts painted, which seemed to greatly please my neighbors, and although the skirts are a darker "hunter" green, they look great.
I still had time before Linda came home, so I started work on the grill block/air dam. I taped an individual sheet of coroplast in place, measured how long I wanted it, and got to cutting.

I taped all the edges really well with my heavy duty duct tape prior to painting, and I got to use the license plate as a giant washer since I put two screws through the bottom of it near my new (smaller) air intake. I'm going to trim it tomorrow to match the bumper lines, remove it, re-tape the top, and re-paint it. I'm really pleased with the outcome.


Whole picture:

$2.50 Wheel Skirts!

I set out today to begin streamlining the car. In an effort to satisfy my requirements of the car and its modifications paying themselves off, and because I'm known for my frugal nature, I'm using super low-cost materials. Here's the car's profile I started with:
No, I'm not campaigning for Hayes. That's a corrugated plastic sign (coroplast) that I picked up for free after the election. (I got 100 of them) I also needed some support structure that was cheap and lightweight. Luckily, I found something to fit this need in my basement, left by the previous owner; sheetrock (drywall) corner - reinforcing metal braces. (I don't know what they're really called) Here are my assembled tools; drill, 1/4" nut driver bit, 3/32" drill bit, measuring tape, duct tape (bought the highest quality type), self-tapping sheet metal screws, large washers, tin snips, pliers, and a comfy seat. The sheetrock corner-thing is the piece of metal there. I folded it flat (usually it is at 90 degrees).
I decided to run one brace across the wheel well and one at the bottom, attached to the sign. Here's the first brace. I attached it to the inside of the door opening with a sheet metal screw and to the back bumper with a spare interior trim screw.

I then taped two signs together, enough to cover the opening, , set it inside the folded sheetrock brace, taped the bottom up (coroplast is hollow and open at the ends)and ran 4 sheet metal screws through it to lock it in place. It felt pretty rigid after this. Here's what I mean by, "inside the folded brace":

I also cut the pointy heads off the sheet metal screws that would be pointing in toward the tire with my dremel.
Next, I bent the bottom brace out so that the coroplast would clear the wheel, and screwed the front side of the brace into the door opening, and the back into the rear bumper. I used my knife to cut the shape of the skirt, which took some trial and error, but luckily I cut off small pieces each time and all was not lost. After getting a good fit (especially around the rear door), I removed the skirt and taped all the edges to seal them and for support when screws and washers hold it in place. After re-installing the bottom brace screws, I used 10 sheet metal screws and washers around the edge to affix it to the car. You wouldn't want to do this to a nice car, but for my purposes, it should work great. I taped the leading edge into the door opening to ensure smooth airflow outside the wheel well, and the door shuts well, clearing the skirt.
I think I will add a little "class" to this mod and paint the coroplast, so they will end up costing about $5 in materials each. I'm going to either do white with my "" decals on them to help them stand out, or green to match the car. I'll be running a poll on the ecomodder forums to decide for me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Highway Mileage

I made a trip to my friends' house yesterday and did about 85% highway driving with the air off, windows up, on my +5 psi tires. The 15% city miles I was very careful to EOC (engine off coast) as much as possible. It's getting very easy to predict when to shut off, by the way...
45.5 mpg may be a little inflated due to pump error, but it's indicative of some significant gains from my first tries at control tests. I'm going to run the next tank all the way down because I'm going to run some fuel system cleaner through at 5 gallons and then change the fuel filter. If things go right, and my aero mods (soon) are effective, I could break into the 500 mile/tank club next school year on my commute!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

City Mileage with Hypermiling

I've started doing modifications to my driving and the car; I decided it's best to do/build things now when I have time rather than reasons to drive, and then this fall do A-B-A tests and the like when I have a routine trip to make every day (to school) in order to get good data for this blog. This week, I'm going to start making aero mods and making them so that they can be undone for testing.

For my latest run, I hypermiled on 37 psi tires, and did 100% city driving with lots of stop lights and signs. I only used the a/c for about 5-10 miles, and the Gascort came up with 31.35 mpg. Not scientific data, but a good indication of what's in store for this fall!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tire Pressure - Rolling Resistance relationship

Well, I went out with my new bike pump today to test out the effect of tire pressure on rolling resistance. Tire pressure for the first test was 32 psi, and for the second test, it was 37 psi. I used a big spring scale for measuring grain that I inherited from my grandpa, a Kansas farmer.
Either time, the force required to get the car to move was 58 pounds. I know flat tires make a car harder to push (enough to feel the difference), and I also know the top end should be less dramatic. I'm anxious to try pressure out when I'm back to making repeated trips to and from school every day, since there was no effect here.
Maybe there's another way to test this...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A surprise... better than expected!

This run was about 80% highway, more than before(50/50), but about 85% of it was with the air conditioning running, compared with 30% before. I'm very impressed and happy about the 34.5 mpg, but also worried about the large variance between the two "tanks" I've run so far, for the purpose of this experimentation. I knew this car's FE would react to little things easily,though - that's why I bought it. My Mustang never got lower than about 18 mpg when I ran the heck out of it, and never over 21 when I babied it. I think a little more time at factory settings might do me good, but I'm anxious to further my mods. I knew if worse came to worse, I could restart data collection next fall when I have a very regular and dependable commute to and from school, and do weekly trials with each mod separately. That will have to do, because Linda isn't going to let me turn the air off on her now!
For now, I'm going to bump tire pressure. I wanted to start hypermiling, but while I'm driving around a very pregnant wife, I don't want to do anything too oddball. The sidewall max on the tires is 35 psi; I'm going to set them at 37 - a nice, even 5 psi above factory settings. I think I'll work on calculating rolling resistance tomorrow.

A non- FE mod

In preparation for our baby (Linda's due July 1oth), I installed the car seat base today in the Gascort. I had trouble at first, because I couldn't get the base tight without having it tilt too far to the rear. I then decided to remove the seat back to see if it was advantageous to place the base farther toward the back of the seat cushion. Once the seat back was off, I got side-tracked and decided to install a LATCH bar like newer (2003+ model year) cars have.
Now I have the seat installed via the LATCH and the traditional seat belt. My baby's seat is not going to budge from that position.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Saving another type of fuel

I was cleaning out the kitchen today (still waiting for an excuse to drive the 'scort, so I figured I could clean and then take the recycling to our neighborhood drop-off) and I discovered that our "fat jar" had become full. For everyone out there who doesn't know what a fat jar is, allow me to edify. When you're cooking with ground beef and you drain off the fat, it's a bad idea to dump it down the drain. The fat cools and returns to its solid state as it transfers thermal energy to your pipes. You don't want too much in your arteries, and the same can be said for your drains. Some people claim that using hot water while dumping it helps, but that's a huge energy waste as well.
To avoid all this trouble, we keep a fat jar - just an empty glass jar that we dump the fat into. We typically put it in the refrigerator after dinner when it cools down, which keeps it solid and prevents it from smelling or spoiling (don't know if it would anyway).
Anyhow, if you've ever done calorimetry of foods in a chemistry or biology class, you know that the bonds in food store lots of energy, and this can be released by combustion into lots of thermal energy and light. This got me to thinking, my grandmother used to burn oil lanterns in her cabin, and she always reminded us kids that they used to get oil for those from whale blubber. Now, I ask, is cow fat much different from whale fat? After trying it out, I think not!
Fats (lipids) have ~9 calories per gram, while carbohydrates and protein have 4 cal/g and alcohol has 7 calories per gram. My fat should be capable of releasing more energy than an equivalent mass of alcohol, and hopefully it won't end up like a molotov cocktail...
I stuck a birthday cake candle into the top of the fat and it burned like this for 30 minutes, without appreciably dropping the fat level. This is definitely something I'm going to start saving for the "just in case" scenario. ;)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wiring Behind the Dash

I got a couple of requests to show what I did here, and I'm too verbose to put it into words, so here's a little sample of my Microsoft Paint skills. Click on the image to enlarge and/or save.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hypermiling, Here I come...

See if you can find the switches!

I worked for a couple days on getting this done; it took longer than expected because I forgot some connectors at school. While hypermiling in my mustang, I noticed some problems; first, the ignition gets extra wear as a result and the steering shaft runs the slight risk of locking in place if you turn the key too far back. Second, it's really annoying to have the radio turn on and off 4-5 times on your way to work, especially if you have a cd player resetting each time. My solution: eliminate the ignition cylinder. The ignition on the Escort was already messed up from years of use - you could pull the key out in any position, and the door chime constantly harassed me because it thought the key was in. Cutting the wire to the chime is by far the best thing I've done to this car. :)
I installed a toggle switch to turn on the radio, a toggle switch to turn on the computer and fuel pump/injection, and a push button starter switch. I used a 40 amp auxillary headlight relay to reduce the current through the computer power switch, the stereo toggle is a 20A switch, and the starter button is a heavy duty one, so no relay was needed there.
For those of you who worry about melting switches, my stereo produces 40W to each of 4 channels. I only have one speaker in the car, so it draws (approximately) 40W/12V = 3.3A plus some to run the tuner and display, so 20A will be plenty.
I did my best to conceal my switches and make them look O.E.M. - I must give credit to my friend Jeremy, who came up with the first starter switch concealment like this in his '89 camaro.
Here they are; the cigarette lighter is actually the start button.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

First Fill-up

Well, I must say I'm pleased. The previous owner told me it gets around 31 mpg, and on my "control group" test, I logged 113 miles. 30 miles of it were with the a/c on, and miles were about 50/50 city/highway. 31.84 mpg is better than either of our cars, and I haven't done anything to the 'scort yet. Woohoo! I'm going to continue testing as a control group another day or two; I've got a 45 minute trip to a graduation party tonight and another equal-length trip tomorrow. I got almost all the wiring finished; first mod will be the tire pressure only, then hypermiling will begin!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Gascort Lives!

Finally got the car ready to go. I had to replace some worn-out suspension parts and do some exhaust repair. The carnage: Inner and outer tie rod ends, a ball joint, sway bar link, steering rack bushings, and a shifter stabilizer bar bushing. I got some of the parts at O'Reilly's and the odd bushings I got from Rob at I was pleased with both, and was able to use only parts made in the USA (something I try to do when I can).

I went ahead and got rid of the license plate bracket that came with the car and mounted my shiny new plate straight on the car; I had to curl the bottom under to avoid having plate dangling below the bumper. Illegal because now it's a smaller target for radar and laser guns, but I think the police won't worry about me speeding in this car!

I gassed up at the local BP station; we're using new credit cards through them that give us 10% off for the first 60 days. Odometer: 246,425.8 miles Purchased 8.98 gallons of 87 octane at 3.86/gallon. Time to begin tests!

I made sure before I left to get gas that I had the full curb weight of the car and nothing else; I even got rid of the antenna and cable that came with the car. I did, however, have some stuff I had to carry around; stuff I already removed but don't want it to affect my tests. I got rid of the sagging and stapled headliner, the torn-up sun visors, the rear speakers and brackets, and the rear washer fluid reservoir. I noticed the washer reservoir had a cracked lid and it looked like it had leaked a few times. Underneath the washer tank I found the scissor jack and lug wrench. It took 5 minutes with a huge wrench to remove the bolt holding the jack down. That would have been a fun surprise on the side of the road. I hosed down the rusted shut jack with penetrant, but I'm not feeling optimistic. Might have to steal one from the mustang.

Ceiling without headliner; note the exposed roof rack bolts.... That will be deleted later. On the right: deletion items! Headliner, visors, washer tank, rear speakers, privacy screen (saving in the garage for shopping trips), and a huge stack of small screws and bolts.

I used some of the plastic retainer clips from the headliner in the place of a screw in each of the rear speaker grilles after I removed them. Tool storage space! (gotta carry tools with a 15 year old, 246k mile car)

After getting cleaned up, I went and had a leaky tire bead sealed (found bubbles around the rim with the soapy water test) on my way to the gas station. After getting gas, I went to the grocery store on the way home. Later in the evening, I used the car to pick up and drop off some dinner guests. They were dressed up, so I decided to try out the A/C (the previous owner said it worked fine). It worked great - a nice touch to have air available when I have passengers or when I'm driving with the baby in another month, but not something I'll ever use by myself unless I decide to experiment with A/C effect on fuel economy. It's been done by others.

Right now I'm rolling around on 32 psi tires, and trying to do everything a conservative driver would do behind the wheel to figure out what fuel economy this gets with no mods. The next few miles of driving will be the control in my experiment. Today I worked on making sure the alignment was perfect, and then I took to doing some rewiring to prepare for hypermiling. I'm putting in two toggle switches and a push-button switch. I need to pick up a couple of parts, so the install will have to wait a day or two. Luckily, I have time; I need some more miles on this tank to get a baseline of mileage for this car.

One more note: since I removed the rear speakers, I was listening to the Beatles on the radio while doing alignment tests today and I noticed that the left audio was missing. I investigated and found that the left front speaker is trashed. Another weight savings mod! I wired the stereo to play both left and right audio on the right speaker, which is a little blown but nowhere near what the left side was. Good enough; this car is a supplement to my nice car, not a replacement.