Energy independence right under our noses.

Reader Benjamin Krueger pointed me to this video via Twitter. It certainly is a very promising technology.

I genuinely hope however that things like tis will prompt California’s Air Resources Board to cease it’s never ending jihad against Diesel engines in passenger cars. Otherwise we’ll still be buying petroleum from actual jihadists and befouling our coastlines for years to come.

Adventures in car maintenance, part 231.

My daily driver is in need of a little TLC. The clutch is making an odd noise, and the CEL is on, with the car showing symptoms (again) of a clogged intake manifold and EGR. I figured I’d tackle those today. The clutch could be something simple as a good fluid flush (it has been way too long since I flushed the hydraulics in this car… (bad owner!) So since that job is easy I did it first. On the Jetta it is best to remove the entire air cleaner box to access the fluid reservoir and the clutch bleed screw. From there it is a very fast process…

The motive bleeder in action.

I have a “power bleeder” which makes the job pretty easy, the greatest benefit being that I can do the job alone without somebody to pump the brake pedal. It uses air pressure to push fluid through the system. I sucked out as much old brake fluid from the reservoir as possible, using a turkey baster (one I bought JUST for car-maintenance!) Then I filled it with fresh Castrol LMA DOT 4, attached the bleeder to the reservoir, and poured the rest of the Castrol into the bleeder’s bottle. Next I use the hand pump atop the bleeder to raise the air pressure inside the bleeder to about 10 PSI, and then walk around the car with an old milk jug, a length of clear tubing, and an 11mm combination wrench to open the bleed screws.

The other end of the transaction, in this case the passenger side rear brake.

Once the fresh clean fluid starts running through the bleed screw is closed and I move on to the next corner of the car. The last item is the clutch bleed screw which is in the engine compartment. I did the whole car in about 5 minutes once the fluid started flowing. I expected the old fluid to be really bad, but it was surprisingly clean given how long I let it run between changes!

Next up I took on the EGR and intake cleaning. It has been less than a year since I did this, which bothers me. It is a real PITA task with lots of stuff to pull of the car, and many fasteners in hard to reach places. The EGR is easy to open and look at early in the process, and sure enough it looked very sooty… but nowhere near as much as last time. As I progressed I discovered a cracked exhaust cooler feed pipe which may explain the car’s behavior more than a clog would.

The exhaust cooler feed pipe. In this photo it is completely broken, but when it was on the car it was just cracked. You can see the blackened area where the exhaust had leaked.

I’ll have to buy another one, which likely will take a while to track down.

Meanwhile, I’m going to forge ahead and remove the intake and give it a good cleaning. While not as gummed up as last time it still could use a cleaning while I’m in there. I managed to get most of the way there today with only 5 more bolts to go to remove it.

The area where the work is taking place.

I’ve highlighted in RED the intake manifold where the EGR pumps exhaust back into the engine’s intake. No the soot is not naturally pink, it just looks that way! To the left of it I’ve highlighted in ORANGE where that (now cracked) pipe routes.

I’ll update everyone as I progress.

126 MPG, and no, we can’t buy or drive it in the USA. WTF?

308 HDi

I’m talking about the Peugeot 308 HDi.

Yes, I know that Peugeot has not been available for decades here in the USA, but my point is the self-defeating regulations that have been put in place that limit the American car buying market. We’ve erected trade barriers in the guise of safety and emissions that have excluded the very technologies we need the most. The EURO/NCAP safety regs are adequate for our roads as much as theirs. California’s emissions laws are the tail that wags the dog here in the USA. The result? we get Smart cars that average 37 MPG instead of the 70 MPG they enjoy in Europe. We get mid-sized sedans that strain to reach 20 MPG, whereas they have ones that enjoy 35 to 40 MPG.

Why not just scrap all these regs, adopt the European standards and open our market to these imports? Do we really think we’re protecting a domestic industry anymore?

Le Mans Result: Diesel Dominates (still)

Peugeot 908 HDi FAP #9

I dragged myself out of bed at 4:30 AM to catch the last few hours of the 24 Hours of Le Mans today. As always it proves itself to be the greatest event in motorsport. No other event tests cars and drivers like Le Mans. Leading the way always in technical innovations the sport welcomed Diesel power just a few years ago and the cars have dominated the LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype) Class ever since. To date that has meant Audi and their all-conquering R10 cars. In 2007 another manufacturer fielded a Diesel entry: Peugeot. They chased Audi and would have, SHOULD have, beaten them last year as their 908s were three seconds a lap faster than the Audis. Audi however proved that speed is not everything and managed to pull off a near-miraculous win by staying focused and running a great race, using strategy and tactics. Many have attributed the win to tire choice in the rainy final laps, but really it was the Audi team’s complete performance, from start to finish over 24 hours that kept them within striking distance for that final tire choice. (If you haven’t watched “Truth in 24” the documentary about last years’ race, do it now!)

This year Audi came to the race with a new Diesel-powered prototype car, the R15 TDI but Peugeot capped a long pursuit of Audi with a victory for the 2009 event in their 908 HDi FAP. The winning car was driven by David Brabham (Australia, son of racing legend Jack Brabham), Marc Gené (Spain), and Alexander Wurz (Austria). Fishing second overall was another Peugeot 908, followed by the only Audi R15 to finish the race making a clean sweep for Diesel power. Six of the top ten finishers were Diesel cars in fact, as all the Peugeots finished along with two of the old R10 Audis being run by a privateer.

Still think Diesels are noisy, smoky, and slow?

Diesel Deductions

Above: Fuel Prices in Trafton, WA on June 1st, 2009.

As I noted back in February and March, the price of Diesel at the pump has been tracking consistently lower than gasoline this year. The past few years (since roughly 2005) when it was higher, in some cases quite a bit higher, seems to me to have been an anomaly. This is from the perspective of somebody who has been buying Diesel for three decades, starting in the autumn of 1982 when I took an old 1980 VW Rabbit Diesel with me to college as a sophomore. I wonder if this means the ‘Diesel is more expensive’ meme on the automotive enthusiasts websites will finally die? We’ll see.

Mind you, I haven’t bought any of the stuff at the pump since March, as I fill up on home-brew when the weather is warm. Nice to see the price staying where it should below gasoline though.

Driving a tractor.

Oliver Tractor in Vermont

I spent the day today on a tractor. I rent one every few years to re-grade our gravel driveway. Grass and weeds completely take it over if left ungraded for too long. I get a little better at the job each time I do it, and this time I think it looks better and is much more evenly graded than any previous time I’ve done it.

Diesel Power!

The tractor I rented is not an Oliver, as they have been out of production since the late 70s. I just had these pics in my collection of car photos as my friends the Markowskis in Vermont collect Olivers. My rental for today was a small Kubota B7800 and this is the view I had for several hours today:

Here is the whole tractor:

Kubota B7800

Kubota B7800

At the tail end is a box blade scraper, which is the main tool used in this job. This year I started the task by deploying the “teeth” at the front of the box. I set them at their lowest point and broke up the hardened bed under the gravel. After that was done I raised them up and finished the job.

the box blade

All those years of watching Zambonis has paid off, as I’m able to run over the whole driveway, (which is HUGE by the way,) in smooth overlapping patterns. From 8:30 AM until about 1:30 PM I circled the property in set patterns. The end result is a nice clean even spread of the gravel, and the removal of all the vegetation trying its best to obscure the drive. It had gotten so thick in the front drive that people often mistook it for lawn and didn’t drive on it! The area under the tractor in the above photos was all grass and clovers a few hours ago. Now it is smoothly graded gravel. It is a tad dusty now, but one good rain (which is never too far off here in the Pacific Northwest) and that will be fixed.

The Kubota is a nice little tractor. The little 30 HP 4-cylinder Diesel has massive torque for it’s small size, and it only slipped a few times when the box was well loaded and I was climbing the steep parts of my driveway. Mostly I was able to raise the blade ever so slightly to lighten the load, while upping the throttle just a bit as I started to climb the slopes, and it would just keep chugging along. I really wish I actually owned a tractor. The house’s previous owner had one and I made him an offer to buy it, but he turned me down. Oh well. It costs me between $100 & $200 to rent this one for a day, including delivery and pickup. Since I really only NEED it once every other year or so it doesn’t make sense to buy one, but I know if I had one I’d use it more often. I’m just too cheap I guess.

The little Diesel in the Kubota

Car Photo of the Day: Surprised?

Raindrops on a TT

I really like the Audi TT. I know it is just a souped-up VW New Beetle, which is really just a VW Golf with a goofy body. The TT appeals to me because it is such a “F**K Off” vehicle. Unlike Porsche, or even GM, who has to produce a car that fits within a narrow set of parameters which only their “core customers” define, Audi was able to take a small car platform, and adapt it to a unique little car, specific to their brand, that clearly appeals to an automotive enthusiast.

Audi has occasionally talked of doing what I think is my dream car: A TDI-powered TT. Audi developed the TDI into a Le Mans winning technology, so it only makes sense to offer it as an option in their product line, especially in a sports car like the TT. I’d love to commute to my job in an open-topped 2-seater sports car, powered by my own home-brewed fuel… “smelling the french fries” as it were. The torquey little 1.9L TDI, even at 90HP is good enough to motivate the little roadster. I don’t need to have 300HP to race from light to light! 50 MPG is reward in an of itself. The original roadsters, images of which often grace these pages, that is little British cars from the 50s and 60s, were rarely considered “overpowered” in fact quite the opposite. Tiny A-series engines of diminutive displacement provided plenty of smiles per mile back then, I don’t see why those days are not worth reliving, this time with Diesel.

This particular Audi TT was photographed on the 2007 Classic Motorcar Rally, which includes a division for “Contemporary” (that is post 1976) cars. It draws machines such as this Audi, many BMWs, Mistubishis, etc. If you love TSD rallying, then there’s no excuse not to join us, as any car will do. It is a fun group, with great meals, great people, tours of classic car collections, awesome roads, and lots of fun. This year the event will take place on Vancouver Island in late June. It’s not too late to sign up! Head on over to their website and check it out: The Classic Motorcar Rally.