car tuning

30 Jul 2007

The road is Long....

From time to time we all have long journeys to make in our cars. The longest drive we do tend to be our annual holidays and we really should prepare well for this unusual test of our endurance.

Get a good nights sleep the night before. Tiredness is one of the biggest accident causers on our road. The hassle and worry of the journey and packing for our holiday usually prevent us from getting a good nights sleep. Unwind before you go to sleep - read a book. Don't drink coffee or do any strenuous exercises before you go to bed as this is likely to keep you up. Keep a notepad by the bed so if you wake up and remember something you have to pack you can note it down and go back to sleep rather than laying awake and worrying about it.

Prepare well. You will be using roads you are unfamiliar with and you really need to have planned your route carefully and have in mind the main towns and cities so you can make snap decisions at complicated junctions and at least take the exit that keeps you going the right way. There are a number of excellent online route planners.

Rest. After the first 3 hours take a 15 minute break. Walk around, get a coffee. As the journey goes on you need to brake more frequently so I would suggest another break at 5.5 hours in to the journey and then 7 hours and then 8.5 in to the journey. If you feel tired then take a nap (pull over in a safe place to do so and lock the cars doors and leave a window slightly open if there are more than 2 occupants in the car) - a 30 minute nap is often all you need to keep you going another few hours.

Entertainment. Take some music or audio books to keep your mind occupied and take an interest in your surroundings, noticing landmarks and other cars. When you get bored you will notice that tiredness kicks in much more quickly.

Make sure the car is serviced before you go. If there are any unusual noises from the suspension or engine get this addressed before you leave. Top up the washer fluid and check the oil levels - nothing consumes oil as much as a long journey at fast constant speeds. Take a spare bottle of oil with you.

27 Jul 2007

Engine computers are getting too smart!

I recently took my car into the garage for some work which require that the battery be disconnected. This results in resetting the computer to the factory setting. When you get the car back you realise all of the little things that it does.

Now when the car goes into neutral the revs rise and fall bouncing around an average and then settles. Apparently the computer will learn the exact amount of RPM that the engine idles at without stalling and will set this as the default option.

I also had to reset the clock and the date and lost my accumulated average MPG and average speed since the last reset - things which I use to compare the cars performance and a sudden drop in MPG usually indicates an imminent problem. Now I wish I had written all of the data down (GEEK ALERT!)

The electric windows also have a one touch up and down setting - but since reconnecting the battery I have to work out how to switch this on again. The car also feels a bit sluggish and does not seem to be the car I put into the garage but since it only had a new starter motor fitted this can only be down to the computer relearning the optimum settings. The steering and even the braking feel different, I know it is not just me and that this must also be down to the cars computer. It is kind of nice to think that the car gets used to its driver.

Doing some research on the Internet and speaking with other Torquecars members I note that other drivers have complained similarly of problems with the car following the computer reset and have taken their cars back to the garage and complained only to be told that it will sort itself out in due course. Some owners of automatics report a really soggy gear change, again down to the computer needing to relearn the drivers habits and its engines own personality. I'm sure other people have had even weirder stuff happen to them following an ECU reset.

I don't know about you but we tend to take it for granted just how much technology affects our lives. Perhaps we should go back to cars with carbs and no ABS or Power Steering.

25 Jul 2007

Carism - the new predjudice.

We should never judge a person by their race, skin colour, sex, age or religion. We are all individuals and such generalisations are harmful and not constructive.

When it comes to the cars we drive though we tend to make judgements based on the type of car about the driver. I suppose this borders on acceptable because generally speaking we choose the car that we drive. If we dress like a clown, a tramp, a tart or a put on a business suit we have made a decision and this reflects our personality. So on this basis we shall now engage in some shameless generalisations but don't tell the members of Torquecars or I am likely to get lynched.

BMW - Big on image, most BMW drivers sought a prestige badge to give them credibility. Most BMW drivers are business owners, or work in a competative sales environment.

Audi - German engineering at its best, unlike BMW there is not the same degree of Image attached to the Audi badge. Typcial drivers are accountants and professionals who appreciate a good car but do not want to be seen as overly ambitious.

Toyota - Reliable cars. Styling has always seemed to be rather ordinary and average (until recently) and Toyotas are bought by the sensible driver who looks at economy and running costs. Typically purchased by the older driver (unless its a sports model).

Honda - Japanese reliability. Honda owners are not generally as old as Toyota drivers and often this will be the choice for the for those looking for a good all round performer with economy and in gear acceleration as their priority.

Ford - Fleet heaven. Appreciated by the city rep and long distance traveller alike. Usually a budget buy but often equipped with aftermarket parts like high power radio and alloy wheels.

GM - Mr Average. Run of the mill cars which appeal to run of the mill people. Often neglected and run to enormous mileages.

4x4 & SUVs - Big and in your face. These drivers like to cucoon themselves away from the general public and got a large family car for protection. 2 types of SUV driver exist - we will refer to them as shiny and muddy. The muddy SUV is Favoured as a workhorse many of these have a hard life transporting horse boxes, camping equipment and work tools and the 4 wheel drive is used. The shiny SUV driver wants to feel safe and protected and is not worried by the cost.

Diesels - The practical modern choice for those on a budget. Reliable and dependable this is the choice of the long distance rep and as a family car.

There are always exceptions but these stereotypes characterise the generally opinion of these car driver groups.

23 Jul 2007

Why I will never buy a new car.

New cars depreciate like tickets for a Titanic return voyage a Torquecars member will tell you. Well they lose a lot of their value. If you sell a car in the UK after 3 years of ownership you will have lost around 50% of its list price. The more options to get the more money you will lose when you come to sell the car. So on a 7,000 car this equates to a loss 3500 and on an 80,000 car you are looking at 40,000! SUV's and executive cars are notorious depreciators and can lose up to a staggering 60% of their list price!

If you take the options as separate items from the basic list price they will typically lose around 80% of their value, although some options are now considered essential and a car without them will not find a new owner easily. Other than air conditioning, power steering, ABS, alloy wheels and a good set of sounds, ignore other options like leather or heated seats, sunroof, courtesy lights, arm rest, driver aids like audible parking proximity sensors, metallic or special paint finishes, paddle gear shift on the steering wheel and sat nav. None of these will add much if anything to the resale value of the car.

My other gripe with new cars is the sheer toxicity of them. The new car smell is slowly killing us and we allow these carcinogens to build up in our bodies. When plastics get warm they give off chemicals and leave a tell tale film inside the windows. (A whole subject in itself which I aim to cover shortly!)

New cars also have faults. many new cars have faults or niggles that get fixed under warranty. Buying a car at 3 years old will have been thoroughly troubleshot and still have plenty of reliable life left in it. Then if I sell it at 6 years old I will typically lose just 30% of my outlay.
A 3 year old car with minor chips in the paint and slight scuffs or swirls in the metal reduces my anxiety. If the car was perfect looking when I parked it I would desperately take every measure possible to keep it so and avoid parking near the busy ends of car parks, leaving it on most streets would be a no-no to. A used car does not induce the same level of paranoia and fear of vandalism so you get to lead a less stressful life with fewer worries and concerns.

20 Jul 2007

Green Motoring is this the answer to climate change?

Much hype exists in the media about green motoring. There is more of an agreement on the reality of climate change nowadays as people are becoming concerned at the changing weather patterns. A new multi million $ industry of Green living has sprung up from governments introducing new Green taxes to reduce emissions of CO2 to car companies releasing fuel sipping varients of their popular engines.

Bio fuels are hailed as the solution. Bio fuel is a fuel source which is grown instead of being drilled or extracted from our earths limited resources. Oils can be extracted from crops and made into a viable diesel alternative and Ethanol, a type of alcahol, as a substitute or additive for petrol based engines. Although this seems like a good solution we still demand huge amounts of fuel to power our modern lives. Questions are being raised about how much bio fuel can be produced without impacting on our farmers ability to provide essential food crops. The conversion and refining process also requires large amounts of energy.

Another solution involves the use of electric power to augment a conventional CO2 emitting engine. There are some very impressive implimentaions of this from the major manufacturers although questions again are being raised at the amount of CO2 generated in the production of these cars and particulalry the batteries which store the power and will only last for 100,000 miles or so. Once again we seem only to have a partial solution to the answer. Is is possible to combine the two approaches? We have yet to see a hybrid diesel engine but a petrol/ethanol mix with electrical supplimentation is a practical application. Is this enough to reverse the thread of major catastrophic climate change?

There are millions of cars around already and it will not be practical to convert these. We have to ask what causes the largest emissions of CO2 and take a view that the humble motorist emits little more than a minute portion of the total CO2 and then we need to make some serious lifestyle changes if we are really serious about reducing climate change. A consumer driven society with its throwaway and replace an item mentality needs to change. We also need to travel less and work from home. Growing our own food will further reduce our carbon footprint. So the answer to the problem is not to spend more money on "Green" technology we need quite simply to spend less money, evaluating our needs and denying our wants. This is perhaps not realistic, people adopt the "let others go first" mentality and we are left with a problem that is not being sorted and have big business corporations and governments around the world profiting from the "green" revolution.

18 Jul 2007

Road rage triggers and how to avoid it!

What sort of things trigger road rage? It is something we have all experienced at one time or another and either been on the receiving end of it or dishing it out ourselves. Many Torquecars members report horrific and scary incidents involving road rage.

When we get into our cars we enjoy our freedom, the space inside the car is ours and we expect to be able to go where we want to when we want. If there is some external obsticle infringing on our freedom we may start to get frustrated. Anger is the human response to stress and some people control stress better than others. We obviously need to be more tolerant of other road users and forgiving of their mistakes. Good anticipation will allow us to avoid many pitfalls that can create problems for other motorists.

To avoid becoming a victim of road rage.
Drive considerately, letting other drivers join the traffic flow where safe to do so. Avoid erratic driving, frequent changing of lanes and sudden changes of speed. Anthing that draws attention to yourself potentially makes you a victim for road rage. Even driving a flashy or agressive looking car can create an angry response from other drivers where a normal looking car would have been largely ignored. Never drive at a speed substantially higher than the other motorists around you. Never block another car joining the traffic flow or cut into a traffic lane at the last possible minute. Avoid cutting up other drivers or causing them to take evasive action.

Avoid following the car in front too closely - remember that need for personal space still applies when we are in a car. Only overtake when it is safe to do so as cutting in at the last minute or causing the car we are overtaking to take evasive action are major precursors to road rage incidents.

If you have done something silly raise a palm as an apology and that often diffuses the anger of the car behind.

You may drive a car that is playing up and unable to maintain a steady speed, so pulling over and letting cars pass you will prevent the frustration and anger from building up. This includes the drivers of agricultural machinery and caravan drivers.

15 Jul 2007

The self repairing car strikes again.

Well it passed the MOT with flying colours. The front tyres were near the minimum tread depth so I have ordered some Dunlop SP Sports to match the rears. I would never have chosen them but they were all I could get on the rears and since they have been fitted I really like them.
They cope well in all weathers and are pretty hard wearing consider the abuse I give them!
A small fault developed though after the car had been returned which I noticed the following day. When using the starter the engine would start and then the starter would grind and clank.

I suspect that the release solenoid is sticking causing the starter to remain engaged in the starting ring longer than necessary. After about 10 starts though after the weekend it seems to have sorted itself out. When we first got our Audi A3 the door sensor was playing up causing the interior light to stay on and the digital dash computer display would flicker on and off. Both of those problems went away so I must take my hat off to German engineering having produced a car that repairs itself!

Bills and repairs so far in the 3 years of ownership other than standard service items totals £0.00! (Unless you count the tyres at £65 each but I'm prepared to put them in as a service item!) I'm very pleased with this car, especially since my last car, a Rover 220 GTi cost me around £200-£300 per month in repairs with repaired items failing a few months later with alarming regularity!

Vorsprung Durk Technik!

12 Jul 2007

MOT time makes me nervous.

Its that time of year again to get the MOT test. The car is booked in. I have checked the obvious things, such as bulbs and washer fluid following the list provided by Torquecars. The car is also due a minor service so it makes sense that both are taken care of at the same time. Thankfully Audi 1.8T engines have a really long service schedule with Plugs lasting 40,000 miles and oil changes every 2 years. I had a performance washable air filter fitted so this will just be rinsed through and re oiled. All that needs doing really is the oil and I won't be going for the Audi long life oil, Instead I'll be going for a good quality 5w30 fully synthetic.

The MOT always worries me and I will spend most of tomorrow pacing up and down like an expectant father waiting outside the Maternity suite. Will they find the small chip in the windscreen or on the light lenses? Is that suspension bump from the rear anything major. What are the emissions going to be like? 1,000,000 of questions like these run through my head and they will probably pick up on something I've not even thought about. The car is 5 years old so should theoretically sail through but I was a born worrier!

Once that is out of the way its time to apply for road tax. Insurance comes out next month and then no more bills for another year all being well and keeping my fingers crossed.

11 Jul 2007

How can a 500 bhp engine be more impressive than a 1000 bhp one?

What is more impressive, a BMW v12 F1 engine that puts out 1000bhp and redlines as 12,000 rpm or a BMW engine which puts out 500 bhp and redlines at 6000 rpm?

The F1 engine of course. If peak power output is the measure then you would be right but lets break this claim down a little. The F1 engine is stripped down and rebuilt after every race by a dedicated team of mechanics who also monitor every facet of the engine during each race. The 500 bhp engine is that fitted to a road car and as such it must last 100,000 miles at least before it required rebuilding and it must cope with long service intervals and a wide range of weather and driving conditions. Needless to say that the average driver does not have a pit crew on hand to keep everything running smoothly. When we put it like that we start to realise just how amazing our car engines are, and start to appreciate that there is a trade off when we ask the engine to put down more power.

Nearly every engine can have more power squeezed out of it and with some engines this can be as much as another 40-80% more power. This will usually reduce the service intervals and decrease the life expectancy of the engine though and presents the hidden cost of tuning.
Many people just can't see the point of F1 but when the things learned on these highly tuned and greatly stressed engines is applied to production going versions of cars you start to see the point, and actually realise the great benefits of the money companies pump into their motorsports divisions. Many innovations like traction control, active suspension and even tyre technology find its roots in F1.

Torquecars helps users decide which car tuning modifications are the best ones for their car and highlights any tradeoffs or compromises that need to be made for the sake of performance.

9 Jul 2007

Obsessive tendancies In a car.

We all have little rituals and to a degree we all have bit of compulsive behavior disorder. It is good to be regimented orderly and tidy, but we need to be careful that it does not start to take over our lives. This is a fairly tongue in cheek article that contains little in the way of real phsychology and is not intended to be anything more than an amusing diversion.
Here are some of the things to look out for.

When Parking.

We have to park in middle of a space even if this means we go forwards and backwards a number of times.All wheels must be parallel to the kerb so we would never leave the car with our front wheels at an angle. The distance from the kerb must be equal on the front or back. When parking up we also ensure that the Steering wheel must always be straight. We cannot let the wipers rest unless they are in the parked position at the bottom of the screen. We would even restart the ignition to ensure that the wipers are correctly resting. We touch each pedal a set number of times with our feet as we turn off the engine, blip the accelerator or depress the clutch pedal.

Before we set off.

All of the vents must be set in a symmetrical pattern, if the outer ones are pointing up so must the inner ones. If the left one is pointing left we just dont feel right until the right one is pointing left to mirror it. We make sure that the mats in the car are all straight and that the headrests are all at the same height.

When driving along.

You tap or wiggle your left foot, or clench your jaw each time you pass a lamp post, mailbox or other marker.We try (especially in the wet) to make sure our tyres go over the same bit of road as the car in front.


We get annoyed when the tyre valves do not line up.

None of these in themselves are a problem but if we start to become obsessive over them or are guilty of a significant number of these we need to be careful that this does not develop into a major problem. We could test ourself out by forcibly breaking the rule/behaviour pattern that we are having trouble with.

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