My thoughts on electric cars

When I’m talking to friends who are fellow gearheads, we always get around to talking about electric cars somehow or other. It’s a product of the times we’re living in as much as anything else. Electric vehicles are definitely the future, no doubt about that, and in my opinion, the past few years were the first time that really became apparent.

I was opposed to electric cars for a while, because they’ve really only become viable in the past few years. Old electric cars weren’t powerful at all. They had laughable horsepower and their batteries were pathetic in range. They just weren’t practical. Nowadays, I can’t help but tip my hat to the people making the Tesla’s and Volt’s that are on the street. They’re some really admirable cars in lots of ways. They finally have a good range, they have solid horsepower, and they finally feel good to drive, which to me is one of the most important aspects of a car. In fact I just read an article which was speculating that now that Chevy has a relatively cheap little electric car out, they might be crossing the threshold of actually taking over the market:

 

Now that you can actually compare them to gas cars, I think some real differences are popping out. First of all, electric motors run better than gas motors. They’re cleaner, they’re smoother, and if you know anything about physics, they’re a lot more efficient in the ratio of power input to output. So even though a lot of people are still getting their electricity from gas and coal, they’re still making an impact by saving so much of the power along the way. I’ve been watching some races in Europe which are all electric cars, and they’re damn impressive. There was a great Top Gear episode too where Clarkson drove an electric supercar and couldn’t stop raving about it. That shows you a  lot about how far we’ve come in the past 10 years alone.

 

As someone who works inside cars a lot and gets pretty filthy, I also like that electric drivetrains are so much cleaner. They don’t foul up as easy as gasoline drive systems, so you don’t have to even think about soot or fuel injector cleaners. You can get your fuel from any kind of source you want, too, which is good, since we’re definitely seeing a more diverse energy system these days as well.

 

Will I ever convert to an electric vehicle?

 

Honestly, I’d have to say no. I’d miss the noise, to be perfectly straight with you. I like the growl, the roar, and the personality of gas motors. From gas to electric feels like going from human to robot, from something with a character to just a machine. I know they work better, but they just don’t feel the same to me.

 

I also like the tactile tinkering you can do with a gas motor. They can be complicated and sophisticated, but they’re straight mechanics, and you can eventually problem solve them. Electric cars are so computerized and specialized that you can’t really do that anymore. I don’t want to have a degree and a computer just to get under the hood.

I wonder too about whether mechanics like me would be able to get started in 10 years when most cars are electric. They’re so much less intuitive, and companies are much more proprietary about their parts and service that it seems to me that you couldn’t get an entry-level job servicing an electric car. That’s how so many of us get started, so it seems to me that it would just upset the whole food chain. I also can’t help but wonder how much it must cost to have a computer hookup in your shop and all the software and such to work on one of these vehicles. To my mind, it looks like we’re going to be moving to a dealership-only service model, which is going to put a lot of people like me out of business. I guess we’ll see.
At any rate, I think it’s hard to argue with the winningness of electric motors. There are a lot of things yet to be worked out, though. Definitely an interesting topic to read about, if you’re of the mind.

Why I use fuel injector cleaners in all my vehicles

Hey there, readers–

 

Today’s blog is all about something you’ve probably seen in the auto shop, but maybe something a lot of you have never used before. I’m talking about fuel injector cleaners. I’ve actually gotten a few questions on here about them, and I know a lot of folks I talk cars with want to know my thoughts, so I figured it deserved a whole blog post. I’m a big fan of these little solutions, so let me tell you why, and what you can expect from them.

 

Essentially, fuel injector cleaners are exactly what they say they are, cleaners for your fuel injectors. If you know anything about injection motors, they use the injector nozzles to get a fine spray of fuel into the combustion chamber, which fires and gives the engine power. The idea is, the more fuel you burn, the more soot and sludge ends up on the injectors. It’s a tiny effect at first, but over time, the built up dirt can make the injector spray funny, and rob the engine of some of its power.

In an old car, that’s usually why you can fix every part in the drivetrain and not see all those horses come back to the stable. You can also tell your injectors are clogged up if you have a sluggish start or a lot of noise from the engine. Smoggy exhaust is a warning sign too. Anyway, there are a lot of different things a dirty injector set affects, but the main thing is that you lose power.

 

The cleaner is a fluid solution you get in a little bottle, which you run through the fuel line. It’s basically a detergent. If you think of it like doing laundry, your motor is your clothes, your tank of fuel is the water the machine runs through, and the soap is the small amount that’s run through to do the cleaning. It’s the same general idea.

 

In a lot of new cars, you might not need to worry about your injectors. We’ve known about dirty injector issues for years now, and so good fuel today has detergents (cleaners) already added to make it burn smoother, and we’ve added lubricants to compensate for the fact that we don’t use lead anymore. New cars are also designed better to keep the injectors firing without any trouble, where before most people weren’t even thinking about what fuel itself would do to a car’s innards.

 

But in an older car or if you don’t have a really good filling station that gives you high-quality fuel, you’re still going to end up with some accumulation over time. That’s why I use these things every so often, and especially when I get a car in the shop for the first time. They’re simply a great all-around improver for anything power-related, and in my opinion, they’re a cheap way to see if you can make a motor run better without taking it completely apart. It never hurts to try one, and I’d say it almost always helps.

 

If you want my advice, you’ll use one on any car more than 10 years old as a routine part of your maintenance. And unless you’re really confident in the quality of the gas you’re running through the vehicle, you should use one when you change your oil in a new car, too.

 

The one type of motor to never skip injector cleanings on is a diesel. They’re really important for diesels, because diesel is such a dirty, messy fuel. I don’t drive any diesels myself, but I’ve worked on them plenty, and I can tell you from experience that nothing gets fouled up as easily or as quickly as a diesel engine. You’re going to want to add some cleaner or an additive with every tank. I would suggest Liqui-Moly, or Stanadyne, but you can find a longer list over at fuelinjectorcleaner.xyz .

 

So, to wrap up, my take is that no, these cleaners aren’t snake oil, but they’re not super necessary if you drive a brand new car, use really good fuel, and take care of it otherwise. Think about what I just said, though. Those are ideal circumstances, and you almost certainly aren’t living in an ideal world!

 

Here’s one thing to think about: new fuel is hardly clean. There’s a law on the books that all fuel in this country has to have 10% ethanol in it. That’s corn fuel, if you’re not familiar with it, and all you really need to know about it is it burns like diesel. That’s to say it’s messy, dirty, and it leaves a lot of itself behind. It doesn’t really matter how much detergent they put in the fuel if they’re also putting all that crud in. So even under ideal circumstances, you’re never going to get close to a clean burn. A lot of people forget about ethanol when they talk about how newer cars using nice fuels don’t need injector cleaners. It’s actually something that can be worse in some cases for new cars, especially the European and Japanese ones, because they’re fine-tuned for countries which don’t use ethanol (i.e. everybody else).

So, getting back to the point I don’t use the cleaners religiously in the newer cars I drive, but you can sure bet I use them in the older vehicles and about once an oil change in the new cars. I hope this helps you out, let me know if you want any more specific thoughts. I would also recommend reading this cleaning guide for a fuel engine and having a look at http://fuelinjectorcleaner.xyz/diesel  if you drive diesel.

My guide to making cars run longer and better

For this blog, I wanted to do something a bit different than my usual rambling and storytelling. I get a fair amount of questions from readers, and a lot of you are actually wondering the same things. I thought I’d kill a few birds with one stone and start writing some advice pieces with tips for you and car info you’ll hopefully find useful. This one’s all about longevity.

 

That’s everyone’s main concern carwise, how to get things to last as long as they possibly can. There are a lot of different parts of your car that deteriorate, be it rust on the frame or corrosion in the engine, so it’s hard to give one answer as to what you have to do to make vehicles last longer. On that note, here are some assorted tips which are all key things you can do to improve the life expectancy of each piece.

 

Number one and most important is to get on a regular maintenance schedule, whether you’re a good home mechanic or you’re going to see a mechanic. You should treat your car like your teeth. You go to the dentist every 6 months or so, which is about the same amount of time you want to space out checkups for the car. It’s better to spend a few extra bucks and be proactive  than have to spend hundreds or even thousands on a sudden crisis.

Even if there’s nothing apparently wrong, you should change the oil and the filters on your car every 6 months, or depending on how many miles you drive, some other interval you decide on with your mechanic. The most important thing is to do it regularly. The filters and the oil are essential to help your car breathe and keep itself cooled off, and when you don’t clean and change them, things overheat and can get bad. Likewise, check your coolant level on the same regular basis and never let it get low, or you’re going to run into major engine problems.

 

The other big thing to do on a regular basis is to use a fuel injector cleaner to make sure your fuel line is working as smoothly as it can be. You’re going to want to use a can of cleaner about as often as you change your oil, more or less often depending on how high-quality your fuel source is.

 

One really minor detail a lot of drivers overlook is tire pressure. Your tires should always be kept at the pressure they’re rated for, or a pressure that you’ve established is appropriate for your roads and conditions. There are some good charts online if you’re not sure what that would be. In any case, checking pressure and making adjustments improves just about everything. It makes you car handle smoother, burn less fuel, and drive safer on the roads.

Probably the best thing you can do besides taking your car in for regular checkups is to do some looking around yourself. A lot of people are in too much of a hurry to get wherever they’re going to take a detailed look around their car, but being observant pays big dividends, let me tell you. Hearing a weird wobbling or thumping sound could be a ball bearing about to fail, and taking the initiative to track it down can be the difference between having a bad accident or not.