HEMA HX-1 Navigator Review

HEMA HX-1 Navigator

HEMA HX-1 Navigator Review

Recently, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a HEMA HX-1 Navigator to review for the Chart and Map Shop in Fremantle. What a great device it is! It’s a step change in usability from the previous HEMA navigators.

Take a look at my review at the Chart and Map Shop website.

Self drive cars take over the road

Self Drive Car's don't look like this

Will self drive cars take over the road?

This may not be a subject you’d expect to find on my blog, but it’s something I’m very interested in personally so I thought I’d put this article together. And what I’m talking about, of course, is self drive cars. Self drive cars are the talk of the town at the moment, with trials and testing going on in various cities all over the world. But will self drive cars, or autonomous cars as they might otherwise be known, take over the road as much as some people think they might? Well that remains to be seen, but in the February 2016 edition of 4×4 Australia magazine, Fraser Stronach says he doesn’t think so. In his article he makes some valid points about why he feels that self drive cars are a little further away than some people might expect.

I’m not so sure I agree. Lets take a look at the points he makes in the article.

There are alternatives to self drive cars

In Fraser’s article, he says that people won’t adopt self drive cars because there are alternatives such as taxis, busses, trains, trams etc. He also points out that the rise in app-based ride sharing (such as Uber) means that people will have plenty of alternatives.

But with all of these existing forms of transport, you have to wait for them. A self drive car will be where you told it to be, exactly when you told it to be there. It will learn your schedule and adapt its routine to suit you.

And with these other services, you’re putting your own safety into the hands of a person whose driving history you have no idea about. People may argue that surely a person is much safer than a self drive car! If that were the case then why are we putting so much computing technology into our cars already? In fact, look at the safety features of the all new Pajero Sport and tell me how many of these features are NOT driven by a computer. You have Blind Spot Warning, Forward Collision Mitigation, automatic wipers and lights, ultrasonic misacceleration mitigation, multi around monitor, ABS, ESC… the list goes on. ALL controlled by computers and designed to make the car safer than it is when it’s driven by a human. But what’s more, and the proof is in the pudding, Googles self drive vehicle is in fact ridiculously safe!

I actually think that self drive cars will put an end to taxis, ride sharing and even public transport.

Self drive cars won’t be cheap

Fraser believes that these self drive cars won’t be cheap because there is an awful lot of technology required to drive a self drive car. And it’s true. There is a huge amount of technology, research, testing that makes up a self drive car. He points out that these cars will require radars, cameras and proximity sensors that will all be held together with intelligent computing systems and that this will cost money.

Well I think he’s party right. Self drive cars do require a huge amount of modern technology. But if you take a look at the list of safety features that I listed above, you have to admit it’s a pretty impressive list. And they’re all held together by a computer! Every modern car has one already! And Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport is one of the more affordable 4wd vehicles on the market!

Yes but what about the computer programming that goes into controlling a self drive car? Well… how many of you own a mobile phone? Or an iPad? Or a laptop? These all run software that has taken many hours of coding and does it make them unaffordable? Will a self drive car really be any different? Is it that much of a stretch to add in some additional coding and robotics? I don’t think so.

But a more interesting question is… will you buy a self drive car anyway? And in my opinion the answer is no, you won’t. But you will subscribe to a self drive car service.

I think that companies, such as Uber, will offer multiple levels of subscription to their self drive car service ranging from exclusive use, where the car is effectively your own, through to scheduled service where a car will be waiting at a certain point at a predetermined time ready to take you home from work, through to an ad-hoc service where you ‘summon’ a car when you need one. And many levels in between.

Conventional vehicles come in a myriad of flavours

People like what they like. I like 4wd vehicles while my neighbour might like sports cars. Fraser believes that self drive cars won’t be offered in an appealing range of flavours. And maybe he’s right. Or maybe not. But I do know that there are already a number of companies starting to investigate the production of self drive cars. Companies such as Google, Volvo and Tesla are part of the gang. And are these not extremely diverse and different companies? Why wouldn’t they produce a diverse range of self drive cars?

Who is to blame when a self drive car is involved in an accident?

Well this is a fantastic point. Who will actually be responsible probably depends on what actually happens in each individual accident but it probably won’t be the owner of the vehicle. In the same way that a passenger on a bus isn’t responsible if the bus is involved in an accident. The responsibility for proving the safety of the vehicle will lie solidly on the vehicle manufacturer/software developer.

So why, then, would any company want to produce millions of self drive cars if they’re opening themselves up to such liability? They would do so only if they thought that it was going to be profitable. Which means that they believe that the amount they’ll pay in compensation will be limited. Which means that they believe that their self drive cars are safe. And they will be!

Self drive cars will monitor themselves and at the first sign of a problem, will shut themselves down and summon a replacement vehicle. Then a self drive town truck will come and take the broken car away for repair. But what’s more is the broken car will report back to HQ with diagnostic information. This information will be used to make improvements that will then be sent over the internet to all other self drive cars which will only help to make the entire system even safer.

How will they handle varying conditions?

Fraser points out that driving conditions change. And they sure do! Rain, snow, heat, road surfaces. Fraser points out that even something as benign as a plastic bag blowing across the road can trigger a self drive car to brake suddenly, causing the vehicle behind to rear-end it.

This is surely the biggest challenge for the software developers. But as technology improves I’m sure they’ll work out ways of making self drive cars smarter.

But in regards to the car behind… What if that car was fitted with collision avoidance technology? Which, by the way, is a technology that you can find in many current vehicles. But take this a step further… What if the car behind was fitted with self drive car awareness technology. A way of ‘talking’ to fully autonomous cars, so to speak. I think that if this were the case, the scenario would change dramatically. The self drive car could be in constant communication with the car behind, telling it to stay a certain distance away. Variable cruise control and driver warning systems would help maintain the distance. The self drive car sees plastic bag and hits the brakes. But at the same time communicates to the vehicle behind that it is applying the brakes. The car behind then reacts before the driver can and applies the brakes safely. And so on down the road…

“Sure” you say “But my car doesn’t have self drive car awareness and there is no way it’ll ever get fitted”. Really? Well there was a time not so long ago when the government forced people to change from leaded fuel to unleaded. And you won’t find a car now days that doesn’t have an immobiliser. And all Australian cars must now be fitted with some kind of active stability control. So all it takes to implement this kind of technology is a directive from the government. Not to say that you MUST drive a self drive car, but that your car must be self drive car aware. Done.

Self drive cars will have to have a 100% reliable computer

Really? Cars currently have computers in them. Very sophisticated computers with very sophisticated safety features. Are these computers fault free? As long as a self drive car is carefully designed to stop on fail then I don’t see that there is a problem. There are lots of examples where machinery and technology is designed to fail safely.

What’s more, when the self drive car fails, it will broadcast this status to all other self drive cars and self drive aware cars in the vicinity so that they know to avoid it. Perhaps other self drive cars will be programmed to push it off the road to get it out of the way. It will then send diagnostics back to HQ and call itself a self drive tow truck. A replacement self drive car will arrive in a matter of moments to keep you on your journey.

Self drive cars will ‘talk’ to each other.

Fraser is sceptical that this will be possible. He believes that for this to happen, all self drive cars will need to have the same operating system and current updates.

But lets look at current technology. I’m writing this on a computer running Microsoft Windows. I have an iPhone which is running Apple iOS. These are two very different operating systems developed by two rival companies. But using a standardised technology called Bluetooth, I can get my two devices to communicate. There is absolutely no reason why self drive cars from different manufacturers wouldn’t be able to communicate with each other. They would just need to communicate in a standardised language, so to speak. And this standardisation will be regulated by an international standards body. This is not a new concept.

Google is currently leading the way in self drive car development

Well… they’re certainly involved anyway. Are they leading the way? Maybe. Don’t know…

But regardless, making the car is really the easy part. All you need to do is put together 4 wheels and an engine and you have a car. The hard part is the computer technology that will make self drive cars efficient, safe, reliable and fun. And why shouldn’t a technology company like Google lead the way in that space? Once they have proven their technology, I’m sure that they will have a queue of vehicle manufacturers knocking at their door wanting to fit it into their cars.

But also, as mentioned above, there are a number of vehicle manufacturers who are also joining the race.

So when will be see self drive cars for real?

Fraser’s timeframe is decades. He doesn’t feel that they’ll be common on our roads anytime soon. And really, only time will tell.

But trials of self drive vehicles have started around the world already. In fact a self drive bus is set to be trialled in my home town of Perth this year. THIS YEAR!!! And I can’t wait!

So will they be decades away? I think Fraser and I will have to agree to disagree on this one. I think that they will be common on our roads much, much sooner than that. Much of the technology that is being implemented in self drive cars is current. It’s not actually developing anything that is new, it’s just extending its use. We already have trains in many cities around the world that drive themselves, large passenger planes already do a lot of the work automatically, heavy mining machinery is becoming more and more autonomous. So I don’t think self drive cars are really such a big step.

But what else is interesting about self drive cars

Self drive cars will probably, for the most part, be electric. Electric cars are more reliable and require much less maintenance than traditional combustion engine cars, and the expected life of an electric motor is orders of magnitude longer than a combustion engine. So in order to make them more affordable, I think that manufacturers will make them electric. This will make them much more energy efficient as well, particularly with the drive towards green energy. But even without green energy, a combustion engine powering a vehicle is significantly less energy efficient than an combustion engine generating electricity. Every time you put your foot down to accelerate and your engine revs and you blow black diesel smoke out of your exhaust pipe, that’s engine inefficiency. Listen to your generator next time you’re running it (if you have one). Do you hear it revving? Does it blow black smoke? Or does it just putt away steadily making electricity? That’s the difference in efficiency right there. So removing all combustion engines and replacing them with electric engines will produce a much greener planet.

But what about batteries? We all know that batteries run out of life eventually and need replacing. But there is an emerging technology in this space that will change how we feel about battery technology. Super capacitors will have a significantly longer life span and will also have the capability of holding significantly more power than today’s chemical batteries, increasing the range of an electric vehicle from a few hundred kilometres to literally thousands.

“But I love the power of my twin turbo v8. An electric car will never give me the same get up and go, right?”

If that’s how you feel… watch this… I have no words… just watch…

Self drive cars will also bring an unprecedented freedom to some members of the community. Visually impaired people, the elderly, people with disabilities and even children will be able to benefit from this technology. You’ll be able to put your kids in the car and send them to grand-ma’s house for the afternoon, people who are unable to drive will be able to get themselves to appointments, drunk people will be able to get home without endangering themselves and others.

I’m very much looking forward to self drive cars. In my mind, the benefits significantly outweigh the negatives in this emerging technology. I’m hoping that we see them on our roads very, very soon.

Modify tyres and suspension legally Part 2

Muddy PB Challenger

Modify tyres and suspension legally

In a previous post, I discussed my experience when trying to modify tyres and suspension legally to raise the height of my car by less than 50mm… As you’ll read, I didn’t have much joy.

It’s important to make sure you do keep within the legal boundaries of modifications. If you don’t then you may end up with a yellow sticker, but also your insurance company may have a way out of making payments should anything terrible happen. Although you may find some insurance companies say that they’ll insure your 4×4 modifications, call them up and ask them if they’ll insure something that’s effectively illegal. I’m sure you already know what the answer will be.

My vehicle is fitted with Electronic Stability Control. Most cars have it now days but it may be called something slightly different (perhaps Active Stability Control or ASC). So this post and the previous one focus on modifying the height of a vehicle that is fitted with this technology.

So lets get to it…

VSB14 and the NCOP

VSB stands for Vehicle Standards Bulletin. It’s basically a design guide to make sure all vehicles in Australia comply to a bunch of safety regulations. These regulations are outlined in NCOPs.

NCOP is the National Code of Practice. Each NCOP relates to a particular item.

We’re interested in VSB14 and NCOP11 – Section LS Suspension and Steering V2.1 last edited on 15 November 2015.

Since my last post there have been some changes that relate to vehicles fitted with ASC. The previous version of this document basically said that if your vehicle has ASC, then to raise the height of your vehicle in any way, you’d need to ensure that there is no impact on the ASC by one of the below methods:

  • Get vehicle manufacturer signoff – Never going to happen… Trust me. I tried…
  • Modify the ASC code to allow for the change – Yeah right…
  • Prove it through testing – You can read my previous post to see how much luck I had there.

Now, however, the NCOP clearly states what you need to comply with, and what you need to do if you don’t. And there are 3 different stages. Well 4, if you count lowering your car… Note that raising your vehicle height includes all methods of raising the height. So it’s a total height increase taking into account suspension, body lifts, tyre diameter, spacers… everything.

Raising your car by more than 150mm

The short of it is “Don’t do it”. It’s not legal in any way.

Raising your car by more than 50mm but no more than 150mm

You can do this, but you need to pass a lane change test.

Raising your car by 50mm or less

You can do this without any kind of certification. It’s legal. Go ahead and do it. Have fun. Enjoy the ride.

Lowering your car by any amount

Go for it, but you have to comply with other things. But who really wants to lower their 4×4 anyway?

Now this is my interpretation of the rules so please read the NCOP and make your own judgement. Don’t just trust the stuff you read on some random page on the Internet…

ARB Fridge-Freezer and Battery Life – How long will it last?

Deep Cycle Battery

The ARB Fridge-Freezer and Battery Life – What You Need To Know

Previously, I did a very unscientific test using a 100ah deep cycle AGM battery and my 78L ARB fridge. Since then, I have been contacted by a representative of Ark and given some great information on what you might need to know about your ARB Fridge and battery life.

Do you own an ARB Fridge? Or any car fridge for that matter… Did you know that you probably shouldn’t run it from your car’s battery for too long? Draining your cranking battery will severely limit its life span. In this article, I’ll lay out the information that was given to me by Ark. Hopefully it makes sense!

How is battery capacity measured?

Basically, battery storage capacity is measured in Amp hours (Ah). So if you have 2 x 12V batteries, a 100Ah battery and a 50Ah battery, the 100Ah battery will deliver 12V of power for longer (can you guess how long?). Which means you can power your car fridge for longer between charges.

An amp hour (Ah) rating is just what it sounds like – the number of hours a battery can provide 1 amp of current at 12 volts before the battery is completely dead. NOTE! This metric is not completely accurate! But it does provide a good way of comparing one battery to another. So now we have some kind of understanding of Amp hours, right?

A crucial element to understand when it comes to batteries is the difference between deep cycle batteries and cranking/starter batteries. Your cranking battery is the one that was delivered under the bonnet of your car when you purchased it from the dealer. Its purpose in life is to deliver a huge amount of power for a very short time. Once your engine is running, it maintains that full charge. Whereas a deep cycle battery is designed to deliver low amounts of power continuously for a longer period. So comparing a 100Ah deep cycle battery and a 35Ah starting battery doesn’t make any sense. They’re two different batteries designed to do different things.

Deep-Cycle vs Starter Batteries and Your Car Fridge

Pretty much all cars have a “starter” or “cranking” battery. This is the one that delivers the power to turn your engine over until it fires up. On those cold mornings when your engine won’t start and you hear that “RehRehRehRehReh” while you sit there saying “C’mon! C’mon! C’mon! Start damn-it”. That’s all on battery power. Do it too long and pretty quickly your cranking battery runs out. Starting your car requires a burst of 100 to 200 amps. And 300 amps isn’t unheard of. Your cranking battery is designed to deliver it for a short period of time.

Which is why running your car fridge off your cranking battery isn’t the best idea. The same applies for anything that you use for a long time while your car isn’t running (camp lights for example). If you over-discharge your cranking battery more than a few time then it rapidly stops being able to hold a charge at all. Cranking batteries can’t be discharged more than about 25% before their lifespan is depleted.

Your typical deep cycle battery, however, is designed to store energy and deliver it at lower amperages for longer periods of time. Most can be discharged to 50% of their capacity before their life is compromised. And some of the best ADM or Lead Acid batteries can be run down to 75% of their maximum charge without damage. So these are the guys you want to be using to power your car fridges, camp lights etc. You might think of deep cycle batteries as marathon runners, and cranking batteries as sprinters.

Deep Cycle vs Starter Batteries

How To Power Your ARB Fridge Freezer Without Killing Your Vehicle Battery

Well… Really… the simplest answer to this question is… Use a separate battery to power your fridge. Your starter battery may well be able to manage the load over the short term, you will eventually ruin it. This is not only expensive, but if you’re in the middle of the bush and can’t start your car it can be inconvenient at best and life threatening at worst.

Battery Capacity and Size

The best solution is to get a deep cycle battery, drop it into a good quality battery box (like one of the ArkPack ones) and power your fridge from that. The table below gives you an indication on how long you might be able to run it for without recharging.

ARB
Fridge/Freezer Size
Current Draw
(Amps/hr)
60ah Deep-Cycle
Battery
80ah Deep-Cycle
Battery
100ah Deep-Cycle
Battery
35L 0.85 49hrs 75hrs 82hrs
47L 0.87 48hrs 64hrs 80hrs
60L 0.89 47hrs 63hrs 79hrs
78L 1.07 39hrs 52hrs 65hrs

NOTE: These are theoretical maximums. Lots of factors will affect these times. For example, these times assume you discharge the deep-cycle battery 70% (30% of total charge remaining), and they assume that your battery has 100% of its’ listed capacity. I’d suggest taking a few hours off each estimate just to cover yourself. I don’t want your cursing my name when your beer goes warm! That’s way too much responsibility for even my humungous, muscular, Adonis-like shoulders.

Where to put your Deep Cycle battery

There are a number of options here. Many people install a second battery under their bonnet right next to the main cranking battery. That’s fine if you have the space up there. I found a place behind the trim in my boot to put mine, but for a while I had it in a battery box so that I could remove it if I wanted to.

The battery box I used was a dumb box. It basically held my battery and told me how much charge was remaining. But the ArkPak battery box is a much smarter unit. It includes a top notch battery charger/conditioner to keep your battery in good shape. It also includes the relevant cable work so that you can mount your ArkPak in your vehicle just as you would a dual battery. And it also includes an inverter that converts your 12v into 250v. That’s handy if you need to power things like laptops etc. In addition to this, the built-in, easy to read, digital meter lets you know when your battey is ready to be charged up again and an audible alarm warns you as your charge drops away. Given that a good quality AGM battery is expensive, why wouldn’t you want to get the most life out of it? Makes sense to me!

ArkPak Powering Fridge

As you might expect from a quality batter box, it does more than just run your ARB car fridge. You’ll also find that 240v socket for powering the laptop, coffee machine, or foot spa. You’ve also got a number of 12v power sockets and also a built-in USB port for charging your mobile devices. Now that’s a handy idea!

So I hope this article helps you out with working out not only what kind of battery you need to run your fridge, but also how to actually take your battery with you!

Modifying 4wd tyres and suspension legally

Muddy PB Challenger

After almost 100,000kms, the factory tyres on my 2010 PB Challenger are about due to be replaced. So I thought I’d start looking into Modifying 4wd tyres and suspension legally. I know that the majority of people just do it, but being a model citizen (cough) I thought it would be best to do it as legally as possible. After all, if you modify your car illegally then you run the risk of being issued with a yellow sticker by the police, and you also risk not being covered by insurance.

Lots of insurance companies will state that they cover 4wd modifications no matter what you do… as long as it’s a legal modification. Makes sense really… Why would an insurance company put their hand up to insure something that wasn’t legal. Makes no sense.

If you have an insurance company who has stated that they’ll cover your modifications then be brave, call them up and ask them if they cover modifications that aren’t legal. I bet they’ll run for the hills.

Vehicle Standards Bulletins

Vehicle Standards Bulletins (VSB) are a set of regulations put forward by the federal government. The federal government then encourages the states to adopt these regulations in their entirety. I’m in Western Australia and we have adopted VSB14 in its entirety. Some states have and some haven’t. Please check with your local authority to clarify what has been adopted in your state.

The VSB that we are interested in is VSB 14, which is the National Code of Practice for Light Vehicle Construction and Modification (NCOP). And more specifically, NCOP11 Section LS Suspension and Steering V2. At the time of writing this post, the last update to this document was in January 2011.

There is a whole lot of detail in the document that I found didn’t apply to my situation. Really all I want it to slightly change my tyre size from 265/65R17 to 265/70R17 and then lift my vehicle by less than 50mm. The total height change will only be about 47mm including tyre size and suspension.

VSB 14 as it applied to me

So I sat down and started reading VSB 14. The first thing I noticed was that there is a whole section outlining what modifications you can make without approval, what you need basic signoff for, and what you need further testing to have approved.

In this section of VSB14, it says that I’m allowed to modify my tyres, rims and suspension as long as the total height change does not exceed 50mm, that my total suspension travel is not increased by greater than one third of the original suspension travel, and that my modifications comply with Sub-Section 2 – General Requirements.

Ok so those first two requirements are easy enough for me to meet. I’ll just have to confirm about the suspension travel but I’m sure that’ll be OK. What’s this bit about Sub-section 2, though. What does that mean… Let me take a look…

Hmmm…

Ok so this is where it starts to get a bit strange. In reading it I can see comments like “The roadholding and handling qualities of a modified vehicle must not be adversely affected”. Not 100% sure of what that really means or who decides what “Adversely Affected” really means… But anyway…

It then also goes into minimum road clearance, turning circles, etc. Then it gets really detailed and mostly not relevant to me… So I skipped over it.

And then I got to a section that is all about vehicles with Electronic Stability Control (ESC). ESC is a very important safety feature of vehicles. According to Wikipedia, ESC is the technology that improves vehicle stability by detecting and correcting for loss of traction. When ESC detects loss of traction, it automatically applies brakes to effectively steer your car back on track. Different vehicle manufacturers name it differently so check with your vehicle manufacturer.

Now my car, a 2010 Mitsubishi PB Challenger is fitted with ESC. And according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, “On 22 June 2009, the Australian Government announced the introduction of an Australian Design Rule, based on Global Technical Regulation No.8, for the mandatory fitting of ESC to passenger cars and SUVs from November 2011 (for new models) and November 2013 (for all vehicles)”.

The way I understand this is if you’re car is post 2011 then it has ESC. Check with your manufacturer.

So back to VSB 14, section 2.6…

Basically, this section outlines what ESC is and then says “For modification codes contained in this Section of VSB 14, evidence should be obtained either from the vehicle manufacturer or through testing to determine the impact on the ESC system. To remain within the scope of this Section of VSB 14, a vehicle fitted with ESC must not be modified if the operation of the ESC is affected unless the ESC system is adjusted accordingly.

Persons wishing to modify vehicles equipped with ESC must contact their Registration Authority for further information and guidance.”

Ok, no problems. I can just head down to the local Mitsubishi shop and ask them to prove to me that what I want to do is going to be OK… Right? *shakes head*… No…

Although it was pretty obvious to me what their response was going to be, I decided to ask Mitsubishi what they thought of me using non-Mitsubishi parts on my car… As you’d expect they came back saying that they don’t recommend using anything but genuine Mitsubishi parts. Of course they would.

So this leaves me with proving through my own testing what the impact on the ESC system is and then adjusting the ESC system so that it’s not adversely affected. How on earth do I do that? The ESC is controlled by the car computer! I can’t just hack into it and change ESC settings!!

Surely the WA Department of Transport will have more information on their website. And they do! It’s a great website that clearly outlines what you need to do. Because I have a vehicle with ESC, I found that I need to submit a vehicle modification application form. Which I did.

The response was basically that because i had ESC, I’d have to prove through testing that there was no adverse affect. And to arrange that testing I’d need to contact an engineering signatory and arrange it with them. I assumed that this would come in the form of a swerve test or lane change test. There is a great video of a Hilux performing a lane change test on YouTube:

But wait… If I want to undertake a lane change test, I need to get my modifications done first… What if it fails??? So many unanswered questions…

Anyway, there are a list off engineering signatories available from the WA department of transport. I contacted one with a general query about the process… Below is the conversation that I had with him (names removed)

From me:

Hi
I have been given your details by the Dept of Transport in regards to obtaining a signoff on modifications that I’d like to perform on my vehicle.
My car is a Mitsubishi Challenger 2010 fitted with Electronic Stability Control. My intended modification is to upgrade the factory suspension which will lift the vehicle by approximately 40mm.
Although it is within the general limits of what is allowed, VSB 14 says that I need to prove either through vehicle manufacturer statement, or through testing, that the ESC has not been affected.
If I can provide a statement from the suspension manufacturer that says that they have performed thorough testing on their product and have demonstrated that there is no adverse affect on the ESC, would that be enough to enable you to sign off on it do you think?
Thanks for your help.
Regards
His response:

Ross

In short, you have a snow ball’s chance in hell of getting this modification through, unless you have a very precise directive from the original manufacturer.   Otherwise, I would not touch it.

Sorry.

Regards

Ok so all I have to do is… No wait… What? Let me read that again…

So if I can’t get a clear directive from Mitsubishi, a statement from the suspension manufacturer isn’t enough, I can’t modify my vehicles ESC settings,  and I can’t get an engineering sign-off, then what they’re telling me is that there is NO WAY to legally modify the tyres and suspension of a vehicle fitted with ESC? in other words EVERY CAR NEWER THAN 2011!

NOTE that this doesn’t just apply to 4wd enthusiasts… What about those people who want to lower their HSV or FPV? Are they doing so illegally? Surely I can’t be interpreting this correctly. This affects the entire tyre and suspension industry WA wide! And potentially in other states as well!

I would love to hear your comments on this! If you’ve in WA or a state that has adopted VSB14, and you have successfully LEGALLY modified the tyres and suspension on a vehicle with ESC, and you have PROOF that you’ve done it legally then please let me know!!!

THINGS HAVE CHANGED! Read Modify tyres and suspension legally Part 2 for more information.

Cleaning the car with Kitten Glo Wash

Muddy PB Challenger

Muddy PB ChallengerI love coincidence. Especially when it goes in my favour. And the other day I got lucky. Not ‘save the world’ lucky, but lucky all the same. We’d been out on a great trip down near Margaret River and our car was muddy. Not “Where are the windscreens?’ muddy, but muddy all the same. And so, of course, I needed to wash the car. So I put the car out on the grass, got the bucket, pulled out the hose and went to get the car wash, only to find that the lid had cracked and all the shampoo had leaked out all over the garage floor. Argh!!!

As I was cleaning the garage floor, which is now sparkly clean thanks for asking, the postie arrived with a little package for me. When I opened it up, it was a 250ml sample bottle of Kitten Glo Wash with a nice message asking if I’d like to give it a go and then perhaps write up a review for my website. Well Ok then! Given that I had nothing else to wash the car with I thought I’d give it a crack.

Kitten Glo Wash

Reading the instructions, it says ‘Pour a sufficient amount of Kitten Glo Wash into a bucket’.

‘What is a sufficient amount?’ I thought. And then took a punt at ooohhhhh about… that much.

 

Then I squirted water into the bucket to get that nice bubble going. Being a cool and overcast day, I wasn’t overly concerned about the car drying out too much, but the instructions say to wash in sections so that’s what I did.

While I was washing I was trying to objectively compare my previous product (the one that cleans garage floors brilliantly) with Kitten Glo Wash… And you know what? I honestly think that the Kitten Glo Wash product was superior. I know that’s a very subjective statement. I have no scientific analysis or statistical measure to back that up, but I reckon it did a better job.

Did it get my car cleaner? Well probably not because a clean car is a clean car, right?

Did it restore my car to showroom finish? Well no. it’s not magic after all… To do that you’d have to polish out all the scratches and fix up all the broken bits. And anyway, they don’t promise to restore it to showroom finish, but if you were a bit more careful with your car than I am then it would maintain the look of it it nicely, I have no doubt!

Muddy PB Challenger

Was is easier to get all that mud off? Did it get the bug spatters off better? Was I able to get my car as clean as I wanted it in a shorter time with less elbow grease? You know what? I reckon so.

Would I try Kitten Glo Wash again? Well yes I would. Mainly because I didn’t use the whole 250ml yet so I’ll use it next time I clean my car. But more importantly I’ll be buying it again once this bottle is gone.

Muddy PB Challenger

Would I recommend that you go out and buy some? Sure! If you’ve run out of your car wash and you’re looking to give another product a shot then yes. Definitely give Kitten Glo Wash a go.

Mass Air Flow – Cleaning the MAF Sensor

MAF Sensor - PB Challenger

I’d been having problems with oil leaking from the turbo in my PB Challenger and had also noticed a significant decrease in fuel economy. This was coupled with an increase in black smoke blowing from my exhaust under moderate to light loads. In a previous post, you can read all about my turbo replacement, but I’d also been told that cleaning the MAF sensor might also make some difference in regards to fuel economy and black smoke.

What’s a MAF Sensor?

MAF stands for Mass Air Flow. So the sensor sits between your air filter and your turbo and detects the temperature, density and quantity of air flowing into the engine. The computer then calculates the correct balance of fuel and air to achieve maximum efficiency. However because the MAF sensor sits in the air-flow, and your air filter isn’t perfect, after a time it gets dirty. Once it’s dirty it can give inaccurate readings to the computer.

MAF Sensor - PB Challenger

What you’ll notice if you have a dirty MAF sensor is a decrease in fuel efficiency and more black smoke in your exhaust.

Luckily cleaning it is very simple. But you do need to take care.

Locating and cleaning the MAF Sensor

The sensor itself is very easy to locate. Open the bonnet and locate the turbo and the air filter. Between the two is a fat pipe that has a plug with electric cables running to it. It looks like this:

MAF Sensor Location - PB Challenger

 

Removing it is quite simple. There are a couple of screws that you remove. Then pull it out. You can unplug the electric cables as well.

Take great care once this is removed. You don’t want to drop anything down the hole that is left behind. There is nothing between the MAF Sensor and the turbo. Anything you drop in there will go straight into the turbo and the engine. They’re not designed for handling screws and nuts and screw drivers so keep those kinds of things out.

Mine looked like this. Take a look at the tiny bulb thing. That’s the temperature sensor. It’s completely covered in dust, as is the whole device.

MAF Sensor - PB Challenger

 

Cleaning the MAF Sensor is very easy. But you need to use the correct stuff. I went to Supercheap Autos and purchased some CRC Mass Air Flow Sensor Cleaner.

Following the instructions on this, I was able to clean the MAF Sensor quickly and easily. Give it a good squirt all over, inside and out… Afterwards it looked like this:

MAF Sensor - PB Challenger

Take a look at that little bulb thing. That’s more what it’s supposed to look like! Semi-see-through.

What’s the difference?

So the big question is, “What difference did it make?” Well before I did this, I had people behind me commenting on how much smoke i was blowing under only very minor load. Like going up a hill, or taking off from lights. My fuel efficiency was down to about 450mks on a full tank of fuel (as reported on the dash). And towing our camper trailer seemed much harder than I thought it should be.

After the turbo replacement AND the MAF Sensor clean, towning the camper is much better, I have almost no black smoke even under reasonable load and last time I filled my tank it said I had 620kms in it. Most of our driving is around the city…

So did it make a difference? Yeah it really did! What made the most difference? Unfortunately I don’t know because I cleaned the MAF Sensor pretty much the same day they replaced the turbo.

But my neighbour borrowed my MAF Sensor cleaner to clean the one on his Navara and he said that it made the world of difference. We’ll be cleaning our MAF sensors regularly from now on.

Would I recommend that you do it yourself? Only if you’re a handy person. It’s not a difficult job but with any mechanical activity on your car, you do it at your own risk.

Mitsubishi PB Challenger Turbo Replacement part 2

PB Challenger Turbo Seepage

Earlier this year I noticed some oil leaking from my PB Challenger’s turbo. You can read about it in my previous post Mitsubishi PB Challenger Turbo Replacement. In that post, I mentioned that I was waiting for a call-back from Mitsubishi to let me know if my turbo would be covered under warranty.

Well the short of it is that it was covered and was replaced about a week later. During that week, I took the opportunity to clean my MAF sensor as well as I’d read that this may make a difference to fuel consumption and black smoke blowing from the exhaust.

Did it make a difference? It sure did! Read my article on cleaning your MAF Sensor for more details!