Marc's Public Blog - Cars


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Below is a recounting of various car events I've attended along the years, from car club meets, autocrosses, track events, and enthusiast drives.

Table of Content for cars:

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2004/02/23 Car trouble ended up ok / another mustang GT kill :)
π 2004-02-23 23:03 by Merlin in Cars

Current Music: DJ Nyman - Trance Mix (seeing a pattern yet? :)
Current Mood: Much much relieved

So, my car died today, but not just mine: the friend I was meeting for lunch never made it to the restaurant because of car trouble, and the coworker I first Emailed to see if she could get me home after boot camp never made it to work because her car broke down too this morning.
What are the odds?
(this is after a coolant leak which happened to me just two weeks ago, but I was thankfully able to diagnose and fix by myself, and I can't complain, my car has been very reliable considering that it's boosted and how I drive it ;-) )

Anyway, I was very worried because of an explosion like sound I had heard soon before the 5th time the car died on the way back from the restaurant (after looking like it was never going to start and get off the parking lot)

I abandoned the car and had a coworker pick me up and drive me back to work. I then Emailed the list from my car club (lots of gearheads, like me with computers, except with cars :) ) and I got a few possible diagnosis, including a lose crank wheel messing with the crank position sensor reading, and the different kinds of fuel delivery problems which could explain the engine not running.

My friend Matt from the list came to pick me up after work, and luckily, it was a meeting day, so I had my laptop with the Tec-II software for my custom replacement ECU (engine computer).
It only took 2mn after plugging my laptop in the serial port to realize that the ECU wasn't seeing the engine RPMs during cranking, which meant it had no idea the engine was even turning, so it didn't deliver any gasoline or spark (which makes it somewhat harder for an engine to run)
In a nutshell, my Tec-II has a very sofisticated sensor that counts the rotations in a gear and is able to tell exactly which position each cylinder is in order to provide a perfectly timed ignition along with the right amount of fuel under the boost of my aftermarket turbo

It's kind of interesting that the car didn't just die and that I was able to restart it several times as it was failing, but at the same time, it explains why I had the explosion sound that came from my engine soon before the last time it died: the sensor was failing, so the Tec-II was confused about the engine position and provided ignition at a very bad time.
Luckily it only lasted one second before the engine died, so hopefully there will be no permanent damage from that.

Just because Matt is not only a great guy, but also has everything, it turned out he had a Tec-III himself, and pulled the sensor from his car and put it in mine (luckily, his Tec-III isn't running his car yet, so he was able to do without until I buy him a new one from electromotive)
After the replacement, it magically worked much better, so we put a few zip ties, and I drove with him back to his place, as a shakedown test.

On the way there, it just happened that I pulled next to him at a light, just to play with him a bit, and didn't notice the mustang GT who was in the 3rd lane on my right.
I barely reved my engine to mess with Matt a bit, and when the light turned green, I did a decent but not complete peel out start (there was no point burning rubber, poor Matt is still boost-less for now, although you can't always tell when he goes around a corner ;)
That's only then that I saw the mustang on the other side that was trying to race me. Unfortunately for him, with my 7200 revs to redline and boost, he didn't make it and I stayed in front of him up to 3rd gear (I then stopped since we were getting very close to El Camino ;)
He must have been pissed to be eaten by my small car :-)

I've now learned something new about my car, and I'm very relieved that my engine is ok (at least it seemed to drive fine under boost during my tests).
Total cost:
  • a new boost sensor: $30-$40
  • not having to tow the car: (free since I have AAA)
  • not having some puzzled mechanic trying to understand how my car works since it's not stock in any way: saved hundreds of dollars and days without my car
  • A lap dance for Matt: $20? (not sure what the going rate is :) )
  • A car club with great and clued buddies: priceless
2004/02/21 Another cool link on highway safety and speed
π 2004-02-21 20:11 by Merlin in Cars

Current Music: Armin Van Buuren, A State of Top 20 (Armin absolutely rules)
Current Mood: Fair (tired from a snowboarding day with not enough sleep, good snow though)

A quote from a friend: "France and Germany expect more of their drivers so they get it, we expect the least and get it."

Anyway, on a car list I'm on, they posted another nice article on the stupidity of low speed limits.
Let me quote the best part:
"Applying numbers to the most accredited relative risk bell curve, by Cirillo, tells an interesting story. This curve was based on urban interstate research during off peak hours. It found the safest speed to be the mean plus 12 mph, and when charted on the graph the safest speeds extended up to the mean plus 18-20 mph.

Translated, the current mean on most rural interstates is between 70-75 mph and the safest speed would be 82-87 and the vehicles least likely to be involved in an accident are those traveling between 70 and 93-95 mph. The current speed limits are set so low that the vehicles least likely to be involved in an accident, according to the studies, are the primary targets of enforcement during the best highway conditions.

Should the limit be set at 90 or 95 mph? Either way, it would seem to have no effect on accident rates. The Montana and Autobahn real life experience of unposted limits having no apparent effect on safety can not be ignored."
2004/02/20 What to do if you got a ticket, and how to avoid them
π 2004-02-20 15:45 by Merlin in Cars



Here is original post, which triggered the "well, you could drive slower" response (see below)

If you get a ticket, go to these places:
  1. http://ticketassassin.com
  2. http://www.helpigotaticket.com/
    (Geo, the author is paralegal and better at answering Emails than Patrick from ticketassassin)
  3. NMA, the national motorist association http://www.motorists.com/issues/tickets/
    You should become a member for $30/y or so, and you can get lots of useful info (they'll even pay your ticket if you fight it and lose)

You should also seriously consider:
  1. a good radar detector, not a fake $50 one: http://www.valentine1.com/ (not cheap, but paid for itself several times for me already)
  2. train yourself to scan for cop hideouts and signs of enforcement (as well as tips like, increased enforcement at the beginning and the end of each months as each officer meets illegal ticket quotas)
    You'll also be a safer driver by paying more attention to the road and your rear view mirror
  3. you can also plea bargain with the judge before the court date by mail for a 2nd traffic school within 18months, which is a lot cheaper than $1500-$3000 in increased insurance over 3 years
2004/02/20 About speed limits and enforcement
π 2004-02-20 15:30 by Merlin in Cars

Well, I didn't last a week without ranting about speed limits or enforcement thereof.
But that's not my fault, someone at work taunted me saying that one wouldn't get tickets if one drove the speed limit. Arghhhh....

So, here's the answer he got (and that I can refer to for next time):
  1. you can get pulled over and ticketed without violating traffic laws (I have been, by a cop driving 100mph in the slow lane, and pulling me over because I crossed it and made him slow down when I was exiting on an off ramp while properly signaling and driving 60mph)
  2. you may be impeding traffic while driving the speed limit (california as strange and interesting laws about those cases).
  3. The speed limit in cities may not actually be legal and properly supported by traffic surveys
  4. there are enough traffic laws that you don't know about (not counting the ones you do know) that you're most likely violating at least one every time you drive somewhere, so driving the speed limit doesn't mean in any way that you can't and won't be ticketed.
  5. Ticket quotas and speed traps are illegal in california, but both are practiced anyway, leaving you with the only options of fighting or paying when it happens to you.
  6. several studies have shown that 80mph speed on the freeway (which is what many other countries have) isn't actually a problem for properly educated drivers (actually they have a lower crash rate)
    http://www.autospeed.com/cms/article.html? &A; =1234
    http://www.hwysafety.com/hwy_montana_2001.htm
    http://www.ibiblio.org/rdu/a-facdec.html
    http://www.ibiblio.org/rdu/sl-irre0.html
    http://www.ibiblio.org/rdu/sl-irrel.html
    http://www.hwysafety.com/brief_mi_fptenents.htm

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