Thursday, August 14, 2014

curing automotive emphysema

My Ford Expedition, affectionately known as The Exxon Valdez because of it's insane gas-guzzling capabilities, has been going through a few upgrades in an attempt to improve it's horrendous gas mileage. Earlier this year I installed a K&N cold air intake in order to improve airflow to the engine. I figured I'd get a slight improvement but I never expected such a dramatic increase in horsepower and throttle response. It's like this machine was suddenly cured of a lifetime of asthma. Instead of labouring to get up to speed, this thing jumps when you touch the gas and feels like a 4 ton muscle car.   That mod gave me an extra 4 mpg. 

Well, it breathes in ok but that exhaust still needed some work. The original exhaust system had 4 catalytic converters and 4 O2 sensors that I quickly reduced by half for better air flow. That, and 4 cats are just way too many. Hell, if I could get away with it I'd scrap all the cats, the whole computer system, and every sensor I could find to bring it down to 1968 simplicity. Only then could I install an HHO system and stop making all those expensive trips to the gas station. I'm not giving up on the HHO. I just need to figure out how to bypass all them damn sensors first. One step at a time.

Cars, just like humans, inhale and exhale and it's one thing to get the air in and another to get it out so I installed a backcat system, turning my single pipe exhaust into duels in an attempt to cure my car's emphysema and boost my gas mileage. Mike, my mechanic, got right on it and cut the old exhaust off and started sizing things up. I love watching this guy work. He's a true artist and watching him design, build, and install a complete exhaust system from scratch is truly a sight to behold. As he was bending and flaring pipe I looked around and noticed a complete absence of the typical jungle of pre-bent pipes filling space on the back wall of every other muffler shop you'll find. He had tons of long, straight pipe tucked away in the corner and this is the stuff he works with. The system he built for my caravan ten years ago is just as solid as the day it was installed and I expect this new system will most likely outlast the car.

As I mentioned, I wanted this modification to increase my gas mileage but I knew it was gonna sound different from factory and I couldn't wait to fire it up. Those twin pipes sound nice and throaty. A deep rumble with a laid-back, suppressed roar. Godam, this thing never sounded so good. Like it got a new pair of lungs and was ready to scream. I goosed the throttle and could hear a slight cackle as it backed off. "That's to be expected from a properly breathing, balanced V8", says Mike as we stood behind the vehicle and listened to the mellow hum idle.

I took the long way home through back roads to check the response and groove on the rumble as I took turns a little faster than usual. This thing wanted to go in a big way. I felt I was holding it back like a thoroughbred going to the gate. As soon as I got on the interstate, I passed all those trucks going through construction and opened it up a little and settled into 80mph at just under 2k. Not bad. Checking for speed traps and cops and taking note that everyone else on the highway was well over the speed limit, I figured it was safe to bump the pedal and got it up to 90 on an open stretch with the tach around 2.4 grand. Yesterday I was driving to work doing 50 at 3k and thought THAT was a massive improvement from the factory intake. This is a definite improvement and I can't wait to do a mileage check.

I'm sure at least one neighbour noticed a volume change as I rumbled into the driveway to dock the Exxon Valdez but I didn't do this mod just to make it sound awesome. I'd be happy with the horse power and gas mileage improvement with total silence out the pipes, but ya can't have it both ways and I'll settle for awesome sound and performance over quiet and bland any day. At least the American car love affair isn't dead, yet.

The total cost for the intake and exhaust was a little more than an average car payment, which is one reason I don't do payments.  

Yeah, those are field generators I planned to install over the gas tank until I decided on another orgone approach involving an array of passive units with an improved shape.

I'll keep ya posted on that.

One certainty about life is there's always room for constant improvement.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014