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Tips & Tricks To Better Fuel Economy

Oil Drills
Robin Stover | Writer
Posted December 1, 2006

19 ways to improve MPG

If the sting of high fuel prices hasn't affected your pocketbook, you're probably either filthy rich or leeching off the fat of some corporation with sinful expense budgets. In either case, you're not like the rest of us who, by the nature of the beast, are forced to tolerate ever-increasing pump prices and accept the fact that our vehicles are now more expensive to operate than ever before. Wait-is that really the bottom line? Or is there some fuel-economy loophole that the government isn't telling us about? We got curious about the topic and did some investigating. What we discovered was that there actually are some feasible options to increasing fuel efficiency. We're not talking about the standard intake, exhaust, and chip upgrades everyone already knows about, either. Check it out.

Approximate Gains: Limitless
Works on: Diesel-powered vehicles
What is it: We'd like to think of this as the permanent answer to our diesel fuel woes. Unfortunately, it's not. However, it is a step in the right direction. We're talking about converting a diesel-powered vehicle to run on recycled cooking oil, just the way Rudolf Diesel invented the diesel engine to run more than 100 years ago. We've tested this idea and will confirm it works great. However, this solution is not without its drawbacks. We had a vegetable oil conversion system installed on or resident Project Dodge Ram (aka Baja Bomber). We got it from Veg Powered Systems of Ojai, California. The kit worked great, but we found ourselves dumpster-diving behind fast-food restaurants in search of usable fuel-oil. This scavenger hunt approach didn't exactly jibe with our fast-paced lifestyles. So we decided to hold off testing until we could afford and house the solution to our problem: Purchasing brand-new oil in bulk. In larger quantities, vegetable oil can run between $.30 to $1.25 less per gallon than regular Number 2 diesel. Keep in mind that this savings is restricted by one's ability to store and transport large quantities of it. We've seen many others do this but haven't yet had the opportunity to try it for ourselves. We plan to cover the conversion process soon in a future issue.
Pros: Works on most diesel-powered vehicles; the technology is proven; performance losses are minimal; engines run smoother due to increased lubricity; short payback period; veggie oil is everywhere-check with your local burger joint.
Cons: In all cases your warranty is toast; doesn't work well in cold climates; with more and more people doing it, the availability of usable oil drops; the kit physically robs vehicle space; additional maintenance may be required on some vehicles; noticeable change in exhaust odor may increase appetite for fried food.

Approximate Gains: Limitless
Works on: Diesel-powered vehicles
What is it: Biodiesel is diesel fuel made through a chemical process calledtransesterification, whereby glycerin is separated from fat or vegetable oil. The process leaves behind two products: methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerin (a byproduct usually used in soap production). Today, tons of home-brew do-it-yourself systems exist for those who want to make biodiesel at home. We like this idea in theory because it helps create additional markets for our nation's farmers, and it lowers our dependency on foreign oil. But brewing biodiesel requires more time and resources to set up, manage, and quality-control than most folks can summon on their own. It also requires the handling of dangerous chemicals (such as methanol), the disposal of waste materials (glycerin), and if brewed improperly, it can damage your vehicle's engine. If home-brewing, you may even be required to register with the EPA as a "refiner," which will require you to adhere to the new Tier 2 ultra-low-sulfur diesel rules (and all the paperwork that comes with it) that take effect next year. Bottom line: This is a job best left to the experts. Fortunately, commercial biodiesel sources are becoming more plentiful each year, and OE manufacturers such as DaimlerChrysler are already moving to incorporate the use of biodiesel in their diesel truck engines (in DC's case, B-10 biodiesel has been approved for new Dodge Ram diesels). Check out the National Biodiesel Board at www.biodiesel.org for more information.

In our own testing of B-100 (100 percent) biodiesel in our '05 Liberty CRD, the engine ran poorly and even stalled on occasion. We suggest not running a richer blend than B-10 (10 percent biodiesel, 90 percent diesel) unless manufacturer specifications suggest otherwise.

Approximate Gains: 2 to 4 mpg
Works on: Gas- and diesel-powered Dodge Ram and Ford Super Duty pickups
What is it: Dodge and Ford Free-Spin Hub Conversion Manual-locking hubs reduce wear and increase fuel economy by preventing parts from rotating constantly in two-wheel drive. Designed specifically to remove a weak link in popular Dodge Ram and Ford Super Duty 4x4 trucks, Dynatrac's Free-Spin heavy-duty hub conversion kits replace the factory unit bearings with fixed spindles for superior strength and improved fuel economy. The complete kit includes inexpensive, serviceable Timken bearings, chromoly spindles, cast nodular wheel hubs, Warn Premium manual locking hubs, and massive 1.50-inch-diameter, 35-spline outer stub shafts. We like these kits because they are made in the U.S.A. and reduce wear on frontend parts, while increasing economy at the same time. Trade off: you have to deal with locking hubs.

Sources

Flex-A-Lite
Fife, WA 98424
253-922-2700
http://www.flex-a-lite.com
Gear Vendors
El Cajon, CA 92020
800-999-9555
www.gearvendors.com
Diesel Power Products
866-379-8685
www.dieselpowerproducts.com
Dynatrac Products
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
714-596-4461
Dynatrac.com
Walker Engineering Enterprises
Sun Valley, CA 91352
Veg Powered Systems
www.vegpoweredsystems.com
Advanced Power Systems International Inc.
www.fitchfuelcatalyst.com
Ethos Environmental Inc.
www.ethosfr.com
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