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Old 12-15-2010, 08:45 AM   #1
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The Xmas fuel economy thread!

Christmas is coming, and the best gift might be something for that tow vehicle that improves fuel economy. A lot of these improvements cost more than the gas they will save in their lifetime, but some bring other benefits with them, like more torque, which can improve the towing experience.

I bought a 2008 F150 FX4 5.4L which as a baseline got 13mpg in town, and around 17mpg on the freeway, unladen.

My first addition was a cold air intake, and a throttle body spacer. This straightens and simplifies the air intake to reduce the horsepower lost sucking the air through Ford's relatively obstructed resonant chamber intake. The original intake is designed primarily to keep the intake quiet across the entire performance range of the engine.

The intent of the replacement intake (as the existing intake is already a cold air intake) is to straighten and widen the intake path, delete the resonance chambers, and to move the throttle body forward on a rise to straighten the airflow, whilst increasing air filter surface area.

The cold air intake ($300, K&N, but using a conventional filter) was installed in June. I did notice a change in noise, a fair increase in resonance, particularly around 1,900 and 3,800 rpms. I found this unpleasant because the truck sits happily at 1800 rpms at 65, and right on that resonant RPM level at 70. I got the figures, 13mpg in town and 18.5mpg on freeway) and decided that for the driving I do, this mod didn't provide adequate benefit considering the unpleasantness of in-cab noise for long periods on the freeway, so I removed the intake and restored to factory. Others may find the extra noise compelling, but not me. A different intake might have different resonances that are not apparent at commonly driven speeds.

My next upgrade was an Edge CTS programmer. This is a super fancy "chip" and so much more. It connects to the OBDII connector and has two functions: it reprograms the engine management computer and transmission computer for simple modes like fuel economy or towing. Switching between modes is trivial.

This is clever stuff. It reprograms new transmission shift points and timing to give you a better towing experience, etc. Installation was a snap - plug the cable in, stick the mount to the dash, and it's ready.

In fuel economy mode, it made a big difference: 15mpg around town and 20.5 on the freeway, and the single time I used it in tow mode, I didn't collect fuel economy figures, but the shifts were much more crisp, and the shift points were moved a little up the revs range. I felt I were driving a larger truck than the 5.4L triton V8. There was a noticeable increase in torque.

The OTHER function of the Edge CTS is that it can display custom gauges. There's a list of about 100 parameters to choose from, and you can display from one to eight parameters. Some are very useful, like oil temp, transmission temp, exhaust temp, etc.

The Edge has custom profiles for most OBDII trucks, and is most known for working well with diesels. I came across it through a friend's recommendation and thought it was a bit snake-oily, but it does exactly what it says on the box. The company's been around a while, and the programmer is internet updatable and has a decent warranty. It was $460 when I got it. There is a cheaper non-touchscreen version that has all the same features for $100 less.

Finally, with the Edge programmer in place, I gave the engine a good service. I cleaned the injectors, re-gapped the spark plugs, changed ALL the fluids for full synthetics, replaced the air/oil/fuel filters, inflated my E-range tires to 65psi, lubed and cleaned.

Note: I ignored the recommendation for 5W-20 and used 5W-30. Primarily, I'd rather sacrifice a little fuel economy for extra lubricity and the much higher shear resistance of a thicker oil. Secondly, this is Texas and it's a lot to ask of a thinner oil, even if it is full synthetic.

15pmg town, 20mpg highway.

My next change might be a custom bed cover. I was thinking of making an Airstream-style bed cover that gently curves down. I am told this should be good for 15-20% improvement, or 3-4mpg. After that, I think I'd like to replace the on/off road tires with E-range road tires - smoother ride, better fuel economy and better handling for the driving I mostly do.

I would be quite happy with a truck that can get 24mpg on the highway.

What changes have others made, tried, failed, succeeded with?
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Old 12-15-2010, 09:31 AM   #2
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Any update on you finding another "that special" Airstream yet?
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Old 12-15-2010, 09:32 AM   #3
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Alas, no. Unless it's "free" it will be next summer before I can even look...
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Old 12-15-2010, 09:56 AM   #4
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I put a KN air filter in the 4Runner after I'd had it awhile and it seemed to increase gas mileage by as much as .5 mpg. I put one in the Tundra when we got it, so I can't tell if it improved mileage or not. The savings on not having to buy new filters periodically makes it a good investment anyway.

I also put a tonneau on the truck to provide fairly secure storage space. I didn't notice any significant change, but it went on pretty soon after we bought the truck and I didn't have much of a sample pre-install for that either. It makes sense it should improve mileage aerodynamically, but extra weight has a negative affect.

Dave, what's an OBDII truck? What are the downsides of the Edge? Where does it plug in? What does it look like (photo?) and how do you install it?—every add on in the cab has a challenge where to put it. Why wouldn't the manufacturer use something that does this since it would seem to increase sales a lot?

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Old 12-15-2010, 10:17 AM   #5
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Here is a little information about OBDII

OBD-II Background Information

I have often heard good things about the K & N filters but there is also a risk in using these types of filters. People can make the mistake of over oiling one of these filters which can eventually leave an oily residue and dirt on the MAF sensor (Mass airflow sensor) causing issues with the computer.
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Old 12-15-2010, 10:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CrawfordGene View Post
I put a KN air filter in the 4Runner after I'd had it awhile and it seemed to increase gas mileage by as much as .5 mpg. I put one in the Tundra when we got it, so I can't tell if it improved mileage or not. The savings on not having to buy new filters periodically makes it a good investment anyway.
I think K&N filters are a good idea, but they do let a few more particulates through than a paper filter. If I were planning to sell the truck after 100 or 150k miles I would have used the K&N, but as I plan to use it until it dies, I decided against it. In this part of the country, with the finer dust, we have seen increased valve seat wear with long term oiled cloth filter use. It's a minor issue that simply doesn't apply in most cases, but since the valves are a vulnerable area of the Triton V8, I decided to stick with a standard filter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrawfordGene View Post
I also put a tonneau on the truck to provide fairly secure storage space. I didn't notice any significant change, but it went on pretty soon after we bought the truck and I didn't have much of a sample pre-install for that either. It makes sense it should improve mileage aerodynamically, but extra weight has a negative affect.
A flat tonneau has a partial effect as a low pressure area still forms behind the cab, and there is usually poor breakaway and increased turbulence behind the tailgate with a flat tonneau. The contoured cover I'm talking about starts at the cab roof-line, and gradually arches down to the tailgate both horizontally and vertically.

The second image in this post shows the contour of what I have in mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrawfordGene View Post
Dave, what's an OBDII truck? What are the downsides of the Edge? Where does it plug in? What does it look like (photo?) and how do you install it?—every add on in the cab has a challenge where to put it. Why wouldn't the manufacturer use something that does this since it would seem to increase sales a lot?
OBDII aka OBD2 is a standard connector required on all 1996+ road vehicles in the US. It is a standard "On Board Diagnostics" connector used for accessing the engine management computer for emissions, inspection and trouble code purposes. It provides dealerships with read/write access to the computer's programming and settings.

Manufacturers are trying to find a single profile that matches the commonest uses of a truck or car. We can slant this in favor of towing or fuel economy with some flexibility. The manufacturer wants all vehicles in a specific model/engine style to behave identically for numerous warranty/behavior/legal/emission reasons. We are free to disagree with them, as long as we do not harm the expected emissions or life of the engine.

There are "chips" out there that increase performance greatly, and at considerable cost to the engine's longevity and emission controls. I'm not in favor of these. I am however in favor of systems that allow conservative customization of settings to tune a vehicle's shift points and timing strategies for towing or economy. I chose the system I did based on good reviews, an understanding of the technology and two friends having bought them - one had some quite serious problems and the company took it very seriously - it turned out he had a problem with a misfiring cylinder that his computer was hiding and this chip highlighted the problem and reported it to the owner.

I am also really taken by the gauge display. I have found that real-time info like fuel economy, transmission temperatures, throttle position, etc actively modifies my driving style and makes me a safer, more economical driver who asks less of his truck.

Also, the programming remains in place when the CTS is removed, so I can benefit from it without it being an attractive theft target, unlike most other systems.
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Old 12-15-2010, 11:49 AM   #7
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Yes, over oiling is a problem which can be reduced by being careful. I was talking to a service guy at the local Toyota dealership about K&N filters and he said he didn't trust mechanics to not over oil them: "these guys think if something is good, twice as much is better". That reminded me of the story a friend once told me about his wife—she used 2 dryer sheets because she said they must be better than one. Proper oiling should not affect the MAF sensor.

I hadn't heard about fine dust getting through. We have plenty of that here too is recent years as bad agricultural practices in Utah and Arizona have caused fine, red dust storms here. But, I don't keep vehicles until the wheels fall off. Old guys don't like to have a vehicle collapse under them.

The programming chip sounds interesting, though I think it's something to buy when the vehicle is new to get the benefit, though that's a guess based on no math. I'll try to remember this in about 3 years when it's time to buy another truck.

For Xmas we bought ourselves a new Canon DSLR with telephoto lens. It will probably have no affect on fuel economy, though the chip in it might be able to do that too.

Gene
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Old 12-15-2010, 11:52 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CrawfordGene View Post
For Xmas we bought ourselves a new Canon DSLR with telephoto lens. It will probably have no affect on fuel economy, though the chip in it might be able to do that too.
The truck's just transport. The camera's just a memory aid. The journey, the experience, that's the key thing.

I think you're doing it right
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Old 12-15-2010, 10:55 PM   #9
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EcoModder.com has a great deal of info on how to drive more efficiently (MPGuino & Scangauge instrumentation for instantaneous feedback), tips on how to hypermile some of which are straightforwardly adaptable; and, for trucks, see threads on "aerolids" and other bed covers, factory or diy. A bed tonneau cover, alone, is worth a good percentage. An "aerolid" is a deeply impressive percentage gain.

ScanGaugeII - Trip Computers + Digital Gauges + Scan Tool

MPGuino: Spiffie Kits

MPGuino - EcoModder

In driving for economy there is a fuel deficit for every application of throttle and brakes. The above site is a nice way to begin to learn to drive for economy. One's overriding assumption about skill should be that the vehicle is better than the driver.

In the above, recall that tire type (tread, first, casing, second) is the main component of rolling resistance which matters most until 50 mph. After that it is aerodynamics. Should one wish to read on EcoModder be prepared for plenty of discussion on the latter.

Thus the simplest Xmas gift is still a perfect FE alignment; having a shop check for brake drag or caliper freeze; highway rib tires (get a tire pressure gauge of sufficient quality to be calibrated Longacre calibrated) and setting tire pressures according to use, weight, etc.

And check for -- and search out information on -- "dead center" -- steering wander.


I spec'd my truck (in searching for used) specifically for Economy: longest life at lowest cost-per-mile. Low fuel cost per mile is great, but it's still not the guiding economy figure. That would be, IMO, annual miles per year as broken out for type of use. I could not otherwise justify the cost of a diesel pickup (ego aside).

The more the vehicle sits, the better (clean, under cover).

The farther I drive when using it, the better. (Takes 1.5 hours for tire pressure to stabilize at a constant speed, not less, is my understanding; and ALL fluids, greases, etc are not "warmed up" for at least 30-miles. In summer. In Phoenix. This is why commercial use vehicles tend to last so long in some examples).

So to maximize efficiency I need a "trip plan" for any type of driving before turning the key; I need a route which describes a circle (there are online aids to do this when unfamiliar locations abound and one needs a route. Routing software or programs). Doesn't matter if the wife and I are searching for paint suppliers/samples . . I may be all over town. I don't need to backtrack, I want a nice circular route and I wish to avoid stop-n-go traffic. (And do all other errands as well. Start early, quit early. Get home).

So, if I :
- eliminate operational cycles,
- and maximize non-stop driving when I do use the vehicle I have minimized the non-paying/non-reimbursable miles per my actual vehicle. And done them at the lowest possible cost.

The bar-none-best-place-to-start is with records. There is no other way of knowing.

AAA Ownership Costs 2010.pdf

One has to understand economy as cost of operation, of ownership, on a cents-per-mile basis. Just improving fuel economy is only a few cents per mile, ordinarily, and doesn't come close to finance, depreciation, insurance and other fixed costs. (See also EDMUNDS True Cost of Ownership)

Edmunds TCO

To that end a software program which is designed to record and project costs -- analysis of trends -- would be a most useful gift.

The average American car is somewhere north of 50 cpm. The latest, loaded Ford diesel is well above 100 cpm . . . .

I must be able to project costs based on total miles and total time the vehicle is owned (and you'll find that -- on a cpm basis -- that anything less than 12-years or 200k miles is ugly. Vehicle type -- assuming it is carefully matched to actual use -- matters little). So, if I project 15-yrs/350k miles on this CTD, I likely need to know when to start replacing components, or, better, systems (such as HVAC) well before failure in order to maintain reliability; and/or so as not to affect truly expensive components, etc). The Web has made searching for component life wonderfully easy (enthusiast boards).

The occasional high mpg tank isn't any more useful than the lowest . . it is the average which matters. To that end, one need also know the mph: hourmeter. For a Cummins powered Dodge, I find that when all tanks are traveled at 27 mph or greater (the average speed), that fuel economy is excellent. (My 90-day trend -- all in town, solo -- is 20.73. For the last 21,000 miles -- again, mainly solo, but lot's of highway -- it is 22.45 mpg with a 7,000-lb diesel. It's irrelevant that my hwy mpg is 24-27).

For the trailer a hubdometer would be good.

The payback on tuners, chips, and the rest are harder to quantify. There is no free lunch in altering factory electronic controls or settings. None. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

Instead, I'd spend that money on fluids analysis -- trending -- before gimmicks.

dyson ANALYSIS

is someone I am pleased to recommend. All vehicle fluids can be lab tested, and a series of tests over time can show wear trends and possibly catch problems otherwise leading to early component failure.

There is no end to discussions of this sort on:

BobIsTheOilGuy

(I was an initial participant, but don't much anymore). Good place to learn quite a bit about lubrication, filtering, etc by which even the "knowledgeable" would benefit. Changing fluids at the correct moment beats fluid quality (after an easily reached point) and filters are crucial, far more important than fluids for the average knowledge-seeking enthusiast. (But the threads on oil far outweigh the far more important threads on air filters).

The best tire pressure monitor system would also be very high on the Xmas list, as tire life and fuel economy (as well as avoiding personal & property damages) are large, variable vehicle ownership costs, subject to improvement. Fuel economy savings -- and tire life costs -- are directly related.

So if you've seen my other posts advocating that a sway-eliminating hitch, and trailer disc brakes, constitute a gold standard it is not entirely a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that the best hitch rigging/brakes constitutes "best safe practice" (it does), but it also relates, even indirectly, to lowest operating cost while on the road. Fuel economy is nothing more than -- beyond driver skill -- a large collection of vehicle details attended to, upgraded, and kept performing at a high level. The most economical vehicle maintains reliability over the longest time and highest miles at the lowest cost. And that is predicated on low wear per mile . . and, in my words, being able to maintain lane-center under all conditions with the fewest necessary driver inputs. Safety, fuel economy and long life are all intertwined.

A wandering tow rig burns more fuel, is subjected to increased wear per mile, and is, IMO, unacceptable from all aspects.

Initial vehicle specification cannot be overcome, and is the greatest determinant of fuel economy. It has a limit as to lowest costs of operation. Cummins states that, for any given truck under any given conditions that the range between professional drivers is 30% just in fuel use. So the "money" in re fuel economy is actually between the ears, and not in giving yet more money to strangers for a bandaid that, potentially, can decrease component or vehicle life.

If there's an aftermarket fuel saving device that pays, it'll be listed here:

Fuel Economy

That's still the best place on the Web to begin . . . . it is the knowledge of tools and their proper use which constitutes economy.

.
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