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Car Fixes

The Greenest truck you know may be this Supercharged V-6 2003 Nissan Frontier with over 150,000 miles: with Danger-Mods.

Aeromods continue to deliver.

The manufacturer’s best highway mpg is 17mpg, which I could only rarely hit with tailwind in the past.

Return trip from Great Falls to Bozeman (271 miles / 11gal) saw 24.6mpg; this is 44.7% over the 17mpg best.

The trip out was a terrible headwind for 130 miles of 80mph; old mileage in similar headwind @ 80mph was 8.6mpg, this trip saw 13.8; a 60% increase.

The real number to consider is a comparison of the real actuals of mpg average improvement. Now 34 gallons for 685 miles @ 20.14mpg (Great Falls (plus 100 miles of xtra ranch trips) to SLC. Old was usually 45 gallons / 588 miles SLC to Great Falls @ 13 mpg.

The ratio of improvement from 13mpg to 20.14mpg is 55%. Two tanks of gas with an improvement of 55% proves out the third tank of gas no longer stopped for.

Let’s review the aeromods the truck gained over the winter:

Remember this shnizzle winter project? My aero-upgrades: enclosing the wheel wells and center plate.
Adding vortex generators making entangled-air-current providing “clean air” under the truck, and filling all air gaps with black tight-cell foam held in place with rare-earth magnets.
Vortex generators to stabilize airflow at the front wheels.
Magnetic/removeable vortex generators that I created at the line of the windshield (I also placed them forward of the rear-view mirrors), and Air-Tab vortex generators along the rear line of the shell, and a stubby radio antenna.

The drive to Montana has “varying terrain and conditions”. 5 mountain passes of varying thousands of feet elevation gain and drop, portions of 80mph interstate, and 65 & 70mph blue highway. Conditions include wind/gale lasting hundreds of miles from singular or varied direction- so a tailwind has given the unmodified supercharged truck it’s maximum expected mileage of 17mpg on the 65-70mph sections, while it usually runs at around 15mpg in still air. A supercharged engine gives maximum performance at all times, running at a matching RPM to Speed; the only variance is how much gas it takes to maintain that speed. At 80mph mileage plummets; with a tailwind getting around 13mpg, and with a headwind 11 mpg. I was expecting an at-best improvement of around 5%, which is what adding a super-sloped aero-shell can do; essentially the shape of the Tesla Truck.

The best mileage by manufacturer is 17mpg, boosted to a best now of 20mpg: 17% gain. This means 1/3 less stops for gas, or down to two 15 gallon stops for a 19 gallon tank instead of 3 stops (vs an improbable best mileage two- fill-up trip with 16/18 gallon fill-ups with the fuel light on, sometimes for tooooo long). One less stop for gas shaves about 1/2 hour off the trip, our best time ever in the past for this route was 9 hours. This past trip, with a bit of holiday weekend traffic 100 miles in and out of Yellowstone’s west gate, was 9.5 hours, and would have been 10 hours. Along with shorter time and less fuel, is the amazing stability at speed. There is no sense of sidewind/headwind push, no semi-trailer blow-by, with exceptional in-line tracking and much lower cab noise. This is due in part to stabilizing the nose of the truck by reducing lift from the high/open Shrockworks bumber, but also due to Fluid Entrainment provided by the vortex generator AirTabs along the rear line of the shell. The amount of horsepower available is greatly increased: sailing easily over all the mountain passes, and the ability to jump to passing speed is a bit giddying. A big debate is out there on supercharged engines vs turbocharged engines, and I now I know the advantage of no turbo-lag when punching it at speed: which is also a safety issue, just at the higher end of performance. (special thanks to Julian Edgar for aerodynamic modification discussions on you-tube)

Salt Lake City to Idaho Falls with 20mph+ headwind: 210 miles at 80 mph / 15 gallons : 14mpg. Old/11 to now/14 = 27% improvement. . 400# load in bed, plus two adults, one dog, three cats. (capacity is 900#)

Idaho Falls to White Sulphur Springs: 278 miles at 65-70mph / 15.3 gallons : 18mpg. Usual Old/15 to now/18 = 20% Lighter headwind and 400# load

Return trip with 250# load, same passengers, and still air through the first half of trip, with tailwind later. Lets see: Monarch to Bozeman: 140 miles at 65-70mph / can’t give straight number as filled up in Great Falls and drove around the ranch, but it looked like 20 mpg?. nutz. can’t be right.

Bozeman, MT to McCammon, ID: 270 miles / 15gal = 18mpg. (65mph/144miles, 70mph/53miles, 80mph/74miles). Usual Old/ 15mpg to Now/18mpg = 20%. Best Old/17 to Now/18 = 5% At the end of the 65mph zone we guestimated 20mpg, and best to best mileage of 17 v 20 is 17% gain, normal to now is 15 v 20 @ 33% gain. McCammon is the farthest ever travelled on a tank of gas from Bozeman. Usually we stop in Idaho Falls <74 miles prior>, and ONCE with a strong tailwind the entire way we made it to Pocatello <51 miles past ID Falls>.

McCammon, ID to SLC, UT: 140 miles @ 80mph (mostly)/ 9 gallons : 15.5mpg with tailwind. Best Old/13mpg to Now/15.5mpg = 19% (half tank remaining, we usually get home with the fuel light just coming on, a 1/4 tank at best, or having had to fill up outside Ogden).

How does all this mpg play out at Blue Highway speeds? Best Old (17) to Avg Now (18) @ 5%. Avg Old (15) to Avg Now (18) @ 20%. Avg. Old (15) to Best Now (20) @ 33%

How does all this mpg play out on 80mph Interstate? Headwind Old (11) to Headwind Now (14.5) @ 31%. Tailwind Old (13) to Tailwind Now (15.5) @ 19%.

Quite a few additional aero-mods: let’s look at the nubs along the roofline.
The windshield’s transition to the roof is a major point of lift/drag. Connecting airflow back to the truck is the issue. These rip at-speed above the windshield-stalled air, activating the airflow above the truck mixing out the stalled/reversing air. Big pickups sometimes have a forward jutting roofline “visor” with slots acting like a front wing, arresting the upward flow and directing it over the roof. This is my removable innovation for a similar result. >update= we had a slushy snow of a few inches that froze overnight, then used the truck for a few errands with the ice/snow on the top…about a foot behind the nubs the snow/ice was obliterated by the connective airflow, with a bit of a “windfence” roll of snow just behind the nubs. So it works!
These are special magnets with rubberized feet for cars, used for applying vinyl car-wraps. I cut the handle down to just emerge from the area of stalled air, and shaped it to cut into the air at speed above the truck and spin it down to reactivate the stalled airmass. I hoped it would keep the air flowing far enough to jump from the cab to the shell, and it seems to have done so as the air-noise from that gap is gone.
The line at the windshield is complemented by the line of Air Tabs at the back of the shell.
These little gizmos were created with Nasa and the U.S. Department of Transportation back in the 1980’s for Semi-Trailers. Each one creates a paired vortices spinning in unison toward each other. Placed forward on a vehicle they create connective surface airflow, acting both as a lubricant against stalled air or “dirty” air (weird flows created by forward movement, tirespin, engine heat, etc). Placed at the rear edge they help create a clean break for air from the square back end, helping lessen lift, and also interrupting the pocket of drag and stabilizing the rear end. This is through the physics of Fluid Entrainment: how a Dyson fan, after accelerating air by creating a low pressure area, entangles air at the outside periphery of the hoop end allowing air to “blow” past the ring without dispersing. This is such a crazy new understanding that a bladeless/propless plane has been created that can hover for landing and take-off, through the lift created by this function.
Many people note that their rear windows stay clean with the air tabs, demonstrating that the stalled/backflow of air has been broken and pushed away from the truck This may even improve gas mileage at highway speed, as some light truck owners anecdotally confirm. As speed increases, drag becomes exponential, squaring at every 5mph increase past 65, and getting crazy from 75-80. This is where they should really perform, and 75/80mph is where my mpg usually tanks, so it should be an obvious difference on our MT trips.
I’m only putting them on the shell for now, and they need a 5″ long flat space that is at most 12-16 inches from the rear edge. I had to jump from the shell to the windows. I ordered them black, and painted some of them to match the truck. On today’s test drive we headed out into a stiff headwind toward the Great Salt Lake, passing semis with no “blowby” from the windshear (one of the air-tab benefits), and experimenting with acceleration, coasting, and alignment/tracking. All were notably improved.
Placing them on the front bumper ahead of the front tires helps the unstable air at the tire and wheel well, and may reattach air to the side of the truck as well. New trucks and cars have this built into the bumper.
The airflow under pickups is always problematic- a “dirty air” mess where the stall force at the back of the vehicle can move all the way to the front, and any back-flowing air is disrupted by all the big under-hanging parts and gaps. In my imagination, these front air tabs will help. I also did something that is actually proven to help: I set foam (black) to block out any front facing gaps- with the magic of magnets! Prior to this at 70mph a roar started, became a clear low note at 75 that I could set my pace by, and faded out after 80. Gone now. I used magnets so I can remove them in the heat of summer if the lessened airflow effects the radiator’s efficiency. If I’m not hauling anything, the current opening should be fine.
This is a gap looking down on the bumper, which weakened air-ram to the radiator.
I removed the three foot whip antenna for the radio and replaced it with this 7″ stubby.
Someday, we’ll head back to the ranch and find out the full benefit. I’m hoping our 130 miles of 80mph interstate section of UT-ID sees better gas mileage. I hardly have to touch the gas now to keep her around 80. I know from today that even driving into a stiff headwind it is more stable, smoother, faster on acceleration at speed, and much quieter. E notices all these things as a passenger as well.

All decked out in her new regalia. Passenger side.

Between a few blustery snowstorms the bare metal was cleaned, etched, and given two coats of super polymer Por-15, then a spray-rubber Por-15 coating. I let this cure out for a few days, then Friday saw the center plate affixed. Saturday afternoon was the passenger unit, and today was the driver’s side and the rubber/poly airdams at the bottom for both sides.

E and I (and Nora) took it out to Saltair, traffic at 75-80mph, and there was a great improvement in handling, acceleration, and cabin noise. The bumper was meant to say “safe from deer”, but instead it hollared “off-road monster”. Now it just sings along with whatever road, or not road.

Low Center view. Each side has a lower “flexible” rubber/poly air dam for the wheel wells- held by the lower line of stainless bolts.

Standing view- it tucks under and disappears.


Underview.

Corner facet profile.

All three aero-mods with reinforcing weld along the bend lines. The raised tabs (left & right top) are fortified with triangular wedges, and I extended the mid-plate with tabs (bottom of image) to grab the factory original holes on the bumper.
To bend the metal I cut a groove along the bend-line, then used boards and clamps to apply even force (so much force that I snapped off the edge of my workbench table top). Once bent these lines become brittle, and the vibration and wind-force could cause them to shear- the little bead welds rejoin both sides of the line without blowing out the thinner metal of the cut-line.
Burly male model. At L are 1 & 2 minute gestures in sienna, then run once more for brown, black, and white. 5 min at R.
10 min. x 2 The whole session seemed just on the verge of collapse, and I felt I barely made it out alive. The struggle is in not copying, but in responding to the form. This means seeing the architecture of the body within the multitudes of specific confusions, and modulating response of eye to hand with a subtle constant corrective. Sometimes this is a fun flow, and others it is a mental gymnastic that seems just behind physical coordination- while also being the inverse, a physical infirmity that lags just behind a vast intellectual problem.

A quicker set today, doing only two rounds instead of three- with brown for the first round, then black, and white for the second.
Our windstorm blew itself out and the day was nice enough to install/fit the passenger side aeromod. A bolt sheared off and needed drilling out and retapping- all because the hole in the plate was just out of alignment. All fixed.
Tomorrow’s job is welding on a few small reinforcing triangles. Along the lower drop line is a tab bent up to connect to the flange of truck undercarriage. The weld will ensure it doesn’t shear at the bend line. This is the third point of contact (held with a stainless steel bolt, not in place here, but you can see the hole), and although minimal, offers a huge amount of stability.
What is that stuff clipped to the underside of the truck’s big Shrockworks bumper?
Looks like Danger is making an aerodynamic upgrade to the yawing wheel wells of the big bumper.
It sweeps back at the rake of the under angle of the bumper.
The fitted cardboard blank.
Drawn to precise measure on butcher paper.
Cut from 16-gauge steel.
Levels of planning.
Bent to match the bumper’s angles.
Quite a few opposing bends.
The 24×24 steel plate is cut to fit as well, and installed for a first rough fit.
The Driver’s side portion is clamped in place, and the bend angles are further refined.
It must be working out, cuz Danger drilled holes though his big bumper, then tapped the holes for 1/4-20 stainless steel bolts.
Everything fits together. Danger is as surprised as you are.
A bit of a change from the open wheel well on the L to the closed well on the R.
Exposed wheel / front end.
Closed wheel housing / front end. I hope the other side goes as smoothly when we have another nice day.

If only our human invisible frontiers of immunity could be upgraded.

Summer remnant Quail eggs under the Iris out front.

Last fall the truck gained Michelin All Terrain tires. They are great off-road monsters, incredibly sticky in snow and mud, and on dirt roads throw stones against the truck like spinning sandblasters. After 3 months at the ranch with these tires (since our spring earthquake & coviding), the truck needed some preventative intervention. I ordered $25 bucks worth of 3M Scotchgard 8mil clear-shield and a felted squeegee kit to try out; it is the same polymer sheeting as “clear-bra” put on the noses of cars to protect the paint from highway dings, but in bigger sizes and longer runs. It went on easily enough and stayed on through the season’s first super-slush snow-driving, so I ordered enough to run around the truck’s ding-zone and waited for nice weather to return. 60-70 degree temps for the past two days saw it all go in place.

From a distance, the clear-coat is invisible.
The rear driver’s side- starts behind the wheel fender with the top-line aligning with the brake light and wraps just around the curve. I used 12″ here to capture the entire zone.
It is a subtle line running the entire length; 6″ height from the bottom of the door up, and a narrower strip coming from under the truck to the line of the door.
It wraps just around the edges between the cab and the bed.
4″nearly captures all the body as it wraps under. The blackened frame is a project from 2018, I just touched it up a few weekends ago.
Passenger rear panel: Montana pebble sandblast should be mostly solved as the 12″ clear-shield lifts to the bottom of the brake light. The black bumper was a project from 2018, and I touched it up when doing the undercarriage as it had rock dings as well.
The clear-coat tucks behind the rear wheel fender and ends just in front of the rear bumper.
6″ tall from door bottom up, passenger side.
I started the whole process with the passenger side, and cut the door piece too short which is why it only partially matches the front edge of the door. Oh well.
From a step away it disappears, and is guarded by the front tire fender.
Driver’s side again, the final panel; for seeing the learning curve, because you can’t see it.

The mustang has been in her stall all summer as I slowly worked through removing all her layers of grime. First a hot wash with dish soap to strip her of wax; then a traditional clay-bar polish (I guarantee this was the first time ever for this step- wow. so. much. yutz. and blue paint); then a hot foam as lubrication for the new Mother’s “clay” micro-cutting pad- again, wow. even. more. yutz; then it was time for the pneumatic polisher. I decided I would not attempt to use cutting fluid or a cutting pad, as the 45 year old repaint from some archaic shop in Great Falls, Montana is a question mark regarding thickness and stability. Pros have a thousand dollar meter to read how thick the paint/clear coat is, so they know whether to cut or just polish. I decided I could live with some scratches and swirls vs creating a real disaster, and went with a microfiber polishing pad and polishing fluid. For a minute I thought of using cutting fluid with the polish pad, but decided to just try out the polish/polish first. Dead clear-coat and blue paint loaded the pad really quickly. No matter how many pros tell you that seeing the paint load up the pad is normal on an old car, it is a bit nerve wracking. I had to stop every cubit of surface and blow out the pad- it would create a cloud of debris (I wore a particle mask!).

Today I began the final step: ceramic coat (Avalon King). I completed the hood and the trunk, or all the upward facing surfaces. I hope to complete the rest tomorrow morning. The old girl really pulls down a lot of product, and requires a long fussy hand buffing. The results were worth it. I rolled her back into the garage for a “dust-free” environment for the first two hours of cure, then rolled her back out into full sun for an hour or so of UV fix for the ceramic. The day climbed from 80-85, then I pushed her back in the stable as the real heat came on.

Rear 3/4 view.
Trunk from driver’s side rear.
Closer view, trunk from driver’s side rear.
Trunk skinscape.
Trunk and surround, from passenger side looking back.
Trunk midline at hinge seam.
Trunk, passenger side sparkles.
Hood, front view.
Hood, from passenger side looking forward.
Closer view, passenger side Hood.
Driver’s side, front quarter panel and hood. sparkles.
Driver’s side hood. Universe.
Almost full view from high perspective, shot while balancing on narrow truck bumper.
E spotted this online for free, and thought tandem bagging mowers at the ranch.
Husquivarna 7021P, with a Honda GCV 160 Easy Start motor ( spark plug BPR5ES; blade 5802581 size 20 7/8″ center star, commercial mulching- I have yet to find one)

Does this look like a free lawn mower? It looked and ran in the “free” category when I picked it up last weekend. No “before” picts (I thought it might just be a hopeful fail), and though it had belonged to an urban lady with a tiny yard, it looked like it had been used to cut fire breaks along stream beds, set low to the ground and run over rocks, winding the wettest tall grass, and binding it all on the deck with a spray of oil, then left in the Utah sun to bake it all in, with a bag full of whatever it ran over, turning the bag sickly pink and rust. And it ran rough and burned oil- but it ran.

I took the carburetor apart, cleaned and refitted it, snapping off a lead to the fuel petcock in the process and had to order one in. It arrived after a few days and I parted it out, changed the oil & spark plug and air filter, and put in non-ethanol gas. And I sharpened the blade and refitted it while the machine was empty of oil and gas. It fired right up, blew a last little cloud of smoke as it warmed up, then settled out and ran clean.

Now it just has to make the 530 mile jump to Montana.