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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lube Notes: Motor Oil Classifications

The ‘Old School’ axiom: “Oil is Oil” is simply wrong! Today’s engine oils, and all modern lubricants, are drastically improved in every aspect.
maxxTORQUE is dedicated to providing you with resource information to enhance your knowledge in all aspects for maintaining your truck. As a Certified Lubrication Specialist (CLS) with over 20 years of experience, I have continued to write a regular column, entitled, Lube Notes. The scope of Lube Notes has and will encompass lubrication, filtration, fuel additives, hydraulics, engine coolant / antifreeze, and various special subjects such as exhaust systems and DPF regeneration.

Diesel Fuel… The Ins and Outs

A few weeks back I wrote an article on the major differences between gas and diesel vehicles entitled “Diesel 101.” This week, in my ongoing effort to educate you on diesel vehicles I will cover the topic of the fuel such vehicles use… Diesel Fuel! Read on.

Diesel Engine 101

Well, folks, diesel engines are here to stay. Virtually every carmaker has plans for a diesel engine either in their pickups, SUVs or passenger cars. Its only a matter short time before we will see diesel pumps added to gas stations that previously did not offer diesel fuel. Now Audi has started a TV ad campaign which shows a young woman filing her Audi diesel powered car at the filling station. Well-meaning fellow motorists are shouting to her things like: “Hey! That’s diesel fuel!” or “Stop it right now before you do harm to your car!” to which she responds basically; “Relax everyone, I know what I’m doing.”
This article is meant as a refresher course to those of you who consider yourselves “Diesel Savvy” and and intro to those of you who are new to the diesel power scene. Read on.

Diesel Engine and GM Diesel History

If you are not new to the world of the Diesel engine, you are probably familiar with some of its history dating back to the turn of the Twentieth Century when Rudolf Diesel patented, tested and began to license his design for a self-igniting engine. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of that history and then look in more detail at the Diesel engine's application by GM since the early 1980s.
In 1897, Rudolf Diesel successfully fired the first engine that was able to ignite fuel without the introduction of a spark. By compressing the fuel/air mixture in the cylinder so that it heated to above the fuel’s ignition point threshold, the mixture self-ignited (auto-ignited) without the need for spark plugs. The design, introduced a few years prior to this testing, signaled the passing of the age of steam engines, though steam-powered ships were built as late as the 1980s. For example, the Fair Sky was the last major passenger ship built with steam engines in 1984 and the Queen Elizabeth 2 was converted from oil-fired steam engines to Diesel engines only in 1986.

2011 Duramax LML Review: Built to Tow

I haven’t been this excited about a new truck model since the Duramax engine debuted in 2001. Back then, the new GM diesel powerhouse represented an exciting leap forward in torque, horsepower and reliability. GM market share leapt forward as well, from an abysmal three percent to 30 percent. Looking for improvements in the new 2011 LML Duramax vehicles, we might expect to find them in the engine and transmission. The truth is that while there are some significant improvements to the powertrain, the Duramax engine has become a very refined engine with little refinement necessary. Why am I so excited then? The chasis!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

6.5L GM Diesel Towing: Making the Grade

Can Your Diesel Make The Grade? A Five-Mile, Six Percent Mountain Grade in Washington State Puts Our Project 6.5L Suburban to the Test
Suburban Renewal walked you through the upgrade process for a stock 6.5L using a representative Suburban 4x4. In that article, we focused reporting on the overall reliability and performance improvements realized through the upgrades. While these are, of course, vital to the everyday use of your truck, we will now focus on the uphill, heavy towing performance gains realized as a result of the upgrades. For many of us, this is what matters the most and it is during these times of high stress that we want to be able to depend on our work trucks. We took the time to test the towing capabilities at both the near-stock configuration and after completing our regimen of upgrades. Looking at the results, you will see that, with the right modifications, the 6.5L can comfortably “make the grade” and perform as a work truck should.

Duramax LML: More Power, Less Fuel

The 2011 Duramax LML replaces the LMM with More Horsepower and Torque While Adding More Than Ten Percent Fuel Efficiency

If you were looking to buy a new diesel truck and I told you that the Duramax brought additional horsepower to the table over last year's engine you might stop to consider it a worthy contender. If I told you that the table was shattered with 765 foot pounds of torque (up from 660 in last year's model) I'd get your attention. You might ask, extra horsepower and torque are great, but how much am I gonna pay for it at the fuel pump? As Joel Paynton pointed out before the new Duramax's release this Summer, the engine actually produces all that additional power while improving fuel efficiency and emissions. Now we learn from GM that the improved fuel economy may be as high as 11 percent. They also managed to make the EPA happy, or maybe just a little less unhappy, by reducing NOx emissions by at least 63 percent over the 2010 LMM.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lube Notes: Automatic Transmission Fluid

Automatic Transmission Fluids (ATF) are the most complex fluids used in today's vehicles. These complexly designed fluids perform multiple functions including:
  • Lubrication
  • Wear Protection
  • Heat dissipation
  • Foam prevention 
  • Shift quality optimization
  • Hydraulics
  • Material compatibility

2011 Duramax LML Chevy Silverado

Fuel Economy, Coming Right Up!

The main feature that I am excited about in the new 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD Duramax LML is not the exhaust brake, not the trailer sway control or hill start assist, not the new body style, or even the USB connectivity, mobile WiFi or Bluetooth. Don't get me wrong, those are all great features. What is truly going to make this truck far more usable than the LMM generation is the selective catalyst reduction (SCR) system. Now this does add complexity to the exhaust system with another series of emissions components. And yes, the extra complexity can create more possibilities for failure. In general, we can always expect some teething problems when a newly designed vehicle is initially produced. But the SCR system buys for us one critical feature: fuel economy.

Heath Diesel Preparing for Bonneville 2010

Bill Heath plans to return to Bonneville in 2010 with his 6.5L GM Diesel Racer. Some things just keep getting better with age.
The Heath Diesel land speed race team has raised its sites for the 2010 Bonneville Salt Flats events, hoping to top 160 MPH this season. Team 6265 has its goals set on wringing every last bit of speed from the current, nearly-stock engine configuration: this year’s effort represents a further refinement on the package but we still consider it Phase One. When we feel that we have gotten all we can from the truck in its current form, then we will move to Phase Two, which will include some changes in the fuel injection system. For now though, efforts are focused on making the best showing they can with the truck as it is.

Duramax Diesel Fuel Systems: Electronic Components

Since 1994, GM diesel engines have used electronic engine controls to monitor and provide more precise diesel fuel injection. In the 16 years that have passed since then, diesel engine fuel injection strategies have advanced dramatically. This has enabled manufacturers to nearly double performance output and still reduce overall emissions. A whole new approach to diesel fuel injection was introduced by the first Duramax in 2001 (Ford had introduced electronic common rail diesel fuel injection before that, however the system required engine oil pressure to actuate the injectors. The fuel system used on the first Duramax was strictly electronically actuated and, as a result, far more precise). The Bosch common rail direct fuel injection system was new to the North American market at the time and provided speed and precision that had not previously been available. These factors, among others, allowed the Duramax engine to set the high-water mark for diesel engine power output. The 2001 Duramax engine rated at 300 HP and 520 foot-pounds of torque. Power output has increased incrementally to the current 365 HP and 660 foot-pounds of torque in the LMM Duramax.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Heath Diesel 6.5 Land Speed Racer at Bonneville 2009

We appreciate your interest and support! We will continue in our efforts to maximize the near-stock engine and fuel system package until we are satisfied we have achieved all it can deliver. Then we will move on to phase two in our quest to push the truck to 190 MPH.
Because we wanted to make some upgrades to our racer’s ’08 engine and because time was rapidly running out for getting it done in time to attend the August '09 Speed Week event, we opted to reduce the stress on ourselves and cancel out of all three 2009 Salt Flat events.

In a last minute decision, some of the guys and I decided to attend the August Speed Week event as spectators. That did it! Before we knew it, those go-fast flames had been rekindled. On the way home, we brainstormed about building an interim engine for the September and October 2009 events. Time was tight so this engine would not be able to use the planned-on upgrades for the race engine. Instead, it would be a more conventional build up of a standard engine: much more similar to we find in our everyday drivers. Then I learned that our engine machinist, Rich Eims of Joe’s Grinding in Yakima, was on vacation and would not be able to complete necessary machining operations in time to support our schedule.

Duramax Fuel System for Dummies

The electronically controlled, high-pressure, common-rail diesel fuel systems of today render most owners lost when attempting to comprehend just what occurs under the hood. Cutting to the chase, not knowing what is and what is not considered normal operation of the Duramax can fuel owner paranoia and bring one to the misconceived notion that a new (and expensive) batch of fuel injectors are needed when, in fact, they are not.
It has not helped that GM historically has demonstrated the inability to produce a reliable diesel fuel injection system. Check that – its first foray into electronically controlled diesel injection pumps on the 6.5 turbo diesel marked that engine forever as unreliable and cantankerous despite the resourceful owners and technicians that have dug in and found reasonable solutions to make the 6.5 more reliable. I still deal with people from the other diesel camps – the Cummins and Powerstoke faithful – who believe that the Duramax is merely a refreshed version of the 6.5 with all its failings: failings that are naturally exaggerated by those who have a prejudice against the General. The common notion that the 6.5 turbo diesel has an unreliable fuel system tainted the Duramax somewhat, especially at the start.

Lube Notes: Grease for Your Vehicle

In previous Lube Notes we looked at the role lubricants play in overcoming the effects of friction. In this installment, I want to examine one specialized type of lubricant: grease lube. Looking at previous civilizations, we can see that man has tried several methods to provide basic lubrication to load-bearing surfaces; axles have presented one of the most challenging applications. As far back as 1400 BC, mutton fat and beef tallow were used on chariot axles to reduce friction in order to allow for more speed and to slow down wear. One can only imagine the pressure on the maintenance men to make the chariot go faster and to avoid axles catching on fire from the continuous friction. While there is evidence of lime being added to these fats in order to make their lubricating properties last longer, few other improvements to the composition of grease are known to have been used until we reach the magic year of 1859.
What happened in 1859? Colonel Drake drilled the first ever oil well in Pennsylvania; since then, the world has not been the same. In petroleum oil, man found a lubricant that could be manipulated in a variety of ways to produce greases much superior to the lubricants that preceded them. In turn, more advanced and effective greases have been produced in recent decades with the advent of synthetic greases.

Aftermarket Modifications and Your GM Warranty

Last issue, Joel Paynton wrote about aftermarket power modifications on the Duramax diesel and their potential affects on your GM warranty. Shortly after, on August 4, 2009, GM posted Bulletin #08-06-04-006D which contained this statement:
Important: In order to process ANY driveability/engine/transmission/drivetrain WARRANTY CLAIM, you MUST photograph the required Tech 2® screen information BEFORE servicing or removing any engine/transmission/drivetrain components from the vehicle.
This had broad implications, requiring a technician to do all the groundwork to ensure there is no power program in the truck before doing any powertrain warranty work. It could be interpreted to mean that even minor and completely unrelated powertrain issues, for example, leaky seals, an electrical failure, a failed sensor and so on, would obligate the technician to investigate and document if there is a power program in the ECM. GM seemed to be launching an all-out campaign to find and stamp out anyone running aftermarket calibrations in their ECM.

Jaguar XJS to 6.5L Diesel Engine Swap

My initial intention for the Jag was to put a Small-Block-Chevy (SBC) in it. Having had the opportunity to drive a number of different Jags, I must say that I have always enjoyed the Jaguar ride: it is an awesome vehicle to drive. My wife liked to call her ‘93 Jag Sex on Wheels. I don’t know that I would go quite that far in trying to communicate the thrill of driving one – but they are a great ride.
The electronics and power plants, however, have always left much to be desired. The V12 is notorious for dropped valves (which I think had been the case in our motor) and the Lucas wiring is way beyond quirky… leaving no doubt why a normal conversion path involves using a GM motor as the power plant. This SBC arrangement mates the awesome ride of a Jag with the reliability of a GM. That there is a lot of support available for such a project – it has been done often enough before – is a bonus.
Never one to go the normal route, I began looking at various engine options. One of my early considerations had been a GM diesel of some type. I initially shelved the idea due to weight, size and power issues. I have ultimately come back to the GM diesel for a number of reasons.

Here’s Why…

Diesel Timing Your Cooling System?

With a powerplant that only operates at 35% efficiency, losing three percent to diesel timing issues – a common occurrence – represents nearly 10% of available output... that is BIG. By itself, that three percent can reduce the speed of your truck on an extended grade enough so that the cooling system no longer receives sufficient air to fulfill the heat load rejection requirements of the cooling stack. On the other hand, gaining that three percent with optimum diesel timing can not only mean maintaining the power and speed that your truck needs to keep the cool air flowing... it can also mean that your engine actually sends less heat into the cooling system.
I have a confession to make: I am not a big fan of dynos. Torque curves on paper don’t excite me that much. Instead, I like to see a truck’s work performance in the real world. A vehicle that has been tested with a 15,000-pound trailer was not meant to be confined to a gerbil cage flexing its quadrupeds. If you were to extend that five-second WOT power level for two minutes, those curves would erode: a 300 HP truck optimized in a cool garage for those five seconds will often lose 25 to 75 HP on an sustained desert grade.