The Great Rotary Engine

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Throughout the automakers history, Mazda has used the rotary engine in various models. Today, Mazda is the only automaker to use this type of engine in a production vehicle.  The Wankel (or rotary) engine currently resides in the Mazda RX-8 sports coupe, and previously was found powering the Mazda RX-7. The Wankel engine is a type of internal combustion engine which uses a rotary design to convert pressure into a rotating motion instead of using reciprocating pistons. Its four-stroke cycle takes place in a space between the inside of an oval-like epitrochoid-shaped housing and a rotor that is similar in shape to a Reuleaux triangle. This design delivers smooth high-rpm power, from a compact size. Since its introduction the engine has been commonly referred to as the rotary engine, though this name is also applied to several completely different designs. The engine was invented by German engineer Felix Wankel. He began its development in the early 1950s at NSU Motorenwerke AG (NSU) before completing a working, running prototype in 1957. NSU then licensed the concept to companies around the world, who have continued to improve the design.

Because of their compact design, Wankel rotary engines have been installed in a variety of vehicles and devices such as automobiles including racing cars, along with aircraft, go-karts, personal water craft, chain saws, and auxiliary power units. The most extensive automotive use of the Wankel engine has been by Mazda. In the Wankel engine, the four strokes of a typical Otto cycle occur in the space between a three-sided symmetric rotor and the inside of a housing. In the basic single-rotor Wankel engine, the oval-like epitrochoid-shaped housing surrounds a rotor which is triangular with bow-shaped flanks, a three-pointed curve of constant width, but with the bulge in the middle of each side a bit more flattened. From a theoretical perspective, the chosen shape of the rotor between the fixed apexes is basically the result of a minimization of the volume of the geometric combustion chamber and a maximization of the compression ratio, respectively. Thus, the symmetric curve connecting two arbitrary apexes of the rotor is maximized in the direction of the inner housing shape with the constraint not to touch the housing at any angle of rotation.

Mazda RX8Despite poorer fuel economy there are some advantages of rotary engines. They are considerably simpler, lighter, and contain far fewer moving parts than piston engines of equivalent power output. For instance, because valving is accomplished by simple ports cut into the walls of the rotor housing, they have no valves or complex valve trains; in addition, since the rotor rides directly on a large bearing on the output shaft, there are no connecting rods and no crankshaft. The elimination of reciprocating mass and the elimination of the most highly stressed and failure prone parts of piston engines gives the Wankel engine high reliability, a smoother flow of power, and a high power to weight ratio. Because of the quasi-overlap of the power strokes that cause the smoothness of the engine, and the avoidance of the 4-stroke cycle in a reciprocating engine, the Wankel engine is very quick to react to throttle changes and is able to quickly deliver a surge of power when the demand arises, especially at higher rpms. This difference is more pronounced when compared to 4 cylinder reciprocating engines and less pronounced when compared to higher cylinder counts. In addition to the removal of internal reciprocating stresses by virtue of the complete removal of its reciprocating internal parts typically found in a piston engine, the engine is constructed with an iron rotor within a housing made of aluminium, which has a greater coefficient of thermal expansion. This ensures that even a severely overheated Wankel engine cannot seize, as would likely occur in an overheated piston engine.

Posted by reedman on Oct 31 2009 in Mazda Technology, Uncategorized

New Heavy Duty Ram on its Way

2010_dodge_ram_hd_3500The first 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups are on their way to dealers. Production began of the Heavy Duty Rams is happening at the Saltillo, Mexico plant. The trucks are specifically aimed at contractors, small-business owners and construction companies, as well as recreational users who tow boats, horses or other vehicles. The big Rams are the first new products that will be coming from Chrysler for the 2010 model year. The new pickup incorporates many of the changes that appeared on the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup. A new crew cab is available, giving Dodge an entry into a body style that accounts for nearly half of all heavy-duty pickup sales. In addition, there’s a significantly upgraded interior, increased towing capacity and a smoother ride that uses a hydraulic spring at the rear of the cab to reduce bouncing. Buyers can select a 383-horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI or a 6.7-liter, 350-horsepower Cummins Turbo Diesel engine with 650 pounds-feet of torque.

Posted by reedman on Oct 28 2009 in Dodge News

Easy Steps Towards Car Care

checking-tire-pressureProper car care and maintenance helps increase the life of your car and enhance driving experience. When a car is in a well-maintained condition, the possibilities of car failure reduce. Furthermore, a well-maintained car also improves the engine performance, enhances fuel-efficiency, and increases the resale value of your car. Considering this, taking the time to maintain your car today will prove beneficial in the long run.

Engine: The key part of a car is the car engine. Inspect the engine well for ensure proper functioning of all the engine components. If any component needs to be replaced, replace it immediately. Also check the engine oil once in every two weeks. If the level is low, add oil to the tank and make sure that you use the oil as recommended by the car manufacturer.

Tires: Check the tires for uneven wear and appropriate air-pressure. Any kind of wear or cut on the surface of the tire may cause it to burst. Air pressure is also something that should regularly checked, if your vehicle does not have a built in monitor. Low tire pressure can cause higher fuel cost, as well as unsafe conditions.

checking fluidsBattery: The car battery must also be maintained. It is a car component that generates energy to the car electronics and other high-end technologies in the car. It is linked with various components in the car through electric cables. Visually inspect these cables and also inspect the battery for corrosion. Most of the significant car components like the dash lights, taillights, headlights, brake lights, and turn signals work on electric power. Make sure that all these are in proper working condition. If any of these lights are not working properly, it may lead to an accident.

Wipers: Check the condition and working of the windshield wipers to ensure that there are no cracks in the wiper. Replace the wiper blade if required. No one wants to get stuck in a rain storm and have our wipers fail.

Driving style and habit also influences the condition of your car. To keep your car in a well-maintained condition, it is also important to follow good driving methods. Limit abrupt braking and acceleration to a minimum.

Posted by reedman on Oct 25 2009 in Maintenance Tips

Keeping Drivers Safe

airbag safetyThe growing trend in car safety is one of the biggest segments in the auto industry today. While vehicle safety has made amazing strides within the last few years, there is a constant push for better technology and safer cars overall.  Technologies such as airbags , anti-lock brakes, and stability management systems, have become more and more common and are now standard or available on almost every car sold in North America. As with most other technologies, these safety systems were first introduced in higher end models, eventually tricking down to more mainstream automobiles. So while the higher end models now have even more advanced safety, these are likely to become mainstream too.

There are two types of safety systems in every car. First are the active safety systems. These devices are designed to get us out of trouble and avoid an accident in the first place. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, and stability systems, are active safety systems as they can help us before an accident even occurs. The second type is known as passive safety systems. A passive safety system protects us once a vehicle has been engaged in an accident. These include airbags, seatbelts, and crumple zones. Airbags, seatbelts and other passive safety systems must work together. Airbags for example, do little to help you unless you’re wearing a seatbelt. Seatbelts are considered the foundation of passive safety.

buckle upAnother part of car safety that has come far is the structure and design. This is the true root of a safe car. High-strength steel can reduce the chance of an impact intruding on the passenger compartment, reducing the chances of serious injury. A smart design will distribute the energy from an impact around the passenger cell, rather than directly into it. The goal is to reduce the deformation of the passenger compartment. High strength steel is very effective at keeping the passenger compartment of an SUV intact during a rollover.

The bottom line with vehicle safety is to remember that, while vehicles themselves have many more tools to keep the driver safe, no system, no matter how advanced, can compensate for an alert driver behind the wheel.

Posted by reedman on Oct 22 2009 in Vehicle Safety

Jaguar XKR Races in GT2 American Le Mans

rsr-jaguar-xkrRocket Sports Racing was founded in 2009 by Paul Gentilozzi and Sons. The purpose of RSR was to build and race a Jaguar XKR in the American Le Mans GT2 class. The GT2 classification is the premier racing category in the world. Gentilozzi first teamed with Jaguar in the early 2000s by preparing an XKR to race in the North American Trans Am series. RSR is preparing for a full championship effort with the Jaguar XKR in 2010. To introduce their car and utilize track time, RSR debuted their new XKR at the Petit Le Mans, an event that is part of the American Le Mans Series. The XKR will be facing off against a long list of competitors in the GT2 class, including Porsche, Corvette, Ferrari, Vipe, BMW, and Ford. This racing class requires vehicles to be production based cars modified with very specific limitations.  All vehicles must meet the Automobile Club de l’Ouest(ACO) rules. RSR’s Jaguar XKR is an actual Jaguar, with all of the aluminum skeletal structure and sub frames and frames of the original car.  As a five time Trans Am Series Champion, Gentoliozzi will not only be the owner, but one of three racers. The upcoming year will be an exciting one for RSR fans and Jaguar fans alike. Who knows what an XKR can do? We will soon find out.

Posted by reedman on Oct 19 2009 in Jeep News

Affordable Speed Demons

2010-camaroLooking for a speedy car that won’t empty your wallet? Incredibly, Chevy offers two models for under 30K that can more than produce some speed.  The Chevy Camaro starts at $23,880. Its 3.6-liter V6 gets 304 horsepower, which translates into a price/HP of $73.17. With design cues evocative of the legendary 1969 model, the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro combines the spirit of the classic American muscle car with the fuel efficiency, safety, handling, technology and build quality expected in a modern performance coupe. Its 304 horsepower is not only more than the 1967 Camaro SS (295 hp from a 350-cubic-inch V8), but more than last year’s Mustang GT with a 4.6-liter dohc V8.The Camaro LT accelerates from 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, and will do the quarter mile in 14.4 seconds, which is hot in anyone’s book. The Chevy Camaro succeeds on all the main fronts: drop-dead gorgeous looks, potent and efficient engines borrowed from Cadillac and Corvette, great transmissions, superb handling and ride, and great prices.

2009-cobalt-ss-coupeThe Chevy Cobalt SS has a starting price of $23, 425, and with its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine it gets a horsepower of 260.  This translates into a price/HP of $90.10.  The Cobalt SS has a fuel economy of 30 mpg Hwy/22 mpg City. The Cobalt SS is distinguished by its front fascia with integrated air dam and projector-beam fog lights. Upper and lower grilles both sport a specific diamond-mesh texture. Rocker extensions are also unique to the SS, and a rear deck-lid spoiler is standard. Cobalt SS coupe and sedan comes with upgraded suspension and brakes, sport seats with suede-like inserts, additional gauges, fog lamps, and spoilers and air dams all around. A heavy-duty five-speed is the only transmission offered. Chevrolet claims a quick 0-60 time of approximately 5.7 seconds. Front brakes are from Brembo and have a performance-oriented fixed-caliper design, which resists fade better than floating calipers.

Posted by reedman on Oct 16 2009 in Lifestyle

Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge Will Return to Leasing for 2010

chrysler_detailChrysler Group LLC today announced in September that it will offer a leasing option for U.S. customers on all 2010 model year Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles through Chrysler’s preferred lender, GMAC Financial Services. Says Peter Fong, President and Chief Executive Officer—Chrysler Brand and Lead Executive for the Sales Organization, Chrysler Group LLC “We are pleased to re-enter the leasing market so we can offer customers the opportunity to lease vehicles at rates competitive with the marketplace,” “Our ability to offer additional financing options will benefit consumers who have long been fans of leasing and appreciate the flexibility this financing option gives them.” Effective Sept. 17, 2009, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge will offer leasing options for all 2010 model year vehicles in the United States. dodge-logo

Among the return to leasing, Chrysler LLC is offering an array of financing incentives, such as a $1,000 Owner Loyalty Bonus Cash available to use towards the purchase of select 2009 model year vehicles or the purchase or lease of select 2010 model year vehicles to boost sales and get consumers interested.

jeep_logoHeadquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., Chrysler Group LLC’s product lineup features some of the world’s most recognizable vehicles, including the Chrysler 300, Jeep Wrangler and Dodge Ram. Fiat will contribute world-class technology, platforms and powertrains for small- and medium-sized cars, allowing Chrysler Group to offer an expanded product line including environmentally friendly vehicles.

Posted by reedman on Oct 13 2009 in Chrysler News

What to do About that Scratch?

big scratchDespite the bliss of purchasing a brand new vehicle, there is one thing on car owner’s minds – the first scratch.  And in all reality, the first scratch is inevitable. When this does happen, the solution to repairing the scratch can be confusing. There are home repair kits, profeesional service, and various techniques available.  Choosing the right solution really depends on the scratch; no two scratches are the same.

The first thing to know is that eliminating scratches involves two things: the paint and the clearcoat layer atop the paint. While clearcoats keep cars looking better longer, they can magnify scratches. There are two directions you can take when it comes to a scratch:to hide them, or to remove them. You can polish over them and fill in the scratch — the problem with that is the first wash wipes the polish out of the grooves. If you opt for removal, the only way to do it is to lower the level of the paint surrounding the scratch to the depth of the bottom of the scratch, until the area is flat and smooth.

Here is are some general figures of what to expect to pay to restore your vehicle to a new-like paint job.  Light scratches done with self repair will range between $25 and $75. Light to medium scratches that must be fixed at an auto body shop could be as low as $50, but as high as a few hundred dollars. Lastly, deep scratches requiring repainting body panel can cost $500 and up.

Posted by reedman on Oct 10 2009 in Maintenance Tips

Volt Mileage Claims Makes EPA Rethink Ratings Process

General Motors’ upcoming Volt plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid is an exciting concept that promises a green vehicle with a sports car attitude. General Motors has since announced that the Volt would achieve 230 miles per gallon. Is this really possible? Will these numbers apply to real life driving? The issue here is the numbers are not official U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy estimates. The EPA hasn’t yet formalized any method of testing or rating plug-in hybrid vehicles or a new generation of electric vehicles.

Every vehicle that is officially on sale in the US carries EPA fuel economy ratings, which are designed to give prospective owners an idea of relative fuel cost in real-world driving as well as a way of comparing various models on equal ground. The ratings are listed in the EPA’s annual Fuel Economy Guide, at fueleconomy.gov, or on the window sticker of any new vehicle; they’re also used in figuring an automaker’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) and in assessing a gas-guzzler tax on some vehicles. But because vehicles like the Volt are still in development stages, they have not yet gotten the EPA’s rating. With a host of plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles (EVs), and extended-range EVs all expected to go on sale over the next several years, the agency needs to move quickly to put a framework in place for fairly rating these vehicles.

The EPA has in the past rated EVs in terms of kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which typically yields a double-digit number somewhat like miles per gallon. Currently the EPA is working with manufacturers, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the State of California, the Department of Energy (DOE), and other groups to form a new standard for estimating and labeling fuel economy for vehicles with more than one energy source.

Cost per mile would of course make the most sense to economically minded buyers, but it would become confusing and difficult to compare from year to year because of unstable energy prices. This will all be part of the next round of fuel economy standards phased in beginning in 2012, to yield the federally mandated 35.5-mpg fleet-wide average by 2016. Regardless of what the true mileage for the Volt will be, GM highlighted one important point in the process: a new process for EPA ratings is needed; as the age of automobiles turns a new corner, the EPA must follow.

Posted by reedman on Oct 7 2009 in Green Vehicles

Are Microvans the Next Trend? The 2010 Mazda5

2010 Mazda5

The 2010 Mazda5 is essentially a mini-minivan, with sliding doors and a vertical liftgate out back, in addition to styling reminiscent of minivan. And, while the overall popularity of minivans is decreasing, with the explosion of the crossover segment, small minivans may have found a spot in the American automarket.  Besides the Mazda5, there are not many models, it competes directly with the Honda Fit and Kia Rondo, yet big automakers will be rolling their own version out of the microvan, which will include the Ford C-Max and the Chevy Orlando.

Mazda5 CabinThe six-person Mazda5 features flexible seating that can be reconfigured to maximize occupant or cargo space. So what are the advantages of the Mazda5 over a traditional minivan? It is still aimed at young professional families with active lifestyles like other minivans are, but microvans get better mileage, are more maneuverable in the city and in parking lots, and come at a very affordable price.  At the same time they offer the same versatility and convenience features that larger minivans do.  The Mazda5 is powered by a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine which produces 153 horsepower and 148 pounds-feet of torque. The Mazda5 is more utilitarian than fun, but it’s more fun to drive than any other minivans, after all it is a Mazda. The only change for 2010 is a significant one: stability control and traction control are now standard on all of the Mazda5′s trim levels. The 2010 has a starting MSRP of $17,995 – $23,005 and a fuel economy of City: 21 – 22   Highway: 27 – 28.

Posted by reedman on Oct 4 2009 in Mazda News