Benefits of a Custom Powder Coating

If you’re looking to add a veneer to one of your products – whether for business or personal reasons – you may be surprised by all the options that exist out there. Fortunately, if you consider a custom powder coating, you’ll find it superior to all others and cut down on the time you need to spend looking into other versions out there.

Many of these other options involve liquid finishes. Technically powder coatings fall into this category, but with at least one major and important difference. Traditional liquid coatings contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These pollutants can cause all kinds of problems, especially around those who already suffer when the air quality around them is low. Even if you take the responsible steps to control these VOCs, you’ll end up spending a lot of money unnecessarily. By going the powder coating route, there’s also less you need to do in order to abide by EPA laws.

On top of offering a better environmental footprint, a custom powder coating simply looks better. Unlike, so many opportunities out there to do the right thing by Mother Nature, then, this is one that doesn’t actually involve any real sacrifice on your part. These coatings can reach every nook and cranny on your product, plus you won’t lack for options in terms of the appearance you end up with. Everything from candy paint to copper is available.

A custom coating is also extremely durable. Even the above benefits wouldn’t amount to much if you had to constantly keep reapplying the coating (this would definitely hurt its environmental benefits, too). However, there’s a reason satellite dishes, traffic-light casings and even heavy duty machinery have all been treated with powder coatings in the past. Despite the relentless wear and tear these objects are up against, a solid coating will not give up.

Lastly, there are countless applications for a powder coating, only a few of which we already mentioned. People have used this process to help their automobile or motorcycle stand out. It’s also been used in combination with stencils to make an eye-catching advertisement that ensures an individual’s business gets the attention it deserves.

Whatever your needs, when you want a durable, affordable and environmentally friendly veneer added to your property, remember all the benefits that come with a custom powder coating. You can customize anything from your car, bike, wheels or anything else that you might want to personalize.

Part 2 of Swapping a V8 Into a Toyota MR2 2nd Generation

Please note: this is the second article in a series of articles on a V8 MR2 engine swap

In my introduction, I left off at the point where I decided to change from the Audi V8 engine, over to another engine for my V8 MR2 swap. The reason I originally chose the Audi was because there was a very good chance it would fit without cutting the car chassis. The axle clearance issue, unfortunately, could not be known until I removed the oil cooler/filter from the side of the engine. It then became apparent that the engine block itself was in the way. The block could not be cut and re-welded as the oil pump and oil pump drive pulley were also in the way. I had to purchase the engine in order to find these things out. This is the nature of swaps like this, that no one has ever done before. Know anyone that wants a 1997 Audi ABZ 4.2L V8 with 70K miles?

I realized at that point that it might be easier to find a transverse V8 engine, even if it’s too long to fit, and go ahead and cut the chassis and weld it back up again. Welding some sheet metal is easier and far cheaper than trying to solve the problems created by using the Audi V8, which might be solvable, but only with a lot of very expensive custom machined parts. Even then, I still feel the axle clearance issue will still cause problems, as it would require a 3rd CV joint be added to the right axle, and some large permanent angles would be required, which are never a good idea with CV joints. The areas of the MR2 chassis that needed cutting were thin sheet metal. They are structural, but they are not heavy structural, so welding sheet metal back into the cut areas should not pose too much of a problem, plus, I had a plan to reinforce those cut areas. More on this later in this article.

I need to backtrack a bit, as I have not discussed the transaxle yet, which is another major component that needs to fit besides the engine. During the initial research into this project, I decided to check out what the Fiero guys were doing. The Fiero, made by GM and Pontiac from 1984 to 1988, was a mid-engine affordable car, which also used a front wheel drive train that was simply transposed to the rear of the car, just like all 3 generations of MR2. The engine sat slightly ahead of the driving axle, so when the front wheel drive train was moved to the rear of the car, it became mid engine. Note that the definition of a mid-engine car is one where the engine sits ahead or on top of the rear axle, just like the MR2. Note that a rear-engine car has the engine behind the rear axle, like a Porsche 911 or the original VW Beetle. The Fiero guys have been doing V8 swaps into the Fiero for many years now, since the early 1990’s. The car is wider than the MR2 mk2 (mark 2), so it’s easier to fit a V8. I contacted one of the oldest companies that did V8 Fiero conversions and found out that they were using a new GM 6 speed front wheel drive transaxle. This transaxle was the strongest transaxle available to the average person. It had the highest torque rating.

Transmissions and transaxles are rated by torque from the factory. Transmissions and transaxles are not rated by horsepower, as horsepower does not kill transmissions. Too much torque is what can kill a transmission. Think of it like this, when you turn a bolt with a wrench, you are applying torque to the bolt. Apply too much torque to an already tight bolt, and you can snap the head off. Transmissions are similar in that too much torque can break the gear teeth right off of a gear.

The torque rating given is also based on the weight of the intended vehicle. Torque rating means, how much torque from an engine can the transmission or transaxle handle, and still last a long time, usually 100,000 miles. The heavier the car, the lower the torque capacity of the transmission. Use the same transmission in a lighter car, and the torque rating will be higher. A heavier car generates more stress on the transmission components when the car is accelerating at its maximum, when the engine is generating maximum torque. This is always first gear, as that is the maximum torque multiplication given by the transmission to the engine during driving. The 1997 Audi V8 I tried to use was rated for 295 ft-lbs of torque at its maximum. The Northstar has a similar rating.

The new transaxle the Fiero guys were using was a new GM unit rated for almost 300 ft-lbs of torque, in a 3500 lb car. The biggest surprise is that this transaxle could be purchase NEW on eBay for only $475 SHIPPED!!! That was in 2007. Nowadays, you can get it for around $375. There is a story behind this, but basically, GM surplussed out the 2006 version of this transmission, as they decided to change it in 2007.

This transaxle could take the torque of a healthy V8 engine. If the car were lighter than 3500 lbs (Fieros are around 2700 lbs, and mk2 MR2’s are 2700 to 2950 lbs), the torque capacity of this transaxle would be higher than its factory intended application. The 6 speed was also shorter than the stock MR2 transaxles by 1.75 inches, allowing more room for a longer motor and adaptor plate (if one was needed).

The icing on the cake, and the part I did not know until 6 months after buying the Audi V8, was that the Cadillac Northstar 4.6L V8 bolted up to this transaxle, with the exception of one bolt, that could easily be accommodated by a fabricated small bracket or welding some additional aluminum to the side of the transmission bell housing flange on the block. No adaptor plate needed!

By switching to the Northstar, I could solve the adaptor plate issues, the starter location issue, and most importantly, the axle clearance. This is because the Northstar was used originally in transverse applications from 1992 or 1993 up to 2002. It’s still used transversely, but there is a longitudinal version and GM moved the starter location. Checking my notes from November of 2007, I found that I had written that the Northstar was 23.75 inches long at the critical dimension-this is the length of the engine from the crank pulley bolt head to the rear face of the bell housing flange on the block. At the time, I may have accidentally included the flex plate in the critical dimension, but it is really not part of the critical dimension. It turns out that the 23.75 inches measurement was INCORRECT!

Back in Nov 2007, I did not use a straightedge on the Northstar I looked at in the wrecking yard, just a tape measure. Also, at the time, I assumed an adaptor plate would be needed for the Northstar to mate to the GM 6 speed (which was wrong as I later found out, and discussed above). If you have ever measured an engine for length, you would know that it can be tricky to get an accurate measurement as the engine has a lot of width and parts in the way of measuring. In December of 2008 (a year later), I went back to the wreckers and re-measured the Northstar. This time, I was much more careful. I found that it was actually 23.0 inches long, but remember, no adaptor plate was needed (which would add around ½ inch to the whole assembly). This puts a different spin on the problem.

OK, so if this is a bit confusing, or hard to picture, I will simplify it here. The stock MR2 turbo motor is the Toyota/Yamaha 3S-GTE, and the stock transaxle is the Toyota E153. The 3S-GTE is 20 inches at the critical dimension. The E153 is 16 inches long. Total length of this drive train is 36 inches. However, there is a notch in the left side of the car that matches the E153 case perfectly, giving it a little additional clearance. It won’t match the GM 6 speed. The stock MR2 drive train has about ¾ inches of clearance at the crank pulley, and the same on the transaxle end.

Now, the Northstar is 23 inches, and the 6 speed is 14.25 inches, for a total of 37.25 inches or 1.25 inches more than the MR2 stock drive train. This would not fit, as the MR2 chassis notch at the transmission end does not match the 6 speed. Cutting of the chassis is required, but not very much cutting.

The prior attempts to put do a V8 MR2 swap in the Gen2 attempted to use a Toyota 1UZ-FE V8 which is 26 inches long, and the E153 which is 16 inches, for a total of 42 inches. This is 4 inches more than stock! 4 inches might not sound like much, but it’s a lot when you are fitting a drive train. To make things worse, an adaptor plate is needed to mate the 1UZ to the E153 transaxle. So, add another ½ inch.

This approach required complete removal of the MR2 subframes, which are only 2 or 3 inches wide in those areas on each side of the car. This would weaken the car quite a bit. Also, the right shock tower would probably hit the rear head of the 1UZ V8, so it would have to be cut a lot. I think the guys that did the prior attempts figured this out after they cut their MR2s, and they gave up.

In December of 2008, I went ahead and purchased a low mileage Cadillac Northstar. Fortunately, 1994 to 1999 were all the same, and I found out that they were the easiest to add a stand alone engine management solution to. The later 2000 and up versions are far more difficult. The 1993 version is also the same, except that the intake manifold was cast from metal (aluminum or magnesium), instead of plastic like the 1994-1999 versions.

I was able to mate the Northstar to my 6 speed that I had purchased in December of 2007, a year earlier. Finally! I made some progress! I then did a test fit into my 1991 MR2, and made the cuts to the chassis, so now the Northstar and the 6 speed fit in the car. I just recently mounted an alternator to the Northstar, and found a way to fit it much more tightly to the block, giving the engine additional room around it in the car. I am currently in the process of building the motor and transaxle mounts. Once that is complete, I can send the axles out to be shortened and re-splined.

Getting back to the cutting of the chassis that I promised at the beginning of this article: The areas of the chassis that I had to cut are part of a stamped sheet metal “pseudo” sub frame. It’s not really a sub frame as its stamped sheet metal that is spot welded to the body, but they are in the shape of traditional frame rails (i.e. rectangular cross section). I notched these “frame rails” on each side of the car to clear the Northstar crank pulley and the case on the GM 6 speed. The metal is thin gage sheet metal. I will re-weld these areas with new sheet metal to cover the holes, and I will probably put additional sheet metal doublers over these cut areas, overlapping the weld joints. This will ensure that the repairs will be stronger than original. This is the standard approach in the aircraft industry, when facing a similar issue.

In addition to the doublers, I am going to create a new rear suspension cross member from scratch, as the original cross member interferes with the GM 6 speed case, and the new axle locations. This new cross member will have extended sections that the original did not have, which will straddle the notched areas of the sub frames, further enhancing strength. I did not need to cut the right shock tower, but that is not completely certain yet. I did have to remove some metal that was attached to the outside of the shock tower. It did not add much in the way of structure, so I felt it was OK to do this.

The end results of these modifications will probably add weight to the car, and I will weigh the new parts to get an idea of how much added weight there will be, but I estimate it will be less than 20 lbs more than stock. The V8 should easily handle an extra 20 lbs of car!

Please stay tuned for the next in this series of articles.

Update: It turns out that the custom cross member is NOT needed! I found a way to use the stock MR2 cross member (with seme minorl modifications). This is great, and is a HUGE time/money saver. The MR2 crossmember is extremely important because the rear suspension and rear toe control rods attach to it, so attempting to duplicate it accurately, and with enough strength is extremely difficult and time consuming. Now that I found a way to re-use the original cross member, I have save huge time and money.

The Many Benefits of Owning a Hybrid

Most people have specific reasons for owning a hybrid vehicle. Whether it is to follow a trend, go green, or find some relief at the gas pump, hybrid owners enjoy a multitude of benefits once they get through the initial investment. The cost of a hybrid vehicle today is much more competitively priced with regular vehicles. While they may be a little more, the prices have certainly come down over the past few years. With this being said, the cost of the vehicle itself is justified by most hybrid owners. There have also been others automotive manufacturers following in the footsteps of the Toyota Prius, adding choice to the hybrid vehicle market. Most manufacturers have at least one model available in a hybrid and the technology has come a long way. Consumer Reports state, however, that the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid still account for over 50% of hybrid vehicle sold in this country. Some of the higher end luxury manufacturers have introduced hybrid models which are still high in price but come with advanced technology and unique features.

Financial savings is one of the most popular reasons a driver purchases a hybrid vehicle. Because they are so much more fuel efficient, with some getting up to 50mpg in fuel economy, annual fuel costs add up to hundreds of dollars in savings. Over a few years, this can make back money from the initial investment that could have been slightly more money than regular vehicles of the same model or family. When gas prices spiked dramatically several years ago, even more savings were seen at the gas pump and many hybrid owners were thrilled that their investment had paid off sooner than planned. Hybrid owners can also save money on car insurance. A lot of insurance companies offer instant discounts and lowered premiums simply for owning a hybrid vehicle. Some of these insurance companies have added hybrid vehicle divisions to work specifically with owners who drive green.

The “Go Green” trend made hybrid vehicles popular as well and many people wanted a hybrid vehicle because it was exciting to be a part of such a movement as well as to support the environment. The number of hybrid vehicles available has seen the greatest rise in the last couple years due to the increase in popularity and demand. One of the unique reasons that hybrids are better for the environment than regular cars is actually because a hybrid car with two energy sources is actually better for the environment than traditional cars with only one source – gasoline. Hybrid vehicles are also better for the environment because they let out fewer emissions. When gas is burned to produce energy for vehicles, carbon monoxide is created and in turn released into the environment (and the air we breathe). With hybrid cars, though, much less of this dangerous carbon monoxide is released into the atmosphere, therefore reducing emissions and air pollution supporting the go green trend.

A hybrid vehicle works with two sources of energy. Hybrid electric vehicles combine both traditional gasoline engines and electric motors. They are called hybrids because they use both a small internal combustion engineand an electric motor to obtain maximum performance with minimum emissions as mentioned above. They can also give you better fuel economy, increased power, or even additional power to run tools or electric devices from. Some of the advanced technologies that hybrids now come with include regenerative braking, electric motor drive assistance, and automatic start or shutoff. With regenerative braking, the electric motor applies the resistance to the drivetrain system which then causes the wheels to slow. In contrast, the energy from the wheels turn the motor and converts energy which would normally be wasted during braking or coasting. The energy is converted into electricity which is then stored in the battery until it is needed by the electric motor. Some vehicles are called “parallel hybrids.” They use both the electric motor and the ICE for propulsion. They can run at the same time or one can be used as the primary source of power. The other source of power can kick in when extra is needed, for example when accelerating, driving up steep hills, or when passing other vehicles. The word parallel comes from the fact that they can run simultaneously.

There are tax benefits and other financial benefits enjoyed by hybrid owners as well. Some buyers of hybrid vehicle may automatically qualify for income tax credits, depending on their state. When doing your taxes, it is always a good idea to discuss this with your accountant or tax professional to see if you quality for a tax break due to purchasing a hybrid vehicle that previous tax year. In some states, this hybrid tax credit is quite substantial. In Arizona, there are multiple tax credits and incentives for owning a hybrid. For example, a tax credit up to $75 is available to individuals for the installation of a PEV charging outlet in a house unit that they have built. To qualify for this tax credit, the outlet must meet certain codes and standards. To receive this, it is not even necessary to own a hybrid. Also in Arizona is the parking incentive for alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). This states that drivers of AFVs may park without penalty in parking areas that are designated for carpool operators provided the vehicle is using alternative fuel. So what qualifies as alternative fuel? According to the United States Department of Energy, alternative fuels include natural gas, propane, hydrogen, electricity, or a blend of hydrogen with propane or natural gas. Likewise, there is a reduced alternative fuel vehicle license tax which states that the initial tax on an AFV is lower than the initial license tax on a regular vehicle. Many states have also begun to introduce programs for hybrid owners where they can get free HOV passes and special parking passes as mentioned above. The free HOV passes can save small amounts of money but are still something to be enjoyed by hybrid owners and reduces the worry of driving in an HOV lane without getting pulled over. There are several other notifications, exemptions, and minimum requirements that hybrid drivers should be aware of to save money in regards to tax credits or incentives.

Many people believe that the maintenance of a hybrid vehicle is much more expensive and frequent than a conventional vehicle. This is not necessarily true according to many hybrid mechanics. More important than anything is to have trained mechanics do the work. There is not more work for a hybrid vehicle but is certainly is crucial that you hire someone who understands the complex and complicated systems of a hybrid. Maintenance of hybrid and plug-in vehicles are very similar to regular vehicle maintenance. Manufacturers can provide recommendations and suggestions for service interval schedules in your manual. Because hybrid electric vehicles have small internal combustion engines, maintenance is required to ensure performance and safety. The electrical system (including the battery) may be the only system which requires different service. Because of regenerative braking, those brakes actually tend to last longer than conventional vehicles meaning they won’t need quite as much attention either.

Hybrid batteries are the center of the biggest debate on the function and value of hybrid vehicles. Today, hybrid batteries are designed to last between 100,000 and 150,000 miles, typically the lifetime of the vehicle or at least for the length of time most drivers will have the same vehicle. However, the advanced batteries in hybrids have a limited number of charging cycles and can decrease in performance, power, or charge over time. Some drivers also see a decrease in fuel economy when their battery suffers. If the battery needs to be replaced outside of the warranty package, the cost could be significant – several thousands of dollars. This is what the debate centers around – are replacement batteries eco-friendly? What happens to the old battery? How much energy does it take to produce extra hybrid batteries? Although battery prices are expected to decline over the next several years thanks to advanced technology and production volume increases, battery replacement may not always be the best choice in hybrids.

Battery conditioning is another service unique to hybrid vehicles. Some repair shops also charge thousands of dollars, but there are some repair shops (one in Arizona) that will give the same results for a savings of up to 70%. This service of conditioning the battery pack used to mean battery pack testing without any replacement of parts. There is no hardware or battery module components replaced in battery conditioning. It typically regenerates the battery back to between 95%-98% life and many environmentalists support this because it doesn’t require additional battery packs or old battery packs harming the environment. Once the battery pack has been removed from the vehicle, specialized equipment is connected and testing begins for both power capability and the battery modules. Data is collected for analysis and diagnostics. About 8 out of 10 batteries could actually benefit from battery pack conditioning rather than battery replacement, something dealerships do not tell owners.

Making the decision to own a hybrid usually leads to many benefits that you can begin enjoying from the time you drive away from the dealership. Maximum power and performance, eco-friendly features, fewer emissions, and financial savings from tax incentives and fuel economy advantages make driving a hybrid a great choice. Gas prices are still high these days and commuting to and from work can get expensive. The average commute for the 128.3 million American commuters is estimated to be around a half an hour each way. Your commute may not seem quite so bad when you can reach up to 50 mpg in fuel economy. Finding the right auto repair shop to experts to maintain and repair your hybrid vehicle is an essential part of owning one, optimizing performance, power, and lifetime. Now seems to be the time to buy a hybrid because of lower sticker prices, more choices, improved technology and durability, and all of the other benefits discussed above.

The Jolly Green Revolution – A Take on Present Day ‘Green’ Consumption Phenomena

The “Green” phenomenon if I may call it that, seems to have sprouted recently. In reality, it’s been an ongoing cycle, rather a wheel with spokes that represent different avenues of ‘green’ resources connected to the hub that powers the ongoing process. It’s just that those seemingly varied categories have come together and formed one-big ‘mulch-ball’ if you will, that’s rolling and impacting every aspect of our earthly existence.

It’s the ‘Jolly-Green Re-Cycle Cycle’! It seems like that ‘Jolly Green’ is affecting everyone in some way. We’re ‘going green’ either because we truly believe that it is the best way to preserve our natural resources and that it’s the best way to stay healthy, wealthy and wise. Or because, in ‘going green’ we would be rewarded in cash, credit or kind. And what a competition this phenomenon has stirred up in the commercial world!

Today, there’s a ‘green’ alternative for everything. For electronics, there are those ‘energy star’ appliances. Motorized lawn mowers have the reel-push manual counterparts competing to woo the consumer. To conserve energy we have energy-saver light bulbs as well as solar powered ones. The automobile industry which is struggling to keep it’s head above water is putting up a fight to compete in the contest to bring out the best-ever, energy-saving bio-fuel or electric car. Kudos to those automobile companies that are coming out with an impressive number of ‘green’ choices by way of rides.

Needless to say, we the ‘jolly green’ zombies will ‘dress to impress’. Yes, we will just ‘need’ to buy that new toy (oh, excuse me, electric car), to impress the management of our firm (specially if we’re getting the pay-off for the car) or just to make our next-door neighbor envious of our possessions. Enough said about the automobile industry – for goodness’ sake, what would we do without our cars? Going back to the ‘dress to impress’ part, there’s clothing that’s organic (USDA certified) cotton or silk to appeal to our sense of comfort and health and appealing to the broad notion that synthetic ingredients used to produce artificial fabric fibers are not suitable for sensitive skin types. This might apply to clothing we wear or bedspreads and bedsheets used in our bedrooms. Talking about sensitive skin, there are resources all over the Internet for ‘baby organic’ clothing and bedding, organic baby food and baby bath products to protect the health of our precious little ones!

For interior decor we can choose from an immense collection of handicrafts which are made, not by power-consuming machines but by artisans and human hands, from natural resources like bamboo, jute fibers, clay pottery, organic cotton, boiled silk fibers, and the list goes on. Even buildings are now being built ‘green’ and this involves environmental design keeping in mind energy and water efficiency and minimal consumption of natural resources.

Visit the garden section in any hardware or departmental store and you’ll find alternative plant food and fertilizers beside the chemical-loaded ones, organic soils, compost and kits and bins to start your own, even re-cycled planters as opposed to synthetically produced ones. For any of these and other products to be considered ‘green’ there are basic guidelines that are used to finally grade them as energy efficient, environmentally beneficial, naturally derived, re-cycle-able and ecologically safe.

Touching the core of human existence, food sources are categorized as natural, organic, farm-grown, as opposed to ‘genetically-altered’ vegetables, ‘hormone-injected’ meat, processed meats, refined grains and flours. The recent norm is ‘home-grown-organic’ which is supposedly even safer than farm-grown organic. And to propagate this belief, local neighborhoods and townships encourage ‘buy from your neighbor’ programs that help folks who grow their own vegetables to profit and benefit from their labor by selling and buying from each other. Is the ‘Go-Green’ phenomenon here to stay? From ‘curly’ lights and hybrid cars to ‘organic’ decor, clothing and food, even businesses are leading the way to ‘go green’. Yes..we are in the midst of a green revolution, for the better..or for the worse of the world’s massive population whether it be in terms of ethical, hygienic, or even religious implications.