Smartphone Scan Tool, Really?

Yes…you read the title right!  A Smartphone Scan Tool for the everyday person and home mechanic diy-er!

From what I am being told there is this amazing tool that you can buy for under $70.00 that you plug into your car.  You download the FREE app to your Apple or Android device and your smartphone becomes a scan tool.  No, you don’t need to reread that sentence.  It’s true!  Your smartphone becomes a scan tool!  How cool is that?!?!? That’s going to save you some serious cash and headache when a check engine light appears.

The Actron U-Scan Cellular Diagnostic Code Scanner provides do-it-yourselfers the ability to access vehicle diagnostics using their Apple or Android device. (That verbiage is straight from the manufacturer!)

I’m still in shock! This smartphone scan tool has been developed to provide essential information to help you repair your vehicle quickly and easily, while saving money.  Actron, the manufacturer, has even put out a pdf file giving more information about how this “Dongle” works (no I did not make that name up).  You can get that pdf here.

According to Actron, the smartphone scan tool is guaranteed to link to all 1996-Up vehicles. It has a Quick Check feature meaning it will read codes and definitions, erase codes and turn off the check engine light along with monitoring emissions.  On top of that it includes a Vehicle Activity Log that records the history of vehicle tests and diagnostics.  How cool is that!?!?

U-Scan™ Smartphone Scan Tool Vehicle Diagnostics  (ACT-CP9599)

U-Scan™ Smartphone Vehicle Diagnostics
(ACT-CP9599)

Anyone already own this smartphone scan tool that would be willing to give me a review?  I’d love to hear how it performs before I shell out the cash!

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Robinair Recycling Machines-The Buying Guide!

Even though it’s still cold in most parts of the US this month, the warmer temps are rapidly approaching. Is your auto repair shop equipped with a Robinair Recycling Machine? We’ve had several customers calling in asking which Robinair AC Recovery machine would best suit their needs. Why pay for more than you need?

Whether it’s the fully-automatic 34988, 34788 or the semi-automatic 34288, these machines will test, recover, and recharge R-134a automotive AC systems quickly and accurately. The question is: Which one should you buy? I’m going to break these machines down for you and give you some facts to chew on before making that big purchase.

Robinair 34988

Robinair Recycling 34988 Premium A/C RRR machine

Robinair Recycling 34988 Premium A/C RRR machine

Let’s start with the best of the best – the Robinair 34988 combines simple operation with superior accuracy. The Robinair Recycling 34988 recovers, recycles, evacuates, leak tests and recharges R-134a quickly and accurately.

What does this unit have that the others don’t?
*Automatic dye inject feature – This gives the user the ability to use the machine to inject UV dye into a vehicle’s AC system.
*Automatic oil measure & inject feature – the machine will automatically determine how much lubrication oil needs to be injected back into the AC system based on how much oil was taken out during recovery.
*AC System Flush – Flushes a vehicle’s AC system with refrigerant eliminating any residual oil or other liquid. (Flushing adapters are not included in the purchase of the machine.)
*Save & Print before and after service data – This allows the user to store before and after service information on the vehicle and print this information to provide to a customer.
*Indicator light and notification alarm – Notifies the user when service is complete or if a problem has occurred.

With this machine, automatic operation means less attention is needed. Set the parameters and watch it work! You can view more information on this machine on the Robinair Recycling website. They have also uploaded a video showing the use of this machine here.

 

Robinair 34788

Robinair Recycling 34788 CoolTech Recovery, Recycling, Recharging Unit

Robinair Recycling 34788 CoolTech Recovery, Recycling, Recharging Unit

Moving on to the middle of the road unit – the Robinair Recycling 34788, like it’s superior the 34988, combines simple operation with superior accuracy. The 34788 also recovers, recycles, evacuates, leak tests and recharges R-134a quickly and accurately.

This machine does not include the items previously noted about the 34988 but it does have a lot of great functions. This is the most popular of the three units I’m discussing today, mainly because it has the automatic function but it’s reasonably priced.

Robinair has a great information section here on their website. Also, there are numerous videos posted about this machine here.

 

Robinair 34288

Robinair Recycling Cool-Tech 34288

Robinair Recycling Cool-Tech 34288

The Robinair 34288 is the simplest of the three main machines. The main functions of this machine are the automatic air purge, refrigerant charging, refrigerant management, vacuum function and the new 4×20 multilingual display.

If low cost and simple is what you are after, this is the machine for you. You can view more information about this machine on the Robinair website here.

All three of these units use the same maintenance kit which makes it easy when restocking. The Robinair maintenance kits include one quick change filter-drier to be used on both R-12 and R-134a stations, and one 16 ounce bottle of Robinair brand premium high vacuum pump oil.

Robinair Recycling 13172 Maintenance Kit

Robinair Recycling 13172 Maintenance Kit

Robinair Recycling 34724 Recycling Filter-Driers

Robinair Recycling 34724 Recycling Filter-Driers

Whether you purchase the 34288, 34788, or 34988 these units can pay for themselves in as little as 2.5 months (based on the Robinair “Investing In The Future” Return on Investment worksheet).

So…after the analysis is complete, which machine is best for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts on these machines!

Written by: Jay Johnson
Information courtesy of www.robinair.com

2014 Chevrolet Silverado vs. Ford F-150

So the great debate continues; are you a Chevy fan or Ford fan? At every family gathering my father and uncle get into a large discussion about Chevy and Ford and why they think their respective choice is better.  Of course, at the end of the meal we are no closer to a definitive winner.

As I tried telling my feuding family members; comparing these two trucks is not as simple as one would think.  There are so many variations and packages available for each that it’s not necessarily comparing apples to apples.  We can try though!

Ford1 Silverado1

Performance

Both trucks have the available V-8 engine with the Silverado represented by 5.3-liters and the F-150 represented by only 5.0-liters(Chalk one up for Chevy!) Although the Silverado’s V-8 produces 355 horsepower while the Ford’s produces 360 horsepower (win for the F-150). But when it comes to fuel efficiency between these two, Silverado holds the title with an EPA estimated 17/22 city/highway mpg (17/21 city/highway mpg for the F-150).

Interior

interior1 interior2

Moving on to the interior of these two trucks, the Silverado provides more legroom for front passengers than the F-150 but the F-150 compensates for this with more rear passenger legroom. Both trucks, depending on package purchased, offer a variety of interior comforts.  Some of which include: in-dash screens, storage compartments and charging connections for a variety of electronics.

I’m sure trucks are not the only source of discussion though since Chevrolet has come out with the new Corvette Stingray! When all is said and done, I think the feud between brothers will continue for many years.  Every year these trucks are neck and neck with technology, sleek styles and performance ratings leaving both the Chevy fans and Ford fans saying their truck is the best.

Which are you? Chevy fan or Ford fan?  Why?

Photos courtesy of chevrolet.com, ford.com and cargurus.com









Starting the Year Off With a Bang – 10 Tips to Make Your Car Go Faster

This post is for those of us who like to go fast. As we start 2014, let’s look at the best ways to make our cars and trucks go faster. Some of these are cheap, and some will cost you. But as well all know, you get what you pay for. And here at National Tool, we like to do things right the first time.

1. Take Care of It
Regular servicing, including changing the various fluids and filters, is vital if you want to keep your car delivering the performance it was designed to give.

Not only that, but on tuned motors it’s a good idea to take your car to a respected tuner once a year so, as well as regular servicing, they can check and adjust fuel and boost pressures, ignition timing, and if necessary, the mapping of the car’s ECU to keep the car running at peak performance.

It’s not unusual for some cars to need large adjustments, even when they seem to be running perfectly fine. In the past we have seen gains of nearly 30 horse power to the wheels, just from a dyno operator adjusting the ignition timing to its optimum.

2. Let it Breathe.
Almost all cars come with restrictive inlet and exhaust systems as standard, mainly to cut down on noise, but also to deliberately reduce power levels for economy and reliability reasons. Catalytic converters are very restrictive too (there isn’t really a way around this one though)

Because of this, it’s not uncommon to gain 5-10 percent extra power from a full exhaust system, cat-back pipe and induction kit on a modern car. Filter and exhaust combos don’t cost a fortune either, so should be the first performance mods you buy.

A performance ECU chip is also a simple mod, improving power for relatively little cash. You’ll only get small gains on a N/A car, but turbocharged cars can sometimes give upwards of 25 hp.

3. Gas It!
Once you’ve fitted an exhaust and filter, tuning gets more expensive. One exception to this is nitrous, which can give huge gains for the least amount of money.

Nitrous is an oxygen-rich compressed gas, which, when injected into the engine with the corresponding amount of extra fuel, gives an immediate boost in power.

Most standard production cars can happily withstand a 50bhp increase in power via nitrous with no ill-effects, and that’s enough to make any car a load faster. Remember the gas doesn’t last long, so you’ll need to pay for re-fills and that adds up.

4. Strip it Out
You’ve probably noticed the difference in performance of your car when you’re on your own in it and when it’s fully loaded, especially in small cars.

Well, apart from not giving fat birds lifts, another good plan for more performance is to strip the car out. Things such as seats, interior trim, ICE, sound deadening, the spare wheel and air conditioning systems all weigh a hell of a lot. With them removed you’ll not only have faster acceleration, but also better braking and handling, too.

However, the best thing about it is that it costs nothing! Once you want to spend some money you can replace your standard seats with lightweight fiberglass or carbon fiber buckets, glass windows with Perspex, and steel panels with fiberglass or carbon ones.

5. Stroke It
This is neither cheap nor easy, but increasing the capacity of your engine is always a great way to improve all-round power and torque. This is done by totally rebuilding the engine with a new longer-stroke crankshaft to increase the swept capacity of the engine.

There is a double advantage when this is done to a turbocharged motor, because when you increase the capacity you don’t just get the aforementioned gains in power and torque, but a bigger engine means more exhaust gas too. This means your turbo will spin up much sooner, and also enables you to run a much bigger turbo than you could on the smaller engine, but without giving any more lag.

The only disadvantage is that some stroker kits can make your safe rev limit slightly lower, but the fact the new stroker crank is often far stronger than standard means the safe rev limit can sometimes actually be higher.

6. Engine Transpalnt
What better way to make your car quicker than to rip out its wheezing old lump and fit something bigger and more powerful?

Some engine swaps are easy, where it’s just a drop-in replacement, but really the only limits to the swaps are your imagination and your wallet! And who’s to say the engine has to go back in the same place? You could go rear-engined, or if you’re really nuts fit twin engines!

As well as the engine you will need the wiring loom, ECU, and all that sort of thing from the donor car, and often the gearbox and other parts, too. It’s not the most straightforward mod in the world, but can totally transform your car and can even work out cheaper than tuning your existing engine.

7. Blow It
Engines give power by compressing and igniting the fuel/air mix inside the cylinders, and the more that’s in there, the more power you will get. Well, the best way to get more in there is to force it in under pressure with a fan.

Turbo and supercharger conversions are never cheap, but if you want the maximum amount of power possible from your engine, it’s really the only way to go.

On a normally aspirated engine even 100bhp per liter is considered highly tuned, and 150bhp per liter is usually reserved for mega-budget race engines. But in turbo engines, 100bhp per liter is considered ordinary, and upwards of 250bhp per liter is possible from the majority of engines.

8. Diff It!
This is hard to imagine unless you’ve experienced it, so you will have to take our word for it, but lowering the gearing of your car (either with a close-ratio gearbox or low-ratio diffs) will drastically improve your car’s acceleration, in exchange for a lower top speed.

Often this can be achieved by swapping your gearbox or diffs with a unit from a different model from the same company, but if there are none available there are many aftermarket transmission specialists than will be happy to help you out.

9. STOP IT!
Performance isn’t all about power and acceleration. If your brakes are crap then you’ll be off the accelerator and jumping on the stoppers far earlier than you would with a good brake setup, and over a long stretch of road or track this will make you significantly slower overall. If you’ve got good anchors you can stay on the gas until the last minute, maximizing acceleration time and minimizing braking time, improving your average speed and making you faster in the long run.

Best of all, basic brake upgrades such as better discs and pads are pretty cheap, so you don’t need to break the bank to achieve some big performance gains. The most basic mod would involve some uprated brake pads.

The next step is some drilled or grooved standard-size discs, and again it’s quite a cheap and straightforward upgrade. If you want a serious brake setup then many companies can do you a big brake conversion that consists of massive discs and equally huge calipers, giving unbeatable stopping power.

Discs, pads, and calipers aren’t the only important brake parts. Uprated fluid, brake lines and braces to keep the master cylinder steady are also important and fairly cheap upgrades that can be done.

10. Rubber
Having tons of power is no good if you can’t transfer it to the road. You might have 300 hp, but when a standard car leaves you for dead as your car just sits there in a cloud of wheel smoke, it’s pretty pointless isn’t it?!

Sticking with standard-width normal road tires won’t do much good when you’ve seriously bumped up the power, so it’s time for some fat, sticky tires. There’s a huge range available, and not only will the extra grip help your acceleration, it will improve your cornering speeds, and reduce braking distances too.

Many modern hot hatches can take 225-wide tires, and performance RWD
cars can often take 255-wide rubber or more on the rear, so there are no excuses to run on standard-width tires!

Happy New Year everyone. If you have any questions, please post them below. We would love to learn more about your projects and upgrades.










2014 Chevrolet Corvette – return of the Stingray

2014-Chevrolet-Corvette-006_1280x551px

Wooo! I am beyond excited for the return of the Corvette Stingray! When I was young, our neighbor had a candy apple red, 76 Corvette Stingray and I fell in love. The vette’ has always held a special place in my heart, but the Stingray, well, the Stingray is my Mona Lisa. Isn’t she lovely.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

The 2014 Corvette Stingray is the most powerful standard model ever. This bad lady posses an estimated 460 horsepower and 450 lb.-ft. of torque. She can scorch the road too, going from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds and achieve more than 1g in cornering grip. Oh and she doesn’t sip too much gas either, the most fuel efficient Corvette ever getting an EPA-estimated 29 MPG.

“Like the ’63 Sting Ray, the best Corvettes embodied performance leadership, delivering cutting-edge technologies, breathtaking design and awe-inspiring driving experiences,” said GM North America President Mark Reuss. “The all-new Corvette goes farther than ever, thanks to today’s advancements in design, technology and engineering.”

Here are some notes from Chevrolet.com:

The all-new Corvette Stingray shares only two parts with the previous generation. It incorporates an all-new frame structure and chassis, a new powertrain and supporting technologies, as well as completely new exterior and interior designs. Highlights include:

  • An interior that includes real carbon fiber, aluminum and hand-wrapped leather materials, two new seat choices – each featuring a lightweight magnesium frame for exceptional support – and dual eight-inch configurable driver/infotainment screens
  • Advanced driver technologies, including a five-position Drive Mode Selector that tailors 12 vehicle attributes to the fit the driver’s environment and a new seven-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Matching that anticipates gear selections and matches engine speed for perfect shifts every time
  • An all-new 6.2L LT1 V-8 engine combines advanced technologies, including direct injection, Active Fuel Management, continuously variable valve timing and an advanced combustion system that delivers more power while using less fuel
  • Lightweight materials, including a carbon fiber hood and roof panel; composite fenders, doors and rear quarter panels; carbon-nano composite underbody panels and a new aluminum frame help shift weight rearward for an optimal 50/50 weight balance that supports a world-class power-to-weight ratio
  • A sculptured exterior features advanced high-intensity discharge and light-emitting diode lighting and racing-proven aerodynamics that balance low drag for efficiency and performance elements for improved stability and track capability
  • Track-capable Z51 Performance Package including: an electronic limited-slip differential, dry-sump oiling system, integral brake, differential and transmission cooling, as well as a unique aero package that further improves high-speed stability

Needless to say again, I am excited. Now, I am on a mission to come up with $62,000 to get the Z51 version. If you would like to learn more about the new Stingray, check out this great video here. You can go on a biometric test drive. It’s a lot of fun!

Until next time friends!


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The Biggest Automotive Innovations in the Last 10 Years

Automobiles have come a long way in the last few years. From almost useable voice control to cars that can basically drive themselves. Each year, the industry continues to release new technology and some pretty stellar innovations that make driving safer and just plain fun.

Anti-collision systems

m-b_pre-safe2

Car systems that can detect eminent frontal collisions and stop themselves to avoid accidents are becoming increasingly popular in the auto industry. Although anti-collision systems have been around for a while to at least some degree, Subaru’s new EyeSight for their Legacy and Outback models has been billed as the “most affordable” of this type of innovation. EyeSight reportedly applies brakes when the vehicle is traveling under 19 miles per hour and it detects an object in its path.

Self-driving vehicles

hero_autofusionrls_610x458

Pictured Above: Ford’s Self-driving Car

Let’s be realistic here. We are not right around the corner to be driven by our cars, self-driving vehicles aren’t ready for a mass-market launch at this point. However, their development has been a hot topic in the automobile industry for the past several years. It appears that Google is leading the charge for cars that will supposedly help avoid accidents and reduce traffic congestion resulting from human error. In fact, Google’s home state California just passed a bill legalizing self-driving cars. We’ll keep an eye on this development in the near future. Cadillac is now joining Google on the forefront of self-driving vehicles. You can read more about it here.

Backup cameras

auto-insurance-backup-cameras1

I am sure we all know someone who has backed up over something in their giant SUV because the driver can’t see that low behind them with their mirrors. Or how often has a truck driver backed into a low-sitting post or mailbox for the same reason? With backup cameras becoming the standard for many new models, these types of hiccups will lessen.

Smartphone integration

bmw connected1

Pictured Above: BMW Connected Drive

Millions of people have adopted smartphones as their on-the-go communication and computing devices. It’s not surprising that automakers have begun to include technology that allows for seamless car and smartphone integration. BMW, Ford and Toyota all offer functionality that projects smartphone interfaces onto the car’s dashboard. Chevy even has added a Siri button to some of their new models.

Widespread adoption of more fuel-friendly models

Although electric and hybrid car concepts have been around for decades, the past few years has solidified fuel-friendly driving as a focus of many models. Even the large automakers have begun to shift emphasis to more fuel-friendly varieties of its vehicles. For example, flex-fuel models are more prevalent.

Sources: Car & Driver, Macgasm, Cnet & TechnologyReview

Why to Add a Cat Back Exhaust System

Here is another post for you go-fasters, drag racers and those of us that like that deep growl flowing out of our exhaust pipes. We don’t want an exhaust system that makes car alarms go manic or requires the girlfriend to wear earplugs. Upgrading your exhaust lets you hear the best underneath your hood. To us gear heads, that is a beautiful noise. You can legally upgrade your exhaust to gain power and efficiency. However, federal emissions regulations won’t permit just any exhaust system. One upgrade that’s almost universally permissible is in the exhaust system downstream of the second oxygen sensor. That sensor is always located right after the catalytic converter, we refer to these systems as “cat-back.”

How Exhaust Works

The exhaust system is basically a long funnel to expel spent gases from the combustion process. The gases dump from individual cylinders into the exhaust manifold. On cars with a V-type or boxer engine, there are two manifolds, one on either side of the engine block. Inline engines have only one manifold. The manifold’s snakelike tubes collect the gases and, on newer cars, send them down a pipe (or two if it’s a dual exhaust) and into the catalytic converters. The catalytic converter is a major component responsible for reducing emissions. At the front half of the cat is a reduction catalyst which uses platinum and rhodium to remove NOx emissions. In the second half, the cat burns carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. The result? Up to 90 percent of these damaging gases never reach the sky. But cats won’t scavenge this stuff until they reach operating temperature. So automakers mount them as close to the exhaust manifold as possible to capture engine heat quickly.

After the cat, the exhaust travels on to the resonators and mufflers to cancel sound. Without mufflers, your car would be as loud as a Sprint Cup Car. Cat-back systems often include new middle pipes, resonators and mufflers, and are often less restrictive (less back-pressure) so they can build more power and make better noises, too.

What’s Legal

In the good but smoggy old days before emissions standards, you could freely modify your exhaust, as long as the local constabulary didn’t object to the noise. Times have changed; California’s strict smog regulations have influenced the nation. Aftermarket speed parts built for newer vehicles are almost all 49-state-compliant. In the Golden State, they must pass stricter California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards. So, unless you own a smog-exempt car (1975 or older in California), it’s verboten to modify anything that might change the emissions profile. And that’s why the most common exhaust modification is a cat-back system.

Here are a few images that explain how it all works:

When it comes time to find the right exhaust system for your vehicle you have a lot of options. There are hundreds of websites out there, filled with posts from guys and gals that have put cat back systems on their rides. You can also go down to your local performance shop and talk to the experts. We always recommend knowing all of the facts before you purchase and install.

If you want to install your new cat back exhaust system yourself, here is a video with step by step instructions:

Sources: Car & Driver, Summit Racing, Engine World, and NMRA.com


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