April 23, 2008

Finally hit 40mpg

Bluelb_2Since getting Blue (my creative name for the Yaris -- it's all about efficiency, and "Blue" is one syllable shorter ;-) ...my goal has been to average 40 miles per gallon. The EPA rating for this car is less than that for highway driving. But with some conservative driving techniques (see, I can use the C word in a positive way :) ...I figured that I should be able to beat the estimates.

I'm not doing hardcore hypermiling, but I am doing easy acceleration, shifting at 2000 RPM, turning the car off if sitting at a stoplight ...sensible things. Given that I share the ride to work with a colleague several days a week, have Shirley in the car with me various other times, and my daily commute is a mix of city/hwy, with some stop and go mixed in there ...I'm happy to report that yesterday's fill-up revealed 40.01 mpg.

This is, of course, not as good as taking mass transit - as was easy in the Pacific Northwest. And nothing beats the low impact of riding a bike or telecommuting. I do hope to get back to telecommuting a couple of days a week in the near future. But for now, I'm happy that I've reached one goal, and my American footprint on the earth, while still quite large compared to most other areas of the world, is getting better. The next goal is 41 mpg :)

Posted by Joe Litton | April 23, 2008 in Yaris | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 17, 2008

"No guy buys a car for the mileage"

The other night I was chatting with a guy who was talking about the car he was buying. He was selling his current SUV and was real excited about the sportier SUV he was buying. He mentioned that a woman at work or somewhere asked him about the mileage his new vehicle would be getting. There were a few of us chatting, and he turned to me (the only other guy) and said, "No guy buys a car for the mileage."

To which I happily replied, "I did"

And it struck me that even though I get all jazzed to eek out the best mileage I can - sort of like a sport to me, really - there's a lot of folks who flat don't care. I've just been hanging with so many folks who do absolutely care about mileage and energy footprint, that I'd forgotten just how many people are simply living their lives. I guess this is how a religious fanatic would feel, 'cause I am so sure that it really does matter how we live our lives -- what we say/ do / think in relation to other folks (even though sometimes I think thoughts that are not so nice :) ...and I see folks who seem to be in this me me ME mode.

Hmmmm... I kinda want to do some converting of these 'lost souls' :) Self-righteousness is a terrible thing to waste, y'know.

Posted by Joe Litton | March 17, 2008 in Yaris | Permalink | Comments (8)

February 20, 2008

Yaris pics

OK, Jess asked for pics... Here's a few :)

Blue Yaris in the driveway when we first got it home
Horninstall Later that first day (that evening), with the front ripped off so I could swap out the horn :)
Installed Stock horn replaced with dual LOUD Fiamm horns (with this tiny car, I want 130 decibels of real car sound to let folks know I'm there)
Blueatbeach Blue (yes, that is my extremely creative name for the Yaris) at St Pete Beach a few days after getting it.
Steercvr1 If ya gotta grip the wheel, ya might as well do it with style :)
Stkrlside Showing the Yaris love with a shout out to the YarisWorld.com forum
Tanabe1 The Tanabe strut tower bar ...made an incredible difference in handling!
Tint The window tint ...just after it was installed ...helping it dry by parking in the Florida sun up on the roof.
Most recent mod. NST crank pulley - this was after torquing on the pulley and before tightening the alternator belt back up.
And, I'm sure there will be more :)

Posted by Joe Litton | February 20, 2008 in Yaris | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2008

Addicted to Yaris

Just over a month ago, we picked up the Yaris that we'd ordered back in August. That first night I ripped the bumper assembly off and swapped out the stock horn for a dual Fiamm horn setup to increase the volume and to make it sound more like a "real" car instead of like a Roadrunner cartoon.

Well, similar to my Rhode Island geek buddy Jess, who just keeps on modding her Mini Cooper S, I've been doing a few modifications to the Yaris. The mods I've done fall into the categories of fun, better mileage, and safety.

NST Short Shift Kit. This was purely to add to the joy of driving. I measured a 40% reduction in the throw of the shift, reducing what had been 5 inches shifting from 1st to 2nd, down to the current 3 inches. It just feels a lot "tighter". Makes me smile :) This was US$98 and about 3 minutes to install.

Better mileage:
NST crankshaft pulley. This is the same diameter as the stock pulley, but weighs about 3/4 of a pound, compared to about 3.5 pounds for the stock pulley. The result that we've noticed is a much smoother take off. Before I had to gun the engine a little to get it moving in 1st gear; now it just sort of glides off from a stop. US$118 and about an hour to install ...OK and I spent about fifty bucks for a 12v digital impact wrench to make the job super easy to do!
Window tint. US$190. This is the one modification that I did not do myself. And yes, this is for better mileage. I like the look, but the 30% tint on all side and rear windows means the car is cooler, so less air conditioning use, so better mileage. And it keeps out 99% of all UV rays, so my lovely skin won't get all sunburned.
WeatherTech air deflectors. US$55 and about 2 minutes to install. These allow me to keep the windows down a little, letting fresh air in, keeping rain out - even when parked and locked, and thereby again reducing use of air conditioning.

The loud dual horns (1 2). US$20 and about an hour to install. 130 decibels and has already saved me from a couple of crazy Tampa drivers (one was starting to change lanes without looking, and the other was BEHIND me ...looking at something on her passenger seat as she approached ME, stopped at a stop sign!).
Leather steering wheel cover. OK, this is also fun, since I think it looks cool, but it also makes a very definite difference in the control. I hate when we rent a car and there's no decent grip. US$50 and about 2 hours for me to sew it on.
Tanabe strut tower bar. $US93 and added a lot of stability. I drive the highway for part of my daily commute, and it includes a couple of "cloverleaf" interchanges. The stability on the turns is nothing less than striking -- and I'm not at all racing! OK, and it looks sweet when I pop the hood.

Where will it end? Man, I don't know. I'm not going to go lowering the car or getting a carbon fiber hood or any of that kind of mainly cosmetic mod. But I have ordered a tip for the exhaust pipe ...and that is purely cosmetic, but pretty cheap. Oh, and I have spotted some rear disc brakes that I could install myself to replace the stock drum brakes (added safety) if I pony up the $800 for the kit. I don't think I'll tell Shirley about this yet; I have no plans to order it (although I would love to!), and no need making her think I'm spending our retirement fund :)

Posted by Joe Litton | February 19, 2008 in Yaris | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 15, 2008

Finally driving the Yaris :)

BlueBack on 31 Aug 2007, we ordered a 2008 Yaris. We picked it up this past Wednesday. The reason why it took 4+ months is that Toyota had stopped making the '07 models when we ordered ...and they'd not yet started making the '08 models. The reason for the special order was because we insisted on getting ABS. The target demographic for this car is apparently younger folks looking for an inexpensive car, and to help keep the cost down, few if any dealers stock Yarii with ABS. Sheesh, it's only a $300 option. Well, I ordered it with ABS, side curtain airbags, and various other options (doing a special order means you order exactly what you want :)

Horninstall And what's the best thing to do when you get a brand new car? Start taking it apart! The stock horn sounds like the old RoadRunner cartoon - just a little *beep*. I wanted something safer. So I pulled off the front bumper assembly (have to do that to get to the horn - which sits front of the radiator) and installed dual FIAMM horns - 130 decibels of dissonance (one low tone and one high tone). NOW it sounds like a real car, and the horn has already helped a few times when folks didn't see this little car tooling along the road.

InstalledHere's a shot of the finished horn install ...it worked out quite nicely that there was the perfect sized hole - sitting unused - just waiting for me to take advantage of it for the mounting of the 2nd of the 2 new horns.

DoneAnd here's the view from the outside after everything was back together. I guess the first change to the car was the blind spot mirrors I added before we even left the dealer. The horn swap was the second. More mods are in store, mostly geared toward improving safety and fuel efficiency. And speaking of fuel efficiency, I filled up when it got down to 1/2 of a tank. On the first bit of miles, I've gotten 37.6 miles per gallon. My goal is to average over 40, but I won't worry about that too much until after the break-in period (after which I plan to switch to synthetic oil, a higher quality air filter, swap out the crank pulley for a lighter one, etc :)

Posted by Joe Litton | January 15, 2008 in Yaris | Permalink | Comments (1)