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Automakers Want to Outlaw Gearheads From Working on Their Own Cars

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I've said this for a long time as well. Most of your 'environmentally friendly' measures implemented on American cars are in fact a burden that reduces your fuel economy. And it is already a federal crime to remove or bypass an emissions control device, even though basically every performance equipped custom vehicle started out by removing most if not all of the emissions devices in the name of performance gains.

And I like so many other technically inclined people have a healthy enough distrust of computing devices to not ever allow a system to tell me what I cannot do. It either does what I tell it to, or it finds itself being reprogrammed to a system that I can be in control of. Its a shame cars are too varied to really allow a GPL drop-in replacement for the typical PCM, but perhaps a platform that could be coupled with DIY hardware using a modular software structure akin to most Linuxes would make it fairly easy for someone with a working knowledge of computers to assemble and program an open source PCM to fit their vehicle. I wouldn't mind trying it myself.

But a lot of cars you can completely redefine their operating behavior as easily as changing a memory cassette in the PCM, with more modern vehicles being dealer-reprogrammable by simply re-flashing the software and tables inside it. I see this as a play by the automakers to guarantee their stranglehold on that capability, so that nobody outside of their authorized dealerships can legally have the tools or software to do modifications on that level, modifications often required by high end performance modding to allow the PCM to work with performance parts.

Far as I know though, the ultimate you can get in fuel economy for a gasoline engine with modern technology is the following. Anything else just burdens the motor or makes you use more fuel than you need. :

Feedback Carburetor- this does have an oxygen sensor and computer, and uses feedback from the oxygen sensor to adjust bypass air. Like so you set the base mixture to suit the engine, and then the bypass trims it richer or leaner as needed to compensate for variations in driving conditions and engine behavior.

"Straight" Gasoline - NONE of that Ethanol crap! I've tested this myself, using '87 octane' gasoline purchased in bulk for a farm tested against '87 octane' pump gasoline from the station downtown that is marked as containing up to 10% ethanol. Well, on a 1.6L carbureted engine, the straight gas was giving me almost 40 MPG, while the E10 was barely making 30 MPG. Now think about this a minute- gas consumed vs mileage travelled, and you suddenly realize that E10 gasoline is causing me to burn more actual gasoline than i would be using on straight gas.

Electronic spark advance - this and the feedback carburetor are among the very few places where the electronics do beat their mechanical counterparts. Simply because the ignition timing can be made far more precise and can respond to changes in operating conditions far more easily than can be done mechanically. Plus the breaker points are a high maintenance area that is often neglected, letting the electronics win in this area eliminates an often neglected maintenance item that has fuel economy penalties for ignoring.

^^  Interesting.  I have to agree that electronic spark advance has to be more accurate than spring, vacuum and flywheel schemes.  However, once you can no longer see how something works with the naked eye(even if it must be disassembled to do so) then by definition it starts working in invisible ways.  At that point not everything being done can be detected.  The operator is no longer in control.

Stoic Joker:
^^  Interesting.  I have to agree that electronic spark advance has to be more accurate than spring, vacuum and flywheel schemes.  However, once you can no longer see how something works with the naked eye(even if it must be disassembled to do so) then by definition it starts working in invisible ways.  At that point not everything being done can be detected.  The operator is no longer in control.-MilesAhead (April 27, 2015, 07:28 AM)
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Ah the tactile joys of working on a true machine. Just springs, gears, belts, chains, and levers...with all actions and interactions in full view where their purposes and beauty of design can be appreciated.

I've been helping a friend restore a 1980 Shovelhead FLH over the past few months, and the experience has been positively therapeutic for exactly that reason. I've been happier in the garage with that old girl and all her quirky arcane foibles than doing anything I've ever done in IT. I even got a bit teary this Sunday when she finally roared to life after many years in a pile of boxes ... For reasons one will either intuitively already know, be incapable of grasping.

To me they are not just machines..

^^ One of the biggest downers to me as I became competent fixing cars was the "Classic Movement" or whatever one wants to call it.  The main advantage of being willing to crawl around under cars in nearly freezing weather, enduring icy water dripping down your neck when doing front end alignments, and putting up with too hot engines(lean burn) when doing tune ups, was the fact you could pick up a car with some years and miles on it and make it run well on the cheap.

Once the "Classic Movement" kicked in the asking price for jalopies that ran like crap went way up just because they were more than x years old. They got the money out of you on the front end of the deal.  Takes all the fun out of it.  :)

I'm glad you got to tinker with a nice machine though.  It is a weird experience when you open a hood and can actually put your hand on anything you want without sliding it between hoses and foil tubes.  All that open space to work in!  :)

In other words, they're using the DMCA in exactly the way it was intended.-Vurbal (April 22, 2015, 11:54 AM)
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...As a blunt object with which the corporations could beat the common man into subjugation?
-Stoic Joker (April 22, 2015, 02:14 PM)
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Generally speaking, yes. More specifically, though, its purpose was always to give copyright holders a veto over innovation that interfered with their business model. I'm sure the automakers are fine with you modding your car's computer, but only so long as they can stick their hands in the pockets of extract licensing fees from the people making the tools.

Of course, even if the elderly history professor with sole responsibility for the decision (ie the Librarian Of Congress) sides with them, they still haven't accomplished anything besides chasing development of the programming software out of the US.

Well, technically, they'll also have angered the people who buy most of their aftermarket performance parts. Car nuts were well organized before the Internet. That has increased exponentially with online communities. This is an attack not only on them, but also on the multitude of small shops that cater to the performance tuning market.

Which reminds me, I'm almost out of popcorn.


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