Today was spent driving a 1994 Mercedes 350 miles to nowhere burning up $50 of gasoline.
It is a couple of ppm shy of the required number of ppm of unburned hydrocarbons to get a PASS on the smog test. My Mechanic tossed a can of Magic Goo into the fuel tank and told me to consume the whole tank, then refill, and then do the test again. We’ll find out tomorrow if that succeeds or not. It is supposed to clean the fuel injectors or some such.
Now the real pisser is that I’ve got in hand a 2012 test for the same 3 L inline 6 engine showing a PASS for the same 59 ppm of HC. Somewhere between 2012 and now the State decided to change the numbers to fail more cars. My Mechanic assures me that these numbers are lower than the values “when new”. Go Figure.
As of now, I’ve got about $1000 of “fixes” on the car. Tune up. New cat converter. Ignition parts. Filters and more. The car has 166,000 miles on it. Low for a Mercedes. I’ve got one with 270,000 that just passed smog easily. Both, BTW, are inline 6 engines… But the wagon is an ’89 and not a ’94 so likely has a different hurdle. Or The State has just not got around to screwing over wagon owners via changing the numbers yet.
All this so that I can then drive the car to Florida and register it there as my Florida Car.
The very good news is that I only paid $400 for the car. (The neighbor had a sister who hadn’t the money to keep it up… and it ended up in his driveway for 2 years…)
I know there is (or maybe now it’s a “was”…) a process to just show how much money you have spent and if it goes over some magic value you get a registration for a year. I’ll go with that one if the “fix” doesn’t fix…
I do think it’s a bit daft to have folks driving hundreds of miles to burn up tons of gasoline to ‘stop smog’, but that’s the process. I’ve talked to a lot of folks who have done it. To reset some computer counters on some cars. To heat up and make more functional cat converters on others. To clean out the fuel injectors in my case. It seems to be one of the standard “Go To” behaviours in making cars just a bit more clean running by running them flat out for a while.
In the mean time, I’m burning up gasoline, money, and time to “save the planet”… ’cause the Government Said I Must.
How far did you drive it before you did the emissions test.
Here in Colorado they use the IM240 test which involves driving a simulated driving cycle on a dyno to get emissions which approximate real world emissions. Brand new cars will fail this test if not driven about 15 minutes to fully warm up the catalytic converter and ensure the electronic engine management is in full closed loop mode where it is no longer enriching the mixture for start up and such.
I take the car out and cruise on the road about 10 minutes in the wrong direction then turn around and drive back past my house to the emissions station. I time the arrival so I get there when there is little traffic at the station so it is quick in and out so the cat does not cool down too much before the test.
Open highway cruise is best to get the cat temperatures up to ideal.
Like you they lowered the limits in the last few years, especially on older cars (they are trying to gradually push them all off the road). This is where my E85 trick helps a lot on the Subaru.
Some cars go back into enrichment mode if left idling too long so if you have to wait for the test don’t just let it sit at slow idle, but periodically bring the engine up to a fast idle and hold it for a bit.
Good luck beating the system.
What a load of BS.
This kind of nonsense cost VW billions of dollars.
My Mechanic has generally run the car up and gotten the test done. For this next one, I’m delivery boy so it will be after 1/2 hour of freeway driving.
I’m suspecting it’s the intersection of 2 things. Prior driver was in San Francisco, so lots of short drives and low idle. Then it sat for 2 or 3 years as things like cat converter died and seals & rings ended up sub-optimal.
Hopefully the nice long run with lots of high speed ( hour or 4 about 80 mph…) will have loosened any stuck rings and warmed / softened any seals with a compression dent in them. Then the high speed and motor goo is supposed to clean accumulations off the injectors to make the injection pattern better, thus fuel burn cleaner, and the fast lean run is supposed to clean out carbon deposits if any. Like I said, we’ll see tomorrow…
What VW did was to customize the software to detect when an engine test was being done, and operate in a low emissions mode, but otherwise operate in high emissions high performance mode. That is entirely different from attempting to get a car to pass a standard emissions test by making it run better than when new (as they made the specification nearly unattainable).
One is cheating the design by the maker. The other is trying to coax extra ppm of clean out of a fixed design…
I just looked at the maintenance schedule for my 2017 Hyundai Accent, and it suggests fuel additive every 7,500 miles. I think that might be a bit too often, even for regular petrol.
After commenting, then doing research, I found out that if you use Top-Tier gas that HAS additives then you should be OK. If you use El Cheapo gas, then you will need fuel additive every 7,500 miles. That is what my maintenance schedule was trying to tell me.
Larry L. wrote “… they lowered the limits in the last few years, especially on older cars (they are trying to gradually push them all off the road). ”
This process, as with the “cash for clunkers” program, reduces the number of inexpensive cars and trucks in the resale market. Those near the lower end of the income scale** are hurt the most by this.
Maybe instead of subsidizing expensive EV for rich folks, we should be helping the poor afford a better car. Rich folks don’t need my tax money.
**been there, done that
Yep, that’s pretty crazy. Thank goodness we don’t have that sort of government think tank thinking in Tennessee, yet.
California is a beautiful State, but I cannot tolerate the crazies. Sorry, I will stay far away.
“My Mechanic tossed a can of Magic Goo into the fuel tank…”
Concerning magic fuel additives, my local garage sells it at around £10 per can, and the first time he put some in my old Mercedes, it definitely improved the performance.
So I had a look on the can, which according to EU regulations has to display the ingredients, albeit as reference numbers, which can be looked up on the Internet.
It is composed of white spirit as used for cleaning paint brushes, and naphtha AKA barbecue lighting fluid or Zippo lighter fuel, total cost bought in litres from the local DIY shop around £0.50 or so for 500ml.
So now I mix my own, and tip a splash of iso-propyl alcohol in to absorb any water from the fuel and dry the filters, which has stopped the wife’s Nissan MPV from annoying her by flashing its fuel filter light at intervals.
Ah the “joys” of overly complex laws and petty bureaucratic SNAFUs.
1) The car again failed on hydrocarbons at about 59 with a 51 upper limit at 25 mph. (It was spot on the max of 89 at low speed – 15 mph?)
2) Oxygen is 0.0%
3 NOx is low at something like 178 with a 500 ish cap and CO was fine.
My read on it is that the fuel mix is a little too rich.
No worries, you think, just dial back the fuel mix a little… But NOOOoooo….. that would require allowing professional mechanics who know how things work to actually fix them.
Bosch KE3-Jetronic Mixture Adjustment
Sigh. I guess the supposition is that no passages, adjustments, or fittings ever wear larger and cause a too rich mix… and it would be “tampering” to adjust the fuel management back to spec.
But wait, there’s more. This same shop did an inspection a few weeks ago and other than the HC being high, passed the car. New cat converter doing a great job. THIS test, they failed it for high HC and noted the exhaust was “tampered with” and the cat converter was “modified” due to the part number not matching the one “approved” on the Bureau Of Auto Repair web site. Never mind it is a great cat converter and is doing the job just dandy.
So OK, it’s back at the mechanic for him to cut out the new best cat converter and weld in a lesser cat converter but one with Government Approval.
But, no worries, you think. There’s a process for when you spend more than $650 to fix emissions and it isn’t working so you need more time. EXCEPT.
a) Those repairs, to qualify, must be made by a “licensed emissions repair” station. I.e. not my mechanic who knows the car perfectly and does nothing but Mercedes… and
b) It can ONLY be done at YOUR regular bi-annual emissions check. It can NOT be done on a transfer to a new owner. That is, if you buy the car needing that, you are stuck, but if the seller does it, they are out $650, so they never do it. And you are prevented from doing it. So it can’t be done.
Now I’d just pack up the car, get a 10 day “move permit” and drive to Florida and register it there, since they don’t need smog checks and the car IS mine and I’ve got an address there where I stay when in State and the whole PURPOSE of the car is to end up there in a month or two as the Florida Car anyway… except I can’t as the State has not issued my new title and won’t until the smog check is complete.
I guess it’s time to dump in some E85 and blow my 3rd (or is it 4th now?) $56 for a smog re-test.
If your mechanic has an exhaust gas analyzer, you can use that to fiddle with the setup to try to get it past the emissions without running through the emissions test multiple times. On the Subaru about 2-3 gallons of E85 in a 15 gallon tank is about right, it will slightly lean out the mixture, which might raise NOx slightly. You can also try tweaking the ignition timing slightly with just a bit more ignition advance so there is a slightly longer burn time. One other source or HC is the oil. If you have rings which are just a bit marginal, you can help that by for the emissions test putting a heavier weight oil in the crank case and fill it about a quart low so less oil is splashed on the cylinder walls. I find cars generally give lower emissions on a cool damp day so mid morning when it is rainy or foggy can help too.
Sometimes you can help emissions by putting in new spark plugs and opening up the spark gap to the maximum recommended gap (where you are supposed to replace them). That creates a hotter spark and the initial flame kernel is larger and grows faster (as long as you don’t open it too far and create an ignition miss).
You can sometimes lean it out just a tad by changing the air filter (new or low restriction after market air filter) to cut down intake air restriction, or “intentionally creating a very small vacuum leak” The folks who go for maximum fuel mileage (hypermilers) also fiddle with the fuel by adding a bit of acetone. It helps stabilize flame front development and like alcohol helps clean up emissions a bit – does not need much so google is your friend on that one to see what makes sense.
It is kind of a crap shoot, until you figure out the magic sauce for your particular car.
Good luck on beating the system into submission.
Thanks for the ideas!
FWIW, yes, he has a gas analyzer, but a very old one. He’s used it before to ‘tweak’ prior to the test. As he’s very sensitive about being perfect, and I had the joy of (for the FIRST TIME EVER! in 25 years as a customer!) saying “It’s your fault” – per the cat converter – and for the first time ever got a slightly sheepish look. (Then we both expressed surprise at the smog guy caring what the part# was since it was a BETTER part… so we ‘made up’ ;-) I’m pretty sure I have 100% “free” use of the gas analyzer until he redeems his perfect score… 8-)
I drove past the only E85 station I know of. It has some strange payment method. CCard and maybe a sign-up with someone. NO CASH ALLOWED. (!) I’m “shopping” for another E85 source, or I’ll hit the hardware store for denatured Ethanol. I can always use it in other ways. Or maybe I’ll hit the race shop for a few gallons of racing alcohol (now that they’ve moved to ethanol)…
FWIW, I’d done some web searches that said that retarding timing a few degrees lowered HC levels. Even one guy who tested it. The whole idea is to dump the hot gasses, still burning, into the exhaust headers…. (links available if duckduckgo fails you) yet I don’t see how that will help as I’m at 0.00% O2 in the exhaust.. BUT:
My mechanic (whom is quite good at such things) said he could just power up the air pump… and leave it constantly running. Claimed to have had this work before. (On one occasion. a small BB stuck in a vacuum line to the distributor advance got NOx down enough for a big engine high compression sports car..) So “there are ways”… IMHO, the 0.00% O2 says the easy fix is just add more O2 or reduce the H2-(H2C)x which adding some Ethanol, Methanol, or Iso-Propanol all will do and are all easily available (a gallon or so total of them sitting in my office…) Then the air pump thing is a neat trick I’d not considered. Then there is the “adjust the nonadjustable and put on a new ‘tower’ to show anti-tamper is intact” and so much more available. Heck, I could even just buy a bunch of pentane or benzine and “adjust octane rating” as needed and go.
I’ve found that I really like this car. It has lots of Zoom! and is light on its feet (so that $50 of gas and 350 miles of circle not totally wasted) which means “all hands on deck”. So it WILL pass “smog”. The only question is which particular path we will take… and how many $$$…
The Mechanic and I differ in that he wants to adjust physical things and I’m all good to go on the chemistry. I expect about 2 hours on the gas analyzer (and my buying a 12 pack of real Pilsner… to ‘lubricate’ the process… ) will have us arriving at a mix of methods…
The acetone thing is interesting. I’d never heard that before (so of course I’m about to go down that rabbit hole – smile firmly on face ;-) as acetone and I have a long history together. It was the solvent I used to make ersatz-bright-green-hash-oil-extract… so many decades ago before such things were so scrutinized and law-laden. But just say I like Acetone.
As we’re all of 8 points out of 60 off, and ALL the other readings have lots of headroom, I’m not seeing it as hard to reach. Weld in a (temporary) cat of the right part number. A bit of acetone and more alcohol to the fuel mix, lock on the air pump, retard the timing about 4 degrees, and maybe add a gallon or two of benzine. I doubt we’d need to go beyond that.
Government lackeys vs A grade Chemists and A++ level Mercedes Mechanics. Where you gonna bet? Eh?
Some dragstrips selll Fuel-ethanol at their fuel outlets. (more environmentally friendly than methanol and less corrosive). If you find any it will be E98 (98% ethanol with just enough denaturant to make it legal).
Might poke through this for possible sources.
Note in the early days of ethanol added fuels some european cars had issues with ethanol in the fuel (rubber fuel lines were not compatible) I doubt that is still the case since ethanol has been used in low concentrations for a long time but just be aware you might want to burn off an E85 blend promptly if you go that route.
Talk about unintended consequences! Emissions quality controls lead to people driving large amounts of extra miles to burn off junk in their cars …
… which leads to extra emissions, extra smog, and large numbers old smoking jalopies on the road — jalopies that only meet California emissions standards when they need to pass the test.
So much for linear thinking. Complex systems just can’t be controlled linearly, something governments fail to grasp.
BTW, cars that aren’t designed to handle E85 can be damaged or ruined by it. As well as the following article, I’ve seen references to engines ruined by corrosion caused by E85+ fuels.
That is a hugely over stated risk pushed by the petroleum industry. American cars have been driving on ethanol blended fuels since 1973. There are literally thousands of experimenters like myself who have converted conventional cars to run on E85 full time. There are a few minor issues but very easily worked around.
With modern sealed fuel systems “water in the fuel” is literally impossible with alcohol blended fuels, the clean the fuel system and actually pickup any trace condensation.
The problems with ethanol added fuels are almost exclusively limited to poorlly designed small engines like weed eaters, chain saws and outboard motors who cut corners and never put alcohol safe gaskets and hoses in their engines even though we have had alcohol in our fuels in the US for about 50 years. In the 1970s ethanol was widely added to gasoline to counter fuel shortages and in 1988 Colorado made it mandatory in winter fuel blends to cut smog. So for 30 years drivers in America could by law be forced to buy fuels with ethanol in them. Any manufacture who has not adjusted to that reality is just plain stupid.
Brazil did testing with ethanol added to gasoline and found every car being manufactured could run on up to 22% fuel ethanol mixed with gasoline back in the 1970’s.
Where they did find problems in the 1970’s were mostly in gaskets and hoses. VW fuel hoses in the early 1970’s did not like ethanol added fuels but that was a 50 cent fix to by a modern US made neoprene hose. Holly carburetors of that period had a rubber/cork composite gasket between the carburetor body and the fuel bowels that over time would swell and leak. Again a quick easy fix and all such gaskets disappeared from the market in the early 1980’s
As I said a few europen manufactured cars of that period had problems but US manufacture cars have by law had compatible gasket and hose materials for decades.
In small engines which used zinc or magnesium in castings all alcohols cause problems but that is a manufacturer problem not an ethanol problem. Those metals and copper have been eliminated in modern cars.
Chronology of ethanol in fuels is discussed here:
Click to access oxyrprt.pdf
@Chris In Calgary:
Yeah, and things like I’m going to leave my 1980 Diesel ZERO EMISSIONS CONTROLS car in California as my “fly in car” as it has no smog test requirement. That car will be kept running FOREVER, just due to that. I’d much rather have this 14 year newer and much cleaner car be the California fly in car, but….
@Those Worried about E85 and rubber:
Yes, I know, I know. Natural rubber absorbs alcohols and swells / softens. One needs particular viton like rubbers to avoid that. California has had alcohol in fuels since at least 1970 *that I know of* and I’ve run various odd alcohol mixes since about then including some very high percent alcohol fuels.
FWIW, you can add a bit of alcohol to “Ultra-Low Sulphur Diesel” to swell the seals back to where they work (useful with 1980s era VWs and others when the State suddenly shoved low sulphur Diesel on us and lots of injector pumps started to leak; not so useful in the last decade). I had to learn much more about rubber and alcohol chemistry and their interactions than I care to think about due to such idiocy.
Engineering really really ought to be left to the Engineers…
On one occasion, due to a “flame war” in a “news group” I stuck various aluminum and rubber bits into testtubes of alcohols and such and then posted a running commentary for months about “nothing happened”. I converted my lawn mower to run on alcohol (via turning the fuel mix screw) and then posted for a few years about “nothing happened”… Yes, there are things to consider, but it really isn’t as much as folks are lead to believe. A few corrosion inhibitors and knowing what rubbers you have in use are about all it takes.
FWIW, the very first Fords ran on alcohol. Many shipped with dual fuel carburetors and a way to swap between alcohol and gasoline. BOTH world wars saw various alcohol / gasoline blends sold as gasoline extenders. Basically, the entire history of automobiles has had alcohols and gasoline as fuels in various mixes and pure forms. It is NOT a new thing nor a hard thing.
One of the most effective engine tweakers I ever used was also one of the simplest. Years ago, I bought myself a Mini van, one curious detail of these being that, while the saloon and estate Minis were available with engines from 850cc to 1275, the van only came with the smallest, so that’s what I got.
I was not impressed with its fuel consumption, though – about 23mpg, *very* thirsty by Mini standards, and surely not due to overworking the little engine. So I bought a Gunson “Colortune” – in essence, a spark plug with a clear glass insulator. Replace one of the spark plugs with the Colortune, and (with the engine warm) tweak the carb for a clean blue burn at all speeds, with yellow coming in on acceleration. Consumption after tweak, about 48mpg, more than double. So simple, so effective … who needs a computer?
The only other motor product which ever gave me a real “Wow!” experience was Slick 50 – an oil additive which coated the lubricated surfaces with PTFE. When you change the oil, you wash the crud through with flushing oil then, when all is clean and the new filter in, you add the Slick to the new oil and take the vehicle for about a 30-mile drive.
I did this to our school’s Ford Transit minibus, which previously drove … well, like the well-used Trannie it was. Unexciting. Halfway round that thirty-mile trip, though, I was grinning like a loon – our undistinguished little bus was already very noticeably friskier, and responding like a vehicle half its size – and it stayed that way. Several teachers who used it for class outings were equally impressed, enough to ask me what I’d done to it, so it wasn’t just me being subjective.
So once you’ve got the legalities sorted out, consider giving ‘er the Teflon treatment and enjoying a bit of Wow Factor. (Disclaimer: I assume such products are still available, but haven’t checked. Also, I never researched into possible downsides, but then, it never gave me cause to.) Logically, by reducing friction, it should improve fuel economy too, though I admit I didn’t check that on the Trannie. (That’s “administration” … ;-)
I’ve used PTFE before ( in my “Honda That Would Not Die!” that was sold after 14 years of my driving it and last I heard had over 1/3 Million miles on it and still going ….) so I can testify that it does not reduce longevity ;-)
The Colortune is an interesting gadget / idea! I’ll have to see if they are available here (or via internet / Amazon). Unfortunately, as noted above, we’ve entered an era where actual adjustment of your vehicle operation parameters is increasingly a crime. Mixture is right out. Intake and exhaust systems are off limits in large part. One can still adjust the valves on those with adjustments… Part of why, until this month, I’ve not owned anything newer than the 1980’s.
But eventually things wear out, so I’ve been forced into this millennium. Oh Well.
Ethanol ruined my weed eater, so I know from experience it can trash o-rings and other rubber-like plastics.
By they way if you have to go the extra mile to get a pass (pun intended) one other option is to send the fuel injectors out to be inspected cleaned and flow tested.
I used these guys for my WRX, they gave me a chart of the actual tested fuel flow for the injectors. One cylinder in the Subaru is a bit more sensitive to detonation than the others (drivers side rear). Due to cooling layout that cylinder runs just a tiny bit hotter and has poorer air flow than other cylinders due to cylinder head design to get the exhaust manifold to fit in the engine compartment.
So when I did my fuel conversion I put the richest flowing injector of the set in that cylinder.
He disassembles them fully cleans and inspects them for spray pattern cleans or replaces filter screens etc. It was not very expensive, only $10 each if no parts needed. (actually probably cheaper than burning up a tank of gas and the injector cleaner goop.
If your mechanic can identify which cylinder is a tad rich by reading the spark plugs or by some other means it allows you to selectively assemble things to get the most balanced combustion.
In high performance applications folks will pick up some used injectors of the proper type, send them in (say 8 injectors for a 4 cylinder engine) and then pick a matched set out of the group. Sometimes you can get two closely matched sets.
If you have fuel injectors you can also tweak the over all fuel mixture by adjusting the fuel pressure slightly. Actual fuel flow changes at the square root of the change in fuel pressure so if the fuel pressure regulator can be tricked into changing the fuel pressure that will change the over all mixture slightly. Some engine management units will tune out that difference over time in closed loop fueling (when it is adjusting fuel mixture based on the O2 sensor reading) but in open loop fuel cycle where the engine is just predicting fuel needs based on rpm and airflow etc. and ignoring the O2 sensor (cold idle enrichment) it will shift the fuel mixture slightly.
$10 is flow test only, flow test and clean is $22 it looks like. but still a lot cheaper than new injectors or multiple trips to emissions testing and mechanic.
With O2 % at zero.zero I’m not seeing how improved injectors can burn more HC. That the Magic Goo didn’t change things at all tends to confirm that.
It’s looking to me like the basic thing that must be done is reduce HC in, or increase O2 in. At least until some O2 is shown to exist in the exhaust gasses.
In any case, it’s in the hands of The Mechanic for a while.
Is it true they have more flexible emission regulations for trucks and commercial vehicles?
Perhaps Dimethyl carbonate, CAS Number: 616-38-6, if available?
Click to access 1421748330_Volume%202%20Issue%201.pdf
@R. de Haan:
Not so much “more flexible” as “larger numbers”.
When the whole CAFE (Corp. Ave. Fuel Economy) and smog limit stuff was first being put in place, the large trucking companies and folks using trucks for work (farmers, plumbers, etc.) all pointed out that it was just not possible to haul 12,000 lbs of potatoes in a truck getting 25 mpg and emitting like a Prius. Then, in a rare moment of lucidity (or perhaps realizing no french fries and no beer deliveries would be a Very Bad Thing even for themselves) the Politicians and / or Regulatory Weasels decided that “trucks” ought to be a different set of limits (goals?) than “passenger cars”.
The end result of this is that you can not buy a “full sized station wagon” as that 20 MPG would count against your Car CAFE limits; but you can buy a 17 MPG Super SUV “truck”… and we’ve had a large proliferation of “technically a truck” objects ever since.
Now more recently, the really big Commercial Trucks have come under a more stringent regulatory regime (that whole soot and NOx thing) as they went after Diesels hammer and tongs. So now they must have “blue pee” to dump in their engines and either particulate traps or oxidizers or similar. Older trucks get forced off the road via more strangle of regulations in the process. California has a “smoke test” (where “smoke” was from the 1970s and what you have today is essentially smoke free…) big rigs must pass, along with NOx and similar. California is also extending this reach to off road equipment (farmers tractors, mining trucks, bull dozers, trains and such) with the goal of driving it all out of existence too.
So there’s a bit of a battle ground in the commercial space. There’s a lot of money and people in the commercial side, but presently they are losing to the Petty Bureaucrats and Gang Green. Elon Musk will be out there pushing hard for electric replacements and trying to cream off the profit of Government Mandates to buy his stuff and forbidding the alternatives.
But, for now, IF you want something big enough to carry 6 adults in comfort along with some luggage, you get a “truck” (even a nice Cadillac “truck” with all the amenities) and not a Station Wagon, as that comes from a different CAFE / Smog regulatory tranche.