Motormouth: A device to improve the mpg? | Automatic functions


Q: I saw a so-called EcoChip online, which is supposed to reduce fuel consumption by up to 55%. Is it legit? Does it work? It plugs into the car’s on-board diagnostic system. Will using it void my OEM or extended warranty? Thank you, your thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

JM, Flossmoor, Ill.

A: When fuel prices go up, people are looking for something – anything – to increase their miles per gallon. I’m skeptical of miracle devices and have seen a lot of useless stuff over the years. One of the first contraptions was a pair of magnets glued to the fuel line to “align the ions in the gasoline”. Farmers know them as cow magnets. Various devices claimed to swirl incoming cool air to enhance complete combustion. etc … I am open to independent scientific data to support claims of craft. Until then, I will work on improving my driving habits.

Q: You say don’t disconnect the battery and turn off the power to any modularly controlled system or device, like power windows, because it may stop working when power is restored. How to replace a battery?

FS, Oak Park, Ill.

A: Although some people call it a battery saver, it is actually a computer memory saver. It is a small device that plugs into the OBD-II (On-Board Diagnostics Generation Two) connector located under the dashboard. This is the same port through which professional technicians connect their diagnostic scan equipment. Inexpensive memory savers cost around $20. For power, it can be connected to a battery bank via a cigarette lighter connector (nee power port). You can also find memory savers with clamps that you connect to another car battery, but not your own.

Q: How many readers have written to you so far advising you to apologize to the wrong singer in today’s column? Manfred Mann did not write “Blinded by the Light”. He and his Earth Band simply covered Bruce Springsteen’s first track (weakly IMHO), as they did with Springsteen’s “For You” and “Spirit in the Night”. It might be prudent to confess the error in your next article and apologize to Springsteen instead. You might hook the error to “we’re really getting old”. Thanks for the good work though.

DL, River Forest, Ill.

A: Mea culpa. My apologies to the Boss. Too bad, Mann.

Q: Your response to “PG” from Virginia Beach, Va. about the 2006 Trailblazer not starting after being driven was perfect. Years ago we had a Chevy station wagon that had the same problem. I took my dad’s advice and always carried a small hammer with us to hit the starter in case of a breakdown (usually after driving a few hundred miles pulling our pop-up camper).

Dad was a chassis engineer at GM for about 45 years. His first piece of advice was to replace the starter, but at the time we couldn’t afford that. When we raised money for a new starter, I discovered that it was missing the heat shield designed to protect the starter from engine heat. The combination of a new starter and installing the heat shield solved the problem and I no longer had to press the starter to get the car to run!

PVH, Colorado Springs, Colo.

A: Thank you. There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing when you’re getting something right. It removes some of the heat.

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