Saturday, 23 April 2016

Sympathy for the Devil


A few years ago, the British Green Party was advocating diesel cars over petrol, diesel fuel was cheaper and petrol contained a lead additive to prevent pinking. It has all swung into reverse now and there has never been more reason for London cycle couriers to wear filter masks, though most of them don't.

The last two Volvos I have bought were designed for the American market - beginning with California, the sunny state which is renowned for fresh air and oranges, and the first to outlaw smoking in public, even in parks.

My current old Volvo has a special air-pump fitted to it, ostensibly to cut down on toxic emissions. Because California told Volvo that they would not allow the sale of any cars which did not fulfil these almost impossibly stringent emissions requirements, Volvo panicked and stuffed this little air-pump in the only place available under the bonnet, which is right down at almost street level, in a little area where there is some chassis exposed to which it can be bolted.

This air-pump 'works' by sucking out a percentage of the exhaust and blowing it back into the fuel/air intake system in an attempt to burn it twice, theoretically 'cleaning' the exhaust.

Burning exhaust fumes with fresh petrol? Isn't that going to decrease the efficiency of the engine and ultimately lead to loss of power and - hence - lowered mpg? Yes, it is.

The thing about these air-pumps (fitted to only ONE model of Volvo - the one they wanted to sell to the U.S. at the time) is that, despite many attempts to keep water out of the electrics, they all fill up with the stuff which is thrown at it by the left front wheel whenever it goes through a puddle. It rains a lot in Britain. California is renowned for its lovely weather.

When this unit breaks down - as it always will in wet Britain - a little emissions warning light appears on the dashboard. The car will not pass its MOT test until the little light is out, and the light will not go out until a new air-pump is fitted, and you cannot bypass the system by removing the air pump without installing a complete, new, computer-controlled, engine management system for about £2000. The new air-pumps cost £700 each, before fitting.

I have bought two of these air-pumps, one from Istanbul which turned out to be very slightly the wrong shape to be fitted into position. I still have it, and the Turkish garage could not believe their luck in finally managing to sell it.

The one which did fit was covered in non bio-degradable plastic to prevent the ingress of water, but it filled up within 2 days of fitting, blowing the electrics and destroying itself. The little light came on on the dashboard again.

Since then, the car has passed its MOT test twice, despite having a non-functioning air-pump. How? My mechanic takes a diagnostic laptop with him to the station and disables the light for just long enough to pass the test legally. The exhaust from the pipe is still tested, of course, and always falls within U.K. limits, and so passes every time.

Now you have some idea why all those car companies fiddled the emissions tests on all those cars they wanted to sell to the U.S. - and it will be ALL those car companies, not just V.W. or B.M.W.

24 comments:

  1. I heard yesterday that a Japanese car manufacturer doctored its mpg figures, simply by increasing tyre pressure, and is likely to be fined a huge amount for doing so. Maybe I should pump up the Volvo tyres to 70 psi and save myself a bit on fuel?

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  2. You might go out with a bang.
    We've been diesled for years and it's still cheaper/lt in France.

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    1. Here, it was a little trick by our government, in league with the big car manufacturers - non of whom are British, except for Aston Martin, whose biggest customers are the Chinese. Encourage everyone to buy diesel by lowering the price of the stuff compared to petrol and making tax allowances for new diesel fleet vehicles, then pull the rug out from under everyone's feet as soon as oil drops below a certain price per barrel. We are always the ones to ultimately pay for the failure of big business.

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    2. P.S. I think I am more likely to lose it on a bend with hard tyres, and wrap myself around a tree. I suppose that could be going out with a bang...

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  3. When the Volkswagen diesel fuel scam broke it was like a blow to the solar plexus. Call me naive. I drove a VW for years. I trusted their word. My last clay footed god, that's for sure.

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    1. It was a massive blow to the Germans too. My mates could not believe it.

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  4. When I was in the States I never saw a car go above 50 mph so any loss of power is irrelevant to them, they just wouldn't notice. I cruised from Boston to New York and was almost demented by the end of the journey and I asked if petrol was rationed.

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    1. Same with me. I filled my entire car up for $13 and even got that half-price from the motel. Overtaking is easy, but frowned upon.

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    2. Where the hell were you? Some retirement village, driving golf carts?

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    3. Ah Joanne - it has come as a great joy to me to learn that you drive like a young English lunatic. We need more Mauds like you.

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    4. Actually, I had to drive through a golf course to get to my client's house, which was next door to Arnold Palmer's. I was caught on radar doing 25 mph, and warned by security that if I ever exceeded 20 again, I would not be allowed back into the gated community.

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  5. I was sure i just left a comment

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    1. Oh and btw, I didn't see one if you did, just in case you think I am deleting them! I need all the comments I can get.

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  6. Gas is under $2 a gallon now. I know it's a US gallon equivalent to 3.78 liters, compared to the imperial gallon of 4.54, but still. Ridiculously cheap.

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    1. When I was working in Florida, they still complained about the price of gas when it was 1/3rd the cost. You are (but you already know) very protected.

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  7. When I was able to drive on a more regular basis, I drove rather like Joanne... now that things are improving so much, I look forward to scaring the bejabbers out of the retirement village refugees.

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    1. All the old people here who traverse the pavements in electric buggies drive like demons. 6 miles per hour is fast on a crowded pavement, and the weight combination of a fat old person and their buggy is more than enough to break legs.

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  8. I have a small sticker on the windscreen of the Compact Royce which (I believe) allows me to drive in central Paris on account of the low level of nasty emissions it produces. I've not bothered to try.

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    1. I know someone who has a sticker on the inside, above the passenger seat. It reads: 'Sit down, shut up and don't touch anything'.

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  9. What goes on under the bonnet of the car or round the back where that pipe thingy sticks out is a complete mystery to me. As long as it starts when I turn the key and as long as there is petrol in the tank - I am happy.

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    1. I wish I could have adopted that attitude over the years, but I have - in the past - completely taken my car engine to pieces and put it back together again. It was a big mistake in college to admit to being able to fix engines, especially when they were simple things in the 60s and 70s. These days, Porsche drivers never even see their engines. They are hidden out of sight.

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  10. I'm with weaver.....My mister has just bought me a diesel car and I love it...and I was cautioned for speeding in Florida once and yet I was only doing 30 or 40 miles an hour...

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    1. In the USA and Germany, everyone obeys the speed limits almost religiously. Here in the UK, it is a sport to try and break them without being caught.

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