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The Manual Transmission Is Dead

If you’re like me, you love yourself a good old fashioned stick shift. There’s something about banging from one gear to the next that makes driving just a little more enjoyable.

However, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve noticed that manuals are getting harder and harder to find on new car lots. There are three key reasons for this:

  1. Emissions and fuel economy regulations have forced automakers to implement complicated electronic controls that are incompatible with manual transmissions.
  2. Automatic transmission efficiency has dramatically improved in the last decade or so.
  3. The operating costs of a modern automatic are lower than ever.

Am I glad to pronounce the death of the manual transmission? Not at all. Yet the fact is, the manual transmission is dead.

Here’s how it happened.

Ford EcoBoost Turbo Replacement Cost? About $2250

Every truck guy knows that Ford has the EcoBoost engine and they also know that Ford has been really, really successful selling EcoBoost engines. Ford truck buyers like the power and fuel economy ratings, and most critics have praised Ford for developing the next great thing in pickup truck powertrains.

However, what happens when the EcoBoot turbochargers fail – 1) how much do they cost to fix? 2) Is EcoBoost worth buying in the first place?

The short answers: 1) $2,250 2) Probably not…it takes a long, long time to break even. Read more for the details.

Ford EcoBoost - Costly?

Ford’s EcoBoost system is a best seller – but how much does it cost when the turbochargers fail?

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Prius vs Corolla – Which Makes More Economic Sense?

A frequent commenter here on (shout out to mk) posited an interesting thought: It makes more economic sense to buy a new Toyota Corolla than it does to buy a new Prius, because it would take years of driving and gas savings to recover the cost difference between the two.

Said another way, the $5500 price difference between the Prius and the Corolla buys a lot of gas. Right?

While I was completely inclined to agree with this idea, I decided it might be fun to run the numbers. Here’s how I broke things down.

Ask Unichip: Towing, Racing and Gas Mileage

In our last Q & A post with Jack from Unichip, the ECU tuning specialists, he offered us some very interesting opinions on how engine modifications interact with air intakes and exhaust systems.  In this post, Jack blows open some of the myths that have accumulated around the idea that chip tuning can save money at the gas pump, as well as how the ECU’s engine management affects specific driving activities like towing or drag racing.

Tundra Fuel Economy: 7 Ways To Improve your Tundra MPG

Yes — we know you bought a truck. You didn’t buy it to save gas. You bought it to do stuff. We get it.

But what if there was a way to do stuff with your truck and save gas? Interested? We thought so. Here are some tips.

1) Drive like your grandmother.

Your truck burns fuel at almost twice the normal rate during hard acceleration. If you’re racing from every stop light, you’re going to burn through fuel faster than green grass thru a goose. The ideal acceleration rate for maximum fuel economy is generally agreed upon to be about 2mph per second. At that rate, it would take you 30 seconds to reach 60mph. While we don’t really believe anyone can accelerate that slowly without getting shot at (or at least flipped off), if you don’t like your gas mileage try counting to 10 or 15 seconds as you accelerate. If you’re getting to your speed any faster than 10 seconds, you’re burning more fuel than you need to.

2) Avoid high speeds.

Believe it or not, aerodynamic drag, or wind resistance, isn’t significant until you’re traveling at 40-45mph. Then, as your speed increases, aerodynamic drag starts to build up rapidly. By the time you hit 100mph, your engine is working almost entirely just to overcome aerodynamic drag. In other words, less drag at low speeds means better fuel economy — that’s why your truck gets the best fuel economy at about 55mph. If you have to go faster, realize it’s hurting your efficiency.

3) Check your tires.

Other than wind resistance, the only other major friction you must fight is your Tundra’s tires. While the best fuel economy can be had using a highway tire with a car-like tread, you can actually get good results with a more aggressive off-road truck tire as long as the tire pressure is correct. Your owner’s manual will tell you what it should be for your specific vehicle, but it’s safe to say that 32-35 psi is a good safe pressure for just about any vehicle on the road. If it drops below 30psi, you’ll see your fuel economy take a hit. Also, don’t inflate your tires to the suggested pressure printed on the sidewall — that number is usually WAY too high.

4) Don’t drop your tailgate.

Here’s another believe it or not — dropping or removing your trucks tailgate *hurts* your fuel economy. The Canadian government sponsored a study — you can read it for yourself or just believe us when we tell you to leave your tailgate in the “locked, upright position”.

5) Stay up on normal maintenance.

Not that you shouldn’t be doing this anyways, but having a clean air cleaner, oil that’s been changed within the last 5,000 miles, and making sure your check engine light is off are all great ways to save fuel. Nuff said.

6) Look for excess weight you can remove.

Are you still hauling around tires or sandbags from last winter? What about all the “stuff” that’s in the back seat or pickup bed? None of it may seem significant, but a few items can quickly add up. Eliminating an extra 100 pounds of “junk” in your car can improve your fuel economy 1-2%. Not a lot, but every bit counts. Finally, consider telling your spouse to loose weight to help with fuel economy.

7) Make fewer trips that are longer in length.

Your engine doesn’t reach peak efficiency until it’s had enough time to warm up — typically about 15 minutes. If you can take all your short errands and string them together to form one super-errand, your engine will operate more efficiently during the majority of your trip.

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