July, 2010

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2011 Toyota Tacoma Gets New TX Limited-Edition Option Packages

Friday, July 30th, 2010
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Toyota Tacoma, the best-selling small truck in the U.S. has two new limited-edition trim packages for the 2011 model— both based on the Tacoma TX project vehicle shown at last year’s SEMA Show. tacoma tx

The T|X and T|X Pro packages build upon the Tacoma’s current Off-Road Package by adding new wheels, exhaust and appearance items from Toyota Racing Development’s accessory catalog. Accessory packaging is extremely popular with Tacoma owners.

T|X stands for “Tacoma | Extreme.”

The standard TRD Off-Road Package, at the foundation of both T|X editions, includes an electronic locking rear differential, progressive-rate front springs, specially tuned Bilstein shock absorbers, a 28 mm front stabilizer bar and BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires. In addition the TRD Off-Road Package includes a 400-watt/115-volt power point in the bed, sport seats with adjustable lumbar support and unique fabric, plus an overhead console with a compass and outside temperature display.

The Base T|X trim adds beefy TRD 16-inch black alloy bead-lock wheels and 265/70R16 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires for extra capability off-road over the standard TRD Tacoma. It also features black tube side steps, a stainless-steel exhaust tip and unique exterior graphics. The MSRP of the T|X Package is $1,699, a savings of $754 compared with the package items ordered as separate options.

The T|X Pro Package adds performance flare with a TRD cat-back performance exhaust system that gives the Tacoma’s 4.0-liter V-6 a deeper note and slightly more power. Also priced at an MSRP of $1,699, the T|X Pro Package represents a savings of $720 compared with the package contents added as separate accessories.

Ordering for the 2011 Tacoma T|X Pro Package will begin in July, and the T|X Package will launch two months later in September.

In an unrelated announcement yet occurring at the same time, Toyota sources reveal that the 2.7 four-cylinder version of the  4Runner is being discontinued after just one model year. The main reason for the drop is the extremely low purchase rate, with the V-6 model accounting for well over 90 percent of 4Runner sales. One key reason could be that there is very little difference in gas mileage performance between the 4 and 6 cylinder engines.

TOYOTA FT-86 SPORTS CAR ON TIME FOR FALL 2011 LAUNCH

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
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According to a recent report, the Toyota FT-86 is on schedule for a November 2011 launch date. Recent rumors suggested that the car might be delayed until 2013.Toyota-FT-86-Concept-3-450

Speaking recently, Toyota’s Dr. Shigeyuki Hori and Kazuo Okino reaffirmed the company’s intention to launch the car as planned in November 2011. While neither would go into a lot of detail, they revealed the production version is nearly 50% complete and the mid-level model is targeted to have a price of  approximately $28,610.

As for what the car will look like, Okino commented that the styling would closely resemble the concept. There will be minor modifications, but the overall shape will remain the same.

In case you don’t remember, the FT-86 concept debuted at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show. It featured a Subaru 2.0-liter Boxer engine, a six-speed manual transmission, ADVICS brakes, and rear-wheel drive.

TOYOTA IS CONFIDENTLY PLANNING ALL NEW TUNDRA

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
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The 2007-10 Toyota Tundra hasn’t been quite the success that Toyota envisioned, that is over taking the Ford F-150, but that doesn’t mean the automaker is ready to give up on its half-ton hauler. There are sources reporting that Toyota is confidently planning a thorough redesign of the Tundra. tundra truck

The current Tundra was designed from the ground up to compete with full-size pickups from Chrysler, Ford and GM. On paper, the story was compelling. The Tundra featured a strong 5.7-liter V-8, could tow up to 10,800 pounds and was available in regular, extended-cab and crew-cab configurations.

Toyota was so confident in the strength of its new truck and the American truck market that it invested more than $1 billion to build a dedicated assembly plant in Texas with the capacity to build 200,000 Tundras a year in addition to a second Tundra factory in Indiana that could produce 100,000 annually.

The Tundra is in fact a great truck and came close to meeting its annual sales goals of 200,000 trucks per year in the first year but  missed each year since, suffering from the effects of both a terrible economy and a media onslaught over alleged quality and safety issues. About 460,000 Tundras have been built since 2007, and less than 80,000 were sold in 2009, a bad economic year.

In light of tough new fuel-economy rules set to take effect by 2016. some have wondered will Toyota continue to invest in the Tundra?

Sources say that indeed the next Tundra will arrive by 2014, just in time to take on all-new full-size light-duty pickups expected from GM, Nissan and Ford. That time period is looking like it will be a replay of 2007-08, which also had a fast cadence of new half-ton introductions.

But while Toyota is keeping the faith in Tundra, at least for one more generation, the Japanese automaker is said to be phasing out the Toyota Sequoia full-size SUV that’s based on the Tundra platform. We hear the big people-mover will be killed at the end of this life cycle.

MORE TOWING TERMS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Saturday, July 17th, 2010
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If you own a Tundra, Tacoma, Fj Cruiser, 4Runner, or other make here is another brief tutorial of Towing Terms you will want to know.

Ball height – Measurements from the ground to the center of the hitch ball on the tow vehicle and to the center of the hitch-ball coupling on the trailer when the tongue is level with the ground.

Ball mount – Part of the receiver hitch system that supports the hitch ball.

Brake controller – Electronic device that applies power to the trailer’s electric brakes in proportion to the tow vehicle’s deceleration.

Breakaway switch – Safety device that automatically activates the trailer brakes should the trailer become disconnected from the tow vehicle.

Bunk trailer – Type of boat trailer that uses flat rails to support the boat.

Fifth-wheel hitch – Trailer coupling device mounted over the rear axle in the cargo bed. It’s so named because of the wheel-shaped hitch plate.

Gooseneck – Type of trailer with a long pivoted coupling arm that is attached to a large ball mount in the pickup bed. Gooseneck trailers usually can make tighter turns than a fifth-wheel trailer.

GCWR – Stands for Gross Combined Weight Rating. This is the manufacturer’s maximum allowable total weight of a towing vehicle plus a loaded trailer. The actual gross combined weight of a fully loaded towing vehicle and gross trailer weight must not exceed the GCWR.

Hitch ball – The sphere-shaped attachment point between the coupler on the trailer and the hitch.

Hydraulic surge brake – Type of brake used on boat trailers. It features a self-contained hydraulic system and lever-action coupler that activates the brakes when the tow vehicle decelerates.
 
Receiver hitch – Hitch design where a receiver subframe is attached to the vehicle frame. The hitch features a square opening that “receives” and secures the ball mount.

Roller trailer – Type of boat trailer that uses self-centering roller assemblies to support the boat.

Safety chains – Set of heavy-duty chains designed to help keep the trailer close to the tow vehicle if there is a hitch failure.

Shank – The removable portion of the hitch system that supports the hitch ball or adjustable ball mount. Also called hitch bar, drawbar, insert or stinger.

Spring bar – Critical part of the weight-distributing hitch system. When adjusted properly, spring bars act like handles of a wheelbarrow and transfer hitch weight to the vehicle and trailer axles.

Sway control – There are two types: mechanical and electronic. Mechanical includes friction or cam-action devices designed for the trailer to dampen yaw or fishtailing. The electronic version is a program in the vehicle’s stability control system that detects trailer yaw and applies pressure on selective brakes to help reduce the trailer sway.

Tongue weight – Weight of the trailer that rests directly on the hitch ball. May also be called hitch weight. Recommended tongue weight is about 10% of the trailer weight for conventional hitches and up to 25% of the trailer weight for fifth-wheel and gooseneck hitches.
 
Tow rating – Vehicle manufacturer’s maximum allowable trailer weight.

Weight carrying hitch – Type of hitch system where the entire tongue weight of the trailer is supported by the hitch ball and transferred to the rear axle of the tow vehicle.

Weight distributing hitch – Type of hitch system that uses spring bars to spread a portion of the trailer tongue weight to all the axles of the tow vehicle and trailer.

TOYOTA ELECTRIC RAV4 AND TOYOTA ELECTRIC SPORTS CAR IN WORKS

Friday, July 16th, 2010
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Toyota Motor Corp. and its Silicon Valley partner Tesla Motors Inc. will develop an electric version of Toyota’s popular RAV4 SUV.

The two companies will work on prototypes combining the RAV4 model with a Tesla electric powertrain and expect to sell it in the United States in 2012, Tesla said.

It said a first prototype already has been produced.

Motor Trend is also reporting that Toyota is hard at work on a fully electric supercar. If there’s any truth to this report, it is said that Toyota President Akio Toyoda was so impressed after a spin in Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster that he immediately green-lit a feasibility study into the electric supercar project.

“Tesla’s goal is to produce increasingly affordable electric cars for mainstream buyers — relentlessly driving down the cost of EVs,” the company said in a statement.

Tesla now sells an electric roadster priced at just over $100,000, while Toyota is a leader in gas-electric hybrid vehicles and also plans to sell electric cars.

The two companies announced in May that they would team up to develop electric cars

EARLY TESTS PIN TOYOTA ACCIDENTS ON DRIVERS

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
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The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that the throttles were wide open and the brakes weren’t engaged at the time of the crash.
driver error

According to the Wall Street Journal, the early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes. The findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) involve a sample of the reports in which a driver of a Toyota vehicle said the brakes were depressed but failed to stop the car from accelerating and ultimately crashing.

The findings appear to support Toyota’s position that sudden-acceleration reports involving its vehicles weren’t caused by electronic glitches in computer-controlled throttle systems, as some safety advocates and plaintiffs’ attorneys have alleged.

The data recorders analyzed by NHTSA were selected by the agency, not Toyota, based on complaints the drivers had filed with the government. Toyota hasn’t been involved in interpreting the data.

ALABAMA ENGINEER TACKLES PRIUS BRAKE ISSUES AND DISCOVERS POTHOLES

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
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It Looks like a network engineer in Huntsville, Alabama who owns two Prius Hybrid Cars has by-passed all the emotional media hype and applied an engineering scientific method approach to solving the Prius Braking Issues.

On Christmas Eve 2009, a new PriusChat community user on Yahoo pointed to the article “NHTSA Tracking Braking Loss on Prius Hybrids,” which first raised the issue of a problem with the Prius braking system. It stated there were at least “33 complaints” out of 100,000 new model, 2010 Prius cars. Owners were wondering what was going on.

The reaction within the Prius community ranged from “What brake problem?” to “It’s a scary safety issue.” So taking the classic engineering approach, this engineer along with associates set out to gather more data, starting with a survey of Prius owners to find out the extent to which they had experienced the problem. The survey revealed that owners of both the 2009 and 2010 models had experienced intermittent braking problems:prius survey chart

PRIUS SURVEY CHART

Continuing the investigation, questions were asked about details and conditions under which Prius owners had experienced a braking problem. Soon, there were dozens of photos that clearly implicated potholes. The photo montage also revealed the truly awful state of roads across North America.

 Pothole1A

pothole2 PICTURES

Through the results, four common elements were discovered of every situation in which a braking problem occurred: a road imperfection or significant bump; (2) winter or wet conditions; (3) slow speed, and; (4) gentle or moderate braking. Most of the reports were from Northern latitudes (where winter brings a bumper crop of potholes), which also might explain why a resident of Northern Alabama, had not experienced the braking problem…

The PriusChat community proposed that the combined elements of slow speed and gentle braking pointed to a transition between regenerative and mechanical braking. The Prius uses the electric motor as a generator when stopping to charge the traction battery. As the car slows down the brake computer has to transition seamlessly to mechanical braking. Reviewing the brake section of “2010 Toyota Repair Manual, Volume 2” (RM1291U2), references pointed to a “30 km/h (19 mph) to 0 km/h” (pp BC-85, BC-87) critical speed range. Unfortunately, feedback from the users was qualitative and lacked precise engineering units, which was the precise data we needed for our investigation.

Realizing some true field testing was needed, the engineering team ordered two Gulf Coast Data Concepts‘ accelerometers (one for an owner in Michigan who frequently experienced the problem) and the other for local testing on a Prius in Alabama.

The first morning of testing with the accelerometer in Alabama was perfect–wet and drizzly. Approaching two rows of speed bumps at a badge check gate at a work facility, it happened: The car ‘slipped’ just after the first speed bump. Knowing 19 mph was a critical speed, the Prius was slowed to just under 20 mph before hitting the first bump. As shown in the chart below, the accelerometer captured a momentary ‘slip and slide’ sensation at that instant.

Clearly the braking force, Ax, went to zero after the speed bump. The integrated velocity curve, V, shows an 800 milliseconds flat line before the braking force resumed. We finally had the brake anomaly, a pause, documented with engineering units.  Meanwhile, about this time Toyota had a new release of the brake control software added to the Prius production line and announced a recall program, SSC-A0B. Regardless, we could use this protocol to validate the fix.

Ten days later after the fix and under similar conditions the accelerometer showed the problem gone:

prius graph2

The key steps in our investigation were to:

  • Solicit user reports looking for patterns – intermittent problems often seem to hover around a few and are missed by many. We needed to capture as many descriptions with as much detail as possible to find a way to reproduce the problem at will.
  • Understand the systems – we found boundary conditions in the braking system. Knowing 19 mph was a threshold speed, we focused our efforts in this range.
  • Convert intermittent to reproducible problem – as soon as the problem is reproducible at will, experiments can map the boundary conditions.
  • Quantify the problem – add instrumentation to convert imprecise text into engineering units
  • Validate the fix – using the problem protocol, test to validate the fix.

Toyota’s fix, SSC-A0B, solves the vast majority of these intermittent, slow-speed, momentary, brake pauses. But often one intermittent problem can mask a less frequent problem. After eliminating incompletely applied patches, there remain scattered reports of another braking anomaly, and investigations continue.

Robert J Wilson is a network engineer in Huntsville, AL.
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

DISTRACTIONS WHILE DRIVING CAUSE ACCIDENTS AND INJURY

Sunday, July 11th, 2010
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Being distracted while driving is extremely dangerous and can cause acccidents, personal injury and property damage.distracted driving

Drivers who use hand-held devices such as I-phones or I-pods are four times as likely to get into crashes that result in injuries both to themselves and others. What about the hands-free set-ups? Well, even multi-tasking with them while driving could cause a serious mishap.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation there are three main types of distractions:

  • Visual- taking your eyes of the road
  • Manual- taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive- taking your mind off what you are doing

Distracted driving isn’t just about phone calls or texting. There are other activities that take your attention away from traffic leading to accidents. Here are some examples:

  • Adjusting a navigation system
  • Eating
  • Grooming
  • Reading
  • Retrieving a dropped item

Nearly half the U.S. States have restrictions against activities that cause driving distractions. Some states ban phone use in construction zones and school zones. Others place restrictions on novice drivers and operators of commercial vehicles including large trucks and school buses. You can research the laws in your state by visiting www.distraction.gov.

So, the next time you reach for the phone or i-pod while driving, answer this question: Is This Call Or Song Important Enough To Risk Hurting Someone, Or Can It Wait?…

COULD 200,000 MILES ODOMETER BE THE NEW 100,000 MILES?

Sunday, July 11th, 2010
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Is 200,000 Miles On the Odometer the New 100,000 Miles?… Catch Phrases, Don’t you just love them, “Can You Hear Me Now?”, “What’s In Your Wallet?”, ‘Get My Ducks in A Row”, “60 Is The New 40!,…And now this, “200,000 Miles Is The New 100,000 Miles On A Car”. The meaning here of course is that some of the cars we have today will go 200,000 miles before any significant maintenance issues occur.200,000 mile odometer

 This certainly is a real possibility for the millions of Toyota drivers out there. In most cases with proper minimum maintenance, that 200,000 mile Toyota has another 100,000 miles in it or more before anything big might occur. Check out the 2005 600,000 mile Corolla.

Not so long ago, people counted themselves lucky if their car made it 100,000 miles before it gave out. As late as the 1980s and 1990s, many odometers didn’t even carry enough digits to handle 100k. Years before that people would say that they needed to trade when their car had 40,000 miles on it.

But in the spirit of  “60 is the new 40”, it could be said that 200,000 miles is the new 100,000 miles odometer… primarily due to improvements in quality.

Drivers are beginning to take ownership of this proposition. Statistical studies and a growing number of “high mileage” car clubs cropping up around the country support the idea.

Adding to this growing phenomenon is the fact that 80% of all Toyota vehicles produced over the past 20 years are on the road! What makes Toyota cars so reliable and popular ? It’s a winning combination of affordability, reliability and brand perception. These vehicles consistently deliver great trouble free value over a long period of time in a package that people want providing the best overall value in terms of total cost of ownership.

Toyota not only is a major contributor to extended odometer life, but the company is also extending customer base at the other end. Last year, the “Cash for Clunkers” program, designed to boost auto sales and get gas-guzzling vehicles off the road, showed that the typical vehicle turned in under the program was 14 years old and averaged 160,000 miles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It took a bonus of $3,500 to $4,500 to persuade owners to turn these vehicles in…

And What Did These Owners Replace Their “Clunker” With?  Toyota,… With The Highest Market Share At Nearly 20%!

To some extent, though, tough economic conditions are leading consumers to hang onto their cars longer. But the trend was underway well before the downturn. Average vehicle age has climbed steadily for a decade, going from 8.8 years in 1999 to 10.6 years late last year. Longer warranties, financing contracts, and the high reliabilities of Toyota are key factors behind the trend.

Most owners would rather not drive their vehicles into oblivion, of course. The average driver keeps a new vehicle nearly 6 years — up from about four and one-half years in 2002, according to R.L. Polk figures. Then it is sold once or twice, on average, over its lifetime.

Even if owners aren’t out to set mileage records, careful adherence to maintenance schedules pays off in a higher resale value and higher probability of the vehicle being in good condition up to 200,000 miles or higher.

TOWING AND PAYLOAD TERMS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Friday, July 9th, 2010
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If you are one who usues your truck or SUV for both work and pleasure you certainly may want to know your vehicle’s Payload and Towing capacities. Payload and Towing concepts are important concepts for truck and recreational users. If you own a Tundra, Tacoma, Fj Cruiser, 4Runner, or other make here is a brief tutorial of Payload and Towing Terms you will want to know.
 
CURB WEIGHT
– Weight of empty truck
 – Standard equipment includes tools, spare tire
 – Full of fuel, fluids and lubricants
 
 PAYLOAD
– People
– Optional equipment
– Cargo
– Tongue weight (if towing) 10-15% total weight, trailer, cargo being towed
 
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT(GVW)
– Curb weight
– Payload
– Tongue weight(if towing)
 
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING(GVWR)
– Maximum GVW allowed
– Set by manufacturer
– Must be equal to or higher than the GVW
– Do Not Exceed GVWR
 
TOWING WEIGHT
– Weight of trailer
– weight of all trailer content
 
MAXIMUM TOWING CAPACITY
– Set by manufacturer
– Maximum weight of traileer and contents
– Towing weight must be less than or equal
   to towing capacity
 
TONGUE WEIGHT
– Weight pressing down on trailer hitch
– 10 to 15% of towing weight
– Hitches:
– Weight carrying
– Weight distributing
– 5th wheel (20-25% of trailer weight)
( To measure trailer tongue weight, place the tongue
of the trailer on a scale when the trailer is not attached to the vehicle)
 
GROSS COMBINED WEIGHT(GCW)
– Curb weight
– Payload (with tongue weight added)
– Trailer (minus tongue weight)
– GCW Not To Exceed (GCWR)
 
GROSS COMBINED WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
– Set by manufacturer
– Maximum GCW

WHO DRIVES SAFER, MEN OR WOMEN?

Monday, July 5th, 2010
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Who Drives safer and more carefully behind the wheel,..A Man or A Woman? The answer: it depends on each individual, but overall findings don’t speak well for the guys…It appears you’re better off with a woman behind the wheel.professional-man-and-woman

A series of articles published recently in the  NY Times support that men are more likely to ignore traffic laws and loose emotional control.

  • Men are three times more likely to honk their horns.
  • More likely to “rudely gesture at or verbally abuse other drivers. and
  • More likely to be involved in tragic, massive accidents (on the road and off).

Wow! It sure looks like we the guys need that Toyota  with the Star Safety System and maybe more. This may turn out to be a surprise for some. The data shows that the reason why men tend to break the rules more is an ingrained sense of biology, reaching back to early concepts of male and female roles. The male brain, hard wired to hunt and kill, favored the bold and the brave. The Times piece goes on:

Research data state these behaviors are deeply ingrained. Researchers Leda Cosmides and John Tooby describe our prior existence as “a camping trip that lasted an entire lifetime, and this way of life endured for most of the last 10 million years.” In comparison, the auto arrived a blink of an eye ago, and we have not had time to evolve a new set of behaviors for coping safely behind the wheel. Gee, I didn’t realize I was so closely connected to the caveman…

Today, men are found to drive faster overall, ignore traffic laws more often, take more (and greater) risks and are involved in the majority of fatal crashes around the globe. The data in the Times articles bear this out, although some of the research cited dates as far back as 1986.  

Anecdotal evidence is readily available for both sides. There are a lot of men who will say when they are behind the wheel that their wives are typical critical back seat drivers. On the other hand and on a personal note I recently got a speeding ticket for going 30 mph in a 25 mph zone that was soon after disregarded by the police officer. But when I announced at home that I had gotten a ticket, everyone in the family replied in unison, “What For? Going Too Slow?”…  

Some data shows that there is a  preference for female drivers when taking cabs, car services and airport shuttles.

“Women cab drivers aren’t going to hit on me and they pay attention,” says one female business executive. “In cabs, male drivers are eating or are on the phone a lot of the time. I’m 100 times happier with a woman.”

The good news carries with it no inherent sexual battle, however. According to institutional data, deaths have gone down among both male and female passengers as well as pedestrians and bicyclists.