Prius Mods part 3.2 – DEFA SafeStart WarmUp engine block heater installation

A model wearing infection control goggles
Photographic proof that wearing eye protection does not make you look silly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Epic.  First the epic adventure of sourcing and buying the thing, now comes the fitting.

Step 1. Eye Protection.  When you’re going to be under a car, wear eye protection.  I can’t stand those car restoration shows where no-one wears protective equipment and then someone cops an eyeful.

Step 2. Jack and stands or ramps?  I forgot to collect my ramps from Newcastle when I had the chance on Wednesday.  However, when I looked at a new pair at Repco, I found that I couldn’t drive the car onto them because of the very low front spoiler.  Jack and stands then.

Step 3. Remove the undertray.  If you count the pieces under the bumper, there’s three undertrays to help direct the air under the car.  The two front pieces and held by bolts mostly and the rest by push fasteners.  (When putting it back together, I left the dodgy fasteners near the outside so that it will be easier to replace them.)

You really only need to remove the rear-most undertray.  In fact you could probably install the EBH through the flap that gives access to change the oil.

However, removing all of the undertrays lets you inspect the whole engine bay and see any leaks, etc.  I found a lot of pebbles, rocks and broken glass in mine, but no leaks.

Step 4. Get to the back of the engine to find the rear of the engine block.  The place to fit is almost visible and accessible from either side of the drive-shaft.

Aim between the middle bolt and the exhaust pipe in the centre

Step 5. Offer up the heater and bracket.



Remarkably, the heater was happy to stay hanging in a vertical surface because of its shape.

Step 6. Clean the surfaces.  I just used window cleaner as there was just a bit of dirt.

The ridge that fits the heater is clearly visible. The bracket will attach to the bolt hole in the bottom right corner. Not much cleaning required.

Step 7. Cover the heater with supplied heat sink compound.  PC Overclockers may be shocked to see how much goop I’ve put on, but it will squish a bit.


Step 8. Fit the heater and offer up the bracket without tightening.  The bracket came with a 17mm bolt, however the instructions require reuse of the original bolt; here’s why…

DEFA bolt (left) was 17mm but original with dual-width thread was 14mm. Kincrome nut size tool invaluable

… the original bolt has two threads.  Here’s the finished installation


Tighten the bolt slowly so that you don’t damage the thread.

All that was left was the puzzle of how to wire it up.

A Tribute to Ian Baxter, Mr Baxter and Jackie Baxter

A family studying their genealogy was looking at gravestones in a cemetery.  Inscribed on one was , “Here lies Jock McTavish, a soldier and a pious man”.

“That’s just like the Scots, ” the father said, “They’ve put three men in one grave.”

On Wednesday we paid tribute to three great men in the personage of Ian Baxter.

I’m not very good at estimating crowds, but there were at least 100 people outside the chapel on top of at least 100 within.  And each of those three great men were being commemorated by family, colleagues from Ian’s careers (teachers, principals, wharfies in high-visibility work-wear), his surfing mates and many schoolchildren in uniform.  And I got to speak to Tim Laurie, a great friend of Ian’s and my Year 3 teacher.

Ian was my cousin by marriage to Kathy and father to two boys, Adam and Jon.  There’s a running joke in my family about the size disparity between the Baxters (150-160cm) and me (195cm).  But Ian was a man that we could all look up to.  Adam and Jon both spoke at the service and reminded me of so many things; Adam putting a Vegemite sandwich into Ian’s cassette deck, BBQ in the back yard at New Lambton.

Mr Baxter was a school teacher who started his career with disadvantaged kids and worked his way through to become Principal of Somersby Public School.  After a few Googles I found numerous school newsletters in which he was writing as Assistant Principal, Acting Principal and as Principal.  I also found a notice from Rathmines Public School on 17 May 2012 announcing the news of a secondary cancer on Ian’s liver and a benefit night to be held in his honour in June.  Ian died just one month after the benefit.

I remember the old Nobby’s Beach pavilion spray-painted from one end to the other with,”I want to surf like Jackie Baxter“.  At the time [1980] there was a Paul Kelly & the Dots song “[I want to be like] Billy Baxter”.  It wasn’t until some weeks later when I mentioned it to Ian that his slightly embarrassed reaction gave away that the graffito was about him.  (I just found out who did it, but I’ll never tell.)  Jackie Baxter was an American surfer of the 1960’s and 70’s, so Ian was known as “Jackie” by his mates.

I think that I’ve only been in the water once with Jackie; we surfed at different times and places.  I remember paddling out at the Cowrie Hole as he was on a wave (backside for a goofy-footer).  He spotted a grommet paddling out in the break.  Ian pointed to him and said, “stay there!” to keep him at the bottom of the wave as Ian carved across the top and avoid a collision.

Jackie and his friends were some of the first to surf obscure breaks in Indonesia, years before any Red Bull-liveried jet skis and helicopters where even dreamt of.

Many years ago my friend damaged his surfboard – the leg rope socket had pulled clean out of the side of the board – and Jackie offered to fix it.  Since the board was made from very light fibreglass (too light, in fact), it was a very difficult repair.  Jackie did a brilliant job of fixing the board.  But then he told me how hard it had been to match the resins and how many attempts it took to finally get the repair to hold.  He finished with, “Next time you need a board fixed, hesitate to ask!”

We will all miss him so much.

I’ll leave the last word to Mr Baxter:

“This brings me to the message that I believe is vital to our school community. We work together for the shared goal of educating our children to reach their individual potentials.
To do this effectively, we need to demonstrate a mutual respect and a recognition that both home and school contribute significantly to the growth of our children.”

Ian Baxter, Principal

Canberra to Sydney – Economy Run and Return

With my father convalescing at my sister’s house in Sydney, Chikako and I have visited him the last two weeks.  So I’ve had a few more opportunities to see the effect of various hypermiling techniques and tweaks on fuel consumption (FC).

On 8/07/2012 I did drove the normal run using cruise control set to 114km/h (true 110km/h, officer) some A/C use and a single stop in both directions.  “To” trip was, Federal Highway, Hume Highway, M5, Southern Cross Drive, park near Hyde Park, some shopping in the city and then up the Pacific Highway.  Return was from Fox Valley Way, Pennant Hills Road, M2, M7, Hume, Federal, home.  The numbers were 613.7km at 4.6l/100km (corrected to 4.9l/100km based on 6.5% HSI error) at an average speed of 86km/h.

Since then I replaced the slowly-leaking and basically bald OEM Bridgestone B250 tyre (77,000km ain’t bad, but a nail ain’t good) and one of the Ovation ecovision VI-682 black round things with 2 Bridgestone ecopia PZ-X tyres.  I also started using 91 RON fuel.

TOP TIP: Extensive testing by Prius owners has confirmed that anything above 91 RON (or 87 AKI in USA) is a waste of money and often brings higher FC.

Then on Friday 20 July I had an 80,000km service, which is the major service interval for the Prius.  I immediately saw an astonishing difference in FC. See below for details

Driving to Sydney and back brings a different set of challengers for hypermiling.  For a start, Pulse and Glide techniques don’t seem to be applicable when you need to maintain 110km/h for a few hours.  To recap, in May 2012 I stuck with Cruise Control at 114km/h indicated, but then tried a few new ideas.  If I changed to PWR mode before steep hills, my speed didn’t drop so much on the way up.  This avoided the sudden acceleration that happens in ECO mode as the speed drops way below the set value and the Prius delivers an almighty application of everything in its arsenal. PWR mode seemed to reduce FC on very steep hills by maintaining momentum and gradually increasing the throttle.  for example, the very steep climb from the Towrang intersection maxed at 15.5l/100km in PWR mode compared to 17l/100km in ECO mode.

On Saturday 21/7 we were in no hurry to reach Northern Sydney, so the first thing was to not use the cruise control to try a little experiment.  (I set it at 114km/h but cancelled it so that I could resume as a fall-back position.)  The second thing was to forget any notion of maintaining a steady speed up a hill but instead maintain a steady pedal pressure without touching the PWR zone on the HSI.  This takes some forethought: If a car was approaching at speed I flashed my right indicator to invite them to pass and I had to be careful not to squeeze cars entering the highway.  There’s not many slow vehicle lanes on the highway except on the steepest hills.  On the climb out of Towrang intersection I only reached 9.5l/100km, compared to cruise controlled 15.5l/100km in PWR mode and 17l/100km in ECO mode.

It was a -4°c start.  I’ve recently confirmed that the coldest part of the garage, which is near the back of the car where the HV battery lives, bottoms out at 5°c even on long, cold nights.  Unfortunately, I haven’t fitted my engine heater, so it was chilly to start.  When I entered the Federal Highway the coolant was only at 60°c.

The route was Federal Highway, Hume Highway, M7, M2 to the turn-off at Pacific Highway Chatswood and then to Chatswood shops.  There was a few kilometres of road work on the Hume and the M2 was almost entirely under renovation.  While 60km/h zones can help FC, that’s more than offset by the rough road surface, twists and turns and lack of momentum in hills that are normally taken at 90km/h.

To my astonishment the FC figures were very good for the whole journey.  Canberra to the Mobil at Pheasants Nest returned 195.7km 4.1l/100km (4.36l/100km corrected, 64.8 mpg(Imp) 54.2 mpg(US) 22.94km/l) at 95km/h.  Pheasants Nest is about 290m ASL, so there’s still some descending to do.

Even more surprising was completing the trip to Chatswood: 304.2km, 3.9l/100km (4.1l/100km corrected, 68.9 mpg(Imp), 57.6 mpg(US) 24.39km/l) at an average of 90km/h.  (See the new blog header) The 107.4km leg from Pheasants Nest to Chatswood used 4.09l at 3.8l/100km (72.4 mpg(Imp), 60.6mpg(US), 25.6km/l) according to the Garmin ecoroute HD.

Eventually I rolled into Turramurra 318.1, 3.9l/100km (4.1 corrected) at an average speed of 77km/h (the traffic from Chatswood was fierce.)

Return was a similarly relaxed affair.  Remember, Canberra is 600m ASL and there’s several 750m peaks in the Southern Highlands.  This is where the passive hill-climbing technique became interesting.  On a particularly long, steep hill I dropped from 110km/h to almost 70km/h.  Fortunately there was a slow vehicles lane to retreat to so the other cars had two lanes to overtake.

Turramurra to Marulan was 186.8km 4.8l/100km at 88km/h.  ecoroute HD read 185km at 5.0l/100km with 9.3l of petrol used.

After 815km I put 38.02l of BP 91 RON for a tank average of 4.66l/100km.  Considering the amount of climbing to get to Marulan at 640m ASL, that’s starting to look pretty good.  The leg from Marulan to Home was 114.1km, 4.5l/100km at 95km/h (ecoroute HD 113.1km, 4.7l/100km, 5.31l used).

So, the round trip on Saturday 21/7/2012 was 619km at a corrected 4.56l/100km (62 mpg(Imp) 51.8 mpg(US) 21.93km/l).  That compared well against Sunday 8/7/2012, which was 613.7km at a corrected 4.9l/100km (57.6mpg(Imp) 48.2mpg(US) 20.4km/l).

Unfortunately I introduced too many variables (new tyres, major service, 91 RON, new driving techniques) to pinpoint which had the greatest effect on FC.  The only one I’m uncertain of is the 91 RON petrol, but since it is 10-20¢ per litre cheaper than 95 RON I could afford to increase FC by almost 10% and still be in front.

My next trick will be to run well beyond the zero on the very conservative “Distance to Empty” reading to see if I can join the 600 mile club (965.4km) on one tank.  Considering that the tank is 45l but the most I’ve squeezed in is 38.02l, that should be easy with another 7 untapped litres!  But I’ll take 5 litres spare just in case.

The one “Dad story” you are thankful your dad can tell you

We had a bit of a fright a few weeks ago when Dad had what now appears to be a warning shot-across-the-bow heart attack.  Without going into detail, Dad realised that something was wrong and immediately called 000.  By the time he gave his address (which took a few goes) hung up the phone and switched on the front light, the ambulance had arrived.

If nothing else, take this message: Ring an ambulance as soon as you have any symptoms.

Dad’s symptoms starting with burping continually as he laid down in bed.  As I know my dad, burping would not rate highly as an abnormal symptom.  But when he sat upright, the annoyance of burping was replaced by the frightening experience of breathlessness.

So the weekend before last I listened to my father tell the story.  (I had heard it from my sister, told the same way so I can tell that Dad didn’t add or remove any detail.)  From the first belch to being picked up by my sister a week later, I hung on every word.  There wasn’t much about the story that I didn’t know: the flat battery in the cordless phone by the bed, given a sugary cup of tea at the hospital despite wearing a Medic Alert bracelet with “DIABETES” stamped on it, the dinner kept waiting for his arrival at the private hospital, the vastly inferior room at the private hospital compared to the ocean views at the previous public hospital, Dad’s jokes to the hospital staff and so on.  Every word.

At the end of this Dad story I thanked him for being there to tell it to me.

Here’s a photo from yesterday; just a few days after his first operation to insert stents for 2 of the three blockages.


Best fuel economy mod? Try a major service

The Prius major service occurs at 80,000km.  That seems a bit early compared to 90-120,000km major service on my previous cars.  One big difference is that I didn’t have to replace the water pump and timing belt.  The Prius has a timing chain and there’s no set interval to replace it, just like old V8s.

Instead the parts to be replaced were fuel filter, including in-tank fuel filter, oil and filter and brake fluid.  I’m slightly concerned that they used 10W-30 instead of 0W-20 oil considering how cold it has been and will continue to be.  But at least the car got a proper service and now I’m starting to see fuel consumption in the threes.

Drove from home to Civic tonight on a warm engine.  At the intersection of Northbourne and Antill Streets the HSI read 9.1km 2.8l/100km average speed 50km/h.  That’s 100.9mpg(UK), 84.4mpg(US) and 35.7km/l.  I reached Civic at 2.9l/100km and the round trip settled at 3.4l/100km.  That is 1l/100km better than several comparable trips I’ve taken in a warmed car on a Friday night.

Clockwise from bottom right: From home; at Civic; return journey via different route

It’s no surprise that a major service should restore some vigour to the car.  But since the change (on a sample size n=1) is so great… how was the car treated before I got it?!?

Prius mods part 3.1 – DEFA Engine Block Heater

Finally. After several weeks of postage (preceded by a month or two of umming and ahhing) I received the DEFA SafeStart engine block heater (EBH) I’ve been waiting for.

To recap, an EBH attaches to the engine and is plugged into the mains. Some designs attach to the oil sump or sit inline to a coolant hose. Originally used in extreme cold conditions to allow an engine to start at all, EBH are now being promoted to improve fuel consumption and emissions. For the Prius the particular advantage is that the car can move to a higher “stage” faster and therefore reach efficient operation sooner.

DEFA SafeStart engine heater, connection kit and loads of catalogues

Package arrived with two thick catalogues full of Waeco camping and car accessories. In total the cost was 214.45 EUR or about AUD280 at the time. (I wonder how much cheaper the 55 EUR postage would have been without those books? At least I didn’t have to pay 19% sales tax in Germany!) Since Waeco in Australia is synonymous with travel fridges and seat coolers, you can see why I couldn’t buy an engine heater from them and had to import one instead.

The parts list includes the EBH, connecting cables, brackets etc. and is very neatly presented.

DEFA SafeStart and PlugIn for Prius – Clockwise from top right: 5m lead; bracket and heatsink compound; engine heater; power cable with weather-proof connector, connector brackets; CEE 7/7 plug to AS/NZS 3112 adapter model’s own

You can possibly see how it all connects from the photo above: the EBH plugs into one end of the black lead. At the other end is a weatherproof socket that attaches to the grille or bumper; somewhat like a caravan socket. The green lead connects from the socket to the mains.

Toyota Canada market and fit their own EBH for a mere CAD249 on new Toyotas, though the same basic unit is available from PriusChat for USD59. The EBH is about the size of a lipstick and fits snugly within a hole in the engine block and runs at 120V 400W.

The DEFA SafeStart runs at 230V 300W, is much larger (100mm x 48mm and 40mm deep) and clamps to the engine. The instructions aren’t entirely clear on where it clamps, so I’ll be translating the various languages in the single paragraph to get clearer directions.

The installation process will need to wait until I have a good look.

Prius mods part 2 – tyres

When I bought My Red Prius (I really should think of a name) I should have paid more attention to the tyres. As the car had just come off lease, someone realised that they couldn’t hand back the car with bald tyres. So they replaced 3, leaving the barely legal OEM tyre on the back like a dog with a limp.
As if that wasn’t bad enough form, they chose was a brand I had never heard of before; Ovation ecovision VI-682 to be precise. I put some 10,000km on the tyres and I can say that was generous when they awarded 45/100 for wet cornering. They may be OK in a straight line but even the Prius can overwhelm the tyres on a damp road. And any credentials they may suggest for low rolling resistance (LRR) are sketchy at best. Since the OEM Bridgestone B250 is not a LRR tyre, perhaps I’m just being a bit fussy. To replace the leaky Bridgestone, I realised that buying 1 tyre was not on the cards.
As luck would have it, Bridgestone had just released the ecopia PZ-X in Australia to join the EP100 and EP150. The PZ-X is a premium touring tyre, but delivers even better fuel consumption then the cheaper ecopias. I’ve been reading about them in Japanese Prius magazines and on (I say “read”, I mean “look at the pretty pictures while running the page through babelfish”) but Australia only had the EP100, admittedly with Planet Ark endorsement no less.
Not wanting to throw away a fairly new set of tyres, I just bought 2 for the front axle to provide some grip in the wet.
Almost regret not getting 4. The ride is so much more comfortable, quiet and dare I say fuel efficient? And the ecopia PZ-X will take 60 psi against the 44psi max for the Ovations. I’ll be putting 42psi in the front again and reporting on fuel consumption shortly.
Here’s more information, including a video from Ed Ordynski that demonstrates what a LRR tyre can do.

Prius mods part 1 – Headlamps

Barely worth mentioning, but I bought a pair of the trusty Philips BlueVision bulbs for “My Red Prius”. Trying to buy H11 bulbs is a nightmare. It was hard enough buying H7 with my old European cars. Apparently the Mazda 3 is using the same bulbs and the plug seems to be a more durable, sealed connection so perhaps they will become more popular soon.
My Red Prius goes in for its 80,000km service next Friday so I might ask them to align the headlights then.