12 Volt battery woes – Part 2

Having an indicator to show the charge level of the battery has been a boon.  However, its location is not very convenient.  In order to charge the battery I had to open the hatch and keep it from closing while the charger was plugged in.  It was not easy to position the charger.

Another trip to Battery World at Phillip to pick up a CTEK COMFORT INDICATOR PANEL M8.  I chose the model with the 3.3m leads so that I could fit it into the dashboard near the steering wheel.  Convenient to see the charge level and convenient to plug in the charger.

The battery is on the right rear behind the back wheel.  So it was a straight and fairly easy run along the sill to the dash.  Using my Kinchrome Panel Removal levers I popped off the plastic sill covers; from the front, the driver’s side kick panel (held to the firewall with a plastic nut), the front and rear sills and the B pillar cover.  I lifted the panel that includes the HV battery vent, but I didn’t have to remove it; it was sufficient to see where the metal clip for the rear seat was.

Note: The B pillar cover is a bit tricky.  Tip: Remove the cover from the seat belt bolt and then push the seat belt down until the bolt fitting is pointing to the floor.  Then you can pull out the B pillar cover over the bolt.

The sills on the right hand side contain the 12 volt battery cables in one clip and the rear window washer fluid pipe in another.  There’s enough room between those clips for the cable to sit snugly.  The cable routing from the rear door sill to the battery takes some trial and error, but there is a safe path.

First problem – the panel

The panel is larger than the Toyota standard.  There’s a 1.5 mm ridge around the opening and the CTEK panel would not fit.  And I had to fit it first before I could run the cable.

There wasn’t much in it.  I took a sharp hacksaw and cut into the corners.  Then I cut away only the bottom and left ridges.  This was enough to allow a tight fit and avoid more cuts that could have damaged wires behind the dash.

With a bit of fettling I found a cable path that was neat.

Second problem – not enough cable

Too short, very annoying
3.3 m is not enough

Annoying.  3.3 m should have been plenty, but it was 10 cm short.  No amount of fiddling would make it reach.  I had an idea to retain the original cable intact and create 2 cables to join it to the battery.  However, I didn’t want the fuse holder to be inaccessible under a panel.

So I spliced some heavy gauge wire into the cable.  And then connected the eyelets to the battery terminals.

Crimped, not spliced, strictly-speaking
Crimped, not spliced, strictly-speaking

Replacing the panels was straightforward.

The Comfort Indicator Panel’s traffic light system differs slightly from the Comfort Indicator Eyelet as green is 100%-90%, yellow from 90%-40%  and red for below 40% charge.

The beauty is that I can plug in the battery charger much easier.

You couldn't tell that it wasn't original
You couldn’t tell that it wasn’t original
IMG_1036
CTEK charger plugged in securely through the driver’s window.
Ridge in the panel openings visible in the upper left

Very convenient and easy to use and only slightly more effort than I had hoped.

And I still haven’t found (or looked for) the drain.

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1132.5km on 45.17L – But is it enough?

1132.5km at 44km/h.  A shame that the 3.7 l/100km figure is so unreliable.
1132.5km at 44km/h. A shame that the 3.7 l/100km figure is so unreliable.

I should be very happy.

  • I’ve just registered my best fuel consumption result of 3.99L/100km.  That’s 70.8 mpg Imp, 58.9 mpg US and 25.06 km/L.
  • First dot lasted 177 km
  • Fuel warning beep at 903.3 km
  • DTE = 0 at c. 960 km, driving another 170 km.
  • My last 553.7 km was at 3.5 L/100km (3.7 corrected 63.5 mpg US) and 45 km/h

I’m sad because I was aiming to drive 700 miles (1126.5 km) on a single 45 L tank and I’m not sure if I made it within any margin of error.

Continue reading “1132.5km on 45.17L – But is it enough?”

12 Volt battery woes – Part 1

Two weekends in a row I had to get a jump-start from the Allianz roadside assist.  Either the less-than-1-year-old battery is on its last legs or the something is quickly draining the battery.

Unfortunately it is not easy to analyse the battery using the otherwise sophisticated piece of kit because it isn’t easy to rev or idle in a Prius.  The results of the test were inconclusive.  The Prius does not have an alternator to charge the battery, it uses the HV battery to do that with the HV battery in turn being charged by the small Motor/Generator (MG1).  So the fact that the battery is charging when the car is running doesn’t tell you anything.

So, out to Battery World at Phillip for a battery check and to discuss options.  Their testing suggested that the battery was in very good shape.  So rather than buy a new Optima Yellow Top for $385, I purchased a spiffy CTEK MXS 5.0 battery charger and because the battery is tucked away a bit, I bought a delightfully-named Comfort Indicator Eyelet M6.  Once again Scandinavia comes to the rescue.

The CTEK MXS 5.0 has 4 programs and 8 phases to cover small, large and almost dead batteries.  There’s a special setting for very cold conditions, which I might have to use in Winter.

CTEK MXS 5.0 battery charger.  Does your battery charger have that many lights?  Didn’t think so.

Since the charging current doesn’t get above 4 amps on the normal program, I could charge the battery in-situ without worrying about creating gas or excessive heat.

Since access to the battery terminals involves the removal of several panels, the Comfort Indicator socket provides easy access and it’s traffic light system shows when the battery is at 100%-80%, 80%-40% or below 40% charge.

CTEK Comfort Connector with indicator
CTEK Comfort Connector with indicator and masking tape solution.  I can see the flashing light through the back window, even with the tonneau cover on

So, before I need to use the car, I check the indicator.  If it’s red, I charge the battery.

Now to find what’s draining the battery…

Test the Best Mt Stromlo – Specialized in Canberra

If you would like to buy a bike you would go to a bike shop, check the options, have a brief test ride in the car park and contemplate parting with hard-earned cash.  Wouldn’t it be better if you could try a range of bikes under the conditions you are going to ride?

The Specialized Test the Best took place 2-3 February at Mt Stromlo Forest; I turned up at 11:30 on the Sunday.  Registration was easy: sign a waiver, hand over driver’s licence and credit card as security and jump on a bike.  BYO pedals and shoes was advised.  (I went to the trouble of having one of my cycling shoes repaired, which is why I had to wait until Sunday.)

It was quick and easy for me as there weren’t many (any?) others riding XL bikes.  After a short wait, the bike was retrieved, pedals fitted and adjusted to my specifications.

First ride – S-WORKS EPIC CARBON

My only intention was to ride a 29″ bike and see for myself why 26″ wheels are history.  Why not start at the (almost) top with the S-Works Epic Carbon fitted with “Specialized/FOX remote Mini-Brain inertia-valve shock with AUTOSAG, Kashima coating and new 2013 tune to seamlessly transition from efficient pedalling on smooth terrain to fully active on rough terrain”.

The Mini Brain on the rear suspension purports to know the difference between a bump and pedalling and bobs for the former but not the latter.  The AUTOSAG valve automatically adjusts the sag, indeed the seat went up after pressing the valve.

The 20-speed Shimano XTR follows the trend of a simple double-chainring up front and wide 10-speed cluster at the rear, which probably gives a wider range of useful gears without worrying about crossing the chain.

I have never felt a full suspension bike so light.  It was very easy to move.

The beginners course has a lot of windy sections and small bumps and a few little challenges.  It did not bob under hard pedalling, but I didn’t sense a plush ride from the rear.

Sadly I didn’t track the ride from the start, so I can’t compare times.  But I’d guessed that it was potentially a very fast bike.

Second ride – Camber Comp (Take 1)

Thought I’d try a simpler model, ended up with another full-suspension 29″ with lots of nice bits; hardly a test of contrasts.

First stop was to figure out the SRAM shifters.  Both up- and down-shifts are performed by the thumbs.

Second stop (gingerly) was because of very gritty brakes, both front and rear.  Returned the bike for a new set of front pads that squeaked, but felt much better.

Second ride – Camber Comp (Take 2)

This time I tracked the lap using MapMyRide.  I couldn’t pick much difference with the Epic, to be honest.  Again, the weight was impressive and it didn’t bob when I pedalled.  I got the sense that it was rolling over obstacles with ease.

Third ride – the Black Maria

I took my bike out of the car for an A&A – B comparison.

First impression was that the extra weight of my bike wasn’t obvious.

Second impression was that my handlebars are much narrower than the current trend (as confirmed the day before at The Cyclery) and allowed me to ride through gates instead of shuffling through sideways.

And I really must do something about my brakes, they are vastly inferior to anything available today.

Then I noticed what everyone may have been talking about as the difference between a 29″ and 26″ wheel.  The front wheel on my bike seemed to move in the vertical plane more than the 29″s.  At any reasonably sized bump, my wheel seemed to lift whereas the 29″s seemed to go forward and over.  Was this the sensation that everyone was raving about?

My bike bobs and squeaks when I’m climbing, indicative of the difference between an old and new rear suspension design.

Both here’s the thing… I was 1 minute faster on my bike for the lap.  Possible reasons include:

  • Familiarity: Maybe, but I wasn’t struggling with any of the bikes on the timed laps.
  • I tried harder: No, I put the same effort in each time.
  • Learnt the course: Maybe, but it was still challenging each time.
  • Manoeuvrability: the course had tight twisty sections and the smaller wheels were much easier to fling around and put exactly where I wanted them.  The advantage of 29″ may only be obvious on a longer track.

Conclusion

What a brilliant promotion.  If I was genuinely in the market for a new bike (I just need the money) I could have spoken to the experts at length.  They were very happy to provide advice to those looking for a new bike.  While they only had their high-spec bikes available for testing, they were happy to talk about any of their range.

I rode for only 10-15 minutes each time, but they were happy to see me in 45 covered in mud, at least at the beginning of the day.

If you’d like a test that’s more than a lap of the car park, get down to Tasmania this weekend for the next Test the Best.