Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Star Safety System - Part Two

It's been a while since I did part one, but now I'm going to cover part two which will include Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Smart Stop Technology.  

Vehicle Stability Control 

Vehicle stability control is essentially traction control for when the vehicle is in motion.  The program is designed to keep the vehicle on it's intended path.  It does so through a complex set of sensors that measure steering input, vehicle speed, individual wheel speed sensors, throttle input and yaw sensors.  It is not a substitute for safe driving, but it can help a great deal in emergency situations when a driver has to make evasive actions.

The system will reduce throttle input even if you put the pedal to the floor if it senses a loss of control or traction.  This system can greatly reduce the risk of rollovers in SUV and trucks that have a high center of gravity.  The government did studies that show that 41% of single vehicle accidents could have been avoided if all vehicles were equipped with this system.  This led to the mandate that all vehicles 2012 model year and newer are required to have a stability control program as standard equipment.  The system has been standard on all Toyota SUV's since 2004.

Here's a video clip of a 2013 Scion FR-S on a wet slalom course with the system turned on (default mode), then in Sport VSC mode (most cars don't have this mode) and then finally with all the systems turned off.  As you will see, the program helps a ton on maintaining control of the vehicle.

If you want to read in more detail about this program, you can do so here on Wikipedia

Brake Assist

Brake assist is another program designed to increase the safety of new vehicles.  The program will detect a "panic" braking situation and apply maximum braking force.  It will do this by the speed the brake pedal is depressed.  Studies have shown that drivers may not always be able to apply maximum braking pressure on the pedal due to seating position, physical ability and other reasons.  Brake assist has been shown to reduce stopping distances by a significant margin, up to 20% in some studies.  

Brake assist doesn't interfere with normal driving situations and you will most likely not even notice it working when it engages.  If you quickly stab on the brake pedal like you are going to "panic" stop and then let up on the brake pedal, then you may notice that the vehicle still slows to a stop just like if you were standing on the brake pedal.

Electronic Brake Force Distribution

Electronic brake force distribution will vary the braking pressure applied to each individual wheel depending on the load of the vehicle, speed and road conditions.  Most of the time under normal conditions, the majority of the braking force is applied to the front wheels because that is where the majority of the load is on a vehicle.  

A truck is a great example to use.  Normally a truck is very biased as far as weight goes towards the front of the vehicle.  Now, put a load of mulch/cargo/etc into the bed of the truck and it's weight distribution is very different.  It will now have more weight towards the back of the vehicle than normal.  EBD will recognize this and transfer more braking pressure to the rear of the vehicle to get a more controlled and shorter stopping distance by applying braking force to each wheel individually. 

Smart Stop Technology

Smart Stop Technology was created by Toyota as a measure to prevent unintended acceleration.  This technology is a result of the recalls from 2009-2010.  The way the system works is that it will reduce engine power when both the brake and gas pedal are pushed at the same time under certain conditions.  Smart Stop will engage when the accelerator is pressed first and the brake is applied firmly for longer than one-half second at speeds greater than 5mph.  

In normal driving situations, you won't even notice this program.  If the brake pedal is pressed first, and then the accelerator, the system will not engage.  This is to prevent the system from engaging when you are starting out on a hill and want to prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards

Monday, June 4, 2012

Star Safety System - Part One

Toyota has a group of safety features that make up the Star Safety System.  They are as follows: anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control (TRAC), vehicle stability control (VSC), brake assist (BA), electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and smart stop technology (SST).  I will go through each one of them and explain what they are and how they work.  The first two systems that I will cover will be ABS and traction control.  If it wasn't for the first of these systems, ABS, the rest of them would not be possible.

Anti-Lock Braking System

Most people today have owned a vehicle with ABS or have at least heard about ABS.  ABS is an electronic braking system that prevents the wheels from locking up and skidding thus allowing the driver to maintain steering control around an obstacle/object on the roadway.  With an ABS equipped vehicle, it is not necessary to "pump" the brakes, especially in an emergency situation.  The vehicle will do it for you and much faster than any person would be able to do on their own.  The driver will feel a "pulsing" in the brake pedal and this is the valves in the system opening and closing.  Some anti-lock braking systems can cycle as many as 16 times per second.

There are a few different types of ABS.  I will cover the three most popular.  The best system is what is referred to as a four-channel, four-sensor system.  This system has valves and wheel speed sensors for all four wheels.  It will monitor each individual wheel to make sure it has maximum braking force possible applied to it.  This is the type of system that Toyota uses in its vehicles.  The second type of system is referred to as a three-channel, four-sensor system.  This type of system has wheel speed sensors for all four wheels but only one valve for both rear wheels so both rear wheels will have the same brake pressure applied no matter what amount of load/traction they have.  The third type of system is called a three-channel, three-sensor system.  This is normally found on pick up trucks, but not current Toyota's (Toyota uses 4-channel, 4-sensor).  This system has two wheels speed sensors and valves for each front wheel and one sensor and a valve in the rear axle for both rear wheels.  The downside to this system is that one of the rear wheels can still lock up and skid before the rear ABS kicks in and therefore increases the stopping distance.  In summary, not all ABS are created equal!

Here's an example of what an ABS modulator will look like under the hood of your car.  It is typically mounted near the front, left of the engine compartment.  It will have a bunch of brake lines coming in and out of it.

Traction Control

Traction control is an electronic system that works with a vehicle's ABS and throttle control units.  Traction control will engage when one of the drive wheels is spinning significantly faster than the other.  For example, one tire is on a patch of ice and the other is on the normal road surface.  Without traction control, the wheel that is on ice would just keep spinning.  With traction control, the wheel that is on ice is spinning faster than the other (if the other wheel is moving at all), and the system will apply the brakes (ABS) to the spinning wheel to force power to the other wheel that is on the normal road surface.  Once the power is transferred to the "wheel with grip", the vehicle will move forward .  In cases of severe traction loss, the traction control system may also reduce spark and fuel to one or more cylinders, apply ABS, and/or close the throttle on electronic throttle controlled (drive-by-wire) vehicles, which most are today.

Traction control can make getting a vehicle "un-stuck" more difficult.  In a front-wheel drive vehicle, if you would be stuck in snow or whatever, it's usually best to get the vehicle to rock back and forth to free it up.  Traction control would make this action more difficult.  Luckily, most new vehicles will have a button (see picture below) to disable the traction control system that will allow the wheels to spin freely and may make getting the vehicle out of a difficult situation a little easier.  For normal driving though, leave traction control engaged because it will usually help you more than you may even know it.

Here's a picture of what a typical Toyota traction control button will look like.

In my next post, I will cover vehicle stability control (electronic stability control) and how it works and it's many benefits.  Bookmark my site or subscribe to my blog via email or your RSS reader to get the update when I finish the next article and any future articles.  You can bookmark my site by pushing CTRL+D on your keyboard. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Should I Buy a Hybrid?

With gas prices on the rise and at the level they are at today, many people are probably asking themselves this very question.  The answer, as you may have guessed, is different depending on why you want to buy a hybrid.

If you are considering buying a hybrid vehicle to be "green" or lessen your impact on the environment, then you just need to decide if the extra cost of a hybrid is worth it to you.  If the extra money it's going to cost you when buying the car satisfies your desire to lessen your carbon footprint, then a hybrid is for you.

If you are like most people and are considering a hybrid to save money on gas, then read on and let me shed some light on the math involved to see if it's worth it for you.  I will show you how long it will take you to "break even" when comparing a hybrid (Toyota Prius) and a fuel efficient gasoline-only vehicle like a Toyota Corolla.

Let's take a look at the numbers.  The comparison will be based off MSRP of each vehicle, 15,000 miles per year driven (average mileage), and I will use the Combined MPG for the calculations.  The fuel price I will use is $3.39 per gallon of Regular 87 octane.

Purchase Price and Fuel Mileage Numbers according to Toyota.com & FuelEconomy.gov

  • 2012 Prius II - $24,985 - Only option is Carpet Floor Mats
    • 51 mpg City - 48 mpg Highway - 50 mpg Combined
  • 2012 Corolla LE - $18,799 - Only option is Carpet Floor Mats
    • 26 mpg City - 34 mpg Highway - 29 mpg Combined
Annual Fuel Cost for a 2012 Prius II:

15,000 miles per year / 50 mpg = 300 gallons used per year
300 gallons used per year X $3.39 per gallon = $1,017.00 annual fuel cost 

Annual Fuel Cost for a 2012 Toyota Corolla LE:

15,000 miles per year / 29 mpg = 517.24 gallons used per year
517.24 gallons used per year X $3.39 per gallon = $1,753.44 annual fuel cost 

MSRP Price difference between 2012 Prius II and 2012 Corolla LE is $6,186.00.
Annual fuel savings of a Prius = $736.44

How many years it will take you to "break even" just from the difference in purchase price:

$6,186 price difference / $736.44 annual fuel savings = 8.4 years

Now there are a number of variables that come into play here and some of them are the price of gas, the number of miles that you drive, the fuel economy that YOU get out of the vehicle and the incentives that are on the vehicle when you purchase it.  Currently (May 2012), the Prius has no incentives on it, where the Corolla has a $500 rebate or 0% financing for 60 months.  The incentives make the Corolla an even more favorable purchase instead of a Prius.

I'll give you three more examples, but I'm not going to show all the math.  The first example is if gas goes to $5.00 per gallon.  In this situation, the time required to break even is reduced to 5.7 years.  The second example is if you drive 30,000 miles per year (gas at $3.39).  4.2 years is required in this scenario to break even.  The final example is if gas goes to $5.00 per gallon and you drive 30,000 miles per year.  The higher number of miles that you drive and the higher gas prices go, the more advantageous a Prius becomes.  The last scenario requires 2.8 years to break even.

When purchasing a vehicle there are many things to consider and for those that are considering buying a hybrid, maybe this will give them some insight whether a hybrid is right for them and help keep more of their hard-earned money.  All these calculations can't factor in each individual's value they place on being "greener".  To some, it may be worth it to spend the extra money up front to have a lesser impact on the environment and gradually save money on gas over time.

With the introduction of the new Prius C, Toyota has narrowed the price gap considerably, but the Prius C is a smaller vehicle than a Corolla.  You will always have a trade-off whether it's price, size, mileage, etc.  You need to decide for yourself, what factors are the most important.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

New Off Roading Videos!

I added some videos to the Off Roading page.  I had my 4Runner out this past weekend, with some friends and a customer of mine, to play in the dirt.  Some of the videos are embedded into the page while the rest of them are on my YouTube channel.  Click the Off Roading link to the right or HERE to check them out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Toyota Entune Multimedia System Walk Through

I have made a walk through on how to set up your phone with Toyota's Entune system with pictures and video.  It has all the steps needed to take to get yourself up and running and enjoying Toyota's newest technology they are offering in their cars.  It also includes videos on how to set your home address, program a destination, some of the features of Entune and also how to customize some vehicle settings within the system.  If you find it helpful, you can leave feedback by leaving a comment on the blog page below or on the YouTube video pages.

Click this sentence to go to the page.  You can also click the link in the list of pages to the right on my blog page.

If your vehicle doesn't have Entune, this is the next closest thing.  It is Pioneer's App Radio 2.  This is the second generation of the system.  As of right now, there are 14 different apps available for iPhones and 10 for Androids.  You can use Pandora, Motion X GPS Drive, Extra Mile (helps you drive more efficiently), Google Maps, Aupeo, Best Parking, Waze, Dash Command (onboard diagnostics) and more.  Once I get my 2013 Scion FR-S, I'll be getting this head unit or the Pioneer AVIC-X940BT.  There is no CD player, but I can't remember the last time I listened to a CD.  I've been using digital music for the last couple of years and I'm not looking back!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

New Content!

I made a page that describes how leasing a car works so you can read about it and determine if it's for you or not.  I also made a page that has some pictures and videos of my dog.  He's a 3 year old Boxer that can be goofy at times.

Leasing 101

My dog Buster

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Bluetooth Videos are live!

I finished 4 videos that cover the instructions to pairing Bluetooth phones to the different systems that Toyota has available. Feel free to comment and leave feedback!
Click the Bluetooth link over here ------------------------------------->

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


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Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Just updated with some of my reviews from Dealer Rater

My Dealer Rater Reviews

2013 Scion FR-S

Here are some videos I took of the 2013 Scion FR-S at the First Drive Event in Baltimore, MD on 5/5/2012