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  • please help me understand calibrating

    I am looking at getting a local guy to convert my 2005 Nissan Pathfinder to cng.

    He says that he doesn't have 'calibrations' for the 4.0L v6 engine. He tells me that it's possible to convert the engine but that because it's not an engine that he already has these calibrations for they would have to be generated which he says will cost approx. $12,000.00. Moreover he's not really interested in getting the calibrations on this engine and there are larger engines he's more interested in getting calibrations on. He wants to interest me in a business proposition splitting the cost on doing these calibrations for vehicles with these other engines and then help him sell services to owners of those vehicles with those engines.

    Sorry for the long story back ground but that is the tee up to my question. I don't understand what is so darn expensive about getting these 'calibrations'. Are we not talking about ignition timing adjustments mostly? I mean if there are do it yourself kits out there being sold to people with all sorts of engines and basically they just adjust the timing to maximize efficiencies. What else is involved here that could possibly justify these numbers? As far as I understand he's not talking about epa certified installations. Just doing OBDII compatible installations that make a bi-fuel not dedicated system.

    He's wanting to charge about $9k for a conversion on an engine he already knows and I guess it would be $14k for an engine he doesn't know assuming it's an engine he's interested in.

    I like my pathfinder. I also want to go cng with the vehicle I already own. Small chance I'll take him up on his business offer at this time. But I want to understand what is involved.

    A do it yourself isn't going to have to go thru a vastly different tuning up procedure than this guy does is he? What's the deal?


    Moderators note: Thread moved to "Conversions"
    Last edited by Lakewood90712; 05-31-2008, 08:36 AM. Reason: Note added

  • #2
    Re: please help me understand calibrating

    Aragorne,

    You've just come up against the reality of modern day conversions. See the earlier post re. 'Converting Vehicles Safely'. It's all about EPA certification and keeping the Check Engine light off.

    To do that takes more than adjusting timing. Yes, higher octane fuels like CNG and LPG burn slower so the ignition can/has to start earlier, but that's only part of the story.

    Late model, fuel injected engines require a 'fuel map' for every conceivable engine conditions. Picture a 3 dimensional graph with RPM on the X axis, load on the Y axix and fuel on the Z axis. The 'map' would look like the Grand Canyon when you're done with all the possible combinations.

    Older mechanical carburation was always behind in responding to changes. You moved your foot on the gas pedal and the mixer took awhile to notice that and then it would open up letting in more gas. In the meantime the mixture was too lean (or rich) and emissions were all over the place.

    The newer systems react to changes in those conditions, as or even before they happen. They maintain air/fuel ratios much closer than we were ever able to before. This is not only a 'nice thing' to do, it's a necessary thing to maintain catalytic converters, etc., etc.

    Thus the expense...if you're going to do it right. Yes, you can buy cheap kits, but what do you have? A cheap kit. It wouldn't meet today's emission requirements, may or may not harm the engine in the long run and take us back to the '70's when every Tom, Dick and Mary was offering 'kits'.

    Don't go there.

    Sorry,

    afvman/Bill

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: please help me understand calibrating

      I see two issues here, EPA certification is the political/administrative issue, and technical expertise is the technical issue. If we look at one issue at a time, just talk to me about the technical expertise issue apart from administrating the certification.

      How is this fuel map generated and what is required beyond what tom, dick and mary offer with cheap kits? is special testing equipment needed or what? I still want to understand the process from a technical perspective.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: please help me understand calibrating

        While you are correct that there is a technical issue here as well as a legal/political issue, please understand that talk about the technical side of things at any level deeper than the general remarks from AFVman could be construed as aiding and abetting a criminal act, if not criminal in and of itself.

        Perhaps your best bet would be to self-educate by searching the ASE archives or the online catalog at the nearest engineering school (or perhaps your local community college) to find articles that would help you. If you were to do that, and join an ASE chapter, you might be able to discuss specifics there. The most important thing for you to remember, though, is that there are no Nissan products in the US that have either EPA or CARB certification for a natural gas fuel system.

        Change anything on your Pathfinder without EPA permission, and you could find yourself in some very expensive trouble. If you are in California, you could find yourself both in expensive trouble and have your vehicle impounded by CARB. These guys don't mess around, and if your mechanic doesn't know that, you might want to pass along the word, because it would be even more expensive for him/her.

        Best of luck in your search,

        Andy-Paul
        Last edited by Andy-Paul; 05-30-2008, 09:47 PM. Reason: clarity

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: please help me understand calibrating

          I am not qualified to discuss mechanics, but I see mexicans driving their Civics with modified everything, they even remove the hood to show it off. I believe none of that is EPA or DOT certified. Now what about those monster pickup trucks that white boys love - the entire suspension is rebuilt with no regard to safety of others. Are you telling me they are paying $5000 a day? What about the bikers, so noisy! Don't tell me it's all good because EPA and DOT do not have anything against it.

          The moralist approach will not get us far, because these morals are wrong in the first place. Please stop preaching.
          Last edited by Dmitry; 05-30-2008, 11:55 PM. Reason: typo

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: please help me understand calibrating

            I see your point but tell me, how expensive is it to live according to the dictates of the morally bankrupt? I think that was what the Revolutionary war that created America was about wasn't it? Have we come so far since 1776 that education about processes designed to improve environmental conditions and liberate individuals from terrorist supporting industries is criminal? What has become of America? If this must be a moral dilemma then give me liberty or give me death. I shall pursue education and pity those who can't discern virtue from vice. And I shall also pray for the America I love and which can't seem to find it's balance today. I will take what I learn to my local law makers and follow due process to keep MY America free. We shall see whose messing around. I think I know terrorism when I see it. Closer to home than it should be. So be it. We can take the fight to whatever battlefield need be.
            Last edited by Aaragorn; 05-31-2008, 07:58 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: please help me understand calibrating

              Dmitry and Aaragorn;

              Respectfully, I am not preaching. I am only making sure that Aaragorn understands the consequences of his action while protecting the continuation of this forum within the confines of the law as it currently stands.

              As for those who choose to break these laws or others, it is still breaking the law. Attempting to justify one illegal action by comparing it to another illegal action won't sway a judge.

              You have 2 choices: fund a research program through established engineers (never inexpensive), or go with civil protest (more expensive in a lot of ways).

              If you want to go the established research hierarchy route, let me know and I will put you in touch with a couple of mechanical engineering departments that would love to take your money.

              If you prefer civil protest in hopes of demonstrating the inequity of the double standards in this matter, I would personally applaud both of you and even chip in a few bucks to your legal defense fund.

              I am neither a proprietor nor a moderator here, but I believe they would agree with me that this just is not the place to start the civil protest.

              Dmitry: while we're on the subject of preaching, I have relatives of Mexican ancestry serving in Iraq. One of them has already been discharged due to head injuries, and I do not appreciate your cheap shot. Attack me if you want, but please keep nationality out of this. The lack of diversified transport fuel infrastructure is effecting people all over the world, and some of them much more severely than us.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: please help me understand calibrating

                Allgone?

                Let's consider both issues, political and technical.

                I have trouble with the concept of an individual NOT being able to do whatever he/she wants to their personal vehicle. Thus would support your protest politically.

                Technically, the intent of the whole EPA certification process was to assure that the alternative fuel industry was 'doing no harm', and that everyone was playing by the same rules. The problem arose in the expense of demonstrating that you could meet the same emission requirements (the most stringent in the world) as gasoline.

                Many older mechanical systems couldn't do that, but many serious CNG conversion companies can and do. But, they simply can't afford to go thru the dyno testing, durability requirements, OBD-II compatibility issues and documentation fees that the air police demand.

                So, what's a body to do?

                If you use a reputable vendor, and do a reasonable job of verifying that the post-conversion emission are no worse than the pre-conversion emissions on gasoline, I think you've done your due diligence. But, I'm not a lawyer.

                Last, but not least, is the question of who's checking? I won't go there but it's something to consider.

                Good luck,

                afvman

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: please help me understand calibrating

                  The whole EPA certification is messed up when it comes to individual conversions. These rules seem to work for mass production of converted vehicles, but don't pan out for a 1-off conversion. There should be rules for converting a vehicle to CNG. It should NOT cost an arm and a leg. I think that a vehicle that has a conversion that is OBD II compatible and passes emissions only needs a safety check on the tank installation, maybe a $10-$15 fee at the local safety and emissions shop.

                  WHAT THE CRAP IS THE EPA THINKING??!!! $25,000 is NOT MORAL, IT'S NOT ETHICAL, IT'S NOT RIGHT, I don't care who you are or how much money you have, this NEEDS TO CHANGE!!!
                  2000 Escalade (option 3 conversion) FOR SALE
                  2004 F150 XLT (OEM conversion)
                  2000 Camry (Awesome Car!!)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: please help me understand calibrating

                    Originally posted by afvman View Post
                    See the earlier post re. 'Converting Vehicles Safely'. It's all about EPA certification and keeping the Check Engine light off.
                    Care to add a link? Using 'Converting Vehicles Safely' as search terms for a post title returns no results. Searching the same including post bodies returns this thread, and another that doesn't talk about the certification process at all.

                    Rob

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                    • #11
                      Re: please help me understand calibrating

                      I have learned that there is more than one kind of conversion kit. One kind basically mixes the cng gas thru the air intake. One kind is more like a cng injector system that introduces the cng in close proximity to each individual valve. I'm told that this second type is easier to tune up and work with. I wonder how many different kinds of kits there are? And which is best for a do it yourselfer?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: please help me understand calibrating

                        Originally posted by afvman View Post
                        Allgone?

                        Let's consider both issues, political and technical.

                        I have trouble with the concept of an individual NOT being able to do whatever he/she wants to their personal vehicle. Thus would support your protest politically.

                        afvman
                        This is a common misconception. You CAN do whatever you want to your vehicle! It just has to be used "FOR OFF-ROAD USE ONLY" in order to do it.

                        By the way, hypothetically speaking, if you never put a CNG sticker on your car, then nobody including the EPA would ever have any idea that you even have a CNG tank in your trunk. If it's bi-fuel, then just use the gasoline on the street and CNG "FOR OFF-ROAD USE ONLY". When you go in to pass emissions, then since your CNG is used "FOR OFF-ROAD USE ONLY", then you go pass the test on gasoline. You can always build a cover for the CNG parts under your hood and disguise your kit so that you don't raise any eyebrows during inspection if they start doing visual inspections.

                        I swear, if EPA doesn't loosen the reins and streamline the process of conversions, this is what many people are going to do. Just like the old saying goes, "If you outlaw guns, then only the outlaws will have them", or to apply that saying here, "if you outlaw CNG conversions, then only outlaws will do them". You have to make it a device that can be converted onto existing vehicles in America because it makes no sense to re-car every American citizen. Our junkyards couldn't even house all of the old scrap. And we couldn't even make all the new alt fuel cars quick enough. Or else the avg American just simply can't afford it. It has to be cheaper than the cost of current gasoline. And when places are robbing people for $12k to do a conversion when they CAN be done, that isn't money savings. That is just taking your oil money, and giving to a different industry.

                        By the way, KITS can be calibrated to work fine for universal applications if they are closed-loop and work in tandem with several of your engine's existing sensors. There are kits made outside this country that run CLOSED-LOOP which means they tie in to the factory O2 sensor so they can actively adjust the fuel mixture to continue to cycle rich-lean-rich-lean like they normally do running on gas.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: please help me understand calibrating

                          What "Son-Of-A-Bush" George and his cronies in Big Oil and the EPA, and in the DOE, etc. say is "legal" to continue their subsidy of special interest groups IS SIMPLY A BUNCH OF BULL!! California shouldn't have to SUE the EPA to improve mpg requirements. Now Senate investigation is underway that EPA went to White House and our little oil man George Jr. (or Haliburton VP Cheney) somehow was involved in EPA denial of CA improvements of mpg and emissions!!!

                          Vote them out, impeach them, throw them out, or WHATEVER it takes to get the status quo Big Oil jerks out of power positions!!! ANY vehicle running on CNG is almost certainly cleaner than it was running on gasoline!!! The USA is just getting boon-doggled by worthless leaders now in power strangling progress on cng. That's it. The whole world is moving forward with cng, but USA is avoiding at all costs!! I heard on Good Morning America a couple days ago, that USA will pay $100 Billion MORE next year in fuel costs just from the increase in gasoline & diesel at the pump . . . . I say ABANDON efforts for new gasoline & diesel vehicles and INVEST that money in CNG infrastructure and conversion of existing vehicles!!! Brazil did it, surely the USA can do it!!!

                          Now that I'm up on my soapbox, I have a personal pet peeve of "Immoral or Illegal" pundits that try to squash innovation!!! Neil Young is converting lead sled 1959 Mercury to be 100% electric vehicle with zero emissions and purportedly has only invested $120,000 so far in doing it. So how can you tell me, GM / Dodge / Ford / Toyota / Nissan / VW etc here in USA don't have $120,000 that they could spend on building a USA cng vehicle (either dedicated or bi-fuel) or mass produced electric vehicle?? Baloney!!! Big Oil is so deep in USA auto industry that it's a joke!!! I say LET THEM ALL DIE!!! Boycott all those scoundrels and start a TRANSPORTATION REVOLUTION with all new companies that actually build a decent product!! It starts with the people . . . POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!! CNG is what the ENTIRE USA needs ASAP!!!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: please help me understand calibrating

                            I don't think the argument for using a CNG for OFF-ROAD use only works. A CNG conversion is regulated for saftey and if you have one on your vehicle, then it's still there when your on road as well, so it would have to pass all the safety issues. If you don't run CNG on road, then the only aspect you don't have to worry about would be emissions, but CNG WILL PASS any emissions test anyway. When you modify a 4x4 for off-road, it then becomes strickly off-road use only. Is there any existing modification out there that you can use off-road, then then just not use on road?

                            While I think this is an interesting work-around, that's all I think it is. A safe conversion, EPA or not, should not matter. This is a political debate and not a safety debate. If the EPA finds you with an, 'OFF ROAD' conversion, I don't think it will make any difference? But that does not mean I don't think we should be doing them. I think we should do what's right and makes sense. And the whole EPA system, doesn't make sense. If it did then that would be another story.
                            2000 Escalade (option 3 conversion) FOR SALE
                            2004 F150 XLT (OEM conversion)
                            2000 Camry (Awesome Car!!)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: please help me understand calibrating

                              I agree that the EPA needs reform, and right away, but I do not think that will ever happen. And the people are going to do what they are going to do anyway, not holding their breath for EPA to change.

                              I DO agree that safety is top priority, and I am sure that many kits installed may wind up being safe, and some not, but from a potential installer's perspective, if you are certified to do safe installs say, then what would be the problem if the installer just told customers they had to bring their cars in on trailers with no license plates, and they would make them sign legal document saying that the install was for "OFF-ROAD USE ONLY" then they would do the conversion, and send it back out on a trailer. Then the weight of the crime is on the customer, who will likely never get caught if they don't advertise it. If you remove the tank during and hide the components during vehicle inspection then nobody would ever even know. I'm not saying it's right, but this is what people will do, since they want to be able to affordably travel again and their government isn't helping. I know that muffler shops will still remove your catalytic converters and put dual exhaust on for you if you bring your car on a trailer with no plates. I seen someone do it before. People will find a way to get what they want one way or another. I DO see a tremendous opportunity for automakers to cash in on new CNG cars, and I'm still puzzled as to why Honda Civic is the only one in US to be available to Joe Blow, and I'm also very puzzled why you have to buy them in California and can't just buy them anywhere. Our country is so behind the times. Stuck in the stone ages.

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