Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Watches that Never Need a Battery Replacement

As long as I have been over 10 years old I have worn a watch. And for the last 18 years I have worn watches that never needed a replacement battery.


The reasons are several. First of all, it is relatively easy to make a quartz watch with a replaceable battery. I don't want to wear something that is easy to make. There is (arguably) little craftsmanship involved. The results (quartz watches of the same model) are uniform. There are few gears, springs and other part that belong to a real watch.

Also, I dislike the expense and hassle of having to replace the batteries. And it is not good for the environment either to do so.

What did I wear all these years? 

I wore automatic watches. Most Orient 3-star automatic watches, but also the Invicta Pro Diver Automatic Watch 8926A and the Invicta Pro Diver Automatic Watch 8926C. Automatic watches are mechanical watches that wind themselves when you wear them, from the movement of your wrist. They work well and never need winding as long as you wear them daily.

With my mom's watches, I ran into a problem. She does not wear the watch frequently enough so an automatic Orient would stop. But I got her a Citizen Eco-Drive EW3030-50A that is a quartz watch, but one powered by light so that you never need a replacement battery but don't even need to wind it or wear it. You only have to expose it to light one in a while.


Not only do we never have to replace batteries, but our watches keep almost perfect time,  look nice and should last a long time. My first Orient 3-star lasted 17 years without a single cleaning. It could last longer if I cleaned it, but I just bought another one for less than $50.

I also bought a Citizen Eco-Drive CA0331-05A Chronometer for myself.

Reviews for the above watches:
Citizen Eco-Drive Watch EW3030-50A Review
Invicta Pro Diver 8926 200m Automatic Wrist Watch Review
Invicta Pro Diver 8926C (a.k.a. 8926OB) 200m Automatic Wrist Watch With Coin-Edge Bezel Review

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What is the Deal with the Marvel Mystery Oil?

Marvel Mystery Oil (MMO) Reviewed by Dmiko on .

I have read on various forums about people using Marvel Mystery Oil in either their motor oil or in their gasoline to achieve various positive results. I would never put it in my oil (because it makes the motor oil thinner, reduces its TBN retention and I generally don't need to clean anything in the crankcase).

But I was willing to try it in the gas. The stipulated benefits of using it in the gas are manifold. Is supposedly cleans your fuel system and prevents it from becoming dirty again. It also allegedly lubricates the cylinder walls while the engine is running, reducing friction and thereby improving fuel economy. It is supposed to also lubricate your fuel pump, making it last longer. And it smells nice.

So I tried it by adding about 4 oz per fill up in my 2004 Infiniti G35. I ran it for a few months while measuring fuel economy as well as getting the smog check test later.


I noticed a slight fuel economy improvement, but it was less than what I achieved later by simply driving at more reasonable speeds. The engine seemed run smoother, which could be an objective result or a subjective one, I dunno. But there were a couple more discoveries, one positive and one negative.


I was using a synthetic oil at the time: Quaker State Q-Horsepower and in all-highway driving was expecting to go over 7K miles on it. However, at close to 6K miles, the timing chain in my engine started to rattle on start-up. The rattle went away only when the oil was changed. I blame MMO since it probably washed down from the cylinder walls into the oil. So if I were to continue using MMO, I would probably have to change the oil more frequently.


I got a smog certification test done after using MMO and later I had a smog test done from a more efficient Honda 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine in my mom's 2006 Honda Accord. After using MMO, the VQ35DE engine from my Infiniti G35 had significantly better numbers at over 50K miles than I got from the Honda only after 30K miles. Perhaps it does clean quite well? I even ran the G on regular gas and not on premium that was "recommended for optimal performance" by Infiniti.


The MMO is inexpensive, does seem to clean and lubricate well and is something I will probably be using from time to time. If you use it, remember to change the oil more frequently and/or get a used oil analysis (UOA) done. I will definitely use it before the next smog check in the Accord to see if it can improve the numbers.

Update: I tried it in the Accord and it actually improved the mpg by 2 mpg to an all-time-high for that car 38.5 mpg.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

How I Improved My MPG from 30 to 36

We all know that the gas became expensive. I recall the days when it was under $1 per gallon (in late 90s). It is now $4.20 or so here, in the beautiful Southern California.

In our 2007 Honda Accord 2.4L automatic, we used to get 30 mpg on average. We are now getting 35-36 mpg without any crazy technological innovations or magical devices. It is pretty easy to do. For the environment, your wallet and world peace, I challenge you to save gas the way we do.


  1. Most important step: depending on your car, you may get best fuel economy in a specific range of speeds. It can be speeds under 40 mph for hybrids or between 45-60 mph for regular cars. In our case, I drive (in the right lane, without impeding other traffic) at 57-60 mph instead of the previous 65-70+ mph. I spend a couple of more minutes per 50-mile commute, which only means I spend a couple more minutes listening to music while driving.
  2. Accelerate at less than full throttle.
  3. Try to coast to decelerate or to stop. Use brakes as little as possible.
  4. Inflate the tires to slightly higher pressure than recommended by your car's manual (not to exceed the max inflation pressure on the tire sidewall). We use 35 psi instead of the recommended 31 psi.
  5. Remove unneeded junk that adds weight. This step actually saves little (if you only have below 100 lbs or so extra junk in the car).
  6. Use the grade of motor oil as thin as specified by your car's manufacturer. Do not use thicker oil.
  7. Have the car maintenance up to date.
  8. Use low rolling resistance tires. My 2004 Infiniti G35 produced a 2-3 mpg jump when switching from Yokohama YK520 to low rolling resistance Michelin Primacy MXV4 tires.
Things That Don't Seem to Matter

  1. Cleanliness of the air filter in modern fuel-injected cars does not affect the mpg (but does in older, carburetor-based designs).
  2. Air conditioning use. I know it should matter, but in my cars the difference is negligible.
  3. Using premium gas when your car's manual specifies that it requires regular.
Bottom Line

Most fuel economy improvement is achieved by changing your driving style. By simply driving 10-12 mph slower and using brakes less, we improved our MPG by 20%. Not only does it save money and environment, we don't have to fill up as often as we used to, so at least some extra time  spent driving at slower speeds is recouped by having to spend less time refueling.

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Is Premium Gas Better Than Regular?

So you pull up to a gas station. And we all know how expensive the gasoline is these days. You get presented with choices: regular gas, premium and (most of the time) midrange. The price difference is several dollars per tank. But in the percentage terms it is very low: 2-5%.

The question is do you need to shell out slightly more money for premium gas? Will premium gas make you car run better, prolong its life or even decrease fuel consumption to the point of paying for itself?


There are two distinct opinions on this matter. One is - your manufacturer, based on the engine's compression ratio, chose a gas grade for you (it is clearly printed in your car's manual) and if you use higher-grade gas, you just waste your money. In addition, some say that gas station's owners sometimes mix gas of different grades (to earn money or for convenience).

Another opinion - the higher-grade gas has more value - more cleaning additives, less engine wear and lower operating temperature, higher performance.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. First of all, the simple rule "the higher compression ratio, the higher-octane gas should be used" no longer applies. There are cars with 9.8:1 compression ratio, that require “premium”, and there are even 13:1 engines that run fine on “regular” – a lot depends on ignition timing, presence/absence of turbo- /supercharging, direct injection vs. port injection and bore/stroke ratio.

For newer cars, there are two types of electronic injection control:

1. Electronic engine control system uses preprogrammed "air-fuel mixture maps" based on engine revs, throttle position and other factors. In this case your choice of gas does not matter much (note - NEVER use gas of grade lower than minimum recommended in your manual!).

2. If knock/pinging occurs, knock sensor commands the engine control module to retard ignition. This causes lower performance and higher fuel consumption. It happens when your overload your engine (mountain driving, towing, etc.) or use lower than needed grade of gas.

Therefore, my opinion is:

1. If you drive an expensive car, the manual of which requires or recommends premium gas, it doesn't make any sense to try to save on gas - get the best grade available.
2. If you drive high performance car (and actually rev it up to redline), especially with low per-cylinder displacement, see #1. Engines with low per-cylinder displacement use generally higher compression ratios and rev high easier.
3. Again, never use gas of grade lower than minimum recommended in your manual!
4. If you you feel excessive engine vibrations/knocking/pinging, try higher-octane grade. It may also save you money. Knock sensor retards ignition when knocking occurs, remember? Also your engine will live longer and provide a bit more power.
5. Concerned about financial part most? Perform several tests with different types of gas.

Fill the tank with regular gas (notice odometer reading), drive the car until the tank is almost empty, fill it up again (take note of odometer reading again, and number of gallons). Your consumption in MPG (miles per gallon) on regular will be (New Odometer-Old Odometer)/Gallons. Now divide it by a price per gallon – the resulting number represents your “money consumption” in miles per dollar. Do the same with midrange and/or premium.

Maybe the premium is the right choice for you?

I suspect that the “minimum required” octane rating, specified in your manual, will be the best choice – at least money wise. I performed the test on my 2000 Mitsubishi Galant 4-cylinder and found no improvement in fuel economy if I switched from regular (87) to Premium (91). In fact, the opposite happened - the fuel economy worsened from 24.5 to 22.5.

Although this is not the indication, that 87 gives me better mileage (maybe I drove a little bit more aggressively this time, reassured by the "premium gas :-) ), it is a clear sign that there is no advantage in using premium, when the manual recommends "regular" 87 gasoline.

Later, I did some tests with my 2004 Infiniti G35. Its manual "recommends" premium gas, 91-octane or higher, for maximum performance. But it also permits operation on regular (87 octane) gas. I used to fill up with the premium gas all the time, but later switched to regular. The result? Same mpg, but a little bit less power and detonation in lower rpm/high load situations.

Bottom Line

Read your manual and do the following:
1. If your objective is to save money, use the lowest grade allowed in the manual.
2. If you need the very last horsepower or if you do a test and see that it is actually cheaper to fill up with premium, use premium gas.

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