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Hackaday Links: May 28, 2023

The Great Automotive AM Radio War of 2023 rages on, with the news this week that Ford has capitulated, at least for now. You’ll recall that the opening salvo came when the US automaker declared that AM radio was unusable in their EV offerings thanks to interference generated by the motor controller. Rather than fixing the root problem, Ford decided to delete the AM option from their EV infotainment systems, while letting their rolling EMI generators just keep blasting out interference for everyone to enjoy. Lawmakers began rattling their sabers in response, threatening legislation to include AM radio in every vehicle as a matter of public safety. Ford saw the writing on the wall and reversed course, saying that AM is back for at least the 2024 model year, and that vehicles already delivered without it will get a fix via software update.

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Hackaday Links: March 19, 2023

We get results! Well, sort of. You may recall that in this space last week we discussed Ford’s plans to exclude AM reception on the infotainment systems of certain of their cars starting in 2024. We decried the decision, not for the loss of the sweet, sweet content that AM stations tend to carry — although we always enjoyed “Traffic on the 8s” back in our dismal days of daily commuting — but rather as a safety concern, because AM radio can reach almost the entire US population with emergency information using just 75 stations. To our way of thinking, this makes AM radio critical infrastructure, and eliminating it from motor vehicles is likely to have unintended consequences. Now it seems like there’s some agreement with that position, as former administrators of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration; and no, not FEDRA) have gotten together to warn about the dangers of deleting AM from cars. Manufacturers seem to be leaning into the excuse that EVs emit a lot of radio frequency interference, rendering static-sensitive AM receivers less useful than other, more profitable less susceptible modes, like digital satellite radio. That seems like a red herring to us, but then again, the most advanced infotainment option in any car we’ve ever owned is a CD player, so it’s hard for us to judge.

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Hackaday Links: March 5, 2023

Well, we guess it had to happen eventually — Ford is putting plans in place to make its vehicles capable of self-repossession. At least it seems so from a patent application that was published last week, which reads like something written by someone who fancies themselves an evil genius but is just really, really annoying. Like most patent applications, it covers a lot of ground; aside from the obvious capability of a self-driving car to drive itself back to the dealership, Ford lists a number of steps that its proposed system could take before or instead of driving the car away from someone who’s behind on payments.

Examples include selective disabling conveniences in the vehicle, like the HVAC or infotainment systems, or even locking the doors and effectively bricking the vehicle. Ford graciously makes allowance for using the repossessed vehicle in an emergency, and makes mention of using cameras in the vehicle and a “neural network” to verify that the locked-out user is indeed having, say, a medical emergency. What could possibly go wrong?

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Lawn Mower Carburetor Improves Mileage On Old Sedan

Before the Ford marketing department started slapping Maverick badges on pickup trucks, the name had been attached to compact cars from the 70s instead. These were cheap even by Ford standards, and were built as a desperate attempt to keep up with Japanese imports that were typically higher quality and more efficient than most American cars at the time. Some people called them the poor man’s Mustang. While Ford and the other American car companies struggled to stay relevant during the gas crisis, it turns out that they could have simply slapped a lawn mower carburetor on their old Mavericks to dramatically improve fuel efficiency.

The old Maverick used a 5 L carbureted V8 engine, which is not exactly the pinnacle of efficiency even by 1970s standards. But [ThunderHead289] figured out that with some clever modifications to the carburetor, he could squeeze out some more efficiency. By using a much smaller carburetor, specifically one from a lawn mower, and 3D printing an adapter for it, he was able to increase the fuel efficiency to over 40 mpg (which is higher than even the modern Mavericks) while still achieving a top speed of 75 mph.

While it’s not the fastest car on the block with this modification, it’s still drives well enough to get around. One thing to watch out for if you try this on your own classic car is that some engines use fuel as a sort of coolant for certain engine parts, which can result in certain problems like burned valves. And, if you don’t have a lawnmower around from which to borrow a carb, take a look at this build which 3D prints one from scratch instead.

Thanks to [Jack] for the tip!

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’90s Ford Gets Shift Paddles And A Digital Dash Upgrade

The EA Falcon took Ford’s popular Australian sedan line into the 1990s, even if it gave way to the EB Falcon by the end of 1991. Few would call it high tech, but it introduced several innovations to the platform that were very of its time. One hacker, however, has taken a humble EA Falcon and given it a set of homebrewed modern upgrades.

The maroon EA Falcon has scored a Barra heart transplant as well as some nifty digital upgrades.

The example in question is an EA Fairmont Ghia, which featured a handful of high-tech displays in the dash cluster, which was very on trend in the late 80s and early 90s. This dash has seen much revision,¬†however, and now features a large TFT display and a smaller OLED unit, both of which show various vital statistics for the car. The screens have been neatly hacked in, one as part of the tachometer, the other replacing the original fuel and temperature gauges. With the data displayed on the screen instead, there’s no need for the original dials. Continue reading “’90s Ford Gets Shift Paddles And A Digital Dash Upgrade”

Swapped Dash Module Gives Ford Maverick An Upgrade

Ford is looking to make their new Maverick compact truck stand out, and so far, it seems to be working. Not only is it exceptionally cheap for a brand-new hybrid, truck or otherwise, but Ford actively encourages owners to modify their new ride. From standardized mounting points throughout the cabin intended for 3D printed upgrades, to an auxiliary 12 VDC line run to the bed specifically for powering user supplied hardware.

But we doubt even the most imaginative of Blue Oval engineers could have predicted that somebody would rip out the whole dash module and replace it with one from a higher-end Ford this early in the game. While many people can’t even find one of these trucks on the lot, [Tyvemattis] on the Maverick Truck Club forum has detailed his efforts to replace the relatively uninspired stock dash module of his truck with an all-digital version pulled from a 2020 Ford Escape Titanium.

Ford’s rendering of the original Maverick dash module.

Now we say “effort”, but as it turns out, the swap went off nearly without a hitch. The new digital module not only appears to be the identical size and shape as the original, but they both use the same connectors. Presumably this is because both vehicles are based on Ford’s scalable C2 platform, and likely means more components from this family of vehicles such as the Lincoln Corsair or new Bronco could be installed into the Maverick.

So what’s the downside? According to [Tyvemattis], the computer is throwing error messages as the Maverick doesn’t have a lot of the hardware that the dash is trying to communicate with. He also can’t change the vehicle’s driving mode, and the cruise control can only be enabled when the truck is stopped. But probably the most annoying issue is that the fuel gauge is off by 50%, so when the tank is full, it shows you’ve only got half a tank. At least one other user on the forum believes this could be alleviated by modifying the fuel sensor wiring, so it will be interesting to see how difficult a fix it ends up being.

We first ran across the DIY-friendly Maverick back in October of last year, and we’re encouraged to already see owners answering Ford’s challenge by tinkering with the vehicle. Here’s hoping this is the start of a new chapter in the long and storied history of car hacking.

Thanks to [Matt] for the tip.

Ford Maverick Welcomes DIY Spirit

We’ve featured a lot of car hacks on these pages, most would void the warranty and none of it with explicit factory support. Against that background, Ford’s upcoming Maverick is unique: a major manufacturer has invited owners to unleash their do-it-yourself spirit. It is one of several aspects that led [Jason Torchinsky] of Jalopnik to proclaim The 2022 Ford Maverick Is An Honest, Cheap, Multitool Of A Vehicle And I’m All For It.

There are two primary parts to Ford’s DIY invitation. Inside the cabin are several locations for a dovetail mount called “Ford Integrated Tether System” (FITS). Naturally Ford will be selling their own FITS accessories, but they also expect people to create and 3D-print designs addressing needs unmet by factory kits. CAD files for FITS dimensions are promised, but any maker experienced with a caliper should have little trouble.

Another part of Ford’s DIY invitation is in the cargo area, whose sides were stamped with slots for lumber beams supporting projects like a ~$45 bike rack. There are also threaded bolt holes already in the bed, no drilling or tapping into sheet metal necessary. Behind a few small plastic doors are wires to supply 12 V DC power without the risk of splicing into factory harnesses.

There will always be wild car hacks like turning a sedan into a pickup truck. But it’s great to lower the barrier of entry for milder hacks with these small and very welcome features. QR codes on a sticker takes us to Ford’s collection of video instructions to get things started. Naturally if this idea takes off other people will post many more on their own YouTube channels. We like where Ford wants to go with this, and we would love to see such DIY-friendliness spread across the auto industry. A few Ford videos explaining design intent in this area after the break.

[Title image: Ford Motor Company]

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