Physics for Gearheads Review

Physics for gearheads

Physics for Gearheads by Randy Beikmann

Editor’s Note – This is a review of the book Physics for Gearheads by Randy Beikmann by one of our contributors James Halderman.

As an author of 15 automotive college textbooks, it is not often that I am asked to review another automotive book, in this case Physics for Gearheads.  However, this title does not compete against any of my titles (visit but instead is designed for the automotive enthusiast who has a technical background and wants the engineering explained as it relates to motorsports. These enthusiasts, who the author calls “gearheads”, should have college-level physics to get the most from this title. It is organized and written in such a manner that it can be read or studied as individual topics. The author also suggests that the reader allow time to fully absorb the content before moving on to another chapter. The chapters are organized, not by the parts or systems of a car, but rather by the physics concepts which include:

  • Kinematics – (Discussed in Chapters 2 and 3)
  • Dynamics - (Discussed in chapters 4 and 6)
  • Forces – (Discussed in Chapter 5)
  • Angular Dynamics – (Discussed in Chapters 8 and 9)
  • Dynamics in a Plane – (Chapters 10 and 11)
  • Energy – (Discussed in chapters 12 and 13)
  • Power – (Discussed in Chapters 14 and 15)
  • Statics and Quasi-Statics – (Discussed in Chapters 16 and 17)

As an author myself, I know how hard it is to organize content and writing into a reasonable readable flow, but this organization in Physics for Gearheads is hard for me to understand. While all of these concepts are associated with motorsports, I would have organized it around the systems of the vehicles such as tires, suspension, drivetrain and then discuss the various physics concept that apply to each area. Regardless of how I would organize the content, I found the book to be very well written and accurately covers the physics associated with all motorsports and racing.

Physics for Gearheads

  • Softcover
  • 595 pages
  • Full color
  • Single column interior design
  • 17 chapters plus six appendixes
  • Index

The Interior Design Features

  • Examples
  • Key Concepts
  • Notes
  • Major Point
  • Cautions

These features help the reader by making the text perfectly clear and helps prevent misunderstandings. However, this text is written in second person (you, we, your, let’s etc.) which I think distracts from a technical text where I prefer the use of third person. I doubt few will notice but it does tend to sound as if the author is talking down to the reader at times.

Big Plus of Physics for Gearheads

I loved appendix 2 (pronunciations). Great idea. Who doesn’t need help with this once in awhile?

What I Missed Seeing

I missed real world case studies where a vehicle owner wants to know what affect a change in tires size (width or diameter) would have on the acceleration, cornering etc.

Review by James Halderman
Email – jim AT

Randy Beikmann, Ph.D.
ISBN: 0-8376-1615-8
Bentley Publishers

ACDelco Training is Terrible

Today I had to do some ACDelco Training modules for an automotive technology class I’m taking at the local technical college.  What’s always surprising to me about a lot of these online training programs, automotive and non-automotive related, is just how horribly and terribly designed they are.

First I had to do go through several menus to manually type in the selected course I needed.  On the homepage you have to go to take Take Training >> Catalog >> Catalog Search and then type in the course you want.  In this case S-SS-4-13-01 WBT, which I had to manually type in.  This mind you took me awhile to figure out in the first place.

Once I found it and got the training module up and working I noticed it kept freezing. I kept getting this error and had to reload the tests.  Often when I would reload the test I had to start over again even though I got all the answers right.  Since this is

acdelco trainingI tried a few different browsers like Opera, Firefox, and Chrome until I realized some geniuses at ACDelco only like to test software in Internet Explorer.  Who the f$#% made that decision?  Let’s be clear you have to use Internet Explorer to use ACDelco Training.  Here’s what it said above training course module;

Sometimes the Web-based training component you’ve launched doesn’t seem to be functioning properly. Perhaps the module is frozen and will not allow you to progress or the screens don’t look correct, with misplaced objects, or the module test will not accept your submission, etc. This means the training component you’re attempting to complete may have been developed and released for an earlier version of Internet Explorer.

To correct this issue, you may need to adjust your Compatibility View Settings. In Compatibility View, the training component will be displayed as if you were viewing it in a previous version of Internet Explorer, which will often correct any display or functionality issues.

Click here to view the steps to modify these settings if you’re using IE Version 9.0, IE Version 10.0 or IE Version 11.0

So basically what this is saying is that, “Yeah, we only coded this for an early version of Internet Explorer. We are too lazy to update it and you have to do a work around because we don’t like people using secure browsers like Chrome or Firefox.”  The ACDelco Training modules are also written in Java mind you, so there are a ton of problems with the code.  It basically intermittently works even with updated Internet Explorer versions, which I never use.  Who would over Chrome and Firefox?  We also don’t like anyone updating our modules with better code, on bad software, and with a confusing interface and design.

Bottom line, I see a lot of badly coded and designed online training but ACDelco Training takes the cake.  Companies like ACDelco have no excuse, and I mean no excuse, when they have the amount of money resources to keep these things updated and make them easy for people to use.

Honestly I wouldn’t use this online ACDelco Training unless I had to.  It is a class requirement that I complete these modules.

If you are an auto technician or automotive technology student and have used the ACDelco Training modules which are online based, do you agree?

Direct TPMS vs Indirect TPMS

indirect tpms vs direct tpms

For those who work in the auto repair field I’m sure you’ve heard about Tire Pressure Monitoring System, or TPMS for short.  What most auto repair technicians do not know is that there are two main types of TPMS systems that you need to be aware of, Direct TPMS and Indirect TPMS.

Direct TPMS

This style of TPMS is what you will find on all new cars that are sold in the United States since 2008.  (It is required by law that automakers equip TPMS sensors and a low tire pressure warning indicator light in the dashboard on all new cars and light trucks.) Direct TPMS works by having a TPMS sensor installed in each tire so that it can read the tire pressure and then transmits a radio frequency (RF) signal to a TPMS controller located on the vehcile. Federal law states that if a tire pressure falls below 25% of the auto-manufactures recommend tire inflation level, usually found on the driver’s side door or door jamb, a light will alert the driver in the vehicle dashboard within 10 minutes.

This is so you can go inflate your tire, which I know most people reading this probably do not do.

Indirect TPMS

An indirect TPMS system doesn’t technically read and measure the tire pressure individually.  Indirect TPMS uses wheel speed sensors to determine if a tire pressure is low.  How does that work?

Basically it detects different speeds in the wheels.  If a tire is underinflated and not at the correct proper PSI (pound per square inch) level it will have a slightly smaller diameter than a properly inflated tire.  A smaller diameter tire with low PSI pressure will rotate slightly faster than the properly inflated tires.  The indirect TPMS system will take measurements when the vehicle is turning and measures the diagonally opposed wheels.  (When a vehicle makes a turn the outside wheel move slightly faster than the inside wheel to make the turn.)  If the indirect TPMS makes a reading that shows that the wheels are rotating faster than usual, the TPMS warning light will be triggered on the dashboard.

As it’s moniker states it is “Indirect” since the readings are not coming directly from each wheel.  Rather a determination is made from wheel speeds.

Indirect TPMS vs Direct TPMS

Indirect TPMS has many advantages over Direct TPMS.  Chiefly that these TPMS systems do not need additional and expensive components (TPMS sensors in the tire) to be installed on a car or light truck.  An Indirect TPMS systems is inexpensive and easily added since most vehicles today have four wheel speed sensors already installed.  The disadvantage?  Obviously a TPMS system can’t tell you which tire is low and it won’t say if several tires have a low PSI, it just illuminites a light in the dashboard letting you know there is a low tire somewhere on the vehicle.  Indirect TPMS doesn’t meet the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration (FMVSS) 138 mandate which states that a TPMS system needs to detect if a tire pressure PSI falls below 25% of the automanufacturer’s recommended inflation level.

Direct TPMS, while more expensive for car owners, is more accurate and largely doesn’t have the problems associated with Indirect TPMS systems.  Generally cars equipped with Direct TPMS will tell you exactly which tire is low.  (Not always so be sure to check that spare tire.)  It meets the FMVSS 138 mandate which is why it is installed on new cars being sold today.  Direct TPMS systems send a continuous intermittent RF signal to the TPMS receiver to let it know which tire is low.  It doesn’t rely on the vehicle turning to take it’s measurements.

This system is “Direct” as it take readings directly from the source.

Why you should be aware of Indirect TPMS

Obviously Direct TPMS is more accurate and what is being used on millions of vehicles being put on the road today. Why should you care about Indirect TPMS?

Indirect TPMS systems have been around for a number of years and it’s likely that even if you don’t see this style of tire pressuring monitoring systems everyday in the shop, you probably will at some point.  You might have a customer, friend, or family member with a vehicle equipped with an Indirect TPMS system on their car and understanding how it works is never a bad idea.

What are your thoughts about Indirect TPMS vs Direct TPMS? Have any questions or thoughts? Please leave a comment below and let me know.

Valve Cover Replacment – 2002 Toyota Camry

I recently did a Valve Cover replacement on a 2002 Toyota Camry.  This job was fairly easy and I’m sure that anyone with a working knowledge of basic hand tools should be able to do this.  You really just need;

Basically you just remove the black plastic cover on the top of the engine which is only two bolts.  If it has never been removed you might need to apply some force but be careful as it is plastic.  Around the top of the engine there are are 8-10 bolts and a set of nuts which are easily removed with the a 10mm socket and ratchet.  I like using magnetic parts dishes to keep all bolts, nuts, and crews from going anywhere.  There are also two hoses connected to the valve cover and you will need to use pliers to clamp down on the clips holding the on.  You also need to undo two brackets that are attached to the Valve Cover. Once you get off all the nuts and bolts off the Valve Cover, and make sure nothing is attached, you can take it off.

One thing I found while doing this Valve Cover Replacement on this 2002 Toyota Camry was that it looked deceptively easy but… as usual it gave me a few problems. :) First the Valve Cover was being a bit stubborn coming off, so I had to use a block of wood and gave it a few late taps when against the Valve Cover.  It also was a bit difficult maneuvering the Valve Cover off the top of the engine as there is plastic clip bracket for the fuel injector wiring on the Driver’s side.  On the passenger side there is a wiring harness that runs from the alternator over the top of the engine.  While you can loosen a bracket bolt connected  for this 2-gauge wire for better clearance, it’s still a huge problem for getting the Valve Cover off and back onto this Camry engine block.   My recommendation for getting the Valve Cover back on is to take your time and start with getting it back on the driver’s side sliding it under the plastic clip.

Before you attempt putting the new gasket back on though, make sure to compare if you have the correct one for your car.  This picture shows the new one that fits in perfectly and the old gasket, below the Valve Cover, which you can see was brittle and hard to the touch definitely needed to be replaced.

valve cover replacment toyota camryAlso you need to clean both mating surfaces of any oil, dirt, or grime.  That means the engine block itself and the Valve Cover.  For this just take the Acetone (nail polish remove) and pour it onto some shop rags and start rubbing each surface.  Take time with this step as you need to get it clean before installing the new Valve Cover gasket.   I do NOT recommend using paper towels as they will tear and can potentially leave bits in your engine.  I see too many people that use paper towels.

You might have noticed above I recommend a product called High Tack.  This so that when you are placing a new part into position the gasket doesn’t move.  It’s a red, sticky, and kind of smells like old BBQ but it works and was really helpful for completing this job.  While I was trying to maneuver the Valve Cover into position with the new gasket it kept falling out making it annoying.  I ran to the auto parts store and bought a can of High Tack Gasket Sealer and while it is expensive for a 4 ounce bottle it was definitely worth the price to complete this DIY auto repair job.

Before installing the Valve Cover gasket make sure to use a little RTV sealant on the two large surface areas near the timing chain.  This is specified since I assume there are higher stress and wear areas on the gasket.  I got the Valve Cover position on the engine and once I was comfortable that it was in the right place I put the RTV sealant on.

After that you just put all the nuts and bolts back on and tighten them down.  You should be able to get away with hand tightening without a torque wrench.  Just make sure to go in a star pattern to distribute the pressure evenly when you are installing the bolts and huts.

If you are reading this and need to do this Valve Cover Replacement, something to keep in mind about gaskets is that it’s good to replace them sooner rather than later.  This stops any oil leaks and keeps your engine compartment clean for future auto repair jobs.  In addition you don’t risk loosing oil or oil pressure and damaging other vehicle components.

Another thing, the Fel-Pro gasket I used for this Toyota Camry Valve Cover replacement, I wasn’t all that impressed with it.  It’s thinner than the factory one that came out of the car and while it fit perfectly and worked fine… in retrospect I probably should have opted for a Toyota gasket from an online part dealer.  It wasn’t that much more expensive actually only about $2 or so dollars.  Since you save money doing it yourself, why not put that money toward better parts? :)

Mechanix Gloves are nice to have for keeping your hands clean and so they don’t get too busted.  I also like having a Fender Cover so that I don’t damage the paint or finish on a car.

Anyway, if you have any questions or comments about doing doing this feel free to leave a comment below.  I’ll be sure to answer them as quick as I can and to the best of my knowledge and ability.  I hope this helps you fix your own Toyota Camry.

DIY Auto Repair

How to Replace an Oxygen Sensor

How to Replace a Car Battery

Jim Carrey rips Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln Ads on SNL [VIDEO]

jim carrey snl lincoln commercialJim Carrey hosted Saturday Night Live (SNL) this weekend and the Canadian actor is a pretty funny guy.  Notably movies he’s done include Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber, The Truman Show, Liar Liar, and more.  As part of Jim Carrey hosting SNL he did a set of fake commercials ripping the Lincoln TV spots featuring the Academy award winning actor, Matthew McConaughey. 

For those that haven’t seen the Lincoln MKC commercials with Matthew McConaughey they are pretty trippy.  The ad agency that came up with them was doing some serious drugs while conceiving these commercials.  McConaughey was doing drugs when shooting them as well I imagine.

In total there were three different spoofed commercial SNL spots with Jim Carrey.  The second one was my favorite when a young kid in the back says, “Dad are you ok?”Carrey replies, “I’m super good, bud.” the other kid says, “You’re going 5 miles an hour.” then Jim Carrey turns forward and says, “Not bad for a Lincoln.” then a voice-over says, “Who’s kids are these?”

The last commercial in the series starts off as an AllState commercial with Kenan Thompson as the AllState guy.  Midway through a Lincoln MKC rolls by and hits Thompson, then the camera cuts to Carrey undressed in the car with tie around his head.  You can watch the silliest below.

Jim Carrey Lincoln Ads Spoof – Saturday Night Live

This isn’t the first time Saturday Night Live has done an automotive themed spoof.  The most recent one was about ripping Mary Barra’s GM recall testimony before Congress.  Making fun of Mary Barra isn’t as popular as making fun of Lincoln commercials though.  It seems that ripping these Lincoln MKC commercials have reached pop culture status.  South Park made fun of them on their “Handicar” episode last week and Ellen DeGeneres also spoofed the Lincoln commercials last month.

The real question… does Lincoln appreciate all this publicity?

While nobody will argue that this is great publicity for Lincoln and the new Lincoln MKC mid-size SUV, I’m pretty sure Lincoln isn’t actually selling many of these MKCs.  Why?  Lincoln just doesn’t build competitive luxury cars and great publicity will not mask this fact.  Also having dealt with Lincoln’s PR company I can tell you they are racist, which means Lincoln is racist, so I wouldn’t buy any Lincolns or recommend them.  Also just because you get a ton of funny publicity doesn’t mean people actually buy your cars.  That just means you are getting ridiculed and made fun of, which they may or may not like.  Even if this is great publicity for the Lincoln and the Lincoln MKC I think the PR company is just allowing the public and media to throw seasoning onto the fact it is a car brand nobody cares or really thinks about.

Did you see the Jim Carrey SNL episode?  What did you think of the Lincoln commercial spoofs?

South Park rips Ride Sharing & Elon Musk [VIDEO]

south park ride sharingSouth Park is known for being edgy and making fun of current pop culture.  The production timeline for the show is 1 week, which is mind blowing if you think about how long most TV production takes.  On the latest episode they rip ride sharing services such as Lyft and Uber (these allow you to catch rides in people’s personal vehicles), crippled kids, and Matthew McConaughey and stupid Lincoln commercials, car salesman, taxis, and taxi drivers.  For fans of the electric car they also make fun of Tesla co-founder and CEO, Elon Musk.

The synopsis of the episode is that Timmy, a crippled kid that only says his name “Timmy”, is working to raise money for his special needs summer camp for next year.  Timmy has a ride sharing app called Handicar which enables people to catch rides around town using his wheelchair.  The local taxi drivers in the town of South Park get upset about the competition as well as Elon Musk, since it’s taking away from people focusing on electric cars.  The culmination is a Wacky Races epic race against all the competing car technologies and services to see which is best and most convenient.

Like all South Park episodes this one is brilliantly done. Watch it here!

Editor’s Note – this video is an unofficially posted and could be taken down at any moment.

South Park “Handicar” Episode – Ride Sharing

If you watch the show you will see that they also rip Lincoln’s current marketing campaign with the actor Matthew .  The TV commercials are meant to show that he “Just Liked It” instead of Lincoln actually paying him to like Lincoln vehicles.  Since the public thinks this is BS, South Park decided to make fun of the commercials and call them out on it.  Watch the questionable Lincoln commercial by clicking here.

elon musk south parkWhile it’s cool that South Park is in-tune with current auto marketing, the real question is, does this mean that Tesla and Elon Musk have gone mainstream?  What about ride sharing?  If South Park makes fun of it that probably means it’s pretty popular and worthy of the Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the South Park creators, attention.

Here is the part with Elon Musk if you don’t want to invest 22 minute to watching the full episode.  This wasn’t part of the main storyline in case you were wondering.

South Park – Elon Musk

Musk was good humored about the spoof since he Tweeted about it on when the show aired.

elon musk twitterMcConaughey did not mention his South Park appearance though.  Surprisingly there wasn’t a mention of RelayRides in the episode but they did mention ZipCar.  Anyway, I encourage my readers to watch the Handicar episode and let me know what you think with a comment below. Did you think it was funny?

Nick Heidfeld goes to the Dark Side, Buys Nissan Leaf

nick hedfield

Nick Heidfeld, a Former F1 driver, has officially gone to the dark side.  How?  He’s bought a Nissan Leaf which is an all electric car.

Does the Nissan Leaf go fast?  No, not really.  Does it make loud noises? No, it makes hardly any noise at all since it uses an electric motor. Does it look cool?  Ahh, depends on who you are and who you ask.  Does it have responsive driving?  Mmmm, probably not. So what was a race car driver like Nick Heidfeld thinking?

The purchase of an electric car by the German ex-Formula 1 driver isn’t that surprising.  Heidfeld currently competes in the newly formed and sanctioned Formula E racing series which features all electric car racing and is sanctioned by the FIA, the governing body behind F1.  The series is meant to showcase new electric vehicle technology to the world.  He’ll mainly be using the car to ferry around his family in Switzerland where he currently lives.

What do you think of an F1 driver, even a former one, buying an electric car?

[Source – InsideEVs]