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Real World – Automotive Students Gain Experience by Working on Employee Automobiles

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Whether a vehicle dilemma lies within the fuel system, brakes or electrical components, or the Service Engine Soon light is constantly blinking, Owens Community College employees from the Findlay and Toledo, OH campuses dont have to venture very far to find service for their ailing automobiles. With a quick phone call to the colleges Transportation Technology Center, employees can have their motor vehicle problems remedied by highly skilled students within Owens Automotive Technology Program.

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As part of the programs mission of incorporating the latest in innovative automotive technology, Owens students are constantly presented with the task of diagnosing, correcting and repairing employee vehicles featuring an array of problems. However, solving such mechanical issues found in todays modern automobile is not uncharted territory for Owens knowledgeable students. Servicing employee vehicles merely builds upon the foundation of educational coursework initially taught within the classroom.

Owens Community Colleges Automotive Technology Program is structured as both a classroom and laboratory, affording students the opportunity to receive real-life experiences needed to achieve success within the working world, said Rick Francis, Owens professor of Transportation Technologies. Diagnosing and repairing problems found within employee vehicles presents students with such hands-on everyday scenarios.

According to Francis, employees facing auto trouble are able to schedule an appointment with one of the Automotive Technology instructors within the appropriate course related to the problem. If the problem involves the brakes, the automotive brakes class will service the vehicle, Francis said. When an employee vehicle is serviced depends on class instruction. For instance, if the vehicle problem relates to electrical trouble, but the class has yet to cover the topic of electrical systems, that employee must wait to set an appointment until the proper curriculum is taught.

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Owens Automotive Technology Program requires approximately 68 credit hours of coursework and is designed to teach students about an array of auto service fundamentals, as well as specifics related to the vehicle, such as automotive brakes, vehicle electricity and electronics, engine fundamentals, standard transmission and drivetrains, automatic transmission, wheel alignment and suspension, air conditioning, automotive powertrain and vehicle accessory systems.

Upon completion of the associate degree program, Owens students are prepared for a variety of careers as technicians within the automotive industry, including operation, maintenance, service, testing, diagnostics and development.

Whether students enter the program experienced or inexperienced, they all leave with the knowledge and expertise to excel in todays fast-changing automotive industry, said Francis. This program allows students to learn beyond the book, enabling them to perform at a high level of competency.

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For Owens first-year student A.J. Bowland of Genoa, OH, the Automotive Technology Program is instrumental in helping him reach his goal of someday road-testing autos for a dealership or manufacturer.

This program gives students the opportunity to learn everything there is to know about vehicles through a unique hands-on approach, said Bowland, a Genoa High School graduate. The instructors are wonderful. They not only teach the proper technique of working on the automobile, they also stress the importance of achieving perfection.

Such perfection of service is something that keeps employees coming back for more. In addition to the positive verbal feedback, some employees have gone as far as sending thank you cards, or buying doughnuts or pizza for the class who serviced their automobile.

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Citing convenience and dependability, Karen Koke, Owens secretary of Public Relations and Marketing, has had her vehicle serviced multiple times by students within the Automotive Technology Program.

The program has great students who have a firm grasp on what they are doing, said Koke. All that I have to do is call ahead, drop off my vehicle and within a reasonable time period, its ready and waiting; good as new. I could not ask for better service.

For more information, visit www.owens.edu.


Taking on Tractor Pulling

Tractor pulling has been with us for as long as there have been tractors. Farmers used to pull with their horses, mules or oxen and, just as today, each bragged that he had the biggest and strongest. Today, at the top echelons of pulling, the technology is equal to anything else in motorsports.

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Although you wont see teams developing their own engines like in NASCAR, there are shops that specialize in designing and building winning tractor pull engines. For many shops, tractor pulling is about all they do; they have developed a following because they put their customers in the winners circle.

Like the top racers in the country, many competitors will pay whatever it takes, as long as they are winning, and believe me, pulling at the top levels is anything but cheap. A competitive Super Stock Diesel engine can set a puller back $100,000; the big block, blown alcohol motors will run as high as $50,000 each and some tractors have up to six engines powering them. Heck, even the antique tractor pullers are spending upwards of $25,000 on their motors, and all they win is a trophy and a handshake!

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The Playing Field
The National Tractor Pullers Association (NTPA) is the premier sanctioning body for tractor pulling in the U.S. and its competition rules are the basis for those used worldwide. Tractor pulling has found its way to Europe and Australia, and many of the manufacturers and shops in the U.S. regularly ship to those countries. It is common for a group to come over from Europe, visit many of the shops here, then fill a container or two with pieces and parts and ship it back to Europe.

The NTPA Grand National Championship circuit is the top of the pulling world. This is the NASCAR or NHRA of truck and tractor pulling. The NTPA currently recognizes 11 divisions of pulling at the Grand National level: Super Farm Stock, Pro Stock, Super Stock Diesel, Open Super Stock, Unlimited Modified, Limited Modified, Two Wheel Drive, Modified Four Wheel Drive, Super Modified Four Wheel Drive, Mini Modified and Super Semi. (For this article, well focus mainly on the first four categories.)

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Note: The division variety increases when you drop down into NTPA sanctioned regional and state level pulling where there are additional classes and divisions. Drop further down to UN-sanctioned brush pulling and the variety increases again. There is a lot of pulling going on around the country, from 8-year old kids on a stock garden tractors to motorcycle engine powered minis. When you get to the tractors and other full-size vehicles, you can go from antique tractors all the way up to the NTPA Unlimited Modifieds. This variety can mean a lot of work for those shops willing to tackle some of it, or for those looking to find a new niche.

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Class in Session
The Super Farm Stock and Pro Stock tractors are the closest youll get to an off the farm tractor, at least at the national level. Nearly identical, they compete under basically the same rules with a few exceptions.

Super Farm is a diesel-powered class utilizing the stock block that came with that model tractor. Tractors are limited to a single turbocharger. The turbo in this class is limited to a 3-in. inlet and outlet, while the Pro Stock class can have any size turbo. The Super Farm is limited to 640 cid, but Pro Stock can be as large as 680 cid.

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The Super Stock Diesel tractors also closely match their cousins out in the field, but would be considered the most powerful diesel-powered tractor pulling vehicle. They are allowed up to four turbochargers and can be up to 650 cid. Again, they must utilize a stock OEM block. For graduates of diesel mechanic programs who are looking to get into the pulling market, Super Farm and Pro Stock would be a good starting point if you have experience building/rebuilding diesel-powered engines. However, keep in mind these are not just any old diesel engines.

For the most part, these tractors originally came from the factory with under 150 hp. As they become competition vehicles, they will produce many times their original hp.

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For example, a Super Farm tractor will put out in the neighborhood of 1,000-1,100 hp at a boost pressure of 55 psi with a single 3-in. turbo. A Pro Stock will produce 1,800 hp-plus with a boost pressure in the 110-120 psi range. A Super Stock with four turbochargers and 200 psi-plus boost pressure will top out at around 2,500-2,800 hp.

From Stock to Comp
In stock form, these tractors would probably never see more than 3,000 rpm. In pulling competition, they will regularly run at 6,000-8,000 rpm depending on the class. The blocks may be stock, but thats about where it ends. Although parts such as valves, rods and pistons are available from several manufacturers, parts such as cylinder heads, camshafts, turbochargers, and intake and fuel systems are all custom-made components. A top-of-the-line injection pump for one of these tractors will run in excess of $10,000. A turbocharger is in about the same range.

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To keep these engines from melting down during competition when theyre pushed to such limits, engine builders all use water injection to help keep internal combustion temperatures at a manageable level. While theyll burn 3 to 5 gallons of diesel fuel during a typical 8-10 second run, theyll also inject about that same amount of water. The main reason for the water injection is to keep the combustion temperatures down. By injecting the water into the air charge, it also helps increase power by increasing the density of the aircharge.

There are several manufacturers that specialize in designing and building these parts. The biggest horsepower gains in the past few years have been found in the heads and turbochargers. A lot of time and money has gone into head design and flow testing, as well as turbo design.

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Chassis Design
The movement of late is towards component chassis designs, where the tractors are built out of component parts, just like the modern NASCAR NEXTEL Cup cars, or NHRA dragsters. In the past, you would just go buy an old farm tractor and modify it for pulling, but safety and performance is dictating the move in this direction. This move toward component tractors could open the door for those with the expertise in design and manufacture of parts for these component tractors.

That brings us to the Open Super Stock tractors. The Open Super Stocks are hybrids of the tractor-pulling world. They are the most powerful, single-engine pulling vehicles in the world. They will put out 4,000-4,500 hp at a boost pressure of around 80-110 psi from up to four turbos. Theyll develop a tire speed of 120-140 mph and pull a 65,000-lb. sled 300 feet in eight seconds.

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These Open Super Stocks, like the diesel tractors, must use a stock OEM block that was available for the make and model of the tractor. In most cases, this would be a straight six, but in some cases, such as Massey-Ferguson and White, Perkins or Caterpillar, V8s were available for some models. But the sheetmetal is where any similarities to a stock tractor end.

For the most part, they have been converted from diesel to alcohol fuel and they utilize a custom-manufactured overhead cam head or heads. You will also find that nearly all are of component construction. They are the most technologically advanced tractor-pulling vehicles out there and quite possibly the most technologically advanced motorsport vehicle there is. There you have the tractor classes. They are the most specialized pulling vehicles, but because of that, they also offer the most opportunity for shops to move into the pulling market, simply because nearly every part and piece is custom designed and manufactured.

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If you are already building big block race motors, then you can easily build pulling motors, but you must be aware of some of the differences. The biggest difference would be in the fuel system. Drag motors need a lot of fuel at the start, out to about the first third of the run, then they lean out. Pulling motors are pretty much the opposite, they need less fuel at the start, but by mid-track when the load begins to increase, the need for fuel increases to the end of the run, with the most fuel needed at the finish.

There are other differences, too, such as a certain camshaft design that a builder might find after some R&D, which would work better for pulling. Each class or division may be slightly different also, either because of rules or because of preference. Blower size, valve size or blower overdrives are all factors that will be different depending on the class or division. The modifieds might put out about 2,000 hp, while the Two Wheel Drive class might push 2,500 hp with a bigger supercharger and big valve heads.

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Another NTPA class that well talk about is the Modified Four Wheel Drive Trucks. These pulling trucks are the only class/division that must use a naturally aspirated engine, that is, either carbureted or injected, but no supercharger or turbocharger. They are limited to 650 cid and fueled by alcohol or gasoline.

These are probably the most expensive automotive engines used in pulling with a 650 cid engine with the best of everything reaching the $55,000-$60,000 range. Competitors in this division dont have a big supercharger to make power, so they must rely on getting the best air flow they can, something that costs a lot of money. A shop can spend literally hundreds, if not thousands of hours in R&D searching for a few more horsepower.

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For more information on tractor pulling, you can go to www.NTPAPull.com.

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