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Running head: MYTHBUSTERS: DIRTY CAR VS CLEAN CAR 1

MYTHBUSTERS: DIRTY CAR VS CLEAN CAR


Jennifer Cobb
Ivy Tech Community College











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Mythbusters: Dirty Car vs Clean Car
URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNKMOqpfM20

Whether it is response to an energy shortage or because the price of gas is astronomical,
the miles per gallon or mpg achieved by our vehicles is of great concern. Mythbusters
decided they were going to make a contribution to research on behalf of the millions of
people employing every method to increase their gas mileage. The myth to be busted was
that the dirty car gets better gas mileage. Their rationalization for this theory was because
with dirt or mud on it, the Law of Aerodynamics would cause the uneven surface of the mud
to act in the same way as dimples on a golf ball. So their motivating question was Would a
dirty car go faster than a clean car?
Instead of evaluating two cars, their first decision was to use the same car for accuracy.
The car would be muddied for one trial and cleaned thoroughly for the second trial. Once the
car was muddied, the team went to deserted open area to mark off a one mile marker.
Because precise measurement of fuel was essential, the car was modified with a bypass fuel
system, including a fuel pump and an injection system. Levers were installed inside the car,
marking the beginning and ending of the gasoline use. The levers were manually set when
the car took off and when it crossed the mile marker.
For the Dirty trial, the vehicle was driven the mile distance five times at 65 miles per
hour. The resulting gas mileage was averaged at 24 miles per gallon. The Clean car trial
was also driven 1 mile @ 65 miles per hour, five times for an average of 26.4 miles per
gallon. DEBUNKED!
The Mythbusters were very surprised to have proven their original question incorrect.
They chose to take this dimpled is faster theory one more step. The same car was covered
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in clay. It was covered in the same amount of clay for purposes of the same weight. For the
first trial, the clay was smooth. The same road trial of 1 mile @ 65 miles per hour for five
trials was driven. The smooth surface yielded an average of 26 miles per gallon.
The next special effect in addition to the clay was that dimples, just like on a golf ball
were created in the clay covering of the car. A consistent repeat of the trial gave a gas
mileage of 29 miles per gallon. Ahhhso maybe NOT debunked entirely???
The Mythbusters were consistent with the format of scientific method or inquiry. They
posed a very good and useful question. A hypothesis was formed, the hypothesis was tested
and a conclusion drawn. The evidence acquired from the tests did not support their original
theory.
Ironically, Mythbusters has an earlier episode in which they conducted an experiment
with golf balls, both smooth and dimpled. The dimpled golf balls extended further in excess
of 30% over the smooth balls. With this in mind, they believed a dimpled car would do the
same and be more aerodynamic.
Aerodynamics, simply put, is how air moves around objects. There are four forces of
flight, which are lift, weight, thrust and drag. The force involved in this example is drag.
The dimpled areas are designed to cut down on the drag of a golf ball. It was believed this
same concept would apply to a car.
Neatorama.com, a website that also shared information about the dimpled car, had
gathered information from forums that revealed there are shark skin textures on fighter jets
that offer the benefit of being aerodynamically efficient. For this same reason, textured paint
is banned on race cars. Even Lexus brand vehicles have dimpling on their undercarriage to
reduce friction, thus reducing noise.
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My first disconnect with this philosophy is that the mud would have made the car heavier
dirty than when it was clean. A heavier car traditionally reaps lower gas mileage. In the
clay/dimple test, the additional weight on the car was equivalent in both tests. My own father
was obsessive about having clean cars. He repeated told me clean cars just drive better.
Perhaps it was my own assumption that better also meant improved gas mileage. I am frugal
at the gas pump and stretch those miles as far as I can, but a dimpled car???


















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References
http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/aerodynamics/q0215.shtml
http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/what-is-aerodynamics-k4.html
http://www.neatorama.com/2009/10/23/can-you-improve-your-cars-gas-mileage-by-adding-
golf-ball-dimples/#!xv79w



















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