Fleet testing is often the final important phase of vehicle development that provides proof of performance and comparative data under actual operational conditions. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) offers experienced staff, comprehensive services, and state-of-the-art fleet test facilities in all segments of the automotive industry. We perform testing on a private nine-mile high-speed test track, public roads and on 24 state-of-the-art mileage accumulation dynamometers (road simulators).
Our bumper-to-bumper fleet testing capabilities include air conditioning systems, automatic transmission fluids, axle lubricants, coolants, crankcase oils, engines, fuels, tires and vehicle durability.
Our fleet and field evaluation services encompass cars, trucks, buses, industrial equipment and farm tractors. In support of test programs involving vehicle evaluations on road simulators, test tracks or public roads, experienced SwRI technicians perform instrumentation, routine vehicle maintenance, repair, and rebuilding of engines, transmissions and drivetrains.
SwARC, our joint venture company located in Tianjin, China, also performs fleet evaluation services.
Automotive Fleet Testing
To assist new product development, SwRI applies a variety of fleet and laboratory procedures that can be adapted to a variety of research requirements. Services include gear and gear lubricant evaluations, fleet evaluation of experimental engines and components and examination of fuel deposit tendencies in vehicles.
Axle and Axle Lubricant Evaluations, Heavy-Duty
The Institute conducts in-service evaluations of heavy-duty axles; frequently for MIL-PRF-2105E and/or standard SAE J2360 gear lubricant qualification programs. Three or four trucks are operated for 200,000 miles on test lubricants. Performance of a lubricant is judged from the appearance of gears, bearings and carrier. Periodic lubricant samples are analyzed for wear metals, additives and contaminants.
Axle and Axle Lubricant Evaluations, Light-Duty
SwRI conducts 100,000-mile in-service evaluations of gear lubricants in light-duty vehicles such as pickups and cargo vans. These evaluations are frequently related to MIL-PRF-2105E and/or standard SAE J2360 qualification programs.
Truck Axle Lubricant Fuel Economy
The fuel economy benefits of axle lubricants in light- and heavy-duty trucks are evaluated using SAE procedures. Heavy-duty trucks outfitted with precision fuel consumption measurement equipment are operated on road routes with precise control of speed, time and distance. Light-duty trucks operate similarly but on a chassis dynamometer following a prescribed cycle.
Crankcase Engine Lubricant Fuel Economy
The fuel economy benefits associated with engine lubricants in heavy-duty vehicles are evaluated by SAE procedures that involve operation on road routes with precision fuel consumption measuring equipment and precise control of speed, time and distance.
Truck Fuel Economy Improvements
The fuel economy benefits associated with various fuel additives, wheels, tires, aerodynamic devices, etc., in heavy-duty trucks are evaluated by SAE and TMC procedures. Trucks operate on road routes with precision fuel consumption measuring equipment and precise control of speed, time and distance.
Durability and Reliability Evaluation of Engine/Vehicle Compatibility
Durability and reliability of medium- and heavy-duty diesel- and alternative-fueled engines are evaluated in Class 7 and 8 trucks and buses on city and highway routes. Engine performance, reliability and maintainability are determined by this 100,000-mile test.
Road Simulators/Mileage Accumulation Dynamometers
Rapid vehicle mileage accumulation programs are performed on 24 road simulators capable of speeds up to 100 miles per hour on vehicles up to 7,000 pounds at steady-state conditions or programmed transient driving cycles. The road simulators support two- and four-wheel drive vehicles with up to 400 horsepower. Temperature and humidity controlled engine inlet air can be provided on four of the 24 units.
Vehicle Test Tracks
SwRI performs vehicle testing on a variety of test tracks including a one-mile track located on the SwRI grounds. High-speed vehicle testing is performed on an eight-mile track including fuel economy measurement, driveability, endurance and component evaluations.
The Institute provides multiple courses with varying configurations on its grounds for off-highway evaluations of vehicles such as agricultural machinery, recreational and sport/utility vehicles, and industrial equipment. Vehicle operation parameters can be monitored on a real-time basis.
John Deere Engine Coolant Cavitation Test
A 250-hour test on a Deere 6101H engine is used to evaluate a coolant’s ability to suppress cavitation and corrosion damage to power cylinder liners.
Specialized Fuel Testing
Vehicle Evaluations for Fuel Injector Plugging
Vehicles equipped with multi-port fuel injection systems encounter injector-plugging problems associated with gasolines with inadequate amounts of detergents. In severe cases, this problem can render a vehicle inoperative. This test reproduces fuel injector plugging under controlled conditions to assess the effect of fuel additives as they relate to injector “clean-up” and “keep-clean.” The keep-clean test is conducted according to ASTM D5598 protocol. During the test, injector flows and spray patterns are evaluated. Fuel injector spray patterns can be photo-documented to provide a visual record of test results.
Intake System and Combustion Chamber Deposits
The Institute evaluates fuels and fuel additives for intake system cleanliness. The BMW 10,000-Mile (ASTM D5500 protocol) and Ford 2.3 Liter Intake Valve Deposit Tests (ASTM D6201 protocol) qualify fuels and fuel additives for the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board and TOP TIER gasoline specifications. Specialized fuel evaluation programs focus on current vehicles, both foreign and domestic. The relationship between engine design, fuel properties and additive performance is investigated. Evaluation techniques include deposit analysis, combustion chamber deposit thickness measurements and deposit weight measurements.
Intake Valve-Sticking Evaluations
Vehicle test programs are conducted to assess the effect of fuels and fuel additives on intake valve sticking. The ability of fuels to prevent intake valve stem deposits from causing the intake valves to stick at cold temperatures -20°C (-4°F) can be evaluated.
Vehicle Driveability and Performance Testing
SwRI conducts CRC-type vehicle driveability and performance tests to evaluate vehicle operation as it relates to test fuels, additives and vehicle components. Onsite track facilities, as well as the trained personnel and specialized equipment necessary for these tests, are available. Cold chambers allow vehicle soak temperatures as low as -20°C (-4°F).
Vehicle Octane Requirement and ORI Evaluations
Fleet programs for octane requirement and octane requirement increase (ORI) assess engine-operating parameters as related to fuel octane number and combustion requirements. The CRC-E-15 Road Test method is used for these evaluations, and the prescribed reference fuels can be blended for this test.
Alternative Fuels Testing (Methanol, Ethanol, Natural Gas and others)
For spark-ignition and compression-ignition engines, the tests evaluate how test fuels affect engine durability or lubricant suitability.
Octane Requirement Increase (ORI)
While determining how well various gasolines/additives prevent combustion chamber deposits, this test also measures the resulting octane requirement increase.
Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) Fuel Injector Deposits
A variety of specialized test methods are available to characterize fuel deposits in GDI injectors. These include both vehicle and engine dynamometer-based procedures and may include injector flow measurements, high speed video for visualization of spray patterns and changes in exhaust particulate matter (PM) emissions.
Intake Valve Deposits in GDI Engines
SwRI developed an engine dynamometer test to evaluate the potential effects of intake valve coatings and engine oil on intake valve deposits in GDI engines. The test is conducted with a 2.0L four-cylinder turbocharged engine.