– Ben Martens


Truck Stats

Last year, Tyla got me an OBDII data logger (Automatic) for my birthday and, of course, I ended up writing an app to download my trip data so I could analyze it. I still get those analysis reports twice per day and they continue to be interesting. For example, I don’t know why, but the last two weeks have had some of the worst traffic on my way home from work in the last year. Now that I have over a year of data, there’s enough to calculate some semi-interesting stats on my drives in our 2016 F150 3.5L Ecoboost:

    • The average trip to work takes me 26.3 minutes.
    • The average trip home takes me 33.9 minutes.
    • It feels like if I leave work a couple minutes early, I’ll avoid the worst of the traffic. Here’s my average commute time based on when I leave. (The x-axis is in 24 hour time so 17 is 5pm.) The y-axis is my average commute home in minutes. It does look like if I leave about 10 minutes before 5 my commute is generally 5-10 minutes faster.
    • My most fuel efficient trip was a 43.7mpg drive along the 3.5 mile route from my house to Home Depot. Not bad for a 5000 pound truck! (A lot of it is downhill and I like to see how little gas I can use on that route…)
      • Best fuel mileage for a trip over 10 miles: Church to Totem Lake AutoZone 28.0mpg
      • Best fuel mileage for a trip over 50 miles: Crystal Mountain to our house 24.7mpg
    • My worst gas mileage is going from Work to the butcher. It’s a short trip and when it’s really cold, my truck spends the whole time idling at stop lights and trying to warm up. I’ve gotten 3.5mpg on that route a couple times!
    • Of the days that I drive the truck, I spend an average of 69.3 minute driving.
    • The most driving in one day was 366 minutes. That was May 25, 2018 when we drove down to Ocean Park for Memorial Day.

I love having all this data! I could do this all night but I should probably cut it off here and go to bed. By the way, all of these charts and stats were created with public preview of Azure Data Explorer. We’ve been using that product internally for a couple years and it makes stuff like the stats above ridiculously fast and easy. If you’re at all involved in data engineering or data analysis, you need to get familiar with Azure Data Explorer!

F150 Tonneau Cover

Shortly after I bough the truck, we took it on a weekend getaway. It rained on the way back so I tarped up. As I was fighting the tarp and the wind, I thought about how many times I’d be doing that over the course owning the truck. It didn’t take much to convince me to look for a better solution.

I ended up buying a TruXedo cover. They have a variety of models but I think I got the fanciest one: the Lo Pro QT. I paid about to have it $450 shipped from Amazon. If you order one, make sure you get the right size for your truck. Thanks to Jay for originally recommending this to me. Installation was pretty easy for me, but I heard that Don and Logan struggled with the install on Don’s truck recently.

Over the last 10 months I’ve grown to really enjoy this. Sure, it’s not as fancy as other retractable ones that roll down into the bed, but this one also cost a small fraction of the cost of those nicer models. I’ve used it to cover camping gear, trash for the dump, groceries and even loads of mulch and dirt. I can unroll it or roll it up in less than a minute and there’s very little vibration or flapping as I drive down the road.

There are no signs of wear or fading on it yet, but even if I have to buy another one in 5 or 10 years, I’ll still say it’s a good investment.

Truxedo Bed Cover

You may have heard that we get a little bit of wet weather around here in the fall, spring and summer. That means that there will be a lot of tarps in my future to cover up loads in the bed when we are taking trips or even just transporting stuff around town. I wouldn’t mind having a cap for the back of the truck, but I have no good place to store it, so I started looking at rollable covers. Jay has a Truxedo model and they had good reviews so I went for it. The specific model I got was the Truxedo Lo Pro QT.

Installation took about 30-45 minutes as I figured it out and adjusted it, but now I could probably do it in 20 minutes by myself or even less if I had another pair of hands. Two rails are clamped onto the top of the bed sides and then the roll clamps to one end of the rails. You can store it rolled up or quickly unroll it and get it locked in place. There’s a tension adjustment so it stays tight and they say it will hold 300 pounds on top of the cover (so you don’t have to worry about snow load, etc.)

I would have preferred one of fancier models that rolls down into the bed, but those were about four times the cost. This was a good deal and I think it will work really well.

truxedo2 truxedo1

Tiny Truck Tweaks

I liked the way the Plasti Dip looked on the back of my truck so I decided to do it on the F150 logos on the sides too. It was a quick job and I actually was able to do it in the garage. My truck barely fits in with the mirrors folded and there’s a small chance that if I was creative I could even close the garage door.


The other small tweak I made was to my antenna. It stuck up probably 8-10 inches above the top of the truck. I like the idea of it hitting a garage roof to give me warning, but that’s way too much warning. Since I regularly park in garages at work, it was pretty annoying. The solution? Cut it shorter. There’s really nothing too fancy about it. Antennas just unscrew and then you can cut them with a hacksaw. I tried to use some JB Weld to put the ball back on top of the antenna, but I couldn’t get it to stick on solidly so I just left it off. Who cares? I suppose I damaged my radio reception a little, but I almost never use the radio and it worked fine even with the antenna completely unscrewed.


Road Angles

How steep is that crazy hill by your house? Are they steep enough to ski if covered by snow? Hills look a lot different from a car than they do from foot or on skis.

It turns out that roads aren’t very steep at all. A good ski run is 15-25 degrees of slope with the craziest runs being up near 40 degrees. The steepest you’ll get on most roads is 5 degrees and that is certainly accompanied by warning signs. Most hills on the highway are barely 1 degree.

I know this thanks to a fun display on my new truck. It shows the pitch and roll of the truck as well as the how much the front wheels are turned. I suppose this might be important in certain off road situations, but mostly it’s just something fun to look at.


Plasti Dip Badges

Tim turned me on to Plasti Dip. It’s kind of like a spray on rubber coating. I’ve toyed around with it a bit in the past, but I really liked what he did on his truck by covering the emblems with it. So I decided to copy him.

One of the great parts about Plasti Dip is that you can just peel it off whenever you decide you don’t want it anymore so there’s not a lot of concern with applying it incorrectly. The consensus on YouTube seems to be that you mask off the area around the emblem but leave a buffer around the emblem. You spray four or five coats onto the unmasked area and then carefully peel off everything but the emblem. Here’s a link to one of the videos that I found most helpful.

I did excatly that and it worked remarkably well. There were no problems geting it to break right at the ege of the emblem. I love the way it turned out and now I want to do the rest of the badges on the truck. The two F150 emblems by the side mirrors should be similar but I’m still deciding about the Ford emblems. I think it would look neat to only Plasti Dip the blue part of the emblem but that’s a bit tricky.

plastidipf150_1 plastidipf150_2 plastidipf150_3

F150 Decal Removal

My truck came with big “FX4” stickers on the panels behind the rear tires. They signify that my truck is four wheel drive and has the offroad package. They don’t look bad, but I really like the look of a clean truck, so I set about removing them.

I had some experience with this type of thing before. When we bought the Escape, Ford of Kirkland put their stupid little star decal on the back. That really frustrated me and was actually one of the reasons I didn’t even call them when I was looking for somebody to sell me a truck. Don’t put your stupid $0.50 advertising sticker on my big purchase! Anyway, the first thing I did when I brought it home was use a hair dryer to heat up that sticker and then I carefully removed it. A little Goo Gone cleaned up the remaining residue.

So having that knowledge in hand and knowing that lots of other people have successfully removed the decals from their trucks, I gave it a shot. I used a heat gun on low temperature to just raise the temp a little and then picked at the decal with my fingernail. It peeled right off. I saw plenty of people online say that the heat gun isn’t necessary if the decal is pretty new. I put some Goo Gone over the area and there was no sign it had ever been there.

I also removed the EcoBoost badges from under the side mirrors. That was a little trickier because they had some bulk to them. I used a piece of floss in a sawing motion to loosen it up and then the badges fell off. They left behind a sticky pad which peeled off in one piece. Again, Goo Gone helped clean it up completely and voila. Done!

The other badges on the truck have holes through the body so if I can’t remove them without a lot of extra work.

Below is a photo of what the truck looks like now, and here is a link to a photo of it before in case you need a reminder.

debadgedf150Good news, my bicycle now has an EcoBoost engine in it.



How much weight can that truck haul? How much can it tow? I had very little idea how to really answer those questions before I started researching my truck purchase. I figured there was a web page somewhere that you could look it up and figure it out. And that’s sort of correct, but that web page is huge and complicated. Plus it varies by vehicle depending on the options that you chose. So how do you figure it out?

All of the info you need is printed on the inside door frame of the driver’s door. The first sticker of interest is white with black lettering. The key numbers are:

  • GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating): No matter what you load into your truck, it should never weigh more than this.
  • GAWR (gross axle weight rating): There is one number for the front axle and one for the rear. This just means that you can’t take that full GVWR and put it all on the back of your truck. You need to have the weight distributed so that the front and rear axles carry loads they can handle.


The second sticker is white with yellow, red and black. The main information there is the correct tire pressures but it also tells you “The combined weight of occupants and cargo should never exceed X.”


The one important number that I can’t find anywhere on the stickers is GCWR (gross combination weight rating.) This the maximum weight of the truck and the trailer with everything loaded into it. Along with the payload rating, it helps you determine how heavy your trailer can be. All I have for that is the spec sheet published by Ford.

The images in this post are from my truck and you can see that my payload is 2564 lbs and that number is the reason why I had to wait so long to get my truck. If you don’t get the heavy duty payload package on the F150, you’re probably going to have something like 1500-1900 pounds of payload capacity.

Those numbers might sound really high but they get eaten up very quickly. For example, let’s say the driver is 200 pounds and there are 300 pounds of other humans in the vehicle. That’s 500 pounds gone from your payload. Oh and you got a spray in bedliner? That’s about another 80 pounds. Then add up all the luggage and gear that you packed for your trip and include that. If you’re towing a trailer, the tongue weight of the trailer comes out of your payload allotment too. If you take the calculate the total weight of the trailer (including all the stuff you have in it too), about 10% of that will be carried by your truck. If you want to be extra careful, load your vehicle up with all your gear, hitch up your trailer, and get it weighed.

Now obviously your vehicle isn’t going to fall apart if you exceed the payload capacity, but it’s probably a good idea to know what the stickers say and then know how far you’re exceeding it. Going 100 pounds over is almost certainly fine. Going 2000 pounds over is probably a recipe for disaster.

So in the end, my truck can handle 2500 pounds and can pull 11,400 pounds. That should be plenty for the commute back and forth to my desk at work…

Sync 3 With Windows Phone

sync3As I researched the possibility of ordering a new truck last year, I thought I’d save some money by skipping the Sync system. We have it on the Escape and, while it’s functional, it’s not WOW and for the extra cost, it should be at least 72% more wow. Then I heard that the 2016 F150s would be receiving the brand new Sync 3 system. It’s a complete overhaul and a break from the Microsoft system. The early reviews were very good so I went for it. So far, I’m glad I did. My main beef with Sync 2 is that it’s sluggish. Sync 3 is very responsive. I can pinch to zoom and get much faster reactions to touch selections.

Using either Sync system with Windows Phone is a bit underwhelming. You get Bluetooth connectivity and it will do things like show the name of the song you’re playing, but it won’t display your text messages on the screen, run connected apps or anything fancy like that.

In the new truck, I was having trouble getting Cortana to speak to me or hear me when connected to Sync 3 via Bluetooth. I finally found a checkbox in the advanced Bluetooth settings on my Nokia 929 that says “Use an alternate Bluetooth audio connection for Speech”. I don’t know what that means but after I checked it, Cortana would break in and read my text message and let me reply. Perfect!

New Truck

The truck is here! I got a call Saturday morning saying it had just arrived on the train at the depot in Kent. They put a rush on it and I got to pick it up on Sunday afternon. Kudos to Evergreen Ford in Issaquah for helping me do a bunch of the paperwork by phone and email on Saturday so that Sunday went faster. That was really appreciated since we had Elijah in tow.

The final deal went very well. When you order, you get the rebates and factory incentives at the time of the delivery. That equated to $4200 in extra savings that I hadn’t planned on! They gave me a fair deal for the Subaru and incorporated a change to our previous agreement because Uncle Mark was able to let me use his A-plan family pricing deal. Ford temporarily extended it to nieces and nephews. Yay!

I got out without paying any extra money except I did add mud flaps and the spray in bedliner. Both were planned purchases at some point in the next month so I just tacked them on there. It’s in the shop today getting those things done.

I’ve only had it for a couple days so I can’t give a full review, but I have no buyers remorse. The Sync 3 system is a great improvement over Sync 2 and it will get even better once we switch to Android phones this winter. The truck drives nicely and the big backup camera view is a help trying to maneuver this beast into parking spots. But enough jibber jabber, how about some photos?

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