Need engineering?


Joe here. If you’d like to contact me about engineering or anything else in this blog then leave me a message. If you want to chat by email then leave your email address in the correct field when submitting a comment. It wont be publicly visible and I can contact you.

My experience is in design of mineral processing facilities. Apart from the usual electrical, instrumentation and process control design and commissioning, my specialties are:

• Plant optimisation:  reduce variability, push equipment closer to capacity limits, improve rate, reduce downtime, improve recovery.
• Constraint control: dynamically identify a plant’s constraint and run it at its capacity limit.
• Predictive control / model based control: accurately control processes where traditional PID controllers perform poorly.
• Improve SCADA operability: reduce response time to abnormal situations, poor plant performance or downtime.

58 replies »

  1. Joe, this is a fantastic blog. I came across it looking for salmon beach fishing advice. I love the “just the basics” advice! Also you are likely having the time of your lifetime, enjoy! You will not regret such an adventure. Good on ya to find a woman who has sufficient wanderlust to accompany you as well. Good luck!

    • Hey Erik thanks for your comment hope you catch some salmon. I am very lucky indeed to land a wife that will do the rough stuff with me. Will make sure she reads this. Really lucky I am.

  2. Hi Joe – thanks also for your blog – I’ve just bought a 2002 Hilux SR5 3L diesel and am looking to do something similar to what you’ve done for the ute tub – great to have your advice and pics!

  3. Need engineering? …… as a matter of fact I do !!

    Quick give us call mate mate iv’e got a job going that suit your expertise in Stacking Shelves perfectly ….


    • Big bad Jimmy Jimbo. Good to hear from ya. Do you know if the shelves are high or low? Trying to stick to low shelves these days due to my advanced age. I’ll just email ya to seek the details. Sounds like an exciting opportunity!

  4. Hi Joe its Hoffy…How are things going? Yes we are in the need for a good Control Systems Engineer so please let us know if your interested.

    On another note…We have been following your OUTBACKJOE adventures with great detail and interst…We love evey minute of it…We (Meaning the Commissioning Crew in Port Hedland) have all taken on the ART of Spatulacraft and the removal of the Beer tops. We do need extra practice but believe we may have made the grade…The problem is the assessment?

    No one in the group can actually assess whether we are a novice or an expert. (Like yourself OUTBACKJOE style) Please provide some further tips on the assement, and if there are any courses that we can attend to complete this very complex, tricky and Elegant procedure.

    Cheers Hoffy and the TEAM at PORT HEDLAND

    • Hey Hoffy how are ya ol’ chap? Good to see someone taking spatulacraft seriously and recognising it for the art form it is. Some people think it’s a big joke.

      Spatulacraft assessment ay. Maybe I need to add a new section in the article.

      I’ll shoot you an email about work. I must be honest and tell you I have a pretty good offer from Jimbo stacking shelves.

  5. Joe..great blog. I am a romance writer writing an outback romance and your descriptions have really helped me with describing the real Top End! I have also shared your praying mantis shot on my FB page! Would you believe it gave me inspiration for a romantic scene!

    • Hi Annie thanks for commenting. Glad I helped with your novel, I must say it’s not what I envisaged when writing or photographing the praying mantis. Will it be credited in the preface?

  6. Hey joe just want to ask you about dual battery systems for my 2012 Toyota hilux 2012. I have purchased the ctek d250s from eBay apparently a great system but I just read the sellers disclaimer and it says that on some models after 2010 the alternator technology had changed to a lower voltage alternator and would not work with the ctek chargers. Is this true I hope not as I just spent $260. Any help would be much appreciated thanks mate

    • Hey Julian I think you are ok with the Hilux, it does have a voltage boost mode and then drops back a bit, but doesn’t completely stop charging like some systems. As far as I’m aware anyway (mine is older). I know the Ford Ranger has some fancy charge profile that can upset electronic chargers but haven’t heard of that on the new Hilux.

  7. Hi Joe
    Great site that i fell over. Very surprised to read your post on tyres to discover my old Suzuki I sold you. Awesome to see you have had years of fun with it just like me.

    I upgraded to a Toyota Prado…a lot less road noise and yes Air conditioning.

    Great site….

    Jonathon (Yanchep, WA)

    • Yo Jonathon what a surprise! That car was the best 2k I’ve ever spent and I don’t think I’ll ever surpass it. Got about 7 years of fun out of it before upgrading. I remember checking it out on your front lawn with all the kangaroo droppings. When I bought the hilux I sold the sierra for 1k to my cousin as his first 4WD which he kept for a year or two and then sold it.

      The sierra took me and my mates up and down the coast of WA a butt load of times. It recovered heaps of other vehicles but never needed recovering itself. Unboggable. What a car. Didn’t have a single mechanical failure for the whole time I owned it. It loved getting dirty and scratched and I didn’t wash it the whole time I owned it but I did have to empty the sand out of it occassionally. It was so good having a cheap fun machine that I didn’t have to worry about. Awesome car. Bikini top was sweet.

      Nice that you dropped by, cheers for leaving a message.


  8. Hey, good reading.

    First question; any thoughts on the hiclone?

    Second question; I am sure you would have an opinion on choice of durable useful 4wd – for the second hand budget. I have a 2000 Troopie that is roughly kitted out for camping. It has the benefit of a normally aspirated engine with low km for what it is, I can fix a lot of things myself and its been unstoppable so far (apart from cracking the larger back door in the corner above the hinge after a not especially rough trip) but the downside of being sluggish, heavy on fuel, no airbags and long narrow wheelbase ideal for rolling (not in the fuel efficient sense) on the highway… I keep wondering if there is something better. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Adrienne

      No Hiclones don’t work. If there was a cheap, simple and effective way of improving fuel efficiency it would already be in your engine. The manufactuer spends millions desiging and optimising their vehicles – they will exploit any solution that is cheap, simple and effective (apart from new technology / design methodology that isn’t available at the time of design. A bent piece of metal (hiclone) does not satisfy this condition). If an aftermarket fuel saving device is cheap and simple then with a high degree if certainty you can assume it is not effective. Another way of putting it – if it’s too good to be true it probably is. Any fuel saving device that claims “more complete burn” you can immediately dismiss. Search the internet for fuel saving devices, there’s plenty of info on it. Also check out my article on design compromise.

      For you’re second question yes I have an opinion and it’s biased – Hilux all the way. Read my article If, like me, you want to work less and camp more then you want a maximum of 4 cylinders. And something light, simple, tough and fuel efficient. Toyota Hilux is a good choice but there’s plenty of other reasonable alternatives.

  9. Interesting reading Joe. Your words, well, the meaning contained therein, make sense. You have a knack of cutting through the humbug and laying out the facts, the truth, even acknowledging bias (which we all have – e.g. in place of Hilux manual, i put Amarok 8 speed auto). There is one thing that does perplex me somewhat, and that is your claim that wide tyres are not beneficial in sand. The logic that the greater the surface area a mass is distibuted over reduces sand surface depression, cannot be challenged, yes? Assume, for example, that there were 10 wheels on each axel, or a tyre with width of 1 metre on each of the 4 wheels – would that not reduce sand surface depression and therefore bogability? Wide tyres were once a fad, like the low profile tyres are now, and i would agree the advantage to be gained is small (especially as compared to air pressure changes), and when one takes into account the extra bulk (carrying spare tyres/wheels), and mass of the extra rubber and rim, and the cost, the case for more normal sized tyres is made. Thanks for your thoroughness, and honesty. Good luck in your endeavours. HD

    • Hey Heinz thanks for your nice feedback mate. You are 100% correct with the statement “greater the surface area a mass is distibuted over reduces sand surface depression”. The thing is the surface area is governed by the air pressure and not the shape of the tyre. It’s all explained in the article The very wide tyre would deflect less to yield the same contact patch as a narrow tyre. This is a pretty good approximation for normal sized tyres and loads. Yes the tyres are not perfectly flexible and the sand is not ridged – deflection of the sand, the deflection of the rubber in the tyre tread, and contribution from the tyre side walls – they all have an effect. But the dominating effect is tyre pressure.

  10. Great blog Joe, I really enjoyed reading it. Can I ask where you got the formula for the reliability versus overfuelling (performance chips) came from? I have a legal action against a garage ongoing and I would like to use this formula for my case but I need to verify it’s valid, was it published somewhere? Short version is the engine blew up at 71000 miles because it was chipped…! Very expensive replacement and the dealer is being threatening and bullish and totally out of order. Any help would be appreciated!
    Cheers Mate

    • Hey Alan. You mean the cubic relationship calculation? That calculation is VERY rough, more as an indicator to demonstrate that significant increase in load = significant increase in failure rate. I think I got it from bearing failure rates, something like this:

      I am not a reliability engineer. I have understanding of general principals, like significant increase in load = significant increase in failure rate. But I don’t have training or expertise in actually predicting failure in specific applications. You’ll need a specialist for that.

      Would be interesting to know more details of the case if you’re allowed to say (without naming names). Real court cases can teach us a lot about the risks of this type of thing. Would benefit the wider community.

  11. Can I put an inquiry to about a Solar setup I intend installing on our van. Hope it falls within your expertise.


  12. High joe, love your no BS attitude mate keep it up, I have a 2015 sr5 that I’m considering having the ECU re-maped, air intake and exhaust you know the drill. As your know doubt aware there are plenty of naysayers and yaysayers on this subject and I am aware of your own personal position on the subject of weather to do or not to do, but what I would like to have your opinion on is how much extra wear my d4d would incur as a percentage of KW gained? If that makes any sense as I work in mining as well and have a college who is a guru mechanic who I trust due to his inability to tell a lie, his opinion is that is minimal as long as it is done right

    • Hey Matt you can’t get a significant impact to power without a significant impact to wear. Wear accelerates more rapidly than power as power is increased. I mention some numbers in the why no diesel performance chip article, particularly in the “How Much Will Component Life Be Reduced?” section. Also the non-linear relationship between failure and load is explained in how failure works.

  13. hey mate this is the best site i have found so far to get information that is straight to the point and doesn’t run off in other direction half way through to sell you something thank you Chris kinka beach

  14. Hi Joe,

    Been reading through a few of your blogs and articles! Awesome work mate! Plenty of great info in there and no BS…especially RE: Dual Batteries which is my next mod in 3-4 weeks. I have a 2013 TD Hilux (with the variable voltage alternator).

    I’d love to have a talk about the setup I want and the best way to achieve it…I’m not one who believes all the marketing crap from Redarc/Ctek etc so expert advice would be great!

    My Setup:

    Basically I want a dual battery to run a 60L Engel Fridge with the option of an fixed 80W mono solar panel connected in there somewhere to either re-charge the batteries or directly power the fridge when possible (no sure of the pros v cons of the solar options).

    Any help would be unreal!

    • Hey Nick a VSR will do the job for ya, with a solar regulator for your panel, provided your alternator doesn’t stick around at a low voltage. I think 2013 hilux should be ok. There is no point separating the panel to directly run the fridge. Hook it up to your battery. When your fridge is running the panel will charge your battery and supply the fridge. When the fridge is stopped the panel will keep charging your battery.

  15. Hi Joe,

    Love your website, has really assisted with my decision making.
    Just wondering your thoughts on aftermarket intercoolers that are bigger than the factory. As usual all salesman advertise more power, better fuel efficiency, everything you want to hear. All I’m interested in is about actually running cooler.
    As you would be well aware, travelling in the NT you experience some pretty extreme temperatures and am of the opinion anything that could help keep your engine cooler is beneficial. Look forward to your thoughts.

    • Hey Burto I haven’t seen any data or technical details on intercooler effect on engine temp but I’ll take a guess. If it allows more fuel to be dumped in the engine because the air is denser, then the engine temp will go up. If you dump the same amount fuel in I don’t think it makes much difference (if it’s diesel).

      The purpose of an intercooler is to offset the heating caused by compressing the air in the turbo. Without an intercooler part of the benefit of the turbo is lost because the heat caused by compressing reduces the density. In other words, an intercooler is to get more air into the engine, not to cool the engine. With more air you can dump more fuel and get more power.

      Every engine needs to be cooled. For that job you use the radiator. Bigger radiator will improve cooling.

      Do you have specific reason for wanting more cooling? Does your model car have a history of overheating or have you experienced it yourself? Are you towing something huge? You driving up some serious hills? There’s several tens of thousand stock standard vehicles operating ok in the NT.

      • Thanks Joe. No to pretty much all your questions and your questions are why making a decision is really simple and really value your opinion on the many topics on your website. I have a V8 landcruiser ute, my pride and joy and have come to learn that the makers don’t make them to fail. Its easy to get caught up in sales hype and the promises they make. They do their best to make you believe if you dont do certain things,then that is when trouble will start…
        Thanks for taking the time to address my question, keep living the dream, it certainly looks that way by your facebook page.

        Safe Travels,


  16. Just thought id let you know about a recent experience with my hilux. Got a new set of aftermarket wheels and tyres, and when leaving the shop I got a massive vibration through the steering wheel. I instantly thought the wheel balance hadn’t been done, and took it to 2 new tyres places and my local mechanic, all of them said they were balanced. The mechanic said its the suspension. So I spent the money and went to ultimate suspension and got custom suspension in which they’re renowned in NSW for, and the ride was fantastic. Except for that darm steering wheel vibration.
    I sourced around on the internet and came across “Hub centric rings”, which apparently fill the gap that aftermarket wheels have between the hub and the centre bore. The rings I came across didn’t completely fill the gap, just close it to a point where there was now a 1mm gap not a 5mm gap. This slightly fixed the issue, and changed the vibration to a different speed for it to occur at. I was now in two minds between, spending about 100 dollars to get a custom set of rings and them not working or sourcing some stock wheels. I sourced 5 wheels, with brand new rubber from a bloke who had completely molested his Hilux from day 1 for $150 and the problem is now gone. Makes me wonder how some of those modified “tough trucks” actually handle on road and, being a 23 year who is young and dumb. I am slowly learning that you really can’t outdo the engineers at toyota.
    Feel free to use that story as your next article 🙂

  17. Joe, Great job! You have uncommon and correct insights even when it is obscure knowledge that is counterintuitive and defies what self professed experts demand is common sense. I too, am exploring the virtues of extreme low pressure on an oddity of tire choice that is an extreme of counterintuitive, so I’m looking for solutions to push that to the limits of capabilities by mechanically attaching the tire beads to the rim to enjoy the virtues of extreme low air pressure in sand yet do it with power and high performance. I too, have technical and scientific background and the mind for it, so I believe we should put our minds together and come up with some answers that improves sand driving capabilities to more than anyone else can even imagine! I invite email communication. I will be very sharing with what I’ve learned and my ideas for what should be next.

  18. Joe, Love your down to earth engineering articles. Do you have any thoughts on oil catch cans for diesels? Cheers, Chris

    • Hey Chris like all things, catch cans are a compromise, with both pros and cons. They supposedly reduce soot accumulation, although I have not seen any good experiments to verify. They will increase crankcase pressure, increasing wear on engine seals and possibly contributing to an early seal failure. The elements in catch cans can break apart and get sucked into the engine, causing major damage. Vehicle manufacturers can use catch cans as an excuse to not honour warranty.

      I got a bit about catch cans on the emissions article.

      I do have a catch can. So I guess I’m leaning slightly on it being a good thing, provided you empty it and clean it regularly to prevent excessive back pressure. I don’t have warranties to worry about.

  19. Wow Joe, fantastic blog esp for newbies like me. I have a 2013 Landcruizer 76 Wagon 1hz non turbo. What are your thoughts on getting more power? Will a bigger exhaust say 3″ achieve that? Or do I need an aftermarket turbo “and” bigger exhaust to get more gains? Thanks in advance

    • Hi Darren bigger exhaust will create more top end power and less bottom end power. For more details see here:

      I dunno your engine. To get more power you need more fuel and more air. Depends where the constraint is with your engine. If it’s capable of delivering more fuel but can’t get enough air then a turbo will make more power if engine is tuned for it. Turbo engines already have excess air so all you gotta do is dump more fuel.

      When you increase power output of an engine the exhaust volume increases. So a bigger pipe can be handy to help exploit all the additional power.

  20. Hi I like this blog I need help with motor-home wiring for 24V system with 2 house batteries & solar panels.

      • Hi building a motor home mainly need a list of components and wiring layout to set up 2 house batteries of 24V (2 sets of 2x 12V batteries total 4 x 100Ah) Truck is 24V with 2 x 80A alternators, have room for 6 large solar panels on roof. Do I go DC-DC or mains to dc, redarc battery monitor, VSR’s, mains and generator input, will also need a 240V inverter for a 2.5kW inverter A/C unit. Have been told by many places I need this and that but no one will give me a plan of what is required and a wiring diagram, I wish to do it myself and keep it as simple and reliable as possible. Regards Joe

      • Hey Joe the answer to your question is basically the entire article. There’s pros and cons of every way of doing it. You gotta understand the concepts and how they work for your application. Spend some time going over the article, re-reading, coming back after a few days etc, then you can come up with some ideas and ask more specific questions.

  21. I have a hilux and the total weight is 2617kg just 163kg under factory gvm of 2780kg look at out back armour suspension but they advised me to go lovell and increase the gvm which doubles the price front left wheel they said is 638 front right was 573 rear left was 699 right rear is 705 any advise much appreciated

      • So you’ll go gvm over with passengers and gear. What’s making you so heavy? If it’s unnecessary mods like bash plates and rock sliders and big steel wheels and lights everywhere and rear bar I’d remove them rather than going for gvm increase. I wouldn’t like the reduced vehicle longevity of carrying so much weight even with gvm upgrade. Plus poor handling and poor off road performance. Heavy vehicles get bogged and slide sideways. Plus poor fuel economy. Plus high tyre wear and more frequent tyre failures.

        Or if you need to carry heaps of stuff you’re better off getting something designed for the job like a truck. Towing a trailer is an option.

        Otherwise you probably just gotta fork out for the gvm upgrade.

  22. Hi Joe, love your website and info. I have a query regarding a 12 volt supply at the towbar of my current model Mazda BT50 for the caravan 3 way fridge while travelling. I am going to run 4 b&s cable to it with a voltage sensitive relay, cutting power to the anderson plug when stopped. But due to the sensitive electronics in cars nowadays, I am a little worried about voltage spikes causing faults from the switching of the load via the relay contacts. The wiring will be direct from the vehicle battery, via a fuse. Am I worrying unnecessarily, or is there some type of suppressor I can fit, and how?.

    • Dave, I’m also a fan of outbackjoe! A low voltage (just above any voltage ever presented to the battery for charging) Metal Oxide Varistor (MOV) would be very protective of a voltage spike. But, there is another way. A large diode across the positive and negative oriented such that it doesn’t conduct current will protect from the reverse current of a spike. The vehicle battery itself is also very protective provided it is a good battery and the terminals are kept clean.

      • Greetings chaps hi Ronald nice to hear from you. Been doing much fishing lately?

        Hi Dave see Ronald’s post for some suggestions. But before you go down that path, have you seen reports of voltage sensing relays causing problems for your model vehicle, or any direct evidence that it could be a problem? The car’s battery is already a pretty good surge protector. VSR is not much different to turning on and off the headlights.

        Voltage surge is probably taken care of by starter battery. It will suck up any surges and restrain any short term over-voltages. However EMF can be a problem when switching large currents. I’ve never seen it a problem in cars, but for the sake of discussion, to reduce EMF interference in signal cables you don’t run power cables near signal cables, and if you need to run a power cable across a signal cable cross at 90 degrees, and never run long lengths of power cables bundled together with signal cables. The most effective solution is running power cables in steel conduit.

  23. Dave,

    I agree with Joe on the practical answer while mine was the technical answer that you (mostly*) don’t need. That is you don’t need to do anything because the battery is huge in it’s ability to smooth out voltage anomalies like ripple from a charger and various transient spikes. Relays themselves create transient spikes when they de-energize. When that matters (also increasing the life of switch contacts) a snubber diode is used across the coil of the relay. That feature is likely at each of the switching outputs of the computer. Computers are expensive and failure will shut down function or the whole vehicle and perhaps far from cities, so should you have any indication that something might produce transients, then snubbing them is a low cost preventative at pennies per diode needed. In my first sentence, I said mostly don’t need. *The exception is disconnecting the battery at the terminals while a large inductive load is running will put a voltage spike into the system with no battery there to absorb it. You can build in protections or more simply, you can know to turn off everything big first before disconnecting the battery. (A few lights remaining on will not be a problem)


    Thanks for remembering my fishing interests! I’ve been enjoying my car’s extreme off-road capabilities. I joined a Jeep club and drove challenging trails and heard the behind my back ridicule at first with them not realizing it’s awesomeness extends beyod just pavement. They were so impressed that they replaced the group photograph of their Jeep (mostly) club with a picture of my car negotiating extreme dips in the road just fine. I have what I call sand tires for it now on a separate wheelset, but haven’t sought sand for testing them. I’m sure they will do fine when I go surf fishing. I still haven’t found a surf fishing guide and the coasts where driving is permitted are very limited in the United States and speed restrictions would be a limitation on fun with this capable vehicle. Australia would be perfect for driving the beach and surf fishing! Of course, logistical problems of shipping a car there would be a consideration though less if I were to move there to live there. I understand that has it’s own set of difficulties.

    • So you been offroading but no surf fishing, that’s a situation that must be corrected! Western Australia is the best for beach driving. Once you’re out of Perth you can drive anywhere. I don’t think it’s too difficult putting your car in a container and shipping it. People in the “overlanding” community do it all the time. Can’t do it now though with the ‘rona going round.

      • Joe and friends,
        I would love to come with my car and drive the beaches and fish and stay a long time or even become a citizen (and also keep my USA citizenship as I love my Nation) and get a job there and stay. I’m an electronic designer with specialties in industrial automation and military systems and I’m a machinist with a making it work the first time reputation for my builds of automated equipment. Regarding the off-roading, I don’t have photographs for some of the more extreme climbs and terrain challenges done at speed, but here’s a link to some photographs of some of my off-roading fun with a group that took time to stop and take some pictures:

        Low -N- Slow Off-Road

        Salt Lake City, UT
        488 Members

        This group is for people interested in Jeeps, SUV’s and 4×4 trucks. We’ll go off-roading, camping, have BBQ’s and socialize. You DO NOT need a 4×4 vehicle to join in the fun, …

        Check out this Meetup Group →

  24. Thanks guys, like I said, was worrying unnecessarily, I have a pretty good understanding of electrical circuits being in the HVAC trade, but some of the auto electrics are a bit different in some ways. Never thought of the battery being something of a spike suppressor, but being such a low internal resistance it would “sink” those spikes, so I guess that makes sense.
    Cheers, Dave

  25. Thanks for the explanation of unhooking battery when welding on car!
    2 quick questions that might add to the content of your blog …..
    1) I’ve always heard you should only weld in a certain polarity bond vehicle. Is there any truth to that? I don’t see how it would mater if the loop is broken.
    2) I’ve always heard never to have your ground on opposite side of a bearing or you will cook the grease, seals and deform the ball bearings . If ohm law demands electricity will flow parallel , then will electricity not be flowing through the bearing regardless of if the bearing is directly in between the ground and welding rod or not? I was thinking a bulldozer repair for example or other pieces of equipment. Thank you for any insight

    • Hi J I haven’t heard anything about welding certain polarity, dunno what that’s about. For question 2, electricity will flow everywhere all the time. The distribution of the electricity depends on the relative resistance between all the paths and the placement of the ground. If the ground is placed adjacent to the welding work less current will flow through the bearing.

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