I've been enjoying asking some automotive engineering theory questions here on this site, such as factors that affect braking distance, and whether accelerating faster affects fuel economy. They've yielded some high quality, informative answers that I've learnt a lot from. The theme of all my questions have been generic, rather than model-specific.

Currently I haven't answered many questions, partially because I'm still very much learning, but also because I have no interest in questions like "How to fix the rough idle on my 2004 Toyota Camry". So whenever I actually look at the recent questions list, and half or more are those model-specific questions, I'm quickly disinterested and move on.

So what I'd really like is to be able to filter out all those model-specific questions, and just see the exciting stuff - the general theory questions.

What this would mean, I'm guessing, is adding a tag like , then being able to exclude them in a search.

Alternative - "theory" tag

As Bob Cross and Shog9 has mentioned, instead of adding a tag for the purpose of exclusion from my searches, a tag like or even just could be added, for which I'd just search for normally. These would be questions that heavily relate to automotive engineering concepts, and would/should have maths and formulas as part of the answer.

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    Or maybe you're looking for a "theoretical" tag? Actually, now that I think about it, "hypothetical" or "rhetorical" is closer to what you're asking for. – Bob Cross Jul 9 '14 at 2:15
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    Perhaps "model-agnostic"? Gotta expect it's gonna be easier that way. – Shog9 Jul 9 '14 at 2:31
  • Yeah nice, good points. Added that as an alternative in my answer. – andrewb Jul 9 '14 at 4:16
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    The thing is though, a lot of model-specific questions can be applied more generically - most of the techniques used to fix a given problem are suitable for many cars, but knowing the model allows us to give more detailed answers, or narrow down a question when particular cars have known weaknesses. Certainly a lot of my answers have been given with little or no knowledge of the particular model in question... – Nick C Jul 9 '14 at 8:44
  • Saying that, a theoretical tag seems quite sensible... – Nick C Jul 9 '14 at 8:44
  • @NickC Indeed, I'm not saying model-specific questions are irrelevant, I guess it's more about having a tag to identify the questions which are more general and theory-focused. – andrewb Jul 9 '14 at 23:16
  • @BobCross Your change from "theoretical" to "hypothetical"/"rhetorical" - no not really, I fully agree with the need for testing, unfortunately few have time for that, so I end up picking the best imperfect answer. See the fuel economy one - I picked the answer that actually gave detailed test data, rather than a general anecdote. Perhaps I review these questions and uncheck the selected answer until someone (inc. myself) can provide comprehensive test data? – andrewb Jul 9 '14 at 23:42
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    Away from the actual question, I think you are really doing yourself and this site a disservice for not paying attention to the model specific questions. For yourself, as @NickC states, model specific questions can be applied more generically. By learning about these things, you are advancing your overall knowledge, which will compound the theory you are learning. For the site, one of the things which is really missing here is people voting on questions/answers. By not looking at questions, people are not getting recognition for those questions and the site is suffering for it. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 11 '14 at 16:15
  • @Paulster2 There definitely is a lot that I could learn, but mechanics isn't my focus, or even a major hobby yet. It's just a casual interest that I sometimes delve into, and when I do, I would rather cut through the "how do I install an O2 sensor" questions and see the "general theory" questions. I know it's not ideal and it isn't adding that much to the site, but that's just how it is. – andrewb Jul 12 '14 at 4:02
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    @andrewb ... I understand your sentiment, but do understand that understanding the little things will help you with your theory as well as give you the big picture you're looking for. On many questions I answer, I also try to impart some of my wisdom as to why I'm answering as I am. This delves in to a lot of theory as such. I'm not the only one. This is why you should stick around and read more of the threads. But, alas, you'll do what's right for you. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 12 '14 at 4:12
  • @Paulster2 I fully agree, it's just a challenge of time and priorities, and unfortunately mechanics isn't high on the list at the moment. I hope that changes one day! – andrewb Jul 12 '14 at 4:28

There's a huge problem with questions like these that is illustrated in both of those cited:

Science always wins.

You can see this issue come up in both. Each question starts with a thought experiment with a set of preconditions. Some of the answers that follow are actually hypotheses: "I think that X is true based on some reading." These are useful as the next step in the scientific method: falsification. If you can do an experiment and demonstrate that the hypothesis is incorrect, hooray! Knowledge!

In both of the cited questions, there are straightforward practical experiments that you can do with your vehicle right now to come to a conclusion:

  1. Stopping distances? Find a safe place and measure your stopping distance.
  2. Fuel consumption? Find a safe place and measure your fuel consumption.

In contrast, one of the answers ends with "In conclusion I would say the best way to accelerate is to accelerate as fast as possible in the lowest RPMs."

This isn't a squishy site. We aren't talking about someone's feelings in the workplace and whether the color green might maybe offend someone. Cars are wonderfully visible and have actual practical issues that we can solve. As a result, every answer on here should anticipate that everyone reading is responding the same way:

Really? Prove it.

  • Definitely, and the measurability of cars is a key reason for my interest in them. These things can and should be discovered through testing, but it can be a lengthy and expensive process. E.g. to test factors that affect braking distances, each person would have to vary their suspension setup, chassis rigidity, and ABS system. Hence I think it's useful to have one or a few people examine/test these things, then share their findings with us. Maybe, if the "theoretical" tag comes into existence, it's coupled with the expectation of proper testing in answers. – andrewb Jul 9 '14 at 23:15
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    In that case, the word you're looking for is "practical", not "theoretical." The site already handles that situation: 1. Try the experiment with your vehicle. 2. Get unexpected result. 3. Ask a specific question on the site: e.g., "My WRX has higher fuel consumption in hot weather - why is that?" 4. Get a specific answer: "Driving under boost? The engine computer is cooling the charge with extra fuel." --- No need for extra tags – Bob Cross Jul 10 '14 at 11:52
  • Well that's changing it more to an inductive process (if at all, as there sounds like there's no interest in a general "theory" in your case), than a deductive process. What I'm looking for is having a general question ("Does hot weather lead to worse fuel consumption?"), then looking at scientific theories and also practical tests to try come up with a general answer that's true for most cases. If that's not in the scope of the site, then so be it, I'll bail and take my interests elsewhere. – andrewb Jul 10 '14 at 23:40
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    No, just following the guidance of the FAQ and giving an example of an answerable question. If you'd like to start a discussion, the chat is a great place: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/340/… – Bob Cross Jul 11 '14 at 0:31

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