Ford engineers are using thermal imaging technology to find and eliminate air leaks in vehicle cabins. The result is reduced wind noise and a quieter ride. In addition to reducing noise, sealing air leaks increases heating and cooling efficiency by reducing energy loss.
Engineers heat the air inside a vehicle’s cabin, then take thermal images to spot the location from which warm air is escaping. This allows them to test different ways to contain air through changes in design and insulating materials.
We are the first automaker to use this technology to track air leaks. It’s an example of the innovative methods we use so our customers have a more pleasant driving experience. Our cameras can detect tiny holes and openings we could not otherwise identify.—John Crisi, Ford NVH engineer
Before using this technology, Ford engineers relied on sensory findings to prevent air leaks. They would fill the car with smoke, then watch for the smoke to exit from small holes. They would walk around the vehicle and feel for air leakage. And they would use non-medical stethoscopes to try to hear air leaking from the cabin, a method they still rely on to some extent.
While somewhat successful, these approaches were not as consistent. With the use of thermal imaging, engineers can speed up development time by finding results at a faster rate.
Engineers have identified several key areas that are vulnerable to air leaks and letting noise into a vehicle, including moonroofs, window glass, door trim, the trunk lid and liftgate, doors and the base of the windshield.
Wind noise is something a driver can really sense in a negative way while driving. By using thermal imaging technology, Ford can provide a smoother and quieter ride for our customers.—John Crisi
Data from Ford’s US Global Quality Research System show the 2013 Ford Fusion earned a 67% approval rating for interior quietness compared to 58 percent for the 2012 Toyota Camry. Fusion data were for the first quarter of 2013, compared to full-year 2012 data for the Toyota Camry, which did not receive major updates for 2013. The 2013 first-quarter study, conducted for Ford by RDA Group of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., asked owners of all major makes and models to comment on troubles and rate their overall satisfaction with their three-month-old vehicles.