31 Dec 2014

Snow came within about five miles of here, pretty cool. With the storm gone and the skies clear, it’s going to get even colder tonight – bad news for our simi-tropical area where people grow just about anything.

Here are the promised pictures of the air box redesign. The pictures pretty much show everything, accomodating wildly differing filter thicknesses; the first picture shows a K&N filter on top of an Amsoil filter – pretty huge difference! What prompted the project to happen now was finding a reasonably priced bell-mouthed inlet. I may have gotten a little carried away with the bell and segmented intake but that’s what it took to make it flow and fit at the same time. The cardboard mockup proved its worth, catching the detail that the taller Amsoil filter element won’t fit a sloped or ramped box so it was replaced with a rectangular design.

As an aside, when I visited K&N, they politely pointed out that I had their filter element installed upside down. It doesn’t hurt anything but looking at how the Amsoil filter is constructed, it could become an issue if I let the filter get dirty, causing the turbo to suck the filter element downward. I’ll keep an eye on it; one fix is to have a support just below the filter element – or just don’t let the filter get dirty! It could be asked, why didn’t I just design it the right way the first time? It was because I had no idea how the filter element was oriented in an OEM application, and I didn’t feel like building an entirely new one this time.

As is tradition, this build diary will join those in the “Old Diaries” link and a new “Current” build diary will begin with the new year for the next entry.

30 Dec 2014

Yesterday we ran a bunch of errands, including stopping by the Apple store. Like always, the place resembles a block party, and even in the middle of a work day there were about 200 people there. Right when we walked in, a young person in baggy pants and a hoodie turned from the nearest table and bolted past us out the door. About two seconds later the alarms went off – he’d cut the wires on two display iPhones and run off with them. What I can’t figure out is what he’s going to do with them. Within minutes Apple remote-bricked them, so they can’t be used for anything other than maybe an iTunes player. Sucks to be the loser who buys it and tries to connect to the web…

Talked to the dry sump pump manufacturer and they not unexpectedly said that there should be no strange noises from the system. I asked if there was such a thing as too much vacuum and they said “10-13 inches of vacuum is best” but I don’t know if that’s anecdotal or actual fact. Any any case I’ll buy a vacuum gauge to see what it is, and check around with a wood dowel held to my ear to find the source of the noise.

Anyway, Sunday and today were spent making the new air filter box, which I thought sure I’d have done today – almost made it. Instead of powder coating the part they’ll just get Alodyne coated and be left bare. Pictures tomorrow.

Tonight there’s a forecast of snow(!) down to 1000 foot altitude. The last time it snowed around here was 1967 – I know because we made a small snowman when I was a kid in elementary school.

26 Dec 2014

Took the car out on a longer drive to see how the dry sump performed. Everything was fine, with neither coolant nor oil getting above 75 degrees C, though the car wasn’t being pushed and it was a fairly cold day. In fact, I got to the base of Palomar mountain but between being at the end of a long line of slow cars and it getting colder, I turned back.

When at idle, I can clearly hear the noise, apparently caused by the scavenge pumps doing their job. As said before, let any air into the engine and the noise vanishes. Next week I’ll ask the pump manufacturer what the noise might be and am hoping they’ll say it’s normal. The pump certainly seems to be doing its job – during several full throttle romps there was no blue smoke visible; apparently engine oil is no longer getting pushed through the turbo bearing into the intake tract by crankcase pressure.

Once home it was on to the next project: the air filter box. It was disassembled to start on one with more space for thicker filter elements, in addition to a 4″ outlet, and bell (the new turbo has a 4″ inlet while the old one had a 3″).

Haven’t decided on whether to do the January 10 track day at Auto Club speedway… guess I need to make up my mind.

In other news, the Arial Atom I saw around town came to a sad end. A news article reported that the 21-yr old driver lost it on a turn and spun it backwards into an oncoming SUV. No one was killed but both occupants of the Atom were evacuated by helicoptor. No word on whether they hit water, oil, or just over cooked it. I’ve driven that same S-shaped section of road about 1000 times and it’s all too easy to break the back end loose and start a “tank slapper” – but that’s speculation.

25 Dec 2014

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone.

Getting the alternator working was easy thanks to an extensive and very helpful article on Pirate4X4. It’s a 4-wire GM alternator, so connecting the “L” wire to ignition through a resistor and the “I/F” wire directly to +12V ignition resulted in 14.5V even without using the remote sense.

The dry sump system is now full, 9 quarts between the tank and two filters. Took the car out and warmed the oil up to 70 degrees C in light driving; the oil-to-coolant heat exchanger worked well to help warm it up, so there shouldn’t be any issue with overly-cool oil. After the drive, oil pressure was 60-65 psi above 2000 rpm and 25 psi at idle, but until the car’s run hard it’s unclear where it’ll end up. Since it’s 60 psi at 2000 rpm, that seems promising for when it’s hotter. At this point nothing will be done until the car is run hard to better establish a baseline – it may well be correct where it is. That said, I’m going to ask the pump manufacturer what “normal” is. That is, since the oil pressure regulator is kicking in at 2000 rpm it means that at any speed above that, excess oil is flowing through the regulator instead of the engine. I’m wondering if the pump could be slowed down so that oil pressure rises more proportionally with engine speed, something more on the order of 10 psi per 1000 rpm perhaps.

Since I’m still using the OEM valve cover, the vent is still present. Out of curiosity, with the car idling I put my finger over the vent to see how well the pump was sucking air out of the crankcase. It was doing its job and it gradually started pulling a vacuum, which was good, but what was surprising was that at the same time, a noise became audible. It’s hard to describe what it sounded like, sort of a warbling. As soon as I removed my finger it disappeared, so it’s definitely vacuum related – the question is, what’s making the noise? Google-foo shows that when a dry sump system is added to an engine, some people report hearing interesting new noises. I can probably find the source by using a stick held to my ear, but then what, what would I do about it? I suspect it’s just the way it is.

Somewhat related is deciding how much vacuum is correct and there are two very different views on this. One says that there’s no such thing as too much crankcase vacuum, while the other says that the vacuum will cause all kinds of problems because it’ll unseat engine gaskets and piston rings. From an engineering point of view I have a hard time believing this since a perfect vacuum is only 15 psi. Applied over the cross section of say, the valve cover gasket, (between mounting points for example) and it’s only going to see about a pound of force. Plus, such gaskets tend to be well contained so I have difficulty seeing how they’re going to get unseated.

22 Dec 2014

Tentatively added six quarts of oil to the system and cranked the engine with the fuel injectors removed to build oil pressure, which happened in a reasonable time given that the hoses were empty. Once pressure came up, the injectors were reconnected and the engine started – bam, an instant 65 psi at idle and no leaks. Setting oil pressure will have to wait until the oil’s warm to see what it settles out at.

I did have to tweak the pump mount slightly to get the belt better centered. The trouble (or maybe it’s a feature) is that since neither pulley is crowned, the roughly 3/4″-wide belt is free to wander on the 1″-wide crank pulley – the one pulley with guides on it. Watching the belt slowly move to one side of the pump pulley was enough to make me loosen the pump bolts and rack it slightly to bring the belt back toward the center, which of course made it move to the other side. I suspect it’s a no-win situation and that as long as 100% of the belt width is always on both pulleys, it’s not worth worrying about.

Next up is connecting the field winding on the new alternator so it’s pulling its weight, then I think a drive is in order!

A tentative track day is coming up on January 10 at Auto Club Speedway.

21 Dec 2014

The dry sump install is nearly finished and will probably be ready to start tomorrow. There’s also connecting the new alternator – I think I know which wire to connect, but it’s always a bit dicey when it comes to potentially high current.

Some of today was spent patching the unneeded holes in the spare valve cover: oil filler, dip stick, and a spare bolt boss. The “Honda Motors” was filed off and a nice CNC “Midlana” plate will be fabricated, then either welded or riveted on.

Also ordered parts for a new air filter box; the current one is too shallow to accept larger (deeper) air filter elements. Doing it again also allows improving how the air is ducted into the turbo, hopefully this one will be a bit cleaner than the first try.

14 Dec 2014


Long term readers will recall that reinforcing was added to one of the trusses supporting the shade cloth above our fish pond. That was several years ago, and while it’s still there, recent rains have finally brought doom to other parts of it, though not unexpectedly. Dry rot, termite damage, and rot cause by some posts being in contact with the soil are finally doing it in. Two trusses came down overnight, taking with them their posts. Today was quality time spent with the chainsaw, cutting up the downed trusses, the posts, and the long truss in the picture which wasn’t looking good either. Then there was carrying it all piece by piece around to the side yard – I’m pooped.

Some people asked why I’m taking out the shading, deck, and wonderful fish pond which have been with us for more than 20 years. The answer is the drought, cost of electricity, the expense to fix the existing deck and covering, and yes, the liability which has always been at the back of my mind. The plan is that the area will become a vegetable and herb garden. It will be interesting to see whether the water bill actually goes down though; I suspect that evaporation off a pond versus plants of the same square footage might actually be less, but we’ll see. The equipment and Koi will be sold to members of the local Koi club and we’re really going to miss the fish. Anyone who’s owned Koi will understand; those who don’t, won’t.

12 Dec 2014

Some of the plumbing fittings won’t be here until Monday, pushing completion to next weekend – bah. Also, I failed to confirm that the pan and pump fittings were the same size, which of course means that they aren’t; the pan’s -10 while the scavenge fittings on the pump are -12. They’ll be exchanged, which again means it won’t get done until next weekend, but no rush.

In the meantime the pulleys showed up, but other than setting belt tightness, checking how well the belt tracks can’t be tested until the engine’s running, which requires having the plumbing in place, sort of a Catch-22. In the meantime, the previously-cut chassis diagonal was welded back in, the hose assemblies for which I do have parts were assembled and installed (-16 is big stuff!), and the catch can was modified for a -12 inlet. Still need mounts for the oil/coolant heat exchanger since without the panel below the engine, it’s currently hanging from the coolant hoses. Probably the easiest solution is to weld in a few more diagonals since they’re easy to reach around.

This gives time to take care of all the nick-picky stuff that has to get done anyway and if I get bored of that, there’s always figuring out the alternator wiring. Pretty much have to have both working to get the car back on the road!

10 Dec 2014

The dry sump tank mount is done; finally there’s some pictures to go along with my usual blathering! The last picture of the tank might be a little unclear due to the tire peeking around the corner; it’s simply been rolled out of the way and the tank is at the back right corner of the car. The alternator belt routing is hard to see if the picture is zoomed out any more but it resembles an hour glass, with the belt getting within about 1/8″ of itself above the water pump pulley. If the belt ends up wearing on itself a small diameter idler will be added to keep the belt apart but hopefully that won’t be required.

The rather “baller” Barnes dry sump pump was mounted with the inlets horizontal to try and minimize the number of angled fittings. Straight fittings are lighter, much cheaper (by a factor of 2-4!), and flow better. The oil-to-coolant heat exchanger will be retained because with 2.25 gallons of oil now it should help warm up the oil faster than it would otherwise.

The dry sump pulleys and belt should be here this week but they aren’t holding anything up. There’s making up the hoses for one. A second valve cover was sourced so that the car can be run while it’s being modified. There’s no longer a need for the dipstick or oil filler, so plates will be welded over both and smoothed. An AN fitting will be added to the existing vent port in case a crankcase bleeder is necessary. Since the cover’s already being modified, it’s a good time to do something I’ve always wanted to do, mill off the “Honda” lettering and replace it with “Midlana”, then the assembly will be powdercoated. The crankcase breather tank needs a larger -12 inlet fitting, then of course there’s fabricating the new floor panel. Lots to do still but Midlana will be back on the road soon. My brother and I are already working on lining up track day dates.

8 Dec 2014

During the time spent working on the dry sump, it was a chance to look over the engine up-close and a number of gaskets and even the oil filler cap were found to be weeping. Either the engine builder didn’t use enough gasket sealer – unlikely – or the leaks are due to high crankcase pressure. If so it’s very surprising giving that the crankcase vent was routed straight to ground. Since the valve cover has to come off anyway (to seal off the filler port, dipstick, and to plug the original vent), it’ll be interesting to see if the vent was partially blocked internally.

The Barnes dry sump pump arrived last Friday so over the weekend the mount was fabricated and today the pulleys and belt was ordered (the center-to-center distance from the crank to the pump was needed before they could be ordered). In the meantime the dry sump tank mounts will be fabricated, then it’s on to determining hose lengths and fittings and then it’ll be done.

The alternator installation is complete, at least mechanically; a left and right-hand threaded tube and rod ends handle belt tension. Due to the belt routing though, it remains to be seen if the belt will slap against itself and accelerate wear. A mating connector for the alternator was bought and it was surprising to find that the “four pin connector” had only one position populated with a wire; the other three had no wires, no pins, and the pin positions were blocked off! I don’t know what the manufacturer was thinking since it gives up remote sense capability – a big reason for using the alternator in the first place. Another plug was ordered, this one with four wires.

Pictures soon.

30 Nov 2014

All the dry sump parts arrived last Wednesday except for the pump itself. There’s plenty to do without it though: modify the tank for a -16 scavenge fitting, add a -10 fitting to the dry sump pan for the turbo return line, mount the tank and pan, attach the crank pulley and dry sump mandrel, and fabricate an alternator mount. I got about half of this completed.

The tank and pan were modified without issue. Attaching the pan to the engine however, hit a snag because the manufacturer didn’t leave enough space around the OEM bolts along one flange – unlike all the other flanges – and the bolts jam against the wall of the pan. It’s not a big deal but annoying since the hardware stores with metric Allen head bolts were closed for the holiday.

The ATI crank pulley went on no problem, until offering up the dry sump pulley mandrel that mounts to the front of it – the OEM crank pulley bolt interfered with it and had to be shortened. With that fixed, the mandrel (for the dry sump pulley) was attached to the nose of the crank pulley with three supplied screws and surprise, one had a different thread pitch. Nothing could be found in the documentation to indicate that this was on purpose, so a note was sent to the dry sump supplier, which of course is closed until Monday.

As long as there’s stuff to do, none of the above is a real show-stopper, but it is a little surprising. Perhaps it’s because it is a dry sump that’s the issue; maybe only pros tend to install them and they typically have real shops, do everything custom anyway, and have a good stock of fasteners. Meh, it’ll get done regardless.

Then there was the alternator mount, which consumed a surprising amount of time. As said before, it would have been much easier to use a custom alternator, but it being sole-source was troubling. It seemed wise to sink the time into it – once – so that a Chevy C1500 diesel truck alternator fits in case it goes out in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, it’s done – probably. The concern is the narrow adjustment range due to the alternator’s arc when tightening it down. If I can’t get a 39″ belt it may take another redesign, but like I said, it’s better to have it be painful one time instead of every time the alternator needs replacing.

In other news, Lulu, Midlana’s book printer, is offering another of their year-end discounts. Currently (subject to their whim) you get 35% off the Midlana and Kimini book, so now’s the time to order for Christmas!

23 Nov 2014

The dry sump bits are on the way. For some reason, a dry sump kit doesn’t seem to save money. The least expensive way (at least for the Honda K20) turned out to be to piece together a system and while a bit more work it allowed picking the exact parts wanted instead of settling for pre-selected components.

While the 70 amp Civic alternator fits, a quick check of the power budget found that: radiator fan (20A), lights (10A), water pump (10A), fuel pump 15A*, and everything else probably around 5A, for a total of 60 amps. Granted that’s worst case – at night in stop and go traffic – but it’s a bit close for comfort on the Civic unit. The single-wire unit my brother loaned me is only rated at 60A so that won’t do either. Powermaster has larger units, but they’re expensive and sole-source. That last bit is the main concern, a failed alternator at a track day or somewhere far from home would mean coming home on a flatbed. For these reasons, a 100 amp domestic pick up truck alternator was chosen. It’s far easier to source, is a bit larger, and also about half the cost of the Powermaster unit. It’ll do but will need to be rewired.

The rivets in the engine compartment floor panel tray was removed in order to get the panel off. It makes it far easier to swap out the oil pan in-place without pulling the engine. Even then though, one of the floor diagonals was in the way and had to be removed – it’ll be welded back in and a new panel fabricated. While it seems invasive, the panel and rivets weren’t in great condition after I left a handful of rivet heads in the road after bottoming out several times. (That’s since been corrected by swapping in stiffer springs and stiffening the shocks slightly.)

At the end of the day the oil pan and oil pump were out. The only dry sump part on-hand is the front pulley, ordered early since it’s needed to determine belt routing and alternator placement. For a while there was some thought about making the dry sump pump and alternator mount to one part. However, it doesn’t save any work, material, weight, and plus it means if the alternator choice is ever changed, the entire bracket has to be reworked. Best to have a dedicated alternator bracket.

Lastly, it looks like the dry sump pump will be mounted at the left rear corner of the engine compartment. It’s easier to access there and allows a taller unit rather than placing it up front behind the radiator. I’m not too thrilled about pushing oil all the way to the front of the car then all the way back. Of course, if an oil-to-air cooler ends up being installed in front of the radiator, it’ll be doing just that. In that case the tank would be relocated up front for CG reasons.

*15 amps for the fuel pump is higher than what’s used now. However, the power budget is being set up now such that a larger pump will drop right in – one intended for ethanol 🙂

16 Nov 2014

A few developments:

Vendors have been surprisingly nonresponsive; in this age of the internet it’s amazing how many don’t answer email. I understand that they get a lot of traffic, but how is that a bad thing or the customer’s problem? During research into dry sumps, three vendors were contacted. One never answered at all. Another didn’t answer email, twice, so they were called. What was wanted was discussed, and a quote sent – which didn’t include what was discussed. Another email was sent, correcting the first quote and requesting a second quote – no reply. It makes one wonder if they’re this bad now, how will support be after they’ve made the sale? (My answer is: how can they make that sale if they don’t answer email?) The third vendor, called on the phone, was very helpful and said to send an email detailing what I wanted and they’d send a quote, it’s been days and no response. What’s that saying, “only one out of five businesses last more than five years?” That makes it sound like it’s random chance – no it isn’t.

The plan over the next 6 months is to upgrade to a dry sump and a better ECU – both require changes to the alternator for very different reasons. Virtually all FWD dry sump pumps go right where aftermarket Honda K20 vendors tend to relocate the alternator to, so it’s got to move – again. The OEM alternator has a four wire plug and the four wires go straight into the ECU. The ECU that I’m considering doesn’t do anything with those wires and the manufacturer said it’ll be fine to just unplug it. Really? I think “fine” is subjective, because it means that the alternator won’t be using its remote sense input, resulting in lower system voltage, but that’s not the ECU maker’s problem… I’ll try it just for fun and see what happens, and likely have to rewire it in spite of their “it’ll be fine” comment.

My brother pointed out a pretty cool website for one-wire alternators, Power Master, which caters mostly to circle track and hot rodders. They make nice small units that put out decent power, but they’re expensive, single-source, and don’t have remote sense inputs on the smaller units. The concern is being somewhere remote and having the alternator fail. If it’s an oddball part it means having the car towed home, so before considering these units, a late model Honda Civic alternator will be checked out. It’s smaller and lighter than the K20 unit and widely available. It also has the more traditional alternator mount instead of bolting straight to the block like the Honda K24 alternator does, making the tensioner unnecessary. The Civic unit is 70 amps while the TSX/RSX alternator is 105 amps, but it should be fine since there’s less electrical load than in the factory car.

The irony is that my re-engineered alternator mount that’s been working great is going away, but so goes progress.

7 Nov 2014

My brother got his LS-3 powered Stalker tuned today: 416 hp and 398 torques as Clarkson would say. Scott claims that on warm tires, it hooks up in second, which should certainly provide hours of entertainment! One more entry about dry sumps then issue will be set aside. I talked to a buddy who pointed out a condition that he feels is the single biggest reason to have one: In an OEM setup, oil in the pan is picked up by the pump and distributed throughout the engine, with the most important destination being the main bearings. The oil isolates the bearing halves from each other and with pressures of many thousands of pounds, it’s important the two never touch else bearing damage and eventual engine failure are soon to follow. The problem starts with the engine being run at high rpm. Air becomes entrained (mixed) into the oil by the spinning crankshaft to such an degree that it becomes an emulsion, a milkshake-like mixture of oil and air, with air constituting up to as much as a third of the volume (in fact, dry sump tanks are recommended to be filled only to ~60% capacity due to oil foaming potentially filling the rest of the tank). (As an aside, consider adding 30-40% volume to the oil mass, which raises the level enough that it’s now constantly being beaten by the crankshaft, which only exacerbates the problem.) The emulsion is sucked up by the pump and sent to the main bearings, where the normally-incompressible oil film has been contaminated with air. The thousands of pounds of pressure is now able to compress the oil/air down to a dangerously thin layer and greatly increases the chance of bearing damage. Even worse, if and when the pump sucks air, oil pressure drops and the entrained air bubbles expand to about double, effectively doubling the amount air in the oil. This situation of having the oil system contaminated by entrained air cannot be fixed by adding an extra quart or an Accusump, but others disagree. So be it.

3 Nov 2014

I recieved my new throttle position sensor (TPS) from K-Tuned. I’ve used a number of their products on the Honda drivetrain and this one will take care of a problem common with Honda K-series engine swaps, which is that the factory TPS tends to fail fairly often. Unfortunately the TPS isn’t sold separately, so owners are forced to buy a complete throttle body assembly from Honda. K-tuned developed a Hall Effect type TPS, which is a solid state device that changes its output based upon a magnetic field. The huge advantage is that because it’s a magnetic field, there’s no contacts to wear out, no potentiometer substraight to crack. While my TPS hasn’t failed yet, when it starts to go, this unit’s going right in and I never expect to have to replace it again.

I have a solution about the dry sump being labelled as an unnecessary addition. I want everyone who says that to send me a check for $6000. I’ll pin the checks to my wall and promise to tear them up the day I sell the car – unless the engine fails, then I’ll cash one of those checks in order to repair the car. How many people do you suppose will send in checks? About zero, because everyone’s very free with advice when it’s not their money on the line…

2 Nov 2014

What do you do when you’re told by people that a dry sump is a silly idea – not a bad idea, just an unnecessary and expensive addition? Of course, other than cost, these same people also agree that it’s a great idea, so their actual complaint isn’t with what it does, but how much it costs to achieve it. (The irony is that several of those who said so run dry sumps on their cars.) I’m told that there are better ways:

– “Add an extra quart of oil.”
– “You don’t need one on a street car.”
– “You don’t have space for the tank.”
– “Unless the engine’s sucking air, it’s not necessary.”
– “Get an Accusump, they work practically as good for one tenth the cost.”

My opinion:
Extra quart: yes that works, to a degree, it’s just that no one knows to what degree.
Street car: Define “street car.” Please explain then why new Corvettes have dry sumps.
Not enough space: Says someone who hasn’t built a Midlana…
It’s not sucking air now: True, until it does, then I have $$$$ damage which I have to pay for, no one else.
Accusump: This takes a bit longer to explain –
I had one and didn’t care for it. It’s a tank of oil that’s pressurized to the same pressure as the engine’s oil system, so an equilibrium is reached where as long as the engine’s oil pressure doesn’t change (up or down), oil flows neither to nor from the tank. The idea is that if the oil sloshes away from the oil pump inlet, oil pressure will drop and the now-higher pressure Accusump will push its contents into the engine, “stepping in for” the engine’s failed oil system.

I don’t have an issue with the above; it’s the details that bug me. As the engine slows, engine oil pressure drops, so the Accusump starts pushing unneeded oil into the sump, which gets whipped by the crank until the engine speeds up again. As it speeds up, oil pressure begins increasing, now the engine’s oil pump is assumed to have the extra capacity to not only fully lubricate the engine, but also recharge the Accusump tank at the same time. What rubbed me the wrong was the salesman assuring me that their system has a special valve that charges the tank slowly, but releases the oil quickly – a one-way valve.

No. It. Doesn’t.

Lastly if the pump starts picking up air bubbles, they’ll pass through the pump and get compressed along with the oil. Because the air/oil mixture is compressed to standard oil pressure, the oil gauge (and Accusump) will not see any problem, yet the engine is still being starved for oil.

So as a reward for reading this far, here’s a YouTube video of Midlana and friends driving through San Diego’s mountains after a rain. (I should add that the coolant coming from the Evo was simply an overflow tank that… overflowed, no actual problem.) It was a lot of fun, and reminds me to get Midlana back on-track!.

1 Nov 2014

Yesterday the boost-by-gear was fine-tuned and then the car parked. Today the weather was about 10 deg F cooler and now it keeps hitting the boost limit. It’s not surprising: the air is cooler and more dense, the ECU adds more fuel, which produces more exhaust, and up goes the boost right into the limiter. Sigh… KPro doesn’t have the ability to do closed-loop boost control. That is, the driver programs boost control valve values and hopes that boost ends up somewhere near the target. A more capable ECU works the other way round: target boost is specified and the ECU adjusts the wastegate to make it so. The beauty is that it self-compensates for engine temperature, weather, and altitude. Now I know.

31 Oct 2014

A dry sump system is on hold because there is a port in the engine block that has to be drilled, threaded, and plugged. Depending where it is, the concern is introducing aluminum chips into the oil galley. Balance that with: what’s peace of mind worth? Dry sumps are run on any car that sees high G loads, which Midlana certainly will on sticky tires, so this needs more digging.

Spent a few hours testing boost-by-gear; the good news is that it works pretty well. The bad news is that the boost control valve everyone uses isn’t that great (or it’s not being controlled well); it’s an industrial vacuum/pressure control valve that isn’t intended to be used proportionally. The issue is that the exact opening depends upon a lot of things, engine temperature and weather can really mess with an open-loop setup, resulting in boost that varies by as much as 20% – that’s a lot.

Lastly, I found out why the air/fuel ratio (AFR) was so stable – the O2 sensor’s bottomed at the low end of its range! It turns out that the range of the Honda (Denso) AFR sensor is from 11.5 to 20:1, great for a street car, not great for a turbo car because they’re tuned to run right at 11.5:1 at full throttle – basically pegged at the low end. The somewhat good news is that I have an Innovate handheld unit that uses a Bosch AFR sensor that works down to 10.5:1 (and no, I can’t just swap that sensor for the Denso – it requires custom circuitry in the ECU). Just for knowledge sake it might be interesting to know what the mixture really is, but what would I do about it once I know? The AFR was originally set to wherever the tuner felt was best. With water/meth, it’s richer, but so what, because what do I want the AFR to be if the water/meth quits working? The answer is I want it to be the AFR that my tuner originally set it for, which means that I shouldn’t mess with it. A plus for this argument is that the car runs great right now – rich or otherwise – so I’m not real motivated to lean it out any.

As I learn more about turbo engines I’m becoming less impressed with the Hondata KPro ECU. It makes the best of the hardware that it has, the existing Honda OEM interface circuit upon which it’s based, but there’s only so much Hondata can do with it. Imprecise boost control, an inability to do flex-fuel, and traction control being an expensive add-on, I’ve started looking into better standalone ECUs. I’ve got one in mind – we’ll see how it goes.

27 Oct 2014

Forgot to mention that I got a sheet rock screw in Midlana’s rear tire yesterday. Plugging it was easy enough but the concern now is, will it be okay at 150+ mph? The shame is that it only has maybe 3-4000 miles on it. Hard not to wish bad things on lazy/dim-witted construction workers who throw open boxes of sheet rock screws into the back of their stake-bed trucks, with them rolling around until they drop onto the street… grrr…

In other news, I was getting gas at the local station and heard an obnoxiously loud car tearing by. Expecting to see a lowered Honda, it was surprising to instead see an Arial Atom. I’ve seen the car twice now so he lives around here somewhere… it’s only a matter of time. By being so annoyingly loud, he’s already lost in my book, because it tips his hand, that he has neither a turbo nor supercharger… excellent.

26 Oct 2014

Good news, mostly:

Filled up the water/meth tank and spent the day testing and tweaking the system. The water/meth flow gauge worked well, with user-defined thresholds for too-much and too-little flow from zero to max. Once that was set up and working, numerous runs were made while slowly increasing boost. The good news is that it’s currently at 19 lbs, with traction in third gear now getting a bit iffy.

Now the puzzle: Using a mixture of 50/50 water/methanol, the water handles most of the cooling while the meth serves as both coolant and high octane fuel (supposedly it makes 91 octane act like 110 octane). Because the methanol is consumed, the total fuel mixture becomes richer since both gas and meth are being burned, which typically requires leaning it out a bit. So it was surprising to find that the Air Fuel Ratio (AFR) was the same whether I enabled the water/meth or not…

– I know that the mixture is getting consumed, the AEM flow gauge and logger show 1000 cc/minute being delivered to the two 500 cc nozzles.

– I know that the water/meth mixture is 50/50 by volume (ignoring that it’s not 50/50 chemically, but this doesn’t matter much).

– The level in the water/meth tank level dropped, so the mixture is definitely being consumed.

– Thinking outside the box, I suppose that the water could have separated from the methanol, settling to the bottom of the tank and being consumed first, but I really really doubt that happens since methanol loves water. So I don’t get it. With the days getting short that’s where things stand now. I’ve got a couple posts on car forums asking what could be going on, so that might be interesting.

In other news, during testing I took the same road where I drove my brother’s car last week. In Midlana it was a completely different road, with none of the kidney-jarring bumps. I keep telling my brother to fix the rear axle travel so that quites bottoming out and he says it’s in the works.

As a last note, I took Midlana onto the freeway, tearing up the onramp just because I could. Cresting the top, off on the right was a motorcycle cop having a talk with someone who’d just spun his car off into the weeds. Unfortunately right when I crested the hill the cop happen to look my way. I think several factors played into me not getting a ticket today: he was off his bike, already busy with someone else, and there was a lot of traffic noise so I doubt he heard me directly. But, he obviously saw me moving rapidly along and started to make a gesture. It was as if he was going to flag me down but half way through it decided that I had just barely squeaked under the threshold by this much. I waved, acknowledging us seeing each other and that I understood I was cutting it really close. And yes, I did watch my mirror for a while…