29 June 2014

Found more evidence that the engine tried to jump out of the car; the stainless braided fuel line connecting the fuel rail to the chassis-mounted fuel pressure regulator apparently gave the regulator one heck of a yank. The bracket mounting the regulator was significantly bent; I’m surprised the hose end didn’t break or pull out of the hose. After a tremendous amount of work the car is mostly back together, with about half a dozen things replaced, modified, or upgraded. While the body panels are still off the car it was started and allowed to warm up. No antics, though I still need to run up through the rpm range and watch the alternator to see if it’s going to be okay with its modified mount. Oh, and there’s still one modification that you don’t know about yet πŸ™‚

19 June 2014

It all became clear in a flash…

Last week I explained how three things coincidently all failed during one drive: the alternator bolt, coolant line, and MAP reference hose. After extracting the broken bolt I was cleaning up the spilled coolant, idly wondering why it was oddly colored, almost like it had come from an old iron block engine – it was rusty colored, yet the Honda is an aluminum block. Separately, I also noticed a small dent in the engine cover, but discounted it as having happened the one time it nearly fell over. And finally, there was a heavy wire connecting the cylinder head to the chassis which was broken, but I figured maybe it got grabbed by the flailing water pump pulley a few months back and I just never noticed.

Back to the coolant residue… The odd colored residue was sort of oily which was strange, and seemed to be concentrated in the area of the broken coolant line, which is right next to, surprise, a failed Honda passenger-side engine mount – which is/was fluid-filled. The little bag/reservoir had torn open… and that’s when all the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place…

The mount wasn’t just torn, it was ripped in two, no longer connected to the engine in any way other than through gravity. The only thing left keeping the engine from going berserk was the driver-side mount and the rear mount (the front mount having been removed earlier). It meant that during acceleration, since the tires attempt to drive the car forward, the engine attempts to rotate the opposite direction, toward the rear of the car. Getting suspicious, I measured where the dent was on the engine cover, then measured where that point was on the engine itself, a stud on the valve cover, a good 2″ under the engine cover! The right side (crank pulley side) of the engine assembly had apparently lifted up and rotated toward the rear, and in a flash it became clear how everything unraveled: the engine mount broke first, allowing the engine to lift upward, leaving a dent in the engine cover. It pulled on the coolant line, ripping that open, in addition to breaking the wire to the cylinder head, and yanked the MAP reference line out of the throttle body. The only thing which appears to have happened independently was the alternator bolt breaking, which was entirely possible.

Just… wow. What’s surprising was that I didn’t notice when it happened; there was no tremendous bang, and there were no scratches on the chassis other than the dented cover. I’m sure the mount failure is due to the additional power of the turbocharger, and very likely also due to using used mounts of unknown integrity. However, having this happen was scary enough that I’m unwilling to risk it again, so urethane engine mounts have been ordered. While a lot of people don’t care for urethane mounts due to the increased vibration, they aren’t going to fail. As I typed this, I stopped and ordered the (optional) front mount for the security. This turbo engine, coupled with the sticky tires and great traction, is just too much of a risk to have the mounts let loose on me again…

15 June 2014

Booooo! Well, I guess I should be happy that the car ran great… last week. This week she’s back to being fussy, with not one, not two, but three failures in a single drive!

So I’m cruising down the coast highway, and at one point sped up briefly around slow traffic, and idle suddenly wouldn’t drop below 2300 rpm. Ugh, okay, that’s happened before, when the “push-lock” MAP reference line popped out of the throttle body. Since I was practically at my mom’s house I kept going, and about a minute later heard the alternator belt squealing… huh? That hasn’t happened since that bolt broke… couldn’t be that. Then while heading up the last street, I saw coolant trailing behind my car… seriously?

Yes, seriously… three failures.

Cutting to the chase: The alternator bolt broke – again. Grrrrr. The MAP reference hose had indeed popped out, and did so twice more on the way home. A silicon coolant bleed line “cracked” – the only way to describe the failure… Ugh, like I said, at least it ran great last week when it mattered.

The solutions:
1. The coolant bleed line – easy fix.
2. The MAP reference line – I’ve had enough of the push-and-lock fittings, they’re all coming out of the car.
3. The alternator is the bitch. The manufacturer has a fundamental problem which I now get to fix, since their supposed Honda bolt solution was apparently an excuse to cover up a defective design, one which causes the alternator to resonate at a certain rpm and start shaking – what else can break a bolt half way down its threads?

There are two possible fixes. One is to fabricate a separate mount assembly which picks up additional bolts on the block, making the overall mount stiffer and moving the resonant rpm higher, hopefully above the engine’s operating range. One guy had written me the first time that this happened and said he had the exact same thing happen several times. He even drilled out the block, Helicoiled in a massive grade 8 1/2″ bolt, and it still broke. He finally solved it by fabricating a secondary mount so that the alternator couldn’t wobble.

The other possible solution – maybe – is to leave the bolt out entirely. There are already two large bolts along the bottom, and if something like a Delrin spacer is installed where the aluminum one was, and the belt tensioned, it would compress the spacer and trap the alternator. I’ll have to think it through to decide if it’s a viable design. Having no bolt most certainly shifts the resonance point, very likely to a lower rpm, maybe even below the engine’s operating range. In any case, the good thing is that it’s easy to test since it’s rpm-related instead of load-related, so I can watch it while revving the engine. I’ll have to think it through a bit more…

And then there are the other goodies… more about that after the above is delt with.

14 June 2014

Pictures from last Saturday’s Cars and Coffee in Irvine, CA. Memorable was the handcrafted bare aluminum Ferrari (couldn’t tell if it was authentic or a replica. The combination taillight, license plate holder, license plate lamp, and fuel filler(!) on a 1930’s luxury car. The open wheel Bugati with the distributor sticking out of the dash for easy timing adjustment. The Holman Moody Ford Falcon. Or the cream colored sedan which I would have bet money was a Mercedes but which in fact was a BMW, and a bunch of other very interesting cars and motorcycles. Enjoy.

Notice the last picture, showing the underbelly of Midlana’s engine tray :(. Β In other news, goodies have shown up for Midlana…

And in other, other news, my coworker who had her appendix fail during her big hike is heading to Washington state this coming week to complete her hike, this time from the other end due to the heat in the desert at this end. You can catch up with her at her blog.

11 June 2014

Just noticed that two of the four bolts mounting the turbo to the header are loose. Given that the jet nuts are locking, it’s likely that the bolts have stretched due to the heat. Wonder how long that’s been going on, and how much effect it’s had on power? Didn’t hear it because there’s other sounds that drown it out.

8 June 2014

A looong drive for Midlana yesterday.

Started the morning – early! – at the Orange County Cars and Coffee event, meeting up with my buddy Ron and a bunch of his friends. We then all headed out for a day of driving some of the twistiest roads in the back country that I’ve ever seen, which Ron had previously mapped out for us. There was Midlana, three Lotus/Caterham 7s, an Elise, a first gen Ford Mustang, one or two late gen Camaros, one turbocharged, and a couple rental cars. To say it was a blast was an understatement.

My dear wife came along and she held up well. However, me having forgotten her water bottle, the increasingly warm day, the very twisty roads taken at speed, and getting lost – twice – she eventually said/asked, “I thought that we were going home now.” To you unmarried guys, the actual meaning of the phrase will become clear once you’re married a few years. To be honest, while I’d have kept going, I didn’t want to ruin it and have her not want to go again, so we were done for the day. The rest of the group continued on into the back country, stayed overnight in the desert, then returning today on yet more twisty roads.

Because I was driving I didn’t take any pictures, and unfortunately, didn’t take any at breakfast either, figuring I’d get some good shots at lunch – but headed home before then; I’ll see if I can get some from Ron. For some reason it never occurred to me to mount the GoPro, though in my defense it wasn’t clear when to have it running. Given that the roads were many and the drive long, the data card would have filled up way too quick – sorry, I’ll do better next time.

Speaking of breakfast, once again I was struck by the odd difference in behavior between sportbike and Harley riders. Where we stopped for breakfast there were a bunch of motorcycles parked out front. Midlana was immediately surrounded by sport bike riders asking lots of questions, but not one Harley rider. I admit it’s hard not to connect the dots and form an opinion about why, though I don’t know what that opinion is exactly. Midlana isn’t a threat, so I haven’t figured it out… maybe it’s my lack of tattoos I mentioned earlier, or my white T-shirt…

In other news, the roads were not only twisty, but there were two nasty dips. One of them I got through unscathed, but the other, BAM! Midlana hit hard and looking under the back after we got home confirmed that, yup, Midlana apparently has sufficient suspension and tire compliance to squat all the way down to the ground – I didn’t know that. What’s ironic is that just this week I ordered stiffer springs. What’s more ironic is that early in the drive, I thought, “you know, the car rides pretty nice, maybe I don’t need those stiffer springs.” Well, yes I do, along with stiffening up the shocks a couple clicks. I wiped the heads off of several dozen rivets, and it’s possible that I may have to replace the engine floor pan. We’ll see.

Lastly, there’s been a very emotional and illogical thought bouncing around in my head for a while and I may be getting close to making a decision to change something in the engine compartment… more news later πŸ™‚