24 Aug 2014

Frustration and validation…

Decided to enable electronic boost control, a feature my ECU has which allows dynamically adjusting boost, sort of a poor man’s traction control. The ECU does this by switching an valve on and off at such a speed that it allows only a percentage of the compressed air to reach the wastegates. After getting it plumbed and enabling the feature, it was good to hear the valve start clicking, but that was the end of the good news.

No matter what valve duty cycle was set to, the valve continued clicking at about 10 Hz, and yet starting the engine makes it stop clicking. As far as I can tell it’s wired correctly since enabling and disabling it works. It’s a really strange problem and no one else in the Interweb seems to have this same issue. With everyone else it either works great or not at all, usually due to miswiring or wrongly configured. I seem to have a problem half way between the two.

Got fed up with it and went to visit mom, and toward the end of the day, figured there was nothing to lose by driving it, and was rather surprised that it was working! Seems that Hondata has a bug in their code such that it has issues when testing the engine without it running, but at this point I just don’t care too much and am just glad that it’s working. The reason I need boost control running is so that the ECU can instantly dial out boost if there’s a problem… with the water/meth unit that will be installed later.

In other news, a turbocharger turbine housing jacket was added to contain the heat instead of it radiating into the engine compartment. I’m still waiting on the louvered panel to get painted.

17 Aug 2014

To improve engine compartment cooling, louvers will be added to the engine cover above the exhaust. There are two ways to go: really big hand-formed ones like at the front of the car, making them a feature, or go subtle and use traditional stamped louvers (less work for me), but they flow less. The judgement call was that the stamped ones will probably be good enough, especially when compared to not having any.

Searching online for places that punch louvers turned up a place surprisingly close by, rodlouvers@gmail.com run by Dave Thorburn. Drawings were sent, and when Dave said that he was going to make the the panel on my off Friday, I drove over in Midlana to pick up it up and to watch the process. He lives out in the back country (relatively speaking) and it’s impressive what type of cottage industries are hidden away out there. The machine he used was an enormous punch press made in the 1940s, back when things were built to last. The tiny little block in the center is the actual punch and die. The irregular layout of the louvers avoids both the air cleaner assembly and the center engine cover Dzus fastener. Once again I’m reminded that the best businesses to deal with are small independent shops – ones run out of a barn are even better 🙂

Summer is certainly here. Out where Dave’s shop is it was in the mid 90s and fairly humid for this area. I’m seeing something that’s come up a few times before, that when driving on the freeway at constant speed, engine coolant temperature seems to be in one of two camps. It either seems to run below normal on cooler days, and above normal on warmer days, almost like the 80 degrees C thermostat isn’t working – though it is. The electric cooling fan is configured to come on at 85 degrees C (which may be too low), and the coolant at one point reached that temperature. That seems like a bad thing that the fan needs to come on at freeway speed. One contributor is likely me being lazy and not adding radiator ducting yet. The nose cone is larger than the radiator by several inches in each direction; some of the air is taking the easy way out and going around instead of through the radiator. That’ll be taken care of shortly. One mystery though, why does it run warm at a steady state speed on the freeway, yet when I was at Fontana, running flat-out at up to 148 mph, the coolant was cooler? It was a much cooler day. Hmm, maybe my cooling system is maxed out? Could be with 400-500 hp, but then again, it only takes maybe 30 hp at steady state speed on the freeway…

In other news, the car came apart (again) to finally fix the engine mounts the right way. New left and right OEM units now support the engine weight, one a new fluid-filled type that tunes out vibrations – when it doesn’t explode due to trying to resist high torque… The front and back mounts only handle the torque reaction, so the rear mount was left as urathane. Unfortunately the urathane front mount didn’t fit due to how the chassis pick up point extends out too far so the mount was modified to fit. The combination now is what I should have done from the start but didn’t think through the consequences of a high output engine!

On the to-do list includes trimming the louver panel, getting it powder coated, and modifying the engine cover to suit. Then there’s updating the suspension springs and bending the steering arms. All perfectly doable, but much more pleasent to accomplish when it’s not so hot and humid.

11 Aug 2014

Ever since the stiffer engine mounts were installed, some of the car paneling has been buzzing furiously at various rpms – it’s become annoying. Stock Honda engine mounts will be (re)installed on the left and right sided of the drivetrain; their job is to support drivetrain weight and take care of vibration filtering. The front and rear mounts handle all the torque reaction and have to stay stiff; the rear will retain the urethane mount, and the front… that’s hard to say. It’ll probably end up being a custom part with a small amount of compliance. This of course means it all has to come apart again – two steps forwards, one step back.

In other news, heading home from my mom’s house on Sunday I saw about 8-10 heavily modified Honda/Acuras cruising around, not as a group but individually. It was hard to say whether there had been a local car meet or if it was random chance. I saw one heading into Rancho Santa Fe, home to retired millionaires and twisty roads, and couldn’t help but catch up just to see what he’d do, but felt a little bad; it was clear he didn’t know the roads, while I’ve driving them literally 1000s of times. I held back in order to not pressure him and would feel really bad (and be at least half responsible) if he went off around a tight turn.

Further on I saw more, lowered, flares, full cages (which is pretty hard-core since it kills resale value), all the drivers were in their 20’s wearing baseball hats. Traffic was too heavy to “do” anything and they seemed to understood that as well, so there was no insane driving antics. As I’ve said before though, California is very strick on street racing, confiscating cars and tossing drivers into jail…

Of course, there was that $100K+ Jaguar F-Type R (550 hp!) at the light, driven by an attractive middle-aged woman. Up ahead the road narrowed so I wondered what she was planning. Surprisingly that included her stomping on it, and, well, I admit to doing what the guy/teen/competitive thing required, stomping on it myself and pulling ahead. For some reason that felt much more dignified and satisfying than beating a kid in a lowered Civic…

10 Aug 2014

Midlana has been driven every evening after work in order to build time on the new alternator mount. So far so good, so yesterday Midlana was driving the 60 miles to the Cars and Coffee event in Irvine, California. Every time I attend it’s a totally random grab bag as far as what shows up. From Ford Model As to supercars so new that they aren’t officially on the road yet, to anphibi-cars.

One car I recognized was “Blasphemi”, having just seen it on YouTube. It’s a replica of a 1955 Chevy gasser with a hemi, somewhat like the car in the movie “Two Lane Blacktop” (highly recommended btw.) The car was on the show “Roadkill” and though we don’t have TV but I do watch shows via the Web, though nothing in particular. It’s an interesting business plan: record yourselves building a car and driving it, sell the segments to a network, and make enough money to pay for the car. Hmmm, maybe I should have thought of that while I was building Midlana, though I doubt people would want to watch five seasons of building before seeing it be driven!

In other news, I backed off the boost slightly. I’m pretty sure that there was some knocking going on because I thought I could hear it, plus on one stretch of road, the lighting was just right that I could see a couple little puffs of smoke. My tuner mentioned that that’s a sure sign of knocking so it’s now around 13 psi or so. I’m pretty sure that I could have left it at 15 psi, increasing fuel and/or backing off on timing slightly, but I don’t know the KPro (ECU) software well enough to know how to safely make those changes. There’s always ethanol, but because of its spotty availability, I’m concerned that it would end up making Midlana more fussy and less of a “real” car.

Oh, and lastly, when I took Midlana to Cars and Coffee, I left the engine cover at home since there are few places to put it at the show and not have someone step on it, trip over it, or have the wind blow it over. I’ve left it off several times and each time have noticed the same thing, engine water temperature drops a good 5 degrees C. That tells me that there’s not enough engine compartment ventilation, and with the addition of the new turbocharger, I’m considering adding louvers above both it and the exhaust. It doesn’t answer the question though, why doesn’t the thermostat simply stay shut longer and push the temperature back up to 80C Why would coolant temperature drop after removing the cover and stay low during the entire drive? I don’t know.

Anyway, here’s some random pictures from Cars and Coffee. That last picture… ugh. While extreme camber is popular in Japan it’s the first time I’ve seen it here. One can only hope that someday, the driver remembers back, “What the heck was I thinking?”

3 Aug 2014

Turns out that the shortened alternator bolt/guide had just unscrewed itself, but enough is enough. The first picture shows the situation; the two bolts along the bottom of the alternator (not visible) result in the top mount being located almost exactly 0.375″ off the block. In the foreground is where the bolt (that kept breaking) screws into the block. Notice an identical mounting surface in the background. That hole was used along with the empty bolt hole midway between them to create a triangulated mount. As it is now, the long alternator bolt screws into the new mount only, not into the block as before; I think it’ll work but we’ll see. If it doesn’t, the threaded hole in the bracket will be drilled out and the bolt allowed to once again screw into the block. Time will tell.

In other news, having grown up in SoCal I’m unfamiliar with really humid weather. I now have a better appreciation of what people in Georgia or Florida deal with, as yesterday it was raining yet I was sweating like a pig in the garage. Today I was going to drive Midlana over to visit mom but the weather again looked iffy. Good thing that I kept it in the garage as I would have gotten quite the shower!