Sunday, February 24, 2019

OK OK - Maybe I have an LED addiction?

So in my last LED post for 2018, I mentioned that I had been tempted to replace the rear turn signal bulbs with LED ones as well.  But, I was too lazy to figure out how to wire in the resistors - but a couple of you quickly educated me on replacing the OEM turn signal relay with one that works for LEDs.

I may just have to go that route in the end, but for now, I was able to find some orange LEDs that not only claimed to be super bright, but had the required resistors already built in! I am too lazy to figure it out, but one question I had on the relays was, would using such relay require me to change out ALL bulbs in the turn signal circuit (so all of the orange ones - front, side and rear) or would the relay be able to handle a mix?

So for now, since I wanted to experiment and see how much brighter LEDs were for the turn signals, I went ahead and ordered these:
Pricing wasn't that bad - around 3400 yen for the pair.

Here are the specs, for those interested

Saying it has good heat dispersion and is high quality. We shall see...

Flash forward a few days and I got this in the mail:

With apologies to my Chinese friends, yes, it appears Chinese quality cheap... But hey since most  smart phones and electronics are now made in China, I'm not going to just on packaging... for now. After all, performance is everything in the end.

So here is how my car looks with regular bulbs:


And then the difference between the LED on the left and the regular bulb on the right (check out how the incandescent bulb on the left turns on slightly before the LED bulb does).

And finally with these LEDs on both sides:


So what do you all think? Frankly, while I like the brightness, here is what bothers me - the light isn't as evenly diffused across the lamp housing. It's more pinpoint really. Also, yes it is very bright - I wonder if it's too bright?  Finally, while I was handling the bulbs and switching between the LEDs and the regular bulbs (to take these videos - I neglected to take the one with regular bulbs until AFTER I put one LED bulb in), I realized these LEDs run VERY HOT!  Is this normal?

In any case - I think more research is needed here. Maybe a cool upgrade would be an LED strip that lights up directionally, like the newer cars? Keep the outside housing the same but just replace in the inside with such a strip... that might work?

But I'll keep these for now!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

First Mod of the Year - Super Easy!

Welcome to 2019 - and yes it's already one month old!  Here in Japan it's been cold which is always an excuse for me to not work on the car.  Luckily, the first mod of the year was a super easy one, thanks to my misguided 34 owner friend Ale who kindly came over to drop it off.

I have no idea whether what he told me is true (you know those Italians), but he told me "this is a NISMO item that's not even in their catalog."  Duly curious, I popped open the hood and waited to be surprised.

What does the nice NISMO bag contain?
What's this? Large thin rubber rings with holes in them.
It turns out that Nismo Omori Factory uses these to prevent galvanic corrosion between their titanium tower bar and the steel body chassis mount point. Of course, I beat them to this idea, because about five years ago I found a tower bar modified with rubber strips on Yahoo Auctions, for the same reason.  But because I don't cut rubber strips well, I went with another route.
Plasti-Dip does wonders!

Because I didn't source these parts myself, this means is that I have no idea what these gigantic rubber washers cost, nor whether it really is rare, or even whether Ale punked me by picking up some cheap rubber at the local DIY store and had someone at Kinkos punch holes in them. (I DID check the NISMO OMORI website but couldn't find them either...)

Anyway, installation is super easy - just take off your tower bar, make sure the surface is clean, and then place over the strut tower bolts.
Here is Ale showing us how to do so, singlehandedly!
Being NISMO, of course it fits perfectly.
After that, just bolt up the tower bar again and you are done! Maybe 3 minutes from start to finish. Don't forget to use a torque wrench to properly torque up those bolts! (39.3-53.9 N-m or 4-5.5kg-m).

Anyway, the following months of 2019 promise some interesting mods I have planned. For one, it's been over 11 years (!!) since I got the Mine's build engine installed - maybe it's time to tinker with it or improve it? My car still shows some other problems from the horrible, crap work done at Worx Autoalarm and so I really want to finish fixing all of those issues as well.  So let's hope 2019 is a great year for all of us! And thanks to Ale from taking time to stop by and drop off these parts!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Out with the old, in with the NEW (Robson Leather Steering Wheel Re-Do)

One last post to close out 2018, and appropriately by swapping out the old with new. Or at least "re-newed."

Some of you may recall a few years ago when I first switched over from the OEM steering wheel to an aftermarket one, I found a nice and rare but very used Ital Volanti Imola R wheel.

Because it was worn, I decided to get the wheel re-done in a nice black leather, with perforations on the side grip areas, at the world famous Robson Leather in Tokyo.  I was generally happy with the quality of the leather and the new thickness of the wheel, and it matched the OEM interior very well.

However, once I had the interior completely redone by Cesar in high quality leather... well I noticed that the grain of the steering wheel leather now did not match the smooth finish of the rest of the leather interior (the OEM interior finish has this wrinkled simulated "leather" finish). This could not stand, and the cognitive dissonance generated by this mismatch was driving me nuts.
See how the leather appears wrinkly? This was the original grain of the leather I chose for the first re-wrap.
At the time it matched the OEM interior better.
Luckily for me, Robson Leather always has a tent up at the annual NISMO Festival, so I undid a few Allen bolts and took the wheel with me to this year's NISMO Festival on December 2. The plan of course was to save a few yen sending the wheel in, as well as to be able to inspect for myself the quality and grain of the leather that would be used on this redone.

Moments after I walked up to the Robson Leather tent, Robson's president, Masa Nakamura, greeted me like an old friend and listened to my request.  Lucky for me this Nakamura-san is miles removed from a certain other Nakamura....yes I am still pissed off. Anyway, moving on...

The sample of Robson's Nappa leather against my wheel
Masa knew immediately what I wanted, and showed me a sample of their "Nappa leather." Strangely, while the color and the feel was what I wanted, the leather sample itself looked almost like pleather in terms of how it had been tanned and processed, especially on the non-exposed side.  Nevertheless, because the wheel is a high use area, I was satisfied with the almost plastic feel of the leather, because even if it was a lower quality leather than the "Cardinal" automotive grade leather from Wildman & Bugby in the UK that Cesar used for the rest of the interior, durability (which is what I assumed from how this leather felt) would be key here.

So, I requested a re-wrap of my wheel from Robson with the "Nappa leather" option with side perforations, as before. I was thinking about adding a red 1cm wide swatch to the center top of the wheel (as often seen in some recent sports cars), but when the Robson factory called later and told me that they could not guarantee it would be perfectly centered, I cancelled. Having that center stripe not centered would be super annoying for me...

Meanwhile, my car had no steering wheel.  I was told the work on my Ital Volanti would be "finished before the end of the month" - but I had no idea how long that the re-leather work would actually take. So, I found a cheap 6000 yen steering wheel on Amazon Japan, to attach temporarily, just in case I needed to move my car in a hurry.
Superfast shipping! I had in in less than 2 days!
Nice white cardboard box. Wrapped up well for a cheap wheel...
Not bad for 6000 yen, right?
The temp steering wheel arrived very quickly. As you can see, the material is a fake Alcantara and the diameter is smaller than the Ital Volanti, at 320mm. It also has a deep cone of 70mm. So I knew driving with this on would be interesting...and in fact, when I took the car out to get some gas, it felt weird. The wheel is probably too small, as the car felt twitchy, almost like a (very heavy) racing cart.  And the seating position was now weird too...

It doesn't look bad, but not great either and the yellow center strip didn't line up perfectly.
I was glad I didn't insist on this option for my Ital Volanti
Amazingly, fast forward only 2 weeks from the NISMO festival, and I got a package from Robson and inside:



Wow! Looks OEM in quality!
See how nice and smooth the leather is? Granted, this might be more expensive than elsewhere but for the awesome service and the quality I am not going to complain. Also, it's always good to have connections with people like Masa...

Here it is, installed... See how the leather of the wheel matches (at least in look) the leather of the rest of the dashboard and interior (the leather on the doors)?


Ok I realized that wasn't the best photo. How about from this angle?

Yes folks, quite awesome is the result! Thank you Masa and Robson Leather for restoring my faith in the Japanese aftermarket.  In 2019... yes my journey will continue in order to fix the remaining interior issues and the topical rust, but I'm also itching to do some more improvements in the mechanical area...

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a great holiday season, and I wish everyone a Happy New Year! Thank you everyone for reading and enjoying this blog. As always, drop me any questions or comments below.

Friday, December 7, 2018

One Last LED Post for the Year

So while I ponder whether to keep those super bright LEDs for my rear license plate...

Sharp eyed readers may have noticed that I had another pair of LEDs (25) that I had ordered from Pika-Q, but which I did not discuss in my last post.

Although I was really tempted to replace the orange rear turn signals, the ones on the Pika-Q site all apparently seemed to require the use of resistors. And because I'm too lazy to figure out how it all works, never mind do the wiring, it's something I will have to research further and do at a later day.

Long time readers will instead know that I've been obsessed with trying to figure out how to improve my one back up lamp.  Since Series 3 (Kohki) cars only have a back up bulb on the left side, with the right side being a rear foglight, the back up lamp needs to be as bright as possible. Not only to let others know I'm backing up, but also so that I can see what I'm backing up into.

So when I found this bulb, I was pretty excited.
Oh yeah! 500 Lumens!!
I think there are other bulbs that are brighter, but for the S25 bulb, this was the brightest I could find.




I was happy with the claimed 500 lumens rating because as you know back in July I replaced the failed HID bulb with an LED from PIAA with a claimed 300 lumens brightness.

So here are pictures of the before and after - can you tell the difference?

With the PIAA bulb

With the PIKA-Q bulb

PIAA bulb

PIKA-Q bulb
Again, to the naked eye there is a notable difference, one that the iPhone camera does not pick up. Perhaps you can tell by how the back wall gets lit up?

PIAA bulb 
PIKA-Q bulb
You can tell that the area which is lit up is higher up on the wall with the PIKA-Q bulb.  Also the cardboard box is more uniformly and brightly lit up.

Here is a direct comparison of the difference in design

So, the next logical step would be to replace the turn signals with orange LEDs as well... so tempted but the resistors...

Friday, November 23, 2018

More LED Madness - Final Result of Rear Lamps Plus

So as I indicated in my last post, I decided to complete the rear tail lamp LED experiment by ordering 2 more so as to have the complete 4 bulb set.  That, and I also wanted to experiment on a couple of other areas. So I went ahead and ordered a few more things...

A few days later the box arrived. Last time I forgot to take a photo, but these guys do a good job with box marketing. Check it out:
Very slick. About the size of a medium sized book. Super light though of course.
 On opening, it contains the usual receipt, advert, and warranty (but in a nice translucent plastic sleeve), plus a set of black cloth gloves - perhaps to protect your hands from burns as you remove the old bulbs? Or maybe to prevent the transfer of oil from your hands onto the new bulbs? (I thought this was an issue only with xenon bulbs?).  And then of course the bulbs themselves.
I swear Japanese product packaging never ceases to amaze me.
So 3 types of bulbs (T10, S25 (aka 1156), and the red double S25 (aka 1157), for which I will go into more detail later.

Of course I had to wait a few days until I got off work early, but then fitted to the GT-R as soon as I could. But first to review:
OEM incandescent bulb on the left, the Pika-Q LED 30lm/200 lm bulbs on the right
Unfortunately, the iPhone camera simply does not do the new bulbs justice, which to the naked eye, "pop" in brightness compared to the old ones.

Also - last time I had noticed that the license plate bulbs (which are aftermarket LEDs too) seemed a bit dim. Might as well see what happens when I replace with Pika-Q brand T10 leds, right?
So here is a close up of how it looked before.
And here is what one of the old T10 LEDs look like. I can't even figure out their specs (such as brightness), having bought them several years ago.  I do remember thinking that the lighting looked much WHITER than the yellowish OEM bulbs. But maybe 20 lumens?


When I searched on the Pika-Q site, I simply went ahead and tried to find the brightest T10 bulbs I could find. This model, at a claimed 100 lumens, seemed to be the best ones.




Here is how it looks. Pretty plain packaging for all that hype.



Anyway, what's important is to see the difference. So I went ahead and unscrewed the clear plastic covers to access the old bulbs, and put in one of the new ones to check out the difference.
Old bulb on left, Pika-Q on the right. WOW.
Ok so the new one is brighter, but how about when it's all back assembled?
So the new LED is so bright the old one appears to barely illuminate.
Anyway, despite the now real danger of the police being able to read my license plate from a kilometer away at night, I went ahead and replaced the left side with the new LED as well.


Pretty incredible! 
I then took the following 3 photos so you can see the difference between the old red bulbs and the new ones.

Two on the left are not LED
Left outside one still not LED
All 4 LEDs
What's interesting is how bright the license plate now is - remember, those bulbs are a claimed 100 lumens while the red ones are only 30 lumens at rest (200 when braking).

What do you guys think? License bulbs too bright?  Oh, and the other 2 bulbs I received? That's for my next post...

Thursday, November 15, 2018

More LED Madness - Rear Lamp LEDs, Part 3

OK OK so my OCD got to me...despite the Phillips LEDs being significantly brighter as well as instantaneous in lighting up, their design - with those wide fins - results in dark vertical shadows that of course bother me.

So, it was back to searching Rakuten for alternatives.  Unfortunately,  I could not find another well known brand name manufacturer that sold an LED of the right size and spec, and equal or greater brightness.  I did, however, find an online store called "Pika-Q" that specializes in automotive LEDs.

Despite the silly name, not only did they have an S25/1157 (P21/5W) product claiming 200 lumens of brightness, they offer an 18 month warranty as well.
Just in case someone at Nissan asks me for LED advice, I got these which fit the NV200 Nissan van.
As the design shows, not only are these fin-less, but also shoot a red beam directly backwards through a lens, using Chip on Board (COB) format, with the underlying circuit board white colored (thus Pika-Q calls them "White COB").


Here are the specs:
200 lumens when braking, 30 lumens tail light. Power consumption of 6.0W and 0.8W respectively. 
So I went ahead and ordered one pair to test out. My thinking was, while there might be other LED bulbs that claim to be even brighter, I would be happy if these worked out by being just as bright as the Phillips, so long as the dark spots were gone.

A few days later, they sent me a pair of these LEDs in a nice flat box with some other goodies (free black rubber work gloves... I'll post a photo later) and so I went out and immediately fitted them.

Immediately, I could see that the dreaded black vertical lines were gone (left lamp below):
Philips bulb on the right... and does it look slightly more orange?
And taking a close look, the colors seemed a bit different.  In order to confirm this, I took this next photo:
Pika-Q is definitely redder, whilst the Philips has a bit of an orangish tinge
I took some video too. This first one, I wanted to make sure both the Philips and the Pika-Q lit up at the same time.  Unfortunately it's not very well focused, but check out the two Philips LED bulbs on the left, and the Pika-Q LED bulbs on the right...

Actually, the fuzziness helps make the vertical lines on the left side stand out more...

This one is better:

And further, maybe you can tell the color is different?

Here are two photos to show the differences:

Philips:

Pika-Q.

Anyway, based on this result, I went ahead and ordered another pair of these red LEDs from Pika-Q, to complete the other side.  But, I took advantage of this timing and ordered a couple of extra items, which I will feature in my next post.