Friday, February 17, 2017

First Time Ever All Fluids Change/First Visit of the Year to Nissan Prince Tokyo

So even though I've owned my car for over 10 years now, there is still a first time for everything - so this was the first time I had ALL fluids in the car changed out at once. 

Anyway - because I need to drive the car a bit for an upcoming project, and because it's been literally just sitting in the garage for a while now collecting dust, I decided it was time to get at least an oil change done.  And, given how disgusting the coolant was during my engine bay freshen-up project, I also realized I hadn't had the coolant changed in a long, long time. Maybe not since I had the Mine's engine installed? No, say it isn't so...

Absolutely disgusting. Hope the insides of the radiator and engine aren't like this either...
So, I called up the guys at Nissan Prince (specifically Nismo Performance Center Tokyo, at the Nissan Prince dealership in Sakura-shinmachi) for a Sunday appointment to "replace all fluids."  Oh, and since my BNR34 otaku friend Alessandro happened to be free that day, I invited him along as he had been asking me for a ride in a tuned GT-R.  Oh, and he loves going to NPCT as well, being there almost every weekend hunting down parts for his GT-R before they disappear from Nissan stock. Maybe one day he will talk about his experience in my car.

It turned out that taking the car in now was a good move. Because as I got on the expressway, there was a weird shimmy in the steering wheel between 80-100kph...

Anyway, we got there safely and after parking the car, Alessandro got busy and took the following photos for me...


Can you see the dirt? It was drizzling that day, which,
combined with the dust on the car and the exhaust soot, left its mark on the car!
I then went inside and asked the following to be done:
1) Oil change - I had found several liters of (unopened) Motul 300V (5W-40) in my garage, which they had no problem using.  I usually ask for and use 15W-50, but as it's still cold in Tokyo... and bringing my own oil, which I bought at discount, saves me money!  Oh, and for filters, given a choice of Nissan or NISMO, with a price difference of only 300 yen or so, I went with NISMO. Yes, slight brand whore...oh and yes shame on me last time I changed the oil was when I tried out that NISMO motor oil, back in June 2015! (but probably about only 1000kms back).

2) Brake oil change. Remember my drive in Hakone with Dino, Russ and Miguel? At the time it seemed like either the pads were gone or the fluid was boiling too easily. A quick confirmed plenty of pad life left, so new brake fluid was needed. I brought some Endless RF-650 (DOT 5.1) for them to replace the old RF-650. Last time I changed it was...probably 3-4 years ago? Yikes.

3) LSD oil change. I recently heard the OS Giken Super Lock LSD, which is normally very quiet, start making some noise so figured it was time for some new fluid, having never changed the oil since I had it installed more than 6 years ago. I had stock of the OS Giken 80W-250 oil, for exclusive use in this LSD.  

4) Power Steering fluid.  Although I only asked for Nissan OEM, they went ahead (after checking with me) and used NUTEC ZZ51-kai. Which turns out to be AT fluid.

5) Engine Coolant - I told them Nissan OEM was fine.

6) Air Cleaner - I decided to get a new one as the last time I changed mine out was about 20,000kms ago. NISMO of course.

7) Front LSD - this was done when the Getrag was installed last year so I demurred.

8) Clutch oil - I asked them to use whatever RF650 was left over after the brakes were done.

Finally, I also asked them to check to see if the leak they had previously found in the Getrag, was back.

The following weekend, I was back to pick up the car:

Hmm. That doesn't quite look right.

Oh yeah, that looks good. Even the red oil plate looks good here...

Good news - the Getrag leak was confirmed gone, and the shimmy I had noticed was because the two front tires had lost their weights along the way and had to be rebalanced. Alas, as I drove away, I realized I hadn't seen the coolant listed on the invoice. Somehow, there had a been a miscommunication. So I turned the car around... oh well...

Finally this past Thursday, I left work early and took the train to the dealership. First time I had dropped by this late, actually.

No sporty vehicles in sight...
Of course I quickly found my car.
Yamazaki-san had made sure that, in addition to the coolant, the ATTESA fluid had also been changed out.  I have never had this changed out since owning the car, and he told me that the schedule to replace is 60,000 kms or so.

And while I was paying, I asked a bunch of questions about some upcoming NISMO parts. Stay tuned!
The view out the office window. Can you spot the blue R33 lurking in the corner?
When I walked over to talk to the mechanics to ask about the coolant (how dirty it was - they had to flush it out a twice!), I noticed a Bayside Blue BNR34 being worked on, with a totally bling part in the engine bay:

C'mon! Does the carbon part work any better than the aluminum? No, but still...
 There was one last item that I had noticed when I had attempted to pick up the car on Sunday - the gas pedal was a bit "loose" - turns out that the throttle cable had stretched a bit so that was adjusted as well. Amazing how that detail can make the car feel so much more solid!


Yamazaki-san moving my car out of the pit for me to drive home.
And so how does it feel now? In a word, refreshed! Amazing how a simple fluid change can really liven things up. (And actually, I just realized that, my car was registered as a new car in February 1997, meaning that this month, my car is 20 years old!)

Yes, I had a blast or two on the way home, relishing how easy the car is to drive (and now with full confidence that everything is properly lubricated, balanced and cooled). In fact, in some ways, the GT-R is easier to drive than the IS-F; for sure, the steering is both more communicative and lighter, for example, and the Ohlins do a far better job than the stock dampers on the Lexus. Yes, the GT-R rides better than the Lexus...

With more power, the GT-R feels lighter and more nimble (but strangely, not smaller - I think primarily due to the seating position), but this is to be expected. Surprisingly, I prefer the brake feel of the IS-F (also Brembos) so perhaps it's time to look into new pads on the GT-R?

In any case, lots to do to keep improving the car... I promise my next post on Speedhunters will demonstrate that!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Some Increased Publicity... Plus Photos From the Cutting Room Floor

As most of you probably noticed, during the last couple of weeks I did a Speedhunters post where I described my multi-month "clean-up" of the engine bay.  Also, my friend Alessandro did a very nice post on the car as he had come over to help during the light bulb replacement project.

But there were several photos that didn't make the cut. So, I decided to post them here.

First, in preparation for the Speedhunters article, I actually had considered re-wrapping the HKS oil cooler hoses in black plastic spiral wrap.

First, I had to cut this zip tie away.
You can also see the SAMCO radiator hose on the bottom and the weird white spots on it that eventually convinced me to replace it!
It's too bad I couldn't use this in the end. Cheap and easy!
Here's how it looked after I finished the re-wrap. Looks OK, but a bit odd at the same time...
So what do you think? Should I have stuck with the black wrap or did I do the right thing with the clamps?

Speaking of clamps:
Mysterious package from China. And yes, Japan Customs opened to inspect it!
Since I wasn't sure if I should go for anodized silver or black, I ordered both!
 Did I make the right choice by going with the black clamps in the end?

Yes, that is probably 20 years of accumulated gunk!
 As mentioned earlier, when I had Alessandro come over to help, the first thing we decided to do was to replace the silicon SAMCO radiator hose with a new one.

But, SAMCO pricing in Japan is ridiculous, so I went ahead with this one from SARD
Here is Alessandro helping with the clamps.
Incidentally, he later went crazy with metal polish on the Koyo radiator. Thanks Ale!
I was researching new clamps for the radiator hose and a friend told me about some good ones made by Mikalor. So, I went ahead and ordered some.
While nice Stainless Steel, the ones that arrived were scratched up.
They also seemed to not be as shiny as they should be.
Maybe I need to polish them in my free time?
So yes, I gave up on these and went ahead with the ones included in the SARD kit.  We then turned our attention to trying to remove the front bumper, for the headlamp bulb article I did recently.

Here is a close up, looking up from inside the turn signal space, one we removed it.
You can see the ballast for the Xenons.
And of course, having removed the undertray I had to clean it. Simple Green is the bomb!
Rusted license plate stay
 In removing the bumper I thought we might have to remove the license plate stay. So off it came, and we noticed it was quite rusty.

I've resprayed it with anti-rust paint, this will have to do until I get a new one.
So that is one more new part to have to reorder!  Anyway, I am now working on my next Speedhunters post, and will of course provide some more behind the scenes coverage to appear here on the blog. Stay tuned! And thanks everyone for the comments made on the Speedhunters post!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Modernizing the Front Lights (Part 2)

Happy New Year everyone! Hope 2017 is a better year for all.

Anyway, as you recall in my last post I swapped out a first generation T10 LED parking lamp, as well as the OEM D2S Xenon bulb on the left front headlamp, for new units from Philips - both rated at 6200K in color and supposedly brighter than the norm.   

The results were promising
So, next on the list was to access the hi-beams and replace those too.

Wouldn't it be nice if all three bulbs gave off the same color?
Unfortunately, in order to access the hi-beam bulbs, the front bumper had to come off (by design - as reader Sam T commented in the previous post) because each of the headlamp housings are secured on the side by a bolt that is located directed directly under the upper side part of the bumper.  My friend (and BNR34 owner - check out his excellent blog HERE) Alessandro kindly offered to come by and help - I know from past experience that this task, while relatively simple, goes by much faster with two people.

See how compact Japanese garages are? 
So after driving it up onto ramps, I jacked the car up.
Safety first! Placed jack stands under the car.
Then I crawled underneath to unbolt the 3 piece undertray.

Truth be told, this was AFTER I cleaned it up, there was a lot of grease and oil on it! (see next photo)
Meanwhile Alessandro was busy removing the front grill and the two turn signal assemblies. And while I was under the car, I went ahead and removed the front lip spoiler as well.

Note, only the right side air duct came off. A rusted bolt prevented me from removing the one on the left in similar fashion. Something to resolve in the future!
So after removing the front undertray and the front lip spoiler, we realized that we did not have to remove the entire front bumper cover. This was because I have small hands and fingers which allowed me to access each of the single bolts on the sides of the headlamp housings. So instead of removing the bumper cover entirely, we only had to undo the two bolts on the left side to loosen the bumper cover in that area.
Green points to where that single troublesome bolt resides for the left side headlamp assembly.
 Orange is where I reached into to access that same bolt on the right side.
Then, all we had to do was to remove the nuts and 1 bolt holding the assemblies onto the frame of the car.
Green arrows point to the bolts and nuts that were removed.
On the left side, all that was left to be done was to replace the high beam H1 bulb.
You can see the base of the H1 bulb.
The OEM H1 bulb.
And here are the OSRAMs. Compared to OEM they are blue tipped.

And so how did these compare? Given it was still dusk, it was a bit hard to tell initially, but the photos show the difference (which admittedly is not drastic):
With OSRAM
Without OSRAM

Being winter time, the light quickly faded soon after and I was able to get the following photos:
The left front (right on photo) has been changed out, and is whiter than the OEM on the right (left on photo)

In the dark, the difference is more distinct - whiter, and more crisp with less distortion.
So, while not really close to the white of the Xenons or the parking lamps, you can see there IS a difference between the bulbs. First, the OSRAMs appear to be slightly whiter; second, the glow of the light given off was crisper, if that makes sense.

At night, to be honest I could not really tell much of a difference - the biggest difference was how bright the parking lights are now - with the garage door closed there was hardly a difference between them and the Xenons!

In any case - there is still room for improvement. So, I will continue to monitor light bulbs in the hope that one day, I can get an H1 bulb that is whiter AND brighter...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Final Mod for 2016! Modernizing the Front Lights (Part 1)

So as I couldn't have my last post for 2016 lead with a photo of a GM product, I decided to close out the year with one last post with a legitimate parts mod for my car.  Normally, I would try to post this onto Speedhunters first, but given my inability to handle a camera properly, plus given the subject of this post, I was sure there would be lots of people pointing out the inaccuracies behind my understanding of automotive lighting, so I decided this blog would be the better forum. Oh, and having this post be the first of a two part series doesn't exactly help either, especially when I currently have no idea how it's going to look when all done!
This is the photo from the Speedhunters post that got me thinking about an upgrade
Anyway - several years ago, I jumped on the LED bandwagon and purchased two generic “T10” bulbs for the R33’s front parking lights.  Immediately, they gave a brighter and whiter light.  And then honestly I forgot about them until I saw the above photo. Given advances in LED technology, both in color and brightness, I decided it was time for an upgrade.

Currently, aftermarket LED parking, lamp, OEM Xenon and OEM high beam H1 bulb means 3 different colors... will it be possible to get all close to the same shade of white, while not diminishing lighting performance?
For me, part of “really paying attention to the details” in parts for my car begins with gaining knowledge through research.  And lots of it.   So I began reading up on automotive lighting and LEDs, with the goal of replacing the parking, low and high beam with the brightest bulbs (legally) possible.  Unfortunately, brightness (measured either by wattage or lumens) is not the main factor most sellers of aftermarket bulbs advertise. There seems to be a fixation on color, commonly measured in Kelvins (K).  I found most aftermarket bulbs are in the 6000K to 8000K range (i.e. bluish white to purplish white) in an attempt to get that “HID” look.  But “whiter” does not necessarily equate to “brighter.”  And for me, for safety related items it’s always function over form, although in the context of modernizing, I DID want a bulb that was whiter than a standard halogen bulb.

So the challenge was to find the brightest AND whitest bulbs possible.  This meant finding reliable sources that give objective figures on characteristics such as brightness.  
X-treme Ultinon series from Philips - the 130 lumens T10 bulbs are extremely hard to find!
I finally settled on these bulbs for the headlights (HID - D2S) and parking lights (LED - T10).  Not only is the brand reputable (with warranty, etc.) but the packages both list the lumens and Kelvin figures and coming from the same manufacturer, my bet was that the Kelvin rating was consistent across both bulbs. 

Unfortunately, it seems that at the present time, no major manufacturer makes an H1 bulb (whether halogen or LED) with a Kelvin rating of 6200K.
 

So, I took a chance and bought these "H1 bulbs" with a claimed color of 6000K and brightness of 80 Watts off of Yahoo Auctions Japan.  I figured that as OEM was rated as 35W, these should be more than twice as powerful.  There are actually many other designs now with cooling fans and fins, but because I wanted to keep the watertight seal in the back of the headlight housing, I chose to gamble on these which have the same dimensions as equivalent halogen bulbs.  So, my focus at this point was on the BASE of the bulb - this would have repercussions later.

The first step was to gain access to the rear of each of the headlight housings.  Even though this is a car born in simpler times, access was not as easy as it could be, although still simple compared to modern cars (at least my daily anyway). Or so I thought.
Green arrow - twist counterclockwise to remove the parking lamp bulb. And yes, I see all that dirt there too!
I was able to remove the airbox on the front left, which gave me some access to the front left headlight cluster.  I decided to swap out the parking lights first.
The existing LED parking lamp. You can see that only one surface, the yellow face, lights up.
Lit up, the LED casts a bluish white glow. Which turns out to be a weak purple as you can see in the leading photo above.
Here is the new Philips LED - it looks very futuristic and cool!
Lit up. Not only a whiter light, but in all directions. Can't tell from the photo but it was blindingly bright!
Success! See how much brighter the left front bulb is!!
My fingers are small enough that I was able to access the existing LED lamp, but it didn't help when I tried to remove the outer cap to access the headlamps. 

That's because there is this anti-tamper Torx screw at the base of the cap.
But after showing the above photo to some friends in ClubR33, the invite-only Facebook club I am a part of, they educated me as to which Torx wrench I'd need. So, I immediately ordered a special Torx wrench set, after which I was able to swap out the OEM DS2 bulb for the Philips bulb.
Front left bulbs (so right hand side of photo) are not just MUCH whiter than the ones of the right front (left side of photo), but the color appears to be the same for both the low beam and the parking light!
Note, I did consider using an LED to replace the HID bulb, but given the possibility that the light disbursement from an LED bulb might not work effectively with this old school HID and its reflectors, I stuck with HID (for now). I think that was the right decision.  I was pleased with how the light appears to be the same whiteness.

I haven't taken the car out on a dark unlit road yet, but a quick visual check at night, out of the garage lighting up the house across the street, revealed no major difference I could see.

So the last step was to replace the H1 hi-beams with these LEDs.


However, I discovered that the headlight lens assembly only allows a BULB that is shaped EXACTLY like an H1 bulb to pass through. So despite my ensuring that the LED bulbs had an H1 bulb BASE, these bulbs themselves could not be fitted. Back to the drawing board. And no, I'm not going to modify the headlamp housings in any way.

Some online research suggests these bulbs outperform the equivalent top model from Philips in terms of brightness and sharpness of light!
Luckily, a few hours on the internet and more advice from friends in ClubR33 and I seem to have found a solution for the H1 bulb issue - stick with a halogen bulb, just a high performance one which hopefully has not only better light output but a cleaner, whiter appearance as well to match.

The other issue was that, even with my small fingers, I could not access the bulbs directly from the housings. So, I will likely have to remove the headlight housings to do any kind of swap.

In what is a first for me, as I write this I don't know how this will turn out. Early in the new year, I will finish this job and post the results. Stay tuned, and Happy Holidays everyone!