Monday, October 29, 2012

Okada Projects PlasmaDirects...but Pre-Modified? (Part 2)

 So when I opened the package, this is what I saw.  Six very pretty blue coils in the box, all wrapped in plastic, and then a dedicated harness for the R33 GT-R.  

There were other bits and pieces which you can see at the top. (which I did not realize were electrical connectors for the harness for until AFTER I finished wiring…) which I didn't technically need following the directions, but as I discovered later would have been the smarter choice.

Anyway, first step was to remove everything in the way – this includes the tower bar, and the rubber breather tubes that on my car are connected to the Nismo Oil Separator.  Once out of the way, it was easy to remove the 8 Allen bolts holding the center cover (the one with the Skyline GT-R logo) on. However, in order to completely remove the center cover, the wiring involving the transistor unit also had to be disconnected. Once this was done, I was finally looking at this.

The next step was to remove the old harness (carefully) 

and then the old coils, which I then replaced one by one with the PlasmaDirects – making sure to ensure that the coil orientation stayed true to the OEM coils. This is important due to how the harness fits.  Only two bolts hold each coil in, and you reuse these bolts with the PlasmaDirects. Here is a comparison of the old and new:

Once the new coils were in, the new harness was clicked in. Then, the real challenge began. The new wiring harness is supplied with the male pin leads already done up – so the idea is to for you to cut and install the female leads on the transistor side (making sure that you keep the numbers straight for each coil – hence the markings on the bottom of the transistor as shown).

Putting aside the fact that there is very little space to work on this, I decided that I wanted to solder the female leads to the wires, in order to ensure proper connectivity. 

About an hour later, with my fingers aching, I was done. I hooked the pins together, making sure not to mix up the wires (each lead comes with a number from 1 to 6 to ensure you don't), then affixed the nifty metal plate to the bottom of the engine cover, and replaced the cover.

So now for a quick drive.

Driving Impressions:
Turning on the ignition, the exhaust note was definitely different. Hard to describe, but sounded a bit raspier and also slightly quieter than before.  As I had disconnected the battery for safety reasons, and also to put the ECU in learning mode, I went through the recommended procedure for learning mode – idled for a few minutes, then turned on the A/C while idling.  The engine sounded fine, although when the A/C compressor came on, it seemed to make more noise than usual.  But what was amazing was, even though the car was still in the garage, the amount of stinky exhaust was much less than what I had noticed before. Of course it wasn’t completely clean burning, but instead of choking fumes threatening to kill me after about 90 seconds, it was more like 4 minutes until the same effect… I then hopped in and took the car out. 

Once actually driving – well the car seems to have more torque from the get go. Starting from a red light, the car seemed to want to leap forward.  I guess it felt like the engine was more “lively” so in essence I would say that there is definitely more torque on tap, which I could feel at lower RPMs.  Hard to say the car had more power, but the throttle did seem more sensitive to input. But with the car already making over 500ps, gains in torque at higher RPM were hard to detect.
This is consistent with the reviews in Japan (there are tons more but these are just those for the RB26 GT-Rs): (definite reduction in smoke) (cleaner rear bumper, quieter idle, more torque.) (no stress on engine at low and high speeds, should have bought earlier (note this is the non Jing version)) (reduction of knocking, extend engine life, increase in power, increase in torque, increase in response, reduction of vibration, faster on boost, stable boost, no damage to plugs.) (crisp acceleration from start/low revs.) (less engine vibration, more midrange torque.) 

The 4, not 5 stars given by some all reflect the relative high cost.

Obviously I will have to wait awhile to report back on whether my bumper remains cleaner longer, and if there is an improvement in gas mileage - as well as a full drive report (ie continued high revs).  In the meantime, I will go ahead and say this is a worthwhile mod, easily installable but probably something that can be saved to the very last after all suspension, engine oil/cooling, exhaust, etc. mods have all been done.

Looking forward to people's comments! Placebo effect, or does this make sense?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Okada Projects PlasmaDirects… but Pre-modified? (Part 1)

So for the past few years I’ve heard about, read about, and researched this ignition device:

The Okada Projects PlasmaDirects - described as a replacement for the stock coils, but with increased performance, as described here on the Okada Projects USA website and specifically for the R32/R33 GT-Rs, here on the dedicated Okada Projects (Japan) website.

Here are some graphs taken from the Japanese Okada Projects website showing:
1) Difference in spark energy (black is stock, red is PlasmaDirects):
Normal spark

Spark is twice as powerful

2) Showing reduction in ignition noise

Showing noise
Reduction in noise
3) Multiple discharges

Only one discharge
Multiple discharges

For the R33 and R32 GT-Rs, as the amplifiers are contained within each of the Okada coils themselves, the PlasmaDirects, in addition to having more spark energy and multiple spark discharge, also do away with the transistor unit, which, being susceptible to early degradation due to the heat of the engine, is often a cause of ignition problems.

Here you can see the transistor unit, it's the grilled silver metal box on the back of the coil cover:

The Okada product itself seems similar to the direct ignition coils sold by Splitfire, which are priced less. Much less. While normally that would be an attractive proposition, I had heard and read about problems associated with this brand. And so, having spent LOTS of money for the Mine’s engine, there was no way I was going to risk being cheap this time. Research on the Okadas revealed either glowing reviews (all in Japan with GT-Rs) or “blah too expensive, not much difference” write ups on English language forums (for various other vehicles). But in any case, no reports of problems associated with the part.

Here ares some of those Japanese links:

Consistent with my goal of bringing my car into the 21st century, one thing I’ve wanted to do with the engine is to improve its efficiency, but maintain its performance. In the past, I messed around with a homemade “ram-air” system which I (placebo effect?) honestly believe made a slight difference in engine sound and pick up, but have not, to this date, experimented with spark or fuel.  And when I say “efficiency” – I am talking about gas mileage, cleaner burning, fewer hydrocarbons produced (standing behind my car with the engine at idle, one notices how poorly the fuel is burnt – especially as I think the sport catalytic converter may be on its last legs…)

So, having also asked around (and as my friend Thomas Mangum installed a set without any apparent problems), I decided that the next step would be these PlasmaDirects. Especially as he claims to run NO catalytic converter, yet his exhaust is not as “stinky” as mine!

Hence I began searching for the best price I could get on the Okadas, but soon discovered that well known tuning shop Jing TechnoEngineering (aka simply as "Jing-R") – claimed to sell an improved version of the PlasmaDirects -  having done something to the circuitry to improve upon the originals (unfortunately, their asking for price for their unit negated any discounts I could find).  Exactly what Jing-R did so is not stated anywhere, but the differences in this "kai" () version are supposedly as follows (translation below):

“Using the Okada as the base, Jing-R has pursued the basics of improvements in acceleration, response, and boost onset.  By increasing the number and strength of the spark, and changes to the timing, we were able to make following tangible improvements:
1)    Improvement to response
2)    Improved acceleration
3)    Improved boost onset
4)    Reduction in percentage of carbon build up

For 1-3, normally upon acceleration, needed additional fuel is injected into the cylinders, resulting in a high concentrate of fuel, but not all of it can be burned during acceleration and this unburnt fuel is can be seen as black smoke expelled from the exhaust. 

With more efficient combustion due to the PlasmaDirects, there is an increase in combustion pressure, which leads to quicker onset of boost, and faster acceleration.  As there is now more combustion pressure, there will be a change in the exhaust note.

As for 4), with a reduction in the percentage of carbon build up due to more complete burning at all engine rev levels, the life of the O2 sensor will be extended, and there will be less carbon buildup in the combustion chamber, the pistons, piston rings, and valves.”

Anyway so that is the theory. Just how different the standard PlasmaDirects are, compared to this Jing-R version, will probably be difficult to determine, unless someone has driven the same car back to back with both versions.  I found that for the price difference, and given all the glowing reviews I found on Minkara about the Jing-R version, that I would take a chance and go with this version - figure any little bit extra to help, right?

So anyway, had a few spare hours today, and the weather was right, so went down to the garage and did the install - but not before taking the car for one last spin to provide a baseline for comparison.

Stay tuned, my next write up will be on the install process, and then my impressions afterwards after I took the car for a spin.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Small Cameo Role...

In the following video clip (that was filmed in late August, but finally released this past weekend). Which, in my opinion, is rather silly, but it was fun to meet Mr. Jay Leno (real nice guy!) and not only have dinner with him and talk cars, but later take part in shooting the scene in the clip. Also note Road&Track editor Sam Mitani as Jay's sidekick.

Thanks as usual to Dino Dalle Carbonare and Nissan for inviting me, as well as to my friends Mikku Nagata, Thomas Mangum, Dave Ireland, and Terrence Simmons for making time to join us with their cars that evening. I am happy to say we had THREE R33 GT-Rs to show off to Mr. Leno!

Note: I know this isn't the typical technical post many were expecting, but that will come soon. Thanks for your patience!