Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Post of the Year (Really)!

Friends, on this last day of 2012, I am looking back and thinking about many things that I experienced this year. But mostly, how precious life is, how limited our time on this Earth is, and how important it is not to waste, or at least try not waste, a single moment of that time.  I hope we all can take a few minutes to reflect a bit on what 2012 meant to us, and how we hope 2013 will turn out to be.

With respect to this blog, I am always thrilled when people write to me with their comments – both good, bad, and constructive – or refer to this blog on internet forums and such - so thank you.  To get feedback when all I'm really doing is documenting my adventures with my car, is amazing. So thank you everyone who has spent time and energy reading this blog, and especially those who took even more time to leave comments.  I do have in mind some more interesting projects for 2013 and beyond, so please continue to visit here on occasion. 

Anyway… I hadn’t planned on being philosophical and this IS a car blog, so let me get back to business.
As I stated in my last post, I had taken my car to RAPT for some year end tweaks. Not only did Kabe-san finish early (I picked up the car Saturday, the only day recently it hasn’t rained!) but I am happy to report the car looks amazing.  That write up and the photos I will do in the new year, so stay tuned.  What really made me happy, however, is that Kabe-san noticed that my car wasn’t starting up as smoothly as he thought it should.  So, he did a bit of checking, and noticed that my spark plugs looked like this:
Now THAT is carbon buildup!!!
Yes folks, I will admit – I had not changed the plugs since I had the new engine put in at MINE’S, over 5 years and almost 30,000 kms ago! (then again, ONLY 30,000 kms? Huh?)

So what to do? Some quick research and I found out that NGK was preferred over Denso, and that there were mixed reviews on iridium vs. platinum.   And at this time of year, all the shops are closed, and ordering on the internet wasn’t going to get me new plugs anytime soon.  Oh, and naturally, I also looked at the Nismo website to see what they had, and yes they had Nismo branded NGKplugs… of course with the usual 200+% Nismo mark-up… ouch.

Luckily for me, Kabe-san has a few contacts at Trust/Greddy, and guess what. They ALSO carry NGK spark plugs – and without the huge markup (supposedly because Trust ordered a huge batch before there was a sharp increase in platinum prices…)  So anyway, these are what I now have in my car – their top of the line racing plugs, in #8 heat range:
Of course I paid much less than retail, too! 
The difference is very noticeable, the engine starts up easier, and actually sounds different (feels a bit smoother too).  So I’m pretty happy with the result.

As an aside, long time readers may remember these:
Thin copper washers in various thicknesses
The theory here is called “indexing” spark plugs – that is, using the washers to make sure that when screwed in, the plugs all end up facing the same direction – so the gap in each spark plug is aligned with the intake side of the cylinder head… the reason being that the electrode then doesn’t get in the way of preventing maximum spark/ air-gas interaction and thus the best possible combustion.  But now that I have the Okada Projects Plasma Directs installed, I don’t think it matters that much anymore, so I probably won’t re-visit this mod.

So anyway, just a reminder to everyone  out there doing beginning of the year maintenance – don’t forget the obvious!

Be safe, and I'll see everyone in 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Some End of Year Tweaks

This year I have not had much of a chance to drive my car due to a super busy schedule (work, school, family, etc.) however I did try to improve my car with interesting mods in my spare time.  It’s now December, with less than 8 days to the end of the year, just enough time to get a few more things done. Some things I’ll do myself, but other stuff, I need the help of a pro.

So I took the plunge and visited Kabe-san at RAPT (you may remember them, they tinted my rear windows) last Thursday night.  Luckily for me, he is so busy at the end of year, he’s been burning the midnight oil, so I was able to drop off my car at 10:30pm last night.

Not only does he do windows, but he’s pretty much a jack of all trades, or at least knows people who can inexpensively and efficiently fix things all things car-related.

Here’s one example - I’ve noticed that, as the car ages, certain things wear out. One noticeable bit is the rubber molding around the rear window.  Check this out, see how it’s separated? And this happened on both sides.  

It’s mostly just ugly, but I was beginning to worry about water seeping in, so decided to have it fixed. Stay tuned for how this turns out (removal of the rear window is necessary, apparently...)

I’ve also debated about what to do with my front lip spoiler. From the factory, it came molded in black ABS plastic – makes sense, as when you scrape, there is no paint to scrape or crack, it simply scrapes the plastic away. However as I bought my car used, I had discovered that the previous owner had painted (badly) the front lip spoiler black, which led me to not only repaint it black, but also to, in the end, cover it with 3M Din-oc fake carbon fiber material.  The Din-oc actually looks pretty good, except in complex areas such as the air intakes for brake cooling. But, I think the Din-oc trend is now a thing of the past – bring on the REAL carbon fiber, everywhere!

Of course I had always meant to fix this, but what a pain. So, I’ve asked Kabe-san to fix it, although at the moment I’m not sure whether to go with semi-flat black, or body color. Opinions, gentle readers?

And speaking of carbon fiber – allow me to save everyone out there some money. These Nismo “carbon” B-pillar covers are possibly the worst product that Nismo sells.

If you’ve never seen one in person, don’t bother. Yes, they may contain real carbon fiber, but since it’s essentially a gigantic sticker… well, like any sticker it will someday peel off - in my case, after only a year! So these will have to go, and I will either revert to the original side sills or find real carbon replacements.  The issue with real carbon is that, the weave should match other bits of carbon on the car. At the moment, with my rear spoiler blade/end caps in carbon fiber, I would want any other carbon product to have the same weave, for consistency’s sake.

Finally – a sneak peak. These were waiting for me at Kabe-san’s garage last night. Anyone care to guess this is? Hint, the OLD Nismo logo.

If I don't get the chance to say so - Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! I DO have some car related projects to keep me busy during the break, we shall see how they go. In any case, see you all in 2013!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Modern Upgrade – and Likely a World’s First?

Thanks to my good friend Rei Kato at GENTEX Japan, I was able to acquire, and then (and more importantly) have GENTEX Project Engineer Yosuke Hashizume outfit my car with this: that’s right, a GENTEX auto-dimming mirror with not only a built-in digital compass but also a 3.3 inch LCD back-up monitor!

GENTEX, as many of you know, is a US company known mainly for its hi-tech rear view mirrors  (they also supply those electronic dimming windows on the Boeing 787s).  Most cars nowadays come standard with (or at least offer as an option) some kind of auto-dimming mirror, and usually the more expensive the car, the more features on the mirror as well.

It turns out that GENTEX Japan is located only 5 minutes from where I live, so it was easy to drive on over today to meet the guys and get the install done.  Hashizume-san told me he has, just this year, already installed over 100 similar mirrors to various cars – a lot of which are prototypes of new cars as well as personal cars of automobile manufacturer engineers and managers (i.e., those guys who make the decision to have their cars come with these hi-tech mirrors).  So clearly he knew what he was doing, I could not believe how fast he did the install (although he told me that this was his first ever GT-R install…and to his knowledge, the first ever 2nd generation GT-R to be fitted with one of these mirrors!).

Anyway, the first step obviously was to remove the old mirror:

Leaving this ugly hole (anyone have any ideas as to what I could install there, or otherwise hide it?):

Then came the interesting bit – using what Rei and Hashizume-san called an “auto-clave” they used suction and high heat to glue a wedge to the windshield glass.  The machine looked like a mechanical tentacle with a sucker mouth at the end.

While the sucker mouth-thing was heating up the glass, Hashizume-san ran the wiring down from the headliner, through the A-pillar to tap into the fuse box on the driver’s side kick panel.  

He then ran the camera wiring under the floor carpet and back into the trunk (after we removed the rear seats), and then installed a rear view camera next to the one I installed that’s hooked up to my navi.

The nice thing about this mirror is that it has a built in LCD 3.3 inch monitor – to be used with a back-up camera. Now I already have a Pioneer back-up camera hooked up to my 7 inch Pioneer Navi screen, but it makes sense to have both the video view and actual visual view together – on the mirror only – when backing up.  When backing up usually I have to balance looking out both side mirrors, the Navi AND the rear view mirror.  And, as Rei pointed out, there are differences you don’t notice until you see both screens in action at the same time, namely the resolution of the GENTEX LCD screen is much crisper than the Navi screen. (I’ll try to post some photos later – watch this space).

There are other differences too. The GENTEX mirror has more surface area compared to the stock mirror.

It also has the built in compass and of course hopefully the auto dimming function completely eliminates the glare from cars with super bright lights who try to follow me at night. You may have noticed that this model mirror has three (3) Homelink buttons for automatic garage doors. Unfortunately I don’t have a 3 car garage (yet) but being an optimist maybe I’ll be able to use all three buttons someday.

Finally - one possible drawback is that it weighs about 600g compared to old mirror which is about 150g. So if you’re one of those types who is trying to engage in a weight reduction program for your GT-R, this is not a device for you.  Also, the weight also means the wedge really needs to be glued properly to the glass. But if properly done (and this is why this project could not be DIY), I think the utility is hard to beat.

Thank you again GENTEX Japan, Rei and Hashizume-san!