Friday, May 31, 2013

HID Back Up Lamp

So awhile ago I replaced my Series 3’s single back-up standard bulb with an LED bulb (S25 or 1157 size), and while this DID result in a slightly brighter light (or so I thought), given the blacked out rear windows and reliance on my back up camera, parking in a dark space, or at night, could still not be done with confidence. 

Then I heard about HID bulbs being used for back up lamps.  A quick Google search shows that in fact many people have installed HIDs for their car's back up lamps. So perhaps not a big deal, definitely not a “world’s first,” but a nice mod for me nonetheless. And hopefully, it would make backing up at night in my car a bit less nerve wracking.

So here is what the kit looks like:
2 bulbs and ballasts, along with adapters for 3 different types of bulbs
Since my car only has one back up lamp (the other is a rear fog lamp), I installed only one of these of the pair.  This of course was as easy as pulling out the current LED bulb, and installing the HID. The instructions that came with the kit were extremely poor (they were for HID headlights!?) but it was extremely easy to do the install. Took me about 10 minutes in total – no soldering and no splicing – all I had to do was to plug in the harness with the S25 adapter, as well as the lead with the bulb, into the ballast.
Just plug in the S25 bulb adapter
All hooked up, ready to be installed
So the biggest issue was, where to mount/store the ballast. When exposed, my car's rear tail light assembly looks like this (the red tap btw is to activate the rear view camera)...
Grey plug on left with red and grey wiring is the back up bulb
While I initially thought I could install the ballast right underneath this cluster of bulbs, I eventually mounted it behind the trunk lining in the rear corner area, onto one of the two bolts that affixes the tail lamp assembly to the body.

Once the ballast was mounted, then it was a simple matter of plugging the hole where the standard bulb would go, with the provided rubber grommet, into which the HID bulb would go in, for an airtight fit!

And the result? Well, I decided to stick in all three bulbs to provide a comparison.
Regular halogen bulb

Super bright LED bulb

HID bulb
So you can see that, with the HID, even in daylight it appears (only) slightly brighter than the LED.

But just a second! I figured, heck if I have the LED bulb out, why not put it into the rear fog lamp, to see how bright it would get – but I was in for a big surprise!
Regular bulb
The same superbright LED bulb!
WAIT!! The regular bulb is actually BRIGHTER!! So while under a clear lens, the LED appears brighter – I think maybe it’s only more blue, NOT brighter lumens-wise. So maybe this was my problem in finding it dark when backing up – the LED may be easier for other drivers to see, but is not actually brighter (Lumens) than the regular halogen bulb! In any case, I think the HID solves the problem, if not I will be back to trying something else.

Another matter of concern is - given the nature of back up lamp use – that is, on for only a short time, and in some situations, on/off on/off in sequence as I jockey (forwards and backwards) to park the car in some very tight locations – will that result in premature burn out?  Interestingly, my other concern that the HID would get too hot did not seem to be an issue at all. I left the bulb on for about 15 minutes to see if would get hot, and while the plastic lens did get slightly warmer to the touch, it wasn’t enough to cause concern.

Finally – I know what some of you are thinking.  If I have a spare burner and HID bulb unit, why not use it in place of the rear fog lamp bulb?  Well, in addition to premature burn out of the back up bulb, I am still a bit concerned about the heat – with a fog lamp, it would be left on a lot longer than the reverse lamp.  The other concern, of course, is given how bright this lamp is – would I call extra unwanted (i.e. police) attention were I to install this?  So something to think about (and a potential future blog post, of course).

Meanwhile – I will have to put this new HID back up bulb through its paces, and hopefully it is bright enough that I can see better on the back up camera!  I will report back when I get the chance, in the comment section.

PS: I got tired of having to look up, from various sources, the various lightbulbs for the R33 GT-R, so I’ve added the entire list to the Technical Specs section of this blog. I hope it serves as a useful reference.  One thing to note is that bulbs go by different model numbers in different countries – so please use the cross reference link provided if you seem to not be able to find a listed bulb in your country.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Unnecessary Titanium Tower Bar Mod?

Recently on Yahoo Auctions, I saw a Nismo titanium tower bar much like mine for sale. Except this one had a twist - the seller claimed that, in order to prevent the suspension top mounts from rusting due to galvanic corrosion by the titanium / steel interaction, he had applied rubber strips to the bottom of his tower bar to prevent the two metals from touching.

So that got me thinking - is that even possible? On the other hand, even if such a thing did not happen, the titanium, being harder than steel, might cut into the steel and then cause some rust to begin, no?

In any case, I began to do some research. I think the end result was that I wasn't sure, but if I could do something about it, then better safe than sorry.

So here is the tower bar, right after I unbolted it:

Initially, I was planning on cutting bits of adhesive backed rubber foam, similar to what the guy selling his had done. But after a few minutes with the scissors, it was clear that I'm not talented in that department. Actually, the issue was the small rings surrounding the bolt holes, these are slightly raised compared to the rest of the large ring, and it was not going to be easy to cut the foam that precisely.

So I began thinking, too bad I can't just spray on rubber... WAIT! I have THIS:

That's right - I had actually purchased a couple of cans of these for another project (which I hope to reveal by sometime this summer), and so figured, why not try spraying on this "rubber"?  

At first it was quite ugly:

The stuff was everywhere, and oops I got some on the inside of the large ring:

 But unlike paint, this stuff comes off with some friction!

So I applied another coat, then let the bar sit in the sun and then when the day began to cool off, under a heat lamp.  This was the end result:

Well, not exactly pretty, but who cares, no one will see it and so long as it does its job! (and yes, I wiped away the overspray).

Then it was installed back in the engine bay. I figure even if the rubber had not dried completely and it gets rubbed off onto the top mounts, that's still better than raw titanium vs. painted steel (for the record, there ARE a few small scratches there already, likely caused by the stock steel tower bar). 

By the way, the torque tightening figures for the tower bar is 39.3-53.9 N-m (or 4-5.5 kg-m). I have a few others which I will add to this blog's R33 Technical Page in the near future, apologies for not having it all up at once. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Some More Nissan Optional Parts Trivia

So while I have a couple of car mod posts coming up soon, I first wanted to post up some information I found recently on a fellow R33 GT-R owner's Facebook page.

Miyuki Eguchi is a proud owner of a very red R33 GT-R - in fact she was just featured in this month's GT-R Magazine (apologies for the crooked scan):

Anyway, we had become acquainted (I've never met her in person) when she "liked" the R33 GT-R Facebook page, shortly after it was launched (if you are reading this and haven't "liked" the page, please do so, thanks!).

Recently, on one of her Facebook posts, Miyuki-san posted this:
Photo courtesy of Miyuki Eguchi
 At first, I thought she was posting to show everyone the little rubber GT-R Magazine insert in the area in front of the console box. But then I noticed the weird switch between the coin holder and the "GT-R" badge.  Turns out, this is the switch for the optional quad foglights for the R33 GT-R that Nissan offered (you can see what the foglights look like in the scan of Miyuki-san's car above).  Apparently, the foglights were a very high cost option at the time, hence it is unusual to see a GT-R with those lights, let alone this switch!  And as she explained to me, the "I" position is for the "near" setting, and the "II" position is for the "far-away" setting.  She also informed me that, these "micro twin fog lamps" were actually not that bright, and were apparently also available on the Silvia at that time, albeit with a different bracket.

In any case - hmmmmm - interesting. When was the last time you actually used the coin holder(s)? I wonder what kind of switches I could put there for my car? What switches could I fit there? Ejection seats? Missile launchers? LOL

Miyuki-san also had another goody to show us. The Nissan Puretron (pronounced "Pur-a-tron" in Japanese for some reason). Here is how it looks, installed, on the rear parcel shelf:
Photo courtesy of Miyuki Eguchi
Miyuki-san reports that it still works after 17 years (same age as the car) without issue, and in fact, replacement filters are still available as well! It was designed to remove cigarette smoke, as well as pollen, but of course it doesn't have the "PlasmaCluster" type ozone/ionizing function that the newer ones have.

So how does it work? By way of a remote control, which Miyuki-san says she never uses (which means I guess she just leaves the Puretron on all the time, then?).
Photo courtesy of Miyuki Eguchi
The remote is clipped to the sun visor (and left there permanently, Miyuki-san says, otherwise she'd lose it!) and requires 2 triple A batteries to operate.  Perhaps this unit would be nice to have during hay fever season, which seems to be getting worse every year here in Japan, but installing the Puretron requires the rear shelf to be cut open for the unit.

Plus, I wonder if there is a way to install a new "PlasmaCluster" type air cleaner without taking up too much space? Surely there has to be something out there that can be hidden (not like the current ones which sit in your cup holders).

Anyway - checking out other people's R33s always gives me ideas, so since I stumbled across these two tidbits, decided to share. Hope it was interesting and/or useful information!

Many thanks to Miyuki-san for letting me post this!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Trivia and a Mystery Solved: the Kenwood Sound Cruising System

So I was looking for something on the internet, R33 GT-R related of course, and found this:
Huh? Well upon reading the description at this person's blog, I found out that these were the tweeters for the optional "Kenwood Sound Cruising System" which was a factory option for R33 GT-Rs (note: it was the only stereo system offered on the limited edition Autech 4 door R33 GT-R).  Of course I had seen passing reference to this in the catalog, but c'mon, the best sound in a GT-R is the RB26DETT, right? So I hadn't paid much attention until now.

Intrigued, I searched a bit more, and found this photo of the amp for this Kenwood system.  The description claimed that this amp was apparently situated "on top of" where the fuel pump is - in other words, in the trunk, on the right side of where the battery is located.
Here it is, removed.
The head unit though, didn't appear to be anything too special, an AM/FM/CD with CD changer controls:
Check out the photo of the interior front and you can see the tweeters in the A-pillars too.
Anyway, this solved a long standing mystery for me. You see, a while back I had spotted some faint markings on the inside of the A-pillars:
It's very faint, and not indented... just a suggested cut-out template?

Initially, I thought this was used to access something on the inside of the pillars...I was going to investigate but then promptly forgot about doing so.  But now, I finally know what these were supposed to be used for!

Very natural and OEM looking, I wonder if it’s possible to order just these tweeter covers? Of course it’s probably better to retro fit with better aftermarket tweeters, but the covers are cool.

But here is my question to all of you audio experts out there - if Kenwood and Nissan decided to put the tweeters here, does this mean that this exact location is the best location for tweeters? Say if I was to, sometime in the future, upgrade the Pioneer tweeters I put next to the door mirror covers, would moving tweeters to the A-pillar result in an improvement in sound (assuming all other variables remain the same)?

Looking forward to some input! Thanks and stay tuned, should have some more updates soon!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

To Duracon, or Not to Duracon... Never Mind...

So as my OEM shift knob (my second one!) was showing a bit of wear and tear:

 I decided to see if I could temporarily replace it with this nice Tomei brand Duracon shiftknob (S-10 model).
Why temporarily? After all, Duracon is a nice synthetic resin material that has none of the drawbacks that the leather does, no?  Actually, it has nothing to do with the material or the quality.  Rather, Japan’s tough road registration rules (“shaken”) require that the shift pattern be shown – either on the knob itself, or on a plate nearby.

When I opened the package, you can see the shift pattern sticker that was included.
Since I’m not inclined to affix the sticker on nearby, I was planning on using the Tomei shiftknob only temporarily, and then replacing with the OEM every time my car gets inspected.

However, upon fitting I discovered a problem (and no, I'm not talking about the dust around the boot!):

See how the knob, even screwed down to the bottom, does not sit flush with the boot? This is what I prefer:

A small detail, yes. But heck I'm OCD (OCD to the point where this photo bothers me, looks like my interior needs some may indeed!).  Yes, I realize I could have gotten the longer L-10 model, but there was one more issue...

I realized that I also like the SHAPE of the OEM grip - it conforms nicely to hand whether you grip like a pistol, or from the top. And leather, even this almost fake leather (Nissan claims it is real), beats out the hi-tech Duracon, ever time, for feel. (notwithstanding the heat resistance properties, etc.)

So for now... I guess I will soldier on with the worn out OEM (I actually have a new one somewhere, just have to find it...)