Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Silent Running... or Am I Going to Damage The Engine?

By now, everyone knows that the Tomei Powered EXPREME titanium exhaust which I fitted to my car (after having served as the jig during the design of the EXPREME exhaust) is loud. In fact, for use in Japan, the exhaust is labelled as for off-road use only.  Clearly it does not have the JASMA sticker which would indicate it passes certain criteria to be considered "street legal."

In any case, the loudness does me no favors - if I want to leave my house early, or come home late, it wakes up the neighbors.  Of course I use the Tomei supplied bung, but it still doesn't really quiet it to the level of a regular road car.  And of course, the bung defeats the purpose of a race exhaust, as it means I run around with a half blocked exhaust.

Of course I'd run the car without the bung, and the response is noticeably improved.  It makes the connection between right foot and engine, extremely direct.

So basically, I got tired of the compromise known as the "exhaust bung"

This lead me to some research. I quickly learned that A'PEXi had produced a manual, wire operated "Exhaust Control Valve":

However, not only is there no cool factor, but the prospect of having to drill a hole somewhere, plus the need to always think about whether the valve was fully open or closed, was too much for me. I needed something automatic.

And then I saw an article in GT-R magazine for a product that appeared to be designed for the R35 - the Blitz E-ESC.

Basically, this is a fully programmable, motorized exhaust valve - it combines a motorized version of the A'PEXi valve:
From: http://www.blitz.co.jp/products/exsystem/eesc/e_esc.html
 With a computer brain and a controller:

Normally I might do the install myself, but I figured the scraped knuckles, and time away from family was not worth it.

So off to Be Ambitious, where Ninomiya-san did his usual great job.  I also consulted him for some other work, which will likely end up done and thus posted to this blog.
The view tonight as I picked up the car

There was also something else very weird he was working on....
Ninomiya-san, however, warned me that he thought that this device had the potential to damage the engine, due to back pressure caused by the valve in its closed position.  Further he explained, basically there was no difference in exhaust sound, from about 20% to 100%.  Which meant that any value to this device, would be from 0% to 15%.

However, at 0% the valve is closed, and the only avenue for the exhaust to escape is a small hole:

He felt that running around with the valve in this position, would cause premature wear on the engine, with the increased back pressure. There would be no advance warning either.

So he set up the device so that it would fully open at 1200 rpm. Granted, my idle is about 900-1000 rpm, so this device is closed at 0% only when I am idling, at a stop light. As soon as I step on the gas, the valve opens up to 100%.

I don't have a sound clip yet, but from driving the car home tonight, yes the car is ridiculously quiet at red lights. In fact so quiet if I didn't hear the engine noise I would wonder if the car was on.  I played with the unit a bit, and while 0% is extremely quiet, at 15%, even 20%, the car is quieter than before with the bung inserted. So if 0% puts a stress on the engine, maybe 15-20% is the way to go?

The irony, of course, is that in parking the car, I have to step on the accelerator to get the car to back into my garage.  This raises the RPMs to above 1200, which results in the full roar of the exhaust.  My wife confirmed that, from inside the house, she did not notice any difference as compared to before.

In any case - my plan for the moment is to set the device to open fully at 1200 RPMs (or should it be a higher number?), but also to set the minimum value at 15% or 20%.  What do you guys think - will this result in premature wear to my engine?  Or is this relatively harmless? Maybe there is a way I can program it so it only goes to 10% or less when I need it to....

Let me know your thoughts, please!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Back from Mine's... Fixed and Improved!

So yesterday morning I went down and retrieved my car from Mine's.

The culprit for the smoke that required the visit to Mine's this time around, was this particular hose at the back-side of the engine:
You can see some rust in the crack - from not having a sufficient amount of coolant in the system, apparently
Photo courtesy of Richard (fellow R33 GTR owner from the UK),
whose car suffered the same problem, at about the same time!
I was told this is one of two hoses used to cool the OEM oil-water heat exchanger, located in back above the starter motor, and below the fuel rail and assorted wiring. Nakayama-san replaced both for good measure.

I scoured the web but just could not find a photo that showed clearly where these hoses attach (it really is a huge mess), so instead:

In this excerpt from the repair manual, you can see how those two hoses connect to the oil cooler. however if someone has a better photo and verification, I would be most grateful!

To replace these hoses, they chose to remove the transmission to access the back of the engine.  They then flushed the coolant system, and checked for leaks. So now there shouldn't be any more problems going forward... at least not with these hoses.

Thus, the engine did not have to be removed, which means I was not tempted to open the wallet and install those optional goodies I was hinting at.  Perhaps next time!

Although, from my research on this, I am now not sure why this piece is still there.  That is, on a road only car, this oil cooler mechanism is obviously enough to keep the oil temperatures in check; but you need an external one if you run your car on a track, however once you install that optional external oil cooler, not sure why this needs to remain. In fact wouldn't it work backwards and heat up the coolant?  Someone said that this could be to warm up the oil as the coolant warms up faster, but that doesn't really make sense as oil should be designed to lubricate at even colder temps. So I wonder if this should be removed in the future (one less thing to go wrong), or kept as a back up just in case?  And, I wonder if these 4 hoses (shown in the diagram) are available in silicon?

In any case, Nakayama-san inspected the engine and confirmed that the engine suffered no problems from the incident. So that is a relief.

As for the catalytic converter, they weren't kidding when they told me it was "dead." Check this out!
Looks like the honeycomb has degraded quite badly
Other side... when I held this up to the light, could barely see ANY light coming through!
So I suspect that this degraded and clogged up catalytic converter was doing me no favors.  I asked why OEM catalytic converters last for the life of the car, while this one only lasted for about 8 years. The answer is, of course, the more free flow nature of these aftermarket ones, plus the additional power of the tuned up engine.

In any case, I've now got the HKS catalyzer installed, and the first thing I noticed wasn't just that everything smelled nicer (or more precisely, no smell at all...) but that the engine seemed more eager and responsive.

If I recall correctly, this is how the engine was back when I had it installed - very revvy, like a motorcycle engine, and extremely responsive (the engine was put in about one year after the Apexi catalyzer was installed so presumably it was still working well then).  Boost comes on much quicker and the turbos make that funny whooshing sound much more clearly and frequently now.

And this is still with the bung installed on the Tomei exhaust...I'm now tempted to run the car without the bung and with a de-cat, just to unleash its full potential!

In any case, this incident has been a wake up call, so I think I will be having more work done on the car very soon. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Update #2 from Mine's...

So got an update from Mine's earlier today. Turns out, the problem was not one burst hose but two! Not sure exactly which hoses (they were behind the engine), but likely due to normal wear and tear? Or is something else to blame? I'll find out when I pick up the car hopefully later this week.

I had also mentioned when I dropped the car off, to Nakayama-san, that my car's exhaust stunk.  In fact it was overpoweringly bad. Mine's is reporting that this is because the catalytic converter (Apex'i Super Catalyzer) is dead.  I suspected this, in fact, and was thinking about getting another one to replace it.

from Apex'i website - http://www.apexi.co.jp/products/exhaust/cata.html

The Apex'i replaced the OEM one that was on the car when I bought it. This was a couple of years even before I had the Mine's engine put it, circa early 2006.

At the time, in my research I found that the Apex'i was the best catalytic converter because it had the lowest cell per square inch (cpsi) of only 130 cpsi - most other catalytic converters were in the 200 range (OEM is 400) and therefore more constrictive.

However, I always believed that catalytic converters pretty much lasted the entire life of the car, although now I suspect that is only true if your car is not highly tuned.

But a relief the smell wasn't necessarily caused by the engine. I've asked Mine's to go ahead and install a new catalytic converter - they've recommended an R33 GT-R specific one by HKS, which happens to be the one I was looking at anyway. Hopefully they will have photos of the old one for me to see how badly it had degraded.

The HKS one has 150 psi so a slight increase, however their website claims that their catalyzers have "high purification performance" - so something to look forward to, if true.  And if for some reason the HKS fails or dies in the future, at least its replacement cost is not as much as the Apex'i.

From: http://car.indac.jp/product_shousai.asp?hin=10123126012

In any case, as Mine's has the car for a few more days,  I've decided to ask them to do a full check of the car, in order to see if there are any other parts that could be suspect.  I'll post what (if anything) they find.  Hopefully this whole incident was just a wake up call for me to pay more attention to my car!

Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Flash Back Post - Aluminum Pedals

Since I haven't heard anything from Mine's since my last post, I've been trying to clean up parts of this blog.  For example, I updated my Spec List page and realized that I had made some mods, and even took photos, but had forgotten to post when I did those mods!

So, time to post and get those photos up. First up - aluminum pedals.  This I did back in April, 2010!

From a distance, the OEM pedals sure look boring and ugly:
But look closely... the "R" on the clutch and brake pedals

To be honest, I was hesitant to do this mod.

First, note how Nissan has actually inscribed the "R" on the pedals themselves. GT-R specific? Probably! But old and getting worn...

Second, aluminum isn't going to be very useful if the soles of my shoes are wet from rain.  Then, I realized that since I almost never drive in the rain, this should not be an issue.

Out of excuses, I went ahead and ordered a set from Nissan. Note in the photo below there are three "bush" - but if I recall correctly, only two were actually needed (I can't recall where I got the part number list.  Unfortunately, I also don't remember which one bush I didn't use, but as they are cheap parts, I would go ahead and order all 3 if you are going to do this mod, unless you have access to a proper parts list).

These began appearing on the later model BNR34s
No instructions were included, but this can't be that hard. The foot rest was a simple bolt off and bolt on affair.

Next up was the gas pedal. Note the difficult part here was, getting that clip undone that holds the top part of the pedal. A small standard screwdriver is handy here.

holding the pedal upside down (narrow end on top)

The aluminum pedal - I can't recall exactly, but I seem to remember that you had to be careful to force the bottom piece (onto which the metal pedal arm hooks into) in. The top piece is self explanatory.
I don't know what that piece on the right is?? I think it wasn't needed.
Turned out that the brake and clutch pedal were the most difficult to get on. I ended up using a hair dryer to soften up the rubber, and then quickly stretch the rubber part on the back side of the pedal around the metal pedal arm portions.

Here is the aluminum pedal installed, from the back.

And finally, the end result:

Looks good! Yes, I lost the "R" factor, as these same pedals are now found throughout various Nissan vehicles. Still, I can't complain as they look good and I GUESS the small rubber sections on the left and right of the brake and clutch pedals act as anti-slip mechanisms for wet shoes.

Also, yes I have seen Nismo branded aluminum pedals, but was never sure if they were fake or not. So I stayed away from those, even though I'm pretty sure Nismo did at one time have such parts available.

In any case, this was one more small thing I did to help "modernize" the car - heck if Nissan installed these on the later model BNR34s, then of course they would have put these on the R33 GT-R had these parts been available back then, right?