Thursday, April 30, 2015

HVAC Temperature Sensor - Remember to Clean It!

So while I had my dash apart for some mods (to be posted soon), in my haste to remove this big piece of trim:

I inadvertently bent the tab on the plastic piece that sits behind the grill here:

 and connects to this rubber tubing:

Not a big deal, as I figured it could be fixed with some epoxy.  So I unscrewed it from the trim piece, and happened to look inside, and found a small sensor fully covered in dust.  It reminded me of the  MAF sensors in the engine bay. I'm guessing this one helps the HVAC unit read the ambient temperature so as to be more accurate in its output, whether hot or cold.

I instinctively blew off the dust - this thing I've circled in red was fully covered in dust before I realized this might be an interesting blog post and took this photo:
I took the photo only AFTER I blew away most of the dust! It was fully covered!!
And then used some compressed air to get it as clean as possible:

I wonder how many R33 owners out there have stumbled upon this? In any case I'm hoping this results in a more responsive HVAC unit, especially this summer!

EDIT: Thanks to Chris Brox for sending me his picture of a REALLY dirty one!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Well That Was Ridiculously Easy...Ohlins DFV Height Adjustment

So I'm quite embarrassed to reveal this, but up until now, despite having Ohlins DFV coil-overs front and rear (having graduated from Nismo S-Tunes), I had never really bothered to see whether I could adjust them, height-wise.

I simply figured that, whatever setting it was on was good enough - the car was set low to the ground and the handling and ride were pretty good.

Except of course for the fact that I'm always worried about scraping things with the front lip spoiler, not just during parking but also when driving over ruts and dips in the road.  That, and it turns out that the current location (after installation of the Do-Luck roll center adaptors which complement the full Nismo link set I have installed) of the tire/wheel versus the wheel housing was having adverse effects on the inner liner, as I posted last time.

So this upcoming week, it turns out I HAVE to drive to a location with qbad roads. Usually I train it up there to avoid this hassle but a late evening departure means that taking the train is a risky endeavor.  So, I was resigned to driving my car, when I realized that, with coilovers, I could try to see how much I could increase the height.

After digging out the Ohlins instruction manuals, their recommended set-up was to have the bottom of the fender arch, to the center of the wheel, measure 350mm (in front, 354mm in the rear).  This was on their test car which had a drop of 30mm front and rear. So I went out and measured and it turned out for my car, this distance was only 335mm-ish!  Further, for the front suspension, the Ohlins factory settings are 38mm between the lower bracket and the lock-nut (which sits right below the spring lower seat).  Finally, the manual instructions that plus or minus 15mm is allowed in terms of adjustment up or down. So, this means that I could at maximum have a distance of 53mm.
First order of business, to measure the existing height... 40mm!

So, blessed with another sunny Sunday, I jacked up the car and removed the front wheels to access.

I discovered that the fronts were only 2mm off from the Ohlins factory setting, at 40mm, both sides of course. So, I got out the wrenches that came with the DFVs and started twisting away...each one complete turn is only 1.5mm in height, and I ended up raising each side 12mm (1.2 cm) for a total height now of 52mm on both sides, so let's just say it wasn't a 5 minute job.

So added 120mm to the ride height... sounds like a lot?

But not a hard job, just took some time.  After I got the wheels back on and car lowered to the ground, it looked like the recommended distance of 350mm between wheel center and inner fender was achieved:

Since the Nismo links drop the ride height from standard by 35mm in front (and 30mm in rear), it appears that increasing the height on the coilovers from 40mm to 52mm (12mm), also gives the car about 12mm in height (measured from the center of the wheel to the fender) so the car is probably still about 23mm (2.3cm) lower than OEM. It certainly still looks that way.  Hopefully the 1.2cm makes a difference on the rubbing and scraping but I will report on that after my trip this week.

Obviously this photo was taken BEFORE I did the work but also before the roll center adaptors were installed.
This is how the car looks now!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Duct Tape Time....

So it's true. Duct tape is perhaps man's second greatest invention, right after the wheel.

After my car was lowered, and especially after the installation of the Do-Luck roll center adjusters, I had noticed more rubbing by the front tires on the plastic inner fenders than usual.

This usually happens in tight quarters, making turns below speeds of 20kph. In other words, each time I leave my house in my neighborhood, I hear the awful sound of rubber against plastic (the fenders).

Anyway, last time I took the car out, I was surprised to see, that the front left wheel had worn though the "highest" point of the fender - revealing a 12mm bolt! This bolt holds the OEM blow off valve, or some part of it, in its position under the fuse box.

Obviously, not good. Rubbing up against plastic I could deal with, because the rubber tire isn't going to be damaged.  But now with a bolt sticking through, could this lead to damage to the tire?

In any case, I wasn't going to take any chances, so asked my Club R33 Facebook friends for some advice.  The ideas (all from first hand experience it seemed) ranged from taking off the fender liner and either removing the OEM blow off valve, or moving the BOV forward a few millimeters, to removing the bolt entirely, to replacing the bolt with a flat type bolt.

So last Sunday, as the weather was finally warm and it wasn't raining, I jacked up the car and removed both front wheels.

It had been such a long time since the last time I worked on the car, I had forgotten why the ramps were necessary....
Since "OCD" is my middle name...
On the left, clean wheel. On the right, a layer of brake dust. Yuck!
What I immediately realized that, in order to take off the front inner fender liner, I would have also remove my front diffuser, as well as the brake ducting, to access the bolts on the bottom.  So what I thought was going to be a simple 30 minute job was threatening to become a 3 hour task.

Feeling lazy, I decided instead that I would cut the plastic around the protruding bolt to see if I could see anything, maybe access the BOV that way.  At the same time, I started looking around the entire wheel well, and then discovered to my surprise that, not only had the tire worn out the plastic in front, but it had also rubbed through in 3 places BEHIND the tire as well.
The middle shows where the undercoating had worn through, showing the primer!
The left side tire, did not have the problem in front but had similar issues on the plastic behind it.  And, on both sides, the lower most tear on the rearside was because part of the chassis (maybe the chassis rail?) was behind the rubbed plastic, leading to the vertical crack seen here:

As for the bolt that started it all, I used my Dremel and cut a small square of plastic away, to reveal this:
Yes, not the smoothest of cuts but check out how much plastic underneath that
had already been worn down!

It appears that whatever it is bolted to, wasn't about to be easily manipulated through this square. So, recalling what Bobby Proctor of Zealou5 advised, I went out and got a flat headed bolt:
FYI, it's an "M8" size bolt
which then sits nice and flush, at least 5mm difference (no washers)!
Obviously, at this point I realized that the long term solution is either to remove the plastic liners, and bend back all the metal that is causing the plastic to wear, and the use a heat gun to mold the plastic out of the way of the tires - OR, it is possible that raising the car a few millimeters up front, would also accomplish the same thing without any metal bending.  I will have to consult Ito-san at Do-Luck about this next time I see him.

Anyway, until then, it was duct tape time.  So I first cleaned the plastic, then judiciously tapped up the torn plastic (both sides, outside and inside, and both front and back, left and right) using industrial strength duct tape, like this:

Of course, just leaving the tape as is after the repair is not aesthetically attractive, AND, we had the problem of where the undercoating had also been rubbed almost to the bare metal.  So, I sprayed these areas with some undercoat, in the hope and that it's better to lose undercoat first, then duct tape, THEN plastic. (so I forgot to take photos of how it looked AFTER I sprayed it.... sorry! Have to look closely to see the repair though!)

I also found that the lower most bolt of the fender liners was missing on both sides, so I went ahead and found bolts to replace those missing (this also cause the fender liners to stop flapping about so I'm happy).

In any case, while the car looks great with the lowered profile, I will have to figure out which permanent option is the better one, long term.  I haven't bothered taking the car for a drive yet as I'm sure the rubbing will continue so long as I don't do one of those two options. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ok So I'm a Brand W**re

I'm not a very good photographer, nor have I ever claimed to be even half good.  But, once in a while the subject looks good and the lighting is perfect.

Like this, taken with my iPhone 6 last Sunday. Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Update - Protection for the Series 3 Front Lip Spoiler

One of the biggest problems, actually, with the Series 3 R33 GT-R (vs. Series 1 and Series 2) is the longer front lip spoiler.  Yes, it looks great, but it scrapes everywhere! (and it doesn't do much until you hit expressway speeds too...)

This OEM piece is made of ABS plastic (and came unpainted in its original black color), so it will not crack when the inevitable scrape happens - and by the way most of the time it's in those vertical parking lots (common in Japan) which require you to drive up, up, up to a parking spot... and then down, down, down to exit, at relatively steep angles, where your spoiler kisses the ground each time the ramp transitions from angled to flat, usually as you turn a 90 degree corner.

Series 3 kept by Nissan, showing the larger front lip spoiler, black ABS plastic
(Note this car also has the optional and now rare oil cooler kit with extra ducting in front bumper)
As a result, I absolutely hate driving my car to go to places like IKEA or Costco, where the parking lots are designed to pack as many cars into a small area as possible (I would even prefer mechanized parking over this, but I don't see those often, and sometimes my car is deemed too low to park in those pallets too...argh).

Anyway, once I got my front lip spoiler painted, I decided to get more creative to protect it.  Previously, I had tried to install a (Nismo) rubber strip that ran all the way across, and when that quickly peeled off (despite being bolted and glued on), I then tried thin aluminum strips which I bolted and glued on.  These also came off, and even got caught up under the car, causing a scratching noise that resulted in some pedestrians pointing and staring...

In any case, I had given up on this kind of extra protection, when I had a brainstorm.   My most recent effort involves rubber stoppers and some stainless screws which I found at my local hardware store:

To summarize, I simply used the same mounting points for the front diffuser using the pre-existing holes in the lip spoiler.   At each point, I lined up a rubber stopper and used an extra long screw to use the pre-existing holes.  When done, the underside of the front lip ended up looking like this:

But this was back in October of 2013!  Quite frankly (and yes I don't drive this car that much) I had forgotten about these, although the couple of times I recall scraping the front, I remember thinking "I wonder how those rubber stoppers are working? Oh well..."

Today however, I had a chance to look underneath when doing a minor project (to be posted soon), and found this:

The lip spoiler still looks good (ok it's dirty) but these rubber pieces worked as designed!  That is, they sacrificed themselves by being the lowest point on the front lip, hitting the ground/road first, and obviously lifting the lip out of danger's way!

So yay! Finally something that works.  Oh, and as for what I was doing working on my car, check back in a few days...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I Had An Affair!! Ok not really but... (plus my driving impressions of a 34 GT-R)

So for the past few months, in addition to my R33 GT-R (on the other side of the center wall), I've had THIS:

Living in my garage.  No, I haven't decided I have a sudden need for an R34 GT-R; my friend Ross in Canada happened to buy a near pristine KR4 (same color as mine!) zenki (1999) BNR34 at auction (with only 20,000 kms!) and needed a place to store it during the snowy season in Canada.  He would then have the car shipped to him in March, to arrive just about now.

Naturally, as a GT-R fan I couldn't say no, plus I had that extra space doing nothing.

Here's a video shot by Derek Wheldon of Pacific Coast Imports, who did the actual buying of the car at auction for Arneja Trading, the agent who imported it into Canada for Ross.

First order of business once the car was in my hands was to take the car to RAPT to get it properly detailed, and those ugly foglights removed.  Kabe-san, giving the car a once over, believed the car's mileage to be genuine.  However, he postulated that the car must have been left outside for much of its life.  Clues to this included some hairline cracks in the paint, some discoloration spots UNDER the clear coat, etched in rain spots on the glass and flat surfaces, and a badly cracked old style Nismo sticker on the trunk (as seen in the video).

As many houses in Japan don't have enclosed garages, this wasn't necessarily a sign of abuse; in fact given that many Japanese live in apartments, outside uncovered parking isn't unusual. In any case, I was confident that Kabe-san could either fix or minimize the damage, and 72 hours after I dropped the car off, it looked like this:
Amazing what a professional detail can do!

Weird black spot under the clear coat.... at least this is on the bumper, easily resprayed (you can see Kabe-san's reflection!)

Note yes that there are still a few places where a respray will be needed, but to me a respray is cosmetic and takes nothing away from the mechanical condition of the car, which is what is most important.

Anyway, once I got the car back from RAPT, I ordered a car cover, and put the car away for a few months.

Meanwhile, Ross had found out that my friend Dino Dalle Carbonare was looking to sell his Mine's BNR34 titanium muffler and Mine's BNR34 carbon wing mirrors.   A negotiation ensued, a price was decided - and then someone (me) had the brilliant idea that, since I have a long running relationship  with Mine's - why not get Mine's to install those Mine's parts? Plus, do a once over mechanical inspection to ensure the car was in good shape.  So I called Mine's and arranged for a little visit to do all this in early March.

So the day we went to Mine's the skies were overcast and it was drizzling...
just my luck, as it hadn't been outside since the detail...

On the way I had to get some gas... and the tires felt a bit soft for some reason...
Arrival at Mine's...yes despite being Italian Dino was there EARLY and I was 30 minutes LATE...
Some good company... that NSX-R was awesome!
The car gets pulled into the Mine's garage. World famous Nakayama-san (center) is ready to go
Last shot of the RSR muffler,
shortly before it was yanked off to be replaced with Dino's old Mine's titanium unit
When all the parts were put on, and the car given a clean of health - of course we had to ensure that people knew that Mine's did the work:
Mine's Takayanagi-san putting on the sticker....Turns out the sticker on my car was never offered for sale publicly...
found only on certain cars like their demo cars and a few select customer cars!  yay!
OK - now for what people really want to know - my driving impressions.

First, it wasn't my car, so I wasn't going to go crazy with it (and, as Nakayama-san at Mine's pointed out later, the tires were hard and cracked... could they be the original OEM tires?!! I knew they felt funny).  Second, I only drove in the city and the expressway. Third, it's hard to compare this 34 with my car because my car is tuned up both in power and handling - however I have tried to compare to what I remember when I got my 33 back in 2005 when it was near stock.  Also, this 34 had an aftermarket exhaust and suspension, so that may also have affected my perceptions.

First, the good. The engine, given how little it's been used, absolutely purrs. But, I also believe that build quality must have been better, as my car's OEM engine, with only 50,000kms on it, was not as smooth.  Clearly, there is also more boost off the line, which makes the car feel more peppy? In any case the engine felt "just right" -not weak, not overly powerful - for the job.  And this could have been the gearing as well - in any case, the car felt very easy to drive.  Also, the body rigidity was clearly better (I think mostly from the extra rigidity in the C pillars/roof area), and yes the car does feel a bit smaller than the 33.  At expressway speeds, however, the 33 is a better drive - a bit more stable, although I think the 34's underbody aero does a lot to minimize the differences.  However, the 6 speed Getrag on the 34 sure is nice to have, as 6th acts as an overdrive to lower the RPMs at speed (and thus makes the engine and thus car a bit quieter).

Next, stuff that is not necessarily good and not necessarily bad.  I am not sure to what extent this is due to the narrow OEM tires, but the steering was extremely light, and also somewhat numb.  The car felt like a luxury sedan in that respect.  I definitely wanted more feedback, and would have preferred less power assist. But, it did make for extremely easy driving in the city.  So together with the gearing and the extra boost, Nissan DID manage to accomplish one of its goals, which was to make the car easier to drive than the 33, which was deemed fast enough.

Also, I liked the Multi Function Display - it was fun to fiddle with, but I am used to 3 gauges and so having only 2 there... but the ability to change the display is cool.  The MFD would probably be useful on the track, if it was preset to show the important stuff like oil temperature and boost.

yes, fun in the beginning but do I really need all that info?

Lastly, the bad.  For the price of the car, Nissan really cheaped out on the interior of the car. The car's interior is much more plasticky than the 33. Yes the 33 is plastic too so it must be a different type of plastic. The seat fabric too, even though the seats are desirable from the perspective of having two harness holes, the fabric itself felt cheaper vs the suede-like material in the 33.  Continuing on the interior - the gas level and engine temperature gauges in the gauge pod are huge, compared to the 33. Frankly they were distracting to me, I much prefer the cleaner 33 gauge pod (plus, the straight down and 90 degree needle positions on the 33 give that car character... in the 34 they are like just like any other car...)

Meh... just doesn't look as good, sorry. And does a stock 34 really rev up to 9000?

Subjective, I know, but somehow it just looks better

So there you have it - my impressions of the 34 vs the 33. Clearly, these cars are very similar - and it makes sense as the engine and chassis are fundamentally the same.  The differences, both good and bad, are minor, and nothing that money can't fix or improve.  Again it would have been nice to see the differences on the track but that wasn't going to happen, hence my picking on relatively superficial aspects of each car.  Hopefully sometime in the future I will be able to drive a 34 similarly tuned to the specifications of my car, so I can do a direct comparison!

In any case - a week after the Mine's visit the car was picked up to be put onto the ship. Thanks Ross for trusting me with your car - I certainly hope you enjoy it!
Still looking good for the trip overseas!
The Mine's Titanium Exhaust and decal look good!
I wonder what will end up in my garage next?