Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Engine Airbox Snorkel Refresh

I can't recall exactly when I realized that rubber/foam on the airbox snorkel had begun to fail, or even start looking bad. I think it was always in the back of my mind, but I wasn't really inclined to do anything until I saw this photo, from a Speedhunters post that Dino did when our friend Thomas and I joined him for a spirited drive up in Izu (the Toyo Tires Turnpike, to be exact) a couple of years ago.  I can't believe thousands saw this photo, with certain parts that need to be refreshed/replaced. How embarrassing! (and never mind the home made cold air intake I had attempted...I swear it works though!)

Yellow arrows point to the foam I'm talking about.
This photo HAD inspired me to replace, with new parts, some parts shown above that had degraded.  But I had somehow just forgotten about the foam on the air snorkel.

So yes, while I do like to maintain a clean car, you just tend to forget about things under the hood... however, a few weeks ago, I was "window shopping" at my local hardware store when I spotted this:
Ok hard to tell what it is, but it's a waterproof "seal flex molding" with double stick tape,
used by professionals for home construction as well as on cars. 
Not only was this rubber foam stuff water-proof, but it appeared to have the same sponginess as what was on the snorkel.  I had to guess on the width however.

Anyway, first step was to get rid of the ugly worn out foam:
wow that is ugly...
Turns out that the double stick tape used originally was still there. I discovered this as I pulled at the foam.  And we all know that a clean surface is needed for a good double sided tape install, right?

I now suspect that this foam is NOT OEM.. but luckily the underlying tape could still be peeled off
Thus, all I had to do was to pull up on the tape portion (as the foam portion was brittle):
Feels good to remove ugliness
Done! Needs to be cleaned up a bit however.
 I wonder what melted on the upper left side?? Time to hunt for a new snorkel...

Here is a better photo of the rubber foam tape I used, on top of the now cleaned up snorkel
Carefully applying the new foam tape...
which actually turned out to have much higher density...I would argue that this is better to prevent air from leaking?
The replacement foam tape was fairly dense, so it wasn't as flexible as the foam I just removed. So it took some slow going and convincing for the foam to mold to the shape of the snorkel:
Not bad, not bad at all sir...

So here it is, all done. Extremely easy job.  I think this looks even better and perhaps closer to OEM than what was on before?

Anyone have a link to a photo of a brand new OEM snorkel?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

NISMO's Competition Series Motor Oil - Just Overpriced Motul?

So this past Saturday, I stopped by at my go-to Nissan dealer, or more precisely, the Nissan Prince Motorsports Division (which is basically a sub group of select Nissan dealer technical advisors and extremely experienced ex-race mechanics who really know all about Nissan's sports cars.  Oh and they are R32 and R33 GT-R owners too!).  Since purchasing my car back in 2006 until I moved out of Tokyo, I had all of my servicing (except for the MINE'S engine, of course) done by them. So they know me and my car, but more importantly I trust them!

When Nissan Prince Motorsports Division was located at Nissan Shinagawa
- note my Shinagawa number plate vs my current personalized Yokohama plate!
NPMD used to be located at Nissan Shinagawa but is now at Nissan Kamedo, which means an extra 15 minutes of driving for me.  But it's always nice to drop in for a nerd RB-centric chat, although this was only the second time I dropped in since they had moved to Kamedo 3 years ago!  This time, I was picking up some parts for a future project I had ordered on my first visit a few weeks ago, and it was a busy day so they let me park in one of the work bays.

In addition to these 3, there was a dark grey R33 GTR outside when I pulled in.
FOUR R33s together is rare, even here in Japan!
Well hello younger (normal tune) brother...nice wheels you got there.
Since I had some time to kill, I decided to see if my friend Thomas Mangum was correct about NISMO's Competition Oil.

There are three grades of engine oil in the Competition series (5W40 for theVR38DETT engine, 15W50 for tuned RB26DETTs, and 0W30 for the VQ35DE/VQ35SHR), and one grade of gearbox oil (75W140).  Here is the link to the line-up website.  All were developed in conjunction with MOTUL, who as fans of NISMO Racing know, have had a relationship with Nissan since 2003.  Interestingly, NISMO also has a separate, Motul based 10W60 grade oil (found in their catalog only, no dedicated website like the Competition series), designed especially for the RB26DETT engine, but for street use/ non-tuned engines.  Apparently all of these replace their long running "Veruspeed" oil series.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I had gone to Zama to pick up a few things from Thomas. Naturally, we took some photos:

Oh and check this out, I found an old photo from 4 years ago!
From: http://www.r33gt-r.com/2011/06/new-feature-guest-blog-r33-gtr-owner.html
In 4 years, our cars sure have changed... but that's a topic for another post!

Anyway, when I met up with him, Thomas, who is a stickler for this kind of stuff, threw me a half used bottle of Motul 300V Competition 15W50 and sniffed, "You can have that, I only use NISMO oil now."  I had to laugh, it's the same thing, just with the NISMO name on the bottle (and thus 150% more expensive), right? I mean NISMO doesn't make their own stuff, they just rebrand tuning parts made especially for them by famous specialists (e.g., it is widely accepted as truth that ARC makes the NISMO intercoolers) and charge a premium for the name.

But Thomas swore to me that his car's engine "felt better" and that it felt "slicker, more responsive" than before when he used Motul 300V Competition 15W-50.  When I asked him to clarify - does that mean the engine feels better lubricated, he replied, "I don't know if the words 'more lubricated' is right - it felt as though the engine just came on boost faster, and much smoother."

So when I was at NPMD on Saturday, I asked: is there actually a difference? A measurable difference between the NISMO Competition oil and the MOTUL 300V?
Courtesy of: http://minkara.carview.co.jp/en/userid/338959/car/239984/2458609/parts.aspx
First, it turns out that NISMO already has a 10W60 grade oil especially for the RB26DETT, as I mentioned earlier.  However, the NISMO Competition 15W50 is designed for some tuned RB26DETT engines - this oil is what NISMO recommends for their S1/R1 crate engines, much like the Competition 5W40 oil is THE oil (GT-R logo included) Nissan designates for the R35 GT-R (as well as the NISMO S2/R2 engines).  But all the tech could really tell me was, "it has different, better stuff in it."  Fair enough, he's not a chemist, so let's see what NISMO themselves say in their online catalog.

The English translation is pretty good but not completely accurate. I think it should read like this (go ahead and compare with what NISMO has in the catalog):

Concept Behind the Base Oil:
This is an ester based oil with polymer esters mixed in.  We used know-how from Motul's Double Ester Technology in order to compensate for poor low temperature viscosity performance, a weakness of complex ester oils.

Allowable Torque: Set to Approx 70kgf-m (around 600ps).

-This is a high performance engine oil, developed during tuning car races and drifting events for turbo charged engines such as the RB26DETT and SR20DET.
-  This has high shear stability in order to prevent the oil film from breaking at high torque at low speeds.  Even with the extreme increase in torque found in NOS injection a high degree of reliability has been proven by way of sufficient durability.
- To provide for reliability without sacrificing the engine output as much as possible, a special multifunction polymer was used which increases both shear stability and detergent dispersion. With this, not only is there oil film protection but this also improves the lubrication of the turbo bearings which tend to coke up at high temperatures.

So the catalog's English is a bit more optimistic sounding, I think. But what is really interesting is in the small print, as usual, not just for this grade but the others as well.  For example, Nissan Motor Company does NOT guarantee any of the Competition series oil, because it's designed for track use (it also does not guarantee the non Competition 10W60, but gives no reason - probably because they don't make it?).  Also, for track use, one should use the 5W40 or 15W50 blend if one has a NISMO crate engine.  The 5W40 blend, which is the "official" oil for the R35 (including the GT-R RC and NISMO GT3 variants) and cars with the Nismo S2/R2 engines, should be changed at 3000kms if there is track use or 10,000km if street use.  With the 10W60 (non-Competition), the recommended change is at 6000kms for general all purpose use.  For 15W50 and 0W30, the recommended change is at 3000kms.  For all of the oil, Nissan warns that it will not exchange any dented or slightly damaged cans, as this product is imported.

Given the small print here is what I think we can figure out.
1) Made by Motul, in France.

2) The descriptions for the 5W40 and 0W30 blends state the reduced use of detergent dispersants.  I am guessing that this is true of the 15W50, even if it doesn't say so.   This explains the recommendation to change at a very low 3000kms, regardless of use (even though the presumption is track use, I did not see that written anywhere for this mileage recommendation). Note the 10W60 which is for general use, mandates a 6000kms oil change frequency.

3) The data doesn't lie - the coefficients of kinematic viscosity (in mm^2/s) are listed as follows for all 4 NISMO engine oils:
     a) 5W40 - at 40C is 85.2, and at 100C is 14.2 (with a viscosity index of 172)
     b) 15W50 - at 40C is 125.9, and at 100C is 17.7 (with a viscosity index of 156)
     c)  0W30 - at 40C is 50.9, and at 100C is 9.6 (with a viscosity index of 176)
     d) 10W60- at 40C is 153.1, and at 100C is 24.1 (with a viscosity index of 190)

Comparing to what I found from Motul for their 300V Competition 15W50:
Viscosity (in mm^2/s) at 40C is 128.1, and at 100C is 17.8 (with a viscosity index of 154). The density at 20C is 0.88 (same as the NISMO) and the pour point is -36C (again same as the NISMO).

Conclusion: assuming the same measuring standards were used, by the numbers, a NEGLIGIBLE difference. Any difference would have to come from the additives (or lack thereof), as NISMO itself  claims.

4) For the R35, the mileage recommendations makes sense. The VR38DETT is built to a much higher level of tolerances and smaller clearances than the old RB26DETT. So track use is probably more of a heat issue than a friction issue, as it would be both in an RB26.  Thus if there is not much heat (i.e. street use only) they can get away with less detergent being used in the oil, and thus go a longer distance.

When I checked on the Japanese car blog site Minkara, I found people who had used the oil and posted their impressions.  One person said his engine is very quiet now, but the stuff turns black by 1000kms (again this might be consistent with the reduced level of detergents?).  Another said that, it could be half placebo effect, but his engine starts easier, runs better and there is less drag.

I knew none of the above technical stuff when I was at NPMD, however mainly on the fact that I knew my car was due for an oil/filter change, I went ahead and had my oil changed with the NISMO Competition 15W50 (the oil viscosity grade that MINE'S recommends for their built engines):
I guess oil changes are done with the mere mortals....
Good company though - check out that grey BNR32...

Whew. One of the world's best GT-R mechanics, Yamada-san from NPMD, working on my car
(here he is replacing the front under tray).
Love how much my under chassis cleaning efforts from a few weeks before paid off!!! SO CLEAN! Lol
My impressions?

To be honest, when I first cranked the engine after the oil change, the engine DID seem to be a bit quieter, and it felt SLIGHTLY more responsive.  Now that I've studied the numbers, I would, however, be the first to admit that this is likely a placebo effect, and probably more likely due to FRESH oil being put in!  However, any little bit helps and so even if there is a small but unnoticeable benefit I'm happy. And the NISMO explanation, sure, I'll believe it (for now lol).

Done, and ready to be driven home... Yamada-san (with the clipboard) ready to give me his report
Finally, there is a more practical reason to be happy with the switch - when I looked online, I found that NISMO Competition oil to be priced (at discount) about 20% LESS than the Motul I was using before in the past (for oil changes I do myself, of course).  And since I don't drive my car that much, 3000km intervals isn't too often...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Some MINE'S Trivia (Part 2)

Recently, I called MINE'S in an effort to get more information about the MINE'S sub gauges - I wanted to know more about their development.  Because I didn't have a torque meter gauge (and because Takayanagi-san's memory of whether they even made one was fuzzy), we talked only about the boost gauge and the oil temp gauges.

You can see them compared to each other here:

First, the oil temperature gauge.  I asked why the number range was different. Was this because MINE'S tuned cars run hotter, for example?  It turns out that the reason is actually a very practical one. The OEM oil temperature sensor is not very accurate.  However, it is most accurate in the higher temperature ranges, up to 150 degrees C.  Thus, the thinking at MINE'S was to simply have the gauge  cover those more accurate areas.  Actually, if you take a look at the OEM gauges (below) you can see that the OEM oil temperature gauge maxes out at 150 degrees C.  So while I haven't talked to NISMO about their scaling, I presume they simply didn't want people thinking it was acceptable to reach 150 degrees.  Different philosophies - be more accurate, or have a built in safety margin.

Second, the boost gauge:  The biggest difference here obviously is how the MINE'S gauge STARTS at 0 kg/cm2, unlike the NISMO one, which reads BELOW 0 when the car is not moving/turbos not spooling.

The NISMO one thus indicates negative pressure, which, if you recall is clearly shown on the OEM gauge:

So when driving around town, the lack of a needle moving on the boost gauge is actually quite disconcerting, because throughout my GT-R ownership, I guess seeing that needle move has become ingrained.

So I think I will keep both the MINE'S gauges for a while.  I suspect like most people, I don't really use the gauges except for the occasional glance, plus the bling is nice. I don't expect any greater accuracy (because I'd be in big trouble if the engine temperature gets up to 150) so for now I'll consider this a cosmetic mod. I DO miss the boost gauge's negative boost movement so we will see about whether I change back to the NISMO one at some point.

And speaking of some cosmetics, I have a couple of projects in mind....

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Some MINE'S Trivia (Part 1)

Having a well known MINE'S tuned car means people contact you to ask questions about their products.  Often, I can answer, but there are times when a call to MINE'S is required.

Recently a Facebook friend asked me a question - one that I had heard before but had repeatedly ignored. The question is - "if I have a used MINE'S VX-ROM, can MINE's tell me what spec engine this particular MINE'S VX-ROM is designed for?"  He even sent me these photos of a used VX-ROM he was looking at.

Looks like it's all sealed still...

Both photos courtesy of Fabian Zellner

The answer is - maybe, but probably not worth the effort.

First, it looks like MINE'S has also heard this question too many times - I found the following explanation on their English website:

"Q: I have a Mine's VX-ROM. And the plaque has a serial number on it. Can you tell me its tuning contents through this number?

A: We can not tell you its tuning specs only by this serial number.   If you give us its numbers and letters on either side of VX-ROM through email with attached photos, we could give you some information such as its maximum boost pressure, Speed Limiter, vehicle year and etc...If you are in Japan and send us your VX-ROM, we can check it, confirm its tuning specs, and send it back to your own expense."

Sounds promising, except that knowing MINE'S and how conservative they are in their approach to tuning cars,  I would think that, for RB26 GT-Rs, maximum boost pressure is 1.0kg (just in case you are still running the ceramic, prone to shatter above 1.0kg, OEM turbos), removing the speed limiters is a no brainer, and vehicle year... well not sure but since each VX-ROM is vehicle specific and each RB GT-R didn't really change that much within each generation, not sure how useful the year of the vehicle will be to you.

In any case, I was on the phone with them concerning my MINE'S gauges (see Part 2 ) so I went ahead and tried to get more information about how one could get more information about a VX-ROM one picks up used somewhere.

This is what Takayanagi-san at MINE'S told me - All VX-ROMs have a basic map which improves upon the OEM ECU.  That is, it removes the speed limiter (all JDM cars used to have a speed limiter that kicked in at 118kph), raises boost to 1.0 kg, increases the rev limit, optimizes fuel management, and optimizes spark timing management. Just like it says here.  All this alone is good, however it turns out that Mine's can/will tweak each VX-ROM to fit the particular spec of each car, when you first buy the VX-ROM new.   So when buying a used VX-ROM, you should try to make sure that it fits your engine spec.  

Looking at photos like this, you would think one could call Mine's, give them the serial number found on the VX-ROM, they could look up the data, and all such particulars would be given to you.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Takayanagi-san claimed that the serial number alone would not suffice, that in fact, each unit would have to be opened up to see what the spec was. He also told me they would not look at any VX-ROM for which the seals were tampered with, as they would have no idea what had happened to that unit.

Actually, from a business perspective, this makes total sense.  Why spend time and energy researching something for someone who doesn't buy from you? I suspect that if you WERE to walk/send a used VX-ROM unit to MINE'S, there would be a small fee involved...anyone have any experience in doing this?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Road Warrior Plus Product Review and Washing Cars in Japan

This post was long in the making, as I had originally intended to try the Road Warrior Plus ("RWP") product for a few weeks back in September 2013, and then report on its efficacy.  Flash forward a couple years now....

First, let me explain what RWP is.  Basically, it's a user applicable, TEMPORARY clear bra (mask) product for vehicles.
The kit I ordered came in a bottle as well as a tray and application roller

The product was developed really as a way for people with pristine show cars/motorcycles to be able to travel a long distance, for example to a car show, and upon arrival, simply peel off the protection.  In other words, on the way to the destination, a vehicle would end up covered in dirt, dust, bugs, making cleanup a hassle.  Rather than water and some bug remover, this product allows one to simply peel off all of the dirt and grime, exposing the still pristine paint underneath.

Because no one out there seems to make a pre-cut kit for DIY clear bra application for the R33 GT-R (believe me I've searched), and because a custom job doesn't make sense for me because the hood (bonnet) and bumper has some minor scratches that need to be fixed first, I was looking for a cheaper, less permanent alternative. Which I think this is.

Application is simple, anyone who has been drafted into painting house walls will know what to do. That is:
Step 1 - Pour the paint into the tray:
Oh, and it smells JUST LIKE Elmer's White Glue (which we all used in elementary school)

Step 2 -

Apply with the roller
Step 3 - Can you ever put it on too thick?

Answer: not really, just smooth it out with the roller

Step 4 - for testing purposes, I applied RWP to the entire front bumper, the passenger wing mirror, and the front lip spoiler. Let dry to get:

You can see the slight orange peel effect... but now you are protected!

So here is my honest review.  Because the RWP is meant to be temporary, it is clearly not as durable as a traditional clear bra.  Also, because the material is water based (I really think it might be Elmer's glue?) when it rains, the water will temporary turn the RWP white where it hits. Not exactly pretty, but when it dries the white patches clear up.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure my liberal application of the RWP on the front lip spoiler saved it from some impacts, even with gravel/large insects, etc.

Also, if you have annoying friends who like to tease you for your OCD, they may start peeling it away without your permission - in fact this is what led to me taking the RWP off the other day.

After having working on raising my car height as well as the semi-succesful duct tape experiment, it was starting to bother me, how dirty I found the car's undercarriage.  Especially after some other R33 GT-R Facebook friends were showing off pristine under sides of their cars.

So off to the local car wash, for the only purpose of spraying and cleaning the underside:
And yes, the red bucket is mine, I brought along my own Zaino car soap, just in case

Incidentally, in Japan, the world's most vending machine infused society, yes there is a vending machine at public car washes with everything you need to wash, dry, and wax your car:

Do NOT drink that...wax...
Anyway, as I was using the high pressure spray, I accidentally hit the SAME SPOT where my "friend" Dino (noted motor journalist who has an intense jealously because of how clean my car is, compared to his - I guess...) had peeled some RWB off. This caused water to get underneath the rest of the RWB, and the effect was:

So the RWB just peels off...

So I peeled off the rest of the RWB, then drove home, where I finished washing the car, properly.

My next investment may be an air blower so I can blow dry my car....
In conclusion - try the product if you are curious. It's cheap, easy to apply/hard to screw up, and on my car, lasted 18 months! (ok I don't drive that much but still).   While I applied with a roller, I wonder what would happen if you had a sprayer and sprayed it on? Would it come out clear?

I actually DO have another product that is similar but more durable which I hope to test soon.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

NOVUS For The Win!

From: http://www.novuspolish.com/fine_scratch_remover.html

So during my speedometer replacement and LED experiments, one thing I noticed was the scratches that had accumulated on the clear plastic of the gauge panels.  Like anything, I didn't care until I really took note, but once noticed, I decided I had to do something, otherwise just knowing that these scratches exist, would drive me crazy.  Again, yes my OCD in action.

I was tempted to use some toothpaste to try to see if I could fix the scratches for free, but decided based on research to try some NOVUS #2 (Fine Scratch Remover).  Everything I read, however, indicated that a lot of elbow grease/sweat equity would be required for good results.

Here is the boost gauge, before:

And here is the boost gauge, after. There is actually a semi-circular scratch that one cannot see once the front fascia is attached, but even that got reduced.  But yes, lots of elbow grease was required to remove most of these scratches.

Note that this is STILL a continuing process, every time I have the dash apart
I will continue to polish until even more of these scratches are gone!

But well worth it, I think? Or is there something better out there?

I also did the main gauge cluster, but the scratches were not that noticeable to begin with, so the before and after effects are not as dramatic as above and thus I'm not going to waste any bandwidth here on that.

In any case - something to look into if you have some unsightly scratched plastics!  Especially as most of us are now stuck with buying used parts....