Sunday, March 11, 2018

Transmission Oil

Transmission oil is easy to forget about. This winter I realized that I probably had let mine go a little longer than I should have. It probably should be changed at least once a season on a car like mine. My car sees 20 autocross races a year at an average of 8 runs per event and almost a mile per run.

That's not an official service interval of course. There are no "official" numbers for racing since everything "depends" on the duration, level and type of racing. On a race car, nearly every bit of maintenance needs to be done a LOT more often than with street driving. So for another example I change my oil about once every 6 auto crosses, which works out to about 3-4 times a year, or in terms of mileage, about once every 40-50 miles of racing... Similar to changing it after every 1-2 track days.

Fluids are cheap the parts they lubricate are expensive! Buy good fluids often, because that's much better than buying cam shafts, engines or transmissions! Also,  you never miss a race because you had to do an oil change... failed parts however frequently cause missed or aborted racing.

For something new this year, I decided to try my hand at vlogging and produced a video that might be helpful for those who want to avoid a trip to the mechanic, save some money and change their own transmission oil.

This is not a difficult job, but of course I am not a trained mechanic, and you should use your own caution and do your own research before attempting any of this on your car (especially if it's not a lotus!) If you see something I could do better, leave a comment on this page or on the video.

Some additional commentary and advice here:

Monday, December 25, 2017

Return of the SoLoti

So yeah I got tired of blogging about how my car wasn't working... probably you got tired of hearing about it. Then when I finally got it working in September I spent all available weekend time driving it rather than blogging about it. I had a little bit of pent up racing to let out! Then I took on a new client and have had 1.25 people's worth of work to do...

So what's the story? Well, After waiting forever and then some for a valve tool to arrive at the shop that did the install of the head that was supposed to make it easier for him to check on the valve seals, I lost patience and took the car to MC racing, and they hooked up a compression tester and a leak tester, and whoosh... air in one piston and out the other... Clearly the head gasket was not sealing properly. Perfect proof that it is so very good that Nick my tuner at Ace Performance refused to tune with the car as I delivered it the first time. Kudos to them!

With this new information I contacted the original shop and they started pointing out that I supplied the head gasket etc... basically preparing excuses to not make it right. That sucked but there is of course enough gray area for them to avoid the work if they so chose. Fighting over it was clearly not a productive route to go, so I took it back to MC racing and for 2/3 the cost of the previous shop they took it apart, machined it, provided a head gasket and re-assembled it in working order. There's still a slight bit of smokiness, but nothing like before, and unlike before, when things warm up the smoke goes away. I suspect some things are not quite perfect due to the previous install, but now it's close enough that the thermal expansion completes the seal as the engine warms up. I'll be analyzing oil and keeping an eye on it going forward. If I ever go to high compression pistons, it won't be on this block/head combo.

Speaking of oil, I've moved to red-line 40wt race oil now that the car is a full time trailer queen and never does more than idle around before it's fully warm. In theory this allows a slight hp gain and better flow when warm, at the cost of a little more flow resistance (and thus wear) during startup. It's also the case that with a trailer queen, it is a lot harder to just bop on over to get an oil change, so I'll be moving to changing my own oil and brake fluid. To make that easier, and to help combat the flow resistance at low temp, I went to a Canton Racing  spin on oil filter which gives me about 3 times as much flow as the stock filter and 8 micron filtration.

I know what you are probably thinking... the man dumps umpteen zillion dollars into head work, ecu and tuning and he's blogging about his oil filter?? Point taken...  I'll get to the good stuff now.

So with it back together and (mostly) not smoking, tuning was possible, and the results are very pleasing indeed!

I never had a chance to get a baseline, so the above plot shows the results vs a stock plot I grabbed from the web and scaled to match. These numbers are a couple HP better than any other normally aspirated plot/numbers I've been able to find for cars running stock compression. And these are with the super trap on! Based on a single test run, there's perhaps another 2 hp in it if the super trap is removed. I only have good things to say about Nick's tuning, and Baer who runs Ace Performance was straightforward and easy to work with. I'm very happy to be promoting them on my wing plates!

The Emtron Ecu installed by Ace Performance has all kinds of super nifty logging and capability. No end of parameters to ponder! Below you can see the data, possibly even from the above photo. The slalom in the photo would correspond to somewhere around the 6000 second mark below, but I cant' be sure if it's exactly that run or not.

And I also got a beta version of CAN bus support for the stock dash, which so far seems to work great! Nick/Ace/Emtron will be coming out with new info on their products soon and when I'm allowed to share some stuff I've seen previews of, I'll post it here. Until then, we'll all just have to visit the garage, glance out the window at the snow and sigh... And comb through data logs :)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Devens Tour 2017

With the ongoing saga of my engine upgrades, I am in Nick's STR car again (Thanks Nick!), but this time we're on Justin's 5 year old Hoosier A6 tires (Thanks Justin!). Day 1 was cool and cloudy, but generally dry. The weather just barely misted a little bit on us for the last run. Sadly Panda being driven by Todd and Stephanie was not working well, and had one less piston by the end of the day. Also, though a couple tenths faster, on his best run, Nick was dirty. I managed to take advantage with what I consider my best run in his car thus far (still some spots to improve of course), and I leapt out to a 1.8 second lead going into the second day.

As is typical for cool mornings on prehistoric Hoosiers, my first run of the day was a mess, but helped me sort out what to do where. The sun came out, things began to warm up, and I dropped a second on my next run, with clear room for improvement. I was too deep on every major corner, too slow in slalom 2, and got the car out of sorts at the start of the taxiway, making that entirely too sloppy.  Unfortunately, I seem to have nicked a cone, probably at the box on the taxiway.

The raw time on run two would have been plenty good to nail down the third place trophy. With warmer tires and so many easily fixable mistakes on that time, I felt quite confident that I'd have no problem fixing things up on my third run.

But this is racing, nothing is a sure thing. Yesterday Stephanie's car blew up on her, on Sunday she had a nice 59.1 run to jump into 3rd by 0.33 sec. Still easy for me to beat given my day 1 lead, warmer tires and a previous raw time 0.7s faster than I needed. None the less, the pressure was on... Here's the video of my final run. I think it speaks for itself...

And of course if I had had my actual SSM car...

Saturday, May 27, 2017

...Gang aft agley!

The start of this season hasn't gone as I had envisioned it. The vision in my head mid February went something like this:

  • Head swap mid-March
  • Tuning late march/early April
  • Learn the changes to car at Event 1 and in the next Renegade event. 
  • Race #2 expect decent result
  • more practice events
  • Race #3 and onward... full speed ahead, chasing another top-10 & class wins to try try for a second season championship, with Leafy doing his best to make it tough (cue the stirring music, with videos of wobbling cones, and spin outs and times in red LED letters, people cheering, other people shaking their head or pounding the wheel... etc...).
It sounded like a nice plan, but like most plans, the intersection with reality was disruptive. Actual results were more like:
  • Mid-march - Mechanic no space to work on car, must wait.
  • Late march - Delivered car to mechanic
  • Early April - Headwork more involved than expected due to one unreachable bolt, timing chain cover comes off to detach timing chain guide from head.
  • Prep for race 1: Drove other folks cars at test and tune (thanks Bill, Thanks Jake!)
  • Race 1: Co-driver lends me his car (Honda s2000 in full STR prep) wind up in 4th place, Co-Driver takes 1st with a time that (if STR pax) would be 7th in pax.
  • Cancel reg for NCR Porsche, miss Renegade event
  • Mid-April Mechanic reports head on, difficulty shimming the valves, some are too tight for shims
  • Race 2: Co-driver again lends me his car, take 3rd place, with co-driver again taking 1st.
  • Late April - difficulty getting shims.
  • Early May - one valve so tight, even 00 shim won't work, contemplate head off and shave valve stem.
  • Mid May - Consultation with machinist leads to shaving the shims instead of the valves
  • Miss 2nd Renegade event...
  • Event #3 - Co-driver at wedding, Drive Matt's ASP prep STI - take second place
  • Late May - Car Runs! Get the car back, 
  • Tuners, no space for car, must wait.
  • Tuners schedule me for tuning in very early June.
  • Miss 3rd Renegade event, Cancel Track Club Event... 
  • new ECU installed and starting
So, If I'm very lucky I'll get two events worth of practice before the national tour, maybe 20 runs to settle into the new setup, and if any minor delays, only one event... if a major delay... I miss the tour, which counts as events #4 and #5.  Sadly (but lucky for me points-wise) Leafy also has had a slow start to the season and his car will also make it's first appearance in the tour. Where both of us will have to contend with Todd Kean (alien) in the #99 Nissan S240 "Panda" (space ship).

As for season points... well, the good news is Leafy mostly drove cars even less SSM than I did, and I'm well ahead of him. The bad news is Nick, my Co-driver is scaring the crap out of me by posting crazy good times in his car. I certainly expect a little bit of a break when we switch to my car, due to home-car advantage, but I'm thinking once he adjusts, he's going to be pushing me pretty hard (which is good!)... 

Nick's skill only adds to the fun of course. This year SSM seems to also have SML national champ in the Kuehl's SMF CRX... running in SSM for fun... sure it's SMF, but it's possibly the fastest SMF car in the nation, and she's a national champion. Next event, we get to see the long awaited result of Leafy's motor swap. He put a 2.5L engine in his NA Miata and turbo'd it... probably for 400+hp! This year, there is competition!  

On the plus side, I did get to drive some interesting cars. Many thanks to the owners. Here are some pictures of the cars (only the S2000 is a picture of me driving though with Nick passenger):

  • Tuner refuses car for Tailpipe smoke issue... ARGHHH!
  • Drive Derek's S2000 at BMW
  • Drive Nick's S2000 at Porsche Club and National Tour
  • Still waiting for the music...

Thanks Bill!

Thanks Jake!

 Thanks Nick!

 Thanks Matt!

PS. if you don't get the title of the post, it comes from a rather famous poem called "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns... the full line is:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men 
          Gang aft agley,