September 20, 2008

3rd Autocross - 1 More To Go!

Finally, my next Autocross! Waiting for this day was almost too much suffering for me. Today we had another full loop course around Fort Devens, which I prefer over the cross overs. I learned how to attack a clam shell properly, as before I was literally driving straight at it, and then had to slow down, turn out, then in, as opposed to driving to the outside of it then slowing down briefly to literally sweep in.

My times increased, going from a stable 1 41 for awhile until I finally landed a 1 39 on my last run. I still need more work on my slalom and throttle control, so hopefully I can get that down for the next autocross. I'm aiming for something lower then 1 39 next event. Other then that, the event was great. I'm really learning how to read the course easier and faster then before, and now I just need to focus on controlling my car properly.

I met with the owner of Big Brake , a company that sponsors Renegade Miata. Real cool guys that actually live only 10 minutes away from me and Oleg, so looks like we'll be hanging out with them hopefully soon. Check out their site, and anything they don't have the site, you can ask them if they can order it for you. So far, I'm pleased with their prices, and they're all knowledgable when it comes to cars in general, not just brakes.

Sadly, no pictures of the event this time as I had little time this event. As always, check out Renegade Miata for their list of events and come along! They always welcome any newbies and oldies!

September 18, 2008

Bleeding The Clutch

After taking a quick drive in James' RX8 and comparing the clutch pedal feel between mine and his, we both decided it had to be a air in the master cylinder or clutch line. Mine was still better then before, but at the same time it felt like putting your foot in stiff spaghetti.

The process sounds a lot easier then it really is. Honest. And sadly, we needed three people to do this job. NOTE: Make sure your car is COOLED DOWN or you WILL burn hair off your arm (I learned the hard way). You start by jacking up the front of the car ( a good amount, one of you 3 is going under there) and setting it on jack stands.

Take off the cover of the brake fluid reservoir. You're going to need a light under the car, as well as above from the hood so everyone can see where the bleeder is. In the picture above, look between the oil filter and the clutch line... That is the bleeder with the rubber cap on. It's really frustrating to reach from both directions, but we managed. Remove the rubber cap, then slip a 8mm wrench up carefully and placed the closed end on the bleeder. This will be a pain, but patience and help from the other person in the hood, you'll be okay. Make sure it's on the bolt tight, then fit on the hose.

When the hose is on perfect, put the other end into a disposable cup or bottle, but clear enough you can see what is going on. Now, someone will have to go into the car and get ready to pump the clutch, while the person under the car will open the bleeder valve, while the third person will be watching the cup for air.

Start off by holding the clutch pedal to the floor, open the bleeder valve, then close. Pick up the pedal from the floor (It'll stay stuck to the floor) and begin to pump it a good amount until you really can't anymore...and then hold to the floor. The person under the car will then open the valve and release more air or fluid. After you've done enough and gotten rid of all the air bubbles and have nothing but fluid constantly coming out, replace the fluid you've gotten rid of and cap everything back together.

Give the pedal a few pumps before driving to make sure it feels good, then after, you should notice a serious improvement. I've read somewhere that you may want to bleed the master cylinder before AND after bleeding the clutch line, but we only bled it after the clutch line. Huge difference to my pedal after doing this.

September 17, 2008

Parting Out With Oleg - Day 3

Today's item on the list is the iPod adapter from Audio Link. This is one hot little item that everyone has approved of so far. The install is fairly straight forward, but best to do with two people to make sure you don't accidentally drop the head unit.

Long story short, you're going to pull out the head unit. click here to see the pictures of what that involves, but when removing the head unit, on the driver side in the back, there is a 10mm bolt. Be SURE to remove that, otherwise your day will be ruined. There is a circuit board there and tugging out the head unit without removing the bolt, you'll destroy that board... Which is the board to your climate controls, radio, almost anything electrical in the car. When you get the head unit out, you'll see the connector in the rear at the upper right (If looking at it by holding it with rear in front of you). Plug it in and you're good to go, just place the head unit back in.We velcro taped the actual adapter under the ashtray as there was plenty of room to spare. We tugged and lopped the wire a bit for the plug, then wire tied it to some of the holes the clips for the center console go in. From there, we threaded the wire into the arm rest cup holder compartment and made sure there was a decent amount of wire, not so much that it was like spaghetti dinner in your armrest. After that, place the rest back together and you're golden. Depending on if you run in to difficulties disconnecting the connectors, this could take from 1 hr to 2 hr. Sadly, took us almost 3. The climate connectors did NOT want to come out.

After the labor from hell, I went through how to use and learn the beast. For starters, this really is the best way to go in terms of listening to music in the car. Turn it on by pressing CD on the radio twice. You will then see EX on the display. All the controls on your steering wheel work with the iPod, allowing you to not have to pick up the iPod and fiddle around while driving. There are two modes for the adapter. EX 1 is a type of dummy mode. It will say track 66 at time 0 and start counting up. That allows you to play whatever you want from the iPod, controlling it from the iPod or cycling through all the tracks by pressing next track. It basically acts as a dock for the iPod. EX 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are play list mode. The adapter supports up to 5 play lists. You switch each play list or back to mode 1 by using the Disc up or Disc down button. Playlist 1 would be of course EX 2, and so on. In Playlist mode though, you DO NOT have control of your iPod. I personally prefer playlist mode because I preset everything on my iTunes before listening to my iPod. Makes it easier to go to a playlist and play the genre of music you want, as opposed to cycling through tracks randomly.

September 11, 2008

Parting Out With Oleg - Day 2

After work, I had gone back to Oleg's for some more parting out action of his car. This time, we had the help of Josh and James. We took care of my sways first real quick, having concluded that the fix to the problem may be that the rear is set too stiff.

The Whiteline sway bars have a front stiffness of either 54% or 64% while the rears have a stiffness of either 79% or 91%. The thread about them is here. After setting the rear softer so that the sways were at a setting that was closer to a full balance, the car felt amazing. This time, I could actually feel my car while doing a sweeping turn! The body roll was greatly reduced to almost nothing, while the stiffness has greatly increased. I'm surprised that such a small change made that kind of a difference. I'm really curious why the car behaved like it did just because I made the rear more stiff. Maybe someone can enlighten me on that.

After doing this and taking a few more test runs, we got rid of Oleg's clear corners, his Racing Beat Air Duct, and his Racing Beat dual canister exhaust. Not much to really say except the fact that it took a long while. James ended up getting the Racing Beat dual canister exhaust while Josh got Oleg's air duct. It was really just a long night of installing and going through things. I'm just glad that I'm learning more about tools so I can actually help out. As Josh would say, "Tool Man Marc".

Pictures can be see here.

UPDATE 09/14/08 - The reason why the floaty feeling happens when taking a sweeping turn and hitting a bump is due to the strain on the stock shocks. Looks like I need to get some coilovers.

Parting Out With Oleg - Day 1

Sad news to hear, that Oleg will be selling his RX-8 soon, and is now parting it out. Luckily, I got to get my hands on his Whiteline sway bars that he had been using for awhile to use for my car. Now, we started late (stupidly) and ended up working till about 3am this morning.

Installation? Forever. A pain in the rear. Do it with MORE then one or two people if possible. What did it entail really? We jacked up the front of both cars first. Then we took of the wheels and set them aside. After that, we unbolted the end link from the control arm, and the bushing that holds the sway bar on. From there, it took us an hour to snake out both of our sway bars from the front. Now be VERY careful when doing this, because the radiator hose is in the way and you really don't want to slice that open (At least we believe it's the radiator hose. Could be the AC hose. Either way it's big and black and you see it on the passenger side). After we took the sway bars out, we had to grease up the urethane bushings on the Whiteline sway bar and let it settle for a bit before putting it into my car.

After that long and annoying process, we settled the bars in and bolted everything back up. Just so you know, you may have to use a hex or some tool to prevent the endlink from rotating when putting the bolt back on, so you know it is properly in place. Put on the wheels, torqued them, then down with the front and up with the rear. We could even keep the wheels on for the rear as the rear sway is easy compaired to the front. The front, you need to snake it through the steering rack area, where as the rear you simply unbolt the bushings and endlinks, then pull down. After greasing up the bushings for the rear bar as well, we put them all together and away for our first test drive we went.

Stiff, and great was all I could think...Until I took my first real turn. Granted, the turn in felt excellent at first, but then suddenly the whole car felt as though it was floating in the air. It felt as though I just drifted the whole turn with no grip or anything. No response from the car, no feeling, nothing. I thought it was just me, so I ignored it, but as I drove into work this morning on various side windy roads... I couldn't just be me. It was after I let my good friend Sergey drive the car (M3 track driver) that I decided something needs to be done about the setting, and quick. He even said he was scared as he couldn't feel the road, feel the car, anything. That's all I can really give for a review at the moment until I try out the new settings. Stay tuned for the next post of day two.

All the pictures can be seen here.

September 6, 2008

NEPOC Audio Install Meet

NEPOC held an awesome meet at Mark's (Bazooka Joe) place today. It was labeled as an "Audio Install Meet", but the only person installing any audio components was Mark (go figure). Some helped out, while others took it easy and just hung out. Josh decided to help me clean out my engine bay a bit since it had sand pretty much everywhere. We dusted it out with a brush and green spray. To top it off, we polished the plastic covers for the engine bay.

I asked Mark for some advice regarding how to cover the space where my back seats used to be. Low and behold, he had a huge roll of black carpet sitting in his basement! Josh made the measurements and cuts, after which we teamed up and put it together (the picture below is the end result). It's not the greatest thing in the world, but it's decent enough and makes the rear presentable. For the rest of the pictures from the meet, click here.

September 2, 2008

BHR Clutch Pedal And No Seat Belts!

Man, what a night! I finally received my anticipated "Black Halo Racing Reinforced Clutch Pedal Bracket" (mouthful?) from the LEGENDARY Charles Ray Hill! My clutch pedal became quite scary the past couple of weeks. I was driving along the highway, heading home from a friends house, when in the middle of a shift I suddenly heard a really loud " CLICK" while engaging the clutch. Ever since I bought the car, the clutch pedal felt mushy (like mud mushy), but after the click, it felt even more like garbage.

After a day or two, it felt like it was getting worse and worse, so I put the car in my garage for a week and ordered the new pedal! When I got it, I went with my buddy James (not Greenblurr) to Oleg's for a big install. I had plans to finish the removal of my rear seat components as well, in this case, the seat belts. Again, I know I'm not saving that much weight by taking out the seat belts in the rear and the rear seats, and I know, it looks epic (because of those sweet bracer bars) but unpractical. But, I don't care; I hate back seats, always have, and I hate people inviting others into my car because it has (had in this case) four seats. It's just not for me folks.

The install went really well once we figured out what we were doing. We had no instructions, so we just disconnected everything we saw and went on from there. The dead pedal (where your left foot rests) might get in the way, so it's best to take that out too. If you take a look at this picture, look over to the clutch pedal on the left. The top part is bent and very flimsy. When we took it off, James thought he would snap it just by tugging it. In contrast, the BHR pedal is the definition of firm. In no way could we even slightly bend it. On top of that, the welds looked cool.

After we finished taking out the seat belts and putting the pedal back in, Oleg gave it the ole' adjustment (recommended by Ray) and I went off to test it. At first I was a bit nervous, as the catching point was much different then my previous pedal. However, I'm sure I'll get used to it. My first thought was that this thing is a beast. It literally adds a sort of "race feel" to the clutch pedal. I'm not sure if it's the spring back of the pedal or the firmness, but it feels great. I have 36,000 miles on my OEM clutch, and this clutch pedal feels as though I have an aftermarket clutch pressure plate like Oleg's. To the readers... Buy this. Even if your clutch pedal bracket is fine, I still say to buy this. This is solid and safe. It is amazing. And, it adds that race feel when engaging a gear. $175 is a steal for something with such high quality and reliability.

As I was driving around town, it felt nice and firm. But, as I drove it more and took the car out on the highway, it seemed to get stiffer. I wonder whether that is from my clutch itself, or the clutch pedal, though it could just be me. However, it seems a bit too obvious to be just my imagination. I'm not sure what it is, but it isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just an observation. Thanks to Ray for the awesome product, and I look forward to reviewing the Ignition Solution from BHR once I get my hands on it! (If he ever releases it!)

All the pictures taken by Oleg can be seen here!

September 1, 2008

More Interior Decorating

Was really tired after a long day at Tokyo Game Action, playing some Initial D 4 and Wangan Midnight, but I still had some energy left when I got home to do another small fix to my car's interior. The center console has a sliding door for a cupholder compartment. The button to open this compartment is sticking out and slanted, so it looks really out of place. If you look here is a complete DIY to fix the button.

Just about every RX8 I've been in has had this problem. Surprisingly, the fix was quick and easy, and the results were great. It's alot smoother now (smooth = luxury) and doesn't randomly slide open just because I touched it with my forearm while shifting. I think my worse problem was when I thought I would close it, but it wasn't locked and would just slide open again. Small fixes, one at a time.

Hot Version - Rocket Rotary

This movie was hands down, one of the greatest videos done by the BMI/Hot Version crew. An owner of an RX-8 or not, this movie was great for showing the different views of the Japanese tuning firms. The segment regarding the RX-8 really showed the difference between a street tuned NA version and a street tuned turbo version, both getting great reviews. Again as I've said about most of the Touge Showdown episodes, this is a great way to get various ideas on different approaches on street tuning an RX-8.

I was really impressed by the Fujita Engineering exhaust note and tune overall, which sort of birthed my urge to tune my car and keep it NA. The product list of Fujita Engineering, as well as Knight Sports really appeal to me as opposed to the frequent frequent turbo tuning of the car. Sort of the "underdog" approach of things. Nevertheless, the movie was impressive and the battle afterwards to compare the tuned cars versing a lightly tuned RX-8 really gave me a good perspective on my goal with my car.

The last feature about Touge Showdown Max Final was great, showing off the impressive RE-Amemiya RX-7. Granted, good as always, but the whole section about the various tuned RX-8s took the cake for me.