July 27, 2009

Strapped In!

Installed these new belts before the last event, but I wanted to make sure I had some good pictures before posting on the blog. These are the 6 Point (only 4 for now, 5 and 6 go in on track days) CamLock Pro Harnesses from G-FORCE Racing Gear in red, pull down type.

Quick review of the belts, they feel absolutely amazing. I get even more feedback from the car, while not having to worry about applying more pressure of my left foot down onto the dead pedal to keep myself steady. I'm strapped in comfortably, and can just focus on driving and the course, so it's a really good advantage to have. Can't wait to mount these to the roll bar I have coming soon..so stay tuned for that!
Installing is a breeze, just becareful with the bolts as I learned the hard way in the middle of the tech line at the event (big thanks again to Bob for the save). The way I did it, is to bolt the lap belts at the mounting point for the seat rails in the rear, UNDER the rail. Don't do the seatbelt rail that holds the OEM belts, nor bolt OVER the seat rail. For the shoulder belts, I bolted to the rear seatbelt lock locations (NOT good for the track, thus why I'm getting a roll bar). I've seen some buy the latch for the shoulder straps and latch it to the child safety bars in the rear, as well as get anchor bolts for the seat mounts and latch the lap belts to those. I personally prefer to have a firm, solid mount for the safety equipment to ensure it's not moving anywhere.

Just a heads up, for anyone who thinks these look completely baller or JDM... They do, but they're not for the street at all. So please, don't think I got this for looks on the street. These are purely for track/autocross events and should not be used on the street. The reason is because you are completely limiting your turning radius of your head and body to look at any oncoming cars. If you get hit hard you're probably going to get whiplash. The worse of them all is if you have it a bit too loose, or improperly installed, you can easily submarine and snap your spine. I don't usually emphasize on what you should and shouldn't do, but I'm pretty firm about this as this can be very safe on the course, yet very very dangerous elsewhere.

July 18, 2009

Renegade Miata 4

The 4th event with the Renegade Miata club, and what a great event it was! The day started off damp and dreary when we got to the course. As we began to walk the course, it began to down pour! Many ran to the nearest people with umbrellas, huddling under them to get some sort of refuge. Rain stopped at around 10am, and that is when we had the first car was let off.

Got to co drive with James today, and he also went first to try out the course while it was still wet, having never autocrossed in the rain before. Course was excellent, with some great elements such as off pace slaloms, a slalom that is like a Chicago box (without the extra cones), and similar elements.
My top time was a 1’28.2 clean with James having a top time of 1’31. I managed to run consistent 1’28’s for the day, though I pulled a 1’27 with a cone once. Got to try out my new harnesses and what a difference! They really helped me stay in my seat, which I was having a problem from time to time on the course. I was always in my seat, and I felt everything going on around me as it pretty much made me apart of the car. More information and pictures of harnesses in another post on Monday (After I give the car the bath of a life time).

Big ups to James for helping me setup, datalog, and going out there and tearing up the course with me. Also big ups to Zach from NEPOC for the pictures, and other NEPOC members I got to see on the course today! Results are here.

July 12, 2009

SCCA Event 6

Big battles in little Ayer! Today’s event I brought my competition with me, but not the game I was hoping for. The weather was 80’s and sunny, while the course was very tricky with a lot of tight turns and pivots. There were also tricky parts that included what could only be described as narrow Chicago boxes, but really just needs to be treated as a pivot.
Co-Drove with my friend Shane again who is improving quickly in the Novice class, but unfortunately neither of us took home a trophy. I came in 3rd right behind Gfab’s team and their white 240, marking a time of 1’07.2 +1 cone. Results are located here.

Meantime, big ups to Chris and his brother for the great pictures they took of me and Shane out on the course this weekend. The entire archive is here.

July 11, 2009

New Cooling

Got together with James and Mike to tackle a project I had been looking into for awhile now; Replacing the radiator, waterpump and thermostat. Now, I did plenty of prep work. I got copies of the service manual from the dealership, I looked up various DIYs, but we still ran into some parts that took us longer than expected. Regardless, the install was a great turn out.

I had purchased the Ron Davis radiator, their colder thermostat (170 degrees I believe) and their high flow water pump (boy what a huge difference) filled with Prestone 50/50. I won’t go into specific details like a DIY, but I will post the links I used for help and the order in which I did this.
  1. As always, flat level surface with lots of space
  2. Remove engine cover (All Mazda service manuals have this as step 1! )
  3. Remove the battery and battery box (Heads up: it’s split in 3 pieces. Top, then the middle is held on by clips in the back. Bottom part is then only held on by bolts.
  4. Remove the PCM cover
  5. Remove the front PCM duct that goes straight down, and then to the right (looks like it goes into the fan)
  6. Remove intake box – Recommended to put something to cover intake hole for now
  7. Remove the drive belt
  8. Remove the alternator belt
  9. Right now is when you can see mostly everything you will be working with in the engine bay. The water pump is right under the water pump pulley, and the thermostat is just next to it. Lets move on.
  10. Now is when you want to jack up the car. We unfortunately only had 2 Jacks for the front, but it’s ideal to have 4 to keep the car level while lifted up for this process.
  11. Remove the splash guard entirely
  12. Look up. You’ll see the radiator sandwiched between the AC condenser and the fans. Try and make note of anything that is connected to the radiator, such as bolts, radiator tubes, and anything else that may possibly be in your way. The goal is to slide the radiator down as smoothly and easily as possible.
  13. Look for the drain plug for the radiator, get your pan (make sure you have a big one because we overfilled ours, and it was a huge pan!) and start draining. Once done, let it sit for a few minutes to try and let as much as possible drip out.
  14. From here, we did the easy top two parts such as thermostat and waterpump just to get it out of the way. It seemed like the easy and quick approach. Unbolt the waterpump, replace with your new one. Tighten just enough for now.
  15. Thermostat is tricky as you’ll need someone to tug on the long metal pole that we think is the EGR, though we’re not 100% (forgive me on that, but I’m not all knowing!). Remove the tubes to the thermostat, unbolt, then while someone holds back on the EGR, twist the top of the thermostat and then pull up. There you will see the thermostat in it’s case. Replace that with your new one, and place everything back.
  16. Have lunch. Food is essential and by now you must be eye balling the radiator wondering why it’s going to be the hardest install. It’s not, just tricky…but eat first so you have the patience for it.
  17. Once done, check out the stuff I had mentioned connected to the radiator. Unbolt the AC condenser from the radiator via the front, two bolts on top from the fan, and take off the tubes going to the radiator. The last would be the brackets under the car holding up the radiator. We saved this for last so we always had something holding up the radiator.
  18. From here, have your champion of a friend tug on the fan assembly and lift up from the engine bay to get it off the radiator, while you are slowly guiding the radiator down from inbetween the two. Be sure to be careful with the AC and radiator fins, I’m sure it’s not easy to make those straight again.
  19. Replace the radiator by sliding up the new one very slowly and carefully. Be sure the tubing inlets go towards the back of the car.
  20. Place back on the under body brackets for the radiator, and then redo everything you took off! Wait on the splash shield for the very last step though.
  21. When you’re done placing everything back except the splash shield, go ahead and turn on the car (don’t start just yet). May as well do your activation of DSC, set radio and get that all out of the way. Once done, open your coolant reservoir. Start the car and let it get to a good running temperature while watching the reservoir. Should you need to add coolant, go for it, but try not to go past the full line.
  22. Once you’ve reached operating temperature, cover the reservoir and go back to the car. Turn the heat to full blast (yes the heat) and then rev the car to 3.5 or 4 RPM. Hold it for 15-20 seconds to get the coolant going through the system and then ease off the gas. Go back to the coolant reservoir and check the levels, filling if needed.
  23. After that, repeat the last step one or two more times to ensure your level is steady and enough coolant has gone through the system.
  24. Then you’re done! You may need to do this again the following day, but keep an eye on the levels regardless for awhile until you’re sure the coolant level isn’t getting lower at all.
The DIYs I used for help on this were
Coolant Change - by Staiclag
Replace your Radiator - by NYCGPS
Big ups to them for the great DIYs, and big ups to James, Mike, Stephanie and Liz for the help, good company, and great BBQ lunch.
As for the review of the parts, since I forgot to flush and ran home right off the bat, I noticed several heat spikes and thought I was going to lose the car. After flushing a good few times and flushing the next day, my cooling levels were excellent. In 68 Degree weather Cruising on the highway in 6th gear I was seeing temperatures as low as 175. Pushing the car in 82 Degree weather to high RPMs got me to around 190’s. When I was really running at the SCCA event we only got our highest to 208, and after opening the hood and letting it cool, it settled to low 190’s.

I’m very pleased with this setup, and I can only hope that it really does help prolong the life of my car and keep my temperatures consistent and low.

July 5, 2009

Renegade Miata Autocross 3

Hey everyone. Not much to post here really except that it was a great event as always! Co-drove with Shane and ripped it up. Came 4th in Other Mazda's class, and 1st in SM class for Other Mazdas and Other Cars. Results are here

Learned a lot from this event and did a lot of changing with the tire pressures and dampening. Think I've found a good setup so we'll try this out and go from there.

July 2, 2009

Autoexe Strut Tower Special

I think I can still hear the swears echoing in my head from the two days it took to figure out how to install these parts. With the help of my friends, (big ups to Oleg, Shane, James, and Murph) we managed to understand what the Japanese instructions could not illustrate for us. Following my brief review of the parts, I’ll have a DIY so that anyone else brave enough to buy these, they won’t have to go through the pains we experienced.

The part itself is phenomenal for a lack of a better term. The front 6 point is an impressive sight, as on Sunday’s event, I had many people observing and questioning about it while I was in the tech line. The rear got some praise as well, but people were just very surprised to see a 6 point, especially how it bolts to the fender line. In terms of feeling, the response increase was well worth the money. I get much more feedback from the rear of the car (considering I had no rear strut bar before), as well as a much more solid and responsive feeling from the front.

When I took the car out for a test run, I was surprised at how on sweeping turns, I no longer feel any slight slop or any response from the body. All feeling and focus is directly on my tires and what they’re doing. How they’re responding to me, the grip I’m obtaining with them. It’s like floating with wheels attached to my fingertips.

Highly recommended for those looking for that step above the “unnecessary but awesome” step, as this set of two really is more than good looks and some functionality. It’s top notch, and I have yet to see anything match it.

On to the DIY, in which you’ll thank me for writing and saving your time. After 2 days, 6-7 hours each day of trying to figure this out, I had to write something about this. For starters

  • Level surface for the car to sit on
  • Sockets, ranging from 8 – 17, both deep and normal
  • Swivel extension for a socket
  • Open end wrenches, 10, 12, 14
  • Small vice grips
  • Allen wrenches (Don’t remember sizes, but on the bigger side)
  • Phillips screw driver
  • Touch up paint for your car (incase you do what I did)
  • Drill with 15/16 drill bit to make a hole in the fender bigger
  • A lot of patience and a helping hand
The rear was the easier one, so I would recommend doing this one first if you’re short on time or want to try out one of them separate first.
  • Start with removing the carpeting in the trunk space. Carpeting on the side, and on the bottom to make sure you can access all bolts in the rear
  • Once the rear shock hats are exposed, remove all of the bolts you see (literally), weither it be bolts for the floor, or the shock itself, just remove them.
  • The rear comes assembled with the two shock braces bolted with the actual bar. Undo this so that it’s in 3 separate pieces. Remember how the bolts were on the bar.
  • Look into your bag of goodies and you will see 4 black hook plates. If you notice on the illustration, this goes into the body of the car, above the shock hat…Yes, it goes into that tiny circle hole that if you drop it, you aren’t getting it back. It acts as the backing nut for some of the bolts. This is where the vice grips come handy. With vice grips, you can latch it onto the end of the hook that sticks out of the hole, so that it won’t fall in while you install the rest of the shock brace and begin to bolt it down.
  • That being said, place the small vice grips on the hook ends and place all 4 into their respective holes (there is another small hole back more, you have to either sit in the trunk and look in, or feel for it.
  • While your friend is in your trunk helping you with this, and his ear is right next to the rear speaker, be sure to play your radio at a good volume to make sure he’s awake and working properly on your rear.
  • Line up the shock braces with the holes on the hat and the studs on the floor. From there, begin to bolt down (not full tightness yet!) using the bolts as described in the instructions. It’s not really displayed well in the illustration, but for the center large bolts (yellowish in color) you will need a nut in the back to hold it in place now (I needed a nut before hand for my coilovers. OEM shocks have a backing for those bolts). Don’t forget to remove the vice grips.
  • Once both sides are in and bolted down good enough, from here I tightened the bolts from bottom to up. I felt that to center it, it would make sense to bolt it down first, then bolt the backings against the car to ensure it’s firm and straight. Did this twice.
  • Last step is to place in the actual bar! Place it in (be sure to have Autoexe brand facing you and not backwards for proper bling effect) and line it up with its respective holes. Place in those bolts with washers. I tightened left bottom decently, then right top, followed by left top, then right bottom. Then I went through and tightened as much as possible to ensure it was fully tight. This is where the allen wrench comes handy because you will need it to ensure that it is as tight as possible with these bolts.
  • From here, you are done! Shake it a little and make sure it’s in there firmly and securely. Place back your carpeting and away you go for the rear. In the instructions they put measurements on what you should cut out for the carpet, but I don’t use my carpet so I unfortunately can’t provide any help with that. I’m sure it can’t be that hard!
This is the tough one. Make sure you have plenty of time for this, just in case things go sour like they did for us.
  • For starters, grab your patience tool, your anger fixing drink (I’d go with Amstel or something light) and start removing the OEM (or whatever you have) front strut bar. If you have coilovers, rejoice as you can now put the front dampening adjuster on top of the shock finally!
  • Once this is done, take a look at your fender walls near the firewall. I have engine insulation removed, so you may not see what I see, but in the fender there are two holes there. That is the mounting point for the fender brace.
  • At the firewall, the engine insulation there (again, I have removed) is being held on by two white plastic nuts on studs. Those nuts need to be removed as your firewall braces are going to go there. Be sure to look at the picture in the instructions to verify you placed the proper brace support on each stud. It’s different for 04-08 bodies from 09 body RX8. This will be your first bolt on, but not as tight as possible as you will need some play room in the end.
  • You MAY need to use pliers and lift up the cowl a bit to give you extra room by the fender. We did only because we were not sure what had to be done at first. BE WEARY of the screws in the cowl. I couldn’t unscrew mine oddly enough, but every time we ignored the screws, gave an extra scratch on my strut bar.
  • For placing the front strut bar in, two people are needed for easy placement. With one person on each side of the car, as level as possible, slowly lower the rear into the car . Once in place and back against the firewall, position the strut tower holes as close as possible to the studs sticking out. NOW, this is the tricky part with the rear part resting on the firewall supports (the fender parts will probably rub thus the touch up paint). You will want to have both of you push at an angle one at a time to get the bar in. It’s really a simple concept that somehow can take more than an hour if you don’t do it right. My friend came, stood next to the car and pushed down hard to get one side in, then went to the other side and did this.
  • Now that the brace is in place the fender brace plates need to be installed. To install these it is key to have the car jacked up in the front with the fender liners peeled back (towards the front), or the fenders off the car. There is one problem and that is the small hole is (yes you guessed it) to small. The remedy is a 15/16 drill bit. It makes the hole just big enough for the small allen wrench bolt to fit in with ease. Place the brace inside the fender and line up the holes, while someone else places a bolt inside to keep the brace in place. From there, bolt up the fenders per instructions, just tight enough to be on.
  • From here, you now need to finish tightening the strut bar down. We did the struts first, doing a nice even torque all around, followed by the fenders, making sure it was very tight from side to side numerous times to ensure it was flush with the fender (if a touch of space is left between fender and brace, it’s okay because it’s probably flush in the back). Lastly, the firewall brace needs to be bolted down.