Archive for March, 2010

Hold me

March 29, 2010 10 comments

Sliding around in your seat sucks. Unfortunately, most stock seats in passenger cars these days have to fit (quite literally) a wide variety of asses and here in the US, there is a huge spectrum of ass sizes. This is all fine and good for the car manufacturers who need to move cars off the showroom floor, but it sucks mightily for those of us trying to throw our cars around a track.

I mentioned before that the stock Scion seats are terrible for lateral support and that I bought a set of ChargeSpeed racing bucket seats to remedy the slip ‘n’ slide effect I would get when going into corners. This helped my lateral stability, but I am still using the stock 3 point seatbelt so I can still slide forward under heavy braking changing my distance to the steering wheel mid-deceleration. How to fix this annoying problem? A harness!

(Only fun until you find the rocks in your yard…)

Now, let me be very very clear here. Harnesses should not be used for a street car and is quite a dumb idea for me to run one in a car that I daily drive. If you do choose to install a harness into your street car you need to understand that it might inflict death instead of preventing it like your stock 3 point belt would. A harness is designed to hold you completely upright in your seat. It limits your motion so that really the only things that you can move are you arms, legs, and head within the constraints of your seat. This is perfect for the race track where you’re wearing a helmet and hopefully have a roll cage keeping your car rigid. However, your 3 point safey belt is designed specifically to let your body curl up in the case of a roll over. This helps your body naturally bend if pressure is applied from the top (aka, the noggin’ side). If you roll with a harness and no roll cage, that crushing pressure from the roof collapsing has nothing to do other than crush your head/neck because the harness eliminates your body’s ability to curl up as pressure is applied. Yup, all the weight of your car is now being supported by your flimsy little neck. If you have a harness in a street car, without a cage, and you roll it…the harness might kill you.

(What’s a few broken vertebrae between friends?)

All that doom and gloom aside, I’ve never rolled a car and only know of one person that has so I’m not entirely worried, but I am entirely aware of the very dangerous risk involved with running this harness.

Now that my due diligence for keeping the Mediocre readers educated and hopefully alive, let’s talk about me again. One of the reasons that I’ve been waiting so long to get a harness set up is because I was trying to find a set of harnesses that was FIA approved, but wasn’t going to cost me $200+ per harness (especially because I needed two. There are two different kinds of connector options you can choose for harnesses: The cheap (but effective) Latch & Link setup or the super easy quick releasing (but almost 2x more expensive) Camlock setup. Eventually I stumbled on a great deal on a set of G-Force 5 point camlock harnesses (in black) and immediately locked that deal down and ordered.

(5 point G-Force Racing Gear harness on my floor. Hooray!)

Now all I need is to track down the support bars I need for the harness bar mount that I have and I’ll be in business. It’ll be annoying as hell getting in and out of the car for quick trips/errands, but well worth it to not slide about in my chair at the track.

– Steve wants a hug

Categories: Cars, Steve

Light at the End of the Tunnel

March 22, 2010 1 comment

The last post I made was a cliff hanger in that I didn’t finish the story. Fret not, my impatient amigos! I’m here to ease all your fears and continue the story of the 3000GT rebuild.

After getting the oil pan reinstalled and buttoning up the things removed to access it (transfer case, starter, cross member, etc.), it was time to move on to the items on the 120,000 mile service list. Although the car only has 109,000 miles on the odometer, I figured now was the perfect time to perform the 120k service since everything was already apart. First up: remove all the belts, water pump, timing belt tensioner, timing belt idler pulley, and timing belt tensioner pulley. This was harder than it sounds simply because of all the bullshit in the way. There was a plastic cover over the timing belt and pulleys that we ultimately had to break to remove. The important parts of it remained intact, but a corner or two was snapped off in order to get it out. In addition, the geniuses at Mitsubishi designed the drive belt idler pulley with a recessed bolt and put it inches away from the chassis. There’s next to no room to navigate a tool in there; I’m not even sure how the hell Jeff and Stephen removed it. And let’s not forget the fact that the water pump is mounted to the water pump housing with a hidden screw on the back side – not a bolt like normal people would put in there – that simply did not want to come out. I eventually gave up on removing it and drilled the bitch out. Luckily, the threads were in the old water pump, so no damage was done to parts I needed to keep. Thanks again for the great design, Mitsubishi!

(Get it? Good design… shut up, it’s the best I could find)

Anyway, after getting all the old stuff removed and making a huge mess AGAIN due to coolant spilling out from the block after removing the water pump, it was time to start building everything back up. The new water pump and timing belt idler pulley went in easy enough. So did the new timing belt tensioner and tensioner pulley. But that’s pretty much where it ceased being easy. The installation of the new timing belt was quite the experience, especially never having done anything like that before. I was even more terrified of the experience because the 6G72 is an interference engine, meaning my valves would get their little metal asses handed to them by the big, bad pistons if the timing were off or if the timing belt broke. Poor little valves.

(What could happen if the timing belt reinstallation was screwed up)

I followed the factory service manual to the letter, but now I feel like there was an unnecessary extra step. Let me explain the procedure: first, you line up the crank shaft timing marks one tooth behind true aligned, and then you line up the right bank cam shaft sprocket timing marks. The crank shaft is easily turned (at least to the right) with the crank bolt, so getting it lined up was simple enough. The right bank cam shaft lobes are actually in a neutral position when timed correctly, so they were easy to set as well. However, the left bank cam shaft lobes are mid-cycle when timed correctly, meaning that both cam shafts want to spring back when you time them. To make matters worse – and I think Jeff’s hand gash is a victim of this – the cam shaft sprockets must be sharpened at the factory, presumably because the Mitsubishi designers are sadists.

(A pretty deep cut on Jeff’s hand. The car gods would be proud)

You time the left bank by turning each of the two cam sprocket bolts with wrenches – the left shaft turning to the right, and vice versa for the right shaft – until their timing marks line up. But you need to be careful because if you push one wrench too far, the lobes will go past their apex and the shaft will abruptly snap over. Then, while holding both wrenches with one hand, you wrap the timing belt tightly against both sprockets. (I’m not joking here, the service manual actually shows a picture of a fuckin’ knucklehead balancing the cam shafts with two wrenches in one hand. I think it even shows a scar precisely where Jeff’s hand was cut in the picture above.) Then, while continuing to balance both wrenches and hoping the belt stays in place, you use binder clips to keep the timing belt snug onto the sprockets. When clips are on both sprockets, you can gently release the wrenches and the timing belt will hold both sprockets in place due to the tension against each other. They both want to rotate in opposite directions, so as long as you don’t tug the belt in either direction too far, they will remain timed correctly. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Next, you wrap the timing belt down and around the water pump and back up to the right bank’s cam shaft sprockets. This part is a little tricky because you want the belt to be taught, but if you pull it too hard then you could release the tension on the left bank sprockets. Don’t ask me how I know this. After wrapping the belt here, you once again use binder clips to hold the belt in place. At this point, the belt feels fairly tight and all four cam shaft sprockets are lined up correctly. You then continue to wrap the timing belt down and around the idler pulley, then down further and around the crank shaft. It then takes a really sharp turn and wraps around a loosened tensioner pulley and finally completes the loop back up to the left bank cam shaft sprockets. Here is a picture to help understand what is happening here.

(A diagram of the timing belt’s route around each of the sprockets and pulleys)

Now here’s the really tricky part, and the part where I think Mitsubishi added an unnecessary step. At this point, the cam shafts are timed correctly but the crank shaft is behind by one tooth. According to the service manual, you temporarily tighten the tensioner pulley using a special tool and a socket wrench. You then turn the crank a quarter turn counterclockwise – a pain in the ass if you don’t have the special crank turning tool and the crank bolt keeps coming loose – and then turn it clockwise to bring everything into alignment. In my first attempt at the timing belt, I performed this step as stated. The pulley provided tension against the belt and, hey look at that!, all of the timing marks lined up perfectly. The tension on the belt brought the crank shaft into perfect alignment with the camshafts.

The only problem here is that the tensioner pulley was tightened incorrectly and the bearing doesn’t actually spin when tightened this way. This would make real quick work of the timing belt, so the next step in the manual is to loosen the tensioner pulley and then retighten it correctly. But whenever I did this step, the timing on the crank shaft would always end up a tooth or so off from the cam shafts. Ugh! The final time I did this, I still performed the stupid step, but I manually moved the camshafts ahead one tooth before doing the final tighten of the tensioner. This made it so that the marks lined up perfectly when everything was tightened down. And as a final “Yay, I did it right,” the pin in the auto tensioner is supposed to easily be removed and reinserted when everything is set and tightened. Yep, getting that pin in and out was as smooth as Astroglide. Don’t ask me how I know. At the end of the day, I think Mitsubishi could have made this easier by just having you tighten the tensioner pulley correctly the first time instead of temporarily torqueing it down before loosening and retightening. I would think that there is a good reason for this extra step, but with all the stupidly designed shit in this car and the need for so many special tools, it wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t.

Finally the timing belt was on correctly. After waiting the manual-recommended five or more minutes and then rechecking the tensioner pin and timing marks, I was confidence that all was well. So then it was time for reinstalling the plastic covers and the drive belts. After getting everything on the front (right side) of the engine put back together, it was time to retighten the mighty crank bolt. This thing sits at 134 lb-ft, but I don’t have the special Mitsubishi tool to hold the crankshaft in place while you tighten the bolt. Again, they’re sadists. I was told that having the car in gear with the e-brake on and someone standing on the foot brake would provide enough tension against the motor to allow the bolt to be tightened. Well I failed miserably trying this with my wife; I blame the Norse god Loki and the fact that the wheels were off the ground. I figure this will actually work when the weight of the car is working in my favor, so I’ve put off that task until I lower the car back onto its own feet.

The days following getting the front of the engine put back together were a flurry of small activity. I reinstalled the alternator, right side motor mount, radiator, tons of small bolts here and there, and just last night I rebuilt the top of the top of the engine. I didn’t stutter there, that’s how I refer to the spark plugs and wires, fuel rail, intake plenum, throttle body, etc. So after nearly six months of being in pieces, my engine bay is finally back together! And don’t worry about the fact that this picture was taken after the final bolt was put back in… at 2 AM… on a Wednesday night.

(Freshly reassembled engine bay. Cell phone pics for the win)

At this point, there are only five tasks remaining:

1.    Refill or replace all the fluids. Most of the coolant is already drained out, so I’ll just fill it back up and add some Red Line Water Wetter. The motor oil is obviously all out, so I need to fill that back up with some 0W-40 Red Line synthetic. The transaxle gear oil will be flushed and refilled with a mixture of two Red Line oils, as will the transfer case. And finally, the rear differential will also get a flush and replaced with some kick ass Red Line stuff.
2. Replace the plastic covers that were removed. This includes some in the wheel well, a few panels connected to the Active Aero air dam, and the oil cooler cover. A 30 minute job, tops.
3.    Reinstall the exhaust. The down pipe is in good shape and will go back in with some new gaskets and bolts. I’ve been meaning to replace the main catalytic converter with a test pipe, so I’ll be doing that at the same time. However, the bolts that hold the main catalytic converter to the cat-back are essentially welded on at this point. And let’s not forget that we located several cracks in the cat-back. To remedy this, the NW3S Race Team is selling me a used second generation cat-back in good shape. It doesn’t actually have the Active Exhaust valve in it, but I’m cool with that. Not only will it weigh less due to less piping involved, but I never bought into the Active Exhaust feature anyway. Either way, I’ll hopefully be picking it up this weekend with the help of my dad’s truck.
4.    Put the car back down and tighten the crank bolt. Hopefully the car’s weight will allow this to happen.
5.    Initial startup! Before the actual turning over of the engine, I’ll pull the fuel pump fuse and crank it several times. This will get the pumps going and moving fluids around, most importantly getting oil into the turbos and onto the freshly rebuilt head, new rod bearings, and new piston rings.

All of this could be completed as early as Sunday afternoon, but more realistically it will probably be early next week. Words can’t explain how excited I am to get this project finished. I’ve literally been going to sleep and waking up thinking about next steps in the project for weeks now. The end is near, my friends. Oh so near. Keep your eyes on MM for an update after the initial startup. Either I’ll be ecstatic that everything looks good, or crushed because I fucked something up. Don’t ask me how I know. Either way, beers and tears will be involved!

– Alex “Ok, ask me how I know” Gregorio

Categories: Alex, Cars

7th inning stretch

March 19, 2010 1 comment

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted something – I blame the Olympics, my son, and the Indian god Vishnu – so I figured I would take some time tonight to begin getting everyone up to date on the progress of the 3000GT repair. As the title suggests, I’m in the home stretch and should have it ready for its first startup within the next week! It’s about time, too. I’m willing to bet that my battery is low on charge, that I couldn’t explain who the hell Vishnu is, and that my tires have lost 10 PSI or more. But all will be well soon.

The last post I made about the 3000GT was about an assessment of the damage. It turns out that there was, indeed, a washer dropped into the intake manifold. It then got sucked into an intake valve upon engine startup and it proceeded to literally get chewed up between the #1 piston and the head. The resulting damage was plainly visible on the piston and the head, but less obvious was the damage to the two exhaust valves. I took the head to Auburn Auto Machine for repairs – Mike, the owner of the shop, is a friggin’ rock star, by the way – and it came back looking virtually brand new. The repaired area is nearly identical to the original, undamaged areas. Plus, I had some bad guides and bent valves replaced, the whole head was hot bathed and so looks new again, and everything was resealed. Nice!

(Ball hone used to prepare cylinders for new piston rings.)

Proceeding the damaged head being repaired/rebuilt and a new (used/rebuilt) piston being purchased, I began the long rebuild process. First off, I borrowed a ball hone from Auburn Auto and honed the cylinder to ensure a good seal against new rings. A little WD-40 and finding the right speed of oscillation vs. repeated penetration (yes, I did describe it that way), and the job was done. Next up was installing the piston with new rings. This was a bit more challenging. I bought a piston ring compressor, but I was trying to force the insertion before the cylinder opening was ready to take it (there it is again). I ended up snapping a ring before asking for some tips on how to do the installation. For starters, I didn’t lubricate the whole thing. Second, I needed to take it nice and slow, and ease that thing in there. Lesson learned, and my wife appreciated that.

(Is it weird that this makes me horny?)

Naturally, the next step was rod bearings. I installed new bearings on the piston #1 rod and checked the clearance with plastigauge. Good to go. I then tried to check the clearance on the piston #6 rod (old bearings) to see if I should replace the rod bearings on all six rods, but I couldn’t get the end cap off. Steve and Jeff were waiting around impatiently to continue on, so I gave up and reassembled everything. I figured the cylinder wall and old bearings on piston rod #1 looked fine, so it was probably cool, too.

The last step of the parts directly inside the engine was to remount the oil pan. Getting it off was quite the pain in the ass. I don’t have the “special Mitsubishi tool” (damn there are a lot of them) to remove the oil pan, so I used a tiny screwdriver and pecked away at a corner of it. Eventually I got the screwdriver through the RTV-made gasket and the whole thing pretty much just popped off. Putting it back on involved straightening out the part I bent during removal, cleaning up all the old RTV, and applying a new seal before mating it to the engine block. Jeff was there to help me with this part of the process and did the actual RTV application. Before we did, though – and I highly recommend this to anyone doing this job – I practiced installing the oil pan without bumping the sealing edge against the oil pickup or incorrect places of the block. By the time Jeff handed me the pan with RTV on it, I was a pro at maneuvering the thing on. Piece of cake.

(Jeff applying RTV to the oil pan. The red line on the ground is not RTV. It’s the cord for the shop light. Even Jeff couldn’t have messed up a bead of RTV that badly.

This is all I have time for tonight. I’m much further along than just this, so keep your eyes peeled for updates on the rebuild. Also, why does half of my post sound like it could be about sex and not at all about cars? I suppose working on cars is just as good when it’s as gratifying as this project is becoming. Just don’t tell my wife I said that.

– Alex “needs to stop writing posts when he’s horny” Gregorio

Categories: Uncategorized

Delicious audible candy

March 17, 2010 4 comments

While I happen to like most of Ferrari’s entries into the automotive world, I was never a big Ferrari F1 fan. I was mostly a BMW/Williams fan during the time that I was actively engaged in watching the sport and doggedly following my team and drivers. Obviously the real world entries from BMW and Ferrari are drastically different, but the fact remains that I greatly respect what the Ferrari engineers produce.

(mmmmm 599xx…yummy)

Getting back to the F1 part of this post… This little video clip is actually an advert for Shell Gasoline, but features a history of some of the most mind meltingly amazing Ferrari F1 cars having wonderful ear-hole sex with you. I spoke a long time ago about how the sound of an F1 engine at full tilt evokes strong uncontrolled physical reactions (lightly watering eyes, intense goose bumps across my skin, a tingly spine, and shortness of breath) from me, and I’ve spoken just recently about how sound is powerful. Hopefully this little clip will help you understand what I’m going on about.

(The engine sounds build in an ever rising crescendo until around the 1:12-1:15 mark when the cars rip through Rio and I almost weep with joy. No, I’m not using hyperbole here. I really really feel it.)

There you go. Not my personal favorite F1 team, but goddamn those Italians can make something beautiful.

– Steve has already watched the video 4 times. Going for 5…

Categories: Cars, Steve

Learning from mistakes

March 14, 2010 3 comments

People make mistakes and often it’s these mistakes that help us make up our knowledge base to become better at the things we do. It’s not always that we immediately learn from our mistakes, but eventually the lesson sinks in and a work around or solution to the problem is developed.

Example 1: Drop something into someone’s motor –> Learn to cover all exposed cylinder entry points with simple/cheap painters tape to avoid repeats.

Example 2: If you didn’t learn the first time, accidentally drop something into your own motor’s water jacket while working on an exposed block. –> Really learn to cover exposed holes this time.

(Starting to mask off the potential drop points for stray engine exploders)

Amusingly enough when we were lifting some other part near the timing belt, a stray washer or bolt or something bounced across the head, skipped across the taped holes and then fell to the floor. Wouldn’t have been catastrophic as the head was still off the car, but it just goes to show how effective this tactic is.

(0.25 cents worth of tape protecting the engine from “0.10 cent washer-o-death: Round 2”)

Simple lesson here, cover your bases with the cheap simple to do stuff rather than accidentally take down a friend’s expensive motor with an even cheaper washer. A few seconds of prep now is waaaayyyy better than 3 months worth of work and headaches later.

– Steve-tape is way better than Duct-tape

Categories: Cars, Steve

Beer makes me a better mechanic

March 11, 2010 4 comments

It’s pretty common to hear me talking about booze. I’m not an alcoholic or anything, but I appreciate the sauce, worship delicious beer, and can even be found at a wine tasting or two.

It wasn’t until just recently that Jeff and I were talking as we reviewed some photographs of workday’s past and we noticed that it’s almost impossible to find a picture without a beer in my hand. Quite amusingly it seems that I’m almost always unaware a picture is being take, but always am in some state of enjoying an alcoholic beverage.

(I know I look sad here, but I’m actually talking to Alex who is under the car right out of frame)

Now I won’t go so far as to say that I’m a better mechanic when I’m sloshed (even though it’s likely true), but I will say that we (Alex, Jeff, myself) have never had a car day that didn’t involve some sort of beer as the drink of choice. This isn’t exactly an uncommon thing, but we all consider it mildly amusing (and obviously worth a Mediocre post) that I’m almost never without beer in hand.

(Steve in his natural habitat. Bonus: Alex bending over in the background)

We were excited one time because we found a picture of me without a beer actually near me, but were immediately disappointed because clearly visible in the picture is a rack of MGD behind me. While I’m partially embarrassed about the quality of the beer the fact that I’m apparently a lush according to photographic biographies of my life is really what concerns me.

(Stupid MGD box lurking in the background…so close)

To top the story off, I was attending Jeff and his wife’s birthday extravaganza just last weekend and when Jeff surreptitiously attempted to capture my handsome mug from a distance the universe (or my love of beer) guided my hand up from behind the couch to allow a picture of me drinking to be taken…again.

– Hi my name is Steve, and I’m an awesomeholic

Categories: Beer, Cars, Steve

And now for something completely different…

I’ve been slacking on getting proper updates to the site recently and I didn’t want to completely abandon the Mediocre fans so I’ve plagiarized an e-mail sent to me by a good friend of the Mediocre gang. Jeff is some sort of engineer type person who can commonly be seen slumming it with Alex and Steve while they work on cars and providing snarky, well educated zingers whilst the work progresses. I happen to be a pretty big fan of the way Jeff thinks so when he sent this e-mail to some friends (yours truly included) I couldn’t see any reason why not to share it on the site.

As this was an e-mail it’s obviously got some names you won’t recognize. Additionally, there weren’t any pictures so I added some because I know the majority of you can barely read a paragraph before you get bored (just kidding…You know I love you all). Otherwise, the text remains unchanged and these ideas are the products of Jeff’s noodle and not mine. All credit is due to Jeff.



I was thinking about the future of fuel economy and wondered what the government will do next.  Washington state has the highest gas tax in the nation (and the highest minimum wage.  Go Socialists!), but we don’t necessarily have higher revenue as a result, because cars are trending toward higher fuel efficiencies.  Higher mileage = less gas consumed = less gas purchased = less gas tax revenue.  Knowing the government will never shrink a revenue source, I was trying to guess what they’ll come up with next.  Tolls?  Visible, but obviously very localized and easily avoidable.  Higher tabs?  Been there, lost the battle (I-695), won the war (tabs are still higher thanks to excises and other government-sponsored transportation agencies).  Here’s what they will do next.

(This is why we can’t have nice things.)

HAFE.  CAFE, or corporate average fuel economy, is a government mandate to automakers that their fleet average fuel economy must be greater than 24.1 mpg (and 30.2 mpg for passenger cars).  Automakers always respond with this economical truth: they build what the consumer wants, not what the government tells them to build.  The government/green movement always counters that consumers would appreciate 100 mpg, but the fact is that consumers are happy buying a car that gets 18 mpg combined, so where is the demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles?  HAFE.

HAFE, if you haven’t guessed, stands for household average fuel economy (I am making this all up, by the way.  Doesn’t it sound well thought-out?)  The state governments will set a fuel efficiency threshold that the average mileage of all the cars in the household must exceed.  This level will be established by the same unbiased, objective method as CAFE, tailored for the consumer.  The rated fuel efficiencies will be based on EPA data for the year, model, and driveline options of the cars registered to a particular household.  If the household average economy for all the cars registered there is less than the HAFE threshold, an extra registration fee (fine) will be assessed.

Unfair?  No.  Let’s look at some examples.  Say Cletus has only one vehicle, a 1984 Ford truck, averaging 11 mpg.  This will surely be less than the HAFE minimum, and he will pay the extra fee.  Is this unfair?  No.  This is Cletus’s only vehicle, so he does 100% of his driving with it.  Therefore he’s averaging 11 mpg for every mile he drives. 

(em pee gee’s?)

Now let’s look at Alex, who has three vehicles, a 1992 Mitsubishi 3000 GT, a 2005 Kia Spectra 5, and a 2006 Toyota Prius (Manuel chuckles).  These vehicles have combined EPA mileage estimates of 18, 25, and 46 mpg, respectively.  This makes his household vehicle mileage average 29.7 mpg.  This is less than the 30.2 CAFE minimum for 2011 passenger cars.  But unlike Cletus, Alex’s average mileage is variable depending which vehicle he drives more.  So for simplicity’s sake, the state could stick to a mile-independent rating (29.7 mpg for Alex) and just assess the HAFE registration fee based on the aggregate average, but they could take it a step further.

(Apparently this is “a step further” according to the internet. Nazi cyborg housewife?)

Knowing Alex is not driving all three vehicles at once (or say you have two drivers and two cars but one driver stays home with the kids), annual vehicle registration could also require an odometer declaration.  This would be used to calculate the actual HAFE for miles driven in combination with the EPA combined mileage rating of the vehicle.  This would reward those who drive their fuel-efficient vehicles more (the 3000 GT after all has not run on five months).  Like Alex, people in this example would have overall better/higher mileage but may have a lower-mpg specialty vehicle (farm truck, sports car, classic car, etc.).  The odometer declaration would be checked as a part of the bi-annual emissions check, or random audit.


(The Future!)

This is the future.  I’m sure of it.

 – Guest Editor Jeff

Categories: Cars, Random