Archive for April, 2010

…and then pauses

April 29, 2010 7 comments

The install day started off great. We got done with the break down of all the stock parts and were flying through the steps of the install. Stock manifold off, O2 sensor jammed (see below), stock air box/intake removed, new injectors installed, fuel rail reinstalled. We had to rotate the alternator back a little to get the header off, but that was no real trouble.

We were basically flying through everything with no problems until we got to the part where we were about to put in the turbo manifold, turbo, wastegate, and downpipe. We noticed a couple of little things and decided to take a closer look.


  • The primary O2 sensor was apparently put in by God himself as we weren’t able to get it out. I put some elbow and “breaker bar powa“(tm) into it and we then found out that I can break brand new O2 sockets. See the hairline fracture below on the near side.
(See that crack right up the spine? Yea, that was a brand new socket I destroyed)
  • Turns out that hot side of the turbo housing (exhaust side) had a broken bolt in it and one bolt halfway in. When we went to take the halfway-in bolt off the housing we found out that it was broken as well and really just held in the hole by a thread or two…great.

(Hard to see, but the leftmost two bolts are broken off in the housing)
  • We tried to extract the two bolts, but weren’t able. Took the turbo to the shop to have them try, but they weren’t able to either. Being that it’s the weekend all the shops we might need were already closed we made the decision to go back to stock.

Next steps:

The car is back to “stock” as it is right now. We put the stock plugs back in, stock manifold (with O2 sensor), we left in the bigger injectors because we weren’t comfortable clipping more wire. We’re going to try and run the car and see if the stock ECU will be able to handle it without choking out.
I’m stuck waiting for the oil pan’s RTV to cure so that I can put in new oil and hope those 630’s let me run.
  • Refill oil and test fire with the bigger injectors
  • bring the turbo to a shop capable of helping us with the broken bolts
  • buy new exhaust housing if old bolts can’t be removed
  • try the install again

If this had been a virgin kit, we would’ve been done by around 5pm. Oh well, c’est la vie. We’ll keep working at it until the Mediocre tC is up and boosting. 

– Unfortunately, Steve is the only thing moving hot air right now

Categories: Uncategorized

And so it begins…

April 26, 2010 4 comments

The Mediocre Motoring Scion tC, a proud member of the Balliztik PNW crew, has finally started its transformation from “slow track star” to “slightly-less-slow track star“! After many long months of waiting for final parts to get in and money to be free, we’re finally ready to get started! 

I’ve whipped up a thread over at Scionlife with all the information you see here and some more updates. I’ll be trying to clean the posts up and have them up here on Mediocre in good order, but my job and this turbo project are certainly keeping me busy. Ok, enough chatter let’s get down to business!

(The car in race trim, pre-turbo.)

Wednesday April 21: Baseline Dyno session

Took the car out to Carb Connection in Kirkland, WA to get a baseline run and to get a feel for the place. They’re AEM certified and have a pretty good rep so I’ll be working with them to get the car tuned for the first time.

The car put down numbers in line with almost every other stock 5spd tC out there and was very consistent over the three runs we did when at operating temps.

HP: 134 TQ: 143

(Sorry for the blurry picture, I don’t have access to a scanner yet)

(The #39 MM tC about to be baselined)

Right now the injectors are being cleaned and flow matched at Carb Connection and will be picked up later this afternoon if all goes well.

Next steps:

  1. Install kit: Saturday April 24th – Sunday 25th   (Stay tuned for the write up on Mediocre!)
  2. Tune car: Tuesday April 27th – Wednesday April 28th
  3. Track testing / Shakedowns: May 4th (tentative)

As you can see, we’re obviously a little further through the schedule than this post would show. We’ve been busy working on the kit and the car as well as hitting some local shops to get some parts and repairs. Stick around for more information as I get it/write it up.

– Steve is tired, but tentatively excited

Categories: Cars, Steve

It LIVES…mostly

April 23, 2010 3 comments

As Alex has been completely busy with getting his car back together, I’ve taken the liberty of transforming his e-mail updates over the past few days into a running log of an MM post. Enjoy the progress that he’s made and the amusing pictures I’ve put in for him.

– Steve 


Finally! After six months of tinkering, I got to the point where I was comfortable starting the VR-4 tonight. As always, though, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I fixed the coolant leak and still don’t have any new fluids on the floor. Also some really great news is that the car actually does run! I removed the ECI fuse and cranked it for 15 seconds with 90 second breaks. Three cycles and I started to get oil pressure. The car started right up after I put the fuse back in. 

Now here’s the bad news: first, I may have an exhaust leak at the front exhaust header. There was quite a bit of smoke coming from under the heat shield there and I don’t know if it’s just fluids burning off or an actual exhaust leak. I won’t know for sure until I run it for a while.

 And here is the really bad news and the reason I’m not ecstatic: I have a new really bad sound. It’s definitely not the same thing as before. From what I’ve heard on videos, it sounds like a spun bearing. If so, I must have screwed something up when I was replacing the rod bearings on the new piston. I inspected the bearings on piston #6, but didn’t replace any others.

I took video of the initial startup and it got a good capture of the sound, but I’m so tired and frustrated right now that I’ll post it later on. Back to the drawing board, I guess.


It’s ALIVE!!!!!! After the second video, I did an oil change with the Red Line break-in additive and the tick is virtually gone now. Everything ran perfectly when I test drove it out on the road. YEA, BITCHES!

(I’m not sure if this is “The Tick” that he was referring too, but I couldn’t resist. -Steve)

Just three things to follow-up on now:

1) I have a minor-to-moderate oil leak. It doesn’t leak when the car is off, but it does when running. It’s coming down off the bottom of the A/C compressor, so it’s not the drain plug, filter, or oil pan. It’s got to be above that. I’m thinking a part of the front valve cover that I can’t see from the front – it’s the only place I can think of that has oil in it above the compressor. I’ll probably just pop that off and re-RTV it. Maybe I’ll put the RTV all the way around the cover instead of just on the ends like the service manual says.

2) You guys are going to love this. While out driving on the road, I give it some RPMs and I hear a pop. I thought I blew an air pipe off, maybe on the new blow-off valve or something. So I pull over, open up the hood… nothing. All the air pipes are good, so now I’m confused. I give it some RPM by open the throttle body, and I can’t reproduce any sounds. Meh, so I go drive some more and I notice that the exhaust is louder. Light bulb. I pull over again and look under the car. The wrap that I put around the test pipe’s bung hole popped right off. It’s almost completely gone. Hah! No big deal, I’ll just screw in one of the old spark plugs like the guy who sold the pipe to me told me to do. Or I can just use the hole for an O2 sensor going into an air/fuel ratio gauge like it’s made for.

3) Steve, you’re going to love this even more: I think I still have the hot start issue! If you guys don’t know, this whole thing started because I was swapping the spark plugs and cleaning the injectors in order to fix that issue. Nice.

(At least we did all this work for something, right guys? …guys?)

-Alex “Dr. Frankenstein” Gregorio

Categories: Alex, Cars

Why a factory service manual is awesome

April 19, 2010 5 comments

$300 bucks for two books might make you feel like you’re still in college and paying for ridiculously overpriced books you’ll only use once, but it is my very firm belief that a good factory service manual is one of the best tools you can ever buy for your collection.

In the rebuild of Alex’s 3000gt we’ve used a lot of reference material and as many DIYs as we could. He has a printed (and .pdf’d) copy of his service manual and we would constantly be putting grubby little finger prints on pages as we moved about the engine rebuild.

As Alex’s car is almost needlessly complex (at least in my opinion) we would’ve been about 736% screwed if we hadn’t had the service manual to go with for some of the more intricate parts. Now, having said that, I do need to point out that Alex’s service manual is all inclusive of about 3 or 4 different Mistu cars (no, I’m not kidding) and they are all intermingled through out the document in a confusing and frustrating amalgam of suck.

(Super useful…once you finally find the pages you need)

Blessed be the Scion service manual. I paid too much for them, but if I had to do it again, I’d pay even more. The books are broken out into two different parts (Important stuff for car working / semi-important stuff, but not 100% necessary for operation of vehicle) and it’s very intuitive to move between the two books. Each book is about the same size as Alex’s one book that covers the 5 different cars, but this Scion service manual is just for one specific car. My car.

(My car, my year, mine, mine, mine.)

Regardless, when you have a service guide or DIY manual to work with it makes your job incredibly easier. It’s best to get something that you can trust so perhaps a factory service manual (typically big bucks) or one of those full color manuals (Chilton or something like that) that are much cheaper, but no less effective. Don’t forget to hit up the intertubes to try and find a forum for your make or model as often the people that frequent those places have hookups or at least can point you to a DIY or two.

– You may or may not believe this, but Steve CAN actually read

Categories: Cars, Steve

Ah, the waiting game

April 16, 2010 5 comments

Waiting sucks. Seriously, it’s pretty much my impression of the worst thing in the world. This of course includes torture, famine, pesitlence, and war, but happens to exclude Tuna Cassarole for reasons that I shall not divluge to you.

I’ve had my turbo kit sitting and waiting for its new home since the beginning of January. It was partially waiting for the oil pan to be shipped by the guy I bought it from, but it was also awaiting the purchase of gauges, an oil cooler, and some other supplementary items that I was accumulating over time. Now that the magical delivery man has brought me the afore mentioned items I’m pretty much ready to put the kit on…pretty much.

(Big box o’ gauges)

(Got an awesome deal on a brand new Mishimoto oil cooler setup)

As some of you know, I recently negotiated a screamin’ deal on a wonderful condo in the heart of the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle. While the house is perfect for 90% of what I need it does not come with any area for me to work on my car. Sure I have a wonderful covered parking spot in a secured garage, but not being able to work on my car puts a serious crimp on my passion.

(Crimped, named “Passion”…I wonder if she likes short white guys who talk too much about cars)

My current situation is that I need to rely on my good friends Alex and Jeff to get any major work done on the car. While they’re always willing to help and mostly willing to put up with me accidentaly dumping a copious amount of oil on their garage floor, both of them are married and both have small children which drastically impedes my ability to come over and steal them away from wife and child for the day.

Really, the problem is me and my patience more than anything. Both Alex and Jeff have been more than generous in their offerings to me and I will not ever be mad that they have real lives. The problem I run into is that my need to install things frequently outstrips their schedules -and quite often their patience for me – so I’m stuck with a huge pile of parts in my living room (and some in Alex’s garage) that just gather dust and give me bruises when I accidentally kick them on my way to the kitchen.

Waiting sucks. Have I said that yet?

– Steve feels like he’s in a limbo contest, but not the fun kind

Categories: Cars, Steve

Off Roading – Video Game Art

I belong to what is quite possibly the best gamer community on the internet, the Joystiq Podcast Appreciation Group, or JPAG. It’s a Facebook group of like minded people who share an enjoyment of gaming and the Joystiq Podcast. I mention this because recently a member of the JPAG, Justin Russo, made some minimalist style posters for a few video games. You can see them all here. We all loved them on the JPAG, and they were reblogged by Kotaku and a few other websites.

After enough hounding he eventually decided to try and do a print run of them, so he set up a page at, where he could set prices and once enough money had been gathered, he would be able to print them. He was halfway to his goal of a little over $4000 by the end of the first day, and thanks to a post on, he easily hit his goal by the end of the second day. As it stands now, he’s at a little over 10,000 dollars which, at about $25 a poster, is nothing to sneeze at. I’m going to talk about the two posters of the original three I purchased, and why I feel that they are so amazing.

First off, who played Bioshock that didn’t absolutely love it? It was a revolutionary game, in that it really tried to tackle some subjects that had never really been talked about before. The creators tried to have the story actually mean something, which is unfortunately still lacking in video games today. Most video game stories don’t try to go beyond the “whoa cool!” aspect, and while that works for plenty of games, Bioshock tried to go deeper. I’m not going to go into the story too much, that’s probably for another post, but it focused on the philosophy Ayn Rand kind of pioneered, objectivism. The writers treated their audience as adults, and trusted that they could understand these concepts. It really is a mature game, in that it deals with a mature topic that really requires some thought to be put into it. This combined with the amazing world of Rapture, an environment that just felt so real and different from anything that had come before it, made it a truly special game.

This print works for me on two levels. The first is that a game that was filled with so much detail and so much personality is boiled down to a few specific shapes and lines yet is still instantly recognizable is amazing to me. If you played Bioshock, you would instantly recognize the Big Daddy, which is probably one of the first things that everyone thinks of when they play Bioshock. It’s an incredible talent that Justin has shown with all of these posters, being able to take complex models and breaking them down into something simple, yet easily recognizable.

The second level is the quote. “We all make our choices, but in the end our choices make us.” is such a perfect line to sum up what the game is trying to say. I can’t really go into it too much without spoiling the story, but trust me, it works. One of the great things the game does is not only comment on the philosophy of objectivism, but also makes you reflect on video games as a whole. What are my goals and why am I doing these things? There’s also a few choices in the game, and especially in Bioshock 2, that really do determine what happens to you and everyone else in the end. The quote along with the artwork really just make this piece all around great.

Anyone who’s played video games at all will probably realize that this is Mario. Mario started out in the 8 bit era, so it’s very easy to make a recognizable minimalist image of him. He’s incredibly important in the history of video games, Super Mario Brothers on the NES is one of the first video games most people of my generation played, and he’s had a major top selling game in almost every generation of consoles and handhelds, and he was one of the first video game characters that became well known outside of the gaming culture.

But what makes this poster special is the quote Justin chose for it. He stated in an interview with the blog that he had a hard time coming up with a quote for Mario, as he doesn’t really talk much in any of his games. He eventually settled on “Here we go…..” as it’s a pretty iconic thing Mario says, and seemed to fit the theme of the posters well. While he might not have intended for it to go much deeper, it really says something more to me about the very nature of Mario games, and video games in general. I apologize in advance if this post ends up sounding a little like a pretentious art critic.

Anyone who played Mario 64 for the N64 will recognize the quote. It’s what Mario says whenever he starts a new level. The quote it’s self isn’t that deep or meaningful, it’s that he ended it with ellipses rather than just a single period. This fits very well with the theme of his other posters, which while not downright depressing, all have a bit of a negative spin on them. The Nathan Drake one is about all the bad shit that just seems to happen to him, the Bioshock quote is kind of a downer in conjunction with some of the story elements, and the Solid Snake one isn’t super uplifting either. So to take a quote from a character that is usually super positive and with a slight change make it sound somewhat negative is a very interesting choice, and seems to me like it speaks to the futility of Mario games.

Lets face it, all core Mario games are pretty much about the same thing. Bowser kidnapped Princess Peach, and Mario has to go save her. It’s been like this through what, at least seven games? The guy has to be getting tired of doing the same thing over and over. It’s got to be tough to get motivated to save someone knowing they are only going to have to be saved again in a few years. It seems like he’s saying, “Why bother saving her if it’s just going to happen again?”

This is a problem that doesn’t just effect Mario games either. Mass Effect 2 came out this past January to much critical acclaim, and while I loved the game there was this nagging problem. In the first game, Shepard was right about the problem, the people in charge didn’t believe him, so he had to save the day himself. So how come now they don’t believe him again? Again he had to put together a team and go save the day himself. He’ll probably have to do the same thing in the third game. It all feels a bit futile in the end. And this problem isn’t just found in video games, it effects other mediums too, like television. Take for example the show 24. How many times can you save the entire country in 24 hours before it just becomes routine? How many times can you stop these plots before just saying “Well, I seem to be the only one who really cares about this stuff so fuck it, I’m done.”?

Any poster that can make me think this hard about some of the things I enjoy most is a genius piece of art, and deserves to be framed and hung on the wall of my home. If anyone else feels the same way, you can buy either of these or one a Nathan Drake of Uncharted 1 or 2 here. And you should, because if he sells enough, he can make the next round of posters and I can get the sweet Assassins Creed 2 poster.

– Dr. Floppy PhD

Categories: Off-Roading, Wetzel


April 12, 2010 17 comments

So it seems like my post ages ago about women and racing has been a long standing hit on this site. The majority of the unique searches on the site have to do with “girls” and “cars” and only one or two were too raunchy to count as legitimate. Pretty much every new day that I look at the search logs I see something to do with “tuning” and “women.”

(Image search “tuning” and you get tons of interesting results)

In one of the recent-ish issues of Super Street, one of the editors spoke quickly in a side panel about the lack of women tuning cars nowadays and it struck me as funny that many people are talking about a very similar subject. What’s going on here? Have the ladies found something more interesting to do? Something more lucrative perhaps? (Actually, I’m 100% sure go-go dancing and “modelling” pays better than standing next to your car waiting for it to be judged…)

I don’t know when this trend really kicked in, but I don’t really like it. I like women and I like cars. Joining those two worlds seems like a great success, but it’s just not really happening as much as I want it to, and certainly not in the WAY that I think it should. There are obviously women involved in the tuning scene, but it’s strange to me that the vast majority of women I see at this type of event are coverd in $45 worth of make up and wearing less material on their entire body than makes up just one of my socks. Not that I don’t love staring at hot chicks with a small amount of clothing and loose morals, it’d be kind of nice to not have to feel awkward when I’m trying to have a conversation with them.

(Seriously, the only thing I searched for was “tuning”…)

Considering I’m always happy to talk about women and cars, I guess I’m curious to see if any of the female readers we have might have any idea why the population is so swayed. Is it just not fashionable for women to think of cars as anything other than utensils? Is it a societal issue? Little girls play with girl toys, little boys play with boy toys type of thing? I’m not sure, you tell me.

– When Steve talks about wrenching, women’s faces go blank…also when he asks for phone numbers

Categories: Cars, Steve