“Wow! Wow! Wow!” That was me during my 15 minute blast around Duvall after finishing up my two-week project to replace my motor mounts and other maintenance items. Three of the four polyurethane motor mounts are in – the really nasty rear roll stopper remains – and I was able to fix (hopefully) the leaking breather plug on the transfer case, fix the exhaust leak behind the downpipe (I just used two gaskets), fix the suspension creaking by lubricating both ends of the rear adjustable control arms, and installing a new timing belt. A pretty productive stint of downtime!
One of the choices that came up in an image search for “wow.” My wife and I love this guy, so it seemed appropriate.
I rarely do an upgrade that is a night-and-day difference, but even with just the three mounts installed, I can easily say this is one of them. Shifts are way crisper, accelerator shock at stomp and let up is minimal, and the drivetrain just feels much more planted. I didn’t even see the motor move when I had the car idling in the garage for five minutes and gave it revs from the engine bay. Previously I was able to see it torque in there. And as an added bonus, the additional vibration is really not that noticeable [anymore]. It was when I had just the passenger side mount in, but either I’ve gotten used to it or the engine is more balanced on multiple poly mounts instead of just one… maybe both.
The dreaded rear roll stopper.
Oh, and also, here’s what became of the solution (a piece of wood-like material with a clamp) I put in place to attempt to fix the exhaust rattling… which I did hear once during my drive, but only once. Previously it was all the god damn time. I had to remove the downpipe to get the front roll stopper out and I think it’s settled into a better place now. The downpipe was much easier to install than before and the exhaust mounts aren’t stretched anymore. Either way, I do still hear that rattle every now and again so I’ll need to have another go at fixing it.
What’s left of a hack to fix the exhaust rattle. It didn’t work.
– Alex “It’s a never ending battle” Gregorio
For this post, I thought I would take a break from high performance upgrades, racing strategies, or discussions about why owning an older car can be challenging. Instead, I want to focus on a topic that has bothered me since before I picked up my drivers license: tailgating. I don’t like it. And I’m not going to pussyfoot around this one… I dont’ like people who defend themselves for tailgating. If you’re one of those people – and let’s be honest, there’s a 50% chance you are – listen up. Here are three great reasons why you should stop arguing with me and stop tailgating.
Reason #1: risk to other drivers and yourself
The absolute most important reason for not tailgating is that it greatly increases the chance of a wreck. (You’ll notice that I didn’t call it an “accident” because it wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t tailgating!) As a human in a machine, there is a reaction time between the moment your eyes see something, your brain interprets that data and makes a decision on how to react, your muscles actually doing something, and the car responding to your commands. We’ll call that amount of time X. There is another amount of time that we’ll call Y. It’s the time it will take for your car to catch up to the car in front of you. Normally, Y is constantly changing because you and the driver in front of you are varying speeds. But in a rear-end collision, that time is very finite and very short. If time X is greater than time Y, you will hit the car in front of you. Among other factors such as road conditions and the health of your car, the distance that you follow will play a huge role in the length of time Y. If you’re tailgating, time Y can be extremely short.
But enough of the technical, let’s just look at the facts. If you rear end a car in front of you, you will be blamed for the wreck. You might get a ticket and your insurance premium is likely to increase. Your insurance company may even drop you. Your car will likely be damaged, the other driver’s car will likely be damaged, and you will be responsible for fixing both. You might injure the the other driver, their passengers, your passengers, and yourself. If there are any medical bills associated with the wreck, you will be held liable. If the wreck is bad enough, you could cause serious injury to another person who can then take you to court for the time they lost at work, pain and suffering, and future medical bills. And let’s not mention that you could flat-out kill someone.
Risk. C’mon, I had to go there.
Reason #2: it doesn’t help
I haven’t done any real research on this, but I believe people who tailgate feel that it will get them to their destination faster and/or it makes slower drivers get out of their way. For the most part, these are common misconceptions. Most of the time, it is red lights and congestion that will hold you up. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a very aggressive drive tailgate and dart in and out of traffic to get ahead. Sure, they’ll seem like they’re getting further up the highway than me, but we both take the same exit and we both get stuck at the same red light. I’ve even seen them sitting at the red light and it turns green just as I’m approaching. So really, all they gained was a bit of “hurry up and wait.”
As for making slower drivers move, that’s just silly. Yes, slower drivers are supposed to keep to the right, but the fact of the matter in the Greater Seattle area is that most lanes on the highways are filled up most of the time. Tailgating the guy in front of you when you’re both stuck behind a thousand other people in a 1/2 mile stretch of highway is not going to make them move. You really gain nothing by riding his ass.
It doesn’t help… get it?
Reason #3: it pisses people off
I can already see the reaction to this from the people who defend tailgating, “Why should I care if I piss off the other drivers?” Well, for starters there is a thing called common courtesy and not being a total cock to your fellow man (I think that last one was taken verbatim from the bible). But more importantly than that, pissing off other drivers can cause them to be aggressive to you and other drivers. It’s a vicious cycle, really. You’re a cock, so you tailgate and piss someone off. They, in turn, cut off someone else. The person who gets cut off turns out to be an up-and-coming murderer who decides that getting cut off is the last straw. They get to the office and unload an AK-47 into their colleagues. Well, congratulations, Mr. Tailgater, you just caused a mass homocide. Feel better about yourself?
Exaggerations aside, you really could get into it with someone over something as trivial as commuting to work. For example, my wife and I were in a crowded parking lot hunting for a spot when a lady swooped in and stole a spot we were waiting for. I murmured something about her being a bitch and kept on moving when my wife reached over and honked the horn. A few minutes later we found a spot and the lady who stole the first one walked past and said with a bitchy attitude, “See? You found a better one!” Well, what if said she-bitch was a 300 lb. linebacker with a short temper whose wife just left him. Now your face is going to pay the price for that honk. Same thing could happen by tailgating.
You don’t want to piss this guy off, but he could be the one you’re tailgating.
So please do everyone a favor and back the fuck off. You’re putting yourself and others at risk for absolutely no reason besides making yourself feel better. But guess what? Do it to the wrong person and you could come home with a boot in your ass all because you thought (incorrectly) that it would get you to your destination faster. Way to go, captain, maybe you can use that boot from your ass to remove the dent in your car that the 300 lb. linebacker made.
~ Alex “No, I’m not at all bitter about this topic” Gregorio
You’d think I was a god damn psychic… or just really, really unlucky. I recently made a post about the differences I’ve observed from owning a nearly-20-year-old car and a brand new one. Not even a week later, the age of the VR-4 hit me right as I was settling into everything being stable.
I have my psychic moments, just like Miss Cleo. When this moment came around, my face looked about the same, minus the skin tone… and fake accent.
Not long ago, I decided to get a set of cheaper used tires to put on my OEM wheels for winter use. I wanted something pretty good on wet roads and snow, but I didn’t want to spend too much money. I ended up buying a set of Kumho Ecsta ASX tires with 7/32″ tread (about 60% life) left. At only 200 bucks, I was pretty happy with the purchase. Anything would be better than the Hercules brand tires I had on there, especially considering they only had 3/32″ tread left. I brought the tires to my man Byron at Tru-Line in Bellevue to be mounted. Everything seemed to go well and the tires were already feeling tons better than the ones the previous owner put on the car. But just as I was letting my guard down on the whole tire situation, tragedy struck.
Kumho Ecsta ASX ultra high performance all-season tires are now installed on the VR-4. Not the best, but they’ll do for my cheap winter wheels.
I was going to take a drive with my son, so I got him all loaded up. That’s more difficult than it sounds – you try putting a car seat into the back of an early ’90s 2-by-2 sports car with no LATCH system or automatically locking seat belts. By the time we were all saddled up, I had broken a sweat from struggling with the car seat and toating around my impatient son and his stuff. Finally, though, we were off. Or… maybe not. Five feet out of my garage, I got out of the car because something didn’t feel right. That’s when I noticed this.
Flat tire. Waah waah. (That sound is harder to portray with text than I thought it would be.)
One of the new tires was totally flat. Byron had warned me that he wasn’t sure if the bead on one of the wheels would hold, but I was really hoping it was something simple like a nail in the tire. The next day I took it back to Tru-Line and Byron confirmed that it was, indeed, the bead. He smoothed it out some more, but the amount of corrosion there was causing a problem he felt likely couldn’t be fixed. And he’s right. After three days, that tire lost 8 pounds of pressure.
So now, instead of actually enjoying my car, I’m stuck trying to fix yet another age-related problem. This is a $100 that I really did not anticipate having to spend. Sometimes I hate it when I’m right. Anyone want to trade an RX-8 for a 3000GT VR-4?
~ Alex “at least Redhook Eisbock 28 makes me happy” Gregorio
As you should know by now, I work on and drive a car that’s fairly close to my own age. Being a 1992 model year car, it’s staring to get a bit long in the teeth. It’s still a rocket of a car and I love the hell out of it, but there are definitely pros and cons with owning a car this old compared to a newer one like Steve’s 2008 Scion tC or the 2005 Mazda RX-8 that I used to have.
Mazda RX-8: I still miss this car… a lot. One day I’ll buy another one and turbo the hell out of it.
There are several major factors to consider if you’re in the market for an older used car:
Previous owner(s). When a car gets this old it’s rare to find single-owner instances of them. My particular 3000GT VR-4 was owned by two others previously and, although I feel that both of them took pretty good care of the car, it’s still a complete mystery what really took place under their ownership. Did they regularly change the oil and filter? Did they live in an area that salts the roads every winter, causing significant rust and corrosion to the car’s underbelly? Did they drive it like madmen every chance they got? You never really know for sure unless there are detailed records, and even then you’ll never have a record of how the car was driven.
Sheer age. Although my VR-4 only has 110,000 miles on it, there are still lots of problems that had less to do with the previous owners and more to do with the natural aging of the materials in the car. For example, I recenly blew a rubber clutch line while on the highway. It just cracked, causing all the fluid to spill out and I lost the ability to shift gears. While it’s a perfectly valid argument that the previous owners should have caught this since recommended maintenance plans include both mileage and age, you will still hit problems like these far less in a newer car. Plus – and this goes back to the previous point – you can only know for sure if something is done right if you do it yourself. So the more scheduled maintenance that happens under your care, the better. Thus, buying a car earlier in its lifetime is generally preferable.
This lady may have owned your car before you. How do you think she did when she tried topping off the oil?
Price: Of course, a big part of the reason for my purchase of an older car was the price. I spent less than 7 grand on it, and this is a car that was over $35,000 brand new in 1992. Whereas, with the RX-8, I was the original owner and spend over 30 grand on it to have the privilege of rolling it off the lot with 3 miles on the odometer. In fact, the only reason I had to get rid of that beauty was that it was costing me too much between monthly payments, insurance, and gas expenses. If you’re in the market for a car to get your blood flowing, obviously price is going to be a big factor. But you also need to consider what you plan on doing with it. I was afraid to modify the RX-8 because I didn’t want to void my warranty or do anything harmful to it. After spending so much money, can you blame me? It’s only crazy bitches like Steve who prefer to play with that kind of fire. On the other hand, I look forward to a long line of performance upgrades to the VR-4. If I blow it up I’m only out four digits worth of money – a much easier pill to swallow. Plus, what warranty? I don’t have that burden to worry about, either.
Maintenance: Besides planning upgrades you also need to consider how much regular maintenance and just plain old “fixing shit” you want to be doing. Look at Steve’s work vs. mine. In the year that I’ve owned the VR-4, I’ve had to fix a couple of broken panels in the interior, replace the shifter and e-brake boots, replace the shitty stereo the previous owners installed, cut out the very poorly-installed aftermarket alarm system, replace multiple lamps, rebuild the brake calipers, replace the entire exhaust (out of necessity, not for performance gains), replace several broken or stripped bolts throughout the car, replace all the fluids (because who knows what was in there before or how old it was), and replace a clutch line along with the slave cylinder. I have yet to replace the motor mounts (the stock ones are shot), replace the brake lines from fear of losing those like I did the clutch line, and replace a couple of the gauge clusters in the interior because their internal bulbs have burned out. And let’s not forget that I still want to replace the poor condition factory wheels and fix several dings in the paint. These are not things that I want to do… they’re things I have to do. Steve, on the other hand, has done virtually all performance upgrades. With his car being so new, he doesn’t have to deal with the effects of previous owners or age.
A momento to Steve and my boneheaded play of dropping a washer into the exposed intake manifold of the VR-4 last year. The real problem wasn’t previous owners or age… it was us.
If I end up destroying the VR-4 worse than Steve and I did last year with the washer-in-the-engine debacle, I’ll probably shoot for a middle ground of age vs. price. Perhaps a car 5 years old or so. Assuming the previous owner(s) are a respectable bunch, that should net a good balance of low maintenance overhead vs. not spending so much money on purchasing the car.
– Alex “Uh, did you hear something drop?” Gregorio
I had quite the scare today. On my way onto the highway to head down to Olympia, I noticed my oil pressure gauge was reading zero. I don’t have to say how bad no oil flow is for an engine, especially a turbocharged one that has turbos lubricated by motor oil. So you can imagine my surprise when I noticed the gauge.
(I imagine I looked something like this after noticing my oil pressure gauge reading zero)
I pulled off the next exit and into a gas station. Oil level was good. No leaks. I could even see oil being splashed around on the camshafts when looking in through the oil filler. After a call to Mediocre Motoring friend, Jeff, I was 75% sure it was just a gauge problem. But that’s 25% less sure than I need to be comfortable enough to drive 150 miles in one day. So I short shifted my way home in silence to keep an ear out for any abnormal sounds. Nope, everything seemed fine.
So I call the guy whom I was heading down to Olympia to see – who also happens to be an expert on the 3000GT/Stealth platform – and he told me that the wire connected to the oil gauge sender tends to fall off. I lifted the car and looked in the area… sure enough, it had come unplugged. I cleaned the grime off the plug (just a simple spade connector) and put it back on. Viola! Oil pressure on the gauge.
You could say that I feel like I dodged a bullet.
(Yea, I went there)
-Alex “topical humor” Gregorio
I know it’s been a great, long while since I’ve posted and it would probably be cool of me to post a novelette to get everyone caught up on where I’m at with the 3000GT. Well, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’ll summarize the last six months into one, succinct sentence: the rebuild took six months and sucked, especially chasing down that cam seal oil leak, but she runs like a champ now!
(I searched “champ” and this came up…seemed relevant)
That being said, the boys and I got together last weekend and installed a ball-and-spring type manual boost controller. After some research, I found that the stock fuel and oil delivery systems, cooling, and drivetrain can safely handle up to 14psi of boost. Note that the stock behavior of my turbos do peak to 14psi in 4th gear before settling down to about 9psi. I believe this is the ECU manipulating the boost solenoid to provide quicker spool-up times, but all that peak nonsense is gone now. With the MBC installed, the boost solenoid is eliminated from the picture. Now the car boosts right up to 14psi in 3rd and 4th gear and sustains it until the turbos become inefficient (around 6000rpm or so).
(inefficient in action)
With this increased boost – a 5psi or 21% increase – I’ve obviously added a significant amount of power, but figuring out exactly how much has been a challenge. Of course, a normal person would just take the car to a dyno to get a real world power calculation. We here at Mediocre Motoring, though, like to make things much more difficult than they need to be. No, instead, Jeff and I have been emailing back and forth about how this power increase is calculated. I’ll spare you the details, but Jeff thinks I’m around 300awhp and I think I’m closer to 285awhp. You decide: the stock motor with my basic intake and exhaust upgrades is probably putting out around 310hp at the crank. With a 25% drivetrain loss due to the AWD system, that puts it at about 233awhp. As I mentioned before, I’ve increased the boost from about 9psi to about 14psi.
(You thought I was kidding when I said we had been calculating…)
I’m about to drop some money onto a 15lb battery and a TEC front strut brace, so a real dyno test will need to wait. In the meantime, leave your prediction in the comments.
– Alex “Yes, I used golf tees to plug disabled vacuum lines” Gregorio
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.
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