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Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Megasquirt Ignition Control - a quick overview

One of the advantages of a do-it-yourself fuel injection setup is its flexability. Megasquirt users have found ways to make the ECU control an astonishing variety of ignition systems. If you are just starting a project, sorting through the information on spark control to decide what you need can be daunting. To make things easier, here is a guide to the more common ignition systems and which versions of Megasquirt can control what. The Megamanual (particularly the section on MS-II igntion) and the Megasquirt 'n' Spark home page have the complete information on how to set up your ignition. If you cannot find answers about your setup after checking the above documentation, ask on the official Megasquirt forum and the people there will be glad to assist you. This is just a general overview so you can determine what you will need.

Separate Spark Control Options

Stock distributor control

This is how Megasquirt was originally designed to run. Simply connect the tach signal wire (Pin 24) to the negative terminal of the coil. This will work with any main board, processor, and firmware.

Other ECU for spark, Megasquirt for fuel

In some cases, you may wish to let the stock computer control the timing. This is usually useful for cases where the stock timing control is quite complicated, such as engines with ion sensing ignitions or the Mazda Renesis. Or on other occasions, you may already have a different, tuneable ECU controlling the timing.. In this case, the Megasquirt simply needs a tach signal input from the computer. While any board and firmware can handle this, many of these applications are rather complex and demand MSnS-E.

Distributor Control

Original equipment distributors come in many varieties. The Megasquirt community has developed specific, plug and play solutions for some of the more common. Others call for a little bit of custom work, but in most cases this is still relatively straightforward. When piecing together a custom solution, the two factors you will need to consider are the sensor used to determine timing and the module you will use to fire the coil.

One thing that all distributor control methods have in common is that you need to disable any built-in advance mechanisms in the distributor if it has any. Sometimes this may call for partially disassembling the advance mechanism or brazing parts together. In other cases, a more elegant solution is to install a distributor from a later engine with computer controlled timing. For example, Chevy smallblocks have TPI-era distributors, while Chrysler fans can use the distributor from the much-maligned Lean Burn system. Megasquirt can also work with a crank trigger.

One other note if you are considering a distributor-based system. If you have an odd-fire engine like an early Buick V6 or a motorcycle with a V-twin, the only spark control option currently available is to use a crank triggered wheel decoder and the MSnS-E firmware. This is still in the experimental phase. If you are not sure if you have an odd-fire engine, the usual giveaway is that it will have unequally spaced terminals inside the distributor cap. You currently cannot use a distributor mounted trigger with an odd-fire engine.

Distributor Pickups

Virtually any distributor mounted pickup that generates one pulse for every cylinder each time the distributor makes a complete revolution can work with either MS-II or MSnS-E. The same is true for a crank trigger with half as many pulses as the number of cylinders.

For more information on distributor pickups, follow this link for MS-II or this one for MSnS-E.

Variable Reluctor (VR) Sensor

A VR sensor actually works as an AC dynamo. One sure tip-off that you have a VR sensor is that it will use a two-wire connection (A few have a third wire, but it is a ground for the housing). Spinning the distributor will generate an AC signal across these wires, with the voltage rising the faster it spins. This type of sensor turns up on '70s era Chrysler and General Motors electronic ignitions, among others.
The V3 main board can read the output of a VR sensor directly, so if you are buying a new board and want to use a VR sensor, the V3 is going to be your best choice. Using a VR sensor with a V2.2 board will require an additional circuit or device to convert it into a signal the board can read. A GM four-pin HEI module or the Bowling and Grippo EasyVR circuit will work here, although there are other possibilities.

Alternatively, you can use a seven pin GM HEI module for both the input and output (see below). Follow this link for more information on how to connect a VR sensor to a V2.2 board.

Hall Effect Sensors

A Hall Effect sensor detects the motion of moving magnets on a trigger wheel, or uses a single magnet hidden behind a moving metal shutter. Hall effect sensors turn up in the Ford TFI (see below), Chrysler K-cars, and many Japanese and European imports. Any main board can read one of these if you connect it with the appropriate input circuit. See this page for more details.

Optical Sensors

Optical sensors come in many varieties, but they usually all produce a simple square wave output that can serve as a trigger for either firmware option and any main board.

Breaker Points

Breaker points are a simple mechanical switch. There are also several aftermarket ignitions, like the Pertronix Ignitor, that behave just like points. Using one as a trigger for spark control does require a few minor wiring changes since these ground the coil to trigger it, but it is otherwise straightforward.

Crank Angle Sensors

Some systems use a distributor but control the timing with a crank angle sensor. This usually takes the form of a toothed wheel mounted on the crankshaft with a VR sensor pickup. Common wheels may have 36 teeth with one missing (a 36-1 wheel) or 60 teeth with two consecutive teeth removed (a 60-2 wheel). Currently, MSnS-E is the only firmware that can support this setup, and it allows for a wide variety of wheel designs. Here is more information on wheel decoders.

Nippondenso dual wheel trigger

Some Nippondenso ignitions use two sets of toothed wheels, one with a continuous set of teeth and the other to indicate camshaft position. MSnS-E has a specific option for this setup.

Ignition Modules and Systems

Megasquirt as an Ignition Module

The V3 main board has a built-in ignition circuit, also known as the high current driver. Either MSnS-E or the MS-II can control this, allowing the Megasquirt V3 to both read common distributor pickups and control the coil on its own.

The Microsquirt has two such circuits, allowing it to operate the ignition coils on a four cylinder bike directly with no external modules.

VB921 circuits

If you have a V2.2 and want to build your own ignition module, you can wire up an external circuit built around a VB921. This is a category of transistor called an IGBT, or in plain English, a big honkin' transistor that can control your ignition. You'll find a description of the circuit to build here, about halfway down the page. As with the V3 board's high current driver, this works with both MSnS-E and MS-II. These are also useful if you have a V3 board but want to drive several coils.

Bosch ignition modules

Bosch built a series of ignition modules with smart dwell control, used in many '80s era European cars. Wiring one directly to Megasquirt is very straightforward. This works with any main board and can use either MSnS-E firmware or MS-II. Ordinarily, these were paired with Hall effect sensors, but when controlled by Megasquirt the actual distributor pickup is irrelevant.

GM 7-pin HEI

Used in many fuel injected GM products, this module contains both a VR sensor driver and an output to the coil. It requires one extra input wire, but can work with any main board and either MSnS-E or MS-II. Here is a brief explanation of how to set up Megasquirt to work with a 7-pin HEI module.

Ford TFI

Ford's TFI system uses a Hall effect sensor and can be adapted to any Megasquirt board with minimal wiring changes. Both the MSnS-E and MS-II support Ford TFI. Here's the basics of using a TFI ignition with MSnS-E. The MS-II has its own instructions for use with TFI.

Aftermarket ignition modules

Boxes like an MSD-6 or Mallory HyFire can run off a simple tach signal from the Megasquirt. This works with both MSnS-E and MS-II, and you can use any main board version.

Distributorless ignition

If you don't have a distributor, or wish you didn't have one, Megasquirt offers several solutions. Most of the options currently available use what is called a wasted spark system, triggering coils in pairs. This eliminates the need for a cam sensor and can greatly simplify installation.


The Ford EDIS system used a separate control module with its timing controlled by a digital signal from the main computer. This makes it a popular choice for home-brewed distributorless ignition, since it handles much of the timing control needs with minimal input from Megasquirt. Putting EDIS on an engine that never used it is simply a matter of finding a way to put a 36-1 wheel (see Wheel Decoders, above) onto your crankshaft and mount a VR sensor that can read it. EDIS works with 4, 6, or 8 cylinders. You can use either the V2.2 or V3 main board for this. Both MSnS-E and MS-II can control this. Here's what you will need for this option. The MS-II page provides a very in-depth explanation of how EDIS works.


General Motors's distributorless ignition works in much the same way as EDIS, except that it has a different trigger wheel assembly. You can control it with either MSnS-E or MS-II. Here is more information on how to interface it with MSnS-E and MS-II. Some Buicks used a different DIS setup called C3I, which is presently only supported by MSnS-E.

Neon / Eclipse Wheel Decoders

MSnS-E has a special mode written especially to operate the distributorless ignition on many Chrysler and Mitsubishi four cylinder models. This is not available with MS-II.

General Purpose Wheel Decoders

MSnS-E has a wheel decoding program that can control coils directly, using a single crank-mounted wheel with one or more missing teeth and a VR sensor for the input trigger. Most installations control the coils with VB921 circuits, although Bosch modules are also a viable option. This can be a bit of work with the electronics, but allows for building custom distributorless ignitions. The wheel decoder can control up to six coil packs, allowing for as many as twelve cylinders. Here's what you need for a wheel decoder.

The production Microsquirt will have two coil drivers built-in, allowing it to opperate a wasted spark ignition on a four cylinder engine directly with no mods and no external circuits.

Bleeding Edge Ignition Solutions

The gurus behind the firmware are constantly working to develop support for new devices. The MS-II team is working to develop a router board that will allow direct coil-on-plug control as well as a general wheel decoder to allow waste spark ignition on MS-II controlled engines. Meanwhile, the MSnS-E developers have released code that can control six coils for coil-on-plug applications and even the double distributor setup found on some Lexus V8s. There are more options that are still having their bugs ironed out, so if you want to try this, take a look at the Megasquirt Forum.

Here's a chart to recap which options work with which firmware and main boards.

Complete Systems

GM 7-pin HEIYesYesYesYesYes
GM DISYesYesYesYesYes
Buick C3IYesYesNoYesNo
Ford TFIYesYesYesYesYes
Ford EDISYesYesYesYesYes
Neon / EclipseYesYesNoYesNo


VR sensorNo*YesYesYesYes
Hall effect sensorYesYesYesYesYes
Optical PickupYesYesYesYesYes
Breaker PointsYesYesYesYesYes
Missing tooth wheel (VR)No*YesYesYesYes
Nippondenso dual wheelYes**Yes**YesYesNo***

*Can be used with an external VR sensor input conditioner.
**Dual wheel setups often require an additional VR sensor conditioner even with the V3 board.
*** Currently in beta testing.

Built-in ignition moduleNoYesYesYesYes
External VB921 circuitYesYesNoYesYes
Bosch moduleYesYesYesYesYes
MSD or similar aftermarket deviceYesYesYesYesYes
No. of coils*--261

* Maximum number of coils or coil packs that can be controlled directly by ECU without any external timing controls such as EDIS or the upcoming GPIO Board.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Fight the Power (Tool Ripoffs)

So, my effort to find a substitute for Black & Decker's $35 battery for a $35 drill has become serious (or obsessive, take your pick). It's a 9.6V pack, so that means eight batteries. (Sure enough, there are eight NiCad Stub-C cells inside.) So I went to Radio Shack and bought a holder for eight AA batteries, which cost $2. Then I went to K-Mart and bought eight nickle - metal hydride Energizer batteries for $22. Don't laugh at running a cordless drill on double-A's; the ones I have are rated for 2500 amp hours, better than the NiCads I found inside the battery pack. I've now gutted a Firestorm battery pack and will see what happens when I wire up the new batteries... once the glue that's holding the top onto the battery pack dries tomorrow.

In other news, I'm working on a big list of Megasquirt ignition options. Stay tuned, I'll be posting it soon.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Fuel lines through crossmember

The original steel fuel line runs through a hole drilled in the Dart's front crossmember. I tried to copy that with aluminum lines - big mistake. There were two problems with that: One, my 9.6V Black & Decker Firestorm drill's batteries are almost completely shot and so is its chuch, and two, aluminum fuel line gets so scratched up if you run it through imprecise holes in a steel crossmember that I'm afraid it might be damaged. So I'm going to try instead to run short lengths of steel line through the crossmember and connect it to aluminum lines for the rest of the fuel line.

I also went out and got a more serious drill - a Makita, and it's not a cordless. Ironically, it's one of the few drills you can get that are put together in the USA. Lowe's wanted as much for a single new battery pack for the Firestorm as for a new drill. I'm going to see if I can modify the Firestorm to use off the shelf NiCads - battery packs shouldn't cost as much as the whole tool with batteries. Stay tuned to see if I can pull this off.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Introduction to Megasquirt

Here's something I wrote for all the people who show up on the Megasquirt Message Board and want to know what version or kit they need to buy.

Megasquirt's versatility can sometimes seem intimidating to a beginner. If you're confused by which version to order or what you need, you're not alone. Here is a brief explanation of the many Megasquirt versions, along with other devices you may wish to order to make installation easier. The MegaManual provides more details about each version, along with directions for how to install and tune the Megasquirt. This manual is essential to completing an installation, but hopefully this little essay will help you get an idea of where to begin.

The Megasquirt unit itself can be considered in three key parts: The processor, the main board, and the firmware. The processor is essentially a self-contained computer, with its own memory as well as the ability to run software. The main board connects the processor to the outside world and contains circuits to handle both input (such as sensor readings) and output (such as when to fire the injectors). The firmware is like software, except that it is stored in the processor itself rather than on a disk.

Main Boards

Currently, there are two main boards available, V2.2 and V3. There is a third board scheduled for release in a few months known as Microsquirt.

V2.2 is a basic, low-cost board. It has all the basic sensor inputs and outputs needed to control fuel injection, plus spots where you can solder on additional inputs and outputs for features like spark control or electric cooling fans. If you are not interested in spark control, it will work just fine on its own. However, there are some inputs and outputs found on some cars that require either external devices or internal upgrades, particularly if you want spark control. For example, many distributors use a magnetic pickup called a VR sensor. If you want to control spark directly, you will need an external circuit to convert the output from a VR sensor into one the main board can handle. Another limitation is that this board is not designed to work with more than four of the low impedance injectors found in some newer cars and many aftermarket applications. Running too many of these injectors produces sharp voltage spikes that require either external resistors or adding a daughter card called a flyback board. (For more details on this, see the section on injectors and fuel systems in the MegaManual.)

V3 is the most advanced main board currently available for Megasquirt. Many of its improvements focus on reliability and ease of assembly. Heavy-duty components and extra cooling features mean that it can handle low impedance injectors without any upgrades. It also has several upgrades for ignition control. The main board can read VR sensors directly, and there is even a built-in ignition module so you can operate a coil directly from the Megasquirt. If you want to use Megasquirt to control a distributor-based ignition, this is often the best choice.

Microsquirt is a miniature, watertight version of Megasquirt. It resembles a V3 board in its features, only without provisions for large numbers of low impedance injectors. It also differs in having two independantly controlled ignition modules instead of one. The board is very small and sealed, making changes difficult. The Microsquirt comes fully assembled with a MS-II processor and uses an AMPSeal connector, while other versions use DB-37 connectors.

The bottom line: V3 is often the better choice if you want ignition control. In many cases, the extra built-in features can save more money than the extra purchase price will set you back. The V2.2 board can save you money in some cases when you do not need the advanced features of the V3 board, particularly if you want to run fuel only. Take a good look at the V3 page and think about what you plan to use; many common builds can use the upgrades. The Microsquirt is a specialized miniature version intended for such things as ATV's, motorcycles, and outboard motors where space is at a premium and you may not be able to protect the ECU from water.

Processors and Firmware

There are also two processors available, and each one can work with any full-sized Megasquirt main board. The standard unit is a Motorola 68HC908. You can upgrade this to the MS-II daughter card, which includes a faster HCS12-series processor, a built-in control for a stepper motor fast idle valve, and a network controller for future upgrades. The Microsquirt comes with an MS-II processor and cannot use the 68HC908.

If you are using an MS-II processor, there is currently one choice for firmware. The standard MS-II firmware controls both fuel and some of the simpler spark options. The spark control will work with most distributors, as well as the Ford EDIS and GM DIS coil pack systems. Installing one of these coil packs on an engine that never used one is relatively easy, the hardest part being adapting a crankshaft position sensor onto the crank pulley.

The standard processor has many choices for firmware. The original code controls fuel injectors and a fast idle valve, as well as switching the fuel pump on and off. The most popular upgrade is Megasquirt 'N' Spark – Extra (MSnS-E for short), which adds an enormous variety of extra inputs and outputs. As its name implies, it can control spark, using anything from a distributor to Ford EDIS to direct control of multiple coil packs. It also adds features like support for traction control, water injection, and many more. Currently, this version of the firmware has more features than the MS-II firmware, but MS-II is likely to grow to support features that are not possible with the standard processor.

Since Megasquirt is an open source project, all firmware is free. You can download both the firmware and its source code from several official and unofficial Megasquirt sites.

The bottom line: A standard Megasquirt processor can control fuel with its basic code, or fuel and spark with the MSnS-E firmware. The MSnS-E can also control many other user selectable outputs. It currently has the most options and features of any firmware for Megasquirt. The MS-II can control both fuel and spark, as well as a few user selectable outputs. However, the MS-II offers a faster processing speed and the possibility of future upgrades.

Tuning Equipment

In theory, if a computing device can run programs and connect to a serial port, you can program Megasquirt with it. There are several open source programs available to tune Megasquirt with a laptop, whether you're running Windows, MacOS, Linux, or UNIX. Laptops are not your only option, as there is also software available to tune your Megasquirt from many Palm handheld devices. Currently, Palm software does not work with MS-II, while there are laptop options for both processors.

Connecting the computer to the Megasquirt generally requires only a standard 9-pin serial cable. A good USB to RS-232 adapter can also work. Some of the more creative users have even rigged up wireless connections.

Other Devices

There are a couple of additional circuits you can buy to help install your Megasquirt. Some are test devices for helping assemble and tune the system, and can be removed once the car is running its best. Others become a permanent part of the installation.

The Stimulator is perhaps the most important. This board includes a battery connection, resistors to simulate sensor readings, and LED lights to indicate the condition of its outputs. It is probably the easiest way to test if your Megasquirt is functioning correctly. Every MS user should have one.

Fuel injection requires several fuses and relays to protect your components. The Relay Board puts all these in one convenient location and is suitable for mounting under the hood. It is very useful if you are installing EFI in a car that never had it to begin with. The price is often less expensive than trying to get the relays and fuse blocks from local auto parts stores. Highly recommended for installing in previously carbureted cars. If your car already has fuel injection to start with, you probably have all these parts already.

The MegaView is a display and tuning tool which can be built as either a plug-in device or a permanent dashboard display. It uses a digital display to show engine status and sensor readings. MegaView can also change some of the tuning paramenters. There are two different versions, one for the standard processor and one for MS-II.


Drill and tap

Did a bit of drilling and tapping work today on the Dart project. First, I took the fuel rail off and put in some threads to attach one of those little Summit fuel pressure gauges. Wish I'd had the sense to ask the machine shop for an extra hole for one of those when they made the rail. Oh well.

I also made a fitting for the Ford fuel pump. Instead of a pipe thread, the inlet uses a 3/8"-24 bolt thread. Ford dealers won't sell the fitting that screws in there apart from a $200 fuel line. So I went to the local Ace Hardware and got a short bolt and a 1/4" NPT pipe cap. I drilled out the end of the cap and tapped it for the same 3/8"-24 thread. Then I drilled through the center of the bolt, cut the end off, and threaded it into the the drilled and tapped hole. I then soldered the bolt in place to ensure it won't leak. Voila, a fitting with a 3/8"-24 male bolt thread on one end and a 1/4" NPT female thread on the other. I'll have to see if this seals OK with teflon tape. In retrospect, another possibility might be to take a 1/8" NPT pipe nipple and cut threads on the outside.

Update: I've also found that the 3/8"-24 thread is the same as the thread used on -3 AN flares. So if I could find a -3 to -6 flare to flare reducer, that might also work.

Another update: For those who found this entry by a search engine, do not try making this fuel pump fitting at home. The threads do not seal. Use the AN fitting instead.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


The bookstore post

There's a lot about car mods. Sometimes, you may need a book more than a blog. This post will contain reviews of many of the car books I have read. I'll give you my honest opinion of each book, the bad along with the good. Not only will I review books here, but you can buy them right from this post and have them shipped to your door, courtesy of Amazon.com. I will periodically return to this post and edit in new books. One of these days I'm going to set up a proper home page and give this mini-bookstore a permanent home, but for now this post will have to do. Here's a couple to get you started:

How to Make Your Car Handle, by Fred Puhn.
If you are only going to read one book on what makes a car stick to the road, make it this one. It is relatively accessible for a beginner, but includes a fair amount of equations, math, and science for those who want to really know what's going on. It also covers just about every area of suspension improvement, from comfort to road racing to drag racing to off roading. The only weakness is that it's rather old, written even before the Honda CRX came out. Consequently, it recommends one or two somewhat outdated mods such as cross-drilling rotors or shortening springs by baking them in the oven, neither of which I'd recommend for performance nowadays (even if your car was built before this book was written). Much of the information, however, is timeless.

Race Car Engineering and Mechanics, by Paul van Valkenburgh.
And if you're buying two books on handling, make this your second. This one is not for beginners - although I have a self-published version, you'll see that this one is printed by the Society of Automotive Engineers. It's written by an engineer for an audience that is not intimidated by mathematics or automotive jargon. However, the information here is top-notch if you want to be a serious chassis geek.

Turbochargers, by Hugh MacInnes.
This is a very comprehensive and objective book on turbos, the only problem being that it dates back to the early 1980's. At that time, EFI tuning was still in its infancy. This book mentions some attempts to make fuel injection work with forced induction that I would not recommend trying today, as reprogramming the stock computer or putting in a tuneable ECU like Megasquirt is much easier. You'll want to look for information about tuning your EFI elsewhere. However, what you will find in this book includes information that is nearly impossible to find anywhere else. Not only does this book cover how a turbo works, how to pick the right size, and boost control, but it also covers diesels, water injection, multistage turbo systems making over 100 psi of boost, and racing boats. It also has one of the few detailed descriptions of how to correctly mod a carburetor to work with boost. If you are trying to make carbs work with forced induction, this book is absolutely essential.

Maximum Boost, by Corky Bell.
A newer and more opinionated book on turbocharging. This book provides excellent, practical tips on constructing a modern turbo system. The sections on intercooler design and making exhaust manifolds are particularly useful. He also covers how to deal with fuel injection and writes at length on the importance of keeping a good air/fuel ratio as the boost increases. The biggest weakness is that Corky Bell has a tendancy to freely mix fact with opinion, and he doesn't always tell you which is which. The writing on carburetors is also rather lacking.

If you can only get one book on turbochargers:

Of course, if you're like me, you will probably want both eventually.

Fuel Injection, by Jeff Hartman.
Find Megasquirt's MegaManual a bit intimidating? Or working on an EFI system that doesn't include Megasquirt? This book is a good choice for learning the basics of how fuel injection works from a hot rodding perspective.

The Car Stereo Cookbook, by Mark Rumreich.
This is a very comprehensive guide to in-car entertainment. Very informative, and covers most of the things you need to know when installing a car stereo, from how to connect wires together to what components to choose.

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, by John Muir.
Most automotive books have the dry, technical feel of a textbook. Not this one - John Muir is more hippy than lecturer, even having written another book outlining his vision of a perfect society. He outlines how to repair air-cooled Volkswagens in unusually clear English, accompanied by cartoony drawings. Classic VW fans have been rumored to insist on swearing on a copy of this in court instead of on a Bible. Highly recommended if you have an air-cooled VW or are even thinking of buying one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


A mad scientist's Christmas lights

Here's a video I found on the Grassroots Motorsports message board.

Wizards of Winter Christmas Lights

Not my Christmas light display - wish I had the time to pull off something like this. It's well worth downloading if you have a fast Internet connection. Even though I've got a dial-up at home, I still think it was worth the wait to download. So this doesn't have anything to do with cars whatsoever. But whoever created this Christmas light display is certainly a world-class mad scientist. I could just see him hollering, "It's alive... It's alive!" when he flipped the switch on this.

Monday, November 21, 2005


New features - Tech Tidbits and books for sale

No progress on the Dart today, but I've made a few little tweaks to the blog. One is the Tech Tidbits section on the side. If you've seen an interesting entry about tech articles on this site and it seems to be lost, look in the sidebar. I've selected the entries that deal with specific how-tos or other useful technical information, as opposed to ones that are more about updates and progress. If you see other posts that I've put up that you think should be included, let me know by either email or leaving a comment. I'll consider them for inclusion.

Also, I thought I'd see if I could make a little money with this blog. I'm signing up for Amazon's affiliate program. I'll post reviews of various automotive books. Most of them are ones I've found useful, but you'll occasionally see a few negative or mixed reviews too. If I like the book, you'll be able to follow a link straight to where you can buy it on Amazon.com. If you buy the book straight away from clicking on that link, they'll pay me a commission. This will be out in a few days, hopefully, as Amazon will need to take a look and approve the blog before I can get paid for this.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


When a bender doesn't mean booze

Today I took my new tubing bender and went to to work making the hard line for the engine compartment. I started by making a crude bracket to mount a Datsun 280ZX fuel pressure regulator to the cylinder head. Instead of the usual rubber hoses, I've modified this one a little to use compression fittings. The goal is to keep the length of rubber to an absolute minimum to please the tech inspectors.

Once I had the regulator in place, I bent some 3/8" hard line to connect it to the fuel rail. Then I ran a pair of lines from the regulator outlet and fuel rail inlet to the valve cover. You can see the whole shebang here or take a look at a close up of the front section. That one part was by far the most complicated to make. The fuel rail connections use inverted flare fittings. The next step will be to run braided hoses from the end of the hard line to the inner fender and run the fuel supply and return lines back under the car to the pumps. And then I'm going to have to find the right fitting combination to adapt a Ford fuel pump (3/8"-24 bolt thread) to -6 AN fuel hose. That's going to be tricky...


Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Attack of the Hose That Drank Human Blood!

While AN braided steel hose is tough, getting those fittings on can be tricky. It almost seems as though the hose has a thirst for human blood, as it's very easy to accidentally cut yourself if you don't know what you are doing. And, of course, I didn't know what I was doing. After losing more blood than I'd care to on the frayed ends, I searched the Internet for a few articles on how to put the ends on the hose correctly. Here's the secrets.

  1. Wrap it in electrical tape before cutting the hose. (Duct tape or masking tape don't work quite as well.)
  2. Remove the socket from the fitting body and put that on first.
  3. Leave the tape on when you start attaching the socket. You can remove it once the socket's on straight.
  4. Thread the socket onto the hose counter-clockwise. This threading is backwards so that it won't unscrew when you slip in the fitting body.
  5. Put a little oil-based lubricant on the threads of the fitting body and thread it into the socket.

The key to the whole process is keeping those little braid ends tightly controlled with tape. If they fray out, they'll make it a royal pain to slip the socket on.

One other little trick. Pros often use soft aluminum wrenches to avoid scratching the fitting. If you're going to be like me and use a steel adjustable wrench, wrapping the fitting in more electrical tape can at least keep most of the scuffing off of it. Remove the tape residue with rubbing alchohol.

For some reason, the original copy of this post disappeared. Great. I've got a hose that is thirsty for my blood and a blog that eats my posts. It's an appetite conspiracy.



Mod your power tools, too

Here's a little tech tip. A while ago, I bought a Black & Decker RTX to replace a cordless Dremel which had some battery and case issues. While an RTX is a lot cheaper than a Dremel, the one I had came with a decidedly second-rate collet. The tools would often slip while the collet would keep on spinning. Well, as it turns out, there was an easy fix: The collet from the Dremel slipped right on. Problem solved.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Fuel line arrived today!

In contrast to the jury rigged air intake, I'm taking no chances with my fuel lines. I just had a box arrive from Summit full of new 3/8" aluminum tubes, -6 AN hose, and a bunch of fittings. I may still need a little bit of rubber in a few spots where I have to keep the original 5/16" line. But I'm going to build this fuel system to the letter of the NHRA rule book. Or I would if I had a copy of the rule book. But it's going to be all hard line and braided hose whenever possible.

I do wish I could have avoided making such a flashy-looking fuel system, though. If there's one thing I am trying to avoid on the Dart, it's mods that scream, "Hey, look! This here's a mod!" And gleaming stainless steel hoses with red and blue anodized fittings are a little too blatant for my taste. It's too bad the standard color isn't something more basic and unobtrusive. I guess I'll just have to sing about how I feel - with apologies to Mick Jagger.

I see some fittings and I want them painted black
No fancy finishes I want it to look stock
I see rice boys drive by shining their neon glows
I have to shake my head until the bling-bling goes

Yes, I know that some AN fittings come in nickle and black. Just not a couple of the fittings I wanted.



Improvised air intake device

Jurry rigged a compressor to throttle body tube tonight. Follow this link for a picture of the world's ugliest intake plumbing. I'm not sure how well those PVC pipe elbows will hold up. Luckily, this is just temporary until I rig up an intercooler. Then I'll take it to an exhaust shop and have them bend some custom steel pipes. I just hope it doesn't melt into a pool of vinyl goo first.


Monday, November 14, 2005


The Focus's First Race

I took the Focus racing for the first time this Sunday. The event was an autocross put on by the Atlanta SCCA, held at Gwinette County Fairgrounds. I've definitely been away from autocross too long; I finished last in H/Stock. In addition to being out of practice and running an unfamiliar car, I was still running street tires. Ok, enough excuses. As my high school swimming coach once told me:

Excuses are tools of the incompetant.
They build monuments of nothingness.
Those who specialize in excuses,
rarely excel in anything else.

Next year, I'll be back to see if I can improve. I might have to put a set of Kuhmos on there... I've still got a set laying around from the Challenge Probe. This time, all I did to prepare the Focus was to take out anything that wasn't bolted down and put some homemade magnetic decals on the side. I made those from some magnetic sheets I picked up at Wal-Mart. A lot more professional looking than masking tape numbers... unfortunately, it was also a lot more professional looking than my driving.

My fiancee also came along, although she didn't compete. But she still enjoyed the trip, both watching cars and the social side of autocross. Despite calling it Solo 2, an autocross meet is a social occasion as well as a competition.

I brought two cameras, but unfortunately the EOS with its long telephoto lens had a dead battery. So I was only able to get some pictures in the grid and parking lot with a digital camera with a short lens. At least I don't have to wait for these to develop. Here are some of the shots I took.

  1. My Focus: preped for racing, and pulling onto the course.

  2. My fiancee wanted a 300ZX before she went to this autocross. Now she wants a 300ZX with a sticker like this. See the Camaro it was on here and here.

  3. Representing little British cars, we have an Elise, a Mini, and an E-Type.

  4. It's natural to root for the underdog. How about autocrossing a Delta 88?

Definitely an exciting way to spend an afternoon.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Cool website: Tony's Guide to Fuel Saving

Searching the Internet for advice on getting better gas mileage has its pitfalls. There is no shortage of con artists looking to make a quick buck from a cheap gimic part. You're also bound to find conspiracy theorists who believe that THEY are suppressing the truth about Charles Pogue's 200 mpg vapor carburetor, and some just plain clueless folks. Tony is none of the above; he is an engineer with years of experience in the auto industry.

Tony's Guide to Fuel Saving is an excellent website for anyone interested in getting better mileage. He investigages the science, or lack thereof, behind many gadgets whose makers claim incredible MPG gains. Highly recommended.


A little work on the Dart

There isn't much progress to report on the Dart. Mostly it has been that sort of tiresome wrenching where you spend more time chasing hexnuts as they plunge into the oily darkness under the car than putting on new parts.

But I have gone out and bought an old Palm IIIxe on Ebay. I didn't want to spring for a laptop to use to tune the Megasquirt, and the Palm was only $32 or so. There's a program you can upload to it that will let you tune your car with the Palm. I spent the afternoon downloading software for it. You can find the downloads in the MSEFI forum under the Palm section.


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