.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Thursday, August 31, 2006


The Dart runs!

Well, after replacing the spark plugs and fuel pressure regulator, I again tried to crank up the turbo slant six. This time, it coughed, backfired, and reved up to around 600 RPM before dying.

I decided to hotwire the fuel pump and see what kind of fuel pressure I was getting. 20 psi. No wonder it wouldn't run. I turned the adjuster all the way in and brought the pressure up to 41. Then it would crank but I had to keep my foot down to keep it running.

So I tried to move the idle adjustment screw. It wasn't easy - there are no slots on the screw, as Ford didn't want owners messing with it - so I went out and bought a new M5 screw. Much to my surprise, the threads were sort of locking - I actually broke the screw. And so now I've got a turbocharged, injected slant six that idles at 2000 RPM.

So tomorrow I'll clean up those threads with a tap and get the idle adjusted. I don't seem to be getting a good reading from the oxygen sensor, so I'm going to have to examine that. But other than what may be a broken wideband oxygen sensor, all I've got left to do is tuning and little adjustments.




A few pictures

As promised, some pictures of the stuff I bought yesterday.

The new pump looks a bit different from the old one.

I was able to reuse the outlet line, but had to bend a new inlet one.

The new spark plugs have a longer tip than the old one. According to Slant Six Dan, it's best to cut off that wire washer you see on the plug unless you have '62 or earlier heads.



Jiffy Lube cheaters caught on tape!

A Los Angelos NBC affiliate brought some hidden cameras into their local Jiffy Lubes to see if the technicians there were being honest. Well, their report documented clerks selling them unnecessary services, and at five out of nine Jiffy Lubes they visited, the mechanics didn't do all the work they billed them for. They even caught a district manager trying to insist he was a customer to avoid answering questions.

Jiffy Lube reacted to this by firing six people, including the district manager, and installing some cameras in Los Angelos area stores. They also promised they would retrain some of their employees. I was disappointed that nobody in this story got arrested - I'm not a lawyer, but I believe the legal term for taking money for services and not actually performing them is "theft by conversion."

Found this one via Snopes, where they also linked to an MSN Money article on how to avoid auto repair ripoffs. I'm not sure how many of these tips would have applied to the Jiffy Lubes in the article - most of those do have a relatively clean work area and clearly post their prices, for instance - but none of the local Jiffy Lubes are listed as AAA approved.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Maybe I shouldn't have ignored that problem...

It seems that every time I mention Summit Racing Equipment and bad parts in the same post, within a few days somebody from Summit stops by to read my blog and see what I've posted. Well, if you're the Summit employee on blogwatch duty today, you can relax - this time the bad part was one I got from a junkyard and that I'm now replacing with Summit parts. Why don't you stop by my comments and introduce yourself?

Earlier, I'd mentioned that the junkyard Nissan fuel pressure regulator seemed to have an internal leak. While I can't watch the fuel pressure from the driver's seat, it may be that I should have paid more attention to that loss of pressure. As the Dodge Dart won't start, I might as well replace every part in the EFI that I know has any problems whatsoever. I checked the prices of a replacement 280ZX regulator - most parts stores wanted $75 or so for a brand new one.

So, today I went down to Summit and bought an adjustable fuel pressure regulator. I decided to go with the cheapest option, MSD's part number 2222. It came to a few bucks less than the replacement Nissan regulator, which isn't adjustable. Like the unit I have, it has 5/16" hose barb fittings - and, again, I've cut the ends off so I can stick compression fittings on it for a rubber-free installation. Right now I need to bend one more hard line as it is not set up quite the same way as the Nissan part. I'll have pictures of this regulator tomorrow.

The pictures of this part showed a very stock-looking part, not something with neon-colored anodizing that screams, "Hey, look! This is a mod!" Which suits me fine. When I got the regulator out of the case, I was surprised to see it didn't even have MSD's logo on it. Instead, it was stamped with the Bosch emblem and Bosch's part number! I know a fair number of aftermarket performance parts are actually repackaged OEM parts, but this is the first time I've seen anything this obvious. MSD does appear to have modified this regulator for boost referencing, however. Not that I'm complaining - a lot of the parts I am using on the Dart are stock appearing, and the price on this regulator is quite reasonable.

I also went out and picked out some spark plugs. Dan Stern and many other slant six gurus recommend NGK's ZFR5N plugs for a stock slant six. Since turbo engines often benefit from slightly colder plugs, I called NGK's tech line to ask what would be one notch colder. After convincing him that ZFR5N plugs actually fit in a 225 (they stick out a ways, but you'd need a really long plug to hit the pistons on this motor), he told me that the closest thing he could come up with was the ZFR6F-11. It's not quite the same sort of extended reach as the '5N, but I think it's a little longer than stock. I don't know if these are the best plugs to run in a turbo slant six or not, but we'll find out.

Tune in tomorrow to see if this gets the Dart up and running.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Hunting the elusive resets

Today I spent a bit of time trying to see what I could do about the resets. I respliced one wire that looked like it may have been a little loose, moved the ground from the alternator to the engine block, and installed an inline noise filter on the Megasquirt's power wire to make sure it's getting a clean signal. I also put a capacitor on the main relay, from the switched power source to the ground. The idea behind that is to damp out any "gaps" that may exist in the ignition switch between the Start and Run position.

Looks like I've cured much, but not all, of the resetting. Now it only resets when I turn the key from Run to Start, instead of resetting while cranking. And it doesn't do that all the time either.

But the Dart still doesn't run. I took a look a spark plug to see if there were any traces of gasoline. While the plug smelled like gas, it had a thick layer of soot on it - no doubt left over from the time I was trying to make it work with a carburetor. I'll try changing the plugs tomorrow. And I've posted on the Megasquirt Forum to see if anyone there knows what it might be.


Monday, August 28, 2006


Fool me once...

Remember that starter relay that had been sticking for a while, but started working again? Well, now it's stopped working again. So I replaced it with a brand new relay.

Unfortunately, the Dart still will not start. It seems the Megasquirt is resetting itself. I'll check the connectors to be sure it isn't just a loose crimp joint, but I may have to install some sort of noise filter on it. I suspect, as I've got an old mechanical voltage regulator, that the voltage level may bounce around enough to reset the ECU. When Chrysler's engineers designed the Dart's electrical system, they didn't expect anyone to use it to power digital controls.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Where are they now?

I just wanted to do a round-up of various ideas that I had kicked around on this blog but not talked about very much lately, in case my regular readers were wondering what came of them.

1. Making and selling polyurethane motor mounts for early A-bodies. While I was tring to figure out what to do about a few rules the local government has for home-based businesses, Imperial Services announced that they were going to put these into production. Since I was mostly interested in filling a gap in the parts available, I haven't pursued this any further.

2. The possibility of a Mitsubishi-based Challenge car is on hold until I land a job. But I have found a rear wheel drive Colt that may be a possibility - if they haven't junked it by the time I have found a job.

3. My wife still wants a Volvo 240 wagon, so I've got my eyes open for one. But not a Challenge one - we've decided that if we buy one it will be the cleanest one we can find.

4. The Focus is still doing regular commuter duty, but since I'm out of work, my wife has been driving it instead of the Nissan. Still need to fix the shaking on the Nissan; I'm starting to suspect it is the rear axle.

Saturday, August 26, 2006



I've managed to "fix" the problem with the Dart starting. I hadn't even heard it click, so I decided to run a jumper cable on the starter relay and see if it was sending any power to the solenoid. I put the jumper on there and ran my voltmeter to the starter. No volts. Then, suddenly, the starter turned over, knocking the jumper cable off the relay. Turns out the relay must have been sitting for a while and got stuck, but now it's unstuck.

So I booted up MegaTune and decided to try starting it. Turned the key to Start, and the starter is now working. Unfortunately, it didn't actually start - the RPM did get as high as 600, but it wouldn't catch. I will need to get Megasquirt dialed in. I may also put a capacitor on the Megasquirt relay so that it will not get interrupted by when I move the key from Run to Start, as I think the relay may be cutting out.



The leaks are all gone... sort of.

It looks as though I have just managed to remove all external leaks in the Dart's fuel system. This time I remembered to put a little motor oil on the injectors' O-rings so they wouldn't get torn when I tightened down the fuel rail. After that, there was one more leak - the low pressure side of the fuel pressure regulator. I was able to tighten that one down and now I don't see any leaks.

There is one issue still remaining, though - that junkyard regulator I grabbed from a 280ZX seems to have an internal leak. It won't hold full pressure, and the pressure bleeds down once I shut down the pumps. I'll have to replace it sometime - maybe with a brand new version of the same thing, maybe with an aftermarket part from Summit. I should still be able to get it running with this issue, though. At least the gasoline is staying inside the fuel system now.


Friday, August 25, 2006


I think I've found the last of the leaks.

You've seen how much trouble those fuel leaks have given me. I guess that's what happens if I build a complete fuel system from junkyard parts and connectors that are not normally used in fuel lines. The only stock pieces of the fuel system left are the fuel tank and sending unit, and even the tank has an extra hole drilled in it.

Well, today after I took some brand new stub wrenches to some of the more inaccessible fittings (it was a royal pain to get them tightened with the ones I had), I started up the fuel pumps and found just one teeny tiny leak. It was coming from the #3 injector. So I pulled the fuel rail, and sure enough, the #3 injector had a torn O-ring. So I had to make a run to the parts store to get a new one - plus a few spares in case a few others start to leak.

I'll button it all up tomorrow (or maybe tonight) and seem if I have, indeed, tracked down the final leak.


Thursday, August 24, 2006


So it wasn't just one more leak...

Seems the more leaks I fix, the more leaks appear in this fuel system. There's a good reason for this, of course: If you plug the big leaks, you can build more pressure, making the little leaks appear. It's easy to get discouraged from this. In fact, I had been thinking of just taking a break from working on the Dart tomorrow.

It's easy to fall into the sort of depression of thinking about how I've put up with countless skinned knuckles, soaked my hands in all sorts of nasty automotive chemicals, endured dozens of setbacks - to what end? But then I ran across this video. And, well, it does a good job of reminding me what project cars are all about. Even if mine isn't nearly that wild.



Technology marches on

The AWChain swings back around for Round Five. The previous link had D.T. Kelly talking about what things have disappeared from life as technology marches on. He mentions a lot of items from bygone eras - Zork, rotary dial phones, and that obnoxious, weird whistling sound a modem makes.

Technology has definitely marched on with cars, too, and the original point of this blog was just to be a diary for my efforts to apply modern technology to my '66 Dodge Dart. I've got somewhat mixed feelings about the "progress" of technology as it applies to cars. Sure, I'm working on a turbocharged, fuel injected motor, so you can tell there's a lot I like about technology. But it's not in a Supra or new Honda Civic, either. There is a lot to be said for the old ways.

The carburetor is a perfect example of the ambiguity of technology. In one way, it's simpler than the fuel injection I have. You've just got a mechanical fuel pump, a few fuel lines, and that metal gadget sitting atop your engine. No regulators, no computers, no surge tanks, no multi-pump systems - it's all very simple.

Or is it? If the carburetor happens to be tuned for your engine, it seems simple enough. But in the 1960's, trying to get one in tune on your hot rod was considered something of a black art. You would swap jets or metering rods, change the accelerator pump linkage, and tinker with a bunch of tiny mechanical components. A single change may be just right for when you give it the gas at 1,500 RPM but make it run worse when cruising at 3,000 under light throttle. And the only feedback you would get would be the seat of the pants feel and the color of your spark plugs. And if you had a turbo on your car, tuning could grow to be an even bigger nightmare. Hugh MacInnes lists quite a few mods that would try to let a carburetor add more fuel as the boost goes up, none of which really could keep things accurate at every level of boost.

Whereas once I get the fuel injection running, I have a lambda sensor in the exhaust that tells me just where my air/fuel ratio is. I can open up my laptop and tell it to take out more fuel just at this particular RPM and vacuum setting, or add more fuel at this specific boost level. And I can do this while sitting in the front seat without even opening the hood. But, well, if you've read this blog for any length of time, you will know just how much wrenching I needed to get there.

It's the same way in many other areas of cars, technology being both a blessing and a curse. Many cars from the 1960's had drum brakes that would not so much stop the car as much as suggest to the wheels that it might be a good idea to slow down. On the other hand, cars have grown so large now that you are not going to see anything like a feather-weight Datsun 510, certainly not one with seating for four. Cars now seem to grow larger and heavier with each generation. Honda has had to bring out the Fit to replace the Civic as the Civic has grown larger and the Fit is now about the size of a Civic 15 years ago. The Honda Accord - a very small car in the '70s - has grown until the modern version is almost as large as my Dodge Dart. (Then again, that Dart was considered a compact car in the '60s!)

And there's the issue of "personality." Some older cars feel a lot more elementaly, less disconnected. They don't have the same sound insulation and power everything that isolates you from the driving experience. Then again, the power steering on my Dart is probably the most disconnected feeling steering you will ever touch. It feels more like a joystick than a steering wheel. Meanwhile, some Miata owners argue they could do without a lot of the "personality" in little British cars. Like the way the Triumph Spitfire I had caught on fire. Interestingly, one of the reasons the Spitfire caught fire was because it lacked a headlight circuit breaker that is present in virtually every modern car - and my Dart, built thirteen years before the Spitfire.

Sometimes I wish they would build a car that had the best of worlds. Like old cars, it would be light, easy to work on, and dripping with character. At the same time, I'd like it to have the reliability and environmental friendliness of a modern car. Sort of like a Toyota AE86 Corolla. Only those, too, are now over 20 years old.

What sort of things do you wish hadn't been abandoned as technology moves on?

Next blogger in the chain is Gillian.

And the complete list of participating blogs for this round:
A View From the Waterfront
Curiouser and curiouser
South Asia Biz
The Road Less Travelled
Fireflies in the Cloud
Infinite Vanity
The Secret Government EGGO Project
Mad Scientist Matt's Lair
Even in a Little Thing
Beyond the Great Chimney Production Log
Kappa no He
Tiffany's Smorgasbord
Just a Small town girl
At Home, Writing
Southern Expressions
Writing From Within
Sounds of Serenity in Mayhem

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Ok, I'm down to one leak.

Today, I fixed that pesky fitting on the Dart's high pressure fuel pump. The pump is a Carter unit, originally made for Ford F-series pickups and vans in the late '80s. I had tried making a fitting for this pump at home, only to find it leaked.

Yesterday, I drove over to Summit Racing and picked up a pair of fittings. Ideally, I would have liked to get a -3 AN male to -6 AN male fitting. But I wasn't able to find such a thing, so I went with a -3AN male to -4 AN female fitting and a -4 AN male to -6 AN male reducer. I put an O-ring around the -3 AN threads (AN connections do not seal thread to thread like pipe threads; you need either an O-ring or a flare to seal one of these connections) and screwed it into the fuel pump outlet. Although Ford did not use a true AN fitting on this pump, the threads are the same. This combination worked perfectly.

Now I just have one faulty set of inverted flare connections to fix in the fuel system.

I also took a look at the connection on the ignition key to see if I had somehow accidentally disconnected the starting wire. Nope, the wires are all on one connector there. I'll have to give that a closer look once I have all the fuel lines leak free.



When premium parts aren't

Normally, the Echlin parts at NAPA are pretty good. But at least in the slant six community, their distributor caps have a reputation for having their contacts ground wrong. I've heard several stories about visibly bad distributor caps on SlantSix.org. Seems the tooling for that is off-center.

Well, yesterday I stopped by the local NAPA Auto Parts in Covington, and had a chance to see this myself. I decided I might as well pick up the parts for installing a seven pin HEI system and have everything I need once I get my Megasquirt running so I can convert it to computerized spark control soon. So I decided I might as well get a cap and rotor for the Lean Burn distributor that I will use for that along with the HEI module.

The clerk there brought out an Echlin distributor cap. I took a look inside the cap, and sure enough, the contacts were not all ground the same. One even had a layer of plastic that completely covered the lower surface of the contact. I pointed this out to the clerk. He went back and brought out one of their cheaper distributor caps (made by Standard Parts Co.) and a second Echlin cap. This second cap was even worse! One of the contacts showed no signs that the tooling had cut into the plastic at the lower surface at all, and a second contact looked like the bad contact in the first cap he'd shown me. The Standard cap looked much better, with very uniform contacts.

So if you ever need a slant six distributor cap, avoid NAPA's Echlin parts, at least until they fix that tooling. I'm not holding my breath - this issue seems to have gone on for years, from what I've heard. The good news is that the problem is often bad enough that you can just flip the cap upside down and point out what's wrong to the clerk. The Echlin caps are tan, while the Standard ones - the one that seems to be the best quality - are black.

Funny thing is, last time I had a bad parts rant, it was about Summit Racing Equipment, where I complained about the poor quality of their house brand AN fittings instead of one of the premium brands. A few days later, my logs showed somebody working at Summit had done a search to see what bloggers were saying about them and stopped to read my blog. So, in the unlikely chance that anyone who works for NAPA Echlin is reading my blog, I'd appreciate it if you could bring this up at your next kaizen meeting or quality control discussion. Please fix the tooling you use to make slant six distributor caps.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Officer, I can explain everything...

Today I was out on my motorcycle running a few errands. Suddenly the bike started losing power. I turned the throttle, and to my horror, the throttle just spun freely. The throttle cable was broken.

I pulled off the road and considered my options. As I was just a few miles from home (God must have been watching over me - it could have broken one of those times last week when I was in rush hour traffic on I-75 or 50 miles from home!) and the RPM would come up a bit with the choke on, I decided to just limp that bike home.

I was able to manage maybe 30 mph downhill, about 20 uphill. While I was heading back, a cop pulled me over. She seemed partly worried for my safety, but it looked like she may have been worried that I was trying to drive with no license or something. She checked my license before sending me on my way - I was maybe 2 miles from home by then.

Well, now it's off to see if I can get a new throttle cable for it. Hopefully ValuCycle or the local Honda dealer will have one in stock. Ah, the joys of owning a 27 year old bike.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Fuel leak hunting

Using a switch and a pair of aligator clips, I rigged up a device to start the fuel pump on its own when I'm out of the car. As it turns out, there was not one fuel leak, but closer to half a dozen. Most of them were simply cases of a fitting not tightened down enough. But one of them is going to be trouble. That improvised fitting that I stuck in the Ford high pressure fuel pump leaks. Looks like I will need to find a better adapter for that one.


Saturday, August 19, 2006


Almost... but not quite.

I finally got everything into place today and attempted to crank up the Dart.

It wouldn't start. The starter refused to do anything, and there is a fuel leak somewhere under the hood. I may have accidentally disconnected the wire to the starter while working under the dash, so hopefully that will not take long to fix. The fuel leak, well, I was not able to spot where it was coming from while I was behind the wheel. Maybe I will need to rig a remote switch for the fuel pumps.

At least the Megasquirt and the sensors appear to be working correctly.


Friday, August 18, 2006


The Dart is almost ready to run!

I finished installing everything on the Turbo Dart today - except I realized that I need a vacuum cap over a port on the turbo. Remember what I said about little nagging details?

Now, it's time for the software. I need to get the Megasquirt and LC-1 programmed. Then I'll check to be sure the sensors are working. After that, it's just time to pour in some gasoline and see what happens when I crank it up.

I am getting very excited about this. With some luck, I may even be able to back it out of the garage tomorrow. (At which point I am going to wash it thoroughly.)


Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Finished the Dart's wiring.

Well, at least I'm pretty sure I finished it - I may find I missed something when I finally turn it on.

As it turns out, the Ford fuel pump does not use #10-32 screws on the wiring terminals. I had just assumed they would be inch threads because the inlet and outlet were inch sized. Instead, it's one of those detestable mix-ups that has metric threads and inch threads on the same component. And it has two different size threads on those wire terminals - one is an M5, the other is an M4.

I also finished re-hanging the exhaust. So now all I have to do before I power it up is to put something over the fuel lines to keep the parking brake cable from wearing into them, and get a longer section of PCV hose. Whew. I haven't yet gotten it running, but at least the finish line is coming into view.



Little nagging details

When working on a big project like the turbo installation, it can sound like a hard task. But the real difficulty is all the little nagging issues that you run into.

Yesterday I thought I was going to finish up the Dart's wiring. Only I had too many of those little details that you miss out on get to me. I thought I had the right nuts to secure the wires to the fuel pump. As it turns out, Ford picked a weird thread - I think it's #10-32, something you often can't find at auto parts stores - for the nuts where you attach the wires to the pump. And I didn't have them.

So I thought I'd hang up the exhaust. Only I didn't seem to have the exhaust hanger I thought I had bought a few months ago.

Original carbureted turbo slant sixThen I decided to put the air filter back on there. I had originally used the intake tube off a turbo K-car to attach the air filter to the turbo inlet, with the filter ending up on top the intake manifold, as shown in this old, grainy photo on the right. The filter is a cylindrical K&N attached to a short bit of exhaust pipe. I had originally hoped to mount it directly to the turbo, but there really isn't enough space there.

Well, now that I have fuel injection, the space where my air filter used to go is now occupied by the fuel rail and fuel pressure regulator. So I had to find a way to relocate that air filter to some place where it wouldn't get in the way of the new fuel injection system. And I really didn't feel like going out and buying new parts this evening.

So I decided to whip out an X-acto knife and cut up that rigid hose that mounts the air filter. Took a bit of effort - I was really using the wrong tool for the job. A thick utilty knife would have done better. But after running the knife around the hose three or four times, I was able to split it in two.

The shortened hose puts the filter in front of the turbo in the area between the fan, the manifolds, and the battery. It probably isn't an ideal location for the air filter as it may draw in a bit of hot air there. One of these days - after I get it all running - I will take the time to find a good location for the air inlet so that I can have it draw in cold air. At least the installation now looks pretty clean. If anything, it somehow looks less jury rigged than the way I had it when I was using a carb. Now it's pointing straight up in a location where it, well, just looks right.

Where to put the air filter on a turbo slant six?

Unfortunately, I found the PCV hose does not reach quite to the new air filter location. And I forgot to buy some new hose on yesterday's parts run. The little nagging details strike again.

Monday, August 14, 2006


AW Blog Chain, Round 4

The AWChain is back. In the link before me, Bhaswati talked about a biography of a famous cricket player. Well, as it so happens, I had recently been thinking a lot (probably too much) about some of the Mitsubishis that Chrysler imported in the '70s and early '80s, including the Plymouth Cricket.

It started out with a discussion of Plymouth Fire Arrows on the Grassroots Motorsports message board. Throughout the '70s and into the '80s, Chrysler sold Mitsubishi Galant derived cars under a half-dozen names in the United States and Canada: Dodge Colt, Dodge Challenger, Plymouth Cricket, Plymouth Champ, Plymouth Sapporo, and Plymouth Arrow. Quite a lot of names for very similar cars. Adding to the confusion, in 1979 Chrysler changed things around and made the Colt and Champ into front wheel drive cars. But right now it's been the rear wheel drive versions that I've been thinking about.

I've seen these things turn up at the dragstrip. Mopar fans sometimes swap in various V8 engines, usually a 360, and go drag racing. These cars go like rockets in a straight line, but are pretty nose-heavy, ill handling beasts. Not quite what I feel like building at the moment. I've been thinking of entering the Grassroots Motorsports $2007 Challenge - a contest to buy, fix, and modify a race car for under $2007 (right now, it's $2006, but I won't be able to enter this year). A Challenge car would need to handle as well as go fast.

Well, somehow I stumbled over the fact that many of these - all Sapporoes and Challengers, the Fire Arrows, and quite a few others - use an engine very similar to the 2.6 turbo motor found in the Mitsubishi Starion. A friend of mine used to have one of these oddly named technomobiles, and I seem to remember it putting around 250 hp to the rear wheels with a few mods. Now, dropping that engine into a Colt ought to be a lot of fun - lighter than a Starion, and much more ballanced than a 360 powered Arrow. Seems like I might have a possible recipe right here.

Since right now it's more important for me to find a job and get the Dart running, right now all I've been doing is trying to come up with different things I might be able to put together to enter. Right now I can't do any real work on building such a car, just daydreaming.

I went to the Challenge back in 2004. That time, I was driving a '89 Ford Probe GT that I had picked up for all of $500, then put $600 worth of race tires in the trunk. That was pretty much all there was to my racing effort - I did not spend anywhere near the time I needed to make it a decent car, just took some time to clean out a very nasty interior and do some minor repairs. I did not place very well, and came back home with the realization that if I go to the Challenge again, I had better bring something that has more time and effort put into it. Not only does putting more work into a car often mean better placement, it's what the competitors noticed and talked about. Bringing a beat up near stock car just doesn't go over well.

But it'll be a while before I can get to work on a Challenge entry. But once I mention that I've got the turbocharged Dodge Dart running well, go ahead and let me know if you've got a Plymouth Cricket for sale. Cheap.

Next in the blog chain is I, Misanthrope - the Dairy of a Dyslexic Writer.

Here is the whole list of blogs participating in Chain 4 - now with permalinks:

Pass the Torch
The Road Less Travelled
Fireflies in the Cloud
Even in a Little Thing
The Secret Government Eggo Project
Curiouser and Curiouser
At Home, Writing
Mad Scientist Matt's Lair
I, Misanthrope - The Dairy of a Dyslexic Writer
Beyond the Great Chimney Production Log
Flying Shoes
Everything Indian
The Hal Spacejock Series
Organized Chaos
Of Chapters and Reels
Just a Small town girl
Midnight Muse
Kappa no He

Friday, August 11, 2006


Tidying up loose ends

I've spent a couple hours today working on the Dart's wiring. Right now I have finished all the under-dash wiring, although I have the relays and fuses sitting on the transmission tunnel instead of behind the dashboard where they will go when I finish things. That should make things easier to troubleshoot. The low pressure fuel pump is wired up, but I will need to get a few connectors to hook up the high pressure one. Other than that, the wiring is done.

Finding a place to connect the wire for the main relay was a bit of a challenge, and I'm not 100% certain I picked the right spot. On newer cars, you hook the relay to a terminal on the ignition that gets power when the car is in the Run or Start position. Well, on the Dart, there is no position on the ignition switch that gets full power at both spots. The IGN terminal gets full power in the Run position, but if you connect anything to that when the engine is cranking, the power will go through the ballast resistor instead. And you don't want to splice the terminals together unless you are removing the ballast resistor. While I plan to do this later, right now I still need that thing in there.

In the end, I hooked it up to the IGN terminal anyway. The ballast resistor's resistance is much smaller than the relay coil's, so the relay should still function. If it turns out that the relay cuts out when cranking, I'll have to come up with some sort of OR gate to get power to the Megasquirt at either setting. Stay tuned to see how this works - I'm probably going to have it all together and start troubleshooting it by the middle of next week.


Thursday, August 10, 2006


Upgraded alternator and battery wires

Well, I've just completed upgrading the alternator to ammeter and fusable link to ammeter wires on the Dodge Dart. I bought some 8 gauge wire from a local car audio store and ran it in parallel to the factory wiring. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any wires that fit the factory vibe - this wiring seems to be meant for show cars, and it has a rather over the top looking sparkly translucent insulation. It was the only thing I could find locally. But at least I was able to find it in red and black to match the colors on the factory wiring diagram. Even though I don't expect to mistake these wires for anything else, it helps to keep colors the same when you're troubleshooting electrical faults. Sure, it's a rather crazy exercise in overkill. But if I go and get a 200 amp alternator for some reason, I shouldn't have to worry about fried wires.

I also hooked up the Megasquirt. It connects to the alternator's terminal on the ammeter so that the ammeter will work correctly. This setup should also take more strain off the wiring than connecting the module directly to the battery. I put a 20 amp fuse in the Megasquirt's main power wire, which also powers the fuel pumps and will power a fan down the line. If that doesn't work, I have a 30 amp fuse that I can swap out.

Looks like it's getting closer and closer to the time I can turn it on. Right now I just need to wire the fuel pumps, install something to keep the parking brake cable from rubbing on the fuel lines, replace a busted exhaust hanger, and put the finishing touches on the underdash wiring. Then I'll be ready to program the Megasquirt and crank it up!

With some luck, I should have that finished next week. I've noticed we seem to be having thunderstorms coming through every afternoon. The funny thing is, back when I was installing the turbo, I didn't manage to get it to crank up until a day I was working on it in a thunderstorm. Somehow it would be very appropriate if I happened to finish this project on a dark and stormy night, wouldn't it?



More dubious gas mileage devices tested

CNN recently teamed up with Popular Mechanics to test a bunch of devices that were supposed to increase gas mileage. The results were, again, disasterous. First up was the only time I had seen a fuel magnet actually do something. Instead of doing absolutely nothing like they usually do, this one decreased mileage by 10%, leaving the mechanics scratching their heads as to how a fuel magnet could possibly have any effect on the engine. They also tested the Tornado Fuel Saver. While a previous test had shown it to not have any effect on mileage, this time it reduced milage slightly.

Of course, the quacks argued back, and CNN saw fit to print their responses. The fuel magnet guys argued that their magnet had been installed wrong and requires proper training to install it. I wonder if they tell that to their customers. They claim their fuel magnets work if installed correctly; the EPA would beg to differ about that claim. (Note: All links in that line open PDF files in new windows.) The Tornado representative argued that the results had to be wrong because they had "100,000 satisfied customers." Presumably the satisfied customers are the ones who have not tried to test it by any rigorous methods, as it I have never seen this thing pass a carefully done lab test of any sort.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006


A visit to the Microcar Museum

If you're a gearhead looking for museums in the Atlanta area, there's a very unusual one about an hour's drive away: The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum. Founded by bubble gum millionair Bruce Weiner, this museum is dedicated to all sorts of tiny cars, particularly the little motorcycle-engined creations built in Europe immediately after World War II. Mr. Weiner's collection also includes more modern cars and some from Japan and the United States.

The cars in this museum make my Focus look big. For that matter, many of them would make a Triumph Spitfire look big. The museum's official website has many excellent photos of their cars. Rather than posting my own large gallery, I thought I'd just post a few select pictures I took on my visit.

A Hummer visiting the Microcar Musuem

The museum isn't particularly visible from the road; look for the Double Bubble Acres sign and turn there. I was a little surprised to see a Hummer parked outside the musuem when I arrived. Sure, may seem a little bit ironic at first glance... but living with something that large every day might be why its owner was interested in small cars.

Jurisch Motoplan

This cute little three-wheeler is a Jurisch Motoplan.

It's an Isetta!

The Isetta and the Messerschidt Kabinenroller have to be two of the most famous microcars of postwar Europe. I had to post a picture of one of them. So here's one of over a dozen Isettas. They even had a few slightly larger (just slightly) Isetta relative with seating for four, a real marvel of space efficiency.

When I left, I found that someone had parked this classic Mini outside. As you can see, it has a roll cage and probably some other race mods. Had it been inside on display, the Mini would have been one of the larger cars in there - although not the largest.

There never were very many microcars sold in the United States, but the microcar tradition lives on elsewhere. Just about every Japanese manufacturer has something to offer in the 660 cc and under kei-car segment (not to be confused with American K-cars). In Europe, DaimlerChrysler has their line of smart cars, and most other manufacturers sell cars that are smaller than the typical subcompacts sold here but usually a bit larger than the microcars in the museum. I've got to wonder, with gas prices the way they are, how many Americans would buy something like a Ford Ka or Suzuki Cappuccino?


Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Planning the upgrades to the Dart's existing wiring

As I mentioned before, I want to upgrade the Dart's existing wiring, as the designers never expected anyone to use the charging system to power a fuel injection system. So today I went through the 1966 Dodge factory service manual (I bought mine at Year One, if you're wondering where you can gett hem) and looked over the wiring diagrams. Looks like the only wires I will have to upgrade are the R6 (the black wire that runs from the alternator to one terminal on the ammeter) and the segment of A1 (the red battery wire) that runs under the dash to the other terminal of the ammeter. I'll go with 8 gauge on both. Then I can just put the Megasquirt power wire on the alternator terminal of the ammeter. Looks like this should be pretty simple... except I'm not sure if I will be able to get the pins out of the original bulkhead connector. I may just get a small bulkhead connector and double up the wires instead of removing the originals.


Saturday, August 05, 2006


Motor oil - conventional, synthetic, and snake varieties

It's time to give the Focus and the CX500 their oil changes.

Now, there is a lot of hype about motor oil out there. Some of it is the work of hucksters trying to make a quick buck. Here's a way too long list of companies busted for making dubious claims about their oil additives. But I think some of it may just be because of how long cars last these days. You just don't see many oil related failures unless there is something out and out wrong with the engine oiling system, such as the infamous Mitsubishi 4G63 problem with "crankwalk" - more precisely, the thrust bearing wearing out from not getting enough oil. Unless you're in the habbit of driving cars to the 200,000 mile mark, you may not even be keeping them long enough to tell if the oil has done anything. Unless you regularly have your oil tested at a lab, which these days can be done at a reasonable cost.

There are some cases where I've heard credible accounts of the wrong oil causing problems. They're often along the lines of having a problem develop after adding the wrong oil, only to have it go away once the owner put the right oil in. One very common example - although it's not quite motor oil - is that many '90s era Chrysler automatic transmissions are known for having problems if you accidentally put Dextron transmission fluid in them. Or you may notice that some sorts of oil make for a bit of sludge in your engine and others don't. But it's hard to tell if an engine that lasted to 160,000 miles would have lasted to 240,000 if you used a different brand of oil.

On the other hand, there are real differences in oil quality. Bob is the Oil Guy explains how oil additives can help make an engine last longer. It's worth noting that most oils already have these if they are API-certified. And I've seen dyno tests showing that synthetic oils can improve horsepower. I've decided this time to put some of Wal-Mart's cheap synthetic oil in the Focus. 5W-30, as the manual specifies.

Motorcycle oils are a special case. They often use the same oil for both the engine and the transmission. Many bike dealers will claim you need special oil for them. On the other hand, a test by Motorcycle Consumer News showed that high end car oils often seem to do better than motorcycle ones. And they cost a lot less than the premium they charge for on motorcycles. I have heard that the thinner automotive oils with the Energy Conserving mark often cause motorcycle clutches to slip.

Since I didn't want to spend the cost to fill the CX500 with Mobile One, I've opted for Shell Rotella T in 15W-40. This oil is made for diesel semi-trucks, but I've heard from motorcycle forums that it seems to work well in bikes too. And it's cheap.


Thursday, August 03, 2006


Two very cool links

Found both of these links on the Grassroots Motorsports message board.

First one is what happens when assembly drawings meet modern art. Dutch artist Paul Veroude took a disassembled Honda F1 car and hung the parts from wires to make a real life exploded view. Thanks to EA Sport for this link.

Then a reader with the nom de keyboard of jamscal posted that he had found a great source of cheap automotive gauges. Like eight dollars for an oil pressure gauge cheap. Worth checking out if you're building a low buck project car.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?