19 July 2006


Saturday night my suspension sounded like popcorn. No worries, this sort of thing is to be expected. As the suspension settled I figured I would have these noises and simply needed to go back in and tighten everything. I also realized, Saturday afternoon, that I had not installed the tuning adjusters on the rear coilovers. Due to the location of the top of the strut tower, the top of the KSport is buried behind a portion of the unibody. You can reach it with your hand, you just can't get the angle to install the rod or see the knob. This will need a creative remedy.

Engine Mount
Sunday morning I rolled out of bed after a long night of cruising on popcorn and slipped out the back gate. B picked me up in the Mini and we headed for Plano to have a new engine mount/shock absorber installed. Apparently, the Mini's are real bad about breaking engine mounts because the engine is allowed to sling 3-3.5 inches to and fro under hard acceleration. The damper, mounting brackets and installation was devised by some Mini owners and they were holding an installation party to sell and install the new part they had designed and beautifully produced.

Prest-O, Change-O
Sunday afternoon I dropped the rear coils, slipped in the tuning rods and re-installed them both in about an hour. The passenger side got hung up on the Nismo rsb mounting plate and this took some extra time to work around, but it wasn't a big deal. The fornt end was popping but I thought it might just need to settle, so I ignored it until later.

Another Late Night
Sunday night I stayed up to work on the front end and solve the popping problem. It was 10:30p before I'd gotten home and changed after meeting up with Rock Gal after her shift, but the work needed to be done. Once I had the SE-R up on stands I noticed that the lock rings were loose on both sides. It is damn hard to get these things tight and the guys had done so withothem off the car, so I can understand the popping noises. No fault of theirs of course, we were all leanring about this stuff as we went and who is to know that they needed to be that super-tight!

Using a dial caliper and some patience I adjusted the coils so that they were snug on the top mount but only barely pre-loaded. Just snug. The change was 0.3" (3/10") and I adjusted the ride height accordingly. This took about an hour and a quick drive around the parking lot told me that I had solved the problem. No more popcorn! Unfortunatley, I had not measured the ride height very well and the front was now taller than the back. So back up on stands it goes for an adjustment to ride height. Another hour and numerous checking and rechecking with the caliper later I had the fronts properly adjusted and even with the rear.

Tuesday morning I stopped at Chevron and the only working air station I know if in D/FW. I was thinking that increasing the tire pressures to 34 psi (factory says 32) would help the tires help the suspension. I don't know why I felt this way, but I did. Luckily, I think I was right. The car seemed to turn a little better and didn't squeal as quickly as it had been. In fact, I could probably go a little higher, maybe to 36 psi.

Tuesday night on the way home from work I noticed some more pings as I approached the garage. Damn it. I got to work on it at 8:30p after spending some time with Rock Gal playing a game of catch the careening-sopping-wet-ball in the pool. It is always good to relax, get hit in the face with a wet ball and do crazy stuff like jump off the side of the pool like a maniac trying to catch a foam football.

But I digress. The car needed some attention. Apparently, I had not gotten the lock rings entirely tight enough and I had a little ping from the front. Combine that with my lack of any real preload and the car was making noises when the wheel was turned side to side. This time it only took about an hour and I had the rings as tight as I could manage. I had also messed up the ride height. Somehow, I have the right corner an 1/8" more preload or height than the left. Damn it.

I didn't bother changing anything because, as tired as I was, my measurements were likely somewhat off. It took enough tries to get those measures in the first place so I wasn't too keen on depending on them. Still, I need to get the car settled and even, then make changes from there.

This morning there was still a little noise (very little) from the right front, and the only thing I can think of is that I had kind of messed up the right side when I was doing it Tuesday night. Somehow, after adjusting the preload, I had unadjusted it instead of doing the ride height. I think. I'm a little unclear about exactly what happened but the lowest lock ring had not been backed out of the bottom of the coil when I thought I was lowering the car. Shit. So I went back and readjusted everything to what I thought was correct, which is likely the cause of my uneven stance. I need to measure the preload (first thread to bottom of perch) on both sides and even them out left to right, then readjust the ride height to make certain they are even. Another night in the garage, but not tonight.

I also need to get the car peoperly aligned. It is close, real close... but you never know and I'd rather be certain that everything is properly set so I can more effectively tune it.

17 July 2006


Friday Night
It took two trips but I managed to tote all of my tools, four jack stands and SUV sized floor jack to B's place. The jack itself was purchased at Pep Boys Thursday evening and probably weighs about as much as a dead minister. The thing is huge, red has dual lifting pistons and picks the car up with the same effortless shrug that Hulk Hogan has when he picks up a toddler. Add to that two tool boxes, a torch, various bits and pieces and all the parts that were to be installed.

Saturday Morning
Cooper S
I woke up around 8 o'clock jonesing to get to work on the car. With all of the parts and tools already at B's place I need only run to Home Depot for one final item I might need to finish the job. It was, of course, a giant freaking C-clamp.

We started with the morning with a break job on the Mini. B's Cooper S was getting a new set of cross-drilled Brembo rotors and some pads, none of which seemed too daunting. We ran into a few snags, primarily with the rear calipers not wanting to slide off because of a massive lip on the rear rotor. This, of course, is due to the lack of brain power on the dealer's behalf when they did B's brakes a year ago.

When you replace pads you have to turn the rotors down and remove the excess material. It brings out a new, clean, smooth surface and eliminates that annoying lip on the rotor. The dealer didn't want to do that though, so B & R had to remove the rear calipers with a rubber mallet. After that, it was easy.

The only thing we noticed on the Mini was excessive wear on the inside edge of the rear tires. The whole edge, mayve 3/4" was worn bald and into the cord on the driver's side tire. I have no explanation but it looks like he's running some hardcore rear camber. I am also told that it could be due to low tire pressures. B took the car for some new rubber while R, E and myself continued.

Spec V
With the Mini completed it was time to roll in the SE-R. We had a full plate of activities ahead of us and would need to be diligent if we wanted to complete all of it that day. Our to do list consisted of installing:

  • Nismo front anti-roll bar (25mm)
  • Nismo rear anti-roll bar (25mm)
  • Nismo lower tie bar
  • KSport coilovers
  • SuperPro suspension bushings

Rear End
We started with the rear of the car and went to work removing the rear beam suspenion in an effort to remove and replace the trailing arm bushings. It didn't work. There's a central main bolt that supports the beam that would not loosen. We tugged, torqued, WD-40'd and I cussed a lot, but it wouldn't budge. I think I know why. I had put the monster jack under the beam to support it but had not lifted it much to take weight off the main bolt. I'm pretty certain now that there was so much of a load on that bolt that it wasn't going anywhere. Good design, we just weren't thinking at the time.

Front End
Back at the front we'd removed the OEM struts and had the brakes sitting on spare jackstands. I then released the pittman arms on both sides and slung the steering arms out of the way so we could loosen the front anti-sway bar. After some frustration we were able to loosen both sides of the stock anti-sway bar and removed it through the driver's side wheel well. It didn't take much effort to slide the old bar out, which was only around 19mm in thickness and had just enough bends to make it interesting. I had read horror stories about loosening or removing engine mounts enable to set the thing free, but I could not imagine this being truly necessary. The Nismo bar, 25mm thick, went in just as easily and we set about reconnecting it within minutes.

The purpose of a thicker front anti-sway (or anti-roll) bar is to control and limit the motion of the unibody durung the side loading stresses of cornering. By keeping the chassis more stable you can effectively utilize the suspension and it makes the vehicle far more predictable under load.

The front lower tie bar was next, a 30mm thick piece that rigidly connects the front a-arms at the forward most mounting point. The bar is designed to stop the a-arms from being pulled, or spread, inward during cornering or backward under braking. Ideally we'll also install new bushings in the front end to add castor and reduce flexation even more, but at this point I had no access to a press and didn't want to risk getting them off the car and then being stuck half way through a critical job.

Back to the Back
B and I started installing the Nismo rear anti-roll bar while R&E set to work installing the KSport coilovers. It didn't take too much longer and everything was in place, though we did have some issues refitting the rear brakes.

With the car finally finished we took it off the jackstands and...

11 July 2006

Oak Hill

So we were racing at Oak Hill last weekend and here are a few pictures. They are not terribly exciting but we had a lot of fun until the motor packed up and left. Apparently we were running too lean and the bottom end went to pieces.

Oh well.

Next race, if we make it, is July 22nd in Denton, a four hour endurance.

03 July 2006

A good start to the week

I got a call from Bankston Nissan this morning, the SE-R is ready. I'll drop off the rental, walk three blocks and get my baby back. With any luck I'll start getting fun, go fast parts real soon as well.

Swing Shift
Rock Gal is on a swing shift now and will be off tomorrow. With any luck we'll be able to see the Germany v Italy game at a fun bar tomorrow!

Went the motor on Saturday. It sucks that we stuck the piston in the YXR but we were having a great time up until then... Sitting third in class and plowing through our day without problems until overheating became an issue. Looks like the piston just got too hot and things went south from there. No worries, we'll chunk a new cylinder and piston on it and race Denton on July 22.

Looks like I might have a buyer for the Giant. I just haven't been inclined to get back on it since last year's leg snapper and figure that might be for a reason. I'll stick to road for now and what I enjoy. If I spread myself too thin on hobbies it'll only get worse. I'd rather be good at a couple of things than ok to crappy at 10 of them...

Giving it up? (Part 2.)

I have had some interesting comments on my original post about this and I guess I should agree, disagree and so forth because its interesting.

Broom makes a good point about how having a kid can totally change a person. I agree that when/if a person has kids their responsibilities will -and rightfully should- shift dramatically. If I wanted to have kids, and I really don't, I would think that my focus would shift toward taking care of the kiddo and having time and money set aside for such a purpose. This isn't to say that a person should not continue with some hobbies, though. I think Broom does it right by having his kid at the track, spending time with his parents at the races to make it a real family affair and they have fun regardless of what happens. Granted, this past weekend could have gone better than others, but as far as I can tell he's doing things as well as he can. You have to take care of yourself and do the tinhgs you enjoy, involve the kid(s) but be certain you don't try to do too much. I am, of course, speaking from zero experience.

With absolute confidence I can say that none of this worries me, not do I think that Rock Gal is going to be changing me or herself any time soon. I guess my point in that post -that I never made- was that she is not a needy, self-confidence lacking worry-wart that is going to demand more of my time. I have seen women that simply cannot deal with not being number 1... fortunately for me, she is not that type of person.