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Floppie's Blag

Entertainment, technology, and the occasional shenanigans

Protip: Don’t Use Pep Boys

Posted by Floppie on 2012-12-18
Posted in AcuraCarReviews  | Tagged With: , , , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Unfortunately, it looks like my first real post after returning from the grave is a bad review for an automotive parts/service shop.  I was hoping for it to be a DIY guide on doing a starter in a 2002-2004 Acura RSX Type-S, but this one comes first.  The DIY guide will be coming later.

On Saturday, I purchased a new starter for my car from Pep Boys (the one in College Square in Newark, DE).  Now, the starter in this car is a huge ordeal to replace – it requires pulling the intake manifold, but there’s a separate post coming with that DIY guide.  The starter was $200.  They wanted $240 for labor to replace it, but after horrifying experiences there in the past (I’ll get to that in a minute), I opted to do it myself.

It took me three days, including a work day, to replace it.  After getting the car put back together, the starter didn’t work – it just clicked, like the old one did.

So I tried replacing the relay, hoping that would be it – no go, it must be the starter.  Pep Boys will not work with me on the labor to pull it, “test” it, and replace it – they want me to pay the full labor rate; the bad part claim only extends to the cost of the part.  I can’t sit here and lose another three work days to this thing.

The company that was going to tow the car to Pep Boys, which American Express hooked me up with (AmEx Gold gets me four free tows, up to $50 each, per year), is coming to the rescue.  They are a full-service shop and are willing to give me a significantly reduced labor rate ($100) for pulling it, replacing it, and putting it back together.

Now, on to my horrifying past experience with Pep Boys technicians.  Ashley had two tires go bad due to road hazards and took it to Pep Boys for a couple new ones.  While it was in there, she had them do an oil change.  They failed to replace the drain plug gasket (it’s copper, if it were plastic like mine it wouldn’t matter) and, as a result, the thing leaked like a sieve.  She was down to about a quart of oil before we caught it, and the Subaru stealership charged $315 for Pep Boys’ mistake.  Again, same Pep Boys in College Square in Newark, DE.  If they can’t pull off an oil change, I don’t want their hands anywhere near my car, let alone pulling the intake manifold off.

tl;dr:  Don’t use Pep Boys.  For anything.  Ever.

Breather Tank for the RSX Type-S

Posted by Floppie on 2009-08-19
Posted in AcuraDo-It-YourselfLinkReviews  | Tagged With: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Basic design

Basic design

A few months back I started building a breather tank (known in the Club RSX community as an “oil catch can”), based on the design in this thread. The prototype image is over on the right side.

An overview of the finished product

An overview of the finished product

I ran out to Home Depot, picked up some 3″ diameter PVC pipe, a couple end caps, a PVC weld two-pack (one can of the thick, clear chemical and one can of the thin, purple, toxic one), a handful of various brass fittings, and a length of thin clear hose – like what you’d use on a home freshwater fish tank. I made all the markings with some black Sharpie, then cut the pipe to the proper length (I did about 7 inches), and drilled all the holes. It’s important to make sure that the holes, which are drilled into the end caps, aren’t drilled in a position where they’ll be blocked once you insert the pipe.

I also picked up some liquid Teflon (for a thread sealer) and QuikSteel from AutoZone. I figured out which side port I’d be using to connect the can to the atmosphere, used some coarse sandpaper to roughen up the area around that hole (on the inside of the end cap), then used the QuikSteel to adhere a little piece of window screen to it – just as sort of a coarse secondary filter.

Once this was done, I grabbed the PVC weld and attached the end caps. Double check everything before you do this – PVC weld is permanent, and the PVC pipe itself isn’t real cheap. After letting the weld sit for a little bit, I spray painted it flat black and let it sit for a day so everything could dry and set up. Then I started on the brass fittings – put a little bit of the liquid Teflon on the second thread in, for about a 3/4 turn, and then get it in the PVC. This is a bit of a pain in the ass, because PVC isn’t really meant to be drilled and threaded – close to the outside it’ll fall apart, then it’ll go in crooked, and not get in all the way. Get it in there as straight and far as you can – it won’t be perfect.

Attach the clear hose to the two brass fittings that are facing each other – this is going to be your gauge to see when you need to empty it. This tank is pretty big, so you won’t need to do it real frequently. The clear hose might not want to stay on its own, if it doesn’t, grab some silicone sealant and get it in there with that.

At this point I was broke and sort of let the project fall by the wayside for a few months – I finally picked it back up last week. I grabbed a little breather filter from Pep Boys, and got six feet of 1/4″ vacuum hose from a friend. Attached the breather filter to the top, hooked up one of the brass fittings (the lower-elevation one) to the PCV valve using the vacuum hose, and hooked the other one up to the PCV port on the intake manifold, like this (sorry it’s hard to read, click to enlarge):
Oil catch can - wrong setup diagram

Wrong setup - overview

Wrong setup - overview

The mounting location from the wrong setupThe PCV connections from the wrong setup

The mounting location and PCV connections from the wrong setup

I kept the tank next to the battery – actually it wasn’t being held in by anything, I just used the tension of the positive battery cable to keep it in place. I don’t recommend this, as it’s a great way to destroy your positive battery cable pretty quickly, but I was only planning on doing it for a day or so to test and make sure everything worked, before mounting it properly.

As it turns out, it didn’t work – the problem is that it caused a massive vacuum leak. I knew that this would be the case when I gave the intake manifold a direct, unthrottled connection to the atmosphere – but I was under the impression that, as long as I let the car idle for ten minutes or so (for the ECU to “get used” to it), it wouldn’t be a problem. That wasn’t the case. It kept throwing a check engine light, code P0505 (“idle system malfunction”) – which makes sense, as the idle controller no longer had any real control over the idle. A fully closed throttle would still leave a source of air.

Logically this would probably have improved my gas mileage due to the reduction of pumping losses from the throttle plate, especially with my foot off the gas, but I wasn’t happy with the way the car ran when it had the code up – it would go between running fine to running like ass. So I reconnected the PCV system as normal and went back to the drawing board to change my setup a little bit, like so (again, sorry it’s hard to read, just click to enlarge it):
Oil catch can - correct setup diagram

The PCV system, post-modificationsOil catch can - intake manifold and hose

The PCV system, post-modifications

There was a problem with this though. First of all, I didn’t know what to plug the intake manifold and pipe with. After a little assistance from the guys at CRSX, I discovered vacuum caps ;) so I hit up Advance Auto Parts to get an assortment of them. Another problem though – the largest one they had wasn’t big enough for the valve cover breather. The guys at AutoZone, however, made a suggestion – get a piece of hose to go over the breather port, and plug the hose with a bolt or something.

So I did exactly that – got a foot of 3/4″ gauge heater hose and the only 3/4″ bolt I could find at Ace Hardware, put the bolt in the hose, tightened a hose clamp around it, and zip tied it up near the battery so it doesn’t flop around. I also needed to change the port arrangement on the tank around a bit – I had the filter on the top port; the valve cover needed to be connected to that now, and the filter to one of the small ports. So I took the casing from a pen (1/4″ or 3/8″, I forget which), clamped that into the end of one of the lengths of 1/4″ PCV-compatible vacuum hose, and clamped the filter onto the other end of the pen casing. Problem solved.

A close-up of the tank's mounting location

A close-up of the tank's mounting location

I hooked everything all up, positioning the tank on top of the transmission – the bottom’s ziptied to one of the stock airbox mounts, and the top’s ziptied to the brake booster. It’s not going anywhere. I put the filter right where the back part of the hood meets the body – basically right in front of the driver side mirror – and made sure the hood closed; it did. However, there was one other problem with this – I went to wash the car and realized that all kinds of water would get into that spot when it rained or when I washed it. So I moved the filter so that it just hangs down in front of the battery now.

Old location of the breather filter outlined in blue

Old location of the breather filter outlined in blue

Again, it’s not going anywhere.

A couple close-ups of the breather filter's final locationOil catch can - filter location (2)

A couple close-ups of the breather filter's final location

I expected it to have a negative impact on my gas mileage, since the blowby that this thing’s catching consists mostly of unburned fuel and oxygen. However, it hasn’t – I’m guessing that without the intake manifold sucking on the crankcase, blowby has simply been considerably reduced. I haven’t noticed a power difference, but I don’t expect to – I’ve heard of people getting 5hp out of these things but that seems like a fish story to me. If I got 2-3whp I’d be ecstatic. I’m going to get it dyno’d with this and a handful of other small mods that I’m doing just to keep the intake charge a bit cooler, so we’ll see what happens.

Injen

Injen

A few weeks ago, I ordered an Injen cold air intake (it also comes in black) for my car, from Club RSX. Then, of course, we got two straight weeks of on-and-off rain, so I ordered a Hydroshield. That hasn’t come in yet, but I’m impatient – so today, I finally decided to install it. The instructions that came with it were quite helpful.

Injen Cold Air Intake

Injen Cold Air Intake

From what I’ve heard, if you’ve never done this before, and have another inexperienced person helping you, you’re probably looking at 3-4 hours. Well, I got started – flying solo – at 1400, around 1600 Brian came out to help, and we got done around 1800-1830. So that was a fairly accurate estimate.

Stock airbox, with the battery removed

Stock airbox, with the battery removed

First and foremost, I had to pull out the battery – nice and simple. The first “real” step was to get the front bumper taken off. That’s where the fun began. It’s supposed to be held in by four screws on the underside, two in the wheel wells (one each), six clips underneath, and six clips on top (toward the front of the engine bay). Alright, fair enough – here’s what was really holding my bumper on. One screw in each wheel well, check; three screws underneath (one short); two clips up top, with two others being replaced by my hood lock posts, so just for fun we’ll say there were only two missing up top; and one clip on the bottom. Add it all together and that’s one missing screw and seven missing clips. Awesome.

Front of car, minus one bumper

Front of car, minus one bumper

After getting the bumper off, I noticed that there was duct tape holding the plug for the driver’s side fog light on. Equally awesome. Anyway, the next step was to get the stock windshield wiper fluid reservoir out of the car. In retrospect, this should’ve been pretty easy, but it took me a while to figure out how to get the plugs off of the washer motors – just a simple squeeze clip, but I kept thinking it’d be more complicated. So I got those off, then went to pull the hoses off – I wasn’t sure if the motors would allow any fluid through without the solenoids getting juice, so I just yanked – turns out they would. Put the hose back on, run inside for a gallon jug, and drained all the fluid out through the rear washer motor. Then I kicked the jug over while I was looking for a tool, spilling half of what I so carefully collected.

Fender well, with the holes already cut, as per the instructions

Fender well, with the holes already cut, as per the instructions

Anyway, with the motors finally disconnected, all I had to do was pull the spout out of the top and remove three 10mm bolts to get the reservoir out. Nice and simple. After that I had to cut a 4″x5″ hole in the fender well and splash guard, because that’s where the intake pipe would eventually be running. This seems like it should’ve been easy, except that I was using a very jagged-toothed handsaw intended for tree branches, and the objects I was cutting were made of rubber and probably 2-3mm thick. It was very not awesome.

Drilling out the spot welds, as per the instructions

Drilling out the spot welds, as per the instructions

The next step was to get the battery shelf out of the car, so I could drill the spot welds out of a small extraneous bracket that’s used to guide the negative chassis ground from the battery. There were only two (out of what looked like it should’ve been three) bolts on top, so that was nice and easy, but there were also two horizontally-oriented bolts on the underside that were a real pain in the ass. I was wrestling with the first one when Brian came out to help – between the two of us we were finally able to get the damn things out. But not before incurring several hand injuries trying to turn those damn two bolts.

Then we went to drill out the two spot welds, and found that the drill battery was half dead. So that was slow going – had to drill them both out just part of the way, then wrestle the thing the rest of the way off. Reinstalling the battery tray was nice and easy though; just slapped it in and screwed in the four bolts – nice and simple.

Back to the windshield wiper fluid reservoir – it was time to install the new one. First I had to get the motors out of the old one, then get the motor grommets out – the grommets were real easy, but the motors themselves were a pain in the ass. Guess they have to be though, in order to form a proper watertight seal. After getting those out, it was real simple to just put them in the new one. Then – same thing – the large spot grommet had to be moved from the stock reservoir to the new one; that was also easy.

Getting the new reservoir to mount properly, however, was a huge pain in the ass. First we didn’t realize that we were supposed to use the rubber vibra-mount in the top rear hole – so, since we only had two bolts, we had some laughs that they hadn’t shipped out enough. Then we found that it didn’t quite fit the mounting holes – the top two were about 1/8″ or so too close together on the new reservoir. So we had to shear those out a bit with the drill in order to get it to fit. Then it was just a matter of reconnecting the wires and tubes to the motors.

Stock equipment removed, Injen elbow in place

Stock equipment removed, Injen elbow in place

Once that was mounted, we needed to get all the stock tubing off the throttle body, crankcase, and brake booster, along with removing the stock airbox. That was pretty easy; just undoing a few clips and yanking on some tubes, and removing three bolts to get the airbox out. Then we had to get the elbow pipe connected to the throttle body. That was a little less simple – there’s a hose of some sort mounted right underneath the air intake portion of the throttle body, and it made getting the clamp all the way to the end of the pipe quite difficult. Once we got through that though, just tighten and done.

Feeding the intake pipe upward, as per the instructions

Feeding the intake pipe upward, as per the instructions

Next was getting the actual intake pipe mounted. First I had to make sure the transmission was in 5th, for reference as far as clearance; in 5th, it comes very close to the intake pipe, and if you don’t keep it there for reference, you might mount the pipe in such a way that you can’t use 5th gear anymore – not a great outcome to the story. Anyway, all precautions aside, it had to be fed up from the bottom, through the hole in the fender well, under the battery tray, and into the elbow we mounted to the throttle body previously.

Intake pipe as it connects to the elbow, as per the instructions; the shift linkage (A) and air temperature sensor (B) are circled

Intake pipe as it connects to the elbow, as per the instructions; the shift linkage (A) and air temperature sensor (B) are circled

Well, this was a problem, because there’s a long mounting bracket that we couldn’t seem to get past the windshield wiper fluid reservoir. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the directions were telling me to use the vibro-mount as a post to hold both the reservoir and the intake pipe in place. So we pulled the top rear bolt out of the reservoir, relocated it to the bottom, got the vibro-mount in place, and managed to finagle the intake pipe all the way in and get it clamped into the elbow and mounted with its bracket.

With the intake pipe in place, it’s looking like the home stretch. Had to mount the air temperature sensor grommet into the intake pipe, pull the sensor itself out of the old intake, and put it in the new one; then run the supplied 4mm and 17mm vacuum hoses from the intake pipe to the brake booster and crankcase, respectively. Getting the crankcase hose secured was a bit of a pain in the ass; the stock clamps are sort of stupid – but eventually we got it.

Here's everything that came out of the car - lots of extra room in the engine bay now

Here\’s everything that came out of the car – lots of extra room in the engine bay now

Then it was just a matter of double checking that everything was secured and getting the bumper reattached. That was probably the easiest part of the whole thing. Getting the fender well screws in properly was a bit difficult, but aside from that it was pretty easy getting the whole thing on. After getting the bumper on and battery connected, it was time to start it up – I’d read that it was best to let it idle for 10 minutes or so, that way the ECU could recalibrate itself to the increased oxygen entering the combustion chamber.

Immediately, I could hear the difference. The motor and coolant were cold at this point, so the idle was up high – I could clearly hear air being sucked in from in front of the driver’s side tire. After letting it idle for a little while, it was time to go for a ride. I got out onto the road, wound it up through 1st and 2nd, then heard some sort of rubbing noise. So I slowed it down, turned back into town at the next light, and pulled over. The driver’s side fender well didn’t fasten to the undercarriage properly and it was rubbing against the ground.

So I drove home, figured out how to get it on properly, and took it out for a real ride this time. The difference is huge – both in power and sound. The VTEC crossover is very clearly audible now; it’s like night and day. The advertised performance gain from stock is roughly 20hp, plus the base 200hp – 10%. On the dyno that I went to, it should show about 15-16hp gain.

Will post before/after dyno charts sometime this week – whenever I can figure out a way to enhance the scan. The line was way too thin and light on the page, so you can barely see it on the scan. I’ll figure something out though.