Brake Ducts

Time for some spring cleaning and duct work. At high speed, the front end of the 996 seems a bit light. The air that flows through the front bumper passes first through the AC condenser, then through the radiator, before exiting down in front of the front wheels. For cooling purposes, it’s a fairly efficient design. But it has two drawbacks: It tends to catch leaves, bugs, and debris between the condenser and radiator, and secondly it tends to cause the front to lift. We can’t do much about the leaf problem (except remember to clean the radiators each year) but we can do something about lift.
trapped leaves
If you look into the front wheel wells of later 997 model 911s, you will see that the air now passes through the radiator and into the wheel well where it helps cool the brakes. The 997 fender liners will not fit in the 996, but you can modify them to get the same effect.

Safely place the car on jack-stands, remove the front wheels, and remove the fender liners. Remove the front bumper cover and the shroud around the radiators. At this point it is a good idea to separate the condenser from the front of the radiator and blow out any debris. You will need to remove the triangular frame so you can pull off the plastic shroud on the back side of the radiator fan on each side. Mark the area you need to cut before you pull it off.
What to cut
Use a dremel tool to cut away the material you don’t need. Line the metal triangle up with the back side of the fender liner and draw a similar pattern. Cut away the material on the fender liner as well. We put a metal screen on the back side, but that’s optional.
final cut
Don’t worry if your cuts are not perfect. Once the wheel is mounted you cannot see your new vents.

Site Upgrade and New Name is now Spec R53 Blog. New name, same focus: DIY improvements for the track-day enthusiast. Behind the scenes we’ve upgraded our php server, database, and are finally able to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress. The new layout lets us use larger photos and has a very clean look. Let us know what you think.

Crossing the Line

Summit Point
This past weekend brought another arctic blast to the Mid-Atlantic region and the first driving event of the year. We learned a couple of interesting lessons driving in sub-freezing temperatures on the track:

  1. According to the National Weather Service, the wind-chill of 7 degrees F at 109 MPH (the max speed of their calculator) is -29.
  2. Seat heaters are wonderful things and you don’t want to stick your hand outside if you don’t have to.
  3. Even with road surface temperatures near 20 degrees, summer tires will get warm enough to grip (they aren’t supposed to work under 40 degrees) and will actually reach temperatures near 100 degrees.
  4. The Roots-type Supercharger really likes the higher density air that comes with extremely low temperatures.

Front Straight
The biggest disadvantage to having a driving event in this type of weather is the preparation that’s always required for the first event of the year, especially if you have a garage with questionable heat. During the few days of above freezing temperatures, we did manage to install new brake calipers and rotors; flush the brake system; reinstall the cold air intake and prep the interior for the roll-bar install.
The big news for this year is the installation of the SneedSpeed roll-bar. Finally crossing the line from street-car to dedicated track-car, the rear seats have come out for the last time and the roll-bar was welded in.
bare bar
The finished job looks great. We’ll have to do a better job of fitting the required padding once things warm up again and the padding becomes more pliable, but it was good enough for this weekend.
roll bar installed
The interior trim required only a small amount if trimming on the bottom edge where the side meets the roll hoop where it welds to the chassis. Removing the side pockets from trim panels reduced the total amount of trimming that was required. All that is left now is to re-carpet the plywood panel that sits where the seat-bottoms were.
trimmed out

Audi Silvercar Experience

When GeorgeCo was out in California last summer, he walked past the Hertz Porsche 911s on the way to pick up his hair-shirt Toyota crap-can and thought there must be a better rental car option out there. Now there is: Silvercar. From Austin Ventures comes a new way to rent cars. The CEO of Silvercar is the former CTO of Zipcar and they’ve greatly improved the entire rental experience.
For about the same you would expect to pay for a Nissan Altima or Ford Focus ($59/day), Silvercar only has one type of car for rent: The Audi A4 Quatro. The cars are nicely appointed with leather seats, 3G wifi, and Nav. Download the Silvercar app for iPhone or Android, create your account, choose your destination and go. Cars are currently available in Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Francisco and Los Angeles. GeogeCo rented in Los Angeles. When you arrive at LAX, head outside to the LAX parking shuttles and board the bus for Lot C. When you get on the bus, use the Silvercar App to text the concierge that you’re on your way and someone will meet you when you step off the bus. On the way back to the office they will explain the features of the car, help you scan the QR code to start your rental and away you go. (Be sure to ask how the #$% electronic e-brake works.) The return location is already loaded in the Nav system. You don’t have to remember to gas the car when you return — for a five dollar service charge, you pay regular pump prices for gas. The concierge then drives you to the airport and drops you off at your airline.
The A4 was very comfortable on my 200 mile trip up the coast, even on California’s click-clack expansion joint freeways. The A4 accelerates well and is very sure footed even on slippery roads thanks to Quattro all-wheel drive. Steering is somewhat heavy, but not burdensome. It feels like a front-wheel drive car thanks to the engine which is well in front of the front axle. The front doors are quite narrow, however, and might prove challenging to some.
nose heavy
There was plenty of space for two real adults in the back seats. In the photo below one seat is almost all the way forward, and the other all the way back.
rear seats
The trunk is fairly deep, but might be tight for four suitcases. Two sets of golf clubs should not be a problem.
Visibility from the driver’s seat is good. Audi interior materials and surfaces are excellent. The controls are logically laid out (mostly). The eight-speed transmission was very smooth and combined gas mileage was good at 28 MPG. The Audi MMI Navigation Plus Package is one of the better infotainment systems on the market. Pairing of Bluetooth devices was easily accomplished. We liked both the large Nav screen in the center as well as the turn by turn display between the gauges in the main cluster. I really have only three nit-picks with Audi about this car: the electronic e-brake is just a dumb idea; the seats were a bit hard and lacking decent side-bolsters; and in the normal operating mode, the eight-speed transmission would not hold a gear on a seven-percent grade. The last one is minor; just switch over to sport mode, select the gear you want, and never worry about touching the brakes on your descent. The seats were not the optional sport-seats and probably make sense in a rental car as you have to account for the large backsides of most Americans. The electronic e-brake is just engineering hubris.
A4 rear side
Overall, the Audi A4 and the Silvercar experience both get a big thumbs up. When we get to choose which car to rent, GeorgeCo will be going back to Silvercar. (Like Silvercar on Facebook and get $50 off of your first rental as well as discount offers.)

Washington Autoshow 2014


GeorgeCo went to the 2014 Washington Auto Show so you don’t have to. As far as the big autoshows go — Detroit, Frankfurt, Geneva — they just don’t compare. No really. Don’t try. The Washington Auto Show should be called “Washington Nearby Dealers New Car Show”. If you want to see the latest exotic models by Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, or even cutting edge design concepts, then don’t bother going. If you want to see a bunch of new cars you can buy at your local mega dealer, then this is the show for you.

Scion or Toyota Concept

For example, this Toyota I-Road Concept is from the 2013 Geneva show. (Nobody wants to see yesterday’s concept cars.) GeorgeCo did want to see three new cars, however: The BMW i8; Porsche Targa; and the new new new MINI so we headed over to the Washington Convention Center during lunch yesterday. We got to see one and half of those cars. MINI had a new MINI Cooper S (F56) on display and BMW had an i3 (OK, not one and half, but one and three eights?) Both were locked so they were probably pre-production cars which is disappointing. Other notable cars at this year’s show are a flat-blue Audi R8; Blue BMW M4; Blue Corvette Stingray; and Red 2015 Mustang. But first, the new, new, new-MINI.

F56 side quarter

MINI F56. I wanted to hate this car and it didn’t disappoint. MINI design is lost in the wilderness. This car manages to pull off something amazing: it makes the MINI Countryman look good. MINI is clearly trapped in their own secret sauce. Ninety percent of the public probably won’t even notice that the car is new. Put it next to a previous generation R56 and it looks evolutionary. Put it next to a R50 and it just looks wrong. The shape is iconic and that’s restrictive, I get that, but the original new MINI worked because it maintained a strong design language throughout and maintained consistent proportions even into the R56 range.

F56 Front

The headlights now look like they were designed by a committee that wasn’t on speaking terms. The shape of the nose is borrowed from Ford. The tail-lights are much too large for the size of the car which makes you wonder if it was one of those NASA-style inches to centimeter conversion problems.

F56 Rear

Through the locked doors, the interior is still MINI and the materials do look to be of a higher quality. MINI seats have come a long way in the last ten years and this car is no exception. The good news is that the new family of engines is promising with the base Cooper 3 cylinder offering torque to rival the R53 Cooper S and the F56 Cooper S offering JCW level performance. You just can’t help feeling that this car just isn’t going to appeal to the performance enthusiast. Most MINIs are now purchased off the lot, losing that sense of personalization that made the original new MINI so unique. Now it’s just an expensive small car and that’s a shame.

Viper Engine

Chrysler had an engine with a car attached to it. Oh, that was the new Viper. Or maybe it was an old Viper, hard to tell.


Audi had an interesting color R8 on display. Interesting as in, “why would anyone do that” interesting, not that the car was interesting in itself. R8s are not pretty cars, but they certainly go like stink. I bet the flat blue is a pain to maintain (unless it’s just a wrap, I didn’t check.)


BMW had an M4 on display. There’s another car company that’s lost. BMW has decided that Coupes are even numbered and Sedans are odd numbered. So now there are two new cars M3/M4 where before there was one M3. Why bother? And who cares? They make small cars (which are inexpensive in Europe and not in the US) the 1 and now 2 Series. Sporty Performance Cars (3/4). Luxury cars for fat executives (5/6). And Luxo-barges for fat-cats (7). By extrapolation then, they must be working on a luxo-barge Coupe (8 Series.) Does the world need an M3 and an M4? No, of course not. Would we take one if someone gave us one? Absolutely, but that’s not the point: Performance used to be about driving pleasure, about power-to-weight ratio, and about fun. Now it seems to be about carbon-fiber engine U-bars (whatever that is) and air-conditioned seats.

U-shaped whatsit

You listening BMW? I’m in your prime demographic. I’m a fan of the brand. I’ve owned 3 of your cars. I want a car that’s the size and shape of the 435i. Straight-6 normally aspirated engine. 300 hp/2500 lbs. No nav, HUD, TSC, ASC, EBC, RTTI, x-drive, AST, Lane-departure warning, adaptive steering, or electronic-anything. Give me a six speed manual, limited slip, power steering and brakes, AC and ABS. It doesn’t need a stereo, seats with airbags, xenon headlights, sun/moon roof, wood trim, or park distance control. It doesn’t even need seats, suspension, wheels/tires, or exhaust. Let me buy a shell and include just the bits I want and I’ll source everything else myself. If you do that, I’ll buy a new car. (Hint: I want an E30 with a modern crumple zones and chassis rigidity.)

BMW i3

BMW i3. Ugly in the way the Pontiac Aztek wasn’t. It kind of grows on you, not from the outside but from the inside. First impression is that this is a really narrow car, but it is really very tall. The inside (again locked: bastards) is very well appointed with recycled materials and wood which was refreshing.

i3 interior

I don’t really like the execution but I like the concept. If I were 20 years younger and lived in some hip urban neighborhood in DC, this is the car (if any) I’d have. But given that I’m an old-fart living in the X-burbs, then I’ll pass. I’m almost old enough to want a Vette.


Corvette Stingray. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the engineering team what builds Corvettes after having been in a couple of C6s on the track. This is an incredibly capable car targeted at an incredibly inept market. The average age of the Corvette buyer is still 59 and will likely rise with time. Which is a shame as this is a wonderful track car. Except for the rear-end, this is a cohesive design statement that’s true to the Corvette design language. The design is angular, sort of like an F-117 Stealth Fighter, which makes you wonder if like the original Stealth, were GM’s computer design tools not sophisticated enough to plot curves? The back-end treatment seems overly complex.

Corvette Rear

And why did they include tail-lights from last year’s Camaro? The tail-lights are iconic on a Corvette. If you try to include anything into a new design, that’s one of those elements you keep on the “must include” list.

Lost in the supermarket

2015 Ford Mustang. Another locked car, one of the few you can’t actually get close enough to touch. The lovely booth professionals were touting the fact that it will (finally) not have a live rear-axle. Party like it’s 1984 Ford. Here’s another design that’s lost its way. (Full disclosure: GeorgeCo owns a bunch of Ford stock. When we say it’s awful, we really mean that it’s terrific and you should go out and buy one with all of the options as soon as it is available.) I’m not sure what Ford is using for inspiration. I fear it’s the Mach I Mustang. At least it is ugly coming and going.


Jaguar F-Type. Jag had several F-Types there with and without tops. This is a sexy car even with a nose (like the MINI) dictated more by European pedestrian crumple-zone requirements than good design considerations. It’s best in the 3/4 rear view.

Rear Ftype

And unlike the over-designed M4 or Corvette rear-ends, the rear of the F-Type seems a bit unfinished. For the money though, put this car next to a Subaru BRZ and you would be hard-pressed to justify the extra $50K for the Jag.


Hyundai Racing. Really? No comment.


At least there was one interesting Korean car there.

FCV Rear

Toyota redefined fugly with Fuel Cell Concept vehicle, recycled from the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. It was something you would expect from a first-year automotive design student, not the worlds-almost-largest automaker. But, then again, if you can’t design floormats what do you expect?

FCV front

Where have I seen that face before?


Click on over to Flickr to see the rest of the photos. As long as they keep having free admission for veterans and active military, GeorgeCo will continue to go. See you next January.

MINI pano

Carbon Fauxber

I’m not generally a big fan of carbon fiber trim, but this stuff may very well change my position.
As I was preparing for the recent JCW steering wheel installation project, I thought it might be a great opportunity to get rid of some of the silver trim I don’t like in the MINI. I have tried unsuccessfully to paint small trim pieces in the past, but it was very difficult to get a really high quality finish on small plastic parts using only rattle-can paint. I was looking on ebay to see how much carbon fiber trim pieces cost for the JCW wheel and all three pieces would still cost $240 or more which is ridiculous. Just replacing the existing plastic pieces is $120. Then I found this carbon fiber fabric from Psyspeed.
stretch fabric
I bought a yard (36×55 inches) of the glossy black carbon fiber fabric. It is very stretchy and has a really nice texture. (Remember “Pat the Bunny“? Kind of like that.)
All you need is a good pair of scissors, a good automotive contact adhesive, and a clean surface to work. Keep in mind the angle of the weave as you lay out your pieces.
Wearing gloves, spray two coats of adhesive on the parts to be covered (front and back edges) and let sit for 2-3 minutes before starting to work.
Stretch the cloth evenly over the first piece and work the material until it covers evenly and smoothly. Stretch to wrap the edges.
Trim the material so that you can overlap the back by about half an inch. Make small cuts in the edges and pull the material taught, making sure you don’t change the tension on the front.
complex shapes
If you are patient, you can work the material to cover some very complex shapes. You just have to decide when you want to stop. The single yard is probably enough to cover most car interiors.

Starting with this:
And ending with this:

JCW Steering Wheel Install

When you’re driving a car, how do you get feedback from the road? If you’ve been in the GeorgeCo MINI and said “seat-of-the-pants” or “dental fillings” you get partial credit, but the answer I was looking for was “through the steering wheel.” If you’re like me and spend 3 or more hours a day commuting, you quickly find out that life is too short to have a bad steering wheel. I’ve driven many different cars over the past couple of years while instructing and have finally figured out what I want in a steering wheel. I want a small diameter wheel, thick padding, preferably covered in Alcantara and, for a street car, one that still retains the stock airbag. (Actually, you should click that link to Alcantara in the previous sentence. This is one of the strangest, and perhaps least informative website designs I’ve ever seen. If you still don’t know what Alcantara is, click this instead.)

There is such a wheel available for both the Porsche 996 and the MINI R53. Unfortunately, the Porsche wheel carries the usual Porsche tax, and runs about $1,600. If I ever find one on Craigslist I might consider it, but for now, the MINI JCW Wheel seems like a bargain at less than a quarter of that cost. The old wheel should still have some value so once we sell it, our total costs should be under $300.
JCW Wheel Before
Every other time I’ve removed a wheel, it involved either a wheel puller, or a complicated mix of wrenching and counter-holding the wheel using whatever was available like a Club (remember those?) This swap was remarkable straight-forward, with only the risk of the airbag blowing up in your face to complicate things. Here’s how to swap it out yourself and save money. (Usual disclaimer: Use at your own risk. No wagering.) This job should take less than 30 minutes. Read the complete instructions a couple of times all of the way through before you begin.

Start with a stock leather MINI 3-spoke wheel (in this case, with a GeorgeCo sewn wheelskin cover to make it thicker….)
old wheel
Ensure the wheels are straight and the steering column is locked before you begin. Disconnect the negative terminal from the battery and make sure it won’t make contact again until you finish (not shown.) Wait 5 minutes before working on the car. Now would be a good time to pick up the new steering wheel and make yourself familiar with it. On each side is a small indentation where the covering is actually slit. You are going to slip a screwdriver into this slot and press against a spring to release the airbag. Try using a small Torx screwdriver to get leverage on the spring (T-20).
Practice making contact with the arm of the spring and getting the spring to move before you try it on your old steering wheel. Insert a small torx screwdriver into the indentations on the side of the wheel and release the tension on the spring, one side at a time. In the photo below, the airbag has already been removed to show you how the spring works.
release The airbag will move forward slightly once it has been released from the spring. Once both sides have released, gently pull the airbag free of the wheel but support it with one hand. You will need to disconnect two electrical connections on the backside of the airbag. (If you have a multi-function steering wheel, you will need to unplug those connections as well at this time.)
disconnect airbag
Once removed, place the airbag face up (MINI logo up) someplace where it won’t be disturbed (and explode….) Disconnect the black connector for the horn, but leave the wire attached to the wheel as the new wheel is pre-wired.
disconnect horn wire
Use a 16mm socket with the appropriate extension to remove the bolt at the center of the wheel. Unlike other wheels, the MINI wheel will come off of the spindle with little effort. Take care to feed the airbag wires through the slot as the wheel comes off and ensure that the white plastic ring does not move out of center. (If it does move more than slightly, you will have to recenter it. Check with your Bentley manual for how to do it.)
white ring
Installation is the reverse of removal. Carefully fit the peg of the white ring into the hole on the new wheel and feed the airbag wires through the slot at the top. Install the 16mm bolt and hand tighten for now. Reconnect the horn connector. Check your Bentley manual and tighten to spec (my car was 46.5 lbs.)
new wheel installed
Install new trim or remove trim pieces from old wheel and reuse. On the back-side of each each arm of the wheel is a torx screw that will need to be removed before removing the trim from the old wheel. Pull straight up on each trim piece to remove. (My wheel did not have the multifunction switches, but if yours does, now would be the time to move them over to the new wheel and plug them in as well.) Top Tip: It’s easier to install the trim before you put the wheel on the steering column.
remove these screws
Reinstall trim pieces and torx screws.
Trim installed
Carefully plug in the two plugs to the back of the airbag and press the airbag back into spring fittings. You will hear a click when it is fully connected.
all done
Reconnect the battery and you’re all done.
Larger photos here.
Old wheel for sale here.

Porsche by Design

Gmuend Coupe
On the way to Hilton Head Island this past week, we stopped by the North Carolina Museum of Art which is hosting “Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed” through January 20, 2014. The show presents 22 Porsche automobiles going back to 1938 including the 1949 356 Gmuend Coupe (above) as well as Steve McQueen’s 356 Speedster and Janis Joplin’s art car. The collection includes 5 cars from the Porsche museum — a first for a North American exhibition — including the single ugliest Porsche Prototype we’ve seen.
This car was presented to Ferry Porsche as a birthday present in 1989. Sort of the ugly sweater your aunt gave you, he drove it a few times and then found a safe place to “preserve” it in the museum. The coolest feature of this car was the Porsche Crest tread pattern in the tires.
Steve McQueen’s 356 Cabriolet is still owned by his son, Chad.
And the Janis Joplin car is very, er…. unique. I guess if you can’t recall the Summer of Love, you just don’t get it.
I enjoyed seeing the 917K, 962C, and IROC RSR race cars, but my favorite car of the show was the 1963 901 Prototype that started the life of the 911.
Type 901
The full set of photos from the show is here on Flickr.

Talkin’ Spec B in Charleston

I was in Charleston, South Carolina on business this week (which, I must say is a nice place to be in December when there is a foot of snow on the ground at home.) While there, I stopped by MINI of Charleston which is the home of the Spec B Championship winning MINI of Brad and Robbie Davis. (Brad is the General Manager there and Robbie is his son.) MINI of Charleston will also provide a conversion kit or complete car so you can go Spec B racing. I’ve been having some issues with my rear brakes at the track so I figured who better to ask advice than someone who races MINIs at a top level, so I spoke with Stuart Kestenbaum who was their crew chief this year.

Objects in Mirror Are Losing

Spec B or Touring Class B (TCB) in Pirelli World Challenge speak, is designed as a way for club level racers to get exposure to professional racing, competing in the exact configuration as they do in SCCA Club Racing, but racing on Pirelli 15-inch racing slicks. B Spec cars have preparation limited to shocks, springs and the required safety equipment. The cost of preparing an R56 MINI is under $8,000 and you can order one new built to the spec for about $26K. In racing trim, the car weighs about 2,600 lbs. The B Spec MINI was competitive right out of the box. They run a restrictor plate and only have 90 hp. Their biggest competition is the Honda Fit which has an advantage in lower gearing off of the line. I was interested in seeing the gutted interior and talking about brakes.


TCB MINIs have to run stock brake calipers with Carbotech Competition pads. Spec B rules do not allow brake proportioning valves to be used. I wanted to know if they had any of the problems with excessive heat that I did. During track weekends I might get 2-3 hours of track time on Fridays (compared to less than 2 hours for the rest of the weekend.) During the last few event weekends, I completely burned through a set of pads in the right rear. At first I thought it was only on the unloaded side, but after running in the counter-clockwise direction on the Shenandoah Circuit, I realized it was always the right side. Stuart thinks I might be binding the emergency brake cable somehow and causing light pressure to be applied to the right rear caliper. This would account for the excessive wear and heat I’ve been experiencing lately. They had a similar issue with a previous model car where they also ran a stiffer rear sway-bar. I’ll have to get under the car and check it out. If nothing else, I can put some slack in the cable before my next track session. While talking brakes, I learned some interesting things about their experience in the B Spec MINI. They do not run any brake ducting. They have to use stock calipers and only used one set of rear pads for the entire season. In fact, they only changed the front pads once. I’ll have to try the Carbotech pads next year before I decide to go the route of upgrading to a big brake kit.

I’m not ready to gut the interior of the GeorgeCo MINI just yet, but it was nice to see how they were able to take advantage of the MINI door pockets to push the door bars out and maintain as much space in the cockpit as possible. Their cage was fabricated by Kirk Racing Products. I would like to get more supportive seats into my car, but don’t know how far I want to go down that road. Stock MINI seats have Thorax airbags built in. They don’t offer any additional protection on the track when you run with the windows down, but removing them would have an effect on the overall safety of the car on the street. I guess it brings up the point as to when I’m willing to abandon dual-use and just dedicate it to track use. I can start with a Kirk roll hoop without crossing that line. (The Kirk roll hoop can be made into a full cage later.)

Replace Broken Crank Damper

I decided to take the MINI to work this morning to see if everything was back in order after recently replacing the motor mount. The engine seemed to be running a little rough, but I just figured the new motor mount was a little more firm than the old one. I got off the highway after one exit due to traffic and I got the dreaded CEL (Check Engine Light.) I hate that light. It might as well say, “Yo. Something’s wrong. I know what it is, but I’m not going to tell you. Here’s a hint: It’s under the hood….” And the car went into limp mode. Fortunately I still had my code scanner which told me it was code P1688. That’s handy. What does that mean? Ugh. I just turned around and headed home. I’d have to reset the ECU every 5 minutes, but it is a pretty hilly route so I could do lots of coasting. So what is P1688 you ask? Not what it seems.

P1688 is the code for “Electronic Throttle Control Monitor Level 2/3 Mass Air Flow Calculation”. Which would indicate a problem with the throttle body, but I also had code P0107 last week at the track which is “Manifold Absolute Pressure/Barometric Pressure Circuit Low Input”. With those two together, the car is saying that for a given amount of throttle, there just doesn’t seem to be enough boost going on. And on the R53 MINIs that usually means the crank pulley (or more accurately, harmonic balancer) is shot. The stock part is about $200, but since this car gets lots of track time, better to upgrade to a more robust model. ATI Performance makes a Super Damper for about $350. As the old damper started to disintegrate, it took a good amount of the old belt with it. The old belt has had one rib sliced off. These two belts should be the same width.
missing rib
Once you get the right front up on a jack-stand, remove the wheel and fender liner, and use a belt tensioner tool to remove the belt.
tensioner tool
You can’t tell if the damper has gone bad by viewing it from the front, but when you look at it from the side, you’ll see a gap developing as the belt pulley separates from the damper.
mind the gap
ATI includes basic instructions with the new super damper. Here are some tips to make it easier on you. (Use at your own risk.)

You can use a universal pulley removal tool if you’re careful. You will need to buy 3 M6 bolts that are long enough to work with your tool. Be sure to get the hardest bolts you can (10.9). First step is to remove the center bolt. Use some penetrating oil before you start. You may get lucky and be able to remove it just by putting the car in 6th gear and having someone stomp on the brakes. But for me, the crank still turned. I ended up using a brace to stop the crank from rotating. In this case, it’s a tool for removing a fan from an E30. Go figure.
hold it
Now the real fun begins. If your tool did not include an appropriately sized center pin, then put the bolt back in and tighten, leaving about a half inch of threads showing. Attach your pulley removal tool. Have a helper hold the bolt with a wrench as the pulley tool will be pushing against the bolt and it will try to screw back in. When the bolt makes contact with the damper, you have to back it out some more and adjust everything and go again. Make sure the M6 bolts are not twisting. You should be able to compare the location of the damper to the other pulleys on the front of the engine to judge if you’re making progress. I ended up having to replace the bolt with a longer one to get the last quarter of inch of travel needed to remove the damper.
Once it came off, you can see how badly damaged it really was. (Hint: this is supposed to be one piece, not two.)
With the damper removed, you can see where it scored the engine as it oscillated. I’m surprised that didn’t make more noise….
Installation is the revers of removal. No, not really. From the ATI instructions: Inspect the crank for any burrs or nicks. Blow out the threaded hole to free it of debris (and clean the engine before you start since you can’t really get to it once installed.)
Start the new super damper by hand. Heat it with a heat gun or hair dryer if it doesn’t start easily. Use the supplied long bolt and washer to grab enough threads to pull it on most of the way. Continue until it bottoms out, then remove the bolt.
first bolt
Use a new OEM bolt to finish installation. Apply blue loctite and torque to 85 lbs. Reinstall the belt, taking care to route it correctly.
slack belt
Carefully release the belt tension using tensioner tool. Start the engine to check if everything is OK and the belt alignment is straight. Then reinstall the fender liner and wheel. Torque wheel to 87 lbs.

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