In between early Spring snow squalls, GeorgeCo found some time to go to the track with the local Audi club. They needed someone to instruct on the skid pad, and GeorgeCo always needs more track time. Win-win.
With temperatures in the 40s and the GeorgeCo Porsche still wearing all-season Conti tires, we weren’t out to set any lap records. This was all about shaking the cobwebs and making sure the car is running well. The track temperature was very similar to the last day at the track last November. The work to clean our the radiators resulted in lower operating temperatures by about 10 degrees. Oil pressure was consistent, and the car is handling well, even if the suspension is a bit tired.
I’m still working on the ideal camera placement. I like having the camera between the front seats like in the MINI, but in the Porsche, that’s not an option. I tried it mounted to the windshield but that’s too far forward and between the rear seats, but the lens is too wide.
On the skid pad, I attached the camera to a cone and tried putting it on the passenger window. The telematics system doesn’t know what to do with the loss of traction. The revs and the gear indicator go nuts in the video.
In between early Spring snow squalls, GeorgeCo found some time to go to the track with the local Audi club. They needed someone to instruct on the skid pad, and GeorgeCo always needs more track time. Win-win.
|When I got to the airport in New Orleans this week, I was quite surprised to learn that my “mid-sized rental car” was in fact a FIAT 500. Since my car last week was a completely uninspiring Nissan Altima with “Pure Drive” (whatever that means), I thought I’d give it a try, especially since I hadn’t driven a FIAT since 1985. Here’s my (totally unbiased) review of the rental-car version of the FIAT 500: It stinks.|
This car has 1.4 liter multi-air inline 4 cylinder engine. Multi-air is FIAT’s variable intake valve technology used to improve the fuel economy of the 101 hp engine. (The car should be called the “Mila Quattrocento” instead of the “Cinquecento”, no?) Unlike the original 500 cc engines, this one has enough grunt to get you up to and beyond legal speed limits. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that once you’re there, the tall, slab-sided shape makes the short wheel-base car very susceptible to cross-winds. Visibility is surprisingly bad for a car this small. The seating position is more mini-van than MINI cooper. And the split outside mirror is just confusing.
The front sloping wind shield moves the very thick A-pillar forward and blocks much of the view from someone pulling into your lane from the front. The thick B-pillar blocks most of the view over your left shoulder.
The interior fit and finish is good; the materials feel solid and not cheap; and the interior lay-out is very clean. The tachometer within the speedometer is confusing. The information screen in the center of the binnacle is all your really need even if the controls are not very intuitive. Leg room was good and the interior comfortable.
The rear seats seem to offer about as much room as the MINI, but the space to get in and out seems tighter.
Luggage room is about the same as the MINI.
Under the hood is a master class in packaging, though it’s not a friendly place for the do-it-yourselfer. Surprisingly, the FIAT 500 got an overall rating of “good” from the Institute for Highway Safety. There must be some serious crumple-zone engineering going on there. One thing to note: don’t sit too close to the steering wheel. The crash test dummy registered a significant injury to the head and neck as the head went through the airbag to contact the steering wheel.
The one thing that did remind me of the FIAT of old was the strap on the rear deck. It has a sort of “you want a strap, here’s your damn strap…” quality to it that reminds me of 1970’s Italian craftsmanship. Another odd feature was the size of the brake rotors and calipers. They appear to be the same size front and rear. That either means that the rears are seriously over-sized, or that the fronts are seriously under-sized. Let’s hope it’s the former and that FIAT figured it was easier to stock one part than two.
FIATs of the 1970’s were notorious for coming pre-rusted from the factory. Quality of workmanship was spotty, panel fit atrocious, and reliability non-existant. The exteriour design of the cars (or at least those that carried over from the 1960s), however, was glorious. This car is just the opposite: Build quality is excellent, materials used and fit is equal to or above it’s price segment, and the car has the speed and safety features demanded of a modern car. The design, however, is insipid. There is not a good angle at which to view this car. It seems as if it were designed by a committee whose members were not allowed to talk to each other. FIAT has some wonderfully designed contemporary cars. This isn’t one of them. For those enthusiasts counting on a long-term return of FIAT to the US, this one was a swing and a miss. Your experience may vary.
Unusually warm late-February weather permitted completion of our final set of winter projects in the semi-heated GeorgeCo garage. We completed the upgrade to the lubrication system, installation of the IMS Guardian, and reorganization of the center stack to include (God-forbid): Cup-holders. Let’s start with the preventive maintenance bits first.
The M96 engine has 23 known modes of failure, the most common of which is the failure of the rear intermediate shaft (IMS) bearing. Likely for cost-cutting reasons, Porsche installed a sealed bearing that is prone to failure. Many failed early in the life of the engine. Poor quality of the bearing seals may have actually prolonged the life of some bearings as they get fed some oil if the seals fail. Early signs of failure include metal and plastic bits sitting in the oil pan. One way to detect it is by using a magnetic oil plug and careful inspection of the old oil filter when doing an oil change. Careful inspection of the GeorgeCo 996 oil pan revealed no metal bits and only a couple of small plastic bits indicative of chain-guide wear (not unusually in a 70K mile motor.)
A better way to detect impending failure is to use a magnet oil plug hooked to an alarm system. The detector replaces the oil drain plug with a magnetic plug wired to an alarm up in the dash. Ferrous material in your oil will be detected by the magnetic plug and cause an audible alarm giving you time to shut down the motor before any real damage is done. That’s what the IMS Guardian is all about: early detection of impending failure.
The IMS bearing itself is not hard to replace, but it does involve separating the engine from the transmission and is often replaced when replacing a clutch. Since my car had a new clutch not too long ago, that probably won’t be necessary for another couple of years. When it is time to replace the clutch, I’ll get the bearing replaced. Until then, the IMS Guardian buys you some peace of mind.
Oil starvation is one of the most common causes of engine failure at the track. There are actually three interrelated things happening that most people attribute to starvation: oil is too hot; oil is frothing; and high G forces are starving the intake. The M96 uses a heat exchanger with the cooling system to cool the oil, so part of the heat issue can be covered by making sure the cooling system is functioning properly. This includes cleaning out the debris in the front mounted radiators (my next project.) Frothing is caused by improperly functioning air-oil separators. Cornering starvation is a function of a poorly designed baffle in the oil pan. This can be corrected by replacing the stock plastic unit with one modeled on the X-51 (high performance) style baffle offered in later cars.
This metal design has a better gated design and is designed to maintain more oil in the center section where the oil pick-up tube is located. Since installation of the IMS Guardian involves separating the oil pan from the engine for inspection, it seemed a good time to install a better baffle while I was there. I also put on a billet spin-on oil filter adapter to replace the cheap plastic Porsche cartridge-style filter housing. Higher filtration; better flow; and lower cost.
Since the IMS Guardian has a reset button and alarm that install in the dash, I thought I’d install some Porsche cup-holders while I had things apart. The 2000 996 didn’t come with any cup-holders. They were an option on later cars and many dealers sell a retrofit kit, but to install it, you have to move things around in the center stack. My car came with climate controls on top, followed by the radio, then a set of 4-CD drawers, and a pocket shelf on the bottom. The cup-holders have to go in the top position. The radio stays put, and the climate controls move to the bottom. I could have left the CD drawers, but I never use them so I replaced them with a different pocket shelf (of course the old one wouldn’t fit in the third position.) The hardest part of the whole swap was feeding the wires and connectors for the climate controls all the way down to the bottom position. The wire loom is long enough, there just isn’t much room behind the stack to feed things through. After much cursing and a few busted knuckles, I got everything to fit. The best part is that since they are all Porsche parts, it all looks like it belongs.
Installation of the IMS Guardian is an easy DIY project. If I hadn’t decided to redesign the center stack and install the baffle/billet adapter at the same time, it could have easily been completed in a couple of hours. Follow the instructions that came with it, just be careful to note that the torque on the plug is 19 ft. lbs. of torque (not 37) and that the video shows the correct pin to tap for power, even if the pin numbering is wrong. The hardest part for me was in finding a hole to pass the wire through from the cabin to the engine compartment. In the end, I used a small hole (that I had to enlarge) that was in the rear foot-well behind the driver. Just take your time, stock up and beer, and you’ll get through.
With any luck, winter is slowly winding down here in the Mid-Atlantic. Time to catch up on progress with the GeorgeCo 911. We have been concentrating on easy, single-day projects that can be done in the semi-heated GeorgeCo garage. Today we showcase two projects: Updating the pedals and installation of a shift light. As usual, instructions where provided are provided for infotainment purposes only — no wagering.
First up: Sport pedals. They serve two functions. From an aesthetic perspective, they just look better than the stock pedals and are more in line with what you would expect to find in a modern Porsche. Secondly, the wider gas pedal makes heal-toe driving easier. Installation is a breeze if you follow the enclosed instructions. Remove the existing rubber pads from the brake and clutch pedals. Position the dead-pedal over the existing one (don’t remove the existing one in a 996). Use tape and a pen to mark where you need to drill. Drill holes and install pedal. The gas pedal works the same way. You may want to use a block of wood behind the pedal to make drilling easier. Be sure to allow for the hinge at the bottom and any carpet mats you normally use. Position both the brake and clutch pedals before you start drilling. Use tape and a pen to mark your holes. Drill the clutch pedal first (it’s plastic), then drill the brake pedal. Tighten but do not over-tighten the supplied bolts.
The second project is more complicated, so we’ve provided more detailed instructions.
Shift-I shift light installation
1. Open fuse panel door and remove four screws.
2. Remove the carpeted surround to get to the third Torx screw holding the OBD-II port holder. (If you have small hands, you may be able to remove the port from the holder without dropping the port holder, if so, skip to #4 below.)
3. Remove the three Torx screws holding the OBD-II port.
4. Remove the OBD-II port from the bracket by squeezing the pins on the back of the connector.
5. Locate the brown (ground) wire going to pin #4 and the violet/green (RPM Signal) wire going to pin #9.
6. Position the shift light approximately where you want to install it and run the wires through the dash.
7. Connect the black wire from the shift light to brown ground wire going to pin #4.
8. Connect the blue/black wire from the shift light to the violet/green RPM Signal wire going to pin #9.
9. Locate an accessory fuse, 7 amps or less that is powered only when the key is in the on position (I used a5 amp fuse) and use a fuse doubler to “add-a-fuse”.
10. Connect the red wire from the shift light to your new power source.
11. Insert the key and turn to he on position. The shift light should perform a self test if wired correctly.
12. Secure any excess wire under the dash.
13. Reattach the OBD-II port holder.
14. Reattach the fuse surround and replace the fuse cover.
15. Use double-sided tape to attach the shift light.
16. Follow the instructions that came with the shift light to configure it.
Continuing our theme of making up for delayed maintenance tasks, today we tackle cleaning the throttle body. A dirty throttle body may affect throttle response and decrease gas mileage. For all 996s built after the 2000 model year with “e-gas” (throttle by wire) this task should take 30 minutes or less. For earlier cars with an actual throttle cable, the process isn’t really that much more complicated, but the throttle cable does have to be disconnected.
- Disconnect intake hose and remove the airbox. (If you haven’t changed or cleaned your air filter in a while, this is a good opportunity to inspect the air filter as well.)
- Inspect the throttle body before removing it. Look especially along the leading edge of the butterfly valve for crud buildup and any evidence of scoring or foreign object damage. Remove the four bolts indicated by the red arrows and disconnect the electrical connector at the top.
- Inspect and clean the intake plenum. Look for foreign objects and excessive sludge. Clean as necessary.
- Put the throttle body on your workbench and inspect both sides for build-up and damage. Clean using carburetor cleaner. Carefully open the butterfly valve manually to get to all of the areas needing cleaning.
- Installation is the reverse of removal. Be sure to reconnect the electrical connector at the top. Clean throttle body looks almost brand new.
The engine in the 996 hangs from the motor mounts rather than sitting on them as in most cars. As a consequence of this design, it’s hard to tell by visual inspection when they’ve worn out. As they stretch and degrade over time the car may idle rough or one side of the exhaust may appear to hang lower than the other. Other than that, there really are not any other clues that they are failing.
The replacement procedure is very simple and can be done by any shade-tree mechanic with a good floor jack. Jack-stands for the rear of the car help, but are not required. One could just park the car on some 2×4s to get a little additional working room and easily make the swap with just the jack. GeorgeCo recommends using jack-stands just because it’s easier to move around under the car. Make sure the engine is cold before trying to move your hands through the exhaust-header to get to the lower nuts. As long as you only remove one mount at a time, you don’t have to worry about repositioning the engine to make it line up with the mount.
Tools required: Socket wrench; torque wrench; 13mm socket; 18mm socket (deep); and a 6 inch extension. Parts needed: Two replacement mounts, Porsche Part Number 993-375-049-08-M270 (for 1999-2005 non-turbo 996.)
- Safely jack up the rear of the car and place on jack-stands.
- Place the floor jack under the engine just behind the oil pan as seen in the photo. Use a block of wood (or a hockey puck) to avoid damaging the engine.
Support the weight of the engine with the jack but do not lift the car off of the jack stands.
- Remove the air box.
- Loosen two bolts and swing the secondary air pump out of the way.
- Start at the right mount and remove the lower nut using a deep 18mm socket and a 6 inch extension.
- Remove the two upper bolts with a 13 mm socket and remove the old mount.
- Inspect and clean the area where the mount sits in the chassis.
- Insert the new mount. Install two upper bolts and torque to 25 ft lbs.
- Install lower nut and torque to 63 ft lbs.
- Repeat procedure on the left side.
- Replace secondary air pump and air box.
I’ve been instructing at the track for a couple of years and was trying to find a (relatively) inexpensive way to integrate video and telemetry data. I wanted it to not be permanently wired to my car so I could take it along when I hop in a student’s car too. Here’s what I have so far:
- CruiseCam In-Car Headrest Camera Mount
- OptrixHD iPhone 4 case with wide-angle lens
- Dual XGPS150 Bluetooth external GPS
- PLX Devices KIWI Wifi OBD-II wireless interface
- Harry’s Laptimer Pro software for iPhone
The CruiseCam arm mounts to the passenger side headrest. The Optrix HD mounts to the arm via quick release. The GPS mounts to the windshield via Velcro (everyone here has an EZpass toll device so velcro is in most cars). The PLX device plugs into the OBD-II port and the cable is stuffed away or strapped up using Velcro straps. Download the track you want to drive and Laptimer Pro starts recording automatically once you cross the designated starting point.
If you can’t find a place to use the CruiseCam headrest mount, you can use an external camera (in this case a ReplayXD) with a clip-mount and integrate the video to your data later. This took a little experimentation to figure out but here’s a relatively painless way to do it. You just need to know the visual reference for your start/end point in Laptimer. If it’s a track, it’s the start/finish line.I’m using an iMac, I imagine there’s a similar path for Windows.)
- Figure out what the format of your video file is first.
- If it is a format that the iPhone can understand natively, skip ahead to step #3.
- Convert your video to a format the iPhone will understand. In this case, convert the file from AVI to M4V using Quicktime export.
- Export your video to the iPhone. You can do this in several ways: load the file into your iTunes movie library then sync to the iPhone; attach and send to yourself via email and save from email on your iPhone; or iMessage it to your iPhone and save to the camera roll.
- Review the data your recorded in Laptimer and decide which lap you want to overlay with data. Laptimer overlays data one lap at a time.
- On your computer, find the runtime of the video when that lap ends.
- View the lap data in Laptimer.
- Select Edit.
- Select Add Video.
- Select the video you just uploaded to your iPhone.
- Set the end point of your lap based on the runtime noted above.
- Select the frame in the video matching the end of the timed lap. (Start/Finish line)
- Then select Overlay.
Laptimer Pro will do the post processing and your video will show up in your camera roll. In the video below I didn’t yet have the PLX cable.
GeorgeCo was at the track again mid-November for the NCC BMW CCA Fall HPDE at Summit Point Motorsports Park. GeorgeCo drove the MINI on Friday/Sunday and the Porsche Saturday in between. This was GeorgeCo’s first drive of the Porsche at the track. The car is larger and heaver than the MINI, but really accelerates well out of the corners, even on the not-so-grippy full-tread summer tires that came on the car. We still have some issues to sort out, but the car is progressing nicely. More on that later. First the MINI.
We’ve been working on a (relatively) low-cost video telemetry system and have finally worked most of the bugs out of our set-up. The video above uses an iPhone 4, Optrix-HD iPhone Mount, Harry’s Laptimer Pro software, External GPS sensor, and a PLX-Devices data-interface. The iPhone is used for video capture and accelerometer function. It captures OBD-II data from the PLX-Devices Kiwi WiFi and combines it with 1 meter accurate GPS data from the external GPS device via Bluetooth. Ho, ho-ho, ho…. The iPhone does the post-processing and overlays all of the data on the video. In this video, I’m tracking down my friend John who is in the red E30 which is prepared very similarly to the old GeorgeCo E30 Powered by Beano. I like this video because you can see the driver’s hands, whether he’s looking ahead into the corners, and the telemetry shows revs as well as how much of the lap is spent on full throttle (less so in traffic.) I need to work on getting a brake sensor.
The second video was filmed in the Porsche 996 Carrera using a ReplayXD camera mounted on the sunvisor. This is an example of how you can combine video from external sources. The initial video was exported to an iMac for conversion from AVI to MOV format. It was then uploaded to the iPhone via iTunes. It was then imported to LaptimerPro for overlay with Laptimer data. We didn’t have the OBD-II data connection working on this day, so the only data sources were the accelerometer and external GPS. The key to this process is to find the key video frame at the end of the timed lap so LaptimerPro can match the data-stream correctly. In this video, the Porsche is on Summer Street Tires which have no grip on the cooling track. The ECU tune still isn’t quite right. We were not pushing the car this day as it had a serious flat-spot between 3500 and 4000 RPMs. Keep the revs higher than 4500 and on wide open throttle and the throttle mapping was OK, but anything less than full throttle and the car stumbled. That leaves you with the choice of driving like a granny or driving like you stole it. Discretion is the better part of valor so granny won.
This third video shows the value of video as a learning aid. I followed my friend (and newly minted instructor) Dave for a few laps. He eventually went off in turn 1 when his tires gave out, got a nice mud bath, then almost went into a tank-slapper when he came back on. Fortunately he got his act together and we had some distance between us. The final video shows what it must have felt like from his point of view…
Finally finished baselining the Porsche today. We lost a month of preparation due to the accident repairs, but finally finished all of the tasks necessary to establish a baseline and get the car out onto the track next week. We even managed to fix the broken vanity mirror on the passenger side visor. The last step in the process was completed this week when we took the car down to Behe Performance to get it on the Dyno. Since we are starting to run out of time before the next trackday, we had them finish the remaining maintenance tasks and put the car on the Dyno to see what we have to work with. They inspected the suspension (nice to get a second opinion after any repairs), flushed the brakes, changed the transmission oil, and aligned the car as well.
The initial results were a bit disappointing. The initial runs on the Dyno showed only 221 hp at the wheels and 207 ft lbs of torque; peak torque band was pretty narrow. After Behe worked his magic, however, horsepower is up to 236.9 and torque up to 217 ft lbs. More importantly, the peak torque band is wider, with more than 205 ft lbs from 4400 to 5600 RPMs as opposed to only 4700-5300 before the tune. The 2000 Carrera had 300 bhp when it left the factory. If you figure a 15% drivetrain loss, that amounted to about 255 hp at the wheels. Considering that this is a twelve year-old car with 68,000 miles that means it’s down about 8% from new. That’s probably not too bad, especially considering the nature of dyno testing where weather conditions and fuel quality can impact results.
I found this tool the other day on iTunes of all places and I thought it was very cool. It’s called PICgauge. It’s an app for iOS devices (5.1 or higher) that lets you gauge belt wear on your engine’s serpentine belt without removing it from the car. As the belt wears the gaps get deeper and wider so the ribs get smaller relative to each other. Eventually the belt starts to ride only on the ribs and may start to slip.
The measurement process is very simple: Grab a silver Sharpie and draw a line across the ribs of your belt and take a picture of it with your iPhone without using the flash.
Open the picture in the PICgauge app. Tell the app how many ribs your belt has and use two fingers to resize the photo to fit between the lines.
Mash the “measure” button and you’re done. The app finds the boundaries of each rib, measures them relative to each other and tells you if you’re OK, marginal, or kaput. Pretty cool.