New Wheel Studs

I finally got a couple of days this past week where the temperature in the garage was above 45 degrees so I started to prep the MINI for the upcoming track season. No major changes are planned this year, just routine maintenance items. First up is to inspect the brake calipers and change the wheel studs. For the brakes, I’m checking the condition of the brake lines, cleaning the calipers and carriers, inspecting the piston dust boots, and torquing all of the bolts to spec. Track pads will come later. [And since someone will ask, the rotors at the top of the post are not cracked. That’s just discoloration from the brake pads contacting the rotor when the parking brake is engaged.]

Because my car is outside most of the time, I like to replace the wheel studs every other year. This has been an especially harsh winter so they are really very corroded. The process is not difficult, but getting good leverage in a tiny garage without a lift can be a challenge. Here’s the method that works for me.

New Wheel Studs

Remove the caliper, carrier, and rotor. Remember support the caliper by something other than just the brake-line (like a hanger or box.) If you’re removing old wheel studs, you’re going to need some leverage to overcome the sheer force needed to get them moving. Wheel studs don’t need to be tightened to high torque levels, but by using Loctite, they can be a pain to remove. I find that I can usually remove them using the double-nut method if I heat the hub first with a torch. You don’t need to get it red hot, but if you heat the area around the stud first, then block the hub from spinning, you can usually get the stud to start moving with a quick hammer blow on the wrench against the top nut. (If I had a lift and was working at shoulder height I might even get it to move just by pulling on it, but I’m working on jack-stands and sitting on the floor.) There are a couple of ways to approach the double-nut job. The right way is to thread the first nut upside down, then put a spacer washer on the stud, and thread the top nut the right way. If you plan to use these nuts on your wheels, this method will protect the cones. If you’re using nuts you plan to get rid of (like me), just thread them together. Put a little red Loctite on each stud and torque 16-20 ft lbs (using double nut method again.)

I’m using Apex Studs and they put together a little video explaining the process.

DAS Sport Rollbar Install DIY Porsche 996

Before we started carrying the Agency Power Rollbar for Porsche 996/997, I used to have a DAS Sport Rollbar in my car. Here are some tips for installing it in a 996/997 Coupe. The instructions published on the DAS Sport Website are pretty straight forward and with practice, the rollbar can be installed in about 45 minutes by yourself, though it’s always easier with a helper.

To begin, make sure you have enough room to maneuver with both doors wide open. You’ll need at least six feet free to maneuver on the passenger side. You don’t have to remove both seats, but it certainly is easier if you do, especially with fixed back seats. At a minimum, remove the passenger seat completely and remove the seat-bolts from the driver’s seat and move it as far forward as possible. If you car has seat-mounted airbags, as long as you do not turn the key with the airbags disconnected, you don’t have to worry about resetting the airbag warning light so make sure you don’t have to move the car once you start to work on this project. You will also be removing the carpet covering the ECU and strut mounts behind the rear seats. Consider if you want to carpet it or modify your current carpeting before you begin. It’s very difficult to try to put carpet back there once the bar is installed. You should also decide if you want to remove the rear seats or just leave them folded. You save a little weight by removing them, but with them folded you actually have more practical storage space in the back as you can use the folded seat as a shelf and stow small items on the seat below relatively out-of-sight from outside of the car. Using heavy beach towels, cover the center console, door plates and seat backs. The bar is very cumbersome to move around and you do not want to scratch your interior.


Start by preparing to remove the seat-belt mounting bolts in the rear foot-well. Take time to note or photograph the way the seat-belt fits, especially the half twist that is necessary to get it to line up correctly. Check that you have the correct foot plate for each side and install the eye-bolts but do not tighten them. You will need to finish installing and tightening the upper bolts of the rollbar before tightening the eye-bolts. My carpet was cut — it is not required for this to fit properly and not recommended unless you plan to remove your carpet soon and don’t want to have to remove the rollbar.


Remove the six nuts from the rear strut mounts. Note the angle of the mounting brackets on the rear section and turn it upside down. Carefully feed it into the car and rest it in the rear foot-well. Have someone help you flip it on to the rear strut mounting bolts. You will have to work it into position around the seatback stops and trim. Get all six openings into position and loosely tighten only the rear nuts to ensure it does not fall forward. Loosely tighten the remaining four nuts as well.


Orient the main rollbar as it will fit inside the car. Working from the passenger side, tip it so the bar is to the back and the foot is toward the front of the car, and work it in from the passenger side and around/over the driver’s seat before standing it up in the rear foot-well. It is cumbersome to move so consider wrapping the ends in shop towels to help prevent damaging your interior. Work the connectors to the rear section first and feed the bolts from inside to outside and tighten loosely. Put the foot into the driver’s side base and fit the bolt through from inside to outside. You will find one side will line up perfectly and the other will require some encouragement — this is normal. Encourage the other side to fit with a small rubber hammer and/or a very long flat-nose screw driver and fit the second bolt. Tighten both lower bolts loosely. If everything is linedPadding up, tighten from rear to front, starting with the rear strut mounts and torque to spec. The last bolts to tighten will be the eye-bolts. Use a screw driver and a vice-grip to turn them, but do not over tighten.

Consider using bar padding on the main hoop starting at door sill height. Check your view with the rearview mirror before you buy padding. You may want to get the mini padding type that won’t extend down so far into your field of view. You may have to remove the cover on the seat-belt height adjuster slider on the B pillar if you still use the stock belts.

996 Shift Light Install DIY

using_the_shiftifuse panelHaving a shift light is a handy way to keep an eye on your revs at the track without having to look down at the gauges. Installing it is pretty easy if you’re comfortable with splicing wires.  In this DIY, we’ll add an Ecliptech Shift I shift light to a Porsche 996. The process is similar for any OBDII car made after 1996.

1. Open fuse panel door and remove four screws.

8474008231_8de306d0f9_z2. 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.)grab power

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.

I really like that this unit is fully configurable. You can set the shift points, the pattern, the light intensity, whatever you need to get your attention without being obtrusive. If you car has OBD-II you can install it. You just need to know where to pick up the RPM signal. I put one in the MINI too.


MINI Brake Duct DIY

For the most part, stock MINI brakes and even the beefier JCW calipers do a decent job of dissipating heat at the track. I generally advise students to run a higher temperature fluid and to get some better brake pads like Hawk HP Plus or Carbotech XP-10 and they should be good for most 20-25 minute HPDE sessions. But for those days when you want to run longer or the ambient temperature is already approaching 100 degrees, you may need some additional cooling. That’s when this DIY will pay off.

The basic idea is pretty simple: The air in front of the bumper is a high pressure area. The area behind the wheel in the wheel well is a low pressure area. Create a path between the two and air will flow through and aid cooling. It won’t be as dramatic as dedicated ducting pointed directly at the hub, but it also isn’t as troublesome for the 99 percent of the time that your aren’t at the track. Expect to spend $10 to $75 and a couple of hours of your time. You’ll need a three inch hole saw, some zip-ties, and some tubing. You’ll loose the use of your foglights (if you have them) but you can put them back in the winter.

Duct opening

You might have luck just holding the tubing behind the bumper cover with compression, but I ended up fashioning a make-shift duct out of an old set of fog light covers (MINI part numbers 51711481435 and 51711481436) which are about $19 each. Just cut the center out and add a screen to keep out debris. Attach about a foot of tubing to the other end and pick where you want to cut the wheel liner.

Duct in wheel well

If you’re trying to stay really low tech, use dryer vent tubing and gutter guard, otherwise invest in a three foot section of silicon brake duct tubing and some wire mesh (I’ve tried both, silicon tubing is easier to work with.)

Duct tied off

Attach the tubing to the wheel liner with zip ties. Wire mesh comes in handy here too. when you’re all finished, you can hardly tell anything has changed. Good for a 50 degree drop in caliper temps at Summit Point in August.

Finished duct

Crossing the Line: MINI gets a Rollbar

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.


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.

Front Straight

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.

new 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.


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.


MINI Suspension Compliance

Passengers in the GeorgeCo MINI often complain that they are just but one pothole away from losing a filling. With the stiffer lowering springs and beefy swaybars fore and aft, the effective spring rate was probably in the neighborhood of 450 lbs. By way of comparison, the stock spring rate is somewhere around 200-220 lbs. A stiffly sprung car is great for a smooth racetrack, but can be torture on the street. Having spent a few days at the track in the Porsche with a completely stock suspension, I have come to the conclusion that the MINI doesn’t need to be so stiff. (Remember the early posts about this car when I said I wasn’t going to turn it into a track car. Well, wrong…)

After some additional critical reflection I thought I could achieve 3 objectives by designing a suspension with more compliance: 1.) Improve the ride as measured by the right-seat passenger dyno; 2.) Keep the modifications that correct the glaring deficiencies of the geometry (under-steer and lack of front camber); and 3.) Be cost-neutral. It turns out, there was an unexpected bonus as well: reducing un-sprung weight.

First a recap. Starting with a Stock 2006 Cooper S:


Make the following modifications: Bavarian Autosport Performance Lowering Springs (2″+ drop); Bilstein Sport Struts/Shocks; Eibach adjustable camber plates; JCW Sport Brake Kit; Madness Lower Brace; Powerflex Control Arm Bushings; H&R 27mm Front Swaybar; Alta adjustable endlinks front and rear; Alta 22mm 3-way adjustable swaybar; and HR Sport Camber Arms. The result:


Slammed, stiff, and neutral. No hint of under-steer. Even front tire wear. About 3.5 inches of ground clearance (problematic). Harsh under rapid compression of suspension (pothole). Wonderful at the track. Not so much fun on the freeway. All of the modifications except the front swaybar are quite conventional. The stiff front swaybar really transforms the way the car turns-in under heavy braking, but at a cost. If the front end isn’t loaded, steering became somewhat vague. Definitely not to everyone’s taste.

I decided to keep the bits I liked, sell off the rest, and use the money to buy anything that I didn’t reuse from stock. Gone were the BavAuto springs, replaced by H&R Sport Springs. I Swapped the front swaybar back for stock and got a screaming deal on a 19mm rear bar to better balance the front. I Sold the adjustable endlinks since they aren’t needed with the H&R Springs (the drop is only 1.25 to 1.5 inches so the links don’t really need to be shortened.) Gone was the Madness bar. JCW brakes were replaced by stock along with new stock rotors. I kept the Powerflex bushings and Bilstein struts, but swapped the Eibach adjustable plates for Ireland Engineering fixed camber plates. What I lost in adjustability I more than made up for in comfort. I broke even on cost and shed 26.5 lbs in weight (21 lbs unsprung) and all but 1.5 from the front.) Ride height is somewhere between the two extremes:


So if you superimpose them over each other, you get the picture at the top of the post.


More Comp Tire Goodness

It’s been a busy year since we first bought this car. Our goal was to find a low mileage ’06 Cooper S that could eventually be modified for club racing. Keeping in mind that the cost difference between an R53 Cooper S and JCW is about $5,000, we wanted to make this car better than a JCW model, without completely sacrificing creature comfort as a daily driver until we were ready to gut the interior and install a cage. I think we’ve brought it right to that edge: It’s stiff, but not jarring. And it’s fast.

Given that the majority of R53 Cooper S cars were sold with sunroofs, finding the right car proved harder than you would have thought. We found a 45,000 mile car, with heated Punch Leather seats, a factory limited slip differential, and fog-lights — no other options or packages. This August we replaced the clutch, ball joints and rear main seal just to baseline the car, but it really was in terrific condition. The boxes above contain the last phase of our initial sorting: getting power to the road through light-weight wheels and grippy tires, in this case Nitto NT-01 R-comps which we’ll scrub-in at a test-and-tune autocross event in Frederick and then we should be ready for the track coming up in two weeks.

To recap, here’s what we’ve done to date:
Handling — We added an H&R 27 mm front roll-bar with Alta adjustable end-links and Powerflex control arm bushings. Previously we installed an Alta 22mm adjustable rear sway-bar (now set to the stiffest setting to compensate for the bigger front bar) and adjustable end links. Suspension consists of Bilstein Sport shocks and struts over Bavarian Autosport Performance Springs. We have Powerflex shock bushings in the rear and Eibach adjustable camber plates in the front. Suspension settings are 1.7 degrees negative camber in the front, 1.5 degrees negative camber in the back. (That’s the most negative camber we can get in the front without binding the springs.) Front toe is neutral, slight toe-in for the rear to increase straight-line stability. In the rear we also have H-Sport adjustable control arms to compensate for lowering and to beef-up what’s normally a weak link in the MINI stock suspension. To increase chassis stiffness, we have a strut-tower brace in the rear, Madness Lower Stress Bar in the front, and MINI OEM Cabrio cross braces. To improve braking, we added JCW brakes up front, stainless steel brake lines all around, and brass bushings to the rear brakes.

Power — MINIs have the aerodynamics of bricks so power improvement isn’t ever about top-end as much as it is about mid-range torque. We have a Madness 15 percent reduction pulley, Screamin Demon Coil, MSD plug wires and NGK Iridium plugs. On the intake side, we are using an ALTA intake and intake hose along with an ALTA intercooler diverter. On the exhaust side, we’re using a Scorpion stainless steel free-flow exhaust. The Scorpion exhaust is lighter weight than stock and has a nice deep tone without droning. Behe performance provided the custom tune to take advantage of all the changes. Currently, this car dynos at about 198 whp. We could increase it to get above 200 by increasing the rev limit setting, but frankly we’re more interested in power from 4500 to 6000 RPMs than we are watching pieces blow through the cylinder walls at 7200 RPM. We want this lump to last 200K miles or longer.

Information Management — We’ve brought over the FES-Auto shift-light from our previous R53 and added a new telemetry system this year. We’ve outfitted the car with a PLX devices wireless network adapter that feeds telemetry data to an iPhone. Now we can log data as well as add telemetry data to in-car videos.

Cost total: Excluding the clutch and ball-joints which were just routine maintenance items, we’re just $300 shy of our $5K budget. That’s pretty good considering all of the changes we’ve made so far.

More Control

I’ve been taking advantage of the unusually mild November weather to catch up on some maintenance issues on my cars. It started when I noticed a nasty screech sound from the MINI clutch on the way home from work one day. It had been a while since the MINI (now with over 135K miles/over 5K on the track) had been thoroughly checked out. Sure enough the clutch is slipping.


Once you know you have to drop the engine to replace the clutch, you start to think of all of the other things you might as well do while it’s all apart. I noticed steering wasn’t as precise as before (2nd set of control arm bushing shot); and I haven’t yet replaced the belt tensioner (3rd belt due to be replaced.) I started to source parts, and then realized I’d have to drive the Stealth to work while the MINI is in the shop. I ended up getting a Spec Stage II clutch and lightened aluminum flywheel along with some Powerflex bushings.

control arm

The Stealth E30 burned through a front wheel bearing on my last track day and also showed signs of control arm ball joint failure (I hate when that happens.) New bearings, new wheel studs, new control arms, new control arm bushings, and an alignment later, the Stealth is back on the road. I was able to do the control arm replacement and bushings, but the rest I had to take to York Auto.

I’m trying something a bit different with this set of control arm bushings. I used offset bushings from an E36 M3. The offset location ads a bit more track, camber and caster to the geometry. With the current setup of Bavauto springs and Bilstein shocks, I’m getting 2.5 degrees negative camber in the front (without adjustable camber plates) and 2.6 negative degrees in the back.

Imagine a World without Wumps

Tim installed the new Bimmerworld driveline today. What a difference. Imagine having a driveline that actually flexes instead of just eating guibos and center bearings. Power comes on smoothly without the background fear that it’s all going to self destruct. It also helps that he cleaned out the throttle body. With that task, phase two of this project draws to a close. Phase one was just about getting it registered and titled. Phase two was getting it baselined and ready for the track. Phase three is about making it faster and improving handling. Phase four, if I ever get there, is about completing the build-out for Spec E-30. But for now, it’s about making a better STX autocrosser.

New Wheels for the Stealth

I made the big wheel and tire swap last week. Since the BMW is almost done, I’m returning the MINI to normal–well closer to normal. I swapped out the R-comps on the MINI race wheels for a street tire. I took out the rear strutbar and removed the splitter. I also sold the MINI 15 inch wheels and moved the RA1s on to a new set of 15×7 lightweight wheels for the BMW. I also picked up another set of 16 inch wheels to put on the BMW with my old Goodyear F1 Tires. The 15 inch wheels have already sold and a couple of people are interested in the Hankooks. I should be close to break-even when all the dust settles.


It was a beautiful day for an August autocross–not too hot and not too humid. The NCC course at the Maryland State Police Training Center was fairly simple. There was a slolom, Chicago box, a couple of sweepers, and a skidpad circle at the end. I haven’t swapped out the driveline yet so I still can’t hammer the throttle, but I managed to win my class (I’m not saying how big the field was….) I’ve been working on smoothness and steering as the rack in the BMW isn’t as fast as the MINI. I really enjoy driving it even if the power is at the wrong end.