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Tech Tips

Ten morsels of advice to help you modify and work on your car.

By Michael Knowling

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At a glance...

  • Tools for working on your car
  • Turbo adaptor flanges
  • Engine oil coolers
  • Airflow meter bypasses
  • ..and more!
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When you’ve done the usual power-up mods to your factory turbo car you’ll arrive at a point where a bigger turbocharger is needed. In some cases you’ll be lucky enough to have selection of bolt-on upgrade turbos to suit – but what if there’s nothing? Well, a cheap option is to weld a new adapter flange onto the engine’s existing cast iron exhaust manifold. This photo shows an adaptor flange welded in place of the original flange.

We’re told that the new adaptor flange should be mild steel around 15mm thick - apparently an iron flange needs extra weld penetration, which can interfere with exhaust gas flow inside the manifold. To avoid cracking problems it’s important that the manifold and flange are heated in a furnace to near on-car operating temperature and welded while red-hot. A controlled rate of cooling is then required. A welding specialist charges around AUS$90 for welding a ready-to-go exhaust manifold and adapter flange.

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If you’re a Do-It-Yourself kinda person you’ll probably need to flush or bleed your car’s brake lines or hydraulic clutch at some time. Well, forget using glass jars and an assistant who’d rather be doing something else. This off-the-shelf Brake Bleed Kit comprises a length of clear tube, a pair of short length rubber hoses (to suit different bleed fitting diameters) and a stainless one-way valve that prevents air being sucked back into the hydraulic system when the brake or clutch pedal is released. The kit costs under AUD$10. Simply fit the clear tube and one-way valve to the car’s bleed fitting, repeatedly press the pedal and ensure the master cylinder reservoir is topped up during the process. It couldn’t be easier.

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With all the focus on avoiding detonation and running safe high load mixtures, there’s one vital form of engine protection that’s being overlooked – an oil cooler. If you’ve ever driven a car fitted with an oil temperature gauge you’d be alarmed at how hot the engine’s lifeblood gets under sustained load. To help protect your engine’s bearings and improve the life of the oil we strongly recommend fitting an oil cooler – even an additional oil cooler if your car is already fitted with a typical water-to-oil cooler. This photo shows a couple of ex-Mitsubishi oil coolers complete with mounts and oil fittings. Such items can be bought for under AUD$100 at Japanese import wreckers. But note that whenever you use a second-hand oil cooler you should first have it flushed – one of these cores is off an Evo 4 Lancer that starved of oil and there’s a chance metal particles have found their way inside...

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Whenever you’re tuning a naturally aspirated engine it’s a good idea to check out if there’s a bolt-on intake manifold that has different length runners. Generally, short intake runners achieve strong top-end power with a bottom-end trade-off while long intake runners achieve the opposite. This compromise is eliminated when using a variable length-intake manifold, such as the Ford EF ‘broadband’ manifold that achieves 100 percent volumetric efficiency (VE) at 3000 rpm. The engine’s volumetric efficiency falls away either side of 3000 rpm but the average efficiency across the rev range is very high – it’s an extremely flexible engine. This photo shows the Ford broadband manifold fitted as an upgrade on an early model Ford engine.

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Don’t be afraid to be labelled as a Volvo driver; driving in daylight hours with your lights switched on can be a very, very good idea. As seen in this photo, there are many instances where your entire car might be difficult for other drivers to see in their mirrors. This is especially true when you’re out for a ‘brisk’ Sunday drive and you might come up behind cars at a fairly rapid rate... Be seen!

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When you’re considering spending several hundred dollars on a pair of aftermarket front seats – and even more to have them mounted using ADR-approved brackets – you should consider the potential in the car’s existing seats. The seat shown in this photo is the standard base-model Toyota Seca unit that’s been treated to custom foam reshaping and leather trim. The cost depends on the nature of the reshaping and the quality of the leather.

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When your engine’s airflow meter causes an unacceptable flow restriction the answer is usually a big-dollar one – you either upgrade to an expensive ‘big bore’ airflow meter and make necessary calibration changes or you start afresh with a programmable management system with an inbuilt MAP sensor. Chances are you’ll be up for about AUD$1000 to AUD$3000. Well, there’s a much cheaper way to go about it – an airflow meter bypass. Yep. A simple bypass pipe that’s fitted parallel to the existing airflow meter can reduce airflow meter restriction by 50 percent (depending primarily on the diameter of the bypass). Once the airflow meter bypass is installed you’ll need to recalibrate the signal from the airflow meter to achieve target mixtures and driveability. This can be achieved with an electronic interceptor device such as the Silicon Chip DFA (Digital Fuel Adjuster). Note that the DFA is suited to voltage output airflow meters only. And the total cost for the upgrade? Anywhere from about AUD$160 if you have advanced soldering skills...

See Airflow Meter Bypass, Part 1 and Airflow Meter Bypass, Part 2 for full details.

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One of the most frustrating aspects of working on a car is rounding off nuts and bolts. Well, if you’re using sockets be aware that 12 point sockets exert most of the applied force on the edge of the nut or bolt – and this increases the likelihood of rounding ‘em off. Where possible, it’s safer to use a 6 point socket that spreads more of the applied force along the ‘straight’ of the nut or bolt so that the chance of rounding the corner is reduced. Most impact wrenches use a 6 point socket for this reason. The downside of a 6 point socket is they can be difficult to fit over the head of a bolt or nut – a 12 point socket fits more readily. Note that some fasteners (such as cylinder head bolts) are also designed for use only with a 12 point socket.

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When a roll cage is fitted to a car it’s common for its tubes to eat into space otherwise consumed by the door trims – and the solution is invariably to rip ‘em out and whack on some flat sheet trim. Well, a much neater approach is to retain the factory door trims (complete with door handles, locks and power window switches) and modify only the sections required. This photo shows the door trim on the Nizpro 200SX-R – note how the lower section of the trim has been moulded around the roll cage structure and is trimmed in grey vinyl to match the upper section. An ultra neat job!

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To achieve a faster rate of boost increase you needn’t buy any electronic gizmos or pneumatic valves. Nope. The simplest way to get your turbo engine onto peak boost earlier is to increase the volume of air contained within the wategate pipework (the pipework joining the turbo pressure source to the wastegate actuator). In this graph you can see how much faster a Holden VL Turbo comes onto boost by experimenting with the length of the wastegate hose; in this case, a 2.5 metre length of hose was used. As you can see, the extra air volume in the wastegate pipework gave a much faster boost increase – there’s double the standard boost pressure available at just 2000 rpm. (Also shown on the graph is the fastest possible rate of boost increase which was measured with the wastegate hose disconnected).

If you don’t want a huge length of hose floating around in your engine bay (and why would you?!) you can fabricate a steel reservoir that can be plumbed in-line with the wastegate actuator. This also serves to increase the volume of air in the wastegate pipework for an easy improvement in boost response.

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