OBDII Scan Tool FTW!

A buddy of mine on Mechanics.SE is doing an experiment to see if there can be a general rule of thumb applied to volumetric efficiency (VE) on engines running at idle. To me this is a really cool experiment to garner some real world results.

I originally was using my Innova 3160 hand held scanner which reads live data from the engine. After returning the results, my buddy told me the lbs/min reading was just too granular. He wanted to see if I could get a better reading by doing grams/sec. The scanner doesn’t have an option to change the units, so I went Amazon and found a Bluetooth reader which would work with my Samsung Galaxy S7 phone. The one I found was this one:

I’m always a little apprehensive about purchasing cheap products like this, but since it was only about $22, I decided it wasn’t going to leave a big dent in my wallet. Luckily the reader works perfectly and I’m very pleased with the purchase.

I wasn’t very pleased with the USPS, though. We order most everything on Amazon with Prime. With Prime, you get complimentary 2-day shipping … well, you’re supposed to. While I shouldn’t complain too much, it actually took it three business days to get here (five actual days because I ordered on the weekend). This wasn’t a problem with Amazon, but rather with the US Postal Service. They don’t seem to like to abide by Amazon’s two day shipping very well. It’s more like “2 days or whenever we decide to get it to you“.

I downloaded the app Torque Lite for my phone. It works okay for the most part. There are a few design issues I’d like to have a hack at, but it does work. The Mass Air Flow (MAF) output for it is in grams/second, so is inline with what my buddy needs for his experiment. There are a ton of things you can display through the app, along with seven (or is it nine??) screens you can display stuff on. Most of the readings are pretty rudimentary, but it does work.

All-in-all, it works pretty good. I’m happy with the purchase. I’m thinking about delving into programming an app for the Android which will allow me to better customize what I want the app to do, rather than utilize what’s on the market. I got the idea from a different guy on Mechanics.SE. He does this type of work all the time. I know I have the brainpower to do something like this as I’ve done scripting/programming in the past. It would just be a pretty serious ramp up in my skills to make it happen. I guess time will tell if I can. There’s nothing I need to do on an emergency basis to get it done, so if it takes a few weeks, months, or years, it’s not a big deal. If I do do something like this, you can rest assured I’ll throw something uper … post a blog entry about it.

Radiation Overload

The son and I did a little work on his car today. I’m still fed up with it not starting, but I was able to verify all of the fuses are in good shape, to include the fusible link. I need to look in a different direction to figure out why it isn’t starting. I still think there are a ton of grounds which I need to add into different areas, then it will probably run like a big dog and I’ll be ready to kick it out of the garage.

Something else we worked on today was getting the radiator put into the front end. We decided to go a little bit different route than we were before. Here’s a picture of the front end as it sits right now:

You’ll notice a big chunk taken out of the front bumper support. The reason for this is we decided we are going to locate the radiator to the front of the piece of angle iron. This will push the radiator forward enough we’ll be able to fit the fans in behind it with room to spare. This will leave them in the puller mode instead of pusher fans. We’ll have to trim the front bumper and the grill won’t fit without heavy modification, but it will work better in the long run. One of the main things it will do is give me more space to put the top radiator hose in place. Before deciding to move it forward, the upper radiator outlet was almost touching the cam belt cover. Where it will be at now will give use plenty of room.

The plan with it is to weld a piece of angle iron (just visible at the top left side of the image) onto the bumper support. This will tie the two sides of the bumper support together while giving us the room we need to make it work. Next, I’ll be welding two tabs along the bottom of the core support where the two shiney spots are at. You can see the metal tabs just below and to the left of the gloves at the top center of the image. After the tabs are welded into place, I’ll need to mark and drill holes in them so I can place the locating pins in the bottom of the radiator into them. I want to get some rubber pieces for the top, but I plan on cutting down the tabs on the top of the radiator, drilling them, then bolting it to the top piece of angle iron. This should leave the radiator very secure and in good shape.

One last thing to look at in the image. If you look really close you’ll see a round object with a blue cap on it. This is the recovery tank for the car. It’s out of some type of VW … a Jetta, IIRC. Where it’s sitting at is where we are going to mount it. It will fit just right in there where the A/C compressor was supposed to be at. I think it will work just awesomely there. I’ll be able to create a bracket to hang it off of right there without too much of an issue. We’ll have to get a T to put into the heater hose line, run hose from the bottom of it back to the heater hose, plus install a small line from the radiator to the small line on the recovery tank. The only prerequisite with the recovery tank is it needs to be higher than the rest of the cooling system. This will make a good home for it.

While the Impreza still isn’t running, it is a little bit closer. I’m have hopes things will continue to progress. I think I can get the welding out of the road tomorrow, at least for the cooling system portion of the build. Things are a little bit closer and I’m happy with the progress.

Head Gasket Replacement for Misfire Codes?

I received an email from a lady who was referred to me by a mutual friend. The email went something like this:

“[Mutual friend] gave me your name and said you may be able to help us with a repair we need on our Honda. It’s a 2003 Honda Civic with 161,000 miles on it and it idles really rough. We took it to meineke and they said the head gasket needs to be replaced. Is that something you could help us with? If so, what would the charge be?”

In response, I said:

“I possibly could, if that is really what the problem is. Let me know when we could talk?”

She sent me her phone number and I called when specified. She stated they had diagnosed a misfire code, had subsequently changed out the spark plugs (not a bad thought), but the misfire continued to happen. Meineke then told them they’d need to change out the head gasket, but was unsure if it would solve the issue. The cost of the head gasket replacement: $1800. I ran through some other over the phone diagnostic questions:

  • Q: Does the oil look milky like chocolate milk? A: I don’t think so.
  • Q: What were the exact codes? A: They didn’t tell us, just that there was a misfire present.

At this point I asked if I could come over and take a look at the car. I was pretty sure the car wasn’t in need of a head gasket and that someone at Meineke was trying to have a good Christmas at the expense of this couple.

When I got to the car, I read the codes. Sure enough, there were misfire codes for cylinders 2&3, along with some other general misfire codes (which is not unusual). I swapped out the #1 and #2 coils and what do you know, the misfire was no on the #1 cylinder. Diagnosis: Bad Coils. With 161k on the car, this isn’t hard to imagine or diagnose. I had looked online at my favorite online parts retailer when I was first contacted, RockAuto.com, and discovered the parts would be about $25/coil. I looked on Advance Auto. They wanted $56/coil. I suggested to the couple if they didn’t need the car they should order them online, which they heartily agreed with. I also showed them they could find a 5% discount code really easily for RockAuto, which almost paid for the shipping. RockAuto stated it should take 3-4 business days for the parts to get to their house. I took the owner outside and showed him exactly what to do to change out the coils, which two coils to replace, and that he should do it one at a time. This is really a simple job which is actually easier than changing out the spark plugs which the owner had done before.

Bottom line, as long as my diagnostics are accurate, the vehicle owner has saved a ton of money. Realistically, their 2003 Honda would not be worth the $1800 quoted for the job, then the job wouldn’t have fixed the issue in the first place. This couple decided to get a second opinion and in my eyes, this paid off big time. If you go to a shop and they tell you there is a big cost involved, don’t necessarily just buy off on it and take their word for it. If a shop tells you they want to charge you a large amount for a job, yet they don’t know if it will solve the issue, you really need to get a second opinion. Especially if it’s a muffler shop talking about big engine repairs which definitely doesn’t fall into their bailiwick.

You’re FIRED!

Our President Elect is known for these words, but really, I’m referring to the awesome sound of an EG33 firing for the first time on open headers! YES! It fired! I am VERY pleased, to say the least. I’ll recap …

If you’ve read any of my other blog entries, you know I’ve had the engine in for some time now, but I’ve been unable to get it to start. I’d tried several things, but nothing was working. My son finally hooked me up with a FaceBook page. After a couple of days I was able to get on there and start asking questions. A couple of guys there took some time to get me thinking about things.

There are three things you need in order for an engine to run (some would argue there are four … get to that in a bit). The three things are: air, fuel, ignition. The “fourth” thing some would complain to me is “compression”. My argument about compression is … if everything is mechanically right with the engine, you’ll have compression. An engine could conceivably run without compression. Compression just allows it to run more efficiently … but I digress.

I knew there was air … that’s a given because it’s there … all around you. As long as it’s sucking it in, you’ve got air. The second thing was fuel. I knew the fuel pump was running, so that shouldn’t be an issue either. The third thing is ignition … you need spark. On checking the spark plug and the coil, there wasn’t any spark. I back probed the coil and discovered I didn’t have any power at the coil … well, none to speak of as it read out to have ~.5vdc with the key on. You should actually see battery voltage with the key on. On the wiring diagram I saw where the coils attached to the connectors of the wiring harness at the back of the engine. The connector is B4 in the Subaru schematics. The two power wires for the coils attach to pins 3 and 6. I traced the wires back from the connector and what do you know I found … they weren’t attached to anything. Luckily I was anal enough not to have cut these off, but had left them in the bulk of the wiring harness which was rather “attached” to the rest of it. I’m glad I did, as I just attached them to the switched power I’m using for the other stuff. While I was at it, I also ran a sure ground to the igniter as the ground on it seemed a little flaky. I ensured the fuel pump was energized, then turned the key and it fired right up. I was completely surprised, but thrilled at the same time. Absolutely fired up … I was, that is! After a couple months of farting around with this thing, it lives.

Here’s a short video of the second firing:

Yes, folks, open headers are really loud! Nothing like the sound of an engine coming to life which has been dead for so long.

I still have one small issue I need to work out. The fuel pump is still intermittent. I don’t know why, but it only runs if I ground the fuel pump relay manually … this means the ECU isn’t getting a good ground somewhere, or if it isn’t switching it for some reason. Doesn’t matter. Something is wrong, so I’ll have to figure it out.  I also need to shore up all the wiring. As you can tell in the video, there’s wires strung all over the place. It’s a mess in the cabin, but right now it’s a good mess! I can deal with it now I know the engine runs.

The two big things left to do on the car is get the exhaust put together and get the cooling system sorted. The exhaust is going to be an amalgamation of the EG33 exhaust to just past the cats where it Y’s together, into the Impreza exhaust which will run it out the back of the car. It should work rather slick. The other thing which is left is the cooling. We have a Saab 900 radiator and two 10″ electric fans. Getting it all in will be problematic, but should work with a little bit of fabrication. I bought some 1″ angle iron for just such an occasion.

All-in-all, it was a productive night. I’m looking forward to getting it back on the road, but this was definitely a giant leap for the process! I’ll be back with more news as it presents itself. Until then, watch the video again … gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Back To Basics … and an output diagram.

I got the new ECU in and discovered the old one wasn’t bad. As I plugged in the new ECU, I had the same issue … the fuel pump wasn’t kicking on when I turned the key to the on position. My heart about fell out on the floor. Like I said before, this is R&R wrenching and I do not like it. I then started playing with the wires on the ECU. Low and behold … the pump kicked on. Holy smokes. The problem was not with the ECU, but with the fuel pump relay wire coming from the ECU not making connection at the pin. I then pulled out the pin from the connector, played with it a little bit (read: used a pair of pliers on it to make it have a little better contact), re-pinned it in the connector, and have been rewarded with a consistently working fuel pump since then. Engine still isn’t starting, but the fuel pump runs! Yay, small victories! Even if your victories come after setbacks … argh.

I’ve decided to go back to the drawing board a little bit. I’ve found a couple of charts on RS25.com which will probably help. I’ve seen these charts before, but haven’t given them much mind until now. Yes, folks, I can be dense (enter: not seeing the forest for the trees cliche here). Here are the two charts I’m talking about:



What these two charts show is each of the important connections at the ECU and what their values should be with the ignition/engine in the off, on, and running positions. The plan for today is to go through each connection at the ECU with the key in the off and on positions, then back-probe the ECU to get each of the values from the pin. I’m hoping in doing so I’ll be able to figure out if something is not reading. It will be an arduous task, but I think it will provide results which may help me figure out why the engine isn’t starting.