Sunday, November 29, 2009

Broken differential

The pinion gear on my differential broke on Thanksgiving Day, about 2 miles from my parents' house. It made a god-awful noise. I slowly drove it the rest of the way home, and with my dad's help, dropped the thing and put in a viscous limited slip unit to replace my open diff.

I'll have more details later, but I'm pretty exhausted and have no pictures to show right now. Suffice it to say that Blake is my savior.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Leather steering wheels disintegrate

My Miata came with a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Which makes no difference to me, except on warm, humid days. Especially on dewy mornings in the spring, summer, or fall; even worse if I left the top down overnight.

What happened? Well, the leather (I think it's leather, anyway) would get moist and start to come off on my hands. I could merely grab the wheel and gross black shit would stick to my hand. It would look like I had an afternoon under the hood, but without the thrill of actually swearing at every stupid bolt under the hood fixing something. Once dry, everything was fine.

My attempt at a cheap repair involved, easily enough, baseball bat grip tape. This stuff is sold at most sporting goods stores as exactly that, though it also works for sports injuries. They label it "athletic tape," and it comes in a small variety of colors, about $4 a roll. I suggest something bright and garish. Amanda bought me one in orange. One roll is enough.

This stuff is easy to use and looks fairly good when you're done. I suggest getting a full overlap as you wrap it: The black shows through with just one layer.

Since it's also made to attach to body parts, you can remove it later on when you get tired of the color without destroying your steering wheel. It's a good low-buck upgrade, and it'll keep the black shit off your hands.

UPDATE: Looks like it lasts about 20k miles before getting 100% nasty.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For Your Consideration

I met Andre at an SCCA event earlier this year; we gridded near each other. He's got a very beautiful blue second-gen Miata. His autocross goals are different than mine, but we both have been attacked viciously by the racing monster. We've become good friends. One day we'll be racing 24 Hours of LeMons together, but now it's the off-season and it's time for snow tires and blogging(?)

So, I've added his blog to my newly added blogroll, at the right of the screen. Pay the man a visit.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Raceland Windblokker (windblocker)


I bought a cheap windblocker from Raceland at the same time as the header. Their brand name for it is Windblokker. Whatever.
I bought their "V Style" windblocker because it's $10 cheaper than the standard model. One of the features of this windblocker is that it tilts down flat, and I thought the V-style, which comes in a bit at an angle on the sides, just might give me enough clearance to get past the rear braces on my Hard Dog Hard Bar Sport roll bar.

Unfortunately, it won't tilt down far. The rear roll bar braces still get in the way, so I do lose that functionality. Other than the tilt though, it fits just fine. It's not really a big deal. It's so stupidly easy to install anyway, I could just remove it if I need to. Click the picture above to see pictures and read details on the thing.

The windblocker does its job well. I can drive with the top down when it's 40 degrees out. It's significantly quieter in the car, and I don't get blasts of air shooting into my right ear. When Amanda called me on my cell phone, she had to ask if I was driving, because it was unusually quiet. I'd call that high praise. If I had to do it again though, I would probably have splurged on the more expensive model. It would probably look better, and work better.

Update: I've rigged up a bracket to give it enough clearance for full functionality with the roll bar.

Cobra replica at Farm & Fleet

Factory 5 Cobra

I went to the Woodstock Farm & Fleet to pick up a few things, and spotted this in the parking lot. It's a Factory 5 Racing roadster, a Cobra replica.
Strangely enough, it's not the first exotic car I've seen at Farm & Fleet. I've also seen a Lotus Elise, an Acura NSX, and a Lamborghini Diablo 6.0, among other less-exotics.

I took several pictures. Click the photo above to see the whole set.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Raceland header wrap & install

Updates at bottom.
This weekend, I installed a new header in my Miata. I bought one of the very inexpensive ones you can find on eBay, though I went through their Web site. (I also bought a windblocker; details on that later.)
For the incredibly low price of $80, I felt like the Raceland unit (part number RO-HMX5NA-1.6) was worth the gamble. I also bought some generic header wrap on eBay for $25, and a new oxygen sensor on to accompany this project. This modification is legal in the SCCA's autocross STS class, which means I have nothing to lose.

The installation, unlike nearly every other major project I've taken on, went without a hitch. I had no major difficulties, outside of one bolt I had to snap off. Nothing was too difficult to get at, or too hard to remove. I didn't even have to run back out to the store. It was surprisingly painless. I've heard that the 1.8 liter models have more fitment issues, but everything was fine on my 1.6L engine.

Click the photo above to go directly to my Web photo album. There are some close-up pictures of the header, details and tips for the installation process, and a surprise crack I found in my original header.

It's quieter at cruise than my OEM header (probably thanks to that crack), though it sounds racier at WOT and at higher revs. It's also smoother and stronger in the middle and top end. I won't attribute all of this to the header alone; the new O2 sensor and the wrap probably helped a lot too. All in all, I'm very satisfied. If I had spent $450 on the Racing Beat or Jackson Racing headers, I don't think I would've been as happy. This is a significant improvement for a little price. Kudos, Raceland.

Update: The header wrap didn't seem to like snow very much.

Update 2: After little more than a year, the thing has rusted -- yes, rusted! -- badly enough to break apart.

Update 3: Raceland honored their 2-year warranty and sent me a new one.