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Freebird: SR20VE+T 510 Wagon

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The hinged power control center is excellent. Nice work.

Look forward to hearing if the magnets work on heavy bottoming out. 

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On 5/20/2019 at 7:00 AM, ]2eDeYe said:

The hinged power control center is excellent. Nice work.

Look forward to hearing if the magnets work on heavy bottoming out. 

Ya, it seems good now but I could see a big bump dislodging it. If so, theres room for more magnets. Or it would be easy to use some detent latches.
Last resort it gets a bolt.

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I started playing with the megasquirt. I've never done any tuning so this part of the project is all new. I wanted to at least connect up to it and do some exploring in the software to start. 

Even that proved to be challenging. I had to call in the expert.



About this time my manifold got finished welded. 



Some light polishing and it was starting to look like something.



Bolted up and test fit with the fuel rail.



Throttle cable mount. The cable I got leaves a bit more slack than I would prefer resulting in an extended bracket but it functions p




Made up the last intake pipe to the IC. This also held the last sensor that didn't have a home.



I wanted to test my injectors to at least make sure they weren't completely clogged and were spraying even amounts. So threw together a test bench. 




After a steep learning curve and lots of head scratching I was finally able to get all of my desired modifications hooked up and tested on the board.
It started to get a bit messy and I used every available output, phew. 



Gauge pod mocked up. Not a final solution but will keep everything in a tidy position during test and tune.
Oil pressure gauge with an indicator lead to run the stock pressure light. AEM wideband. And Auber EGT. Of course after I got theis EGT and searched their site for the manual I see they have a round automotive style gauge available as well! Oh well, next time. And then 3 switches. First was going to be used to switch VVL on/off for tuning but I've since realized that's not practical. Second turns off the megasquirt boost control which will revert the system back to wastegate spring pressure. And the third is 2-step launch control again wired through the megasquirt. No no I'm not launching this thing on an L-trans. Instead I'm going to play with using as a sort of safety net. Set the launch and flat shift RPM's low enough to protect the weaker components. As I upgrade trans, diff, axles I can up the limits accordingly. We'll see how well that plan works. Hopefully long enough for me to get the Pulsar back on the road 😅 



Speaking of upgrades, I found a $100 CD001 I couldn't pass up. "Grinds in third" wich probbly means has no third. Either way it's worth it for mock up/rebuild. 

You may think why not use an SR 5 or 6 speed but remember, FWD block. That means no matter what I have to make an adapter. Might as well make it to something good. Eventually.




With everything wired and plumbed and base mapped. Time to fire it up!
After a bit of tweaking it was idle on its own.

I was able to get idle, after I realized my timing was 180 out.
and that my firing order was wired wrong.

and that my VVL was wired backwards and always on.
and after I realized my boost protection limit was set at 0 psi.
and after I realized... etc. etc. learning curve.


And that's about when things started to go down hill. After I got the thing firing I only got a few more test cranks before a terrible grinding started coming from the starter. 
Lots of head scratching ensued. The starter was one of the only parts on this build that was actually bought brand new. However the fly wheel was an old used chinese unit. and meant for a RWD at that. I started to suspect improper engagement. So I sprayed some paint on the teeth to check engagement pattern. All seemed fine. 
I did some bench tests, the solenoid kicked out the drive gear and spun nice and quick. 
I had the original starter form the VE, unfortunately it doesn't fit with the L trans, that required the GTIR starter. So I swapped the solenoid. No difference. 






After many days of test and no clear answer I was actually able to find a used nissan starter semi locally and bit the bullet. 





BAM, it fired right up! After buying a $200 new starter from FRSport built by Circuit sport.

What garbage! Very frustrating. At least it had a 6 month warranty. Of course it took me 7 months to get it in...


Also somewhere in this mess I shorted out my megasquirt power while tryig to get jumper cables directly on the starter to eliminate wiring issues. 

Kapow! Easy fix at least.



Running again, now to get some tuning done. Things started out OK.
Then as I was trying to see how my AFR's were behaving on some throttle blips to 3K or so, I just couldn't get my AFR to come off lean. More fuel still lean more fuel still lean etc. 
This made sense to a certain extent since my base map was for a DET and the VE should flow better which would need more fuel. but as I was starting to question what was going on, the engine performance started to deteriorate pretty quick and eventually resulted in the engine stalling. 
Cranking it over resulted in no firing. Nada. Only the familiar wob wob wob of no compression. 
My first though was that I went way too rich and washed out the rings. All the syptoms line up. 
However after a day or two of trying all of the typical flooded engine recovery techniques it started to seems something else was going on.
The last clue was when a wet compression test yeilded abolutly 0 across the board.
Valve train issue was the nest thought. Popped the cover to find this mess...



More to come.



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Oy, that is a mess, no valve train damage I hope? 

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Sorry to see that. I was enjoying your posting until that last picture. So close too. Hope the damage is not too extensive!

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That one update summarizes so many hours of effort and learning and forward progress.  You are doing awesome!  Can't way to see you behind the wheel.  Grins for days!

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So did it just shear the pin? Or break the bolt. 

Me thinks the bolt walked out.


Either way that sucks i feel for you.


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1 hour ago, carterb said:

That one update summarizes so many hours of effort and learning and forward progress.  You are doing awesome!  Can't way to see you behind the wheel.  Grins for days!


That's the truth, I started this swap with the intention of throwing myself in the deep end and learning to swim. It has certainly fulfilled that obligation.
We were talking about this the other day but I'll reiterate here. The frustrating part of this event is the very fact that there isn't really anything to learn from it. It was just a dumb mistake.
The root cause, was loose cam bolts. Turns out that they were loose on both cams, not just the intake which happened to fall off first. 
My guess is I snugged them on to the cams to install in the engine and then intended to fully torque them once they were installed and more secure. 
That last step clearly never happened. But that's what you get when your shop time is the wee hours of the morning before the family wakes up or is interrupted at any moment when the baby monitor goes off and nap time is over. 
I absolutely don't mind learning stuff the hard way, with so many "creative solutions" or mis-matched parts in this build I assumed there would be things that didn't work. 
However, "Fully torque bolts" is something I already knew not something learned. Maybe "Always double check bolt torques before start up" should be the one that gets added to the list.

New cams, and then compression test to start the damage investigation.

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Yikes.. hope it's not too bad in there. Enjoying the progress!

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On 8/3/2019 at 10:36 AM, volkswagner said:

"The frustrating part of this event is the very fact that there isn't really anything to learn from it. It was just a dumb mistake."


Thats not true at all. I'm willing to bet you will never not torque a cam bolt again. Stuff like this just means you were rushing the job a bit and did not touch everything twice with a torque wrench.



On 8/3/2019 at 10:36 AM, volkswagner said:



Edited by Lozer

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I am interrupted at work on a regular basis and have done this very thing because of it. To help prevent it I had to be willing to give up some productivity and really think about where I left off when I get back to things. It’s not always possible to prevent 

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New cams were found and bought. I then had to make use of the down time while I waited to dig in to the engine situation.

It would sure be nice to put the thing back on the ground, so time to sort the last bits underneath.


I donated all of my LCA's and TC rods to swamp thing a coupe years ago, so I guess I actually have to replace them.
There are aftermarket options of course but it's been on my list to build some that solve what I see as some short comings with whats available. 


This meant some quality time with my poor mans laser cutter.



Some hammers, and a vice to bang it into shape. Simple threaded steel block for the hiem joint.



Hours of scouring online data for the perfect tie rod and a chunk of 7075 to tie it all together.



Then a quick test fit. And after this picture I through on the strut and wheel. That's about when I decided I made some poor choices with my angles that determine fitment and reduce clashing between components. Mainly the angle of the ball joint mounting plane. Time to cut it apart and start over.



I was bored with that so moved on to something else. I picked up a length of 3" 304 and found this nice mandrel bend in our dumpster at work.  



picked up a stainless high flow catalytic converter to bring the exhaust note down a touch and reduce some of that old car BO.



Some mock up,



Tying in with the front down pipe band clamp.



The whole rear section ready to be hung.



Tucked in nice and tight, probably hangs less than an inch below the frame rails all the way back which is better than I expected.



And some disassembly to prep for new parts. 



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Nice work on those control arms, beefy. 😄

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Got the replacement cams. Took went through the process of getting them swapped in. Luckily the SR is easy enough to time without removing anything else from the engine. Just takes some careful chain links counting and double checks. Cams installed AND torqued! I got my feeler gauges and checked the valve gaps. You know those settings that I spend oodles of time grinding shims to get perfect. Well the new cams moved them around a few thou but nothing looked out of a spec. Realistically, the difference could just be that the engine has been run and the valves seated a bit differently than when measured on build up. What I didn't see was a huge gap which would imply a bent valve not retracting.


So I moved on to a compression test and...
185, 180, 185, 180 

I really don't know how I got lucky enough not to bend anything. The intake was about 180 out of timing. Maybe cause it was just low load free rev.s? But even then the engine has plenty of momentum to take out a valve.
Oh well, thank you racecar gods 🙏

Running again.


Some more qaulity time with my angle grinder and the results were satisfactory so I fully welded them up.



The kit all laid out.



And built up ready for install.



Fitment looked good. Ecspecially with that handsome JBC V3 crossmemeber ☺️




Tire clearance to the TC rod at full lock. I end up rubbing the frame rail first. Had to bash the pinch weld to make it a smoother wear surface.



Back on the ground for the first time in 18 month or so! It's so funny standing next to a car thats been in the air for so long. Makes it feel extra low! I had to check for broken suspension somewhere, nope just low.


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Well, there it is, in the parking lot at work. Started driving the car on Tuesday and drove it all week.

As ready as I cold be I jumped in in the morning and hoped to make my 15 mile or so commute. Luckily Cruise was pretty good but my idle started to develop a wicked oscillation once warmed up. Watch my AFR's I kept the rev's pretty low and limped along with autotune running. The only real issue being having to throttle up the rev.s at stops.




Jeff was nice enough to go on a lunch break tune cruise. We were able to get the idle dialed pretty quickly whuch made the car much more driveable. However moving up in the rev.s was met with some unexpected cut outs. Some post cruise data log analysis showed that there were some erroneous rev limit and over boost protection settings that were causing some safety ignition retards to kick in.  

(I took this shot because it was the first time I noticed the intercooler tucked away in there, I've only ever been able to stand a few feet in fornt of the car in my shed and that doesn't let you see the full frontal very well. I like the way this ended up, nice and secluded. 🤗)



Hunting down little tune tweaks here and there throughout the week and the car is now very driveable in the cruise and low rpm regions. Very smooth and quite enjoyable after the 521.

However, I'm still chasing a couple major isssues. As the car warms up I am getting fuel pressure drop which results in lean condition under boost, this makes the driving anything but spirited and is starting to get frustrating as I run out of trouble shooting avenues. Anyone who followed my short lived GTIR thread may recognize that this is the exact behavior that I was getting with that car and resultsed in it sitting in my driveway with a melted piston... Luckily here I have an AFR and EGT gauge to keep a tab on things and hopefully avoid that situation. 
The fuel pump slowly gets louder and idle fuel pressure drops form 40 to 30 psi as the car warms up. 


Can't wait to get this sorted because the car feels like it will be super fun when it's dialed ☺️
Video eventually.

Edited by volkswagner
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It seems the simplest answer is usually the right answer is the case here. 
Sat. morning I took the car out for a purposeful test drive as oppose to a commute to work in busy traffic. 
I had parked the car Fri. night with it still having the lean issue and idling at low pressure. 
I started it in the morning and the pressure was back to it's high reading.
I drove to a flat empty stretch and just as the car got to temp I tried to bring it up through the rev.s , still leaned out.
Got out and checked the pressure, still at the high reading! Guess that rules that out. It seems the pressure reading issue is completely heat related. I have read that fluid filled gauges (which it is) can be sensitive to temperature and change rapidly. Anyone experience this?

So I keep driving a mile to the closest autozone.  Once there I check the pressure again and it's down to the low reading.

Changing nothing else (I didn't even have my tuning laptop) I bought a new fuel filter and installed it in the lot. Wouldn't you know bam! my AFR falls to overly rich!


This may seem like an obvious diagnosis and it is. I just never looked into because when I welded the larger pickups in to my tank I purposefully cleaned it out.
Put the nuts and bolts in, rolled it around, let it sit with vinegar etc. etc. As well, Jeff and I were talking about how when you're starting up a complicated project like this where everything was F'd with and your tuning it yourself, you just can't help but assume it's some complicated issue because you have so many aspects of the project in your head.



Anyway, back home, got out the scope and jammed it in the sender hole. Picture is less informative than video but there are some visible rust dots all over the walls. Tried to scrape them with the scope but couldn't really get anything to move, saw a couple floaters. In all though it didn't look terrible.  



But the sender looked like this. Fresh orange surface crud that I would not have assembled without cleaning. 



Time for a more informative test. Found the glass filter from my rusty 521 tank days. Put it in line between the tank and pump before the high pressure would make it blow to pieces. Before a 5 min cruise.



After a the cruise where the car began to lean out again. That seems conclusive.



Time to yank the tank. The speckled pattern of the rust dots make it look like moisture droplets. I had cleaned the tank months before ever filling it for the first time. My thought is it wasn't fully dry and any moisture cause some flash rusting. I'm actually reading now that vinegar while good at cleaning rust can actually promote flash rust after it's used? 


While draining the tank I noticed the fuel "glugging" out the drain like a milk jug when my cap was on. I have a vented cap that should prevent pressure build up. 
I decided to take it apart and investigate as a vacuum build up certainly wouldn't help my case.
Turns out the vent is on a preloaded spring which made the tank have to build pressure before releasing. I yanked the spring and reassembled. Now it drains without restriction. May splash out in hard corners but there is still a pretty good labrynth seal when reassembled. We'll see.




Not from this weekend but an older picture from a follow up test on the compression. Seems the rings are doing well.



The tank is removed and I'm repeating the vinegar and bolts method. What does everyone like to do for cleaning their tanks. 
Vinegar bath, bolt tumble, fuel rinse, install, and this time fill to the brim immediately. 
Anyone have some other preferred steps. I know there are sealants but I'd rather avoid that if there are no leaks to fill.

It always seemed like a band aid fix to leave the corrosion in place and cover it with something that could potentially flake off and cause the same issue. 



Edited by volkswagner
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At least you know what the problem is now 


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Well the tank flush looked like a success. Rolled it around with nuts bolts and vinegar and got this nasty slurry at the end.

Put one gallon of fresh fuel in and gave it a roll and rinse. Did that 5 times and reinstalled.



Once back together the fueling remained good for awhile but started to clog up yet again. 
I'm hoping this is just the remaining loose junk that was knocked off.

The next plan is to hook up the pump through filter and bypass the engine and loop to the return line. Then just let it run and recirculate for hours on end until the filters stop clogging. 
If that doesn't work in I'll give in and try a tank sealer.


in between fuel filter changes, I was able to get Jeff in the passengers seat for some tuning time.

We didn't get very far before, without any significant event the engine started to sound very loud on throttle.
We pulled over and began investigating. The first thought was I broke my down pipe welds since that has already scraped a few times.
However all the noise seemed to be coming out the end of the tailpipe not from under the car and no leak was  found.
We decided to head back to Jeff's when we noticed the engine was no longer making boost.   
So we started looking for turbo issues. Thought was maybe the waste gate was stuck open leading to no boost and excess exhaust noise.
We even found that my wastegate actuator  was clashing on a fitting! Good to know, but manual actuation showed no issue. 



This is when I got a new theory. The RB turbo's have ceramic exhaust wheels that are glued to the rotating shaft. At above 14psi or with too much heat, the glue fails and the wheel lets go. I have no logs of boost above 12psi but who knows with second hand parts. To check, we popped off the air filter and gave some revs. The intake wheel didn't move a bit. Sanity check, spun the wheel by hand and it wasn't seized. 

Makes sense, no boost, no turbo extracting exhaust energy. Might as well be a NA SR20VE at that point. 

Satisfied with diagnosis, we stuck a filter on the end of the throttle body and I drove the car home. 

A fun experience I got out of the failure is a data logged run with the motor as NA rather than turbo, this allowed me to compare the easy install I could have done to the significantly more involved turbo build I decided to complete. 
While the NA VE was still very impressive, it was easy to see I made the right choice. Need to get my boosties back 😊


Step one, check to catalytic boost collector.



Theory confirmed.



Now to yank the turbo and look for a replacement.



And there we have it. A smoking gun, which is great because it means I can rebuild without wondering about a repeat of the SAME problem.

That there is the oil restrictor it has a tiny orifice on the other side to reduce oil pressure to the turbo. Apparently there were a couple chips left i the oil supply I had to drill into the block. The compressed air and vacuum must have not quite done the trick.
I could hardly blow through the orifice with the chips in place.
Suprising that the exhaust wheel let go before the bearings seized given no oil... Must have been the extra heat. 




As evident by the lack of oil in the drain. This is one of those things that crossed my mind to check for on start up but never actually happened. Ooops.
Glad I was able to learn on a $100 turbo and not a $1000 turbo phew 😅



Interesting to see. Just this D shaped nub glued to the end of the shaft. OEM solution.



You can see the exhaust housing was chewed up from the shrapnel. I don't know how we didn't hear anything in the car.



Welp, turbo number 2. Original turbo on left. Recall that one I was supposed to be a RB25DET unit but I found out it was a RB20DET. Which as compared to the actual RB25 unit I just got on the right is quite a bit smaller. So silver lining I get to upgrade a bit. Will be fun to compare data logs.



Then I went on vacation so progress has been stagnant for a bit. Hope to get it back rolling soon.


Edited by volkswagner
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While I had some stuff apart I decided to install the eccentric throttle wheel I had got a while ago. This wheel has a variable radius as it rotates. It makes it slower action under partial throttle cruising around and then snaps open with fast action for WOT. Since I was putting on this and a bigger turbo with more lag I figured my throttle response wouldn't be too touchy so I could also bump up to the larger throttle body I had around. 

Original S14 TB on the left. VE TB on the right, noticable difference. I know I measured them but can't find the picture, 🙁.




Turbo all prepped up with the fluid lines.



One thing I didn't consider until I was bolting up was that I had made my manifold a pretty tight fit to the original turbo. The extra girth *almost* didn't make it! 




Got everything else back together and away it went. Back on the commuter routine.



There was a pretty significant hiccup that didn't make the photo reel. My first drive to work I parked and came back out to a huge puddle of oil. 
Investigated at lunch and found that the band clamp i used for the turbo oil drain had cut through the drain tube. Letting most of it come right out. Qaurt low by the time to work.

A trip to the auto store and some parking lot repairs got it sorted quick. All good so far after that. 

Even better the tune has been smoothing out and making for a really enjoyable ride. 🤗

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Small notes. 


The 2.0 steering ratio is heavy of course at low speed but feel great for highway cruising and such.

Auto X in a week to see how it feels on the track.


New throttle body setup feel smooth and linear. I like it much better.


Bigger turbo, certainly as more lag but it's not a fair comparison seeing's how the old turbo had no oil viscosity to spin 100K rpm in.
I'm only running on 7psi stock waste gate right now. I'm interested to see how much the boost solenoid improves the situation.

On 5/20/2019 at 7:00 AM, ]2eDeYe said:

The hinged power control center is excellent. Nice work.

Look forward to hearing if the magnets work on heavy bottoming out. 

Hasn't let loose yet.

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All was going smoothly for a while. The tune was feeling like it was settling down.

The added turbo heat seemed to be giving me some brake fade. Finished up a quick heat shield to help.



Then I started getting really weird behavior and sporatic AFR readings. IT was easy at first to chalk this up to my poor tuning skills so I spent some time chasing my tail with that. Finally decided I must have a boost leak. Did some investigating and found a small issue.


That's the bottom of my manifold. not visible from above. 



Took it off to re-weld and found the problem was a bit more extensive.



Had Jeff seal everything back up. I was thinking at this point that it must have been from intake back fires during my cam issue, that made large psi spikes.



Back to commuting....


Work bays are convenient for quick changes.



Back to the track...



Went well. Added power of course just highlighted the lack of chassis mods I made during the last couple years.

Luckily those are up next. Clutch was giving issues for engagement and feel. Then once I got to about 1/2 tank. I started to fuel starve on the straight. 



Installed an auto-adjust S-chassis clutch slave. Much better engagement now.



Stalled at work, some investigation and Jeff noticed my Cam sensor had broken the adhesion from the mounting nut. 
Probably from lack of clearance to the upper radiator hose and engine movement. Glued it up and trimmed the hose to give more clearance.


About a week of nice driving and then some familiar symptoms cropped up. 




Decided to remove the IACV all together since I wasn't utilizing it. And replaced that section with thicker sheet. Since there were no intake back fores this time around, the latest theory is some 7075 crack prone aluminum alloy was originally used.




In interest of a more robust solution for future SR20VE swaps. I took the oppurtunity to look at the possibilty of an S14 intake adapter. Looks do-able




Edited by volkswagner
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Longer runners are where its at for torque. Something about intake pulses and tuning the length of the runner.

Im running an s13 sr20det intake and am pretty happy with the low end. Ive deiven a similar set up to mine with the short runner tube/box intake and was not impressed with the low end but it pulled substantially longer up high.

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10:1 compression seems to make up the difference on the bottom of the rev range. It is also very derivable down low for daily but has the top when you want it.
I would love to get the S14 runners on and get a back to back comparison though!

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Sounds like the S14 runners would make a good improvement for the torque as you suggested. How loud is the exhaust with just a cat?

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