Sunday, January 30, 2011

AE86 Prothane Bushings Fitment

Last weekend was allocated to get those Prothane bushings installed. After seeing the whole process, bushing fitments are clearly not for those without the proper tools. It should take you a whole day to put the bushings both on the front and rear side, swearing and yelling from working on 20+ years old sticky parts included.

Just a quick reminder, i am using Prothane Bushing Total kit for AE86 on my Charmant. Having the exact same suspension parts as her tofu delivering cousin (damn i love this car!), nearly all of the bushings from the kit can be used. The only difference between AE86 and Charmant is the rear sway bar (or the lack of it on the Daihatsu trim so you'll be left with the bushings for these unused).

Most of the fitment work is straightforward. You pull the part out, drill/cut/burn/press and curse the old bushings away, put the new ones in and reinstall. An exception was found on one end of the panhard or lateral rod from the RR Track Arm Kit (#18-1205). One of the ends have a non-split bushing. You may need to get help from a machine shop to fit it unharmed.
Took the mechanic working on my fitment a handful of tries before finally succeeded. The mechanic was using simple tools and a last-minute pressing machine so don't blame him for the tries. It will be tempting to split the bushing to make it easier but don't. There's only one non-split bushing so it won't hurt to pay extra and get some pro help on it.

Here's the emergency pressing machine the workshop used.
A ladder-shaped frame and a car jack is all. Mind that they didn't use any drill or torch to get the bushing out. A handsaw, hammer and that press machine were the main tools used. Here's the ghetto rig pushing an old bushing out of a front control arm.
Here's the mechanic finishing the front end. The arrows point to the location for the frond end bushings. If it's too hard to see, better diagrams are below.
I got help a lot on this one from my friend Yohann. He detailed which part goes where on this post. See the comments section. So, credits to him also for these diagram i made. Hopefully you will meet less problem as me with these diagrams.

On above diagram, the Sway Bar Bushing on the kit (19-1120) comes with the brackets also. However, i chose to keep the old brackets. The bolt holes for the new brackets were slotted while the old ones were round. I find that the round shape would keep the brackets in place better.

For the rear end, there's no sway bar on Charmant so you'll be left with the end links (#18-401) and bushings (#18-1130) unused. You can sell these to get some money back or retrofit an AE86 sway bar and use them.

Driving the car with new bushings gave a whole different impression. You can "feel" the road better, for lack of a better word, and the car is less wobbly. I'd definitely suggest you do the same upgrade. It'll be worth every penny. Proof? Here's some. New vs old front sway bar end link, can you say beefy?
Or here's a more basic reason..
Healthy strut rod bushings vs 20 years old burger. You simply can't expect good drivability from old and worn out suspension bushings.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Write-up on 4A-GE 16v Cooling System

Don't bother reading this post. This is just me writing down stuff i know so that i don't have to memorize them for future reference. Of course, you're welcome to read if you wish to know more on 4A-GE cooling system.

Found below diagram on Bill Sherwood's web. Bill's diagram is simpler and monochromatic so I decided to sharpen up my Photoshop skills and put fun colors and letters so that kindergartens are happy, grownups learn more and the world is a better place. I know it's overkill to use PS for this but shut up and read.
Click here for bigger resolution of diagram above.

The coolant flow is such:
When thermostat is closed, water is pushed by the water pump into the engine block through "IN" port. It then circulates following the orange arrows inside the engine block, goes up to the cylinder head and exits through OUT1 and OUT2 port. From OUT1, water passes the thermostat and back to the pump following blue arrows to repeat the cycle while from OUT2 it goes basically the same only the water is also diverted to the heater and throttle body before arriving back to the pump.

If the thermostat is open after exposed to enough heat from the water coming out of OUT1 and OUT2, the flow is same only now water also goes in and out of the radiator (green arrows) so that heat can be reduced.

That diagram above obviously shows a 16v RWD 4A-GE (bigport?) seeing it has fan attached to the pump and the thermostat is integrated to the water pump housing. FWD 4A-GEs like smallports has its thermostat separated from the pump and housed inside what's commonly known as 'remote thermostat housing' looking similar to these, pic taken from this awesome guide.
So, what are we learning from the diagram? Here's some:

First, cylinder 4, being furthest from the water pump, gets preheated water since coolant passes the other cylinders first before reaching it. This is why it's more common that engine gasket close to cylinder 4 fails first than the other cylinders.

Second, since there are two output ports for coolant from the cylinder head, you can block the water flow from OUT2 and still have the water flowing. However, this is not recommended because water around cylinder 4 needs to travel back to cylinder 1 before finally coming out the head. This way, heat will build up quicker around the back causing higher risk of overheating.

Third, you can bypass the heater rendering it useless or you can keep the heater function and if the engine is going to overheat, turning the heater on will also help cool the engine. It's only fair that you suffer what your engine is suffering.

Fourth, the thermostat needs to stay exposed to heated water or it'll always block water coming in from the radiator. To achieve this, water coming out of either OUT1 or OUT2 needs to always "tickle" the thermostat. This shouldn't be a problem if you have the RWD waterpump as it warrants this requirement by having the thermostat integrated to the water pump. If using a remote thermostat housing, however, you need to ensure that at least either OUT 1 or OUT 2 goes through the remote housing first before coming back to the pump. This is a mistake done by my workshop before. Allow me to elaborate their mistake so you won't do the same.
Above picture is taken somewhere from the web that i forgot. Anyway, as you can see, my workshop bypasses the remote housing by connecting OUT2 straight to upper radiator outlet on OUT1. They were confused as to why the radiator stays cold although the engine has been running for some time. Luckily it wasn't running long enough. What happens when you connect it the same way as my workshop did, the thermostat is not exposed to heated water and won't open. This means the pump is not pulling any water, water is not pushed into the engine block, blah blah blah and finally no water going to the radiator!

Another thing i'd like to kick out of my head is the fact that water also flows pass the throttle body (purple arrows). This is where those purple arrows go:
Coolant water flows pass the throttle body is to control the IACV, Idle Air Control Valve. What this valve does is control the flow of air coming in from the IACV air bleed hole (that big hole just in front of the throttle plate). If IACV is open, a small amount of air is leaked from the air bleed hole to behind the throttle plate. This bumps the RPM a bit, useful during cold starts to avoid the engine stalling. If the IACV is closed, the opposite happens. No air is leaked and RPM drops.

The IACV achieves this function by some amount of wax which is exposed to the coolant temperature. This wax expands or shrinks depends on the temperature and in turn controls the IACV. The flow is like this:

Cold engine --> Cold coolant --> IACV opens --> Air leaks --> RPM increased
Warm engine --> Hot coolant --> IACV closes --> Air blocked --> RPM reduced

I don't know how it works precisely but this is what i imagine in mind:
Hope that gives you an idea of how IACV works.

One of the problems common to 4A-GE is high or hunting RPM on idle even after the engine warms long enough. This could be a sign of faulty IACV most probably from the wax aging considering how old 4A-GEs are. You can check for this by blocking the IACV bleed hole in front of the throttle plate using your finger. When the engine warms enough, you should feel no vacuum. If you get some vacuum and the RPM drops suddenly, there you go, you've got a busted IACV.

If you don't feel any need for IACV (meaning you're sure your engine won't stall during cold starts) or you can't find any replacement for your broken IACV, you can install an IACV blocking plate. I won't name any brand, you can just google for "4AGE IACV blocking plate".

Last thing i'd like to bore you with: notice that the thermoswitch to control the radiator fan is on the radiator input of the remote thermostat housing. This means it is only exposed to water leaving the radiator. This water is cooler than the actual engine temperature having passed through the radiator before. What this means is that the thermoswitch must have lower temperature threshold to activate the radiator fan.

Let's say you want the fan to turn on when engine temperature reaches 90 deg C. Assume that the radiator will drop water temperature by 20 deg C. So for the fan to start at the right time, the fan thermoswitch must have its threshold set at 90-20 = 70 deg C. Interesting yet risky design. There's a delay between water coming in and out of the radiator and if the thermoswitch reacts too slowly, the fan would turn on too late and you could overheat the engine. I wonder what's the reason behind this? Do share in the comments if you know and i'll trade the knowledge with more boring posts.

*** edit 25-Feb-11 ***

It seems that my imagination has served me quite well. Forgot that i have a TVIS 4AGE service manual pdf and in it is a diagram of that IACV i talked about. Close enough to my imagination, lol.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Non-exhaustive Exhaust System Build

Having only extractor flowing exhaust gas out of her revving 4A-GE, The Dog badly needed a full exhaust system. Last Sunday, i drove her to the exhaust workshop after having made an appointment the day before. My goal was to keep the extractor so the builder need only to make the extractor-back system. Told them i don't mind having a bit of noise as long as the exhaust flow are kept optimum. Hence, these are the stuff they will be putting in.
Two mini-mufflers, one flexible joint and a stainless steel tail pipe. I don't know much about exhaust systems so i may get the names wrong there. The mufflers don't look pretty also but i can't complain since i am only charged 100 bucks for the full build. Besides, they're willing to give a full year warranty for their work. Notice the slanted tip on the tail pipe? I decided to cut it down to a right-angle later.

Here's the builder earning his pay.

Seeing this guy at work is like watching an artwork in progress. He uses no measuring tapes, no angle ruler, all done only by memory and a piece of chalk to mark some spots. One thing i learned from the build work was how to bend pipes without flattening them out. Here's one sample of pipe bending using a roller.

Overall, the whole build process only took about two hours. Surprised that it was so quick considering that most of the work is done only by one guy. Anyway, here are the result pics. Notice that the tip on the tail pipe is no longer slanted. Just the way i like it!

I tried to make before-after build videos just so you can hear the difference but i don't think the sound quality is good enough. Maybe it's the mic on my phone. Nevertheless, here are the comparison video.



Loving how she sounds now! She's somewhat subtle on idle yet roars on throttle.
After this, i need to get her back to the Megasquirt workshop to get her final tune.Will have to find some time to fly back to Jakarta again soon! By the way, i also just made the purchase for the technotoytuning suspension bits i planned earlier. I guess i am going short stroke conversion after all! All i am left to find for the suspension are the front and rear dampers. I am currently eyeing on a set of used TRD Blue rear shocks for sale locally. Maybe i'll go check the stuff later in Jakarta.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Housebreaking The Dog

Two weeks ago i wrote on getting the first 4A-GE engine run on The Dog using Megasquirt setup. However she wasn't quite ready to run on her own. It took the workshop a few more days to finalize the setup and get her ready. Finally, early last week i got an sms from the shop owner saying that she's ready. The workshop is eager to get her out since there's not much space there and some car is already overdue there.

Last weekend i went back to Jakarta to pick up the car. I went there on Saturday evening as they're work at nights. You know this workshop means business when they decided that Saturday nights aren't for beers and getting laid. Or they're just socially awkward.

I took a few test runs before feeling confident that she can be driven home safely. She only got the extractor and nothing else as far as exhaust goes. So you can bet that she was very loud. Good thing these guys work at night as i won't feel so comfortable driving such loud car on public roads on daylight.

At about 00.30 AM i start driving her back home slowly. Dad was behind me in another car. I avoided highways and main roads as best as i can out of fear of having some patrol car stopping me. I even slowed down when i see red traffic lights hoping they would turn green when i get near the intersection. Why bother? Here's why.. Notice the noise she was making..

Surely the cops won't be happy having such noise maker bothering them on their lunch. Safely made it back home anyway, went to bed and couldn't sleep from the excitement of finally having The Dog parked at home for the FIRST TIME EVER. Yeah, she never got to my house because the first day she was mine, she went to the body workshop straight away.

After just a nap (can't really say that half an hour of shutting one's eyes as sleeping, can you?), i got out of bed and find this in front of the house. Lo and behold, a new pet dog.. The Dog that is!

Looking mean with those steel rims. Here's some more shots. You can see in one of the pics that the engine bay wiring is still a mess. Will have to sort that out soon.

.. and here's my favorite shot. Both of my dogs in one picture!
That morning, The Dog didn't get enough sleep as i did. She had to go to the exhaust workshop right away to reduce that noise. Will write about it in another post.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Patrick's Silvertop Charmant from Barbados

A few days ago i received an email from a guy asking about spare Charmant body parts. He's looking for sets of exterior lamps like headlamps, tail lights, bumper lamps, etc. What pleases me the most about his email is that he also attached some pics of his current work-in-progress Charmant.

Meet Patrick Roett and his familiar looking Charmant. It's going to run a Silvertop 20v 4A-GE converted to run on ITBs and MAP sensor. Quoting directly from his email:

Here are some pics of the car. We finished painting and putting it back together about a week ago. Working on getting the engine fitted correctly before sending it off to the electrician. I know you will instantly recognize where I got my inspiration from.

Patrick's building this beast in Barbados. Along with my T&T based dear friend Dereck and his Smallport 4A-GE Charmant and also Edward Corbin's Rally Charmant, i'd say the Carribean is heaven for Charmant enthusiasts! I know where i am going for my holidays!

Still curious where Patrick got his inspiration? Well, here you go.
I am sure if you've been in the Charmant internet world long enough, you've seen that pic above. There's more pics of that Japanese Charmant on my hard drive but sadly no background story or specs to accompany them.

Anyway, keep your spirit high Patrick. I know projects like this can be stressful at times and even tempt you to just scrap the car but hang in there.. It's been almost two years since i started this project and i am doing my best to keep the momentum going. I know i'll reap the reward sooner or later.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Never expected this day would come so soon but.. SHE'S ALIVE! Finally The Dog gets her first 4A-GE treatment!

Visited the workshop last night and honestly didn't expect to get to see the engine started and running but i first thing i saw last night was this..
Custom made fuel-system rig. You've got the mini tank, fuel filter and pump there along with the supply and return line. I'd like to make me one of those! It would surely make troubleshooting fuel system easier.

Some more shots i made last night. Click to enlarge. First is the Megasquirt.
Second pic is another good news, the extractor fits! 35 bucks and it fits. Sure have saved some money there. Now, i only got the extractor there. No downpipes, muffler, tail pipes etc so she's a bit loud but i decided to get the exhaust in another workshop so she'll have to hang on to that for now.
I finally got to peek under the car clearly for the first time as she was on the car lift. Here you can see how very close my extractor is to the clutch slave cylinder. The clutch line needs some tidying up. Last thing i want is to boil the clutch hydraulics while i am cruising. If you're confused with the picture, i took it from under the passenger's floor facing front. You can identify the PS rack too under the extractor there.

And finally here's the money shot. Be warned though, as i mentioned in my earlier post, this workshop only works at night so you have to excuse the lack of proper lighting on the video. By the way, this would be the first video of The Dog on the blog!

Still got some tidying up to do before she can finally hit the road and move to the exhaust workshop. By the way, the workshop decided to pull a new bigger diameter fuel supply line. They thought it was too small and would risk starving the engine. As for the return line, they would use the original supply line. So i would left with one line unused, the original return line. I am glad that they made the decision. Who knows i would upgrade the engine one day. This way, i would always be certain that the fuel lines are up to the job. Here's the pipe they'll be using for the new line.
So what's next? Obviously the exhaust system. I also need to start hunting for the short-stroke conversion suspension parts and find me someone that can put the T-series axle in.