another setback

Posted in LT-1 on 31 October 11 by Mark

Didn’t make it to the dyno.  Friday night, I took the truck out for  a little bit of a shakedown run, and realized the alternator wasn’t doing its job.  I brought it back to the garage, ran a couple tests, and found the regulator was shot.  No output.  So I pulled the alternator.

I was at the auto parts store when they opened at 7:30, and they gave me a new one (reman) since this one I got from them in FEBRUARY.

Alternator went on, truck fired up with good voltage, and I was GONE.




I got about 10 blocks down the road when the dash went blank and the engine died.  NOTHING.  No dash lights, no buzzers, no engine, nada.  I pulled off Market St., parked in a driveway to an apartment complex, and then saw smoke coming out of the engine bay.  NOT GOOD!

I opened the hood (breaking the 16 year old piece of metal that holds the hood latch cable to the handle), lifted the hood, and found flames snaking up from behind the alternator.  SONOFA!!!!!  I ran to the cab, grabbed the handy bottle of water I used to keep the V6 radiator topped off, and luckily had plenty in there to douse the flames.  Pant, Pant, Pant.

Turns out that I didn’t get the alternator wire (BATT+, remember) far enough away from the engine, and it had been contacting the headers on occasion.  As I charged up the Market St. hill out of Ballard, the up angle on the truck caused it to continuously rub on the header, which burned the insulation off.  When the bare wire contacted the header next, it sparked, and the battery started discharging directly through the engine back to the negative post.  This welded the wire to the header, and caused all the electronics to shut down, including the fuel injection system.  I quickly disconnected the battery and was able to pry the wire off the header with a screwdriver.  Hopefully, the ceramic coating isn’t TOO badly damaged from the electricity (yeah right..I’m not that lucky), but what can I do except see if it fails?

I taped up the wire, reconnected the battery and everything appeared to work well, although the battery had drained sufficiently to be incapable of starting the truck.  My wife came with a car and I got a jump start, and it ran fine all the way home.  I was so frustrated, and even afraid, that I cancelled the dyno appointment (I would have been late anyway), and didn’t touch it the rest of the weekend.
I did buy a replacement battery cable and some cable stops to hopefully fix the hood pull.  I’m out of town two days this week, but I’m going to try to do some driving tonight and tomorrow night, and next week in the evenings.  Hopefully by next weekend, I’ll have enough confidence to get it over to Kirkland to try and do some tuning again.

Incidentally, I found a build on Car Craft’s website where they did heads, a cam, roller rockers on an LT1 and the motor gave 412hp/402lb-ft.  Not too shabby, I say!


Posted in LT-1 on 29 October 11 by Mark

Got everything ready to go last night, and the alternator wasn’t charging!!!!  Got a new one at 7:30 this morning, now I’m off to the dyno shop!  Uh, I hope.

Getting ready

Posted in LT-1 on 28 October 11 by Mark

New starter is in, and it works great.  New coil is in, but I haven’t tried it (it was late at night when I got it installed).  The cluster is in, the needles are reinstalled, but I still have to put the dash together.  I’ll do that tonight, along with putting together a toolbox to take with me on Saturday in case I break down.  I’m also planning on doing some driving tomorrow night to double and triple check everything.

I also found the source of my water leak–it’s the heater hose return to the water pump.  There’s a plastic elbow with a hose clamp on it that’s weeping by.  Not bad or anything, but I couldn’t get at it last night to tighten it up.

I also lost a 1/4″ socket in the front clip somewhere–couldn’t find it to save my life.  I swear, after losing this one, a couple of 13 and 15mm sockets, and that one inside the framerail, this truck EATS sockets!!!


Posted in LT-1 on 27 October 11 by Mark

Pulled the starter last night, and the solenoid appears to be working itself out of the main case.  It’s pressed in, so I can’t REpress it, or it would just slide out again.  Most are bolted…NOT SO, this guy!  I’ll take it to the auto parts store tonight.

Old coil is off, and I had to drill a pair of RIVETS out to get it off the ignition module.  Ridiculous assembly practice.  Getting bolts tonight at Lowe’s.

The old cluster is out, the bulbs are swapped and spun, and the new cluster face is on.  Just waiting on the glue to dry and an install to put the needles on and install the glass cover.  I’ll probably also move the cutout switch somewhere, but not yet.  Maybe when I build the center console or something; I don’t know.

I think I also need to order a high power resistor for the dash lights–they don’t dim now that they’re all LEDs.

I’m NERVOUS because the first real test of the output capacity of the engine build is on Saturday.  FIRST, I have to drive the thing all the way to Kirkland; second, I have to hope it doesn’t go BOOM when I run it up through the horsepower and speed bands.  I’ve been all the way through first and second I think, but third or fourth is pretty fast!


More baby steps

Posted in LT-1, Other Vehicles on 25 October 11 by Mark

Well, it’s been about two weeks since my last post.  I’ve been battling the power steering issue, which led me last night to realize that I’ve got a loop of the reservoir->pump hose that goes above the level of the reservoir, which probably means that I’m creating an air bubble there.  I disconnected and rethreaded it through the mess of wires and hoses there on the passenger side front.  It’s now lower, and not kinked, so that should solve that problem.

MIL light:  I took the cluster out and I think I had a Gross Conceptual Error when I installed the LED lights.  I believe that I was holding the ground side of the source on one large “ground plain” and moving the 12V source around the cluster to confirm I knew which side was the positive side.  One problem with that:  it’s usually the GROUND SIDE that it switched by the PCM, which means I had all the idiot lights backwards.  I pulled the cluster out and started testing it.  This time, I didn’t have the battery charger handy, but I DID have the battery.  Oops–there’s no current limiter on the battery, and it certainly has neough power to burn the little copper traces on the cluster.  Which it did.  So I went to the junk yard last Sunday and grabbed a couple clusters out of other trucks.  I also ordered a new white gauge face, and I’ll transfer the needles over.  Speaking of needles, I think that’s why my oil pressure was pegged high–it was trying to indicate 0 psi at about 1/4 scale, so the HIGH oil pressure (cold idle) was off the scale.  That’s also why when the oil warmed up and got more viscous, pressure came down to high in band.  So I’ve adjusted all the needles, and they all seem to indicate better (temp, fuel, etc).  Of course, I now have to pull them all off and transfer them to the new cluster, so that will have to be done again.

The two codes are indeed Maintenance Indicator Lamp fault (discussed above, see “DOH!”) and fan circuit B failure.  I’ll get that one turned off at the tuning shop.

I’ve also bled both the power steering and the clutch hydraulics, which BOTH has significant air in the system.  I don’t think the bleeding of the clutch has solved my reverse problem, which I may just have to live with until I’m ready to pull the transmission again.  The power steering, as I said, was related to the air bubble, so that should be taken care of.

I also got a new coil for the LT1, just to see if that will change the upper-rev-band behavior of the engine.  I need to check the tach and make sure it’s working correctly (i.e., set for V8, not V6), since the truck seemed to redline at about 5500, and it should be set to above 6300.

Still looking for a tuning shop.  One that I spoke with only does LSx motors, no LTx anymore.  Blah.  LAME.

I installed the amplifier in my Stratus, so I now have a radio in it for the first time in about 3 years.  I don’t think I mentioned it, but it was stolen outside from outside my house in Ravenna (19th & 68th).  They got my 400W 12″ kicker sub, both my audiobahn amps (one for the sub, one for the speakers).  About 8 months later, they got the 10″ form fitted box & sub from my S-10.  That was BEFORE they stole my roommate’s Nissan Maxima.  And before they broke into my house and stole my GPS, my 1911 Colt, and my (then) fiance’s wedding band, not to mention a bunch of family jewelry and laptop from my roommate.  I hate thieves.  I wish they’d have tried to take my 12 gauge from my hands while I was THERE, bastards.  ANYWAY, I’ve installed a new Alpine amp for the components in the Stratus; 75W/channel.  Sounds pretty good.  I need to tune it, and I need to get another sub & amp for the Stratus.  I got that amp off craigslist, and it seems to be great; I got another 4 channel amp for the S-10 (which I never had before) that I’m going to use to power the door & dash speakers.  Right now they’re running off the JVC head unit, and they’re pretty tinny.  I don’t know if the amp will help all that much based on the capability of the speakers, but I can give it a shot.  It will also give me room for expansion.  The sub was really key in the truck for good sound, since the 3x5s or whatever they were had exactly ZERO base.  That’s down the road–I can actually LISTEN TO MUSIC again in the Stratus, after years of nothingness.  THAT is awesome.


Highway run

Posted in LT-1 on 14 October 11 by Mark

Two nights ago, I got it up on the highway for the first time.  First was a trip up Hwy 99, which let me get up to about 50 or 55.  Truck ran great, and although I was gentle with the clutch, the first couple gears were pretty good.  No engine hiccups or anything.  I was pretty nervous, since I still don’t have current tabs, and the thing isn’t exactly innocuous.

Then I got it over to interstate 5.  This was about 7:30 or 8 at night, and the interstate was busier than I expected.  Still, I was able to run it up to the rev limit in 1st and 2nd gears, and the computer limited me much earlier than I expected.  I asked for a redline of 6300 or so, I don’t remember exactly, and I think I was halted at about 5000.  That might be a problem with my tachometer, or with the redline setting (PCM variable), OR it might be a problem with the ignition system.  The limiter was pretty abrupt, and it did shake the truck more than I thought it would, so I didn’t push it more than those two times.  WOW, did it pull hard up to that limit though!  I didn’t have much time to watch, and there was traffic so I couldn’t watch too closely, but I think 2nd gear redline was about 50 or 55.  Once on the highway, I worked my way over to the fast lane and got it up to about 65mph, which let me get into 6th gear.  Running at 65 in 5th got me about 1800 or 2000 RPM, while 6th dropped it all the way down to 1300.  Remember, idle in the LT1 is 900 RPM, and I was running OVER the speed limit at 65 at 1300 RPM.  BARELY off idle.  The engine was almost silent, and it was doing hardly any work at all.  True, it wouldn’t accelerate worth anything, but it cruised along (with cruise control!) without a problem.  I was also able to run in 3rd and 4th without an issue at those speeds, although in 6th if I let speed drop to 60 or below, it started to bog pretty bad. Most of the time around town was done in 2nd, sometimes maybe 3rd.

Problems:  I think the synchro in first is pretty much gone, since I have to be almost <5mph to get it in without any grinding.  Not a big deal, since I don’t expect to be engine braking in first gear all that often, even at the track.  Reverse is still a problem, which I think may be related to the clutch system not being fully bled.  There’s some slight feeling to dropping the truck into 1st from a standstill even without letting the clutch out, so maybe the 1st & reverse are related.  I’ve heard that getting the clutch bled completely is much harder than I expected.

Oil pressure still isn’t reliable, and that may be due to a wiring problem, or to the oil pressure sensor not being calibrated for a high volume pump (although that may or may not affect pressure, depends on the rest of the system).  I’m going to talk to the harness guys and double check the wiring, then I’ll probably end up with an Autometer oil pressure gauge.

I also received two OBD codes:  P1661 and P1642.  1642 is either the Vehicle Speed Output circuit or the Fan Control Circuit, depending on who you ask.  I think it’s the latter, which would make sense, I think.  If so, it’s a non issue–both fans work well, and are operating as I want them.  1642, however, is the maintenance indicator light problem code, which MIGHT prevent me from passing emissions testing.  I’m not exactly sure what causes this fault, so I’ve got to do some research.

Also, as I got back to the house after the test drive, I started having power steering issues.  It might be a kinked and bound hose, or it might be a lack of bleeding of the system.  I’ve seen both recently on this truck.

I’m still looking for a tuning shop in the Seattle area that will do LTx engines; I have a lead on one that hasn’t gotten back to me.  If you know any, let me know!

First drive

Posted in LT-1 on 10 October 11 by Mark

Okay, so it’s technically not the first drive.  I DID drive it those two blocks before the throttle cable broke.  And then I did drive it from my house to the exhaust shop, and then again back to the house.  Both times was more limping than driving though… Exhaust, O2 sensors, fans, coolant temp, oil press, fuel level–all of it was working.  I ran it up to about 45mph, through 4th gear (1:1; 6th gear is 0.5:1!) and I was at about 1400 RPM.  There was almost NO torque at that low of an RPM–idle is 900–but it ran smoothly.  There’s still a little bit of a backfire every 30 seconds to a minute…just a quiet ping from the exhaust.

Reverse still requires me to hold the shifter up in reverse—I’m worried that’s the synchro that’s dead.  I’ve heard it MIGHT be a lack of hydraulic bleeding in the clutch system–I can always hope I guess. It burbles and pops on overrun, which is a lot of fun. It’s also quite loud…probably louder than I had planned, but that might be because there’s a giant hole in the floor where the shifter comes up that needs to be covered by carpeting and dynamat.  That’ll come with time.

I’ll make a couple more test drives, including up to 55 or so on Hwy 99, and up to 80 or so on the interstate, just to see how everything behaves.  I’ll also run the engine up to a higher RPM; I only managed about 3500 on that first run.  Once I’m confident of the systems, I’ll go ahead and take it into a dyno shop and see if they can dial out the rich backfiring and clean up the idle behavior.  First gear off idle is much easier now that I have closed loop capability with the O2 sensors installed, but it’s still a bit weaker than I expected.  Don’t get me wrong, if I actually apply a little throttle, even as little as 1200 or 1500 RPM, first feels GREAT.  But it should idle forward if I ride the friction zone without too much hesitation and studdering.

After the dyno shop, it’s off to the emissions house.  Then to the DMV for some tabs.  Then I can start really putting it through it’s paces (since I won’t have to park it in the garage, which takes about a 12 point turn to get it out from between the townhouses, pissing off all the locals when I do it).  Maybe I’ll put it on the street tomorrow after work so I can take some of the guys that watch F1 with me on Tuesday for a spin.  We’ll see.

One other issue that seems to have just cropped up:  I think the starter is going out.  Sometimes when I turn the key, all I get is a single click.  It’s a new battery, so I know that’s not the problem.  If I try it three or four times, it just works.  I think the solenoid is going.  Any thoughts?