Monday, 20 March 2017

The Final Chapter

Recently I've been thinking about a new project.It's been over three years now since the Zero was finished, and whilst I have had so much fun diving her, it is time for something new.

I advertised in Autotrader 1 week ago - over 1000 views and numerous buyers. The luck chap was Peter from Norfolk who drove up with the cash on Sunday and drove back with by Zero.

So sad to see her go

Now what's next.......

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Winter Maintenance

With the forthcoming Scotland trip all booked up, thoughts turn to preparation and getting the car ready. Nothing major – more like tinkering really.

  Front brakes – replace pads with softer compound for more effective braking 

  Mintex MDB1175M1144 
Mintex 1155 Ford Escort Mk3 Mk4 Sierra Fiesta Caliper Brake Pads MDB1175M1155Quite straight forward job (even with a garage temperature of 3 degrees). The old pads and the discs themselves were hardly touched after 7000 miles – can’t be driving hard enough. The pistons needed a little bit of cleaning before greasing up and re-assembling. Job done and much improved.

  Steering Wheel
I replaced my 280mm wheel last year with a 330mm deep dish and added a quick release. This purposefully moved the driving position back so I could push the seat back for a better driving position. I think I overdid it with the deep disk plus the depth of the quick release. Swapped the deep dish with the old flat wheel today – much better. Will keep an eye out of a flat 300mm wheel

  Cables -  Identify and procure spare clutch cable and accelerator cable
Kitspares £30 – throttle cable RHD Plenum
Kitspares £21 – Clutch cable RHD
  Cold starting
RC-1060 Universal Chrome FilterTwo turns clockwise on the idle stop screw – done. Far too much - warm idle now 2000rpm. Wound it back to initial position and added a very slight adjustment for warm idle at c1000rpm.

  Air Filter - Change the air filter on the plenum
Was 85mm Neck Cone filter Piper Cross (KitSpares £38) – going to try K&N RC-8040.
K&N fitted without issue. Engine breathing fine and I think also improved cold starting.

Tyres - Swap around the tyres to even out tyre wear

  Fuel Filter - Replace the fuel filter and check the fuel hoses
Tried the Syntec SSF2070 fuel filter. It's s higher capacity flow that the Kitspares original but is physically bigger (60mm diameter and 80mm length). There is plenty of space back there and the mounting is easily modified via the use of a tyewrap - Done

Fuel hoses in the engine bay show signs of cracking on the outer casing. Those not exposed to the heat of the engine bay i.e. those connecting the LP pump and fuel filter at the rear, look fine.

Replace the engine bay 8mm fuel hoses with SAE J30R9 rated hoses
·         High Pressure pump to fuel rail – 680mm
·         Fuel rail to swirl pot – 880mm
·         Fuel feed to swirl pot – 370mm
So roughly 2m of hose - Done.

  Crank Breather - Replace the crank breather filter and check the overflow
This filter is often choked with oil and there is signs of oil escaping through the filter onto the block. Will try 15mm pipe in place of the 8mm perhaps that will allow better breathing.
·         Crank to catch tank – 320mm
·         Catch tank to filter – 150mm
So roughly 0.5m of 15mm

  Nose cone
A few things annoy me about the nose cone (other than being palmed off with old stock - but that's a different story):
a)      The badge position – too far forward where there is a clear position for the badge (in the sunlight)
b)      Nose cone not straight against the bonnet - move the cone up and back. It now sits straight against the bonnet front lip, although the lip now protrudes upwards slightly. I'll try some subtle bending of the bonnet.
c)      The stock indicators - I would prefer a smaller format LED, but that will need a new flasher relay fitted also. I will wait until show season and pick some indicators from one of the trade stands.

Friday, 5 June 2015

RhoCar Scotland 2015

Finally got around to finishing the video footage from the trip

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Torque App interface to Emerald - Part 2

Finally got around to finishing off this project after the ECU firmware upgrade when I visited Emerald a while ago.
I have hidden the small loom and bluetooth ODBII interface under the dash and simply mounted the Kindle on the dash with a couple of small peices of velco so it can be easily removed and replaced.
I now have an in-car entertainment system, navigation and engine management system on the dash.

Friday, 13 March 2015

New Emerald ECU mapping

In my previous post I wrote about my recent project to build a bluetooth interface between the Torque app and the Emerald ECU. I almost succeeded but needed the firmware on the Emerald ECU upgrading. This requires the ECU to be physically at the Emerald premises in Watton just outside Norwich. As I didn't want to trust my ECU to the postman I decided to drive across and whilst there to utilise their rolling road service to properly may the engine.

Here's a short clip of the process:

Each load cell on the map is visited and the optimum parameters are selected depending on the map you want. With a catalyst and a plenum fitted I didn't have as many options as a non catalyst engine with throttle bodies, but I decided on:

  • Map 1 - Road and track
  • Map 2 - MOT - low emissions (not for driving on)
  • Map 3 - Immobiliser

Fairly self explanatory apart from Map 3. When set to Map 3 the car will just about start but will stall the moment you touch the pedal. A simple but effective way of immobilising the car in addition to the standard Ford key. There were other appealing/novelty options like "pop & bang" but this was my selection.

The trip was c165 miles each way so I had chance to test the car on the way home - what a difference!! Far more responsive. Much much smoother to drive. Motorway cruising at anywhere between 45 and 85 can now be done in 5th. It drinks much less fuel by at least 20%.

By the way the power run gave a reading of exactly 160 BHP at the flywheel. Not bad for a standard Ford engine with a simple plenum.

I must admit to having my fingers firmly crossed during the session. The car gets quite a hammering especially at high revs under full load. Cooling system and oil pressure both fine afterwards, but there was a trace of a slightly slippy clutch when everything got really hot. Nothing noticed on the way home though.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Torque App Interface to Emerald ECU

The idea here is to use a Kindle Fire HDX as a central hub for car information and mount it on the dashboard. Google maps for sat-nav, music via headphones, GoPro app for the camera and engine/vehicle information via the Torque Pro app. All of these apps are available now on the Kindle Fire, loaded and ready to go. Only the real-time engine data required for the Torque Pro app is missing.

According to the information on the Emerald web site the K6 ECU uses the following version of the CAN bus protocol: CAN v2.0b – 29-bit ID , Extended frame, 20Hz (up to 1 Mbit/sec). 21 elements of vehicle data are broadcast each second in the format defined by this protocol via the serial comms port on the K6. For the avoidance of doubt this is the same comms port that is normally used to upload the vehicle maps.

According to the various web sites for ELM 327 (and its clones) this ODB II interface should
also supports this protocol, and should interface with the Torque Pro app via Bluetooth, on my phone and android tablet. Sounds simple and also inexpensive as none of the elements required are more than a tenner.

Firstly the ELM 327 – Bluetooth version off E-bay for £5. Plugged it into my Audi and it connected straight away and pumped out vehicle data in the Torque Pro app for display. Simple 10 minute job. The Torque Pro Apps automatically tries all of the protocols it understands one after another until it gets a sensible response. It didn’t take more than a few seconds to latch on the one Audi is using. 

So how to get the data from the K6 into the Torque Pro App? RS232 would have been my first choice but Emeralds comms port is not a standard RS232 implementation so there no easy solution there that doesn’t involve wires and a soldering iron. As I now know the ELK 327 works from my Audi test my idea is to build a bespoke cable that plugs into the 9 pin Dsub of the K6 ECU comms port and the other end allows the ELM 327 to be plugged in.

I came up with the following:

ECU Dsub 9 pin number

ECU Desc
Wire Colour
ODB Desc

ODB II 16 pin number
CAN_H **
CAN bus interface1
CAN_L **
CAN bus interface1
Not used

Not used

Signal earth
Light blue & yellow
4 & 5
Not used

RS232 serial interface, data receive
Black white
RS232 serial interface, data transmit
RS232 serial interface, clear to send
Red white


** 120 ohm resistor between these pins. The CAN bus must be terminated with 120 Ohm resistors. The ECU’s CAN interface includes a 120 Ohm internal termination resistor.

Once the circuit was drawn up, putting the cable together didn’t take too long. I also added a power and ground connector to connect to the car as the K6 doesn’t supply these on it’s comms port.

Here’s the whole thing ready to go. Notice the deliberate mistake? I purchased a female 9 pin Dsub instead of a male. Rather than unsoldering and replacing I chose to spend £1.99 of a female to male converter which you can see sticking on the end.

Here it is in situ under the dash.

So I turned it on. 

The ELM 327 powered up and connected via Bluetooth to the Torque App as it did with the Audi. The Torque App then tried scanning the protocols it understood one at a time. Each time it tried another protocol I watched the status LEDs on the ELM 327 flash as it broadcast data to the ECU and received stuff back. But that’s as far as I could get. The Torque App obviously didn’t understand the information it was being sent if indeed it was being sent anything at all, because it continued to cycle through the protocols and not lock onto one.

Here’s a short video showing what happened.

I went back to the ECU manual and decided to change the CAN protocol to “AIM Dashboard” by updating the “ECU Configuration”. Big mistake. The engine would idle but wouldn’t rev – at all – without stalling. Panic. I had read the ECU maps first of all before uploading the “ECU Configuration” and this was the only parameter I changed. So, reverse the change and upload another “ECU Configuration”. Exactly the same. What the hell is going on. What did we do before Google. Found a manual on the Emerald web site dedicated to “ECU Configuration”. I hadn’t looked at it previously. I hadn’t needed to. But I learned that there 2 configuration files that define the set up of the K6. A *.map file that I recognise as the file that stores the 3 maps. Then there is also a *.k03 file that has the “ECU Configuration” settings. Found my old .k03 file and uploaded it. Fingers crossed. Yes that was the problem. Somehow I had lost the EC Configuration setting on the laptop and uploaded some generic parameters when I first pressed “ECU Configuration” upload. That was lucky. Could have done some very serious engine damage doing that.

That’s where I finished for the day – car back working again but the Torque App still not doing what it should. I will talk to Emerald.

21st Feb Update
Spoke to Emerald - the firmware in my ECU needs updating in order to start seeing CAN bus messages. It's a free upgrade but at the factory. Will try to find a suitable day to go across to Norwich for the upgrade and a rolling road session.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Winter Maintenance

Job 1: Exhaust

As you will have seen in previous posts, (and heard if you were on the GBS Run-Out) my exhaust was rattling again - badly. I had already attempted a fix according to instructions from Richard@GBS which had temporarily quietened it, but it had returned. 
Richard@GBS agreed to take the unit apart and fix it properly in the factory. All I needed to do was get it to him. What could be simpler? Unbolt the silencer box and take it to the factory. 
TIP FOR NEW BUILDERS: Cut the manifold pipe such that the silencer box can be slipped on and off without having to remove the exhaust bracket at the back or the manifold itself at the front.
Of course, I didn't think of this at the time, so the manifold had to come off in order to remove the silencer box. See picture above - a little soot after 3000 miles, but all the fixing bolts came out easily. I had feared that the heat would have caused at least one to cease solid.
Richard@GBS was true to his word and reduced the tolerance between the inner and outer pipes that make up the silencer box internals. They are now much, much tighter and as a result the rattle has gone. I also took the opportunity to check the wadding in the silencer box once it was open at the factory. No problems at all. Still in place, and still filling the volume. There are tales of the wading deteriorating, but I saw no sign of this in my box.

Job 2: Gear Stick Linkage

There have been many accounts this summer of failure of the linkage between the base of the gear stick and the gear box selector shaft. In the photo on the left you can see the original cylindrical linkage (on the left). It has two pins that make the respective mechanical connections with the selector shaft and gear stick. Each are held in place with rubber washers - also shown. 
The rubber washers are prone to perish. When one fails, the pin drops out and the gear stick becomes no longer attached to the gear selector and you are stuck in whatever gear was last selected. 
There is a new design of linkage - see the one on the right in the photo. In place of the rubber washers, the pins are kept in place by spring steel clips. Much more secure. 
Replacing the linkage is far far easier with the car on stands, rather than in the road in a layby, but still quite an involved process as access from above requires removal of the dash, centre console and Auxiliary panels. Even with these all removed my big hands had difficulty.

Job 3: Rattling Gear Stick

Not a problem as such, more an annoyance. When driving I find that my gear stick rattles. So while I had it all in bits I made some washers from some spare piping. Simple but effective - no more rattle - peace at last.

Job 4: Rear Disks and Brake Bleeding

I do find surface rust ugly. Recently I have noticed it on the rear brake disks which are visible through the spokes of the rear wheels. A simple coat of hammerite should be sufficient to smarten this up, taking care not to cover the braking surface obviously. Whilst I am doing this, it would also be good practice to replace the brake fluid and bleed the brakes once more, as the fluid has been in-situ for over 18 months now.
The brake disks came up fine with some 1200 grit wet'n'dry and a coat of black hammerite. I now don't notice the surface rust through the wheel spokes. Probably only me that noticed.

Replacing the brake fluid and bleeding the brakes is not a big job at the front as there is plenty of access to the bleed nipples on the front callipers. The rear on the other hand are more tricky. The rear callipers are mounted upside down. This means air can collect inside the calliper and no amount of bleeding will shift it. The calliper has to be inverted before bleeding if you want to shift this air. The near side gave up without too much of a fight, but the offside decided not to play. 
Firstly the bleed nipple refused to open despite numerous attempts to free it using penetrating oil. The use of force then had predictable results in that I rounded of the brass nut. So the whole thing had to come off so I could replace the nipple. In the process of doing this the calliper piston closed slightly so that I couldn't refit it over the brake disk once the pads were in place. 
If you know how the internals of the Sierra rear calliper work then this is not a problem. If, like me, you don't, then this is a show stopper. 
It turns out that the piston has a ratchet mechanism to aid the hand-brake. As the pads wear the piston rotates slightly and in doing so closes the gap between itself and the first brake pad. It then latches into position so the gap remains closed. Great in order to keep your hand brake effective, but not good if it closes too much to get the calliper and pads re-assembled over the brake disk. To fix this you need to wind the piston back into the calliper. It can't be forced with a hammer or clamp. So it has to come off and onto the bench again.

Job 5: Pressure Cap and Water System

You can see the evidence in the picture on the left. The thermostat housing is covered in the residue left when water and anti-freeze leak from the pressure cap and evaporate on the hot housing. The picture on the right is my original pressure cap. As you can see it seals to the thermostat housing using a metal plate, or at least it almost seals. The "almost" causes the leaking and the overflow tank and overflow process not to work properly. Fluid is not returned to the main system from the overflow as the suction is lost. In practise you need to keep topping up the water level.
To fix this I simply bought a new pressure cap from GBS with a rubberised seal. This seems to work much better, and after a couple of tests to full temperature I can't see any leaking fluid and the water level hasn't dropped.

Job 6: Crankcase Breather

When I put the engine under some duress on the track (or road) it has been known to result in hot oil being ejected via the crankcase breather. This has two effects a) oil all over the engine bay; b) the smell of hot oil whilst you are driving. This latter effect became so strong that after one event I could taste the oil. So, I have invested in a small catch tank to see if that helps. 
Reading around the possible installation configurations, most would suggest that you feed the output from the catch tank back into the engines air stream for re combustion. As I had a spare input into the plenum I started by connecting the output to the plenum input. Unfortunately the engine ran very lumpy on tick-over and eventually stalled. I suspect this will have been something to do with the high vacuum pressure the plenum generates. So, my second attempt has the output venting via a filter back to atmosphere. I haven't tried it under vigorous driving conditions yet. I hope it helps. Nothing worst than beer tasting of oil.

Job 7: Side Mirrors

A very quick job this one. The reverse of the side mirrors had taken some wear and tear from chippings and insects etc. This had caused the coating the flake and some rust to form. Another case for the 1200 grit wet'n'dry and black hammerite. They look fine now.

Job 8: Headlight Upgrade

I haven't done this job yet. I am thinking of upgrading the standard H4 halogens. Do I go HID Xenon or replace the H4 bulbs with better quality, higher output units? I'm still deciding.

21st Feb 2015 Update
Decided on H4 bulb upgrade to Xenon Ultima (Ring Automotive) over twice as bright but at reasonable cost from Amazon.
In order to replace them however, I did need to replace the retaining bolt that clamps the chrome ring around my free standing 7" headlights. The phillips head had corroded and I couldn't get good purchase on the nut as it was non-standard and difficult to reach. In the end I ground off with my Dremmel and replaced with 35mm M3 Cap head and nylon lock nut.