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Foaming Sprayers for Waterless Washing

I’m slowly getting ready for winter — not like I really have a say whether it comes or not. Winter wheels are out of the basement and on the car. The hose-mobile is in their place. The faucets are covered. So it’s time to figure out how to keep the cars clean(ish?) without running water. On the back of my recent success with a low-cost power wash foam cannon, I thought I’d try my hand with rinse less car wash. The best wash on the market is the Ammo Frothe.

There’s really nothing else like Frothe on the market. It’s $35 a 16 oz bottle, but since it’s concentrated and used diluted 1:20 with water, that works out to only about a dollar a wash. You spray it on and wipe it off. You’ll need to use many microfiber towels in the process. Working one panel at a time, spray it on, then using a folded towel, scoop off the foam. Fold to a clean side of the towel and remove any remaking Frothe. Anything left in the panel gaps will evaporate away. Frothe provides lubrication so as long as you’re working a clean area of the towel, you won’t scratch your paint.

I’m going to compare two different sprayers to the Ammo aerator (in the middle) which is about $60: The Griot’s Garage Pump-Up Foamer (on the right) which retails for about $40; and the IK 1.5 Foam Sprayer (on the left) which retails for about $33.

The Ammo aerator is made in Italy for Foam-iT.  Ammonyc currently is the sole automotive reseller in the US, but that may change in early 2019. If you take a look at the internals of the Griot’s and Ammo sprayers, they look like they’re from the same manufacturer.  Just the bottles and color accents are different.

I used Ammo Frothe for the functional comparison, mixed 1:20 with water in all three sprayers.  Each sprayer was pumped to full pressure (hard to pump for Ammo and Griot’s; pressure relief opened for iK) and I made a single pass left-right on the same panel, wiping the Frothe clean with a microfiber towel between each application.

Ammo Aerator: The first thing you’ll notice is how well it’s made. It just feels substantial. It has a wide base so it won’t tip over. There’s an easy-to-read clear window down the side to you can tell how much liquid is inside. It was the easiest of the three to pump and seemed to take fewer pumps to get to full pressure. The trigger action is different from the other two: It doesn’t engage until the trigger is fully depressed which took a little while to get used to. It produces thick foam, but it was not as even as the iK sprayer.

Griot’s Foamer: Despite the similarities of the components with the Ammo unit, it takes a significantly greater effort to pump it up to pressure. It also doesn’t stay pressurized as long, so you will be pumping more often. The trigger is smoother, so you feel like you have a little more control over the spray.  The foam was not as thick or as even as the other two. You would need to make twice as many passes with this sprayer to get the same coverage, at least with the Frothe product.

iK 1.5 Sprayer: This sprayer was our favorite of the three. It took about the same effort to pump to pressure as the Ammo sprayer, though with the smaller volume bottle, you may have to refill more often depending on the job. We liked the trigger action and the check-valve. It also has several adapters so you can dial-in the type of foam you desire — drier like shaving cream, or wet like a foam cannon. We found the green adapter worked best with Frothe and provided more even coverage than even the Ammo sprayer. It is the least expensive of the three but also has an extensive list of available spare parts.

The iK sprayer has three key differentiators from the others:

  1. It has a pressure relief valve. You pump the sprayer until the pressure releases and you have the same starting pressure every time. That takes some of the guess-work out of using the sprayer.
  2. It comes with spare filters and has three different color-coded mixer adapters: ORANGE to create very wet foam, GREEN to create very dry foam and GREY that creates standard foam. We used the green adapter for this comparison.
  3. The bottle is smaller. In fact, the usable volume is about half of the others. Depending on your application, that’s either good or bad. If that volume is enough to get the job done, then it’s potentially lighter to use and takes less effort to pressurize.  If you have to re-fill, then it could slow down your work.

So what’s the bottom line? All things being equal, our favorite is the iK Sprayer. It gets the job done with less work and is good value for money.  But you can’t really go wrong with any of them.  If you know you’ll be doing bigger jobs, then get the Ammo aerator. If you want a compromise between cost and volume, then get the Griot’s sprayer.

Use a Vacuum to Change the Oil Drain Plug without Changing the Oil

Have you ever needed to change a drain plug or a drain plug seal ring, but didn’t want to change your oil? This post shows you how by using your shop-vac to pull a vacuum on the oil fill tube which will hold the oil in your oil pan even when you remove the drain plug.

Shop Towel and VaccumYou will need a clean shop towel, folded in quarters; a shop vac hose adapter that’s slightly larger than the oil fill tube opening; and assistant  to hold it in place and operate the shop vac.  In this case, I’m working on a Porsche 996.  The 2.5 inch hose adapter fits over the fill tube and is taped to the end of the shop vac hose. It is very important that the hose adapter not move or you will lose the vacuum holding the oil in the pan.

Listen to the tone of the shop vac once the video starts.  You will hear the tone change when the drain plug is removed, but the oil will not start flowing as long as the vacuum stays on.  To change the drain plug seal ring, you just need to keep the vacuum running and you have time to remove the plug, change the ring, and put the plug back in.  Wait until it’s is hand tight before you release the vacuum.  In this video I’m actually going to dump the oil for an oil change (using Driven DT-40), but I wanted to show you how it works and that there really is oil in this engine.  Enjoy.

Random Orbital and Machine Polish

We started carrying Griot’s Garage products in the stop this month and as part of the dealer agreement, we have to be familiar with the full line of products. So dang, now we have to stay in the garage until everything is polished. I now completely understand why one of their kits is called “weekend garage therapy” – I’m a believer.

Start with the book young Jedi: Once you admit you don’t know what you’re doing, read the Detailer’s Handbook cover-to-cover and you can start the journey of learning. Turns out I’ve been polishing, waxing, and buffing wrong all of these years, likely doing more damage than good. Fortunately the Porsche has a really thick layer of clear coat and quality paint.

It’s hard to try to photograph before and after pictures of scratches in paint, but I think this one spot is a good example. This was a scratch on the driver’s side just past the driver’s door. Probably came from a parking lot. There was no ding or chip, but this mark would not come out even with a clay bar.

different view of scratch

But just by following the right steps: wash, claybar, machine polish, and wax – it disappeared. I haven’t completed the whole side of the car yet, so right now there’s this one two-foot section that has a very deep shine surrounded by a rather dull, much larger field of blue. Ah something to do for the long weekend coming up!

and it is gone

Codes P1688 and P0107, WTF? Replacing Broken MINI Crank Damper

I decided to take the MINI to work this morning to see if everything was back in order after recently replacing the motor mount. The engine seemed to be running a little rough, but I just figured the new motor mount was a little more firm than the old one. I got off the highway after one exit due to traffic and I got the dreaded CEL (Check Engine Light.) I hate that light. It might as well say, “Yo. Something’s wrong. I know what it is, but I’m not going to tell you. Here’s a hint: It’s under the hood….” And the car went into limp mode. Fortunately I still had my code scanner which told me it was code P1688. That’s handy. What does that mean? Ugh. I just turned around and headed home. I’d have to reset the ECU every 5 minutes, but it is a pretty hilly route so I could do lots of coasting. So what is P1688 you ask? Not what it seems.

P1688 is the code for “Electronic Throttle Control Monitor Level 2/3 Mass Air Flow Calculation”. Which would indicate a problem with the throttle body, but I also had code P0107 last week at the track which is “Manifold Absolute Pressure/Barometric Pressure Circuit Low Input”. With those two together, the car is saying that for a given amount of throttle, there just doesn’t seem to be enough boost going on. And on the R53 MINIs that usually means the crank pulley (or more accurately, harmonic balancer) is shot.

The stock part is about $200, but since this car gets lots of track time, better to upgrade to a more robust model. ATI Performance makes a Super Damper for about $350, which we also sell in the store. As the old damper started to disintegrate, it took a good amount of the old belt with it. The old belt has had one rib sliced off. These two belts should be the same width.
missing rib
Once you get the right front up on a jack-stand, remove the wheel and fender liner, and use a belt tensioner tool to remove the belt.
tensioner tool
You can’t tell if the damper has gone bad by viewing it from the front, but when you look at it from the side, you’ll see a gap developing as the belt pulley separates from the damper.
mind the gap
ATI includes basic instructions with the new super damper. Here are some tips to make it easier on you. (Use at your own risk.)

You can use a universal pulley removal tool if you’re careful. You will need to buy 3 M6 bolts that are long enough to work with your tool. Be sure to get the hardest bolts you can (10.9). First step is to remove the center bolt. Use some penetrating oil before you start. You may get lucky and be able to remove it just by putting the car in 6th gear and having someone stomp on the brakes. But for me, the crank still turned. I ended up using a brace to stop the crank from rotating. In this case, it’s a tool for removing a fan from an E30. Go figure.
hold it
Now the real fun begins. If your tool did not include an appropriately sized center pin, then put the bolt back in and tighten, leaving about a half inch of threads showing. Attach your pulley removal tool. Have a helper hold the bolt with a wrench as the pulley tool will be pushing against the bolt and it will try to screw back in. When the bolt makes contact with the damper, you have to back it out some more and adjust everything and go again. Make sure the M6 bolts are not twisting. You should be able to compare the location of the damper to the other pulleys on the front of the engine to judge if you’re making progress. I ended up having to replace the bolt with a longer one to get the last quarter of inch of travel needed to remove the damper.
Once it came off, you can see how badly damaged it really was. (Hint: this is supposed to be one piece, not two.)
With the damper removed, you can see where it scored the engine as it oscillated. I’m surprised that didn’t make more noise….
Installation is the revers of removal. No, not really. From the ATI instructions: Inspect the crank for any burrs or nicks. Blow out the threaded hole to free it of debris (and clean the engine before you start since you can’t really get to it once installed.)
Start the new super damper by hand. Heat it with a heat gun or hair dryer if it doesn’t start easily. Use the supplied long bolt and washer to grab enough threads to pull it on most of the way. Continue until it bottoms out, then remove the bolt.
first bolt
Use a new OEM bolt to finish installation. Apply blue loctite and torque to 85 lbs. Reinstall the belt, taking care to route it correctly.
slack belt
Carefully release the belt tension using tensioner tool. Start the engine to check if everything is OK and the belt alignment is straight. Then reinstall the fender liner and wheel. Torque wheel to 87 ft lbs.

So which crank pulley do you recommend? Like so many things in live, that depends on your application. If you’re happy with stock performance, and you think you’ll be selling your car soon, go with the factory damper.  MINI redesigned them in 2005 so they’re a bit lighter and a bit more robust. Just keep in mind they’re good for only 75-80K miles. If you have a modified engine AND you want to raise the Rev limit, then get the ATI super damper. If you are building a race motor and want to rev up to 8K, then this is the one you want. If you’re looking for performance on a budget, then get a light-weight crank pulley. We sell both the Alta and the Cravenspeed crank pulleys. We like the solid design of the Cravenspeed but ran the Alta one successfully for 10 years on our old car. 

Stock or 2% overdrive? We always recommend stock sized crank pulleys. Better to get power gains by under driving the supercharger pulley (spins faster) than over driving the crank pulley which spins both the supercharger, AC and the alternator faster. Recall that the water pump sits on the back of the supercharger. If you put a 2% OD crank pulley on a car with a 17% SC pulley, you’re effectively using a 19% SC pulley. At that speed, the water pump is likely to cavitate resulting in a decrease in cooling efficiency. Any gain in boost is lost to an increase in temperature. 

MINI Front Swaybar DIY

Front Sway-bar Replacement: The R53 subframe design is a wonderful example of compact packaging. Unfortunately the tight confines of the front end makes replacing the front sway-bar a time-consuming activity. It is not particularly difficult, just time-consuming, especially if you don’t have access to a lift. The process outlined below will allow you to drop the front subframe enough to remove the sway-bar. As usual, this description is a general explanation of the process. Refer to your Bentley Manual or other workshop guide before taking this on yourself. Disclaimer: These instructions are provided for general information. Use at your own risk. No wagering.

1. Safely support your MINI on jack stands and disconnect the battery. Set the jacks high enough to work under the subframe if necessary.
2. Put the front end into service mode by removing the front bumper cover, wheel liners, and front lower skid plate.
3. Remove the front bumper. Remove the front crash tubes. Use penetrating oil if necessary. Be sure not to misplace the plastic inserts once the crash tubes are removed. (While the bumper is off, clean between the radiator and condenser.)
4. Slide under the car and remove the power-steering fan and unplug it from the power-steering pump. Reaching to the top of the power-steering pump, carefully unplug the two electrical connections to the pump. If you are just lowering the subframe far enough to get to the sway-bar, it is not necessary to unplug the top plug.
5. Working from the top of the engine, open the clamp holding the power-steering reservoir and make sure it can drop into the engine freely as the subframe is lowered.
6. Disconnect the sway-bar from the lower drop link that is attached to each strut.
7. Using a ball-joint separator, separate the tie-rods from the front wheel hubs.
8. Above the steering rack toward the firewall is the steering knuckle. Turn the steering wheel to position the nut so you can remove it from the bolt. Fold the knuckle back on itself.
9. Disconnect the control arm bushing bracket from the body frame on each side.
control arm
10. Place your floor jack under the subframe at the circular opening and support the weight of the subframe with the floor jack.
11. Working behind each strut, disconnect the subframe from the body.
12. Disconnect the lower engine mount.
13. Remove the six bolts holding the rear of the subframe to the body shell.
14. Using the floor jack, lower the subframe far enough to reach the four bolts holding the sway-bar to the top of the subframe. Spray penetrating oil. If necessary, use a block of wood to wedge between the subframe and the body to get enough room to get a ratchet on the sway-bar bolts. These bolts are torqued to 122 ft lbs of torque so it will take some leverage to loosen them.
15. Carefully slide out the old sway-bar and replace with the new one.
16. Installation is the reverse of removal.

Notes: Be sure to torque all bolts to the required spec. The captured nuts in the body for the control arm bracket bolts torque to only 48 lbs not the 63 lbs specified in some manuals. If these nuts are stripped, try rethreading by boring the holes to 25/64th inch then thread to 7/16th inch (20NF pitch). If that doesn’t work, they will have to be cut out and new nuts welded in ($$$).

Torque Specs in FT LBS
Sway-bar end link to sway-bar 41
Tie-rod to steering knuckle 38
Front subframe to chassis 74
Crush tubes 74
Sway-bar to subframe 122
Lower engine mount 74
Power-steering pump 14
Rear subframe to chassis 74
Control arm bracket to chassis 48
None provided: PS Reservoir bracket; Steering arm knuckle