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Twenty Tech Tips

Tips and ideas in pics

by Julian Edgar

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This article was first published in 2001.

From measuring brake temps to uses for a spring balance - 20 tech tips in pics.

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Measuring brake temps with a thermocouple probe can give a good idea as to how much work is being done by the back and front brakes, (obviously!) how hot they are getting, and whether or not brake cooling ducts, brake water sprays and the like are proving to be effective. Adaptors are available that allow all digital multimeters to be used with a K-Type thermocouple probe, or you can buy dedicated low cost temp meters from electronics stores (much more cheaply than from motorsport shops!)

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All categories of motorsport require the fitting of a second bonnet fastening device, one that won't allow the bonnet to fly up even if the factory lock and safety catch both fail. Often on a road car taken racing this additional fastener takes the shape of a leather strap, which can then be easily removed when the car goes back to day-to-day duties.

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The hard plastic from which some kitchen chopping boards are made is a useful material. It can be 'worked' very easily with normal woodworking tools, and is easily filed, drilled and shaped. It's not suitable for high temp underbonnet applications but where something a bit better than wood is needed it works well. Available from all supermarkets!

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If you have a hi-po car with an auto trans, this is one must-have gauge. Auto trans life reduces very quickly with increasing oil temps, something's that's really likely to happen if you have a hi-stall torque converter, or worse still, slipping clutches or bands. Fitting a gauge lets you monitor just how good an oil cooler is, and also quickly shows you when the trans is working hard.

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If you want to mould shapes into the interior, this is one useful can of stuff. It's an expanding foam in a can. Available from hardware stores, it can be used to fill cavities behind curved sections of door trim, fill pillars to reduce noise - even to fill the inside of flexing fibreglass body kit additions. But make sure that you don't use too much - it keeps on expanding even after its been squirted into place!

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The cheapest and easiest way of upgrading your seats is to acquire some from a higher trim level version of your car. Then they'll just bolt into place, be legal, and fit perfectly. As a bonus, their colour scheme will often be right as well! Check wreckers - especially, in Australia, Japanese import wreckers - and sometimes it can also be worthwhile pricing new parts.

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Despite tyre manufacturers often displaying test results of stopping distances made with locked wheels, if you've locked a wheel then you're stopping slower than if the wheels are still j-u-s-t turning. If you own a non-ABS car, it's a good idea to practice full-house stops, expecting to get on and off the brake pedal a little as the wheels lock. It's quite hard to get max retardation - so find that deserted piece of road!

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As we've covered elsewhere in this issue, negative camber on the front wheels can be used to improve front-end grip. The reason can be seen here - with the body leaning and some movement of the front end geometry having occurred, the outside (loaded) wheel is almost vertical and so is gripping very well. Some idea of the static neg camber can be seen by looking at the inside wheel - it shows a heap!

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Mechanical fuel pressure gauges should never be mounted in the cabin - the danger of having a hi-pressure fuel line getting cosy with you doesn't bear thinking about. You can either use an electronic sender or (as here) mount the gauge on the other side of the windscreen. Hiding it inside a bonnet scoop neatens it up a bit too.

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Who said that hi-tech is new? This Honda S800 runs quad carbies - yes, quad throttle butterflies decades before the Pulsar GTiR. Good fundamentals don't change - so it can be a real inspiration to look back over some older cars. Take the 1920s DOHC Alfas, for example...

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It's becoming more and more common to move the throttle body on turbo cars, when keeping its original location would mean extra miles of intercooler plumbing - a good alloy welder can join an adaptor plate to a different part of the intake manifold without it being likely to break off later on. But you should look at how the individual cylinder flows are going to affected by the changes - best is to use a flowbench to measure the cylinder to cylinder variation.

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Direct fuel injection - where the fuel is squirted into the combustion chamber, not onto the back of the intake valve - is becoming more and more popular. In fact, it's already revolutionised diesel passenger cars (a Peugeot is shown here), and expect its influence to become more and more widespread in petrol engines as well. Mitsubishi, for example, already has a heap of GDI (gasoline direct injection) cars on sale in Japan.

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As more and more turbo cars get old and find their way into wrecking yards, so a wider range of good bits become available at lower prices! The famous Bosch blow-off valve is standard equipment on Saab Turbos, while this one is fitted to an Audi. Don't overlook the Europeans as a source of turbo hardware, including in some cases very efficient intercooler cores.

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Many aftermarket electrical accessories don't come with an inline fuse - it's assumed that you'll connect it through the fuse box. But if instead you make the wiring straight to the battery, always fit an inline fuse to protect the circuit. It's cheap insurance against a fire that could be caused by a short circuit.

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The easiest and cheapest way of defeating an overboost cut that works on a pressure signal is to drain away some of the pressure via a T-piece and a one-way valve. The one way valve stops air being sucked back into the line on vacuum (and so means that the sensor still measures off-boost signals fine) but still lets air flow out of the line when the car's on boost, reducing the level of boost seen by the sensor. Suitable one-way valves are often found in the emissions plumbing of cars - check wreckers. Total cost should be under a few dollars.

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When making cuts in heat shields (eg to accommodate a larger exhaust off the turbo) always make sure that the corners are well radius'd. That is, don't make sharp bends like right-angles. The reason why is because cracks almost always start at these sharp-edged stress-raisers - and cracks in vibrating heat shields are very common!

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A turbo without a filter might look tuff - but how do you think you'll feel after a pebble goes through the compressor and then into the engine? That could cost you a brand new turbo and a full engine rebuild - all the damage caused in perhaps a tenth of one second..... Put a filter in front of that turbo!

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A fake small-bore exhaust can be useful adjunct to fool both police and other road users alike... In this case a monster dump pipe exits the underside of the muffler - but you'll only see that when you take a really close look!

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Always brush on tyre black rather than spraying it from a can. Aerosols by definition produce a very fine spray of small droplets - droplets that will end up on your wheels and paint.

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If you're making your own intake system, it makes a lot of sense to look really closely at how a variety of manufacturers have done it. They're all chasing long runner length, compact exterior dimensions and maximum torque - and some, like on this 6-cylinder BMW, are simply superb designs. The BMW fours and eights also make interesting viewing.

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If used in conjunction with a socket extension handle, a common spring balance can be used to apply the very small torques needed on some auto trans components. You can also use it to assess power steering torque loads - and even just to weigh stuff that you take out of a car that you're lightening.

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