Sunday, 1 December 2019

Wiring archaeology

So everything was going swimmingly UNTIL Zedster wouldn't start. Ever since Emerald kindly updated my map to improve the cold starting, Zedster has started almost first time. But then, with no warning, the starter motor began acting like it was on it's last legs, turning at half-speed as if the battery was almost flat (it wasn't).

Now, I have has issues with my ignition wiring before and I have tried to improve it. When trying to crank it, I could feel the wires warming up, suggesting a short circuit or loose connection.

Also, my screen washers and LED strip had stopped working, so time to dig into some wires. I took off the dash and a wire dropped out - so that explained the washer motor not working. I've recently added 2 new wires in here; one from the oil pressure sensor and the other a live feed to my DRLs. These wires were simply run from point A to point B so I couldn't actually take the dash all the way off. So, time to sort that out - cut the wires and made up a plug so that, in future, I could just unplug the wires.

I've decided the best way to do plugs is to use these things:

Unlike the other crimp type, these get a much better grip on the wires; the rear arms grip the plastic and then the smaller arms at the front grip the bare copper - much firmer than the single metal tube that you have to try crush to grip both plastic and copper at the same time.

I should really have re-done all the plugs I could this way but, to be honest, there are so many it would take me ages. For now, I just re-did the wire for the washer motor that had dropped off, as well as all the new plugs I mentioned earlier.

My LED strip has died (the wiring is, amazingly, fine) but fortunately, it came as a pack of two (for about £3) and the other one works, so swapped them over.

On the main ignition wires, I think my problem was I had tried to fit 4 (!) neutral wires into one crimped plug! What was I thinking...?! As soon as I pulled the insulation tape off, these wires dropped out the plug!

I couldn't find any ready-made plug-like thing that could make 4 wires into one, so I did it the manual way; 2 wires into a butt connector, repeat for the other 2 and then merge those 2 wires into another butt connector and finally we have one wire into the ignition plug, instead of 4 - like this:

(I could take a photo but you can't really tell what's happening with that).

I don't know if this is an an acceptable method but, once all connected up, Zedster started up immediately, so it seems to be working (for now).

I've left the dash unbolted as I'm hoping to get my new speedo this week, so it will all have to come out again to install that.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Brace yourself

Sorry my loyal fans (all 3 of you :-) ) - been very lazy since my last post. The weather has been atrocious and feels like it hasn't stopped raining, so I haven't missed any good driving time.

I did briefly pop out in Zedster a couple of weeks ago but my misfire was still there, although not un-driveable. At the suggestion of a forum member, I thought I'd check the inlet manifold. If there was any sort of air leak through that, that might account for my misfire.

I started Zedster up and sprayed brake fluid around the inlet manifold, the idea being that if there was an air leak, the fluid would find it, go into the cylinders, ignite and briefly raise engine revs. However, nothing happened, so I'm hoping that isn't the problem.

I went out for a drive and no misfire UNTIL I hit some bumpy back lanes and this backed up the suggestion from another forum member who said it might be my coil pack plug vibrating and occasionally losing the spark to a cylinder, hence a misfire.

I had previously tried to secure the plug but it was a relatively loose attempt, so I decided to try make something more solid. I found a spare threaded hole on the bracket that the coil pack screws into, so I used my superior (!) metalwork skills to make a bracket to cable-tie the plug too:

I went out for a drive and...NO MISFIRE! Now, I'm not going to get excited because this damn thing has made a comeback before but I'm hoping I've at least improved the situation - we shall see.

In other news, I've ordered a new speedo, a funky GPS type from Speedhut in the US. A tad expensive at £250 but even a replacement for the one I've got is about £140 and that didn't last long, so I thought I'd go for it. The advantage of this one is that I customised it to death and its GPS controlled, so it will be accurate. It also has a few nice functions (0-60 timer, compass etc), although it's not going too match my other dials but I don't mind - I think a different-look speedo could look actually quite good.

In an attempt to save any annoying import duty, it's being delivered to my brother who lives in Florida and he will post it on to me, so it may take a while to get here but no rush.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Land of the Dragon

A late weekend in September was the long-planned Rogue Runners (members of SKCC) trip to Wales.

Day 1 - Surrey to Llangollen - 320 miles

For some crazy reason, we had to meet at 4am as the initial plan was for 6 southerners to meet 2 northerners for breakfast in Newport, Wales. I compounded this by waking at 3am, not thinking that the normal 30 minute journey to the meet point would be much quicker at that time in the morning - bottom line, I was first there and spent a surreal 15 minutes in the pitch black, looking at the stars with numerous nocturnal wildlife.

The first few hours were dark, cold and dull, as we hammered down the M4 to get to breakfast. To make things worse, we arrived an hour early - I could really have done with that hour in bed.

So the group consisted of 2 lovely Elise's, 2 MX5s and 4 kits (2 Tigers, a Caterham and me):

The drive up through the Brecon Beacons was lovely - the sun was out, skies were blue and the roads were empty - bliss. 



Sadly, the traffic started to build up after that and the final 10 miles to our hotel in Llangollen was a slow crawl. The hotel itself looked great from the outside but was a little past its best inside - dinner in the bar was very good, however, and a couple of beers made for an enjoyable evening.

Day 2 - Llangollen to Llandrindod Wells - 260 miles

My hotel room had a great view over the famous Llangollen canal:

Breakfast was reasonable food let down by some dubious service - the now-famous saucerGate (asked for a coffee cup, got EXACTLY that, just a cup - no saucer or spoon. Had to ask bored-looking teenager for those separately).

The weather was once again amazing, so much so that I took my doors off. Unfortunately, I had my sat-nav set to 'scenic' and it chose a very different route to everyone else, so I promptly lost them 5 miles from the hotel. Combined with a headache and blazing sun (yes, in Wales!) actually made me feel a bit queasy and the amazing, twisty roads didn't help.

I thus spent the first couple of hours alone, skirting Lake Bala and travelling up the Hellfire Pass to it's summit:

The drive was superb - despite being mostly single lane, I literally met 2 other cars all the way up and only a few more than that on the way down - great fun with beautiful scenery. I finally caught up with the others at the first coffee stop - and then lost them a bit later on with more sat-nav shenanigans (not my fault this time).

However, the roads continued to amaze - long, flowing bends, hardly any traffic - a real joy to drive. A highlight was a military road, recently re-surfaced, no traffic and was a joyous, challenging route with swooping bends, crests and even hairpins.

Annoyingly, my engine misfire started to return, although only in short bursts and not enough to cause too many problems, although it did take the shine off what was otherwise a perfect day.

The Highland Moors hotel was a better place, nice rooms, good food and with some vaguely experienced staff.

Day 3 - Llandrindod Wells to Merthyr Tydfil - 200 miles

Finally, the rain arrived, as forecasted and up went the roofs, although it was never very heavy. Today involved lots of lakes in the Elan Valley:

Again, great roads and although speeds were lower with the rain, they were still fun, although made a bit of a mess of Zedster:


Enjoyable coffee stop at a steam engine train station:

...and the final hotel just outside Merthyr:

Day 4 - Merthyr Tydfil to home - 180 miles

The day was dry but overcast for the journey home, with everyone splitting off at different points, depending on where they lived.

My misfire returned and got progressively worse as the day wore on, with the last 30 miles being a stuttery nightmare but Zedster made it and I am very proud that nothing else fell off or broke and the AA were never required over the 900-odd miles of the trip.

A video of the trip:

Overall, it was a brilliant trip - exactly the sort of thing I built my car for and something I would love to do more regularly.

Next time - the Alps!

Friday, 6 September 2019


Anyone remember the 90s computer game, Carmageddon? Well, went on a run with the SKCC club and it turned into a version of that, although, thankfully, Zedster escaped unharmed, for a change.

There was a decent turnout of about 10 kits but one guy broke down before he even arrived at the meet point - snapped throttle cable.

About 30 minutes in, another victim...bit more serious, knocking coming from a recently installed engine. Later investigation (the guy took his engine out the same day!!) found large chunks of metal in the sump - sounds terminal.

While trundling through a very pretty town, the guy in front of me rolled to a stop - his throttle cable had gone as well. I stopped to help and fortunately, it hadn't actually snapped, just frayed at the end and slipped out. It took 10 minutes to just re-connect it.

Sadly, much worse had happened just up the road - one of our guys had hit a huge dip in the road at speed and taken off into the scenery. Amazingly, he was completely unhurt but his car was totalled. I've seen a few accidents but nothing as bad as this - chassis bent, pretty much every fibreglass body panel damaged and the engine looked like a team of men with sledgehammers had been at it. I honestly could not see a single salvageable item on the whole car.

It was deeply sad to see - the thought of that being Zedster, with 2 years of hard work destroyed in seconds, was very sobering.

The run continued on to our planned cafe where we had a nice breakfast and I had an enjoyable run home but the accident was always in the back of my mind - my heart really goes out to the guy.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Keeping it clean

So, finally got round to changing the fuel lines. When I took the old ones off (just the HP circuit, the LP circuit looks ok), this is what the lines looked like after 2.5 years and just 7k miles:

When I cut it open, those splits go half way through the pipe:

Now, these are supposed to be R9 standard pipes, the best you can get. However, there are lots of stories online of fake stuff and, in fact, I couldn't find a single place that didn't have a negative story online and there seems to be no way to be sure you're getting the real stuff. So I opted to just get the best quality that I could get from CBS. This is DIN rated, which no-one seems to bother faking and I can always complain to CBS if it falls apart.

I also drained the swirl pot and saw a few tiny rubber particles in the jar. It didn't look horrendous but injector jets are tiny so even small bits could be causing my misfire. Because of these, I've also now added a fuel filter in the HP circuit:

It's clear so I can keep an eye on any dregs.

So, replaced all this, went for a short drive and...misfire gone. But I'm not getting too excited yet until I've done some more miles.

I've got a long weekend to Wales in mid-September with the SKCC - really looking forward to that.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Treasure map

So my misfire still exists and engine starting is  still pants.

With Emeralds help (they sent me a separate user guide for the datalogger - why isn't it in their manual?), I fired up the datalogger on my ECU and recorded stuff. It meant nothing to me, so I sent it back to them to see if they could suggest anything.

Their response was to send me a new map with injector changes to try fix the start-up and they suggested the misfire problem may be the crank sensor plug. Well, I'm guessing that's what they mean - they said the trace seemed to suggest the ECU was losing the RPM signal and I think that comes from the crank sensor. Anyhoo, they have suggested re-doing the trace with different parameters recorded - I hadn't realised you could choose other parameters (like RPM - doh!).

So that is next on the list, although I'm off on holiday at the end of the week, so I may not get time before that.

A quick shout-out to Dan on the RHOCaR forum - he seems to also know hist stuff on Emerald ECUs as he suggested very similar stuff to what Emerald had (excuse the grammar there).

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Chequered flag

Yup, after 4 years, I can now say, 2 years after IVA, that I've finally finished my car - the windscreen washer now works!

When I first wired it up 3 years ago, for some reason, it was wired to earth when pressed. How I ever thought that was going to power a motor, I don't know but I'm slightly wiser now, so a quick 10 minute job to connect it to a ignition live feed and bingo - water on my windscreen. Genius!

I've also reversed the polarity of the battery warning light. Its an LED which has always been on dimly, suggesting its wired the wrong way round. As it also acts as the exciter circuit for the alternator, its actually pretty important and I don't think I've ever been charging my battery very well. We'll see how it goes over the next few drives.

More of a problem is that my misfire is back. Not as bad as last time but there. Since I changed everything on the ignition side last time, it's the turn of the injection side for analysis. First job, I think, is to replace the HP fuel lines. They're supposed to be R9 and invulnerable to deterioration but I have small cracks on the outside where they bend - maybe I got a duff set or a cheap knock off?

Had an enjoyable run out to Compton Abbas airfield in Wiltshire (?) last weekend, via the famous Zig-Zag road - listen out for the chirps from the tyres on the best example of an alpine pass in the south:

Seven cars from SKCC was a good turn out. I'll be honest, the roads in Wiltshire are a bit dull - the Romans got there in a big way and there are lots of very, long straight runs which don't excite the soul but, hey, good weather, nice people, what more do you need?

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Goodwood - love that place; the noise, the smells - awesome for any vague petrol-head. And the value of cars there!! All of them are original - at least 5 Porsche 917s (they only made 25), Aston Martin's of excruciating beauty, about 10 Bentley Blowers - the list just goes on and on...and they get driven, not static displays!! If you haven't been, go now before the tree-huggers shut it down for killing polar bears.

Some highlights:

An Aston I'd never heard of (DB4 I think?) from the early 60s - look at those lines - gorgeous!

One of the first ever Aston Martin's - not a replica, the REAL thing - how many millions?

Bugatti Type 40 (I think) - beautiful:

My lottery-win choice:

One for the yoofs - I liked the quote over the rear wheel-arch:

Bugatti Type 35s - the one in the foreground was totally original and they were damn quick up the hill:

£90k for a Morgan?! Seriously?

This was for sale, £35k based on a Toyota Previa and totally road legal - good quality work as well:

That orange BMW 2002 Turbo (?) was also for sale - £300k!!

All round amazing...although Zedster did come away covered in a film of dust from the car park!