Tuesday, December 29, 2020

NMS Introduces "Good-Bye 2020" Holiday

Unless you've been cryogenically frozen since March, you know 2020 has not been the greatest of years on this particular planet we all call home. So, to do our part in boosting morale, NMS is happy to introduce the start of a NEW holiday this Thursday night, called "Good-Bye 2020" Day. There is no particular events associated with this holiday, no cards to buy, no gifts to wrap, and no expectations other than everyone can just go celebrate the end of 2020. While you might also throw in an old-fashioned New Year's Eve, we think Good Bye 2020 makes it even better. Shoot, a real holiday like GB2020 Day is a full 24 hours to celebrate, not just an "Eve." Heck, what kind of lame holiday is less than 24 hours?

So, there you have it, another great holiday to celebrate, along with our January 1st New Year of Driving holiday, and last week's Drivers and Racers Gift Giving December 25th Holiday. 

While we're reflecting on the year of 2020, you might want to check out this year-end wrap up video from the 24 Hours of Lemons Folks:


One quick mention of the NMS-South and friends team "Bunch of Idiots" that managed to compete often enough, and drive fast enough to land near the top of the Lemons South Region Points Standings for teams and drivers. Here's a screen shot as proof!

Bunch of Idiots in 4th for teams, drivers tied for 3rd!!

Thanks for reading the blog, and stay tuned for more automotive activities in 2021!


Saturday, December 19, 2020

New Helmet Day: Zamp!

What could possibly be in this box or bag?

Today was very exciting at NMS-North, with the arrival of a new Zamp brand helmet. My old Zamp helmet was fine and managed to collect a lot of stickers on it, as most groups that run auto events like to put their annual sticker on it to show that you've passed their inspection. Inspection? Yes, in autocross and track events, safety is a big deal, and one part of that is to not only have a  helmet, but to have one that meets certain safety requirements. You could probable go drive your race car in a 100 year old leather helmet, but you wouldn't be safe and no organization that cares about safety would let you anyway. 

Visor up close

The upgrades on this model are that the interior pads are all removable for washing or replacing, and the air holes on top if somehow I had a super-cool AC unit to blow cool air into my helmet. Not likely to happen, but you never know!

Ready for optional air supply, top of helmet

Long story short, most groups like the Sports Car Club of America, NASA, and the Porsche Club of America all require a helmet from within the past 10 years or so, since helmet safety guidelines are updated every 5 years. That's a good thing as better safety systems are developed, and on the other hand it means that your helmet won't go out of date the next year if you buy a new one. The newest year of helmet regulations is 2020, so this new helmet is coded for 2020. 

Zamp  helmet, might need to remove that sticker on the visor before driving!

I'm not a pro, and don't have any endorsement contracts, but I'd still like to thank the friendly folks at Zamp for this helmet. In November I ordered a really cool matte gray one, but it turns out that with the COVID and other shipping delays that they hadn't gotten as much in stock as planned, so out of the blue last week the Zamp people called me and said I could wait a little longer, or if I wanted a helmet sooner they'd be happy to give me an upgrade if I didn't mind going with white. I'd call that great customer service, and I gladly accepted their offer. Check them out at their website: ZAMP RACING

Meets SA2020 standards

Some of my other driving gear includes a Zamp race suit and a Zamp head and neck restraint device, so I've been very happy with their equipment and their low prices. Give them a try, and I bet you'll be happy to be a Zamp-er too!    

NHD: New Helmet Day!


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Porsche Project 5: Spark Plugs

Well, I can show you how to GET TO the spark plugs, but for now I can't show you how I took them OUT! I managed to take all the parts out of the way to get to the plugs, (tire, 2 wheel well liners, 1 aluminum cover, the plug boot) and get my spark plug socket on the plug... but it just didn't want to come out today. Let me just conclude that if your goal in life is to be a wiz at spark plug removal... start on something easy like a FIAT 500 or a Mazda Miata. Shoot, with those cars you just pop the hood (you know, in the front, like most cars!) and right away you can see how to get at the spark plugs. Now don't get me wrong, Porsche makes great cars, but hoo-boy, they give you a challenge on getting at the spark plugs. Not impossible, but when the engine is behind the driver, it just makes things a bit different. Here we go!

Putting the car up on the lift, this is the fun part!

Just a little chilly outside, great day to be in the garage
But wait a minute, the spark plugs are at the OTHER end of the car!

To get to the mid engine spark plugs, we of course have to take off the rear wheels! Since it's a flat 6 engine, there are 3 spark plugs on each side of the car

As a tool-time-bonus for today, I got to use this wheel-hanger too. It just screws into the lug nut spot, and comes in REALLY handy when you're lifting a heavy 19 inch wheel up to put back on the car. This particular tool I won in some contest from a Ferrari website, so it's from the fine folks at Ricambi. 

Passenger side rear wheel gone, now to remove these two wheel well covers. There are 3 10mm bolts across the top, and some smaller Torx screws at the bottom. 

One panel out of the way

Both of those panels out of the way, and then I took off an aluminum panel to get to the 3 spark plugs. Here I've taken off the spark plug boot of the middle one, and you can see the spark plug still in the engine. Even with the car on a lift, it was a tough space to work in and reach the plugs, working around the catalytic converter (bottom of shot) with it's two oxygen sensors in the way. I could have removed the sensors to make life a little easier too. On the left of this photo, the boot is still covering that spark plug, and you can see the connector at the top of it that easily slides off, and just a bit of the Torx bolt at the lower left that holds it in place. The spark plug way on the right is still all in place too. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Porsche Project 4: Serpentine Belt

My owner's manual says to check the serpentine belt every 40,000 miles, and to change it at 60,000. This new-to-me car hit 40,000 right after I bought it, so the other day it was belt-checking time! I had a new belt ready to install if needed, and was looking forward to this project as an easy way to learn how to get access to another part of the engine. Thanks to books and tons of videos on YouTube, even an average Joe like me can do stuff like this, so that's the main message today. 

Slide the seats forward, and take off the carpeted panel. You can take off the 
little bar on top of the trim, but I managed to just pry the entire panel off with 
just a screwdriver and my fingers. 

Back side of the carpeted cover, lots of foam.
Pro Tip: A Toyota Camry makes a handy table for holding car parts!

Take off the aluminum cover next

8 fasteners to remove the aluminum cover

Aluminum cover removed

Now we can see where the belt goes around all the pulleys.
Between the driver and the engine was just that carpeted piece and the aluminum cover!

All the ribs on the belt looks really good to me

More belt inspection, all looks good here

Still OK here

Looking everywhere

Looking good over here

Well, I looked all over, and the belt seems to be totally OK, no missing sections, rips, no tears, not falling apart, good to go! In the immortal words of car mechanics everywhere, assembly is the opposite of disassembly. Looks like I'm forced to follow the manual, and wait for 60,000 miles to replace the belt. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Porsche Project #3: Oil Change

Changing your car's oil (I'll wait for the Tesla owners to finish laughing here) is the most important thing you can do to keep the engine in top shape. Recenty I saw an article about changing the oil on a ridiculously expensive Bugatti that would take hours and hours, and cost something like $20,000 at a Bugatti dealer. Well, my used Porsche Cayman is no 3 million dollar Bugatti, it doesn't go 300mph, but it still needs oil changes, and you can do them yourself if you like working on your car and/or saving money like me. After buying this car this summer, I figured it would be a good idea to take care of this job, and what better way to spend a rainy Saturday morning!

No dipstick, gotta read the dash!

The Cayman uses an oil filter in a cartridge, so at least for me it wasn't something new. Our Camry and my FIAT Abarth both use filters like this too. The oil change is pretty much like other cars, except for just a few things along the way. The three biggest differences, (or new to me anyway, plus another feature of the Cayman I discovered today):

            1-the oil pan had a 8mm hex socket instead of a regular bolt washer to get it off

            2- the Cayman takes something like 8.8 liters of oil. Compared to a 4 cylinder Camry or the FIAT, that is about twice as much oil. Of course the Cayman has a larger motor (2.9 liters vs. the FIAT 1.4), so maybe not a big deal, other than having to buy and pay for more oil. Hey, it's only money!

            3-this year (2009) of Cayman doesn't have a dipstick for checking the oil level, so, you have to fill the oil, then run the car to get the engine warm, and then get the oil level reading on the dash of your car. If it's not full yet, turn off the car, put in some more oil, then start it up and read the level on the dash again. Repeat until full. I read that the earlier Boxsters (basically the same as the Cayman, but convertible) had a dipstick, but at some point Porsche went to only the digital dashboard to read your oil level. 

Like I said, other than those three things, a pretty standard oil change. Thanks to having access to a lift, this job is like any other car (except Tesla, OK, we get it), and just the thing to pass the time on a rainy Saturday morning when you're waiting til noon to watch the F1 qualifying or college football!

It's 9AM on a Saturday, and the oil level now full: success!

                4-dimming driver side mirror!

Bonus Cayman Trivia: Even the driver side outside mirror dims when you hit the dim switch on the inside center rear view mirror!

Outside driver mirror not dimmed

Rain on the outside, dry on the inside!

Monday, December 7, 2020

Porsche Project #2

Getting the 2009 Cayman up to speed started with the engine air filter last time on the blog, so let's move from the rear hatch around to the front hood (or front trunk FRUNK) to get at the cabin air filter. 

OK this is easy, start at the FRONT of the car. The engine isn't up here, but the cabin 
air filter is, so let's look under the hood. You can replace the air filters from the comfort
of your own driveway or garage, you don't need a lift or anything. 

Here's what's in my Frunk, a spare tire, and then above that you see a bunch of plastic covers over, uh, well, whatever is under the covers!

Let's zero in on the upper left, or passenger side of what's in the Frunk. All these plastic covers easily come off, so just remove a few pieces. 

With the covers out of the way, you can see some tubing and wiring, and that flap that covers up the cabin air filter. 

Peeking under the flap, you should be able to see the filter (looks like a furnace filter or any other flat filter) which is behind the silver metal frame held in place with 4 Torx screws. Just remove the screws, and the filter pretty much pulls straight out. Put in the new filter, fasten the frame back in place, and then replace the 3 black plastic covers and you are DONE!

Here's with the 4 screws removed. The upper aluminum piece just stays in place, so you can slide the old filter out and new filter in underneath it. Super-extra bonus cool Cayman 
trivia: you can also see the long VIN number of this car, which includes the letter "U" in the 11th position, which  means the car was built in Finland. Not a big deal, I just think it's cool
that my car is like F1 drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas: BUILT IN FINLAND!

Very difficult motoring trivia here: Which filter is the NEW one, and which filter
is the OLD one? Sorry I don't know how old it is,  but that dirty, dark, filthy one on the bottom is the old one, and this should inspire every car owner in America and around the world to change their cabin air filter. 

A closer look in case you missed some of the debris in the filter. This thing is so easy to change, I'll be checking it again every year at least. It just filters out the air you breath
inside your car, it's kind of a big deal. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Porsche Projects

Welcome to December! Only one more month of 2020 thank goodness! Here at NMS-North we're kicking off the winter with some maintenance on the Porsche Cayman. As an 11 year old car, it seems to be running great, and is a blast to drive every time it leaves the garage. Regular maintenance is at the top of our list of keeping cars running in good shape, and with just over 40,000 miles, this car is likely due some TLC. We have pretty good records from the previous two owners, but if there is any doubt on keeping maintenance on track, we'll plan to just go ahead and take care of business

Things to do this month. 
Not the same as my Christmas list!

At this point, let me say thanks for books and videos that show us home mechanics how to do stuff! I'll bet that pretty much any car repair you need to know about is in a video somewhere on line, even for Porsches! Of course changing an air filter is pretty easy, but with a new to me car with the engine in the middle, I wouldn't have known where the engine air filter and cabin filters were without looking it up. HINT: the engine isn't up front!

Inside the rear hatch, the outer engine cover is carpeted
It just pops open if you pry around the edges

This isn't a step-by-step manual, since as I mentioned you can find way better sources on how to do this all over the Internet already. So, this is just the highlights for anyone interested in how in the world they fit all this stuff behind the driver in a car!
Now without the carpeted cover, there's this metal cover. 
It's just held in place with 5 Torx bolts. 
Time to grab your Torx tool socket or screwdriver. 

What I liked about this step was the chance to actually use a Torx bit, since I bought them a few years ago but probably have never used them! While it was disappointing that I didn't have to go buy a new tool, at least I remembered that I had them in my toolbox! Who knows what other mysteries are hiding in there that I've forgotten?

Socket wrench with Torx bits
Worth a photo, so I can brag about one of my few Snap-On tools, the ratchet. 

Now that the metal cover is off, you can find the air filter inside
the black cover on the far left. It comes off with two regular screws. 
It's a little dusty in there, so I cleaned that up a little bit too. 

OK, tough question time:
Which filter is the old one, and which is the new one?
The dirty one on the bottom still has the black plastic adapter, which
transfers to the new filter on top. 

New filter with black adapter on. It just
pops on those white prongs on top of the photo. 
At the bottom of the black piece is a hole for the screw that holds this
and the filter in place back in the car. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Details, Details, Details.

Not talking about detailing your car here. Not talking about in the military doing details. Just the many, many details, parts, and interesting little things you see on automobiles. In other words, a quick look at some other "stuff" spotted at a recent cars and coffee. For some reason, I'm interested in license plates that have a message or personalized meaning. Some can be hard to figure out, some are very easy, and I like this one because it also includes a safety message for drivers: USE YOUR SIGNAL! 

If you have a really cool exhaust system, it might have a logo on it like this one from Akropovic. They are my favorite Slovenian based car and motorcycle exhaust system company! OK, maybe the only one, but since being started by Igor Akropovic, they've developed a world wide following. You can read all about them at this link: AKROPOVIC STORY

Your car probably has badges, logos, and even a hood ornament on it. Just maybe you've added some extra badges, like this Porsche owner and their "flat 6 club" since a lot of their cars have flat 6 cylinder boxer engines. 

All race car drivers know that every sticker on your car gives you five more horsepower, and if it's a sticker from a new defunct Long Island racetrack, I'm going to give you 10hp for this one! Earlier this  year I drove out to the site of the Bridgehampton Race track, so while there isn't much left, it's still a popular photo shooting destination if you can get past the private golf club security guy! Here's a link to the Bridgehampton Racing Heritage Group with a great history: Bridgehampton History

This red Mercedes has several cool details, with the intake there, and then the wild windshield wipers. Once in a while you'll see a car with only 1 wiper, or even an old MG or something with 3 wipers, so this one with an unusual sweeping pattern caught my eye. 

To be  honest, I'm still amazed to actually see that people buy cars like Aston Martins. I'd never even seen an Aston Martin dealer before I moved to NY, and now there's one a few miles from my house! Anyway, the detail that got me on this one is that with all the cool leather and how great the car looked, there is a little hook behind the driver seat, where I guess you could hang your coat, or your baseball hat, or maybe your lunch box or something. Since we keep seeing James Bond in Aston Martins, what does 007 hang back there? 

This older Porsche 911 starts with the obvious detail that it's a rear engine car, so seeing the rear hatch open to display the trunk is really cool. I don't know how you work on this thing, other than "carefully."

Another Porsche, this one is a GT3 with Martini inspired racing stripes. The wing is very cool too, but the detail that stuck out for me is the two black air intakes under the wing. Most Porsches I've seen have air intakes on the side of the car for the engine, with other intakes up front with the radiators. When you put the engine in the rear, you've got to get creative to cool things down and add all the fancy aero features.  

I'm still learning about Porsches, and had noticed that they generally have the gas tank filler on the front right fender. However, looking at this detail, today I learned that some of them have the fuel door on the left front of the car. Shows what I know!

You can Google as well as I can if you want to learn more about the Porsche GT2RS, but this photo is all about the interior detail. Specifically the GT2RS on the rear seat divider here, looking through the window behind the driver's seat. Just in case you forgot what model of $300,000 car you're driving. 

Another cool car on my holiday shopping list is the Audi R8, especially if it comes complete with V10 motor. Here we're looking through the rear glass at the motor, conveniently labeled with V10 and FSi. You can pick up one of these for a bit under $200,000 on your way home from work tomorrow! I had to look up what in the world FSi means: Fuel Stratified Injection. Ha, I learned something new today!

The detail in this NEXT shot I noticed after taking it. I was really focused on that wild looking green Corvette in the background. After looking over my photos later I realized that the passenger sitting in the BMW in the foreground makes it a much better photo. If you can't be good, settle for lucky! Also a reminder that as interesting as cars can be, it's the people that design, build, and drive them that are what it's all about. 

Looking at wheels can take up a lot of time, although I really often don't care about wheels too much. These from BBS caught my eye, with the "Motorsport" near the center, and the red BBS logo in the rim. OK, now I'm really looking, and notice that they are very clean wheels, and you could probably read the size of the tire if you really wanted to, or clicked on the photo to make it larger. 

Other than the crazy color of this brand new Corvette, I could have zoomed in on some more details on the rear here. On the center black stripe is a black sting-ray, which always makes any Corvette cooler! Also, in very small letters below the right tail light are the letters Z51. According to my Internetting, that means that for a few extra dollars: 

"The Z51 package brings a performance exhaust system to the table, boosting output to 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft, along with performance suspension, an electronic limited  slip differential, front splitter, rear spoiler, larger Brembo brakes with four-piston calipers, Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, a different axle ratio and front brake cooling ducts."

This Porsche (one of 1,000 GT2RS models) even has leather front trunk. Wow. 

This BMW caught my eye for the simple fact that it's a convertible with the windows up, a wind screen behind the front seats, and then a cover of some sort over the back seats. When I had a convertible I'd make fun of other convertible drivers if they didn't have the top down, and also if they had all these other things to keep them out of the wind. It's a CONVERTIBLE, and your hair is supposed to be blowing all over the place! Detail wise though, there are some little pins holding the wind screen in place, and it makes this car way cooler if I pretend that they are pins from used grenades. 

That's what I saw at the Cars and Coffee. BUT THEN......on the way home I saw this Lamborghini, with a FIAT 500 going through an intersection, so that was a fun detail if you like black Italian cars. If I'd been really obnoxious I would have gotten a photo of the McLaren I saw a few blocks later, or the Bentley up the road from there, but I didn't bother.