ppc-oct-10aA few years back there were a lot of problems in the motor repair trade caused by dodgy “look-alike” parts. I myself saw some very suspect head gaskets made in India with packaging not exactly the same as a reputable brand but close enough to fool the casual observer.

That was twenty years ago and the problem largely disappeared, presumably as the Indian factories got their act together. Now it seems to be China’s turn to flood the market with look-alike parts. We had a car in a while back with a MAP sensor that wasn’t working. It was a real cheap Ebay bargain, less than half the normal retail.  Eventually we found out why it wasn’t working – it had no electronics inside it! I make an assumption that the factory in China making the cases sold a few out the back door and that’s how they found their way onto the market.   Recently I offered some Pico type injectors at a bargain price. No attempt was made to call them Weber Marelli or Pico or anything else, the caller said he used the Pico part number to avoid any confusion. 480cc Pico (style) injectors at less than half price sounded too good to be true. I asked for a sample and was sent one injector.

ppc-oct-10bOn the flow rig the test fluid sprayed out at a strange angle and a call to the supplier resulted in the advice that “they all do that, including the Pico ones”. I had some genuine Pico 480 injectors in stock so I did a comparison. The Peco injector sprayed dead straight so I tried a flow test for volume. The look-alike injector failed fully open after less than two minutes running.

I decided to stay with the O.E. Injectors regardless of the price but a mate of mine was seduced by the saving and bought several sets of look-alike Chinese injectors. They do actually look like the real thing until you get them under a magnifying glass. The “W” on the logo is less crisp around the edges and the part number is a digit or two different.  A week later my mate was cursing as an injector failed followed twenty minutes later by another failure. He took them off the car and sent the lot back.

Chinese turbos are another problem area; “Garret Style” does not make them Garret turbos. On these I am told the compressor wheel is a poor quality casting with the sort of life expectancy you might expect from a poor copy of the original. You pay your money and take your choice…

Visitors from Germany

I had a very nice bunch of guys here from the Lotus Club Germany with a couple of Elise S1’s to map. The idea was to do one in the afternoon and the second one the next morning.

The first car up was a VVC head casting but with the VVC kit removed and a Piper cam kit installed. My worry in this instance was that the cams were 285 grind but used with a Plenum intake, not throttle bodies. This normally results in very poor idle quality and a lot of snatch and jerk on light throttle driving; I warned the owner that this might be the case.

In the event it turned out to be more than okay, acceptable idle and not too bad on light throttle either -  the cams must have been timed with vey little overlap at TDC. Normally if you see over 170 bhp on a plenum intake it’s pretty much undriveable on the road so this was a rare exception.

The second car had throttle bodies and a few problems: the IACV valve was reported as not working and, as always, the finger was being pointed at the ECU. I enabled the software and got the motor whirring and clicking as normal – but the idle speed did not vary.

Suspecting it was seized I pulled it apart; (you have to be a bit carful here or the thing will fall apart as you lift it off the manifold). All seemed to be okay so I set the valve to full open by squeezing it shut and put it back on the manifold. Still no fast idle.

Then I removed the idle rail and found the “problem”. Someone had tapped the air bleed holes and put bungs in them! This is the sort of alleged ECU fault that takes up endless time on the phone and you never will get to the bottom of it. I removed the bungs and set up the idle using the valve which then worked perfectly.

From there on mapping should have been plain sailing – but it wasn’t. We had a sudden and dramatic loss of power at about 5,000rpm. I won’t bore you will all the checks we did but a clue was the home made wiring loom. I was surprised to see this because the ECU plugs straight into the stock Elsie S1 wiring harness. My suspicion was that the 12 volt feed to the coils was breaking down, or there was a coil fault. To eliminate everything I cable-tied a coil tower to the air filter and dropped some HT leads down onto the plugs. Two new wires back to the ECU and one straight to the battery had it singing to 7500rpm on the first pull.

We mapped it like that and the guys were going to sort out the dodgy HT circuit once they got home. They must have been happy with the results because I got a call the next day from another man in Germany wanting to come over the next day for mapping! I squeezed him in on a Friday evening and that was pretty straight forward - his non-start was cured once the mapping was sorted out.

Trike

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You might not believe it to look at my aging and angelic face but I was a bit of a rebel in my youth. I used to dash about the north circular on my Norton (later Triton when I blew the Norton engine up) and race all comers until the track officials (the Police) intervened.

So in some small way I can relate to this trike that you see here. Three wheels and a V8 engine, lot of sharp bits to get the PC brigand writing to The Times, not my thing but I can see the rebel attitude and applaud it. The fact that the owner is a woman, over a certain age, but still with a bit of a rebel attitude also makes me smile.

As for mapping, well I was the second person to look at it. To be fair the first attempt wasn’t too bad and I can image the rolling road operator struggled as I did with the auto box. The best I could do was put it in second and try to catch the mapping sites as the torque converted slipped and the revs climbed away out of control.

Throttle bodies

ppc-oct-10fI see all sorts of throttle bodies here from the most expensive to the home brewed but they all have one basic need that MUST function. They have to be able to seal well enough to get an idle. This set appeared to have a problem with the butterfly alignment and even with the idle timing on zero the engine would not idle below 1200rpm.

The owner said this was no problem for his track day toy but there was a problem the very next day when the car failed the MoT. He never mentioned the MoT or I would have told him not to waste his money on a test; it was never going to pass with two butterflies doing 90 per cent of the idling while the other two were passengers.

Kinsler throttle bodies

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Like I said, I see all sorts of throttle bodies here. This set was on a Chevy LS engine squeezed into a TVR. The bodies came from a Mosler and were mighty big in the bore department. They were also a bit tricky to map because just touching the throttle resulted in 50 bhp where I am used to seeing two or three bhp on light throttle.

It made 600bhp and I mapped it down to full throttle at 1500rpm and sent the man away to have fun. He was back the next day complaining of weak mixture misfires at low rpm. I have been doing this job now for over 15 years and complaints are not something I am used to so I agreed to go out in the car as a passenger (something I never do if it can be avoided).

All was revealed when the driver plonked along in top gear at 850rpm and then planted the throttle. I don’t normally map that low down the rpm range but I am assured by the driver/owner that this is the sort of thing you can do with a 7.0 litre V8. No problem, a little fuelling adjustment had it sorted.

Just to check that the car was now okay I was treated to some power sliding at about 130 mph. That’s why I try very hard never to go out with anyone on road test. Maybe 40 year ago I would have thought it great fun, now it just frightens the life out of me – unless I have control of the steering wheel and the brake pedal!