Many 04-08 TSX owners are familiar with the DC Sports header, which is known to be a great bargain in terms of power-for-dollar. Also, it is one of the only available headers with a CARB Exemption Order number making it legal for street use in all 50 US States.
However many are also familiar with an issue with the flex joint failing over time (sometimes, in a very short time). These failures cause a noticeable and embarrassing leak and reduction in power.
Today we have some awesome news! DC Sports management has recognized the issue and developed new flex joints that hopefully will do away with this issue once and for all! Here we have a prototype of a DC Sports new design alongside a failed unit, to compare.
We have been informed that the new flex shown in the images is the new standard design, which is significantly better than the outgoing version. But DC is not done working on this issue.
According to DC Sports, the demand on the flex is pretty intense causing the failures. In discussion, they told us “We are actively testing one now without the flex joint and one with a much higher quality flex joint. Once we have enough milage under real-world driving we will decide which is the better of the two options.”
We expect that they will choose an option that does retain flex since this is good for relieving stress on the pipes and helps prevent cracking as the exhaust moves with engine torque.
For now, you can buy a pipe with confidence that the flex issues of the past have been resolved! (Note the date of this posting relative to posts or search results from the past…anything older than 2021 in date is “old news.”)
Progress Group coilovers are configurable with a variety of spring options for all different sorts of use profiles. Here is a blog to help understand what the different spring rate selections will do for you!
ALWAYS CONSIDER the following: * Primary vehicle use * Secondary vehicle use * Weather and road conditions * Driver skill & experience
CONSIDER… For the sake of comparison, typical OEM spring rates for these applications are approximately 220#/in front, and 110#/in rear. With the numerous Civic & Integra applications, there is a range of spring rates, and these C.S. (Competition Series) systems are significant-to-dramatic upgrades from your OEM damper and spring calibrations.
350/250: Best ride for a daily driver. Great for commuting. The front may bottom out if set up too low.
350/350: A good compromise, less understeer & more fun. A modest concession to ride quality. This may be choppy for some drivers with short wheelbase models; Civic Hatch and CRX.
350/450 or 350/550: Offers minimal understeer, quick turn-in, less roll, fast & fun, with the 55 rears being even better for a good for drag launch. Rides rough on bumpy or poor roads.
B&K-SERIES/Twin cam applications
450/350: Best ride for a daily driver. Fun and well-mannered. Modest understeer. Recommended for street/performance & daily drivers.
450/450: Good compromise, less understeer, less roll & more grip.
450/550: Minimal understeer, awesome handling, quick steering response, good for drag launch. Rides rough on bumpy or poor roads.
550/550: Good for track cars equipped with a front end spoiler or splitter. Also for street cars running super-wide wheels & tires and low ride heights. At this point, you should know you are signing up for a huge compromise in ride quality. Very stiff!
Here is MORE DETAILS about these combinations:
** STREET-PERFORMANCE FRONT HEAVY setups (350/250, 450/350 etc.) Good for Daily Drivers (DD), poor weather and road conditions because these setups do not upset the ride on the highway and during cornering. The softer rear suspension tracks nicely and rides better because it is more compliant. These calibrations ride well on uneven road conditions if set up at a reasonable ride height around 1.0 in.to 1.5 in. less than OEM (12.5 in.). Expect a dramatic improvement in handling capability and steering response. These setups will still have some mild understeer, less than OEM but still easy and forgiving to drive every day and in all weather conditions. This is the choice for sport-tuned Daily Drivers.
** STREET-SPORT SQUARE setups (350/350, 450/450 etc.) These setups are a compromise between ride quality and all-out handling. Some impact on ride quality makes for less understeer and faster vehicle response. The stiffer front springs also help prevent bottoming out. This combination is plenty stiff, and NOT recommended for true daily drivers (TDD) on poor roads, or drivers rolling a lot of commuter miles. Good for ‘fun cars’ driven by more experienced drivers.
** AUTOCROSS-TRACK & DRAG SPECIFIC REAR HEAVY setups (350/450, 450/550 etc.) Much more aggressive. This calibration has more grip, and is intended for use with ‘performance/track’ alignment settings and sticky tires. If ride quality is a major concern, don’t go here because the stiffer rear springs make for an uncomfortable (and choppy) highway ride. This is a more balanced and LESS FORGIVING setup intended for enthusiast TRACK days and AUTOCROSS events. These combinations will also launch well for mild drag applications on DOT tires. Expect a HUGE improvement in handling capability. This would also be a great low-budget setup for new (road racing) drivers going to a (track) DRIVING SCHOOL or TRACK events. Faster chassis response, less forgiving, and MAX GRIP in most cornering situations. The chassis balance will be very close to ideal, having minimal understeer with ‘track-oriented’ alignment settings and good UHP tires. This is a BIG compromise in ride quality and will require more DRIVING SKILL to drive at the limit (on the track please!) NOT RECOMMENDED for wet/snow/poor weather and road conditions.
ALWAYS CONSIDER the following: * Primary vehicle use * Secondary vehicle use * Weather and road conditions * Driver skill & experience
CONSIDER… For the sake of comparison, typical OEM spring rates for these applications are approximately 220#/in front, and 110#/in rear. With the numerous Civic & Integra applications, there is a range of spring rates, and these CS-II systems are significant upgrades from your OEM damper and spring calibrations.
CSIII Adjustable Damping
The above infor for the CSII mostly applies to the CSIII, although there is some additional capability with the CSIII that allows for higher rates than the CSII. Here are some notes for the CSIII’s expanded range.
550/450 – 550/550: Very stiff front and softer rear for poor roads and bumpy race tracks. Good for track cars equipped with a front end spoiler or aero-splitter. Also for street cars running super-wide wheels & tires and low ride heights. At this point, you should know you are signing up for a huge compromise in ride quality. Very stiff!
550/650 – 550/800 – 650/650 – 650/800: These setups are aggressive for track-only applications on smoother tracks with race tires or UHP shaved tires. At this point you should have some track experience and have some idea about what you are getting into. Call in and we can discuss these track-only setups and select one that best suits your application and specifics.
* FRONT HEAVY setups (350/250, 450/350 etc.) Good for Daily Drivers (DD), poor weather and road conditions because these setups do not upset the ride on the highway and during cornering. The softer rear suspension tracks nicely and rides better because it is more softer & more compliant. These calibrations ride well on uneven road conditions if set up at a reasonable ride height around 1.0 in. to 1.5 in. less than OEM (12.5 in.). Expect a DRAMATIC improvement in handling capability and steering response. These setups will still have some mild understeer, less than OEM but still easy and forgiving to drive every day and in all weather conditions. This is the choice for sport-tuned Daily Drivers.
* STREET-SPORT ‘SQUARE’ SETUPS (350/350, 450/450 etc.) These setups are a compromise between ride quality and all-out handling. With some impact on ride quality, you will have less understeer (more neutral balance) and faster vehicle response. The stiffer front springs also help prevent bottoming out. This combination is plenty stiff, and NOT recommended for true daily drivers (TDD?) on poor roads, or drivers rolling a lot of commuter miles. Good for ‘fun cars’ driven by more experienced drivers.
* AUTOCROSS-TRACK & DRAG SPECIFIC REAR HEAVY setups (550/650, 550/800 etc.) Much more aggressive. This calibration has more grip, and is intended for use with ‘performance/track’ alignment settings and sticky tires. If ride quality is a major concern, DO NOT go here because the stiffer rear springs make for an uncomfortable (and choppy) highway ride. This is a more balanced and LESS FORGIVING setup intended for enthusiast TRACK days and AUTOCROSS events. These combinations will also launch well for mild drag applications on DOT tires. Expect a HUGE improvement in handling capability. This would also be a great low-budget setup for new (road racing) drivers going to a (track) DRIVING SCHOOL or TRACK events. Faster chassis response, less forgiving, and MAX GRIP in most cornering situations. The chassis balance will be very close to ideal, having minimal understeer with ‘track-oriented’ alignment settings and good UHP tires. This is a BIG compromise in ride quality and will require more DRIVING SKILL to drive at the limit (on the track please!) NOT RECOMMENDED for wet/snow/poor weather and road conditions.
Check out this cool CSIII Unboxing Video on our YouTube Channel!
Chassis bracing may be the most under-rated and misunderstood modifications available to a vehicle. If the chassis accounts for the frame, steering, and suspension pick-up points; then this assembly must be as rigid as practical to perform at its best. Some compliance in the chassis helps dampen noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), and it is not possible to completely eliminate flex. However, using strategic pick-up points, aftermarket chassis braces can be very effective at enhancing the feel of steering and suspension systems, greatly improving driver confidence and, as a byproduct, speed.
Bracing works by resisting the forces of compression and tension. Keeping two points at a fixed distance apart is the goal. With a rigid mounting between them, two points cannot bend toward each other. Judging a brace by its assembly* or how heavy it is may not be giving credit to the actual function of the part.
Braces are most commonly made out of steel or aluminum. These materials are inexpensive and strong. Aluminum has a lower weight, but fabricating it to be effective does carry a higher cost than a steel part. The most intricate parts of braces are the mounting points. Some manufacturers will, therefore, use steel for the mounting points and aluminum for the joining bar stock, and attach them with bolts. Carbon fiber and titanium are other materials chosen for their lightweight and strength, in the face of their expense.
Braces made out of one piece, or being a welded-up assembly, are assumed to be stronger than those made of multiple pieces. This statement is a risky one because it is taking design and quality out of the picture. A well-designed brace made with quality materials that bolts together would be preferable to a cheap, flexible brace made to be one-piece. It is generally true that brace which is installed as one piece would be more rigid, but unless the brace is then welded to the chassis itself, this point is largely irrelevant if the brace made is of high quality.
In general, bars mounted laterally (side-to-side) are effective at reducing twist in the chassis. Twisting movements cause the center points of the frame to move closer together. By fixing these points, the twist is resisted. Also, subframes and uni-bodies are made to accommodate the installation and mounting of other vehicle systems (exhausts, suspension parts, and drivetrain assembly) and closing these open areas “boxes” them in making the entire chassis stronger in that area. Lateral bracing will be felt more in turns where there is a high load.
Longitudinal braces help resist bending in the chassis as the front and rear traverse bumps in the road. The front and rear work together more than most would assume. By simply going over a bump, the chassis will bend, and in these bending moments, there is a numbness that reduces confidence. It’s not as apparent at road-speeds, but at highway or HPDE speeds, confidence is very important. Also, keeping the chassis flat reduces unwanted changes in wheelbase that can make the vehicle hard to set in turns after high-braking zones.
The air filter’s primary function is to remove dirt and debris from the induction charge before entering the intake tract, and therefore, the engine. Keeping dirt out of the engine is a primary means of helping it last longer. If unfiltered air can enter the engine oil, dirt can cause premature wear of internal parts. Replacing or cleaning the air filter is an important part of regular vehicle maintenance, outlined in the vehicle owner’s manual.
This article outlines some of the many different kinds of filters. Cotton oiled, dry cotton, and foam filters are the most popular aftermarket performance filter media. Be aware of the different types, and that some that are universal, non-OE style filters that may need adapters to install properly (cone filters).
Panel versus Cone
Most factory air filter elements are flat panels that are sandwiched into a box in the intake tract (airbox). The box fasteners are removed, the box opened, and the filter panel lifted out. The factory filter is a specific shape with a gasket around the outer edge to seal the airbox lid. Aftermarket panel replacements are designed similarly to the factory panel in shape and size to fit the OE application but are made from different materials to change the air-flow characteristics.
Some original equipment and most aftermarket applications use a cone filter. Cone filters go over the end of an intake tube and attach to it with either a clamp or a flange. These open-element cone filters are typically used in place of a factory airbox, doing away with the potentially restrictive plumbing associated with them. Higher performance applications will almost always use an open-element cone filter. Please note that custom mounting may be required if not using these universal cone filters with a complete air intake system upgrade.
Most factory filters are made of paper material. The factory air filters are not bad for performance and do last reasonably long. These filters cannot generally be cleaned and are replacement only. Some enthusiasts will claim a factory filter is the best for use on road cars, where there is a lot of debris and a long time in between service intervals. Many enthusiasts will replace the factory filter with aftermarket cotton or foam filters to increase the air-flow into the engine. The power gains are reported inconsistently, but it is considered common knowledge that replacing a factory filter with a higher flowing aftermarket one will help increase the power potential of the engine.
For more airflow, a popular upgrade is using cotton drop-in replacement filters. The cotton element is a more open matrix than the factory paper and lets more air through. With oiled cotton filters, a light-weight oil is applied to the element which provides a “sticky” place for dirt to attach to before it goes into the engine. The oil is effective in trapping dirt and must be cleaned periodically. These are permanent filters that can be cleaned and re-oiled with a kit from the manufacturer. Some owners have condemned the use of oiled filters because excess oil can be drawn through the filter into sensitive mass-air flow reading components, causing the engine to run poorly. Our stance is, be careful not to over-oil when servicing your oiled filterâ€¦it is easy to do this and then blame the filter for the problem, when in reality these filters are often very viable performance parts.
Because of the growing stigma against oiled filters, and to reduce maintenance effort and cost, there is a newer style of cotton elements called dry filters. A dry filter replacement which flows more than stock like an oiled does, but without the oil. The matrix is tighter which allows the trapping of dirt, but the cotton still fundamentally flows more than paper. The cleaning is easier without needing to apply oil. Just wash with water, allow to dry, and reinstall.
Used in many racing applications, foam filters are known to flow a lot of air. We’ve heard reports of foam filters being the highest flowing available. These filters can be made with a foam of various porosity, or layers of foam with different density, with the more open elements using oil to help trap dirt. They are softer and more pliable making them useful in a wide variety of applications, such as wrapped over intake velocity stacks. Foam filters can often be cleaned, however foam filters are less durable than the factory paper or cotton filters, and may need replacement sooner if used and cleaned frequently. Many enthusiasts feel the power gains are a good trade-off for less durability compared to cotton filters.
When speaking about the vehicle as a whole, the chassis is the first major component that is considered. The frame or unibody is the large structural unit that is the base of the vehicle’s assembly. The wheels, suspension, body, engine, and other vital parts of a vehicle all must attach to a base assembly; referred to collectively as the chassis.
There are differing opinions as to what is included in a rolling chassis. Some sources include an engine and drivetrain nestled within an otherwise bare vehicle frame. Others claim a rolling chassis is more of a complete vehicle without the drivetrain; which is not accurate as a rolling chassis would not necessarily include any coachwork or comfort items. Body-on-frame cars are easier to visualize as a rolling chassis; it’s the vehicle with the body removed. An engine need not be part of the package as long as the suspension arms, dampers, springs, and hubs are there, along with brakes and wheels.
Chassis versus Frame
To state a chassis as “the frame” may be an over-simplification of what a chassis is. The frame is the major component of the chassis; it acts like a skeleton that provides the backbone of the vehicle. To it, suspension arms with spindles, brakes and wheels are attached. As components are added, the frame becomes a chassis. To put it another way, the chassis is the pure functional component assembly without the body on it.
Chassis versus Shell
It becomes difficult to nail down where the chassis stops and the body starts when the vehicle has a uni-body construction. In these chassis configurations, the body shell serves as the frame. As such it is not practical to visualize the frame without the body. With the aid of auxiliary sub-frames that are affixed to the uni-body, suspension arms are attached to the body, to create a rolling chassis. Commonly, people will refer to this chassis as a shell or a rolling shell. While the body is present, the interior usually would not be. Again, the powertrain is “optional.”
This brief article is going to explain the different components of modern automotive braking system parts including pads, rotors, calipers, drums, and more. We have written article because customers often as for “new brakes” but only seem to be talking about certain parts. Basically, this article is here to help you understand more about how the system works, and therefore are better equipped to shop for parts.
Brakes aren’t the round metal discs behind the wheel. Nor are brakes the parts that wear out and squeak.
“Brakes” refer to a set of components that work together to bring a vehicle to a stop once it is moving. Braking systems on most modern vehicles are hydraulically actuated. The brake pedal acts on a master hydraulic cylinder which, usually with the assistance of a vacuum-powered booster, pressurizes a hydraulic line and actuates cylinders at each wheel. A proportioning valve controls the bias of pressure to all four corners.
The cylinders at each wheel actuate either pistons in a caliper (for disc-brake applications) or a wheel-cylinder (on drum brakes). In disc brakes, the caliper pistons push on brake pads that have friction linings. These linings are forced against brake discs, or rotors, which turn with the vehicle’s wheel hub. This force slows the turning of the wheel and slows the vehicle.
Drum brakes work similarly with different components. Wheel cylinders push brake shoe-linings against the insides of a drum that spins with the wheel hub to slow the vehicle. Drums on modern cars are used in rear applications, if at all, and are mainly used for cost savings in low-demand applications since disc brakes are much more efficient at stopping vehicles.
Heeltoe has done the homework and found that there are three main reasons why you would want wheel spacers:
If you are trying to fit different bolt-pattern wheels on your car, you might be needing Hub Adapters instead, which we’ll explain a little further down.
Bumping out the wheels on a car to widen the track is a great way to make the stance appear more aggressive. Car manufacturers leave ample room for wheels and tires to move and articulate to avoid rubbing in extreme situations, but this clearance can result in a “sunken-in” look to the wheels as they often sit far inside the fender arches with a fist-full of unsightly fender-gap; hardly a flattering stance for a dialed-in Heeltoe ride.
Getting the tire snuggled up to the fenders makes a car look a little lower and meaner. When sized properly, wheel spacers will complement the look of factory or aftermarket wheel and tire combos without much worry about rubbing. Of course, there is a tasteful limit to how far you push out the wheels, so act in moderation if you want to stay classy.
Flatter in the turns
Back in the 90s, Pontiac had a “Wider is Better” campaign promoting the wide-track design of their Grand Prix model. Contrary to the name, the Grand Prix is no “grand prize” of performance engineering, but the concept is true. A wider track–the distance between the left and right wheels, measured from the centerline of the wheel–will tend to improve the roll-resistance of the chassis. A little wider stance can help the car feel flatter and more stable in turns.
Another main reason a car would need wheel spacers is to provide more space for aftermarket brake upgrades. Big Brake Kits sold by Heeltoe, or BBKs, often feature 4-, 6-, or more caliper pistons; a performance benefit with a side effect of to get much fatter than standard calipers. The additional size of aftermarket brakes oftentimes leaves little or no clearance to the backside of the wheel. Wheel spacers move the wheel away from the hub which makes for a more comfortable fit of larger brake calipers behind even a standard wheel.
So, how do they work?
This video helps you understand a little more about how these bolt-on spacers work.
You may have seen different kinds of wheel spacers and here we are explaining how the “bolt-on” kind work. Viable spacers below 10mm (0.4″) in thickness do not have studs in them and require extended studs to be installed to allow for enough thread engagement for the lug nut after the wheel is installed. There is no major rule of thumb for how thick is safe to go on a standard wheel spacer, but 5mm (0.2″) is the max that we would ever go, assuming you have even enough thread on the studs to begin with. If in doubt consult a technician.
Getting the right size spacer for your needs is all about taking a simple measurement with a tape measure or ruler.
If you are trying to move the tire closer to the fender, measure the distance from the sidewall or tread blocks to the edge of the fender to approximate the width you need. Keep in mind that the tire will camber-in away from the fender as you drive so you may have a little more room than you think.
If you are trying to make clearance for brake calipers, the measuring can be a little more tricky. Ideally, you will have the brakes installed on the car’s hub & knuckle, and then put the wheel on over them. The risk here is that if there is contact between the spokes and the caliper, you can scratch the caliper, so first cover the caliper with blue painter’s tape. Then, add washers to the wheel studs to stand the wheel away from the hub until there is sufficient clearance to the calipers to spin the wheel without hitting the caliper, being sure you sung the wheel down onto the washers to get a true idea of the spacing needed.
Wheel spacers are available in fixed widths, so once you know how much space you approximately need, round out to the next size. Below are the most common widths of spacers you will find in millimeters with the approximate English unit conversions. For the most part, spacers of 15mm thick or greater will have studs in them already, where smaller ones will need longer studs installed in the hub, which, depending on the kit you get, may or may not be included.
Avail with Studs in Spacer?
Approx Inch Size
w/o studs in spacer
w/ or w/o studs in spacer
w/ studs in spacer
There are more sizes than the above available, many with or without hub ring options. This chart just gives you an idea of how spacers are sized out. The difference between “rubbing” and “not rubbing” is as small as 1-2mm (1/16″) so don’t be afraid to get close but definitely round-up.
Spacer or Adapter
Spacers and Adapters are fundamentally the same thing, with one important difference. The difference between a spacer and an adapter is that a spacer moves the factory wheel out with the same bolt pattern. An adapter will act as a spacer but also change the bolt pattern, allowing you to use a 5×100 wheel on a 5×114 hub, for example. So if you have a 5×100 set of wheels that you truly love, you can put them on your 5×114 hub, provided you have room at your fenders for the extra 15mm-minimum spacing you’ll see.
Hub-centricity is another frequent concern with wheel spacers. The wheel of the car has an inside bore designed to fit over the snout of the wheel hub. Some wheel spacers and adapters are very nicely designed and incorporate a hub centering feature. However, this design feature does increase the cost and also limits the supply of the exact, right spacer for you right when you need it. Plus you need to know the hub bore on you car as well as the bore diameter of your wheels, and in a wheel-fitting pinch, you probably don’t know this.
It’s often claimed that without hub centering rings to fit a mismatched wheel and hub size, a vibration will be present while driving. Heeltoe’s experience has disproved this claim without exception. While having a hub centering ring is ideal for the most support of the wheel on the hub, lug nut seat design will perfectly center the wheel on the hub and prevent any vibration. As always, even and proper torquing of the wheels is critical.
Billet or cast alloy?
Most spacers are machined from billet aluminum. You should always make sure you get good quality spacers because the studs need to be OE quality or better and the spacers themselves need to be strong. This stuff holds the wheel onto the car and having one break would be a catastrophe. Spending a little more money on quality or well-known brands is generally recommended. Some spacers that don’t have studs are made of cast aluminum, which is perfectly fine, as long as they aren’t too cheap and don’t deform with the wheel torqued down.
The real reason you want spacers or adapters boils down to a personal need. You either put brakes on that won’t fit the wheels you have, or you put wheels on and they don’t look perfect against your fenders, or you want to improve the look and handling of the car a little without changing the wheels for different ones. Whatever the reason we hope you know a little more about how to select a spacer for your needs and always know that #HTinyourcorner!
I had a friend who used to have a saying that alcohol was the lubrication for the ball-bearings of life.Â It was a fun phrase for a couple of 20-somethings who knew so little about the real challenges of life that this thinking might have set them back a few brain cells unnecessarily.Â Irony especially being that alcohol often leads to more life-friction than less, and it should come as no surprise that the very same buddy found himself abstaining indefinitely years later. Besides, ball-bearings are fairly frictionless without much lube at all, aren’t they?
If booze isn’t the life-motivator it is promised to be,Â converting to alcohol-enhanced automotive fuelÂ by contrast can be a great way to motivate your car! We’ve been getting asked a lot of questions about E85 conversions, so we’ve made this post to give us a convenient place for our customers to get some answers.
Before learning about enhanced fuel, though, something important should be said about how engines make power:
How does the engine make power? Itâ€™s in the AIR.
To make power, engines pump air in, inject a little fuel at the right time, light the mix on fire. KEY:Â AIR is the primary limiting factor in making power.Â The oxygen found in the air is one of the most magical substances on Earth. If you mix just the right amount of hydrocarbons in and you have yourself a really volatile mix. Therefore, larger engines make more power; they pump more air. Likewise, boost adds more power; the pressure crams more air in. Adding air makes more power provided the right amount of fuel is added, too.
So, in case the point isnâ€™t made clearly enough: If you aren’t having a plan to add more oxygen to the engine, adding more fuel of any kind is going to be of limited benefit.
There are exceptions to this broad sweeping statement. Increasing compression and advancing timing will create conditions that can produce more power without adding oxygen. It’s just that the biggest benefits to fuel changes are going to come with boost or nitrous.
What is ethanol?
Ethanol is alcohol, made from sugars. Like all alcohol, it burns when you add oxygen and an ignition source. Since it can be made from corn, and ‘Merica has lots of corn, we make ethanol from corn. Since ethanol is made from plants it has been a welcome renewable addition to our favorite supply of liquified dinosaurs to make fuel. The government loves it. Our gas has about 10% ethanol in it as standard.
E85 is a specific kind of Flex Fuel. Flex Fuel, though, instead of being a specific 85% ethanol by volume, it can be varying ratios of ethanol to gasoline, 51% to up to around 90% depending on the station you are at, area you are in, or the time of year it is. E85 is Flex Fuel but not all Flex Fuel is E85.
What is important to know about E85/Flex Fuel?
It’s corrosive. Fuel lines, pumps, seals, o-rings and the like all need to be designed to work with ethanol otherwise the fuel can eat away at the material and cause leaks. This is mostly a problem on older cars designed and built before ethanol was a common additive and automakers were designing components to be compatible.
It’s hygroscopic, meaning on a chemical level it seeks out water and absorbs it (similarly to brake fluid). This is important to know because you don’t want higher concentration ethanol fuel sitting in your tank for long periods of time because water will collect and enter the fuel system. The same thing can happen with gasoline, but it is more of a concern with ethanol.
It’s got a lower energy density compared to petrol. If we light a cup of gasoline on fire, more heat is going to be given off than if we light off a cup of ethanol. In order to get the hydrocarbons in ethanol to generate the same heat as gasoline, you need more fuel than you would straight gasoline. About 25-30% more in fact. So that translates to a pretty significant increase in fuel consumption.
Ethanol has oxygen in it. This adds to the lower energy-density issue because in the ethanol molecule there is less “room” for hydrocarbons, and more oxygen is available in the mixture which serves to lean out the air-fuel ratio. Even MORE fuel is needed to make the air-fuel ratio work out. It’s not bad for power, but it just makes the engine really thirsty. It’s true there is more oxygen in ethanol and so more power can be made; just understand that it means more fuel is needed to make the chemistry work out.
Why would you want to use ethanol-blended fuel in your hot-rod Honda?
Ethanol has a higher-octane rating than gasoline does.Â E85 has an octane rating of around 105.Â This means you can run higher cylinder pressures without the risk of detonation (in a nutshell, the fuel is much less prone to “lighting itself” and causing knock).
Not only is the octane higher, but it has a high latent heat of evaporationâ€”meaning as it atomizes it removes heat from the intake air. (In other words, when the fuel is injected and it vaporizes, it cools the intake charge. Ethanol cools more than gasoline does.)
So is my Honda is going to make more power if I change the fuel to an ethanol blend?
Yes, but there is more to it than just what you put in the tank. Your car needs to be set up for ethanol fuel to effectively use it. Plus, the fuel costs less than gasoline will but you will be using significantly more of it (nobody told you the MPGs are going to drop?). It won’t make economic sense to convert if you won’t reap enough of the power benefits.
A lot of Hondacar drivers have NA setups (as inâ€”they are not using power adders such as turbo- or super-charging as a means of adding more air to the engine). If you have an NA setup and aren’t running high compressionâ€”like at least 12:1 or moreâ€”the power benefit to you is going to be smaller, because 91 octane and a good tune is all you need. Sure, you’ll be able to run a bunch more timing advance which will feel great, but the fuel cost is a lot to consider for that benefit. Because NA stands for “Normal Air” going into the engine. (Actually, it means Naturally Aspirated, but in lay-terms Normal Air makes the point clear that the air-charge is not boosted).
If your engine is boosted turbo- or super-charger we have more to talk about. Adding boost adds oxygen to the mix and adding more fuel will make more power. Adding boost can be risky because if your fuel octane rating is not high enough detonation can occur and cause damage to the engine.Â So for higher boost, high-octane ethanol is going to hook you up!Â You’ll be able to add more boost to the engine and have much lower detonation risk which is really going to make power.
Cooler air means more power and is safer
Also, ethanol has a greater cooling effect when it vaporizes than gasoline does, so that is a solid benefit in any case. If you are running an NA car with moderate compression but are beating the piss out of it all the time, you might find your car running a little tighter as cylinder temps are controlled just a little better.
Also since ethanol is not as volatile as gasoline the combustion is cleaner and smoother as it pushes on the pistons. Many converts say their engines run smoother and the power delivery is easier to manage with ethanol in the mix.
Ok, so I have been sold on ethanol. What do I need to know to get going?
You’re getting excitedâ€”just put the wallet away for one more second, though. The first thing you need to ask yourself before buying anything is what mix of ethanol will you be using?
In California, vendors pay about 4x less tax per gallon when they sell fuel that is less than or equal to 15% gasoline, so in a round-about way, suppliers are incentivized to keep it 85% Ethanol or higher. Therefore, California tends to have a consistent blending of E85 that you can have a fixed “tune” for.
Other states are not consistent in this way. It is a lot more common to find Flex Fuel in various stations, wherein the ethanol content can vary between 51% and 90%. And when you take winters into account the blend really favors gasoline so you can start the engine in cold weather (because of the lower energy content in ethanol, you might find that cold-start “kick” lacking in many places that aren’t California). So the region and season can play a role in the fuel mixture.
Unless you have a regular fuel source that sells consistent fuel, you might find yourself in a bit of a tuning-pickle. The AFR (air-fuel ratio) needs to be adjusted for the varying ethanol content you might encounter. Putting different blends in a car not rated as a “Flex Fuel” vehicle could have some issues.
We solve the problem with Parts and Tuning!
Buy a tuning computer to give you engine management ability.
Before you get started,Â you will need some kind of fuel tuning, engine management, or programming toolÂ to calibrate the computer to tell it how to handle the mods you will be doing. In most common Hondacar cases, this means a reflash tool from popular brands Hondata or KTuner. These modules can re-write the stock computer mapping to make your setup run correctly. You can also use great AEM computers which completely replace the stock computer for tuning in more aggressive applications. Of course, all the above are available from Heeltoe. We can help you determine what is right for your build.
1) Buy larger fuel injectors.
After you have your engine management figured out you need to handle the increased volume of fuel you need (to make up for the lower energy content, additional oxygen molecules, and the presumed increase in overall air to the engine with power adders). To add more fuel to the cylindersÂ you will need larger fuel injectors.Â The injectors aren’t physically bigger, but they will inject more fuel needed to overcome the extra oxygen you are adding and the reduced energy density of the ethanol fuel. Because of the extra capacity we say they are “bigger.”Â There are a few brands that Heeltoe promotesâ€”Deatschwerks (just say DW if you want), Injector Dynamics (or ID), and Fuel Injector Clinic (or FIC), even factory Honda RDX (doesn’t stand for anything afaik) injectors may work great for milder NA buildsâ€”and can set you up with the necessary plugs to get them installed in your engine.
2) Buy a larger fuel pump.
The fuel system needs to maintain pressure, and since adding larger injectors will flow more fuel from the system the factory pump may not be able to “keep up” with your engine’s fuel demands.Â You will need a higher capacity fuel pumpÂ to make sure the fuel system has enough flow when those injectors open to keep fuel at a steady pressure when the injectors open. Many direct-replacement in-tank and in-line fuel pumps areÂ available from Heeltoe, from DW, Walbro, Radium Engineering, and AEM. (AEM is nice because they have one especially for E85 applications, aside from just being “compatible”)
3) Buy a flex-fuel sensor (especially if your ethanol fuel-days are not going to be consistent).
And if your ethanol content is going to be varying then it is a good idea to add a flex-fuel senor to more-or-less convert your car to a Flex Fuel vehicle. A flex fuel sensor will detect the amount of ethanol in the fuel, whichÂ you may want if you won’t be tuning for a specific ethanol mix.Â These sensors can talk to whatever tuning module you are using and adjust the computer’s parameters accordingly to give you the most performance for the amount of ethanol in the fuel. This is pretty cool because it means that you don’t have to worry so much about what fuel you put in the car because it might be incompatible with your tune; the tune will fix itself!Â Heeltoe has components from KTuner, AEM, and othersÂ that really help your custom setup but also offer brands like PRL which have direct drop-in PnP setups for some applications.
4) Go get a tune to make all the above work right!
And last to mention but probably the most important thing you need is a professional tuner! Someone who can calibrate your ECU program to handle the different fuel and power mods you are adding. We listed a tuner last but really, we recommend researching this facet of the job first. Someone local with access to a dyno is the best, but you can also arrange an e-tune or remote-tune. If you are planning to raise boost significantly, we strongly urge a dyno visit even it is a bit of pilgrimage to get it done.
E85 and Flex Fuel can be really great friends to have in the tank when you are after making the most of your mods. They can allow you more creative freedom with your ignition and cam timing and allow you to cram more boost into your engine, all of which will result in noticeably more power. The fuel will help the performance engine run smoother and cleaner overall. There is a cost to the benefits in the form of added fuel consumption and investing in a few parts but at least the bits you buy it aren’t too costly (assuming your car’s factory fuel system does not need to be completely redone to the ethanol doesn’t turn your hoses to goo).
Looking for more power? You’ll get it with ethanol! How much will depend on your total setup. Heeltoe is in your corner to make sure you do it right.
Time for a beer! Cheers for reading and remember, Heeltoe is In Your Corner!
Special thanks to David Walker who provided a lot of info and editorial help to polish a lot of the swirls out of this article.
Aluminum crank pulleys have been a popular upgrade for tuners for ages. Today, there is still a lot of hay made about the detrimental effects of billet crank pulleys on Honda engines because of removing a mystical item called a “harmonic balancer.” Heeltoe’s contention is that while harmonic dampers and balancers are important on many engines, Honda engines by-and-large aren’t equipped with them. Run your billet crank pulley with confidence and enjoy the revs! First we do a quick weigh-in on various pulley brands, specifically for the K20 application (citing the TSX K24A2 in the video). It was surprising to see just how light these pulleys are!
Saving weight off the crank really helps the engine rev and sending more power to the wheels. The benefit is faster acceleration and better response. Some of these pulleys are smaller than stock, called “underdrive” pulleys, which have even less mass and spin the engine accessories (power steering, alternator, and A/C compressor) more slowly. This reduces parasitic drag. For the MOST power gain, get an underdriven pulley!
But there is some discussion online about these pulleys harming the engine.Â This video also includes a general info lecture on exactly what the suspected issues are and why we don’t really subscribe to the doomsday-sayers.
ItÂ is a highly debatable issue (even though many find their viewpoints to be strictly undebatable). The fact is, we’ve never seen actual evidence to support claims of engine damage that weren’t muddied with all kinds of other variables. We’re still waiting for the missing link in the “I installed a pulley” and “I had an engine problem” tale…so for that reason, we aren’t subscribing to the idea.Â
Heeltoe Automotive offers the complete line of BC Racing Coil-over damper kits, including all the custom options you want to get the perfect set for your car!
Swift springs are offered to improve the quality and consistency of the ride. Custom spring rates can be selected at no extra charge, and include appropriate damper valving changes. The Extreme-Low option gives you a shorter damper to allow for the lowest drop possible (for those looking to lower 3.5″ or more).
Check out this video from Heeltoe showing you more of the features of the BC Racing coilover kits, in living color!