Chassis You Can Do It! DIYs

Our HTSpecTSX gets new Fastline Performance Compliance Bearings by PCI

In addition to the 4-piece bearing kit, we have added a 2-piece kit. Read more here: Fastline Compliance Bushing Update: New 2-piece kit supersedes 4-piece kit

The compliance bushings in later model Acura and Honda vehicles were part of an innovative design to handle suspension movement. Despite being unconventional, the system worked well at softening road inputs while effectively keeping the control arm attached to the car. unfortunately, the compliance bushings wear prematurely and crack, causing sloppy handling and excess vibration. The issue plagues TSX and TL divers alike, with many TL drivers reporting failures within 60,000 miles.

Pro Car Innovations has an awesome solution for replacing these bushings with a more durable spherical bearing. The bearing is a rigid mounting point rather than a flexy rubber one, which has the promise not only of longer life but also of greatly enhanced road feel. Fastline Performance was quick to adopt this part as one of their own, recognizing the great benefit for performance and longevity that is so direly needed, especially on the 04-08 TL chassis.

We took the opportunity to install a set of these bearings in our very own HTSpec TSX last weekend. Getting the arm out of the car is not as difficult as one might think. There is a 14mm nut holding the sway bar link on, then a ball joint where the steering upright attaches, and three other attachment points with conventional bolts. While it can be tricky to get the right tool to fit the locations and do the removal, nothing really special is required to remove the arm.

The bushings in our TSX were not in especially bad condition, but they are well worn after 120,000 miles and a couple of track days and spirited road trips.

The first step in changing the bushings is removing the arm from the car. This is actually a pretty simple task. With only 3-4 main fasteners to have to deal with, which are all straightforward except the ball joint. Rather than put it in words, check out this very fast and simple method for removing the ball joint painlessly!

Once the arm is out, the bushing/bearing swap needs to happen. For what has the initial impression of being a bit of a pain to do (the bushings must be pressed out and the bearings pressed in) it turned out to be quite a simple job. Part of the reason for this was using a special tool for pressing the parts in and out by hand. Coupled with a trusty electric impact gun, the job was a breeze.

The kit comes with two compliance bearings with mounting spacers, as well as two other bearings that fit in the rearward subframe mounting locations. We elected to only install the compliance bearings at this time for two reasons: 1) The stock bushings at the rearward lower control arm mounting location were still in good condition, and 2) while we had a great tool for the larger bushing we had no such arrangement for the other bushing. So, we will do this one later understanding that the compliance bearing was the most major part of the job here.

Some install notes that were brought up by some early responders to online discussions. With regard to binding, there is no such concern. We found that the arms reach a limit of travel from the chassis mounting well before the bearings find a travel limit. Bearings can be noisy, however, we have found these bearings to be of very high quality and are play- and noise-free, at least in their new state.

The largest concern seems to be about corrosion. These are in an area susceptible to corrosive elements, however, we do need to cite that 95% or more of the component is not ferrous and therefore will not rust. The one item where rust can happen is the bearing race itself which if ever needs to be replaced is fairly simple and inexpensive to accomplish. While acknowledging there could be a concern down the road, corrosion is bad for cars PERIOD and we anticipate there being a greater issue removing the rest of the suspension bolts to do such a job than the need for the job really coming up in the first place. Of course, the best defense is offense, so we recommend liberally lubing the bearing from time to time to create a protective layer against the elements.

With the bearing in the arms and the arms in the car, I set off on a test drive. I was unable to feel much of a difference at low speeds in the neighborhood. Partly because our roads are fairly smooth here but mostly for the reason that the Innovate Mounts holding the engine in place transmit much vibration of their own. Initially, the system feels pretty standard.

Down the road a bit, some bumps were encountered with did send a noticeable shock through the front end. Botts dots and possibly small animals will be felt more than before. I imagine if you live in an area with rougher roads, you will need to be understanding that there is a tradeoff of more road input. It depends largely on the quality of roads, your quality of experience. Then again if you make a sport of avoiding such road imperfections, your skills will be greatly enhanced with the bearings in place.

Off to higher speed turns! Traveling at speeds in excess of 50-60 mph can make turning a little nervous feeling. With the standard car, there is a certain amount of smoothness needed to confidently turn the car, since there is a little delay between when you turn the wheel and when the car turns. This is due to the compliance bushings flexing under load. With the FLP/PCI bearings installed there is no such flex. Nor is there a disconcerting wiggle the nose does when hitting a bump mid-corner. The control is greatly enhanced as you can almost feel the tread-blocks taking up the stress of hanging on for dear life.

I must say, this upgrade, if it is one you might be putting off for fear that it will be one that makes you unhappy for any reason, I think you are possibly cheating yourself out of a great experience. I shudder to think of those who will appreciate the benefits of the Fastline Performance Compliance Bearings yet will never realize them due to risk aversion. These parts are innovative, durable, functional, and fully backed by Heeltoe Automotive. What more could you ask for?

Update 11/12/12: After spending some more time driving with these bearings in, my love for them has only grown. There is a very direct feel from my fingers to the road. When you are on the verge of breaking traction you can almost feel the tires gripping the road, and you can modulate the power very finely. This, of course, is enhanced with the polyurethane Innovative Mounts. however, I am finding the negative feedback from bumps was really overstated in the original writing above. While there are bumps that come up and jolt the front end, I am starting to think this has more to do with my suspension than the bearings. I am considering changing my suspension out soon to experiment with this.


The Hondata Reflash THE best bang for the buck on your 04-06 TSX

The engine in your TSX is controlled by a computer, which should come as no surprise. The computer, like all computers, is dumb. They just do what some programmer somewhere told it to do. Meaning, your car is running on a program made by some nameless, faceless engineering group at Honda to be the best Honda it can be.

Unfortunately for you, that does not mean it is the best PERFORMING Honda it can be. Engineers have to report to the company which needs to report to its customers. Not all customers are power-hungry pedal stoppers like you and I are. Therefore, there is almost always some power left on the table somewhere.

The Hondata Reflash for the 04-06 TSX is a revamped set of parameters that are downloaded onto your stock computer to de-geek it. Ironically, the program of the reflash was developed by the biggest Honda-geek of them all, Doug who is the head honcho at Hondata. That anyone, for a mere few hundred bucks, can get a fully optimized ECU tune by one of the modern-day masters is nothing short of a no-brainer.

During a recent dyno testing stint at Church Auto Testing in Wilmington, CA, I had the opportunity to do a little before-and-after test of the reflash on my personal HTSpec TSX. This 2004 model has about 120,000 miles on it and minimal mods (just a CT-Engineering Carbon Icebox, UR Underdrive Pulleys, and a Fujitsubo exhaust). Check out the before and after dyno graph:

Holy crap, just look at what happens past 5000 rpm! The Torque curve on the stock tune goes pretty abruptly down and after the reflash it very certainly is going UP. All the way to a peak of 189 ft-lbs. We are making really good torque which is fairly consistent from 3500 rpm to about 6000 rpm, where it tapers off near redline. But man, look at 6000 rpm, we go from about 156 ft-lbs all the way up to 180 ft-lbs! a 24 ft-lb increase for under $350???? Up, YES PLEASE.

So how is all the power being made? Well, it is all in the tuning. There are three major variables that are adjusted in a K-series engine: fuel trim, ignition timing, and cam phase. Fuel and ignition we know about. The fuel is usually more on the rich side to protect the engine from knocking, and while the computer is over-protective in this way it is such a detriment to power. The fuel is backed off ever so slightly in a still-safe manner, which has a big effect on power.

Ignition timing, also in an effort to reduce knock, is very eager to retard itself. Yes, retarding ignition timing is bad for power. By making the ignition timing a little more aggressive, the engine is able to spin faster and harder thereby producing more power.

What about the cam phase adjustment? The intake cam on the K-Series engine has a special gear on it with a mechanism called a VTC forming the hub. This special gear can move to advance or retard the intake cam at different RPMs, at the will of the computer. You may know that cams can be degree’d to make power at certain RPMs, but the VTC has the ability to CONSTANTLY tune the cam as you are driving! The main reason Hondata can get such good power numbers is that they can tune the VTC to act in a way that is a lot more efficient for making power than stock.

All of the adjustments Hondata makes are completely safe and literally invisible to anyone “looking” at the computer. Your Smog guy won’t know it is there, and the car will still pass emissions test just like normal. The dealer won’t know it is there and cannot void any part of your warranty. There are no engine lights that come on, no special fuel additives needed, nothing like that. Just get the reflash and motor-away!

Intake & Exhaust

J-Pipe Comparison Test Round 1: ATLP vs RV6 vs XLR8 * Results Inconclusive!

PLEASE NOTE: The results of this test were INCONCLUSIVE. Each successive pipe tested produced more power than the last, even when the first one was dynoed again last. Please read the entire posting and don’t make judgments based on the graphs alone. There is a much more accurate and informative test here: ATLP, XLR8, and RV6 J-pipes tested together. ATLP V2-R debut!

We just got back from Church Auto Testing, where we did another round of J-Pipe shootouts yesterday. Some may recall the last shootout we did involved only the RV6 V3 and ATLP V2 designs, and that the ATLP while showing favorable performance above 4000 RPM, gave up some torque to RV6 in the lower RPMs. The car tested was a Base model TL with a 3.2L engine and a manual trans.

Of course, we were also testing prototype revisions of the new ATLP V2R pipe which has been in the works.

Eager to get more data and urged on by the ever-anticipating Acurazine community, coupled with a relatively extraordinary dyno report on the XLR8 V2 pipe, we finally made our way back. The parts we brought with us this time were an ATLP V2 pipe with optional Race pipe cat delete, an RV6 V3 J-pipe, and an XLR8 V2 J-pipe (both of the latter with integrated cat-deletes as part of the design). We also had the latest revision of the V2R pipe. The car this time is a larger displacement TL Type-S with a 3.5L engine and manual transmission. As before, this car retained its standard primary converters but was equipped with an ATLP exhaust cat-back.

What we learned yesterday was both startling and a little depressing. What we learned was there are more variables involved in testing parts for the TL than we imagined before. Unfortunately, we got caught up chasing numbers that led us in circles.

The main goal of this test was not to see which pipes gain more power over stock since we do know that all the pipes gain power. The main idea here was to see how the pipes compare to each other. We know that dyno testing is really a game of relativity, and therefore bragging about specific numbers really is somewhat of a losing point. However, when comparing parts to each other, a dyno can be revealing as to what changes in parts make to the performance of the engine.

Here was our first dyno chart to share:

It is important not to take this first chart for face value, as I will explain after I outline the observations we made. In this chart, we are comparing the ATLP combo (yellow), the RV6 (purple), and XLR8 (red). The pipes were tested in that order as well, with each one showing more power than the last. The main thing we were surprised to see was not so much the ATLP was down on lower RPM torque compared to the RV6, but that it did not best the RV6 in the upper ranges as it had the last time. We saw considerably more top end with the ATLP in the previous test. We were not sure how to explain this. Also, we were initially impressed with the performance of the XLR8 part. While we did expect this pipe to have a good balance of high and low end, it definitely outshined the others everywhere. Also, it was more consistent. But therein lies what would ultimately be the undoing of the test…

Here is the second dyno chart:

At the end of the day, still somewhat curious as to why the ATLP performed so much less than the others, we put it on the car and did another run with it juuust to see if the lackluster performance was a fluke or not. Actually, we did five runs with it and got the same thing every time. The solid red line is the ATLP dominating the other two at the end of the day (the XLR8 line is dashed in this chart rather than solid). The ATLP pipe suddenly jumped a whopping 10+ ft-lbs right around 3600 RPM, and for there on up it literally leapfrogged the competitors.

What gives?

The problem lies within the car. The 04-08 TLs have a newer generation of computers in them which is constantly changing variables around, making dyno testing of this nature (just swapping parts around to see what they do) practically impossible to make any sense out of. In earlier runs, the computer was definitely functioning differently than at the end of the test. Add to this, our tester told us they were pretty mild with diving their car; they never really rev out past 5000 RPM. The car was used to driving slow basically and when it was asked to make power it didn’t know how until we flogged on it for 4 hours. This explains why as the day went on we made more and more power. Unfortunately, limited by time (and money) we had to cut it off before doing another round of tests on each pipe.

Even with that point aside, with the ignition timing constantly moving around, back-to-back comparisons are literally impossible to rely on. The result of this, in my mind, is that ANY dyno charts shown for an 04-08 TL (and I am sure many other car this applies to as well) are definitely to be called into question. And this has nothing to do with the integrity of the test itself or the people involved because the one main variable at work is something that to this point is relatively uncontrollable: the car’s computer.

However, all is not lost. We will be back at the dyno with a programmable computer to lock in a base map tune, and that will allow us to see which pipe makes what power and how. This likely won’t happen until the first quarter of next year. Until then, I am afraid it is still a bit of a guess as to what part really is the best one for making low or high range power. Even the information we got in the past has to be questioned to a degree.

V2R update: While we do have to bring into serious question all of the numbers this day, we do have reason to believe that the V2R prototype we tested certainly is capable of making more power than the others in this test. We feel confident that with a locked base map we will be making more power than the others here while having a lighter, stronger part with top-notch fabrication.