Good, Bad, and Ugly

Update by Per Schroeder to the Honda Civic Si project car
Apr 25, 2005

The Civic has been running well lately, and thanks for asking. It’s still a few different shades of red, meaning we’re still waiting for paint. We originally decided to wait until the car was all one shade of red before doing the suspension work, but that plan is about to be bagged as we’re tired of scraping the door handles during autocross events.

On April 9, we ran the Martin Sports Car Club’s MiniPrix, a high-speed autocross event that has been part of the club’s schedule for decades—as in since the 1960s. We finished third in our three-car class (go team), but took comfort in the fact that we were only about one second off the winner on the high-speed, 60-second course.

The event took place at Gainesville Raceway’s road course, and the long, long sweepers meant we spent considerable time on two bumpstops at a time. The fender lips just barely kissed the sidewalls of our tires. No permanent damage was done, but some static negative camber should cure things.

On the way home, we stopped at Angel’s Diner in Palatka. It’s supposed to be the oldest diner in the state. If you go there, get the onion rings.

The following weekend we were at the DeLand Airport for an SCCA event. We finished fourth out of six cars. (One guy never ran, so technically there were only five of us competing.) One day we’ll have suspension.

We have been running 35 psi up front and 37 psi in the rear. The car actually felt a little nervous when going through the fast sweepers, so we lowered the rears to 35 psi.

While our car is not yet an autocross machine, it has been pretty darn reliable for day-to-day use. In fact, we were recently thinking about that exact fact while driving to Sears this past Saturday.

About two seconds after completing that thought, the car started to feel sluggish. Was it just our imagination? Was driving other cars during the week making us forget how the Civic really felt?

Since we were in traffic, we really couldn’t open it up to see how the car behaved under wide-open throttle. We eventually had a chance to goose the throttle, and yep, something was amiss. (Get it? Something was a- “miss?”)

Plus the idle was quickly getting worse. The car seemed to go from sluggish to really bad in about 5 minutes time. It wasn’t like something just failed. Rather, it felt like something was coming undone.

We turned around, came home, popped the hood and took a look. A car needs air, fuel and spark to run, and since we have experienced our fair share of ignition problems before, that’s where we started. Something told us that we were missing a spark or two.

We figured it would be prudent to start with the basics and see if the plug wires were at least tight. One, two and three all seemed fine. When we pulled the fourth plug wire from the distributor, the rubber boot came off just fine, but something was left behind—the metal terminal had separated from the wire itself. The car ran no better or worse with the offending plug wire completely removed, so we figured we found the cause.

Fortunately RIDE of Daytona had a set of Accel 300+ ThunderSport plug wires in stock for our application, so we were set. According to Accel, these wires feature a Kevlar inner core, copper-nickel alloy conductor, graphite coating and a silicone insulation. All of those components are then wrapped by a fiberglass braid and then a silicone jacket. RIDE had both yellow and blue wires in stock. We figure the blue ones would make us go faster.

At first, we only replaced the one bad wire. The car felt better but not perfect. After installing the entire set, the car was back to its normal self. We need to check all of the plug wires, but it seems like we had one fail and another on the way. We’ll do some more research on this.

In other Civic news, we have noticed that the local birds seem to enjoy using the car as a toilet. (They also like to poop on the backyard deck, which is gross.)

To see if we can gently get our feathered friends to take a hint, we purchased a plastic owl at our local hardware emporium. (It certainly got the dogs’ attention, as the thing has some piercing yellow eyes.) We’ll let you know if a $12 piece of airbrushed plastic can help keep your car free of bird poop.

We also had another weird uh-oh with the Civic. While raising the hood to check the oil, one of the windshield washer lines got caught on something; rather than simply coming undone, the line snapped the windshield squirter. And of course this was the driver’s side.

Yesterday we scored a good squirter at Speedway Pull and Save Auto Parts, our local you-pull-it. The price? Have a nice day, he said.

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