EVAP mystery hour.

Let me start by letting you know that this article is going to be very technically oriented towards fixing a 2003 Dodge Neon. I’m sure some of the info will be helpful for any car built in the 21st century, but you may want to skip over the gritty details. This article will also reveal the complicated way cars check for fuel leaks and explore some of the huge frustrations of modern emissions testing. Ready to unravel a mystery? I recently learned so much about the Chrysler EVAP system that I wanted to share – in plain English – what I went through, and what I learned.

You: “I have code P0440 – what should I do?”
Every car mechanic: “Replace your gas cap!” Continue reading

The Prescott Rally 2011

The Prescott Rally in Arizona is a fantastic event. The roads, the volunteers, the organizers, and the stages are awesome. This year the organizers gave us the opportunity to test out our new rally car on the stages by running zero car.

How did it go? Great! The chassis feels solid and the steering modifications are amazing at speed. Tossing the car through the end of Witty Tom South (a stage with lots of 4’s and 3’s) had me turning the wheel no more then 90 degrees. A big plus for the quickener experiment. The rallycross suspension setup was decent, but not ready for cattle-guards at 70+ mph. We embarrassingly nosed in a couple of times, and after the third time hopping the rear end through a ditch, I slowed for the remainder of them. This 2.0l n/a motor feels stronger then the one in the Production car and it will be fun to rally on for a couple more events before swapping a turbo SRT4 power-plant in.

As I feared, the stock engine mounts are completely unable to cope with this kind of abuse. The motor mount rubber on the passenger frame side ripped about halfway through stage 2. This added to the noise in the cabin and kept me from really putting down the throttle. It was a mistake not to address this before Prescott. Solid “dog bone” mounts are on order and I’m going to poly fill or weld (haven’t decided) the engine and trans mounts before the Glen Helen rallycross on October 16th.

We have a laundry list of things to fix and change, but overall it was a very successful test!

The Motor is out, now for serious business.

2.0L motor pulled from the Neon SXTLast weekend a gathering of rally friends helped take out the 2.0L 420A. This was made easier by taking a Sawzall to the radiator support. 🙂 As we were taking the motor out we discovered some pretty serious damage to the bottom core support and the wiring harness that goes to the lights. This had been ground into by the AC compressor upon hitting whatever bent the metal of the front end. 😮 This explains the melted connector on the back of the headlight switch and the crackle sparking sounds when I turned on the fog lights.

Next is a serious discussion about the roll cage design for the 2GN. When I built the first Rally Neon I was hesitant to put any info of authority on rallynotes. I was new and didn’t want to come off like some expert on the rules for roll cage design. This time around I’m still no expert, but I’ll show you what we’re planning.

Roll cage options for door bars.This is my proposal for a door bar layout. I think the door bars are one of the most critical areas and it’s important to balance safety with the ability to get in and out of the car.

The rules: NASA RallySport / Rally America Both sanctioning bodies have a slightly different view of the best method for coming up with a safe roll cage. I could write a book about the complex differences between the two organizations, but I’ll summarize what you need to know: Both organizations accept each others log book. NASA Rally Sport requires FIA seats and Rally America as of this writing does not. Which rule-set should you use? YMMV. Find someone who has been building rally roll cages for a few years and has some experience.

The sill bar. Back in 2003 when SCCA was running the show, there was a movement in the rules to get an additional door bar added. Before this, you only needed 1 bar going from the main hoop to the front A-pillar. I can’t even imagine sliding sideways at 90MPH with a single 1.5″ door bar… Then again, cars used to be made from steel and not hydroformed .0025″ thick zinc coated plastic sheets. 😉 The solution was to add a straight bar from the main hoop to the A-Pillar close to the floor on the sill. A lot of rallyists started adding the full “X” WITH a sill bar, but the minimum in the rules (as of mid-2011) is only 2 door bars. Sill bar and a diagonal, OR just the “X”. After seeing a car take a tree stump in the door with just the “X” – we’ll be adding the additional sill bar.

The bar from the corner of the windshield to the floor (along the A-Pillar) is now mandatory and we’re considering adding it to our production car. These cars are “jellybeans” and where a 1988 VW makes a 45% bend for the windshield, the Dodge “cab forward” design is this 15% decaying slope that needs to be strengthened if it’s to survive a hit there.

If this design looks impossible to get in or out of the car with, consider that the stock dash extends beyond where the A-Pillar diagonal is, and the proposed door bars are no higher then the ones in our Production car. Will the full “X” make it a little harder to get in and out? I’m sure. Will we be going a little faster then in our Production car? Absolutely!

2GN Progress Report

The interior and extra weight is out. I need to get a couple extra grinding discs and wire wheels to get the drivers side door metal out and the extra thick seam sealer in the hard to reach spots. The air-box for the heat and AC is dependent on the heater core and I’ll need to drain the coolant before pulling that out and re-engineering it.

Draining the coolant means that it’s just about a good time as any to pull the motor. The motor has to go if we’re going to seam weld, plate, and strengthen the front end. To keep it easy I’m going to cut the radiator support out and we’ll be changing that up anyway. I don’t know if I’m ready to put “tubular K frame” on the to-do list, but it’s being considered.

This weekend some friends and past crew members will be giving me a hand. Soon the 2GN will become more of a shell then a car. Rally prep at the rallynotes.com garage is well under way!