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June 2014 Question IT

Fixing what you broke

Got a burning question or simply need some advice with problems you've encountered while wrenching on your current/future projects? Ask our automotive guru Eric Hsu anything-literally, he's going to answer every single question, as long as it's automotive related.

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Smoke Screen

I just wanted to say thanks for the awesome job you guys do at Import Tuner. Your magazine is what keeps me going while I'm deployed overseas. I bought a '03 350Z in May of 2013. Two months prior to deployment, I noticed many things wrong with it. First off, the previous owner tuned the car himself, and it runs really rich. When I accelerate the car emits large amounts of white smoke out of the tailpipe. I installed a cold air intake to increase the airflow, but it didn't do much. My second issue is that when it comes time to servicing the oil, my oil gauge drops and the car starts rattling internally. It gets louder as I drive the car and shift through the gears. Any help would be appreciated so I know what to do once I return from deployment.

-Anish Babu, Paramus, NJ

Unfortunately this isn't quite enough information for me to go on, but when you say "large amounts of white smoke out of the tailpipe," nothing really good can be said about that. You're probably looking at either a leaking head gasket or a cracked piston. If the car hasn't overheated to date, then I'd guess it's a cracked piston letting oil into the combustion chamber and creating smoke. This also coincides with your oil gauge dropping and the car rattling internally. With a cracked piston, the engine burns oil so the oil is being consumed at a greater rate than normal. When the oil level drops, the oil pressure drops and you will definitely hear some "rattling," which is probably everything in the engine rattling without oil. Take the car to a good mechanic once you get back over here. Continuing to drive it in this state will likely cause a catastrophic failure soon. Make sure you either have a used car professionally checked before purchasing or stick to buying stock cars.

2G Eclipse Upgrades

I own a '99 Eclipse GS with a 420A engine. From what I have read and been told, the engine can't handle boost well but I want to squeeze as much power it can handle. Do you recommend maintaining a small turbo setup or going with a larger-sized 20G? What additional upgrades do you also recommend other than the current cold air intake, headers, and downpipe the car already has. I am in the process of deleting the catalytic converter and installing a cat back exhaust.

-Steven, via

If you're considering boost, I recommend the Hahn Racecraft 16G turbo kit. It's been tested and developed since those cars were new which has made it a nice and reliable kit. If you want to keep turbos away, then just about the only other thing you can do besides an intake, headers, and exhaust are a pair of adjustable cam sprockets. Of course there's always nitrous too. Try a single nozzle kit for the cheapest 40-60hp gain known to mankind. Aside from it being faster, it'll put a big ass smile on your face every time you squeeze the button. Check out the Import Tuner website for a Power Pages article done back in June '02 to see all of these parts in action.

Lexus Power

I'm still completely in love with my 2JZ-powered Lexus IS 300. Even though I never made it into a turbo-beast, I'd still like to extract what I can from it naturally. I currently own an SRT cold air intake (with ECU) and Tanabe Medallion exhaust. I was looking for some affordable mods that might offer the Lexus some more punch. I've heard headers don't do much in the low end and cams are a possibility i.e. BC/Brian Crower, but will they give me the most bang for the buck? Also an exhaust cam gear, which I was told works good with aftermarket cams. I would appreciate any tips on what I can do to add a few more ponies to my daily driver.

-CP, via

Headers can offer a healthy bump of power to the 2JZ's power output, but they don't do a whole lot for the low end. Cams are something that will definitely take away some of the car's already somewhat limited low end. This could be improved with a proper factory ECU tuning solution if there was full ignition, fuel, and cam control, but unfortunately there aren't any true factory ECU tuning solutions for the IS300. Stand-alone ECUs are cost prohibitive and will likely ruin the car's driveability and fuel consumption too. You'll have to go back to something like the A'PEXi S-AFC Neo or the GReddy E-Manage. OBD-II cars of the IS' generation do not have wideband 02 sensors and therefore do not have restrictive control of air/fuel ratios and at wide-open throttle (WOT). With the older tuning devices, you can keep the short-term fuel trims reasonable where the IS300's air/fuel feedback occurs and minimize the long-term fuel trims that can affect the air/fuel ratio at WOT. There really isn't enough room to write a how-to article here, but if you know of a good tuner who is familiar with devices like the S-AFC Neo and E-Manage, is familiar with how the IS300 ECU works, and has a dyno, you can get some gains with headers, a high-flow cat (or delete), a set of smaller cams (stay away from high duration cams for a big car with a small engine), and an exhaust sprocket. I don't think bang for the buck is really going to be on your side for this route, but it can be done.

The other way is to just install a 75 hp nitrous kit and have some fun. It's a whole lot cheaper and you'll even smoke some tire, which is always a blast.

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