Sunday, April 27, 2008

I Still Remember My First Check Engine Light

Ah yes, it seems like only yesterday. We had just buttoned up the interior of the STI after the installation of our fancy electronic suspension, and we switched on the car to find...a dashboard full of warning lights! Specifically, the Check Engine light, and its friend the blinking cruise control light. (All late-model Subarus blink the cruise control lamp when the Check Engine light is on. I assume this is to make extra sure you don't drive around forever with the Check Engine light permanently lit. And the cruise control doesn't work when that light is flashing, either! Maybe they think THAT will give you the incentive to seek professional service help...)

Anyway, the car was throwing a bevy of diagnostic codes, including "Rear oxygen sensor signal low" and "Neutral position switch signal low" and something else about air/fuel. Clearing the codes resulted in them coming back on instantly upon starting the car, which is a sure sign of disconnected hardware. A once-over of the various wiring harnesses revealed no obvious plugs left hanging, though.

My next stop was to the excellent Subaru Technical Information System web site. There you can pay a small fee ($35 for 72 hours) and download shop manual PDF files to your heart's content, look at wiring diagrams, get detailed troubleshooting instructions, and more. I scarfed up pretty much the entire STI shop manual, plus the full set of wiring diagrams, and got to digging.

I'll post about the resolution to this problem next time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cusco E-Con

As I mentioned in a previous post, we installed the Cusco Zero-2E coilovers on the STI. The "E" in the name indicates that it's compatible with the Cusco E-Con control module, which gives you remote adjustment of the coilovers' five-way dampening.

Installation of the system is a little involved. There are four little motor modules which each sit atop their respective shock. Wiring leads to a junction box, and then a ribbon cable from that connects to the control unit. The only wires you actually have to attach to the car are power (constant and switched) and ground, but running all those wires to the four corners of the car took some time, plus the removal of a good portion of the interior. The innards of the '08 dash are pretty cramped. We decided to mount the control unit inside the center console. The junction box we hid where the rear cup holders used to live. (Sorry rear passengers, you'll have to stash your water bottles in the doors now.)

After everything was popped and bolted back together, I took the car for a spin and tried out the new remote adjusters. They work! It's pretty slick; you just push a button, and faint little clicks emit from each corner of the car. (LEDs blink on the E-Con display at the same time.) After a few seconds, the dampening changes, just as advertised. You can adjust front and rear independently, or you can link them.

As for the actual hardness of the different levels of initial impression is that "1" is great for daily use, and "2" through "5" should be labeled "kidney punch" through "liquefy internal organs." I think I'll be using the higher settings for motorsports only. But really, isn't that the whole idea behind one of these systems? Drive to work on Friday, drive to the autocross on Saturday, and switch settings without every having to turn a wrench. Neat.

Now to find the time to actually get this car on the track...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Red Tails

As I mentioned before, I really don't like the factory chrome tail lamps. I thought I'd cover them in red vinyl, but the contour is a little difficult -- thin vinyl tends to wrinkle if you try to curve it too much. There is thicker stuff, like "Rockblocker," but that can't wrap around the edges, so the clear will show through. That leaves painting. We took the lamps to our favorite body shop, and now they're nice and red. The car really looks different from the back.

For those of you who want to remove your tail lamps for whatever reason, here are some pointers on getting the center lamps (on the hatch) off the car:
  1. First, remove the interior hatch trim. Start at the top, by the hinges. Pop the four pieces loose. The bottom piece is pretty tight, but it will pop free.
  2. Remove the 8mm long nuts from the sides. Note that these have little teflon washers that are easy to lose.
  3. There's one last 8mm nut inside the hatch. Use a socket extension or 8mm nut driver to get to it.
  4. Once all the nuts are free, the lamp will still be tightly attached to the car. It's got a pop fastener that holds it in. We just pushed on that last stud (where the nut was) with the socket wrench, and the lamp popped loose.
While we were in there with the hatch trim apart, we swapped out the backup bulbs with LED replacements.