All posts by rad!

New Wiring Harness

For the past week I’ve been working on replacing my upper and lower wiring harnesses. While my original harness worked, there were a few items that I wanted to tidy up, and I always had a slight random hiccup with the vehicle. I could never determine if that was because of the AEM EMS not cooperating with my CAS wheel or if there was an electrical gremlin due to the hack job from an auto-5spd RB20 and then the RB25 swap.

I purchased a wiring harness with the ABS sub-harness and Auto->5spd from Wiring Specialties through RAW Brokerage. The harness arrived with an instruction manual, and it was super clean. All original plugs and wires, properly loomed, and basically ready to install.

They say this is a 15 minute job, and I think if you’ve done it a few times before then it quite possibly is a 15 minute job. My situation was a little different…

First I had to remove the original harness, which took longer than I had hoped, but that was simply because I was paying attention to where things were plugged in so that the install would be a bit easier. The original harness came off in about 30 minutes for me. pulling it through the firewall was surprisingly easy.

The new harness was a little more difficult. Various forums/posts on the internet suggest having two people work the harness plugs through the firewall and I can see why. That would have probably saved me 10-15 minutes easily because I had to keep going back and forth from under the dash to the engine bay to work the harness through. Where I started to run into trouble was matching up the plugs. Some of my OEM plugs have been removed, cut, spliced, changed, etc. and it wasn’t a direct fit. I expected this, and while I probably pestered RAW Brokerage, Wiring Specialties, and the various forums on the internet more than they would have liked, in the end we figured it out.



A quick list of my troubles:

  1. My OEM Oil Pressure Sensor used a different plug than the one provided. I probably don’t have the factory RB sensor. I just re-pinned the proper plug for the solution here.
  2. My ABS power plug was hidden in the wheel well and wasn’t where it should have been. It took me awhile to find this.
  3. My clutch switch (or Park/Neutral sensor)  was cut/removed and connected together so the vehicle would start after the auto to 5spd swap. I need to get a new plug for this to finish cleaning up.
  4. My S14 wiper amp is missing and I’ve been rolling with an R33 wiper amp for the past few years. I’m sourcing an S14 wiper amp just to be proper here.
  5. My fuel injectors are not OEM and I never knew that my injector subharness has been custom since day 1. The plugs didn’t match so I used my original harness here (It’s in fine shape).

Despite my few dilemmas here, the car is in surprisingly good shape having gone through 3 engines.


Here is the difference between my injector subharness plugs (Tomei plugs for Denso Injectors) and the OEM.

Wiring Specialties uses quality parts. Here is the main ECU plug.

New Harness

Old Harness

If you’re considering doing a swap and aren’t an electrical genius, do yourself a favor and buy the harness. You might also consider picking up a patch connector for the harness. It goes between the harness plug and the ECU (in my case the AEM EMS). You just find the wires you want to tap into and do it on the patch connector so you don’t damage your harness wiring in things like a boost solenoid or AFR sensor. It also lets you move your standalone a little further out of the way so it’s not right under your feet on the passenger side.


Calculating your actual gas mileage

One of the more common questions people ask when doing an engine swap or upgrading your turbo is “What kind of gas mileage do you get?”

Well, this answer is going to depending on a few things:

  1. How is the engine tuned? If you’re running pig rich then you’re going to get terrible gas mileage.
  2. How do you drive? If you’re constantly mashing the gas pedal and generating a lot of boost then you’re going to get terrible gas mileage.
  3. Are the fundamentals of your car set up properly (i.e. are your tires inflated to the correct psi?).

All of these things will contribute to your gas mileage. My recommendation is to do a controlled test that incorporates your typical driving habits so you can get a real, true answer as to how much gas mileage you’re getting.

This test is so ridiculously easy!

  1. On your next fill-up at the pump, reset your trip counter to zero. This test assumes that your trip counter is in working condition.
  2. Put a full tank of gas in the car.
  3. Drive your car as you normally would until you’re ready to fill up again.
  4. At your next fill-up, write down (or take a picture) of your trip counter and the number of gallons of gas you put into the car.
  5. Divide the trip counter by the gallons (use decimal points for accuracy).

The result is your actual miles per gallon.

Trip Counter
Gas Pump

Using my example above, I would take 230.1 / 13.699 = 16.796 miles per gallon.

My driving habits included a lot of rapid accelerating, some downtown driving, some highway driving. My AFR is typically 15 at cruising speeds to help. This low mpg is likely due to my own driving habits. When the weather is nice I drive the 240sx for fun, not for gas mileage.

Do this test yourself and see what kind of mileage you’re actually getting. You might be surprised.

*** EDIT ***

I did a more thorough test without hammering down and here are the results for casual driving: 17.9 mpg City and 22.1 mpg Highway. It’s not bad as long as you aren’t getting into the boost a lot.



New Additions to the Car

After many months off, the 240sx has been updated again. I installed new KW V3 coilovers, new Hawk HP+ brake pads, Tein Camber plates, and a GReddy front tower bar. It was all relatively easy to do and let me break in my new garage a bit. I had the car professionally aligned at the Winning Formula in Louisville, KY. The car has never handled so amazing. I can actually power through corners without oversteer. The car is almost ready for the track season. Next up on my list of upgrades are SPL front and rear LCA (when they are available), and a set of Nitto NT01 tires. Should be a fun year!

How to Tighten Nut on Camber Plates

When I was installing the KW V3 coilovers on the S14 240sx, I ran into a couple of minor roadblocks. The purpose of this post is to help other DIY folks out there avoid this problem.

  1. The KW V3 coilovers do not come with camber plates. They assume you will either provide your own or use the factory mounts. My factory mounts were long gone since I already had coilovers.
  2. Not all camber plates for an S14 are going to be the same. The inner diameter of the coilover shaft is different from a KW V3 when compared to a K-Sport, for example.
  3. Removing and installing camber plate nuts is not an easy task if you don’t know how it’s properly done.

So I removed the K-Sport coilovers (that was pretty easy because I had this handy write-up showing me step-by-step instructions), but then I realized I had no mounts or camber plates for the KW V3. Tangent – This was a nice time to do a brake pad swap, so I installed a new set of Hawk HP+ pads while the wheels were off. Ok, so the logical thing to do was try the K-Sport camber plates. Unfortunately, the front did not match up but the rear mounts did. Not all are created equal, remember? I came across a set of used front mounts that did the trick, but they had no camber adjustment. So I bought a set of DC camber plates that were supposed to be for factory struts, but those did not fit either. Grrrr….

Tein to the rescue. The Tein camber plates and mounting plates for the rear ARE designed to work with factory equipment. They look great, are easy to install, and are relatively affordable. If you are spending the money on a set of KW V3, you might as well get a proper camber adjustment.

That leads me to the tricky part – removing and installing the camber plate nuts that hold them to the coilovers.

DO NOT USE AN IMPACT WRENCH. You stand a good chance of spinning the piston in the damper, and this will potentially ruin the internals of your suspension. If you want a quick way to test, you can try to compress and expand your damper with the adjustments (compression and rebound) full open or closed. If you feel the difference (i.e. it’s harder to expand or compress when you make that adjustment), then the coilover is probably still ok. This is not a scientific approach, but it’s better to make sure you didn’t ruin them before you put them back on the car if you did use an impact wrench.

The proper way to do this is using a hex key and a box wrench for some setups. Other setups require like an 8mm socket and a box wrench. The Tein were a little different, but the same general concept worked.

This picture below illustrates how the hex key is used to stabilize the shaft while you use the box wrench to tighten the nut. If you don’t stabilize the shaft then it will spin freely (not good). Some people have used a strap wrench to hold the shaft. This did not work well for me because it slipped. I tried a strap wrench with a vice grip over the strap for protection and that had some success. The trick is to not damage, scar, or scratch the piston shaft of the coilover. If you have to grab it for whatever reason, do it at the top. Never grab it with anything towards the bottom or you will ruin your coilover.

Notice how the hex key we use in this scenario is different than the smaller hex key K-Sport provides to change the compression. The hole is larger in diameter for the larger key to hold the shaft, but it doesn’t extend deep enough into the internals. You don’t want to use that or you’ll damage your compression adjustment capabilities.

Now the KW V3 coilovers are different. You don’t have the hex key ability. You have to use a box wrench and an 8mm socket on the outside of the top. The tricky part is that some of the mounting brackets and/or camber plates are recessed, meaning that you can’t easily get a box wrench down in there to adjust the nut once you have it installed. I didn’t have a tool that would allow me to do this so I used a trick. I took a deep socket and I pushed an extension for the small 8mm socket through it. I grabbed the deep socket for the larger nut with some vice grips really tight. I then was able to tighten it down pretty easily.

Check your instructions for torque settings on this nut. It varies from manufacturer, but the KW were around 26lbs of torque (i.e. not very much). You don’t want them rattling loose, but you don’t tighten these like you do the rest of your suspension.

I hope this helps. The whole process is fairly easy. It took me a little bit longer my first time, but swapping the suspension on an S14 240sx is at most a 2hr job for me now (without a lift).

p.s. Once you do a suspension adjustment like this, you’ll want to make sure that you get a proper alignment. Anytime you change the ride height it’s a good idea to do that.

Mini-Update: Installing New Coilovers

It’s been a bit since my last update, but that’s largely because I bought a new house and moved. Now I have a four car garage that can technically hold 6 cars! I have plenty of room to work on the 240sx now. In the future I hope to install a hydraulic lift. We’ll see…

Last weekend I began installing the KW V3 coilovers on the S14. The process was fairly straightforward, thanks to numerous write-ups on the internet. Removing coilovers is a bit easier than removing the factory suspension since you don’t need a spring compressor tool to do it. However, I ran into one small problem. The KW v3 did not come with camber plates and I no longer have my factory Top Hats. After doing a bit of reading, it appears that the K-Sport coilovers I have now can be of some use. I can take the camber plates off of the K-Sports and put them on the KW. I will be doing this procedure over the weekend. Hopefully it works out!

Since I had the car jacked up and the front wheels off, I went ahead and replaced the brakes with some new Hawk HP Plus pads and changed out the oil for some new Royal Purple 10w30. I’ll be posting some photos of the coilovers as well. Stay tuned.

KW V3 Arrived

My new KW V3 coilovers arrived while I was out of town. I came home to a fancy box. Looking forward to unpacking and going through everything in preparation for a possible install as early as this weekend. Thanks to Dynosty for getting them here so quickly and at such a great price.


I’m purchasing a new set of KW V3 coilovers this week. This is going to be a nice upgrade from the K-Sport Kontrol coilovers. I will be posting a nice review of the new set, and snap a few pics of the installation as well for a simple write-up.

What’s an Oil Catch Can?

So now that you have a performance motor you’re hearing about Oil Catch Cans and probably wondering what this is all about? Or maybe you know what they are but you’re not sure how to hook it up? No worries. This is a pretty common question and an easy one to answer.

On a car straight from the factory, they tend to re-route a lot of plumbing for environmental purposes, but this is not always the most efficient thing for the performance of your car. One of the things they reroute is the breather hose from your crank case. Inside the engine gases and sometimes a little oil will blow past a piston into the head of the engine. If this was not ventilated in some fashion, there would be a lot of pressure with nowhere to go. That’s not good. The factory solution routes these hoses using a one-way check valve back into the intake of your engine. So you’re feeding dirty, warmer air back into the engine. To make matters worse, there could be some oil residue in there and that’s going to gunk up things.

The aftermarket solution is to route those breather hoses to a catch can. The can itself can then be routed back into the intake, to atmosphere, or to your exhaust pipe to be sucked out. In a perfect world, you want some vacuum on the breather hoses to pull air and oil blowby out of the crankcase. So if you use a catch can and re-route it to the intake or to the exhaust then you achieve this result. However, it’s completely fine to just run both breather hoses to a catch can and then put a little air filter on the catch can and vent to atmosphere.

Oh, and in case you didn’t figure it out yet – the catch can accumulates the oil so that it doesn’t go back into the intake.

So here is the catch (no pun intended), you want to make sure that if you do re-route the catch can in some fashion that you are using one way check valves and that your catch can is baffled so that oil doesn’t go out once it has gone in. And remember, you’ll need to periodically empty the catch can. Once a month is usually about right for most builds, and it won’t be full.

Simple Catch Can
Nylon Braided Breather Hoses

Track Days

If you really want to have fun in your car once your swap is completed, you need to do some track events. There are four types of events (that I’m aware of) for you to participate in:

  1. Autocross
  2. HPDE (High Performance Drivers Education) Track Days
  3. Drag Racing (at the track, not on public roads!)
  4. Drift Events

I’ve actually yet to do a proper drag racing event or a drift event, but I’ve done 3 years of autocross and HPDE events. I recommend starting with autox to get a good idea of how your car handles with the new power and balance. Then once you are comfortable you absolutely need to do an HPDE event. This was the most fun I’ve ever had with my car. My theory is, learn to handle your car, then handle it under speed. Now when you feel confident in your driving ability go do a drag event. That’s my plan at least. This way, if your car gets loose on the drag strip you have a better chance of bringing it under control instead of crashing into the walls.

If you haven’t checked out this site, go do it now. It will tell you about most of the track events in your area.

Trying to hit the Apexes at Putnam Park

The Right Turbo

Most of the manufacturers producing turbos do a pretty good job. Your choice of turbo should not be decided based on one manufacturer over another just because you like their brand or the name better. What really matters is which turbo is best suited for your engine. I’ll give you an example. When I first built my RB25DET I was using a Bullseye Power (Borg Warner) S362 Turbo with a .85 a/r. This same turbo was producing 650hp on a Toyota Supra, but it was maybe hitting 400hp on a good day. When the turbo seals blew I went with a .70 a/r and had a bit better spool but still only about 421hp. So I started looking at compressor maps a little more closely and with a little help from a friend and some additional reading I determined that a smaller turbo like a GTX3076R by Garrett would be better matched with the RB25DET engine based on the math. Sure enough, the planning paid off because I hit 534hp with a SMALLER turbo that was spooling quicker.

So the key here is that a bigger turbo does not always automatically mean more power. Yes, if I would have continued to push the limits of my Bullseye Power turbo with race fuel and tons of boost, it would eventually make more power than the smaller Garrett. But that is just not practical for a street/track car hybrid and that power is not in the usable RPM range.

Be smart when selecting your turbo.  I highly recommend reading this book and running the numbers yourself. Maximum Boost

GT35R Knockoff, GTX3076R, Bullseye S362