Time to Play!!

I have a week off work so I should have a week of quality wrench time with minimal interruption!

There has been little active progress with Buzz since my last update. I have also acquired a VW trike which has taken a good bit of my tinkering time. Of course, I am always looking at the trike and making plans to MegaSquirt it, too. LOTS of potential there. In fact, if I were so determined, I’m certain I could have it running well before Buzz, with only one semi-major purchase.

In any case, my plan is to see how close I can get to having Buzz running by the end of the week.

There is a long list of things to do. Some of it is parts fab and I imagine those things will take the biggest part of the time.

I need to get together a mounting plate for all the electrics. There will be relays, fuses, connectors, the controller itself and the EDIS module. I have ideas in my head; I’ll have to see if they will translate to reality.

Since I’m putting all this in the space where the airbox was, I also need a fender to keep dirt and perhaps more critically, water, out of the area. I would like to keep it as light as possible. Maybe I can use aluminum flashing. I once made a replacement fender for an RV using flashing and pop rivets, sealed with silicone.

Another kinda major fab I must do is the return line to the fuel tank. I think I will try to leave the stock petcock as is and add a fitting, perhaps sealed with epoxy. If I can satisfactorily make it safe to do so, I will braze the fitting in place instead. It will be much more secure.

I need to put an oxygen sensor in the exhaust. For the short term, I will use a narrow band sensor for cost reasons, but I hope to upgrade it. You can do so much more tuning if you know the exact O2 reading, as opposed to the go/no-go reading from the narrow band device. The wideband sensor could open the possibilities for running Buzz on alternate fuels, even propane. :)

The final big fab isn’t so much a big fab as a complex one. I can even skip it for a while if needed, but I need an ignition trigger wheel. I have in mind a pretty simple way to make one using my drill press and hand tools. It needs to be precise but not so precise that I can’t pull it off manually.

All I need after that is a longer throttle cable and to put all the stuff on the bike.

Well, for good results, the bike needs valves adjusted and oil changed and I’m sure the battery has gone bad in all these months of sitting idle.

For today, it looks like I might need to have plenty of MAPP for my torch.

Fuel pump mocked up and working

I won’t continue to bore you with the mundane delays in this project. I’m sure they do not make me unique! :)

In any case, I had a few minutes yesterday to connect the fuel pump on the bench, or the top of the trashcan, if the truth be known. I had a plastic can of what is technically old gas, but it was fine for this mockup. I had to prime the line by forcing some fuel into the intake, but once it was there, it worked great.

A long time burning question was how much current the pump would pull with the system under pressure. Looks like 3.46 amps, about 1/3 of what I feared, so I can go on with my electrical life.

Fuel pump work


As expected, using an internal fuel pump externally presented a little issue.

As can be seen (blurrily, sorry) here, there is an inlet at that would be the bottom of the pump. This inlet was originally connected to a screen and surrounded by what was basically steel wool, forming a simple fuel cell. I connected and clamped a length of 3/8″ fuel line with an inline filter to this inlet. It’s not a very long nipple, so I expected to need some way to stabilize the connection for installation, but for bench testing, this was ok. I connected the outlet to the regulator with 5/16″ fuel injection line and the relief port of the regulator to a length of 1/4″ line. The free ends of the 3/8″ and 1/4″ were plunked in a gas can. The plan was, apply power and if it works, it will build pressure, trip the regulator and all the relief will flow back into the can in a closed circuit. It took a bit of priming to get it lifting fuel out of the can, which won’t be an issue on the bike, and looking only at the two ends, the fuel flowed as expected!

All was not rosy, however… in this view, you can see a smaller hole, in the upper righthand area of the endpiece. This hole spews gasoline under pressure when the pump is running. In the in-tank installation, this would have simply flowed back into the sump in the tank where the pump was suspended. I suspect that it’s part of the cooling scheme for the pump motor.

I analyzed the circuit and I have decided that there is probably adequate flow through the pump and regulator and back to the tank to cool the pump internally, or at least I’m willing to try it. With the pump not submerged in fuel as well, it may well run warm. Gotta get it hooked up first to see….

I elected to raid the plumbing shelves again. I found a 1-1/2″ to 3/4″ copper reducer that fit nicely to the end of the pump. I drilled a hole in the side of the 3/4″ end and fitted a couple inches of 3/8″ tubing there and brazed it in place. To keep the overall length down, I avoided using a short length of pipe and a cap to plug the end and instead cut a flat disk of copper from another fitting and brazed it to the 3/4″ end. I also cut the larger diameter end shorter. The adapter fits pretty close to the pump intake. The assembly is attached to the pump with a neoprene sleeve and hose clamps, originally intended to joining cast iron sewer pipe :)

Tonight, I hope to connect the whole thing and let it circulate for a while, checking the temperature of the pump and perhaps of the fuel as well. I want to pick up a fuel pressure gauge, but they tend to be either too large, too low pressure range or both. Guess I’ll have to order one…

Throttle bodies mounted, albeit temporarily…

I didn’t have much time to work on Buzz over the weekend, but the time I had was at least visually exciting.

I hand fitted the intake flanges I made, which basically means that I made the mounting holes more like mounting ovals. It didn’t take much metal removal for them to fit. I don’t know if it will matter long term, but I stamped each one to match the cylinder I fitted it to. Likewise with the gaskets I cut for each, although the gaskets are much more forgiving. After cutting the gaskets, I applied a bit of high temp black silicone gasket compound (some Permatex product, forget the exact one. In reading the label, it looked like the right thing to use) and bolted them on. The stock bolts were too long since my intake flanges are markedly thinner than the stock part. I got new M6x16 socket head bolts with washers. I did not have the torque specs at hand, nor do I currently have the appropriate range torque wrench (assuming the torque spec is not in the tens of foot pounds) so I made them snug, but not tight, pending the application of the proper tool. Actually, now that I think about it, the factory torque spec is for a plastic and rubber part and is not really likely to apply to my metal part. Best guess, then. Tight enough to seal and tolerate vibration, but not enough to distort all the parts and strip the heads :)

With the intake flanges in place, I HAD to put the throttle bodies on, if only to photograph them. Sorry for the shaky cellphone picture. I took it at lunchtime today after wrestling with the good (perhaps only formerly good) camera for long enough to be late back to work.

I took pictures from both sides and from above.

You can see here that my fears about the throttle body assembly being too wide for the bike may not be unfounded. On the left, there is more room, but the stuff sticking out is moving stuff, namely the throttle pulley. Maybe worse is that the throttle cable will need to take a sharp 90 to tuck back under the tank.

I did not have time to put the seat on and sit to see exactly where these parts land, but I’m betting they are right next to the knees because that would be the least desirable place for them to happen to land. :D

On the right, it’s at least a stationary part. The larger piece more visible here is the stepper motor and position sensor for the subthrottles. I really wanted to leave them in place in the hopes that someone more brilliant than I is working on MegaSquirt code to support them. Afterall, Keihin and Kawasaki thought they would be handy. In any case, shoehorning the throttle body into my bike is arguably more important than keeping a feature I can’t support, so they may go.

While I’m removing the subthrottles, I’m going to see if I can move the pulley to the center of the assembly. This could possibly let me keep the existing throttle cable as well as clearing the moving parts off the lefthand side. The tricky bit of that process is that the left and right halves of the throttle body have an adjustable synchronizing link in the center. Not only is this link located where I would need to put the pulley, but the stock synchronizing procedure involves adjusting this link. Theoretically, I should be able to solidly connect the two and synchronize all four TBs with only pilot air screws. It may actually be simpler that way. The synch adjuster between the two halves may actually add a step to the synch process. Shrug. I’ll just have to look at it and see what I can do.

Pesky Plumbing; Awesome Opportunity


Finding the broken pipe under the house was not fun, but went pretty well, considering. Due to the age and extreme rustiness of the pipes back there, I elected to bypass the whole affair and repipe from the bathroom to the kitchen. Long story short, I (mostly) finished pretty late Sunday night. While it was cheapER to do the work myself, materials were not free. It was about a $400 weekend and all I have to show for it is hot showers. :)

Perhaps needless to say, there was no progress on Buzz.

Well, that’s really not true. A gentleman emailed me asking if I wanted sell my MS-II, which would help finance a MicroSquirt (which is perhaps obviously much better for a motorcycle) and the correspondence has revealed that he has a well equipped machine shop and it looks like he is going to make a nice 36-1 trigger wheel to my specs. How cool is that?!?

Other progress is more cerebral. Lots of discussion on the XJ-Owners list about alcohol as a fuel and it’s deleterious effects on many standard materials used in modern vehicles. I am still interested in at least *trying* Buzz on alcohol once he’s up and running on MS, but now it will be extremely experimental and I will not be leaving my tank full of alcohol for more than a day or two, tops. Seems that it promotes rust in steel, corrosion in aluminum and eats neoprene, all of which are along the fuel path on a modern bike. There is also reasonable evidence that it is not very successful in air cooled engines, and it seems to get much decent power out of it, I would need to raise the compression ratio of the engine. All in all, probably not worth it. Makes me appreciate what is required in a FlexFuel vehicle like my Dodge Ram.

I needed a door lock motor for the trunk on Toni’s trike and in acquiring same, I have now perused one of two wrecking yards that are literally on the road between work and home. I found a couple of 4 cylinder Fords with the coil packs I will need for the ignition system, $25 each. That’s a far cry from $60-80 for new, but then that’s for Accel or MSD coils, arguably better that stock coils. I will go down there at lunch one day soon and browse more slowly for a few specific things I need, such as the coil pack, a PWM idle solenoid and (if I get the Microsquirt) an external MAP sensor.

Beyond that, lots of rerereading the MegaManual, which comes highly recommended…

This Saturday is again spoken for, but I will see what the rest of the weekend brings…

Slow going; life intrudes


I finished and painted the intakes. I took pictures, but have not had a chance to post them yet.

My wife had been ill, then hospitalized with pneumonia. While she has been in there, I’ve spent a little garage time starting the installation of the alarm system for her trike. It was a slow starter, but a good half day and I’ll be done, other than finding a solenoid for the trunk latch.

Anyway, she’s coming home tonight and I’m leaving in a few minutes to go pick her up.

Unfortunately, I have also been Joe Plumber today, with no resolution in sight. A hot water pipe is burst somewhere, presumably under the house, but in a brief crawl under there, I found that the puddling I saw from the access hatch is from a *different* problem, a broken bathtub drain.

Saturday is well spoken for and even without the plumbing issues, the weather between now and Saturday would probably keep me out of the garage. See ya Sunday!

Sick Day Two


Even though I’m still pretty much in recovery from this cold thing, I went to work today. When I got in, I still felt good enough to work on intakes that never end. Except they did, they are finished. I filled in the gap on the flat sides with brazing rod then ground on one till it was too hot to comfortably hold, set it on the anvil to cool and ground on another. Cycling through them all in this manner, I got them flat within my desired specs then polished with emery cloth and a coat of paint on the surface that will be visible when they are installed. I still need gasket material and since my flange is quite a bit thinner than stock, I’ll end up needing shorter bolts than the stock 20mm long ones. Might was well make them stainless steel while I’m at it. :)

The EMachineShop software let me print out the wheel to scale. I cut it out and made sure it would fit. I also verified, very non-scientifically, that the existing sensors are indeed variable reluctance sensors, which greatly increases the chances that I should be able to use them with the EDIS module.

I think I may make at least one attempt to make a 36-1 trigger wheel before I order one. The signal is primarily used for clocking, firing a spark once every 17 or 18 pulses, accounting for the missing tooth, so I think that so long as the teeth are reasonably well spaced, the performance will not suffer. I’m more concerned with making it dynamically balanced for the 9000+ RPM redline.

What I have in mind is cutting a 3.2″ disk, rounded up in the drill press. Then glue the printout to the surface to use as a drilling and cutting guide, drilling the base of the teeth and using a jewelers saw and files to profile the them. Can’t hurt, right?

Otherwise, I don’t have an official checklist of things left to do, so I think I’d better start one…

Test fuel pump and regulator wet, note current draw.
Install fuel return in fuel tank.
Cut and install plate for mounting hardware.
Install the throttle body and fabricate mounting bracket.
Extend/replace throttle cable.
Weatherproof *or* repackage MegaSquirt.
Find suitable mounting locations for CLT and IAT sensor.
Devise suitable crankcase ventilation with airbox gone.
Find and acquire Ford coilpack and plug wires
Find and acquire a IAC solenoid. It could possibly operate the idle cam on the TB
O2 sensor (I’ve pretty much decided to forego it until I can get a wideband)

I’m sure there are plenty other bullet items and none of these include all the little stuff required for each item :)

Sick day


I was home today, sick with some sort of a cold. Late this afternoon, around 5PM, I felt like sitting up at the computer for a while and installed software from eMachineShop. I have to muck about in Windows running it, but the software itself is pretty well done.

EMachineShop is CAD software. You are limited pretty much by your imagination, but you can design any piece you need, in just about any material, made with just about any processes. The software analyzes your part(s) and gives you a quote, including shipping, for the parts. Obviously, the more complex (or exotic) the machining process and/or materials, the higher the cost. When you’re happy with it, click “Order” and your design goes to them and in a few weeks (21-25 days for my design) you get your parts at your door.

For my part, I need a 36-1 ignition trigger wheel. There are 4″ wheels available, but the maximum size to fit in my space is 3.2″.

It took a little bit to get the hang of the software. I needed an “array” command like AutoCAD, but I could not find one. It may be there under a different name. In any case, I drew a 3.2″ circle, a 3″ circle and a 2.8″ circle. Then I drew lines from the center of the circle to a point outside the 3.2″ circle, specifying the line’s angle in 5 degree increments. Using the intersection tool, I broke each of these elements into segments where they intersected and basically erased any line that wasn’t a 36-1 wheel. :) I have removed extra material opposite the missing tooth to keep the wheel balanced. As calculated, this deeper slot should actually be a teeny bit shy of balancing the wheel, meaning I can use a file to remove more material to balance it manually, plus it’s not really diametrically opposed to the missing tooth. Perhaps by the time I’m ready to order the work, I will remove two smaller notches on either side of the opposite tooth. [ed note: Later when the stock ignition rotor was removed, I noted that it’s hardly balanced at all. The two punched holes would probably need to be doubled to even come close to balance. Consequently, I think I worried too much about balance, but *my* trigger wheel is very close to balanced!]

The software lets you play around with which machines and materials to use. I need something ferrous for the sensor to work. Plasma cutting and laser cutting looked the most likely and laser turned out a little cheaper when cutting more than one.

1 laser cut wheel is $197, but 2 is $192 and 3 is $192.82. The price each keeps dropping as you add more units. For example, 10 units are $225, only $28 more than only 1.

Intake Fab, Cont.

It took a couple of days to do a good job of it, but I have the intakes nearly finished.

I rough cut the flanges one at a time with a sabre saw, then clamped them together and ground them to shape as a unit. I marked and drilled one plate, then clamped them together again to drill the mounting holes and a pilot hole for the center. I hole-sawed each center hole separately.

I was rolling along so well that I forgot to photograph the pipe cutting and brazing. The “before brazing” photos are actually of the prototype, which you may notice has the pipe off center and does not have the taper referred to next. Anyway, for the pipe, I had already cut a threaded end off, so I slightly tapered that end of the pipe and wire brushed the factory coating off. I used a standard plumbing-type pipe cutter and cut a segment about 1.2 inches long. This makes a rough and slightly distorted end, but it’s square to the end of the pipe. I cleaned up the cut edge on the grinder and set it aside.

I clamped the first flange and used a deburring tool to slowly increase the diameter of the center hole until it made an interference fit over the tapered end of the pipe segment. The flange was gently hammered all the way down to the non-tapered end of the pipe segment, making it as flush as possible to the end of the pipe.

I then put the assembly on a brick (I recommend a real fire brick for this; my brick will someday pop off shards of hot brick that will land either in my eye or on Toni’s trike. I think I’d prefer it land in my eye, for that would probably hurt me less.) and brazed the seam.

If you haven’t done brazing, it’s really just a solder that melts at red hot. It’s about as easy (to me, anyway) as electronic or even plumbing soldering and I find it much more forgiving to the novice than welding and is often more appropriate anyway. The joint almost always stronger than the materials being joined and the relatively low temperatures are less likely to alter the physical properties of the materials. It’s not appropriate for joining really big pieces, but it is good for joining dissimilar metals, like copper to steel, etc. Welding copper to steel is very difficult because copper melts away before steel reaches welding temperature. Enough about that…

My prototype intake was seriously flawed in two ways. Earlier I mentioned that the center hole was not indeed centered. It could theoretically affect the flow of fuel-air mixture, but the net effect would probably be pretty minimal anyway because we’re going from the throttle body into a short rubber reducer, the small end of which is clamped to the intake. The turbulence from a 1/16″ offset would probably not be noticed with all the other obstacles!

The other flaw on the prototype is that I attempted to use a standard air-MAPP torch for the brazing. It does get it hot enough, just barely, so it made a good seal and a mechanically sound joint, but it was lumpy. I think I could have suspended it on wire or some such and heated it uniformly enough with that torch to reflow the joint, but I was going to replace the unit it anyway. This time, I used a MAPP-oxygen torch, which gets way hotter. The result is that the piece heats up faster, flows the filler better and does it fast and efficiently enough that the brick isn’t heated all the way through in the process.

Then I did three more just like it.

The only flaw in the new ones is that the mounting holes ended up ever so slightly too close together, but at least all four are the same! I will slot them a bit and that should be that. What’s left is to surface grind/file/sand the flange face that mates with the engine, apply some black engine paint to hide my beautiful brazing and find gasket material to cut for them and they are ready to bolt on.

Intake fab

I am going to fabricate intake flanges, hopefully tonight. I picked up most of the hardware I will need at lunch today, namely some 2″ wide bar (I got 1/8″ thick, though I was hoping on 1/4″) and some 1″ pipe.

Each flange is basically going to be an appropriately shaped base, with mounting holes drilled in the wings and a large hole in the center. I will cut a short piece of the pipe, fit it to the hole and braze it in place. After grinding/filing/brushing them to finish, I will cut gaskets to fit and bolt them to the engine intakes.

I found neoprene plumbing reducers of a suitable size to interface between the intake flanges and the throttle bodies. They are only $4 each, as opposed to $12-$20 each for silicone. Assuming it all works, I will probably replace them with spiffy pretty silicone ones later, but these should do fine for getting Buzz running again. In either case, the rubbery reducers should allow enough flex to account for the spacing differences between the intake tracts and the throttle bodies.

I salvaged my fuel pump from an in-tank unit purchased on eBay. The in-tank design has pump, pressure regulator and surge tank (as well as fuel level sensing) in one simple unit, but the whole unit could never fit in the Maxim’s tank. I will have to plumb these pieces together externally. At this point, I have all the tubing I need for hooking up the fuel pump, but I’m short a T to connect the regulator. The regulator basically relieves overpressure by bypassing the excess back to the tank. I need to feed the output of the pump to the T, then connect one side to the throttle body and the other to the regulator. The regulator’s bypass port will be sent back to the tank, which will require adding a return path. I think I can use a weldless bung for that connection. If not, I will need to make the tank safe for brazing heat. This can be done by rinsing it with soapy water and once I’m ready to do that, I may as well apply some tank liner, too.

It looks like I will have to fabricate a trigger wheel for my EDIS ignition. There is a company in Britain that sells laser cut ones that would probably fit, but it gets expensive fast. Surely, there is a domestic manufacturer of such things? For a motorcycle, it needs to be a small unit, probably no more than 3″ or so. The smallest from DIYAutotune is 4″. Maybe I need to cut a deal with eMachineShop.

I need to stop for the T and some brazing rod on the way home tonight. I will also get a fire extinguisher or two, for beginning probably this weekend, I will be working with liquid fuel under pressure.