Friday, November 1, 2013

What is wrong with this picture?

So I received some 'interesting' news today from Ellis.
They had installed the new Transmission Cooler (woohoo!) and swapped out all the valvetrain bits.
The old lifters and old cam were banged up pretty bad which should've explained the knocking/tapping noises.. Only problem was... It didn't.. After Ellis got all the new stuff in there was STILL a instantly turned everything off, double checked everything.. nothing obvious.. F*CK! My reaction was basically like this..
What do you mean 'it still makes knocking noises'?!?!!!

So... How to move forward? I was frustrated beyond belief but I knew I couldn't drive around like this either.. They had pulled the pan and found some brass shavings in the oil-pan so I knew something somewhere was being chewed up, so I gave Ellis the go-ahead to just pull the whole engine out and figure out once-and-for-all where the hell this problem was coming from.

So after a few more weeks of waiting (Ellis apparently does have 'other' customers... probably ones that don't call him everyday asking how far along he is..) Ellis had some observations he shared..After some thinking on my end I suddenly had a light-bulb moment , and it wasn't a good one...

Now let's play: "What is wrong with this picture!" ...Here we go....let's compare the following:
LS Engine being bored/honed by a professional shop

My Engine being working on by "Bud's Machine Shop"

And let's look at another couple of pictures..
Again some other shoping working on an engine
And Again (this time for apparently a Honda engine)

And again...a Pro-Shop doing work..

Now let's take a look at yet another picture of my engine being worked on..
My engine being bored/honed by "Bud's Machine Shop"
Now.. Notice anything different between these pictures? (besides the fact they didn't use a fancy CNC machine on mine..) anyone? NO PLATES! what Ellis had found was basically a not-so-nice egg-shaped/out-of-round,and most likely over-bored way too much for the pistons(only 4.005"s), Cylinder #1 (and others were almost as bad) with really weird wear/uneven patterns.. I'd like to compare those to ones I found in an interesting manual (see link below) just for my personal understanding, but from I've gathered so far: Especially on Aluminum LS Engines you basically NEED to install deckplates when honing etc to ensure a solid round. This would mimic having the heads installed which can cause some 'cylinder bore distortion'. I have a link to an interesting read on this at the end. But apparently as shown by the photos, the machine shop never bothered to do this...

So in the end - the same shop that caused my spun cam bearings did a crap job on the actual boring etc, so much so that I was basically having continual MAJOR piston slap.. Now looking back it all makes sense - how my knocking would be way worse when cold and just damn annoying when hot, how my car was always so much louder than anyone elses etc etc.. so once again.. thanks for nothing there Machine Shop!

So with the rotating assembly and block damaged - The labor & machining cost to fix it yet again it would be insane for an engine where I've had nothing but trouble with so I'm not sure how to move forward.. 3 options seem possible

a) Ditch the car - without an engine...
b) FIX the current engine (which obviously has been cursed or something)
c) Get a NEW shortblock..

I'm seriously considering A if I can get my payoff amount covered, but based on a quick look at what people are asking/getting for their G8s that does NOT look good..

Anyway...As mentioned: Some interesting reading for those who are looking for some night-time reading

Cylinder Bore Distortion:

Piston Damage:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

IQ Radio Custom Startup Animation

So after my previous posts where I can now do Custom boot logos on the Pontiac G8 / Holden VE Radio and made some programmers for a few select friends so they can do the same, it was time to move back to the bigger & better IQ Radio. While I had the basics down of the 'wallpaper', the boot anim was still not supported.

I had some downtime and with some friendly prodding from some Australian people (hey Jezzab ! ;) ) I figured I better get off my ass and do something about it. I won't go into technical details, but basically I had been able to extract the boot logo animation frames, but I not been able to successfully inject a new animation back in. After a few test runs where Jezzab was gracious enough to try reflashing his IQ unit in his car and ending up with a non-functioning radio, I finally reversed the missing piece of information and was able to deliver not only a proof of concept, but actually finished a nice clean software tool to do the job for me (well.. for whoever would be selling these things)..

Here's the POC logo anim I made for Jezzab's Business.. Nothing fancy, but it shows it works!
Now I just need to get working on full-blown theming and you'll be able to have a completely custom UI in your IQ Radio!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Dropped off car for Lifter Tick Repair

Small Update on my car - Ever since Ellis from Speed Secrets looked at my car last January we figured we had some lifter tick.. not super bad, but still annoying.. Over time I collected the parts needed to fix this problem and I finally got to drop my car off so Ellis could work on it.

The plan so far is to go with the following parts for a full 'valve-train refresh':

  • Lunati 72332-16 Lifters
  • Head Gaskets
  • New Patrick G / EPS CamShaft
  • New Pushrods 
  • Melling Oil Pump 10296 
  • Dual Valve Spring Kit from Livernois Motorsports

Since Ellis is a busy guy and I'm in no real rush ( just want it done right) I figure this will take a couple of weeks for him to dig in there and inspect everything.

Also I'm hoping he can install the GXP Transcooler I've had for ages, and put in my new Pedders Springs since the old ones have seen better days..

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Radio Logos - Part IV

So after playing with these Radio logos for a while I figured I'd see if I could get a more detailed animation in there. Most the stock logos are fairly simple: A static logo that fades to black. In my last post about this the new ones I made were done in a similar way, but with a little bit fancier fades.

This time I figured I'd try to make a few more intricate ones that would be 'full screen'  animations. Obviously trying to cram this in the same amount of space would be a challenge, especially with the limitations on the number of frames, colors, resolution, memory etc, but I managed to work around that. Even then it was a tight squeeze requiring quite a bit of manipulation to get it to fit.

So here's some more samples of what can be done.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Radio Logos - Part III (Custom G8/Holden Radio Logos)

After some fun with the new IQ Radio I figured it was time to get back to those decoded Series 1 Radio images I had been sitting on for way too long. With some more digging and experimenting we (the lovely people on CarModder) figured out yet another way to get custom boot images on the radio, which for testing purposes worked out nicely.

So what does that let us do: Totally Custom Radio Boot Logos! That's right - you can have a completely custom animation play when your radio powers up / down. It doesn't even need to be a simple fade, but can be something fancier.

Now to clarify: this is NOT what other places are selling when they let you pick supposedly 'custom' logos. These radios are shared amongst different Holden Cars, Vauxhall, and of course Chevy and Pontiac. So stock from the factory these radios come with 6 logos already pre-programmed as shown here. They let you pick one of those 6 images- Sorry, but changing 1 factory setting for another factory setting is hardly what I call 'custom' (or let alone 'hacking the radio'...*insert big eye roll here*). I can do the same change (including the blue text etc) with my basic ELM329 cable...

No, what we can now do is put ANY suitable image/animation on there! If you wanted Spongebob popping up on your screen, you can. If you wanted a picture of your family, you can. If you want a screen that shows some photos of your car, you can. Some Custom pontiac / G8 Logo? you can. Unicorns, flying cats shooting laserbeams? Doable etc etc. If you can think it - it's possible! (keeping in mind animation length/size constraints).

Here are some basic samples:



In-car reprogramming has also been proven possible, so this will allow us to do all this over the OBD port instead of having to take out the radio.

Good stuff!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

G8 #470 got into an accident...

Well.. my car got hit by a pickup tonight in the drivers side... Don't feel like discussing much more about it, but obviously NOT happy.. :( I may update this post in the future with some pictures etc, but at this point I'm guessing new doors are needed..

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

5 years of G8 ownership

Wow, today marks already 5 years of G8 ownership for me. The last year has been relatively quiet - not including the noises my engine has been making. As noted I'm having some major lifter tick and am in the process of getting the parts together to remedy this hopefully this summer.

Any other mods to the car have been low priority really.. All the little things are done, and any projects remaining on the wishlist are big $$ items, which quite likely will never happen. Stuff like the 'hybrid' VE/G8 bumper I've actually put on hold and I will sell the red VE bumper & parts to someone who wants to perhaps restore it (it's a damaged take-off since I figured I was going to cut it up anyway). (Offers welcome! ). The 'other' part I'm getting more into now is actual Radio Reprogramming etc (or 'hacking' as some people call it, but to me that just sounds too juvenile...) so that's fun to play around with.

My car has not seen many miles lately since getting a different job that's closer to home, mostly citing driving with a whoppin' 8-9 MPG on average, so I'm only around 48k miles, which in my opinion is not that bad for a 5 year old car. I can't remember how many miles of that has been on the rebuild though but probably less than half of that.

Really what I'm looking forward to most is just having my engine fixed once and for all, and just taking better care of my car. There may be an IQ-Radio upgrade in the near future as well but we'll see about that.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Oh what fun, it is to play, with an IQ Radio... (Radio Logos Part II)

Christmas Songs in March? Well it's festive, and I'm in a festive mood after hitting a major milestone! Let me explain:

So as you may remember I had decoded the Series 1 Radio images , as used on the Pontiac G8, a (long) while ago back in 2011 and even got to the point of injecting new images. However at that point I was doing a favor for someone else and they never took it anywhere. That frustrated me quite a bit a to be honest, so when I recently had the opportunity to work with some guys over on CarModder to pursue a similar project but with the IQ Radio System (found in the Holden VE E2/E3 cars)  I really wanted to make sure that it was something that would lead to a feasible end product. After a decent amount of testing it appeared that YES this could be done!

These IQ Radios are definitely different 'enough' from the original S1 radios we have here in the States. Higher resolution screen, more colors, better UI (Red or Blue depending on platform), Wallpaper, Touch screen, larger Boot Animation, different processor architecture etc. etc, So any of my previous work was basically useless and I had to start from scratch. (on a side note - I'm planning on doing a conversion to an IQ Unit in the near future...)

First off was finding what kind of graphics were in there.. It really didn't take me that long to find a bunch of interesting image data, but some of the encoding proved to a bit a stubborn. After quite a few baby steps though I was able to see all the graphics they had stored in there. Here are just a few of them.

Blue Wallpaper - Red one used in GTS

Partial graphic of Backup Sensor Screen

Oh look it's a Wagon!

Partial Frame of Chevy Boot Animation

Frame of Holden Boot Animation
So... now that I was able to read this stuff out, how about sticking something new back in? Well that proved to be a little bit harder since there were a few limitations on the data encoding that weren't obvious from the extraction. Attempt after attempt were made to write the data back, yet somehow the image would always come out looking weird or messed up. Finally this last weekend after attempt.. oh.. probably 30-something, I found the proverbial 'last piece of the puzzle' and we were able to successfully upload a custom wallpaper! And that is WITHOUT taking the radio out of the car :)


A Million Thanks go out to the guys @ CarModder, especially Jezzab, for helping me test this stuff. This is naturally only 'Step A' in our diabolical ehmm i mean great plan. Hopefully more interesting things will soon follow .. Maybe now I'll finally be able to get back to implementing custom boot logo's on those S1 radios for the G8 folks... Just have to find the time!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Edelbrock E-Force Superchargers

As discussed in this old post, the Edelbrock E-Force superchargers, while being sold down-under , never were readily available for platforms like the G8. The issue was the pulley offset / placement between the then available Corvette or Camaro versions of their system.

Now they have several universal kits available that actually will fit the G8 as well. This is great news for those wanting a different offering than the usual ProCharger or MagnaCharger setups. I personally really like the sleek look of these superchargers...

As you can tell from the listed table, they have quite a few options available:

Applications With Tuner Without Tuner
Universal Supercharger System for GM LS2 Engine Swaps, LS2 Style Heads, Corvette Belt Offset - 15440*
Universal Supercharger System for GM LS2 Engine Swaps, LS2 Style Heads, Truck Belt Offset (88mm TB) - 15480*
Universal Supercharger System for GM LS2 Engine Swaps, LS2 Style Heads, Gen IV (1998-02) Camaro / GTO Belt Offset - 15470*
Universal Supercharger System for GM LS3 Engine Swaps with LS3/L92 Heads, Corvette Belt Offset 1540* 15400*
Universal Supercharger System for GM LS3 Engine Swaps with LS3/L92 Heads, Gen V (2010-12) Camaro Belt Offset - 15410*
Universal Supercharger System for GM LS3 Engine Swaps with LS3/L92 Heads, Gen IV (1998-02) Camaro / GTO Belt Offset - 15420*
Universal Supercharger System for GM LS3 Engine Swaps, LS3 Style Heads, Truck Belt Offset (88mm TB) - 15430*
Universal Supercharger System for GM LS7 Engine Swaps, LS7 Style Heads, Corvette Belt Offset - 15490*
Technical Note regarding #1540: Comes complete with a preprogrammed tuning module, configured specifically for stock LS3 engines, utilizing the GM Performance Parts LS3 controller kit, P/N: 19201861. Non stock LS3 configurations, such as upgraded camshafts, etc. will require custom tuning.

For more information see their site:

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fixing the Lifter Problem

So I'm slowly building up my parts supply to fix the Lifter Tick problem I've been having. Apparently I've been having it for a LONG time because even last summer I was complaining about my noises. I'm gettting (or have) the following parts for this fix:

Lunati 72332-16 Lifters
I definitely wanted a linkbar setup and do away with the plastic trays. That basically left Morel and Lunati (both made by Morel anyway IIRC) so I decided to get the Lunati 72332-16 Link bar Lifters from Greg @ PacePerformance. I don't spin my car super-high, don't drag race, so these 'street' version lifters are just right for me.

8x2 come in a set for 16 lifters total

Head Gaskets
Obviously since we'd be pulling the heads I would have to replace the head gaskets, so a couple of those were added as well.

Now with the link-bar lifters the word on the street is that the 'cup' inside the lifter sits a bit higher and that would result in a slightly shorter pushrod. I was running 7.425" pushrods, but a 'guess' on my end leads me to believe I may need to switch to 7.375" instead. However, Instead of ordering these already I'll let Ellis actually measure first and figure out exactly what length I need.
Length to be decided upon

Now based on what most other people have described with lifter issues, it usually chews up their Camshaft pretty bad (though for a lot of these folks the lifter actually SPUN sideways and has been scraping - mine, as far as we know , is still oriented correctly, but just tapping up a frenzy..).  So I may end up needing to replace the camshaft too..I'm considering just getting a new one so that we don't pull it out hoping it's still good and then find out I need a new one anyway which would mean a few weeks of downtime..

I talked to Patrick G and he mentioned some new kind of lobe profile that EPS has available, so I'm very tempted to try out one these Cams.. Only thing is these cams have WAY more lift , apparently I'd be going up to a .629" (but apparently that's not an issue even with my beehive springs.....) so we'll see..

Thursday, January 31, 2013

And the verdict is in...

So I finally had the time to take in my car and have it looked over to see where the heck this noise is coming from. I went back to Ellis over @ Speed Secrets - He had done my rebuild on the stroker so he knew most about my car.

Based on some recent events I feel I need to at least mention the following:

Recently there has been a G8 whose engine went *boom* that was worked on by Ellis. This is most unfortunate and I totally sympathize with the person since I went through a similar situation. It sucks ass when it happens!

In relation to the work Ellis does, I did switch from Ellis's Tune to a Patrick G tune (that guy is AMAZING, even remotely- Then again, not a real shock since most people from Texas seem to be ;) ) for some idle- and other issues that Ellis couldn't get rid off. Patrick confirmed the tune was very conservative though and not running Lean or anything. If anything it was more on the rich side which seems to be common for most, if not all, of Ellis's Tunes.

Mechanically, I'm very confident in Ellis's skills, and have no issues with him working on my car since he was the one who not only found the issue with my engine first time around it spun the cam bearings, but also fixed it. It's a bit of a drive, especially to his new location, but he's always fair and reasonable cost wise versus some of the other shops I've dealt with in the past who will charge you double or triple already high 'hourly' rates just because a second guy had to hold a wrench for a few minutes...

First thing we did was look under the car and at least do a visual inspection of the flexplate. Several people had theirs cracked and when the converter bolts back out, you can get a similar loud noise. Those all checked out OK.
After going over the engine from below with a stethoscope, we move to the top and rest of the engine bay. As I had already noticed the noises were the loudest not on the valve covers, but on the front of the engine/waterpump area. We tested the accessory pulleys etc but they weren't the culprits either.

Next the valve covers came off, where an initial inspection did not show anything wrong. Ellis then hooked up some coil packs with some extra long wires, and with some cardboard covers let the engine run to really listen & see what the engine was doing. Wasn't long before he found a collapsed exhaust lifter on the #1 cylinder...

Just what I didn't want it to be....
So it seems like I'll be needing to rip into my engine again here pretty soon and swap out all the lifters. I'm thinking some kind of link-bar setup since these GM Lifters seem to fail a little too frequently.