Trick or Treat

Yes, I know, I’ve been inexcusably absent from updating this site in the last five weeks. The drama of the last couple of drives really got me in a bad mood and working on the car was turning into a chore, not something that was fun.

Since my last update, I fought a good bit with the engine. I had done my first drive with the timing control disabled, so had taken on the task of getting the timing set up and tuned properly in the car.

Over the summer, when I had been fighting with getting the engine to start, I was told by Retrotek’s support guy to cut the timing control wire, and set the base timing. Once the base timing was set (where the engine was not advancing under load), I could deal with timing maps. This meant, however, the engine ran poorly above 2000 RPM. That first ill-fated drive was loud but slow as a result. A Civic could’ve taken me off the line… stock.

I found, however, when I reconnected the timing control that the engine would no longer run. This seemed strange to me, I had to rotate the distributor almost 30 degrees to get the engine to idle, which seemed counter to the “get the engine set up first, then hook back up the timing control” advice I’d gotten. However, once adjusted, the engine ran for the most part.

A quick 3 mile drive around the block, though, and as I was pulling back into my driveway, steam was pouring out of the engine block — the coolant appeared to have overheated and blown past a bad radiator cap rather than through the radiator, making a giant mess.  After that, I couldn’t even get the engine to run. It would think about it, but when the starter shut off, the engine actually tried to run backwards.

That was pretty much it for my motivation to work on the car. It was definitely the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. On top of that, because of issues with Windows 7 compatibility for the Retrotek tuning software, I couldn’t successfully get a copy of the flash memory off the ECU to e-mail them to look at.

Eventually I dragged a computer home from work and got a dump of the flash memory off there and sent it to the support guy I’ve been talking to lately — the previous one was gone from there.

Almost immediately I got an e-mail back that I, in fact, did not have a program for a TFI engine even if the filename and the previous support guy said I did. Included was a new program for the ECU.

This was last Monday, and after a long week of work travel, I got a chance today to upload the new flash to the ECU. Having learned my lesson about Windows 7, I used an old Windows XP virtual machine I had sitting around so I could successfully upload it to the car.

Once uploaded, I eyeballed the distributor back to where it used to be — I figured I could eyeball it close enough to get the engine to start. After disconnecting the timing control wire again, I figured the engine up.  That it did, although I had to wiggle the distributor a bit to get it to idle smoothly. Once running, I got a timing light on it and got the engine set to 0 degrees. This was different from the previous settings, but the tech told me the program he sent me was calibrated for an engine set to 0 degrees without timing control. The engine ran, if expectedly lumpy because of the timing. Once tightened down, I simply connected the control wire and the engine settled right down into a purr (in a roaring kind of way…)

A bit of idle tweaking and recalibration of the throttle and it was idling and revving like a champ.

I haven’t driven it again — and I’m not sure at this point that there isn’t still a cooling problem, but tomorrow I’ll take it for a ride around the block again and see what happens. Hopefully it’ll be running enough to get it down to Fortes and get the oil leak taken care of.

I’ll shoot some video of it tomorrow.