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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Why post this?

I’m posting this for a few reasons. First, my journey has been a pain in the butt and I wish this post existed for me to read on day one. Maybe it will help someone else. Second, a friend said if I wanted advice on my application, put my application out there and see if some like minded people or salty veterans will come along and shine some light on it. And finally, this journey has been a lonely one and maybe somebody else out there will read it and realize they aren’t alone. I’m a newb, but I’ll always share the little I have learned through hard knocks and don’t mind being corrected along the way.

Current Specs (Cheat Sheet):
Car: 2006 Civic Si Coupe (Canadian FG2)
Intake: Injen Cold Air Intake
Tuner: Hondata FlashPro with VitViper Maps
Clutch: Exedy stage 1 HD clutch
Coilovers: BC Racing BR, 8K front 10K rear, front camber plates and rear damper extensions
Front Camber Bolts: SPC on top holes only
Rear Camber Arms: SPC
Wheels: 9th gen civic OEM 17”
Spacers: H&R TRAK 25mm on front wheels only
Brakes: Brembo TLS DIY BBK w/ TLS BMC, OEM reman rear calipers, StopTech cryo treated slotted rotors (S2000 on front), StopTech pads and StopTech SS lines.
Tires: Toyo Proxy 4+ 215/45/17
Alignment: -2.0 camber front, 0 toe front, -2.0 camber rear, 0.05-0.1 toe per side rear (crappy alignment machine)
Tire Pressure: 34 psi front, 30 psi rear
Dampening Clicks: 14 from hard on front, 18 from hard on rear
ICE: Android phone for gauges via ODB2 on FlashPro running RealDash app, Nexus 7 Tablet mounted from CD slot running Car Home Ultimate app, Android dual camera rearview mirror and a generic GoPro knockoff.

The Newb and The Road:

So I guess I should start this with the truth. I’m a newb but I learn really fast. My friends say I’m not one but I only have a couple years experience. I am not a car enthusiast. Well, I wasn’t. I don’t have a lifetime or even a partial one worth of experience and never owned a car that wasn’t practical. Driving just to drive wasn’t a thing for me. Cars and mechanics run in my family but I’m a tech nerd. Not a fix your printer nerd but a design, deploy and develop large infrastructure systems nerd. Soldering, tools, basic fabrication, construction, electronics, software and other skills are things I have spent a lifetime learning. Cars seemed intimidating and somehow more complicated than the infrastructure of a corporation. But that couldn’t be the case right? I guess it is in a way depending how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. Suspension, engine, chassis tuning, etc. It’s endless like the ocean and I know that now.

My career led me to a job that had an insane commute. I knew the road, all the locals respected it and some even feared it. It scared the hell out of me. I had heard the stories and had seen some of the wrecks. It’s a redwood and ferns road with a mountain run at each end. It runs from the inland mountains all the way to the ocean. You probably saw it’s sister road at the end of Need for Speed the live action movie. This is the one they wouldn’t be stupid enough to run those super cars on. Maybe on a lunch I’ll take a selfie next to the lighthouse. The road is always under construction, mountain slides take out whole lanes or scatter softball and basketball sized sharp rocks all over the road and is beat on daily by logging trucks and 18 wheelers. Leaves, mud and dirt are common and spent flares litter the roadside daily in winter and pretty regular even in Summer.

In the beginning I was driving an ‘08 Ford Ranger 4.0l. I had the brakes redone, new tires and Bilstein shocks put on. Then I added a contractor camper shell with an inverter and lighting system myself. It was fun learning the basics of the truck’s electronics. But that’s where the fun ended. That “practical” piece of crap wanted me dead and the gas mileage was terrible. Fishtailing constantly when it was wet and hell even once in awhile when it was dry. I wasn’t on a damn ranch, I was on a mountain highway. Something had to change. Learning to countersteer for the first time in a truck wasn’t how I imagined my daily commute. All my research said that no matter how much money I spent on the truck it would never handle like I needed. It was the wrong platform. So I decided to find a new platform. Hell if was going to survive both lanes every day I had no choice.

Half my family is gear heads or car dealers. Grandpa shoved a Ford van engine into a VW and raced it, youngest uncle machined blocks and the others sold cars or owned dealerships. Most of them are dead or live far away. So I’ve got the DNA but I’m on my own. My first car experience was at 14 being handed the keys to a Subaru Brat MT, given a 5 minute tutorial and put to work on a ranch so maybe that gave me an early love of JDM as well. Grandpa used to talk about old VWs and how easy they were to work on, mod and aftermarket parts were cheap and everywhere. I had seen modded JDM performance cars growing up in the 80’s and 90’s and always admired them and wanted one. So Grandpa what’s the VW of today? He would probably say “We’ll my boy, it’s Honda.” and explain the story of the first Honda motorcycle.

Something happened to me driving on that road everyday. It changed me. Maybe some latent DNA awoke because now I have the same sickness as all of you. I love cars, hell, all cars. I stay up all night and study how to make my FG2 act the way I want it to. My ride only goes to a mechanic when I fail or don’t have the equipment and then I tip them and ask where I failed. I imagine all the parts working while I drive. I'm broke every month from buying tools and parts. I learned rice is bad but function over form is king. “Get off my bumper quick releases, I have a CAI. If I’m rice I would tear that monster power drink sticker off your lifted truck and put it on my windshield.” It consumes all my spare time and makes me write stuff like this. I have the car lover disease now. Working on it isn’t all that much fun, it takes so long but I need the results. I know in my head what I need but 5 minutes turns into 4 hours when the wrench is in my hand. It’s really about driving. No, I won’t lie. It’s about spirited driving. That sound, the cornering force, the neck snap. I’m pretty sure it’s the root of my disease but the tuning part and researching upgrades keeps the systems engineer part of me sated as well. It all goes together like the rehearsal of a loud and precise incredibly fast dance.


The Ugly Duckling, the Japanese Word and The Cartoon That Nobody Told Me About:

So after I caught Honda’itus I realized I didn’t fit in anywhere. I had hand me down 9th gen rims and I wasn’t the lowest, illest, most hated, dapper and definitely not blessed . I didn’t drag race or have forced induction. I sure as hell didn’t drift except the for the rare snap oversteer correction. The car was not “clean” except under the hood. I hadn’t done autoX but I imagine it’s great way to learn the car. I had never set foot on a track or course. My car was so function over form that I didn’t dare try to go to a Honda meet. I searched mountain driving, canyon racing and others on the internet. None of the videos looked like where and how I drove. Then on a forum post I saw the word “Touge”. It didn't grab my attention at first. Then I kept seeing the word while I researched certain things like suspension tuning and BBKs. So I punched it into youtube. It was the mountain roads of Japan and they were racing! Not drifting like the movies but actually racing. They called the racing style “Initial D”.

I leaned back in my chair and watched hours and hours of it, pausing when they showed the cars and how they were modified and tuned. I knew I couldn’t be alone, there’s billions of people and millions of car enthusiasts all over the world. So there it was. I had a name for myself and I knew what I was becoming. A budding Touge driver. Now remember this wasn’t something I picked, it was something that I was forced into if I wanted this job. Sure I could have bought a Prius and woke up at 4:30am instead 5am, but something in my DNA wouldn’t let me do that. The road had emotionally affected me and I was hell bent on mastering it and my fear of it.

So I did a ton of more research using the word “Touge” and found even more useful information for my FG2 and the way I drive. I also found out that using the word brings hate, lols and ignorance even more than “rice” in most Honda communities. This made no sense to me. Wasn’t Japanese mountain driving the heritage of all this? I guess it’s fairly rare and gets a bad rap from young kids driving off cliffs. Still not sure about this mindset. Touge driving almost seems like the peak of tuning and balancing of the car and the driver. The video that affected me the most was of a Toyota Corolla AE86 beating a Nissan GT-R on a downhill run. I’m guessing you all know the one. It opened my eyes to the fact that where I was driving, power means very little and heavy cars were at a disadvantage. Something stuck with me about that video. So I began to watch videos of the AE86 and tried to understand why it had a “magical” chassis.

A few weeks ago I searched for “Initial D AE86” and an Anime cartoon came up called “Initial D”. I’m guessing if you’re still reading this you know about that cartoon. I however did not. I don’t watch anime any more but I had to watch this. It was a story about a kid who knew nothing about cars and had to drive a mountain pass to deliver tofu everyday for his dad. He had a natural ability and lots of practice but was completely ignorant about all things car related. I watched about a dozen episodes over the next few weeks. It made me get misty eyed and angry at the same. I realized that I had come a long way in a short amount of time and what I was trying to accomplish was easy compared to this fantasy cartoon or the racing I had been watching. How had I not know about all of this? Why didn’t the car side of my family tell me about these things and how did none of my 4 car friends know about ANY of this? Maybe I’m not alone, but I have met only two people on the internet so far that do what I have to do everyday. At least now I know that I’m not just an ugly duckling and may even evolve into something beautiful and that there are others out there too.

The New Platform:

So looking for a Honda that fit my needs and my wallet was a several month adventure. At first I wanted a WRX STi or an Evo but those were out of my price range. I knew even if I could pony up enough cash to get one that I would be doomed on the upgrades budget. My childhood idol car was the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 but even though I could afford it, it seemed prone to problems and too complicated for a newb like me to work on. It had to be a Honda. It just made sense. NSX was a myth and an S2000 was too expensive. Also, an old guy who knows a lot said that for those mountains and weather, front wheel drive would be useful. Wasn’t the way to make power but he knew that’s not what I was looking for anyway. Something about the good old B series cars that I grew up seeing just didn’t seem like what I needed. Not enough power, ECU was dated and nearly anything that old had been beaten to near death by some previous Honda lover. That’s when I came across the Si model. It seemed like what I needed. There was lots of talk about how the 8th generation had something that was engineered out of the 9th generation models. I still don’t know if this is true but the 8th gen does have something that feels a bit old and raw. Maybe it has a little magic left in it from the old 80’s-90’s days of engineering. So it took forever, every time I found one on Craig’s List for $5K it vanished the next day. It kind of made me suspicious that I may be onto something. Anyways I found one about 5 hours away. One out of my 4 car friends is a guy we call ‘Mater because he has a car trailer and enjoys towing for people, sometimes even just for fun. So after a short adventure down south, I was the proud owner of a 2006 Honda Civic Si Coupe (Canadian FG2).

After some maintenance and cheap eBay upgrades I was on the road to work. It felt incredible. I had never owned a sports car. The stock rear camber arms didn’t have the “C” stamp and was at -2.25 degrees and the front was at zero. The tires were shot and one was balder than the rest. But this thing felt a hundred times safer and more responsive than that damn truck. No fishtailing, almost zero tire squeals, it just hugged the road and did what I told it to do. The VTEC, damn that sound is addicting! Low gear VTEC got me up the mountain quickly and confidently. I was gearing down before the corners and after a week I never wanted to drive anything that wasn’t a 6-speed manual. This was definitely the platform I needed. I would be able to make it safely to work even in the massive winter storms and maybe even enjoy it.

So after installing my Injen CAI (yeah yeah, but it’s CARB) and getting my first couple of tunes from Vit that one bald tire got a screw stuck in it and made a hole. Looking back that may have been divine intervention. So I bought a used tire from a local shop that was “almost the right size” and began to limp my way back across the mountain road home. I made the mistake of accidentally hitting VTEC in the lower gears and the addiction kicked in and I totally forgot I was trying to limp home to get proper tires. Well, on the first ¼ of the mountain climb I hit some cracks in the road on a corner and started to spin. I hadn’t had a chance to learn to snap oversteer correct in this car and I did it successfully but was pointed the wrong way. Basically it took an extra second to remember to accelerate instead of brake. Once the car was neutral I slammed the brakes and even pulled the parking brake. I safely skidded into a dirt turnout and the truck that was behind me slowed down and gave me the thumbs up before continuing on. Damn bro, thanks for stopping lol. I sat there for a minute taking it all in. Not a scratch on the car or me. This had happened in the truck too. Sure maybe it was partially the cars, but the real truth was, it had to be the driver. I had been driving vehicles that weren’t setup to do what I wanted and I was being stubborn. I could have driven that truck much slower and I could have limped the FG2 home at 35 mph. I’m actually a very courteous driver and try to be safety conscious . I used to pull over in the truck to let people pass me on the single lane half a dozen times during my daily commute. But it made me realize, there is a certain way that I want to drive that mountain and the vehicle needs to be set up for it. But at the same time, a good driver would adapt to the car. I had to find a balance. That realization is pretty much how the car completely took me over and this new disease set in permanently.


Tuning and Power:

So during my daily routine on the mountain I noticed something about powerful cars. They were all going slower than me. These big great american muscle cars were limping the whole way and had to pull over to let others by and to save a little face. They were braking way too much before the corners and even braking in the apex of the turns. There is a WRX STi driver that has the same schedule as me going the opposite way and I noticed he wasn’t any faster in the Summer. It made me start thinking about how much power I actually needed. I will admit that I was passed and completely dusted by a Mazda Miata (no idea what model, I don’t know Mazdas) and so I went home and looked them up. They don’t have much power at all. This was all before I learned about the word Touge and the magic of an AE86. But I did know I wanted a little more power for climbing up the mountain and exiting the turns faster.

I’m not a real Touge driver and I’m not a drifter. I slow down before the turns and need to get back up to speed on the exit. My research said I needed a better intake before I could tune it and that cold air intakes make more power. This was a naturally chilly road so I was betting it would pay off. Then after reading “I wish I would have bought a Hondata Flash Pro before anything else” threads a hundred times, I did just that. I bought a Flash Pro from Vit with the complete Ultimate Tuning package. After installing the CAI and before Vit tuned the car it felt like crap at low speeds and it was embarrassing as the car tried to pout out as “here comes rookie ricer” into the grocery store parking lot. I used a base map and did a little modification and it felt great again. Then after Vit got to it, it began to feel like a finely tuned exotic car.

I used to write software and would get royalties and licensing fees. This all dried up a while back. But one company called me up and reminded me they owed me money. $4,000 to be exact. What a great day! Hrm, turbo? Maybe a supercharger, seems better for the mountain I think? I was like a kid in a candy store but I stopped myself. There were hidden costs, you can’t go FI and not upgrade the clutch and god knows what else. I spent a month thinking about everything that I had learned about the car and the road. With the FlashPro magic Vit was doing I had enough power, I was able to use everything he gave me and could maybe use more but it was enough for now. What I needed was suspension, brakes and good tires. Later on I will attempt to do a K24A2 from an ‘06 TSX, but I want to go slow and build it myself in the hopes it furthers my education. But for now, I’m gonna hammer on the rest of the life that’s in this K20Z3.

I made a semi ricer mistake when I first started cleaning up my engine bay. I replaced most of the hoses with stainless steel braided high pressure hoses. Not cheap stuff but quality stuff. Later I kinda felt it was too much bling but I’m keeping it because I took off the front splash guard and who knows what will come in contact with those hoses. They aren’t touching anything that would cause them to “saw” through it. I still wince when I open up the hood but the day that a sharp rock bounces into that coolant line I guess I’ll be thankful.


Brakes:

Brake fade is a state where the brakes get so hot repetitively that they do not function properly. There were days where I would do an extremely long downhill and then at the end the brake pedal felt squishy. A few and only a few times the brakes felt like they just weren’t doing their job like normal. I checked the pads and checked for leaks and all seemed ok. I am guessing this was brake fade. Some say it is the pads and some say it’s the fluid. This is not something I fully understand yet. I had cheap drilled and slotted rotors, cheap ceramic pads and had never changed the brake fluid since I bought the car. The rotors also warped, I had been using them beyond what they were capable of. Beware of eBay crap!

I have read many times that good pads, rotors and fluid are all you need for a great braking system. Hawk, StopTech and few other pads seem to be liked and get reliable reviews. As for fluid, OEM and Motul 600 is all I have used. The Motul was just because of those days where my brakes were shady so I decided to upgrade from OEM. A little research mentioned “cryo treated” rotors and how they could withstand heat better and warp less often. In the gazillions of “slotted and drilled rotors any good?” threads I read I learned something I didn’t expect. Lots and lots of little holes are good for preventing brake fade. But the generic ones you see on eBay aren’t that. Brembo and Wilwood make some that are done right. I also learned that slotted “may” help cooling when done right. That whole argument has been thrown around a million times. Not being 100% sure and having little money I went with StopTech slotted cryo treated rotors. Next time I may go with cryo treated blanks (no slots or holes) and see how it feels after some hard runs. Also, stainless steel brake lines. I drive a nasty road and sometimes there are sharp rocks on it. Some say it makes the pedal stiffer but for me it’s just feeling safe knowing my lines are tough against outside objects. I went with StopTech because I was already using stuff from them and wanted a feel for the brand. I replaced the rear calipers with OE re-manufactured ones.

Big brake kits are also called BBKs. These are usually 4-8 piston calipers and larger than normal rotors usually just for the front wheels. When I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on with my brakes at the bottom of the mountain runs, learning about brake fade led me to BBKs. So I looked up BBKs for an FG2. $$$!!!. Heart totally broken. I could save up for Wilwoods or Buddy Clubs, but that would take a long time and Brembo was out of my league. So I scoured eBay and Craig’s List looking for a used BBK. No luck at all. But then I bumped into a thread by mrNewt. He explained you could take Acura TL Type S oem front calipers (made by Brembo) and rotors from the same car or S2000 rotors and put them onto my FG2. Mind blown! Dug around on 8thcivic and some other honda sites and found DC2 and Acura RL setups were being used for my car as well. Much respect for Honda enthusiast innovation!

So I picked up the following Acura TL Type S and misc parts:
  • re manufactured TL Type S calipers
  • s2000 StopTech cryo slotted rotors
  • OEM caliper bolts and rotor screws (hardware store stuff won’t fit right)
  • Caliper grease
  • StopTech pads
  • a caliper hardware kit from O'reilly’s
  • a pneumatic bleeder tool (so cool, use grease on bleeder valve and zero bubbles)
  • a step bit to start the holes
  • 14mm blacksmith drill bit
  • TL T-s master brake cylinder (makes the pedal not squishy, true story, you need this)
  • Edelmann 267000 3/16 Inch Tube 10-1.0MM Metric to Metric Adapters for the because brake line to master cylinder connections because my car is from Canada
  • 2x H&R 25mm wheel spacers 5/114.3 64.1 stud 5065640SW (which allow my 9th gen OEM rims to clear the calipers, barely) *Note: Used only on the front and it affected handling in a way that I like very much.
There was a ton of other things I got like cutting fluid and an angle mount for the drill as well a laser level and other goodies. Didn’t need any of it. It all went smooth.

I can’t tell you what any particular part feels like over stock because I did the whole brake system at once. So it could just be the pads and rotors but the whole thing seems to stop REALLY good. Some say that BBK brake distance is longer than OEM but I would have to do parking lot testing to tell because these are consistently there when I need them and act the same every time. Hopefully my brain will train itself to the longer distance if there even is one.

I want to mention is VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist). I have an 06 Canadian Si and apparently I don’t have this. I hear that the way I drive I would want to turn it off anyway but I have no experience with it so I remain ignorant about VSA.

Oh and silly at it is, fresh pedals and driving shoes. I got some cheapo $20 ebay Si style pedals that say Type R on them (you know the ones) and some fila driving shoes and wow. I didn’t think it would matter but it does. A really smart old guy told me once that anything you come in contact with in the vehicle is actually an important upgrade. Your shift knob, your steering wheel cover and all the cheezy stuff is actually important. It’s the interface between driver and machine. So get that special shift knob first like the ricer kid in you wants to.

Suspension:

Wow, suspension tuning. This is some endless ocean type stuff. I have read and watched and asked questions and studied for almost a year now and I know nothing. I mean, I know a little but this is complicated stuff. My first questions were typical: What is the best alignment, spring rate and sway bars for my car and the road I drive on? HAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!! People would explain theories and the way things worked to me and if I was lucky throw some hit or miss numbers at me. It kept happening like this over and over and over. I was so demoralized. Nobody would give a straight answer. There was no blog that had the magical numbers or setup. There wasn’t anything I could just buy and make it all perfect. It happened so many times that I wised up and asked myself why and reran the conversations, emails, blogs and videos in my head. The answer was there the whole time and they had all been saying it. You have to tune it yourself. There is so much math, physics and other factors at play that suspension tuning is pretty damn complicated. It’s still sort of voodoo to me but I’m starting to get the basics. I mean, a pro and I really mean a pro, could ride in your car with you and then drive it multiple times and probably get you setup pretty close. But if you are on your own, it’s going to take a long time of testing and adjusting. What everyone had been saying is this: “The car needs to be adjusted to the driver, we can’t do that for you with words or numbers. Here are some numbers that may help you on your way and make sure you understand how it all works.”

Here are some tools that I can’t live without now:
  • A log book (THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL YOU WILL EVER OWN! LOG EVERY TIME YOU MAKE A CHANGE AND NOTE HOW IT FEELS!)
  • Calipers aka Micrometer
  • A camber/caster gauge ($25-$250)
  • Ramps, maybe low profile ones if you are lowered (the best way to tune suspension is under full load, I’ve seen people jack up the arms but it didn’t give me the same results).
  • Level ground (without this, nothing is easy)
  • A quality laser level
  • A digital angle reader
  • A toe measurement system (DIY or buy one, I don’t have this in my collection yet and rely on local shop alignments for toe which is the expensive suck).
  • Adjustable front camber bolts (I went with SPC but I hear the Skunk2 new version and Ingalls are good as well)
  • Coilovers with adjustable dampening (stock on my FG2 is actually very nice and is fine for most people, hell I could still do fine with it but I went with BC BR coilovers with camber plates because I want to dial the car to me and the road I drive and also to educate myself).
  • Rear camber arms (I went with SPC)
Adjusting camber right is a pain. At first I would jack the car up, take off the wheel and put the camber gauge on the rotor and begin adjusting. Then I’d put the wheel on, drop the car down and measure again. Wow, numbers were way bigger than in the air. And sometimes I’d drive it and measure again and the numbers would be different again. So here is something I learned: Put the car on ramps (front or back at time if you have to), put the gauge on the rotor and adjust, take the car off the ramps, roll or drive the car back and forth a couple times about 10-15 feet, turn the steering wheel all the way both ways, load it back on the ramps and measure again. That has been getting me fairly consistent measurements. There is also a strange relationship with front upper adjustment bolts and the lower pinch bolt of the macpherson struts. You have to loosen the bottom bolt to correctly adjust the top bolt but there seems to be some magic relationship between the two and no, I don’t have adjustment bolts on the bottom. There is a LOT that I have to learn about alignments still and nothing beats experience and good tools.

I have been reading about adjusting oversteer and understeer a lot lately. It all depends on how you drive the car. Our cars are designed to understeer but can snap oversteer (“oh crap, we’re gonna spin!”). Lifting off fully on the accelerator on a hard turn is a BIG NO NO in our cars. Always keep some pressure on the throttle during a turn and if you feel it start to oversteer do what your brain tells you not to do: GIVE IT MORE GAS! The rear of the car will get dragged neutral by the front. There is a technique called left foot braking where you keep your foot on the accelerator to prevent oversteer but apply pressure to the brake at the same time to slow down. I still haven’t learned this. My left foot doesn’t know how to be gentle and accurate on the brake like my right foot yet and sometimes I even catch my foot on the clutch moving my foot from the dead pedal to the brake. The technique makes lots of sense but I just can’t do it effectively yet. I’m still working on heel-toe shifting everyday and I haven’t become fully proficient at that yet either. I mention all this because changing understeer and oversteer is just like other suspension tuning. It has to be adjusted to the driver but it’s also important to understand the driving techniques that go along with it. I still have yet to upgrade my rear sway bar but all of my research says that I don’t need it, yet... I need to become a better driver with what I have so far.

So I want to share some camber settings for the people like me who are finding their own way. I started with 0 degrees on the front and -2.25 on the rear. That’s how the car was when I bought it. I have been through 0 to -2 degrees front and -1.5 to -3 on the rear. There are so many links, posts and articles with numbers and they all helped. Chris at Redshift Motorsports has some good advice on his store page. There is a couple of stickies here on 8th gen that have some good starting points as well. I asked a Touge driver from Washington and he said “between -1 and -2” and even though it was vague it gave me some answers. Chris pretty much said what I was saying before, you have to figure it out for yourself but he also said “-2 degrees is where the magic starts”. And man, he was right. I remembered the original -2.25 degrees on the rear feeling really planted and I liked it. In my reading I saw people were crying about tire wear and recalls and calling the wambulance on Honda so they made new rear arms that could adjust to -1.5 and reduce tire wear. I guess that’s cool if you drive on a freeway every day, let your grandma drive it on weekends or take really long trips. But for the mountain, that didn’t feel right for me. I dialed back to -2.0 degrees on the rear and the rear felt planted again. I had -1 degree on the front and it was nice but hard corning still felt like it took effort and concentration. So then I dialed the front to -2.0 degrees and man… the magic started to happen. Hard cornering felt like way less effort, I started to actually enjoy it. Hell, I went to go give somebody a ride just because I wanted to drive it more. It suddenly felt like I was driving a more expensive car or something. The car was doing what I had imagined I wanted it to do. I still don’t fully understand alignment or understeer/oversteer tuning but this is where I am now and it’s starting to feel really good. The driver being in tune with the car is what it’s all about for me. I don’t know how long it will take me to get this FG2 tuned the way I want but it’s worth it and I’m making progress.


Ok, stiff coilovers and dampening on crappy rough mountain highways… So I got my first set of coilovers and was recommended to go with 8K on the front springs and 10K on the back. This aligned with what I was told about front wheel drive cars needing to be stiffer in the rear (learned that while reading about strut bars and chassis tuning). I had never had stiff springs and the first week I hated it. I hated it so much I wondered if I made an expensive mistake and that these people who have been doing this for decades were wrong. LOL! But I kept researching and asking about them and I had been given the exact springs that I needed. It takes awhile to get used to but it really helps handling. IT HELPS ALOT! The dampers are the big unknown. Use your log book, change it every day and take notes. You will find your sweet spot and work your way stiffer and see if you can adjust. It’s going to be different for every person and every road. But I did see a pattern and all my testing kept bringing me back to the same spot. The rear dampers feel better to me with 2-4 clicks softer than the front. Not sure if this because of the spring difference or not but it feels really good. I started out super soft trying to mimic my stock shocks, but let me share this if you are a newb like me: GET OVER IT! You need to adapt and accept the stiffer suspension. Push the car hard, that’s when you’ll feel the difference and the coilovers will begin to shine.

If you want a smooth ride through the neighborhood to show off for the ladies and haters, get air bags or something because this is not for you. Racing suspension is for people who are pushing the upper limits of the car. I accept and am so very thankful for my coilovers. It was one of the hardest upgrades to accept and adapt to but when I did, everything changed. The harder I push the car the better it handles.

Wheels:

I guess a lot of people buy rims right away but the cost was sort of high and the 9th gen OEM ones work fine on my 8th gen. Because I have to use spacers to clear my Brembo calipers I would like to get some rims that will clear them. All the ones I found known to work in threads were a little pricey. Maybe I can save up for some Enkei or Rota rims later.

I went with Toyo Proxy 4+ all season because I couldn’t quickly source Goodyear Eagle F1’s. For all seasons except Summer I need good rain tires. That Touge driver up in Washington mentioned Federal RS-R tires and it really got my brain going. Maybe some light track tires would be good for Summer. I hear you can run them in light rain, but it rains pretty heavy up here when it does. Sometimes even with new wipers they just can’t clear the windshield fast enough.

Wow, tire pressure is a big friggin’ deal. It seems to depend on your alignment mostly. Do some reading, get a good gauge and make sure you check psi when they are cold. It took me several weeks to find a setting that I liked. 34 psi front, 29 psi rear. There are lots of technical terms for what the tire does at different pressures. I read them all, understood only some of it and decided to simplify it. Grippy, too grippy or kind of sketchy and not grippy at all. Use your log book! Oh and I hear one of those laser thermometers, some math and a hose with cold water can get you perfect readings but I’m not that far yet.

Transmission:

I haven’t done a lot with the transmission. The clutch was smoked when I got it and so I had my buddy replace it. It was my first week of owning the car and I knew I couldn’t get it done in reasonable time. I purchased an Exedy Stage 1 HD clutch. I knew I wasn’t going to do a bunch of power mods right away and I wanted a clutch that I could beat on while I got used to the car. I’ve had zero problems with it. After watching a Mighty Car Mods episode I installed a Ralco RZ Short Throw Shifter. It actually made a difference and I love it. I did have to loosen and retighten the bolts after the first week. Lost reverse because the bolts were misaligned and not tight enough. Also, I don’t remember what it was, but I did have to use tools to notch out something in the shifter. Something kept hitting and after reading it seemed everyone with 8th gen and a short shifter kit had to do this too.

For MT fluid, I followed so many threads. Redline vs Amsoil vs OEM. There was so much bad mouthing, misinformation and conflicting information I gave up. So until I have real answers I’m sticking with OEM and I’ve changed it 3 times in a year. Oh and magnetic bolts are great. After your first change, check that bolt. From then on you will cry a little anytime you miss and grind a gear because you will know where that glitter on the bolt came from.

Ah the shift knob. Common among every car lover. I actually did this last. Mostly because I didn’t want to be that guy who did the shift knob and steering wheel cover on day one. But the truth is, those things are important. Look, whatever you touch regularly to control the car, upgrade it if you don’t like the way it feels. Forget the haters and posers. I picked up a silver Mishimoto weighted shift knob and it feels great. I installed the knob, shift bushings and short shifter at the same time so I couldn’t tell you what each one feels like. But together it feels way more solid and not too much effort to shift.

Almost forgot, the damn clutch master cylinder rod. Adjust that thing! There are a ton of threads and videos on it. Don’t be afraid to at least check it. Adjusting it made all the difference in the world for me. I would accidentally grind once in awhile but after adjusting this it almost never happens at all now.

2nd and 3rd gear grind problems? I don’t seem to have these problems. I thought I did, but adjusting the CMC rod made my problems go away. Hopefully I won’t need transmission work until I graduate to forced induction.


Exterior:

I barely want to touch this topic. When I got the car it had “Not of this word, Jesus.” with a cross and wings painted on the back window. I like to joke that “Jesus built my hotrod”. I have an HFP body kit. It came on the car when I bought it (no, it didn’t have HFP shocks). It had carbon fiber hood that was scratched up and the clear coat was blistering. So I sanded it and re-cleared it with a harbor freight sprayer. It’s fine now and it wasn’t hard to do. I could have used a bucket, sandpaper and spray cans and it would have worked. Of course I put on the silly red JDM badges (good quality OEM ones) just to identify myself to other enthusiasts. Replaced the busted fog lights with yellow since I actually drive in fog a lot and after seeing blue LEDs I felt it was my duty to make it easier on the eyes (and this was before I saw the Initial D cartoon, lol). I only have a few visible stickers. Really all you can see is the roadsign of the highway I drive and a wolf’s head. The clear coat is peeling on the fenders and I almost want a wide body kit to replace them and the rest since I have spacers and could actually feed air to my BBK. As boner inspiring as it is, I really don’t want the attention and I need to learn how to properly spray a car anyway. Honestly, she looks like a beat up sports car and that’s probably a good thing. As much as I would love to pick their brains, I’m too old to fit in with any posers.

Conclusion:

Well, I have learned a lot and have an infinite amount more to learn. Everyday is a new experience as I change things and put it in my log book. I have many more years of driving to do before I feel fully proficient with the car but honestly I may never be. Every time I change something I have to re-learn it. But I don’t mind. I’m happy I have escaped the dangerous truck I was driving and on the way to learning to deal with these mountains. This was tough to write because well, it’s a pretty personal journey. I do hope that somebody wearing similar shoes stumbles across this post and finds some answers. Maybe you can avoid some of the pointless mods and wasted money that it took me to get to where I am now. Worst case, maybe some of you old veterans will have a good laugh and remember your first days.

This journey currently has me adjusting dampers, alignment, learning correct driving lines and soon I am headed to Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California to drive on my first track (I’m doing the 3 mile).

I would like to update this as I progress but not sure if I’ll have the time or if anyone would read it.


Thanks for everything 8th gen you all are great,

The Touge Newb.
#tougenewb

 

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Thank you for posting! I'm digging your video and enthusiasm. I also run mountains I'll link a clip in here soon. I had time to skim the highlights of your main post, I'll read it thoroughly soon.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Great post. I really like your mods so far. They seem very practical. It makes me want to do the tl brakes
Make sure you do the master cylinder too (part #: 46100-SDB-A11) because the brakes will be super squishy without them.
I drove for almost a week while the BMC shipped and I hated it.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
The Quest for an alignment:

After installing SPC camber arms and BC BR coilovers I took the car to a tire and alignment to get custom specs.
I first explained that it had after market parts.
After waiting several hours I got the car back and the mechanic explained that he couldn't give me the settings I wanted.
After getting it back to my buddy's garage I put the car on stands and inspected it.
The large threaded portion on the SPC arm had been fully extended on one side.
This is dangerous and can cause the part to fail.
So I decided to use a cheap $25 camber gauge and do the camber myself on the front and back.
I got at as close as I could, even rolled the car back and fourth, turned the steering wheel both ways and bounced the suspension.
So I took it to a different shop and explained that I had after market parts and I asked if I could show the mechanic how they worked.
They said no problem.
I had gotten it pretty close myself.
They called me to check the screen before lowering my car and I was super excited!
It was exactly what I wanted.
After leaving I went back to work and my co-worker said the wheels looked off on one side.
He was right. :(
That's when I realized I hadn't seen the mechanic roll the car, bounce the suspension or even grab a torque wrench.
So I measure it with my own tools and one side was exactly what I had seen on the screen but the other side was drastically off.
Now I am on the path of buying a better camber/caster gauge and some plates.
But when I am done with my next DIY alignment I still want to take it to a shop for final adjustments.
Should I just take it to a regular shop and have them throw it on the machine and just give me a printout and rinse repeat until I get it right?
My only other option is driving 4 hours to a reputable performance shop or going back to the last shop and explaining exactly what I need, providing torque specs and making them drive it and double checking it before considering it done (I'm not sure how they take me telling them how to do their job).
I've read everything I can DIY but maybe I'm missing something.
Can I use tools at home and consider it good?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the responses!
Glad it interests somebody!
Would love to see some footage of others mountain driving.

Alignment continued...(with some DIY)

So I went back to the last shop.
I noticed a 2000 Civic Ex up on lift that was there last time and some aftermarket control arms being put on it.
My guess is it belongs to one of the mechanics, they seemed like the ricer type.
So I laid it all on the table in detail and said I was willing to pay.
They didn't take it off the alignment lift and re-check but they charged me even less than last time and let me literally work on it with them.
I left and drove over train tracks and speed bumps.
Then it was time for me to check again.
Recently I built one of these:

So the hardest part for me was finding level ground.
That's when it really hit me, there is no such thing.
After doing some research I saw an old guy working on a race cart and he zeroed his tool on the ground in front of the tire before checking the camber.
GENIUS!
So I followed suit and measured my camber with my $20 tool.
Exact same specs as what the machine showed!
The bad news is that their machine only did 0.005 increments of toe. :(
This is bad.
I haven't mastered measuring toe yet, so I think I'm going to go to the other shop just to get the rear toe done.
All in all, I'm very happy with my alignment and now I have a tool that accurately measures camber.

Because I am learning and experimenting, I went with -2 degrees all the way around.
From what I have read, Grandma needs lots of negative camber and almost no front camber (-0 front,-2 rear) which gives very little chance of oversteer.
Ricky racer needs lots of front camber and some rear (oh lets say -2.5 front, -1.8 rear) which greatly reduces understeer but can lead to "snap oversteer" if you aren't able to feel and adjust while turning.
I went with -2 all around to experiment and see if it felt "neutral".
I do feel it oversteer some, but it's no problem and I easily adjust when I feel it.
Like I said in the beginning of this thread, I am learning.
I can corner great with this setup but another thing I am noticing is that during tight corners my tires screech just a little lately.
Could be the tires, could be the toe, could be that I am evolving and cornering harder than I used to, I'm really not sure.
I think my next main purchases are going to be ramps for lowered cars and some tools to accurately measure toe down to the 0.001th degree.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Clunk, pop, SQUEEEEEK! Monkey Snot???

So everyday after work, I do the east bound run with the big hill climb.
As I roll into town, Clunk, pop, SQUEEEEEK! coming from the back.
Sounds like both sides.

So, time to research a very common issue.
I checked the rings on the BC Racing BR coilovers and they were tight and I gave them a good snugging anyway.
I checked the top bolts in the front and same, they were tight and I snugged them just a tad more.
I lost my 14mm ratcheting wrench and had to buy another, tomorrow I will tighten the top bolts of the coilovers in back.
Now, I did lower the front a bit but left the back BC factory which should be 1-2 inches lower than stock.
I also installed SPC rear camber arms.
I have not checked or reset the pre-load on the back, but it's on my list if I keep hearing it.
Some of the sounds seem like metal on metal and the rest is loud squeaking.
It only does it at the end of the day after the return run home.
I have read that polyurethane bushings are notorious for squeaking.
I'm thinking maybe the bushings in the SPC camber arms or even the bottom of the BCs may be polyurethane.
After days of research this is what I am going to attempt for the squeaks:
MONKEY SNOT as it is called affectionately by marine engine mechanics, is a thick usually silicone or lithium based grease that doesn't change viscosity much when heated up.
I purchased 8oz of grease from Energy Suspension that sells polyurethane bushing kits for our cars.
Next was the grease gun, never had one, seemed expensive and I'm still in the experimenting phase...
So I bought big 30ml (1oz) plastic syringes and 14,16 & 17 gauge needles (blunt and sharp) to use for the bushings.
Hopefully this will kill the squeaks.
I reduced (barely) some of the clunking by readjusting and tightening my trunk latch bolts of all things.
I had taken it off when I installed the coilovers and did a piss poor job putting it back together.
But still it's bad.
The car handles GREAT, but every day when I come home off the mountain it sounds like a 1980's Datsun hatchback that has been driven on dirt roads for a decade.
Then the next day it's fine until I return home and come off the mountain again.
I will definitely post back here when I find the solutions(s).
 

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Discussion Starter #12
LOVE the white line!

Oh so after completing the Initial D series (yes, the cartoon) the story at the end enlightened me about something. The opponent at the end knew every stitch of the road almost to an Autistic level. Every shoulder, every turn, every hazard in all seasons. It made me think about my drive. I needed to pay attention to the road conditions more, every detail if possible. So it made me realize that I needed to include shoulders and crossing the white line more in my daily driving lines. More and more I try to notice conditions and hazards on the opposite lane so I can adjust for my return home. This got me crossing the while line a lot. And ultimately I think it may have saved me a couple times. Wide load logging trucks frequent this road and sometimes can't make the hairpin turns and end up in my lane. Recently I have come around a hairpin while hugging the shoulder and sure enough a truck is in my lane carrying redwood trees but I just breeze right through with more than enough room. The difference now is that I'm not stressed and have to suddenly correct a whole bunch. I have adapted my driving lines to be proactive about these scenarios. I'm guessing the truckers are a bit relieved too lol. Anyways, be aware of the white lines, don't count on the shoulders (there could be a car pulled over on one) but learn to love them. May save your life from oncoming traffic someday.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Learning to "heel toe" and balancing the weight.
I am heel toe shifting non-stop now, but when it's not done right you will unbalance the car.
If your keys jingle, you aren't rev matching right.
What I am learning is the rev matching is what it's all about.
Too much and you jolt forward, too little and lurch as you suddenly slow down.
The trick seems to be when to release the clutch.
The clutch needs to be released at the right rpms for a heel toe shift to be smooth.
The trick I am using is to rev it a little too high and as it drops release the clutch to catch the sweet spot.
Practice, practice & more practice.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Cybernetic legs and old ragged OEM knees.

So... more lessons to learn.
Starting to get creaks, rattles and clunks all over my suspension.
A friend of mine clued me into something I should have known in the beginning.
If you upgrade your suspension, run it tight, camber it for track and then drive it like a crazy togue newb everyday... the rest of the parts on your 160K mile FG2 are going to start to show their age.
LOL.
I mean seriously, if you keep it stock and drive it semi normal you may have to replace a few parts at 160K but it shouldn't be that bad.
If you upgrade it and then touge, be ready for some issues.
Think of it like a track.
You wouldn't set rubber to track without checking out your ride and after running it hard you probably would check it again too right?
Well, that means if you run it hard all the time, be ready to spend every other Saturday checking out your ride.
Save money, these aren't things you'll expect.
Some coilovers, 4 piston brakes, Hondata and a heads up display to make sure you can keep the RPMs between 5K-8K while hitting 25mph corners at 50mph with little effort and you're a togue god right?
FACE PALM!
Have fun chasing those creaks and clunks!
And lets hope those spacers for your brand new BBK don't kill your ancient OEM wheel bearings on the downhill.
If you are reading this, you are probably a cool human and don't need to die like a Wile E Coyote cartoon.

Here is what I am learning...
Start making a budget to replace ALL your suspension parts if your ride has over 150K miles on it.
Get some ramps!
Ramps are the second most import tool (your log book being the first!) for driveway or garage suspension tuning since you need the suspension under load.
Get good grease (graphite, silicone, lithium, etc) and make sure it's correct for the application.

Just because you upgraded some performance parts does not mean you have a race car.
Let that sink in REAL GOOD before you make your ebay wishlist.
I'm so salty about this, these are things you can learn from others before you start.
It's not like suspension tuning where you have tune and feel what is best for you.
It's just basic logic and forward thinking.
FML, this is the exact kind of hind sight stuff that makes me post for the next touge newb.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Flashing lights, bells and whistles are not rice.

Gauges, yes gauges.
That oil pressure light means it's too late and you are BONED!
STOP YOUR CAR AND CALL TOW MATER!
Get an oil pressure sensor with a warning light & bell.
You will also need an oil sandwich plate adapter.
Not able to resurface your block and head and re-do the head gasket yourself?
Get a water temp sensor with a warning light & bell.
You will also need a coolant hose "T" adapter.
My OEM tachometer is off at high RPMs.
This came up when I was datalogging for Vit.
I kept making that needle hit where he asked (hard as hell on my touge road) and then I would look at the datalog.
I was so embarrassed, I didn't even want to send the logs to him after looking at the graph and seeing I didn't get what he needed.
So I asked him if I was just a coward and he told me my tach was off.
After understanding the problem I just mashed it in 3rd until the rev limiter kicked in to get my logs.
Also, for hill climbs, high RPM is super important but if you hit that rev limiter there goes all your power.
So mash that pedal in 2nd gear until you hear DING DING DING and shift or lift off a little (DO NOT FULL LIFT YOUR FOOT UNLESS YOU UNDERSTAND "LIFT OFF SNAP OVERSTEER" LOLOLOL BECAUSE YES YOU CAN DRIFT A FWD).
Your rev limiter is NOT your peak power band lol.
Get a tachometer with at least 1 warning light & bell.
Like rice or just don't care what the mouth breathing kids say?
Put your multimeter back in your garage where it belongs and get that voltage gauge.
I have ALOT of tech stuff in my car (heads up display, Android mirror, OBD2 adapter, bluetooth, some wifi linux stuff we won't discuss and other misc ICE.
I have a yellow gel battery, but the day my car won't start and I'm trapped on the touge things are going to turn into a "naked and afraid" episode real fast.
Don't want to seem too "rice"?
Fine, make sure that the melted snickers and half finished flat pepsi is still in your console because there is no cell service out here in these mountains.
Even if you think you are old school die-hard and have the multimeter with you, unless it's taped to your dash with leads going under your hood, it's useless.

GAUGES HELP YOU PREVENT PROBLEMS!
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
So I have been chasing a rattling noise in the front end and it's been getting progressively worse.
At first it was only over uneven roads at slow speeds.
Then it got louder and LOUDER and now the car isn't balanced and I'm pretty much scared to drive it.
My gut said sway bar, my research said suspension and my investigation showed rear motor mount (at least part of the problem).

https://imgur.com/a/5IPzk
https://imgur.com/a/aSDIC

So time to get some Innovative mounts (for ability to use Skunk2 Alpha header with K24 swap in the future).

Will see if this makes the front end stable and quiet again.
I am still planning on rebuilding the entire front end soon.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Found the front-end rattle and learned some new tricks

Got a Hasport rear motor mount and installed it.
Wow, the increased feeling of the engine is real!
I can only imagine what it feels like with full upgraded motor mounts on a K24 frankenstein swap.
A rear motor mount on our car is also know as a "Torque Strut Mount" which confused me a bit looking at diagrams and the guys at the autoparts store were baffled why they couldn't find a rear motor mount.
Unfortunately it wasn't the cause of the rattle.

So two tricks I learned for finding a clunk or rattle:

First trick is jack up the car and take off the wheels and use a pry bar gently on various parts of the suspension (ball joints, end links, control arms,etc).

Second trick was pure genius and how I found my rattle. Jack up the car and leave the tires on. Take a MASSIVE sledge hammer and bang on the bottom of the tires. Yup, make your own bumps lol. Make sure it creates the sound you are looking for. Then grab and hold various parts and feel for vibrations.

I had checked my Brembo retrofits by looking at the shims, pads, hardware kit, etc.
There was a slight chirp that reminded me of caliper chatter.
I never checked the two 19mm that held them on. :facepalm:
The driver side caliper was the last one I put on, maybe I forgot to torque it or maybe all the cornering just rattled it loose.
Some Loctite and a torque wrench will prevent this from happening again.
Problem solved. :woowoo:
Now to find my rear squeaks and rattles with these tricks...

I have to say having problems that make you nervous is a good way to be forced into learning.
These two tricks will probably serve me forever.
 
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