Monday, May 29, 2017

Back on the Road: Formula VS Smog Check - Epilogue

A lot can happen in 5 months...

Back in December when I posted my last entry to this blog I wasn't sure what my future held.  All I had was hope and a belief that if I didn't give up things would eventually work out.

Which is exactly how I approached getting the Formula back on the road.

I'm not especially religious but I do believe the old adage that the good Lord doesn't give you anything you can't handle.

December is a pretty long time between posts but I haven't posted anything about the Formula since October of 2015!  That's because, well, honestly there was nothing to post about.

That changed recently.  I picked up some work in March which improved my fortunes.  Now the Formula was always at the top of my priority list but it became even more so as the weeks wore on and it became apparent that what I was driving to work was not ideal for the purpose.  

The Formula needed to be back on the road...Fast!

Of course that meant getting rid of the demons that had kept it chained to the garage for 2 years.  

Recall that we had already dealt with the Fuel Pressure regulator, EGR, got a new intake elbow and ran a few tanks of the proper octane fuel.  Sadly it wasn't enough.

The emissions testing results from 2015 while less than helpful at diagnosing the problem still pointed to a likely culprit.  A high HC reading, that's raw fuel.  High CO?  sloppy ignition system.  High NOx?  Combustion chamber temps too high.  All of them too high?  That points to a bad catalytic converter plain and simple.  

Lot's of things can go wrong with modern emissions control systems on cars but the symptoms would show up long before a failing smog test.  As in the car literally wouldn't run if you could get it to start at all if it was anything but the Cat.

1995 was an interesting year for auto makers.  It was the last year before they formally adopted the new ODB2 standard in emissions controls.  20 years later it's a pain in the ass.  For example, the Formula has a diagnostic port identical to an OBD2 connector but it isn't.  It's OBD1 which means you have a lot fewer codes to help point you in the direction of what's wrong.  Not to mention finding a scan tool that you can actually plug into it!

Still, there are basic emission codes that can be set if something was really going wrong and luckily none of them were set.  Although that's not definitive either since OBD1 has a far shallower pool of data to draw from.  That means things have to be really going sideways before you get any information out of that port.  By that time the code probably doesn't mean much to you.  


Fast forward to the solution to my problem and we open on me in the parking lot of Mesa Muffler early on a Saturday morning.  

For less than $200 I was able to drive out with a new catalytic converter an hour later.  I immediately took the car out on the freeway to warm up the converter and then held my breath and got off on the exit that led to the emissions testing station.

As I pulled into the station, took my ticket and waited in a long line for my turn at the indignity of an Arizona emissions test my time had finally come.

I pulled up onto the rollers, turned off the car and dutifully retired to a cramped booth while the technician did his best to ruin my day...

He didn't.   At the end of it all I actually shook his hand and thanked him!  The Formula was finally legal after 2 years and all it took was a catalytic converter....

Oh yeah, and a MAP sensor, EGR, Fuel Pressure Regulator, Intake Elbow...

I documented the whole thing in the video below.  I'd have liked to get more of the actual test but I was rather forcefully discouraged by the technician.  

There was still work to do before the Formula started commuting duty, however.

We needed tires, badly.  We also needed a new belt tensioner pulley and weirdly a new gear for the headlight pop-up motor.  

So what's left?

I still need to deal with the fuel injectors as at least one is still leaking.  I still need to fix the headliner, get the hatch repainted.  All the normal stuff that a 20+ year old car would need.

In case you're interested, I've also included  a few videos below of the new tires and how I fixed the headlight motor.  I've been posting regular videos of my adventures with the Formula on my YouTube channel.  Check it out as I tend to update it more than this blog...obviously.

More as it happens!  

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