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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Baby on board

The Subaru Impreza WRX STI, no matter how many times I say that name, I will smile. I smile because I love my Subaru, but also for other people who love their Subarus. Maybe it doesn't have to be about how much torque your car has, or how much boost you are running. It doesn't have to be about loud exhausts and AWD power slides. What I've experienced today is the whole other side to loving a Subaru. It was the reason I had changed to a Subaru in the first place: Practicality, Confidence, and Safety.

This afternoon, I went out to a friend's house and had a delicious home made lunch. One of my dearest friends went as well, and she brought along her eight month old baby. As we left, I told them that I could drive her and the baby home. The four door, AWD, 300 horsepower monster was ready to take on this task. We fitted the baby seat in the back, and it was just at that moment, that I realized, "Wow, this car, is truly amazing."

For all of the days I have been on the road, I've always added some "spirited driving" to make it more fun. However, because there was a baby on board, I was driving safe, and I had forgotten that this car can be just like any other car: Tame, calm, and safe. It was so peaceful infact, that the baby had fallen asleep after five minutes of driving! And there was no worry about the sun being too bright on her eyes, since the rear windows on my STI are limo tinted, lol.

I've once talked to a man about his 2004 Subaru STI. He had told me he sold it, because he had children. Personally, I don't think that children should even be a compromise to keeping an STI. At the end of the day, I've learned to love my Subaru even more.

There are just so many more adventures to embark with this Subaru, I can't wait to see where we go next!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 Vancouver International Auto Show

Most of what I have to say about the auto show can be found in the post I had written a couple of weeks ago. Incase you don't want to read the previous post, or see the full picture album, I will give you guys my concluding impression.

The show wasn't too great. While there were a couple of nice looking cars, the lighting design for the show was not doing those cars enough justice.

Hope you guys enjoy the video!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Two Hundred

Today was the day Machine Zealots gained 200 of you lovely subscribers! Of course, throughout the year we've lost a couple of people, but for the 200 of you who stayed, you guys are awesome. We've had the opportunity to meet some of you, and we got to talk to the rest of you guys online. Each and every one of you guys are great.

I'm receiving a package, estimated to arrive in the next couple of days. I'll post some teaser pictures when it arrives. I also have the Apex Performance sponsored Stainless Steel Brake Lines to install as well.

Anyway, since the weather is getting a lot warmer, I plan on shooting a lot more driving videos, since you guys seem to want to see that more.

Well, that's it for now! Stay tuned!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Midnight Launching

I've owned the Subaru Impreza STI for nearly a year now, and in the first couple of months, as a new owner, I was curious of the car's capabilities. Of course this meant how it felt under hard acceleration, braking, and turning. There was always one thing that intrigued me though, and that was how the STI launched. We've all seen people do crazy things on YouTube, but the thing that always amazed me was how hard the STI launches. I mean, 300 ft-lbs of torque at 4000 RPM is not a joke. It's incredibly brutal and, if you aren't careful, incredibly dangerous.

After I had driven the car for about two months after purchasing, I wasn't quite sure if I had wanted to launch the STI yet. However, curiousity got the best of me too early in the game, and I ended up trying to launch the STI a couple of times. I'll be honest with you guys, complete failures, lol. First time, I almost stalled. The second time, I could smell clutch, and it still wasn't launching right. Since then, I haven't wanted to launch it due to lack of experience, and I really didn't want to break the car.

Well, after reading tons of information on launching, I tried it again last night. The conditions weren't great, it was very rainy, which ironically, worked in my favor.

Before I continue however, please be advised that I was ready to take ALL consequences for my actions, and I was on a safe road. Do not try this on a road with traffic and pedestrians, and or near anything you can run your car into. Launching cars in general is just a disaster waiting to happen. It is incredibly hard on the car, and you can break anything from your transmission, to your axles. I am not exaggerating for effect either. There are STI owners who say the STI is bullet proof, but the fact is, people have broken their cars after hard launches.

A couple things you need to keep in mind when launching: Traction, Boost, and Footwork. There is a huge debate on how to properly launch the STI. I've heard people coming from FWD and RWD cars having suffer through the same problems as I did before. The big debate is whether to launch the car by riding the clutch, or dumping the clutch. The fear most people had was by dumping the clutch, the transmission and axles would take all of the abuse since this AWD monster has too much grip off the line. This meant that the force of 300 ft-lbs of torque is transfered to the transmission and axles in a split second. It's highly possible that this would break your car. Therefore, people began to ride the clutch for a split second before fully engaging the clutch. This gives a softer launch but still quite effective. However, this will overheat the clutch unnecessarily and could glaze the clutch, causing clutch slipping over time. People use the ride clutch technique because their reasoning is that replacing the clutch is much cheaper than replacing the transmission. While I agree with them on that, it just didn't make sense to me that the STI couldn't be launched from a clutch dump. Therefore, before I could write anything about it, I had to put the STI through my own tests.

Traction: If you are new to launching the STI, I highly recommend that you lose overall traction as much as possible for your practice sessions. The key is to break the tires loose on the launch, and place the stress on the tires as much as possible. Too much grip will make your car bog down and the above mentioned "shock load" will abuse your transmission. How do you lose traction? Well, if you are running the Bridgestone Potenzas like I am, chances are, you will have so much grip on dry pavement that your car will bog down everytime. There are ways around this though, if you find that your tires are not breaking loose, either pump your tires over the recommended PSI, or practice it on wet pavement. Again, you want your torque released at the wheels, not the clutch or drivetrain.

Boost: If you were driving a naturally aspirated vehicle, you would be concerned at what RPM you want to launch at. Too high and you'd wheel spin, too low and you'd have lower power off the line. This thought process is carried over to the STI. This isn't the correct way of thinking in my honest opinion. Yes, the RPM is important, but only because it tells you how much boost you are using at launch. For our turbo charged cars, you need to make sure your boost is built up, instead of your RPM. Infact, I kept my eye on the boost gauge, rather than the tachometer. The STI is known for that rocket like thrust when the boost kicks in, but anything before peak boost, our cars suffer from huge turbo lag and low power. In order to accomplish the above mentioned "break traction", your car will have to be powerful enough to break all four tires loose. It may sound scary, but you'll have to launch at a higher RPM in order to get the power necessary! It will counter all instinct, in order NOT to break your car, you'll need to launch at a higher RPM. lol. For me, the sweet spot was launching the car at 5500 RPM.

Footwork: If you can keep a pulse on the two subjects above, then the only thing you need to work on is your footwork. If you have had no experience in the past, turn off your engine, or leave it in neutral, practice dumping the clutch by putting the clutch pedal to the floor, and then lift your foot off the clutch pedal as fast as possible. Sidestepping the clutch is unnecessary for launching the STI, so please refrain from using this technique. As your clutch foot is releasing, simultaneously bury your gas pedal into the ground. Practice this motion over and over until you can do it in a split second. Of course, don't forget when you actually launch the car, your car shouldn't be in neutral. Another note to keep in mind, when you actually launch the car, your feet might not be doing what you've practiced. However, in the end, your muscle memory will take care of everything with enough practice. The final thing to marry everything together is how to build up your boost. When I said I launched at 5500 RPM, I didn't do it by holding the throttle. This is where boost is technically more important than RPM. I suggest that you try this out for yourself, but if you hold your gas pedal and build the RPM up slowly, you will notice your boost doesn't really increase. In order to build the boost necessary for your car to break traction, you need to step on the gas pedal with short and fast bursts. This is called blipping the throttle. You blip your throttle until your desired RPM, and you proceed in dumping the clutch and flooring the gas.

That's it! If you follow the instructions above, I am pretty sure you will be getting perfect launches in no time!

After you get the basics down, you can proceed in experimenting with the DCCD, and see how that effects your launches as well. If you have the Cobb Accessport, you might be able to enable Launch Control and Flat Foot Shifting. I have downloaded it into my Accessport, but I haven't loaded the tune into the car. It's a good idea to practice lauching without any electronic aids though.

I launched my car 4-5 times last night, and everytime I launched it at a consistent 5500 RPM. When the clutch catches, the engine RPM drops down to 4000-4500 and it just flies. Infact, I lost so much traction that my car was sliding side to side before it gripped and thrusted me forward. It's such a violent, but awesome feeling. The Subaru Impreza WRX STI just continues to suprise me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hawk HP Plus Install

Brake pad changes are generally needed after 20,000 miles of regular driving, give or take. However, if you are a person who uses your car for racing events, it would be a good idea to have a set of more aggressive brake pads. The Hawk HP Plus racing brake pads are good for Autocrossing events, decent for a couple of track days, and everything in between. They are also cheap in price, for their class. Now, before I get into the full brake pad review, let me take a moment to go through some of the afterthoughts of the brake pad change.

After driving for a couple thousand miles, your brakes will be covered in brake dust, dirt, rust, and many other goodies. This makes removing the parts on the brake caliper that much harder. If your horizontal pins don't budge, please use the method showed in the video. If you don't have a center punch, please feel free to use a thin nail, or screw. Basically all you need to do is gently tap it out with a hammer. You do NOT need anymore than light taps. The paint on the brake calipers is extremely soft, so you can chip the paint if you miss your hammer. The cotter pin was also tricky sometimes. You can use a combination of needle nose pliers or a flat head screw driver to pry the cotter pin out.

Pushing the pistons back is very important for installing the new pads. Since the new pads will most likely be a lot thicker, the pistons will need to be moved back for clearance of the new pads. Some people push the pistons back one by one after the old pad is removed. I will tell you now, it is a whole lot easier to push all pistons back with your old pads in place. If you can't think of why, just take my word for it, or try and see for yourself. Pushing the front pistons in was a lot harder to boot. You'll need super strong grip to get it started in order for you to wedge your flat head screwdriver in between your pad and your rotor. There was a technique I used, not shown in the video, which made pushing in the front pistons a whole lot easier. With a piece of cloth, protect the caliper, and clamp the caliper and the brake pad together with a large plier. It pushed the pistons back like butter running through a meadow. As obscure as that similie was, it still worked.

When you buy Hawk brake pads, they will come with a small packet of anti squeal grease. I did not use it at all in this video because these are high performance pads, meant for high performance driving. When the grease heats up to an extreme, it can melt and cause a whole lot of mess. The person who did the brake pad change before I bought the car, used a whole lot of this grease making it hard for me to clean. If you are just changing your pads to regular daily driving pads, then you can apply a thin layer of this grease between the brake pad and the brake shims. I strongly advise that you wear gloves when applying the grease.

The brake pad change took me around two hours including setting up, cleaning up, and shooting the video. I would estimate you guys might take an hour and a half if it's your first time, or 45 minutes if you guys are well versed in this.

Also, final note: PLEASE USE AXLE STANDS. In the video it looks like I did not use axle stands on the rear, but I did. The magic of film is that some things remain unseen. Seriously though, safety first.

Now on to the review of the Hawk HP Plus racing brake pads. It is very well known that these pads make a whole lot of noise. Even with anti squeal grease, some people have claimed the noise to be unbearable for day to day driving. I've sat in my friend's STI track car, so I've actually heard this squeal for myself, and I can confirm that it can be irritating for some people. However, there are some occasions where the user does not get effected by noise problems. My STI does not squeal at all. Infact it makes less noise than my old pads! I'm not quite sure why yet, but it seems to be a phenomenon that happens once every blue moon. I have at least 200 miles worth of driving done to these brake pads after I properly bedded them, and not a peep since. The brake dust generated from these pads are brutal though. After a day of driving, my front two wheels are seriously two tones darker than my rears. I advise you guys to wash your wheels everytime you wash your car if you want your wheels to maintain a nice look. The stopping power on these are incredible. When you brake at 120 MPH, the Hawk HP Plus will begin to pull away from the stock brembo brake pads in performance. A lot of people seem to only care about power, but in my opinion, you need equal stopping power to be safe. The Hawk HP Plus are worth the money if you plan on taking your car to some light racing events this summer. For the price, you probably can't do better.

Special thanks to Apex Performance for the sponsored episode, and being an awesome partner to Machine Zealots. Make sure to check them out for your modifying needs. They also offer free shipping on all Hawk brake pads, and many other products and brands!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Full of cars

Today Puyang and I went on a field trip to the 2012 Vancouver International Auto Show, along with a couple of friends. To be honest, this show wasn't super exciting, especially after being at the 2012 Taiwan International Auto Show and the 2012 RevScene Spring meet in just the last few months.

Well, a car show is a car show, and Puyang and I still finished our media responsibilities. Here are a couple of pictures Puyang took at the show:

Sebastian Vettel's Formula One RB8. 

Lexus LFA.

Lamborghini Aventador.

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

For the full photo album, please visit the Machine Zealots' Facebook Page. I was hoping to see a lot more cars, especially the BMW i8 concept, but sadly it wasn't there. There are other goodies of course, so be sure to check out the full album.

I'm also trying out the iphone and android app Instagram, because there are just too many interesting cars on the road I want to document. I found that using this app makes taking photos, uploading, and sharing a lot easier. If you have the app, please follow Machine Zealots, if not you can see the photos through Facebook and Twitter as well. Don't worry though, I'll keep it tasteful, only car stuff or Machine Zealots stuff.

Anyway, this video will take some time to edit, as I have filmed over 100 clips of video. Hopefully you guys will enjoy the video when it's done. That's it for now!