Sunday, January 28, 2007

Rays Engineering Duralumin Lug Nuts

This just came from Kay-El via high speed BMW courier. Thanks Bro CP for being the courier and Jacko who called nearly all of Klang Valley's performace parts outlets to get them nuts! Unfortunately Nissan uses the less common M12 X 1.25 thread pitch for wheel lugs. Only Subary uses this pitch with Mitsu, Toyota, Honda, etc using the more common 1.5 thread pitch.

So why did I go for Rays lightweight forged aluminium lug nuts and not the Racing Gear units I was using previously on the SP? Well I wanted black lugnuts. Blue or red anodized nuts would have been too Beng for the BBS wheels. The Rays lugnuts are the only lightweight aluminium nut in the market available with a black anodized finish. I originally wanted Nismo lugnuts but they're made from heavy steel and cost just as much if not more than the Rays lugnuts. Picture below of unopened packaging.
Compared to the Racing Gear lug nuts which are open ended to allow for extended length competition lugs studs the Rays are more elegant and are close ended with the Rays logo CNC machined on the end. The Rays also incorporate a security feature to prevent wheel theft. 4 of (20 total) the nuts are 7 sided (heptagonal) with a slot along the length on the nut body and can only be opened via a provided special adapter key. Closeup picture of the lug nuts and adapter.

Another Pix

WIll install after I install my Nismo S-Tune G-Attack Shocks. Hopefully won't jut out too much else I'll have to go for the shorter KICS Project lug nuts. More pixs once installed.


Finally bit the bullet and decided to go with the BBS RK with Michelin Pilot Preceda 2 tyres. So why didn't I get the SSR? Well, I've used these wheels previously on the SP and would like a change from typical Jap wheel. Second, transporting these wheels from Sillypore back home was proving to be financially prohibitive. One such runner quoted me 600 friggin bucks just to ship the wheel to KL. Goodness! Could have driven down South for the wheels but if you factor in petrol and tolls cost is again prohibitive. Furthermore I would have to figure out how to ship my stock wheels back as they don't do trade-in for my wheel there. Research led me to believe that the RK is one of the lightest cast wheels around. WHEELWEIGHTS.NET quoted the RK at 15.3lbs or 6.955kg for for my size. As comparison, another lightweight cast wheel, the OZ Ultraleggera weights 14.5lb or 6.591kg. The Rays Engineering Gram Lights 57C was 15.4lb (7kg) while the lightest of them all is the Enkei RPF-1 which came in at only 13.5lb. The Work Emotion CR was 17.0lb (7.727kg). The OZ Superturismo as depicted in the TCM Sentra brochure weights a massive 19.6lb (8.909kg). I also got a decent trade-in price for my old wheels and tyres. Let's just say after 6 months+ of usage, I lost only bout RM100. Excellent deal eh?

Anyway enough justification. On to my wheels. I got everything done at Goh Swee Hin in Jalan Dato Keramat btw. Besides giving me a fab deal on the BBS and trade in, I also got alignment done, on wheel balancing and nitrogen gas for free. What more can you ask? The RK is 16" X 7" and has an offset of 42. Pix of da Sentra having on-wheel balancing done to it's front wheels

And here's a quick pix of the new wheels. Pardon the lousy quality. Was in a rush. I'm using 205-50 16" sizing and each tyre cost me 400 smackers.

Did some driving to Batu Ferringhi. I must say it's like having upgraded stiffer suspension. Compared to the ultra soft Michelin Energy XM-1s, the PP2 has a much stiffer sidewall giving a firmer ride. Still very comfortable though. Turn-in and steering feel is better too. Tyre noise was up but this is expected as I'm putting more rubber on the road and the PP2 is a performance tyre. Don't have any probs listening to my ICE so this is something I can live with. Have Rays Engineering forged aluminium lightweight lugnuts on the way to further lighten things up a bit. The damn stock chromed plated steel lugnuts already have signs of rust since day1 with one lugnut showing signs of the chrome plating coming of. More pixs to follow after I install the new lugnuts. If you're interested unfortunately there's no more BBS RK at this price - RM2.6K. Not sure if Goh Swee Hin is even able to bring in for 16" size. Sorry.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fog Lights - Conclusion

After more than 3 months I finally got my foglights installed today. After what happened TCEAS had the audacity to charge me RM150 for labour. In their defence the install job was very neat (which it should be for what is essentially a bolt on job). This will be probably be the last time I'm getting anything installed there though. Night pix of the foglights installed.

Apart from the long awaited signal stalk, the install also required a relay which TCEAS charged me more than 30 bucks. Picture below of my old signal stalk. Anybody interested?

Overall the foglights worked a treat. The light spread became much wider and as expected the additional illumination will really help me to ascertain road conditions. Fog lights are superb for discovering potholes where you least expect them to be. Anyway the entire install ended up costing me around 600 smackers. All because I wanted the oem signal stalk and fog light activation. Could have been halved if I just let some accessory shop install with a simple caplang rocker switch on the dash.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Fog Lights - Relief!

TCEAS called this morning. Told me they saw my complain and that they would be expediting my order. Magically called me up a few hours later in the afternoon to tell me my parts were here. Asked if I can go install tomorrow. Now that's what I call service (hopefully). Why couldn't they have provided such excellent service in the first place? It's a Nissan and not some obscure Eastern European brand so per my expectations there should NOT be any spare part issues.

Now the problem is I have a very tight work schedule tomorrow with many meetings lined up. Worse case if can't install tomorrow will kau tim on Friday. Will see how things goes tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fog Lights - The Saga Continues

As expected, no news from the TCEAS branch after 3+ weeks. Deposit was paid on January 3rd. Called on Monday (Jan 23rd) but still given the walk around. Just filed a complained via the TCM website just now. Complain as follows:

"I have a Sentra 1.6 SG Manual. Have purchased a set of front fog lights but would like it to activate as per oem which is via the steering column stalk switch itself. I have tried to order the stalk + wiring harness from your Bayan Baru TCEAS branch for the last 3+ months but to no avail. Enquired multiple times but was always told the part is on back order and will arrive in 1-2 weeks but always when I checked the status given was not here and still on back order. Was then told more than 3 weeks ago after I enquired numerous times that I had to pay a deposit. I paid a RM150 deposit on January 3rd (receipt no 113813). After 3 weeks there was still no news. I called the branch last Monday (Jan 22nd) but again there was no update. I am very displeased with the service given. How many more weeks/months do I have to wait before I can install my fog lights? Appreciate your prompt action in this matter.."

Hopefully some action will be taken soon and I'll get my stalk and wiring harness.

Monday, January 22, 2007

USDM Sentra

Our N16 shares the same chassis as the USDM B15 Sentra. Right down to the QG18DE engine. The SE-R Spec V uses the QR25DE 2.5 litre engine. The Americans like things big! This means quite a lot of hop up parts avail to the American market. I found Nismo front and rear anti-roll bars, Nismo strut bars, Nismo & HKS exhaust, Brembo & Wilwood brakes, etc. etc. Here's a good place for those Nismo freaks

And Here's a decent forum

Mike Kojima's excellent series of articles on tuning the Sentra

More links coming up.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

K&N Filtercharger Replacement Air Filter

The same shop in S'pore that had the SSRs also gave me a fab deal on the K&N air filter. Price was a good 30% cheaper than Speedworks offer price. On top of that a free thermo flask mug was also given with each purchased filter. Parted with my Sing dollar without much thought. If you're curious on the benefits, a performance air filter flows more air into the engine that this should hopefully liberate some power from the anaemic QG16DE engine. I don't believe in open pod filters as they're noisy and only good for sucking in hot air unless you have a decent airbox over it.

Pix of the replacement air filter. The Sentra (Sunny in S'pore) uses part number 33-2031-2. Do not use any other part number. It's the same for both the QG16 and QG18. Even the SR20DE uses the same. Box label also states the manufacture date which in my case was 11/22/2006.

Pix of the K&N compared to stock paper element air filter

Compared to the Nismo and stock air filter the K&N is washable (recommended every 25-30K km or so). Installation was a zilch and took me a max of 15 minutes including cleaning my airbox cover. Should take less than 5 min if you just replace the filter. All you have to do is unlock the 4 metal clips surround the airbox lid, lift up the lid (be careful as the air intake piping and airflow sensor is connected to the lid), remove the stock filter, put the K&N filter in it's place, close the lid and lock it back. Make sure the K&N filter is properly seated before you close the cover.

Took the car for a drive and the difference was fairly minimal. Can feel that the engine is "looser" and revs a bit more willingly. I would say a max of 1-2hp at most. Not too bad for something so cheap. Still gonna try and compare with the Nismo air filter though.

Jan 22nd 2007 Update: Let me take back my words on the "minimal" statement I made earlier. Took the car for a drive today to Batu Ferringhi and the difference was quite a bit. Noticeably better pull from the midrange to the highs. Engine feels less strangulated. Guess the ECU needed some time to adapt to the better airflow.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Round 1: Focal K2P Series 165KPS Speakers + Steg QmosII 105.4x Amplifier

Along with the Bremen HU, this was the setup that originally got me into the ICE fever. Figured if I can't get my kicks out of feeling da G Force I might as well settle for some nice music. Actually only wanted to get speakers only. 6.5" separates to be exact. A stock N16 comes with 4 6.5" speakers. 1 per front door and 2 on the rear deck. This means a simple bolt-on installation job with no cutting involved. Went speaker hunting in Penang and that's when the nightmare started. Want Morel, Got! DLS Got! Focal, etc ALL GOT! Just don't expect a ready unit to audition like what you get with home hi-fi. All the shops can order but none had a unit for me to hear. Not a nice move if you're planning to spend a lot of money.

That's when I found Golden Auto Accessories in Bukit Jambul. Looks like any average car audio shop but there's more than meets the eye. For one thing David Yeoh and his brother 'Just Call Me Yeoh" don't look like your average professional installer. They're decidedly "Uncle" looking. That is until they get the installation done. Very neat and classy work with no loose ends untied. Perfectly justifies their array of IASCA trophies on display in their shop. Plus they had a Focal K2P 165 6.5" series speaker albeit KPS rather than K2P model (confusing huh?) on display and ready for audition. More details in Focal's webpage. In summary the KPS uses the same tweeter as a K2P (Focal's reknown TN52 Tioxyd 5 inverted dome tweeter) but with a lesser midbass and decidedly conventional looking woofer/driver. To make things more confusing there's also an even lesser variant called the KF model which uses the same midbass as the KPS but with a lesser and older TN47 tweeter.

Actually the first speaker I auditioned in Golden was the Rainbow Dreamline SLX series CSX265 as I wanted to only directly connect these speakers to my Bremen HU. So how did I end up with Focal K2Ps KPS which are nearly twice the price of the Rainbows? Let's just say the poison ran too deep. And since the Focal's were too power hungry I had to get an amp. Settled for the STEG QMOSII 105.4x 4-channel amp after researching around ICE forums and checking some mags. Apparently the STEG is highly recommended to partner Focals due to the Focal's bright sound. Urban legend or the hard unadulterated truth? Let your ears tell you.. Anyway, David also unbelievably had one last sample of the very same amp on display. Call it my luck. So I ended up auditioning amp with speaker and that's what I bought for my very first ICE setup. Decided to use my rear stock speakers for some bass duties. Yes, you heard it correct. My rear stock speakers. ICE hardcore and purist folks, pls feel free to puke at this point.

Wanted the "oem" look as much as possible and that is what I ended up with. Pix below of my amp and simple rack + cover after installation.

Closeup of the amp

Oh, and I also got some caplang 4AWG power cables, Rockford Fosgate 60amp fuse, Audioquest CL3 series FLX-16/2 speaker cables and Supra Dual interconnect cables with Supra PPX RCA plugs. I'm a firm believer having auditioned blind and able to tell the difference on the full range of Audioquest cables back when I was a student in the UK some 10+ years ago. Picture below of the Supra Dual interconnects (light blue) , Audioquest FLX-16/2 (white colour) speaker cables and America Sound (quite an original name cept it's a local company) power cable (dark blue). Pardon the lousy picture quality. Picture taken with a lowly 1.3 megapixel cameral of my Nokia h/phone.
Speaker cables nicely terminated with ends shrink wrapped by David. Got the interconnect and speaker cables including the gold plated spade speaker cable end terminals from my home hi-fi contacts - Hi-Fi Choice.
Picture of the Focal 165 KPS mids mounted on the door. The crossovers are mounted in behind the stock kick panels. 2 layers of sound deadening went into each door. Will cover that in a separate article.

So how does it sound? Pretty decent IMHO. I had the speakers setup for full range with a -4 cut on the tweets. The mids gave very good midbass. Tight and punchy. Unfortunately the doors couldn't take it. Lots of rattling and resonating effects despite the 2 layers of sound deadening and this really got me off. Per Uncle David the best fix is to 1. Add even more layers of sound deadening (I got friends with 5 layers per door I kid you not), 2. Use a proper subwoofer and cut the sub bass frequencies from the mids via a high pass filter 3. Mount the speakers on a kick panel.

The tweets are an acquired taste apparently with many people complaining bout the brightness. They sound fab to my ears though. Honestly I've never been to a live concert where things didn't sound "bright" anyway. I did find the mids were lacking giving an overall sound balanced that was mostly towards the highs and lows with little in between. This prompted an instant upgrade to K2Ps which took about a month to arrive as the distributors Audio Active were out of stock. Then I decided the rattling was getting to be a bit too much somehow or other the super lows or something were also lacking and the rear speakers sounded like they were gonna blow up. I need to be able to enjoy Massive Attack's "Teardrop" and the "Mezzanine" album at it's lowest fullest BASS! This then prompted another upgrade to a proper sub and the story goes on. Ah, but that's another story...

But honestly this setup is more than sufficient for most ICE enthusiasts or a starter setup. Beyond this article, read only if you are crazy or poisoned enough. This setup already cost me more than 8 grand with the Bremen HU, install costs and cables. Oh, and don't compare with the Sound Quality you can get with Home Audio like me. This is even worse for your wallet.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

SSR Type C

Was in S'pore over the weekend and visited my regular performance tyre and wheel shops there. Dunno whether I'm destined to use these wheels again but got offered these instead of Enkei RPF1s or Work XSA 02Cs which I was looking for. Used this previously on the SP and boy are they light and strong. SSR uses a proprietary technology licensed from ALCOA called Semi-Solid Forging which is similar in concept to a forged wheel ala Rays Engineering Volk Racing TE37. This results in a lighter and strong wheel compared to the equivalent cast item. SSR unfortunately went bust after I got me wheels for the SP in gold and are now only avail in bronze, white or gunmetal for the smaller sizes (14" to 16") . They got bought over by Racing Development Tanabe if you're interested in some history and currently living happily ever after with decent sales in Japan.

Anyway got offered the gunmetal version in the exact PCD and offset I wanted and at a drop dead price too. Dammit! Should I or should I not? The wheels are so friggin light they make the 7+ kg BBS RKs feel like lead weight. SSR's web page quoted the 16" X 7" PCD 114.3 4 lug Offset +42 at only 5.35kg. The SP's Type C's which were of the same size, width and offset but 100 PCD 4lug is even lighter at 4.99kg. Anyway back to my original question. Should I or should I not? Sigh... Damn tempted to drive to Sillypore to get them wheels and tyres. Tyres are also dirt cheap by Malaysian standards. Got quoted RM395 for the 205-50 16" Yokohama DNA DB ES501s here but over there it's only bout RM300 after conversion. Unfortunately they don't do trade in of my current wheels and tyres. Dammit!

Pix of the SSR Type C in gunmetal. This is what TCM should be putting on the Nismo Sentra.

Same wheel fitted to Nagisa Auto Time Attack BNR34 which is predominantly silver in colour. I'm in love...

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Blaupunkt Bremen MP74 Head Unit

Most people will typically go for the much more popular Alpine or Clarion brands when looking for a replacement high end head unit. After extensive research I decided that I didn't want to go that route. For one thing Alpine's new for 2006 range didn't excite me. Probably won't excite any audiophile buffs to unless you consider the iPod to be an audiophile item. The 9855 on the other hand doesn't have a good record reliability and I really hate Glide Touch. Would love the 9990 F1 but it's above my budget. The Clarion HX-D2 is expensive but whether it's suitable for me SQ wise is an unknown as I can't audition it. This is a common problem faced by Penang ICErs. My advise is to get to know the Penang gang and audition their rides. They're an excellent bunch. The gang can be found here. At that time this was unfortunately not known to me being an ICE virgin. All my experience in audio has been in home audio but any ICEr will tell you ICE and home audio is different. To a certain extent IMHO :)

Luckily I had a few trick up my sleeves. A call to a bro of mine - Anthony Lim from The Star Audiophile and Motoring fame led me to the Blaupunkt Bremen MP74. Anthony's excellent review on the Bremen can be found on the Star Online's Audiophile section. A quick check around the various ICE shops in Penang led me to CT2 in Bayan Baru which gave me an excellent discount on the Bremen besides taking the effort to get a fellow customer and Bremen user to come to the shop to give me an audition. Also gave me a decent trade in for my stock Blaupunkt Sevilla HU as icing on the cake. Thanks guys. You rock!

Installation was a zilch as the Sentra already has the Blaupunkt's wiring harness. I elected not to use the 2nd antenna as that would run across the top of my windscreen. Being nearly 6 feet I find that quite obscurring. Besides I don't listen to radio that much and even with a single antenna I can say that the Bremen will outperform most other HUs radio reception wise. Picture below of the Bremen after installation

Close up of the Bremen. I really dig the looks as I like my HUs simple and elegant. Can't stand the flashy displays and what nots. The Bremen might look basic aesthetically but it's anything but. The faceplate is brushed aluminium. Might not appeal much to the Beng crowd.

So the million dollar question. How does it sound? For one thing I can tell you the Bremen's 27 channel EQ (108 band if you take into account the 4 separate channels) means it's very flexible to different in-car acoustic environments. The auto adjust feature with microphone is also fab and really cuts down the tuning time. The sound of the Bremen is pretty clean and has a tinge of smoothness and warmth without losing the details and clarity. If you're ICE educated on a diet of Alpine HUs the signature is very different from the classic Jap Hi-Fi sound. Personally I find the Bremen more natural compared to let's say a 9855. The soundstage's pretty decent too and the Sub-Out function includes the ability to adjust subwoofer phasing by 45 degree increments to suit how far back you want your bass to be. I did try going active recently via the Bremen's high and lowpass filters but didn't like the sound. While without doubt the Hi-Fi attributes (the imaging was even more precise) were still there I find the music lifeless, emotionless and cold. Going passive is still the way for me.

The downsides? Not much from my experience. I did have the first unit crap out on me after 3 weeks. Sometimes it will not have any sound after turn-on. A quick call to CT2 and they gave me a brand new replacement unit no questions asked. The second unit has been impeccable for the last 4+ months (touch wood). Also the Bremen has several quirks or should I say character. The Mute button is actually the Pause button when you're playing the CD. The display has nice big graphics but by golly the font size used for the track elapse time and clock is way too small. And it's not cheap. The retail is a massive RM4.888K but you should be able to get for a bit below 3K. The face plate also closes too fast. Real hassle if you're like me and like to dilly dally choosing what CDs to hear as by the time you decide the face plate would have closed and you have to press the open/eject button again. Also got the CD stuck once when the faceplate closed when the CD was halfway inserted. Had to yank the CD out causing scratches to it. Bummer!

In summary the Bremen's got all the bells and whistles sonically for it's class and price range. It will take a much much more expensive HU from the likes of Alpine F1, Pioneer P90 series, McIntosh, etc. to outperform it. Unless top of your priority list for your HUs are flashy multi-colour displays and Ipod compatibility I would strongly recommend the Bremen Sound Quality wise.

BBS Teaser

Thinking bout upgrading my wheels (again). The N16 is a relatively big car. Put it together with the even bigger looking Nismo bodykit and it looks kinda toy car like as the small wheels seem to disappear behind the wheel arches and bodywork. My friends even had a good laugh seeing my fine looking car with it's original 14" puny wheels. I mean which stock 1.6 litre car nowadays come with 14" wheels? Upgraded to SG-L trim 15" stock JRD wheels with Michelin Energy XM-1 tyres but after 7 months the itchy nagging ricey feeling is back. Everytime I take a good long look at my Sentra it seems to shout back at me "BIGGER WHEELS PLS. DON'T YOU THINK I LOOK CRAPPY WITH THESE WHEELS?" Was gonna go for 17 inchers but ultimately the more logical side of my brain won the battle against the ricer side and I decided to settle with 16 X 7". Oh.. and having a tight wallet helps too. The JRD "Nismo" wheels fitted to the Nismo Edition Sentra are only 16 X 6". What a crying shame! Pls do note that if you want ultimate performance a decent set of 15" tyres on lightweight wheels is more than enough for the Sentra and it's engine power. I'm doing this purely for looks :P

So I went wheel hunting last weekend. The N16 uses a 4 lug 114.3 PCD which really limited my options as the common standard for Jap cars nowadays is 114.3 5 lug or 100 4 lug. Dammit! Luckily the offset (40) is pretty common. I basically narrowed down my option to OZ Super/Ultraleggera and Enkei RPF1. No forged wheels as no budget. With these wheels in mind I went shopping. What turned out instead was a pleasant suprise. I got offered these BBS RK beauties at a drop dead price. The RKs are cast wheels but very light (for a cast wheel) being around 7+kg for a 16 X 7" wheel.

Still could not decide though so I asked the shop owner check out the availability and price of the OZ before I make the final decision. What do you think?

Old Habits Die Hard

This pix of a Brabus Rocket (nee Mercedes CLS) from a recent edition of the popular Evo magazine got me all fired up about carbon parts again. Thinking of doing the FL2 Nismo's rear boot lid lip in full carbon. The only worry is if I start having a carbon lip soon it'll be sideskirts, bonnets and what nots. Will see how it goes. Watch this space...

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Nismo GT Titanium Shift Knob

This was the other part Wifey got for me from Jap land. The knob is weighted though for optimum shift feel so if you're looking to save weight you're better off with the stock plastic knob. This shift knob is also avail in hard rubber if you're hard on moolah and want one.

Picture of Nismo GT Titanium Shift Knob Part Number 32865-RN013. The Sentra uses a 10mm diameter shifter stick. Do not get the 12mm version. That is meant for 6-speed gearboxes.

Comparison with stock shift knob
Installation was a zilch and can be completed in less than 5 minutes. All you hafta do is unscrew the stock knob (just use your hand. No need for any tools) and screw in the Nismo unit. Then tighten the allen key (Metric 6mm) on top of the knob to tighten the whole shift knob assembly. I spend more time figuring out the position of the etched Nismo logo. Finally decided on the position where it's facing the front passenger.

Close up pix of knob installed. Looks like a Honda Type Aaaarrrrr shift knob if you ask me. Much much better looking than the stupid stock plastic afterthought shift knob though. Would prefer it to be slighly larger diameter as I have a pretty big left hand being a lefty.

The downsides? Well apart from the horrendous cost of anything Titanium the shift knob is made from a metal. This means that it will conduct heat better. The knob can feel cold in the early morning and I don't think you want to hold immediately it if the stupendous Malaysian sun happens to be heating it up all day.

Oh.. and it comes with this cool looking Nismo shift position indicator stick since there are no graphics on the knob itself. I've elected not to stick in coz it looks a bit Beng and I can't find a good place.