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MISCELLANEOUS (General Questions)

On car magazines...
Fred Miceli (

This is for whoever asked about some other car mags other than the widely published ones:

Turbo & HI-Tech Performance 714-962-7795
Grassroots Motorsports
(geared towards the road racer/autoxer)

Where can I get a service manual?
Fred Miceli (

Call up Dyment Distribution at 800-247-5321. For the NX and "classic" SE-R ('91-'94) it's $73. The manuals for the '95+ are $93.

Ronald S. Chong (

I highly recommend checking out the Haynes service manual. I discovered and became a supporter of Haynes when I had my old '82 Subaru hatchback. I recently purchased the Haynes Sentra manual. The latest version covers the '82 to '94 sentra. Yeah, that's a big year range, but I find it to be an excellent companion to the Nissan service manual. And hey, it's only $13.

John Tong (

I have a Chilton manual, the green one with the thickness of a phone book. It's not close to as good as the Nissan one, but at $20, no complain.

Yesterday, I was at Grand Auto and saw the Haynes one by accident. So, I ripped open the plastic wrap and started to read. (I bought that book afterward, so it's not vandalism.)

God, it's much better than the Chilton one. Besides, it's only $13. It has more pictures, covered more on the late model Sentra than the early ones, they even have an exploded view of the Nismo B13 kit. I will say it answers 85% of all 'How to' questions on the list.

It's a lot more practical than the Chilton. The only thing the Chilton one excels is the specification tables, since the Haynes one contains none. The BEST one I have ever layed my grubby paws on is the Nissan one. But it's a little costly.

Can someone recommend a good alarm system for under $300 (less than $200 will be even better)? I hope to have glass breakage sensors or shoke sensors and iginition kill.
Derek Solomon Pai (c...@apollo0.Stanford.EDU)

I bought a Clifford Arrow from Car Toys in Seattle for ~$230 installed. It has standard door pins, magnetic resonance (shock) sensors, LED, and two remotes. That cost included a couple extra things: hood & trunk pins. Flashing parking lights are $30 extra. It works very well, and the control box has some great features like "False Alarm Control and Test" which resets the alarm after one pin has been triggered, auto-set toggles, etc.

What brand of gasoline is best for the car and the octane?
Merlin Johnson ( up to you. Octane for a stock SE-R...87 is just dandy, no harm in that at all...will save you lots of money over time. If you have the ECU, you'll need to use 91+ though.

About performance modeling computer programs...
Bill Charette (

Car Test Simulator Performance: This simulator allows input of many factors and gives performance info. It can be found at:

Dragstrip Plus:It goes REALLY in-depth as to specifications of your engine (cam profiles, head type, porting, etc) and gives you an approx HP and 1/4 mi. ET based on all your inputs. It can be found at

I need to stop borrowing peoples tools and go buy the basics. What would you guys recommend as the most important tools to have and what brand would you recommend for someone with very limited funds.
Lawrence Weeks (

Well, these seem to serve me well:

  • 3/8" rachet
  • 3/8" torque wrench
  • 3/8" metric sockets, a full set of both regular and deep
  • 3/8" extensions (short, medium, long)
  • 3/8" universal joint socket
  • 3/8" to 1/2" adapter socket
  • 1/2" large metric sockets as required (wheel nut, etc.)
  • 3/8" socket for spark plugs (5/8" ?)
  • metric wrenches, a full set of combo box/open ends
  • screwdrivers (good selection of flat and phillips head)
  • pliars (regular, snub, needle)
  • vise-grip pliars
  • wire cutters
  • circlip pliars
  • soft metal hammer
  • hard metal hammer
  • rubber mallet
  • push pins
  • pry bar
  • digital multi-meter
  • slide bar clamp (for compressing brake calipers)
  • chisel
  • floor jack
  • jack stands
  • drain pan

There are others, of course, but I think that those are most of them. As for brand, Craftsman is of pretty good quality. Get their shop by mail tools catalog.

Julian (

I'm not a mechanic but I like to do what I can on my car. Good socket set and box end wrenches can do many jobs in addition to the screwdrivers, pliers, vise-grips, torque wrench, etc. Sears Craftsman brand of tools are very good, they are reasonably priced and many of the tools carry a lifetime replacement warranty, never had one break, can't say that about a lot of the $5.99 wrench sets. Snap On makes very high quality tools but expensive. You might try a pawn shop/garage sale too, a well made tool should still be in good shape. Keep in mind the tool usually pays for itself if you can do the job on your own :)

Ronnie Mickaels (

Sears Craftsman tools are great, but WAIT TILL THEY GO ON SALE! Sears puts sets of tools on sale quite often (especially around 3-day holidays for the fixer-upper market), so don't be a sucker and pay full price.

Jesse Nadel (

If you're on a budget (who isn't?), and you like to do your own work, but not on an every day basis (in other words, you're not a professional mechanic, and you don't need tools that will stand up to years and years of everyday use), consider this. Find a swap meet or similar kind of affair that meets regularly, like once or twice a week. See if you can find someone who deals in used hand tools. There's a place like this near me that I go to regularly. This guy picks up tools from all over, usually at estate sales for pennies and sells them at the swap meet. Some are good stuff, like craftsman, which can be returned for new for any reason...the rest is crummy but good enough for a DIY like me.

My logic is that having just the right tool can save a LOT of time and aggravation, and that you need to have a large collection of obscure tools. What you don't need is the highest quality. Who cares if the wrench fails after a year of use if you only invested a buck or two in it?

The autox guys have been talking about some fast ARC neons. What makes these cars so fast? On paper, these cars sound like no big deal.
Leon McCalla (

I think the ACR Neons have 150 HP as opposed to the norm 138 HP neons, and the car is quite a bit smaller than the Sentra is. Being lighter with stiff suspensions means better handling and thus better AUTOXing. My $.02,

Jaret (

Well, the DOHC coupes have 150hp while the sedans have 132hp. Those are the same as the regular Neons. But the gearing is different, so an ACR should be a little quicker. They are light, an ACR driver told me that his 94, 4 door pretty much stripped, wieghed a little over 2100 lbs. An SE-R wieghs what, 2500?

Jim Mullen (

The Neon's have great handling, and a lot of torque, and they are competitively classed in both road racing and solo. This is the reason for their success. The ACR's do have better suspension components, but it's the basic design that is so good, and all Neons have that. That ACR motor is very torquey. The car was a BLAST to drive.

My question for the rest of you techno-wienies out there is: what is the difference between torque and horsepower. I know that larger displacement engines generally have a greater torque/HP ratio. Esp. with trucks. Also, I notice that peak torque usually comes at a lower RPM than peak HP. I know that increased HP generally means increased torque, but the two obviously don't go directly hand in hand. I would just like to know both the theoretical and practical differences between the two. I mean, what does more torque give you in everyday driving versus more HP.
Jeff Cross (

HP is a function of torque * RPM. I don't know the exact formula or units but that's it. A pushrod engine will often have a high torque but the power it generates is at a low RPM, as the RPM climbs, the horsepower falls off. A overhead cam engine produces it's power at a higher RPM range. Since the power is high at a high RPM, the horsepower peak looks great, but the cost is that the torque peak is also at a high RPM. Carol Shelby used to say that HP sold cars, torque won races.

Frederick Braam (

The formula for horsepower from torque is:

(torque x rpm) / 5252

Horsepower is a measurement of how much it would take to slow an engine back down to zero rpm. Therefore, it kinda gives an idea of how well the engine breaths and how much work it's done getting to the rpm it's at.

I've been wondering what the conversion formula from K.W. to H.P. is.
Peter de Vries (

The formula to convert kilowatts to horsepower is:

(1.34 x KW) = HP

About racing/driving schools...
Robert Rood (

I took Skip Barber's 2-day Driving School at Road America in June of 1995. (At the time, it was $1000; I think the price may have increased a tad since.) Needless to say, it was the most fun I've had with my clothes on. The school, the track, the cars, and the instructors were great. Basically, the instructors break up the students into smaller groups. Each group then goes to a different "activity." The various activities were Skidpad, Braking, Classroom, Autocross, Slalom and heel-and-toe exercises (Yes, autocross and slalom are different!) I'll talk briefly about each group:

We drove Dodge Dakota V8 Club-Cab pickups with low-profile "slicks" on the back. To make the trucks slide even more, the school had the rear anti-sway bars removed. Needless to say, there wasn't much grip in the rear. We basically went around a wet figure 8 track of cones and steered with the throttle. A great exercise in car control. Not so great for the students in the back seats getting motion sickness.
We drove the Dodge Stratus. Not a fun car, mind you, but what the heck. By the end of the day, the tires were shredded, the rotors warped, and brake fade was incredible; your foot basically went right to the floor. We performed threshold braking with and without ABS. Then we did threshold braking while turning. Yes, my friends, you CAN put a front-wheel-drive car sideways during this exercise. Grin, grin, grin...
Dodge Stealth Twin-Turbo. What a rush. Turbo lag is incredible, but once the tach hits about 2K, hold on. It pulls like an absolute freight train all the way to 7K. After practicing with the Stealth (it's AWD), you "graduate" to the Viper RT/10. Can you say "oversteer?" It's a very wicked car and you better keep your foot OFF the floor. If not, you're sideways more than straight. Not that that's bad, but it's very embarrassing when you spin the car off the course, something that's very easy to do.
Stealth. Fun, fun, fun. They tell you to get the car up to 70 mph (yeah right; we were consistently pushing the car over 90 and the instructors didn't care a bit) and then practice the downshifting. If you've never done heel-and-toe, try it. It's hard to do for a while, but once down, it's great to impress your friends. :-)
Stealth. More fun, fun, fun. You basically zig-zag through cones that are positioned in a straight line. The instructor could hit about 50 MPH, the best student about 43. Big difference!!!!
Instructors talked about racing lines and other terminology (oversteer, understeer, contact patch, etc.) About an hour total. Even THIS was fun.

A couple of months after this I took the 1-day Advanced Activity Car Control Clinic (It was $595 then, $795 now) It was very similar to the 2-day driving, but alot more intense. You also get to drive the racing cars which are very different from street cars.

Matt Ma (

I have recent course catalogs for Russell Racing School and also Skip Barber Racing School. For each school, there is a "racing" class, as well as a "driving" class. For the one day driving classes (about 3 hours total), Skip Barber gves you time behind the wheel of a Dodge Stratus (fwd), Dodge Stealth (awd), and a Dodge Viper (rwd). The Russell car is a Mitsubishi Galant. Skip Barber costs about $500, and Russell costs about $350.

In the "racing" school, the cars are formula style open cockpit, single seat, open wheel machines with gearboxes (no wings). The Russell car is not the Formula Ford car that they use in their competition series, but it is a scaled down version that has a 95 bhp 1.6 liter engine (100 mph top speed), a 4-speed gearbox, DOT tires, and weighs 890 lbs. The Skip Barber car is the same Formula Dodge car that is used in their enty-level competition series. It has the Neon's 140 bhp SOHC 2.0 liter engine (header bumps it up from 132 bhp), a 5-speed gearbox, and supposedly can go up to speeds of 130 mph. Russel costs $350 for about 2.75 hours, with 2 of those on the track. Skip costs about $475 for 2.5 hours, with 1.5 of those on the track. Skip Barber offers group deals for 5 or more people who go together. I think Russell does too. Lemme go home and double check this, and also what the discount is. Anybody want to go? I'm ready!

My overall impression is that the Skip Barber school is a little more professional, based on the quality of their brochures and the descriptions of the intro courses as well as the advanced courses. However, Russell certainly does seem like a better value.

Also, both schools offer "real" racing courses, which start at 3 days and about $2-3k. Upon completion of these courses, you get a real competition license which makes you eligible for more advanced competitive events and series.

Sometimes I have a really hard time downshifting into 1st gear. Do you have to double clutch it. What exactly is double clutching? What are synchros?
Donald J. Dale (d...@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)

If you're finding it hard to shift into 1st, then most likely, you're running up against the fact that 1st gear on our cars has a synchro on it, and resistance when shifting into 1st is normal. Don't force it! Jamming the stick into 1st despite the synchro is a Bad Thing To Do.

A "synchro" is a mechanism attached to one or more of the gears in your transmission. What it does is prevent you from shifting into that gear unless your engine RPM matches what it would be if you were travelling at your current speed in that gear. If you're going 25 mph, the synchro will prevent you from shifting into 1st unless the engine is turning at about 6500 rpm; if you're going 15 mph, the synchro will prevent you from shifting unless the engine is about 4000 rpm. You get the idea.

Now, here's how to "double clutch" in order to match revs and shift despite the synchro. Find a straight, seldom-travelled road where you can go 15-20 mph without anyone getting angry following you. In 1st gear, take the car up to about 20 mph. Shift into 2nd. Now, if you were to try to shift back into 1st directly, the synchro would prevent it (or at least make it hard to shift). Put the clutch in and shift into neutral, right between 1st and 2nd. If you push the shifter toward 1st gently, you can feel some resistance; that's the synchro trying to prevent you from shifting. Now, let out the clutch. You're in neutral, coasting. Now, push down on the accelerator pedal for a moment, then let up. This is called "blipping the throttle." The engine speed will race up to high rpm and then gradually come back down toward idle. As the engine speed is coming down (watch your tachometer to comfirm this), push the clutch in again and gently ease the stick toward 1st. When your engine reaches the proper rpm level on its way down, the synchro will recognize that revs are matched and will allow you to shift into 1st. You'll feel a sudden drop in the resistance the synchro is giving you, and the stick should slide into 1st as easily as it does into the other gears. Let out the clutch again and you're driving in 1st. The fact that you have to push the clutch in, then let it out, then push it in again, then let it out again, gives this whole process its name, double-clutching.

Advanced topics:

As you become more adept at this, you'll begin to "know" the proper rpm level the engine needs in order to match revs at the speed you're travelling. You'll be able to "blip" the throttle right up to this rpm level and shift more quickly, as you won't have to wait for the right rpms.

With practice, you'll be able to do all of this even as you're applying the brake. What you have to do is use your right foot to control both the brake pedal and the accelerator pedal. If your foot is wide enough, you can use the inside edge of your right foot (the "ball") to push the brake pedal down, then at the proper moment, use the outside edge of your foot to "blip" the throttle. If your foot isn't that large, you have to kind of twist your foot sideways, using your heel to control the brake and your toes to control the accelerator. This technique is called "heel and toe" for obvious reasons. By the way, this is what aftermarket pedal covers are for -- to make heel-and-toe easier.

Maintained by Ronald S. Chong (