Project Elantra: Gauging Progress

 In the previous Project Elantra update, we talked about our modifications to the braking system. We lost the ABS, rear discs, and our sense of self-preservation, but we still did not gain a handbrake that we can happily jerk around at the slalom races. What we achieved was to make the car slightly more dangerous.

If you guys remember, some time ago we discovered a puncture in one of  the Elantra’s radiator hoses. The fact was discovered by a cursory visual inspection and not by any indication from the standard temperature gauge, as it was characteristically vague on how close the engine was towards meltdown. Plus, if for any reason oil pressure drops to a point of destruction, all you get is a warning light that looks like an upside-down turtle. These issues inspired us to install some improved instrumentation for the Elantra.

We installed a whole bunch of fancy-schmancy gauges to tell us more than we ever want to know. While fitting them in, we found out that extra items had to be purchased to make the sensors read something. Buying accessories for your accessories, if you will. Perhaps many of what we did was a bit unnecessary.  And after all the effort, we realize that these are merely just aesthetic items.  We’re kicking ourselves in the rump, but they impress people.

Read on for more (expenditures) after the jump.

The Importance of Gauges

At a functional standpoint, gauges tell you what you might want to know. The late great weather man Ernie Baron was known for his catchphrase,”Kung walang knowledge, walang power.” (No knowledge, no power). The knowledge that your engine is about to blast like it was Mt. Pinatubo does not gain you horsies. But it saves you the expense of a new engine block. And, money saved is money earned – for more mods!

But many people derive an aesthetic pleasure in seeing so many gauges. I, for one, love them. It gives my car a pseudo-race car look to the interior. How race car can you get when the car is without carpets and seats, equipped with racing seat and harness, and given the lack of A/C, permeates of parfum de sueur? But the gauges improved curb appeal, at the very least impressing fellow contributor Chico Belandres as the gauges did their Defi-esque dance.

Auto Gauge

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We decided to go with Auto Gauge Stepper Movement Smoke Lens series gauges, primarily because they were available for purchase with a credit card from Concorde. Circuit branded gauges are cheaper and display most of the information that we wanted, but we didn’t know where to get them at the time.

These Auto Gauges feature a Defi-style opening ceremony. Upon start-up, the needle sweeps throughout the 270-degree movement range to clear the previous reading when the car was shut-off. Again aping Defis, the gauges appear blank when the engine is shut off. And ,when on, the black face serves as the background for legible red, white, and blue coloured displays. We got the white on black gauges, as those are what Concorde SM Southmall had.

Since they are electric gauges, they have sensors that are separate from the gauge body. Mechanical gauges make direct physical contact to the items they are reading. That’s fine for vacuum or boost gauges, but would you want to run an oil line to the cockpit-mounted gauge and run the risk of hot icky oil on your face? There remain reasons for the existence of mechanical gauges, so the enthusiast should not completely discount them when considering to fit additional instrumentation to one’s vehicle.


Oil Pressure and Temperature Gauges

These pair of gauges monitor the engine oil’s temperature and pressure. Duh. Upon reflection, we consider oil pressure to be the more important of the two. Like what we said earlier, when oil pressure drops to bye-bye-engine levels, the stock instrumentation only displays an idiot light. As for oil temperature, it closely follows the water temperature. So, when an engine overheats, it will shoot both temps skyward. But since oil has a higher operating temperature than water (warning threshold on the Auto Gauge is at 130 degrees Centigrade, but water sans coolant boils at 100-deg C), water temps should be more monitored vis-a-vis oil temps. In defence of the oil temp gauge though, it helps in knowing if the engine has reached operating temperature after a cold start.

The gauges’ sending units had to be screwed on a place where they can sense the engine’s oil. Duh, again. But where? The stock oil pressure sender’s location was already shared with the oil feed line to the turbocharger. A good solution was to get a adapter plate that would locate the sending units in between the engine and the oil filter. A better, and more expensive solution is to get an oil cooler and oil filter relocation kit that has bungs for your gauges’ sensors.

An oil cooler is a touch overkill for Slalom racing. Slalom is a short-duration and low-speed event, so the typical engine in a paradahan racer does not need the extra cooling that an oil cooler provides. But for Project Elantra, we thought it worthwhile. This generation Elantra’s front fascia has only the lower valance as the major inlet for engine cooling air. The valance in the car is almost completely blocked by the intercooler. Thus, air flow to the radiator is reduced. Plus, the fitment of a turbo makes the engine generate quite a lot of heat – that being good, as that means more power is being made! But to compensate for the extra heat, an upgrade to the engine cooling system should be considered.

We placed the heat exchanger (the blue thingy) roughly in the same locale where the A/C condenser used to be, in between the intercooler and the radiator. Our engine is almost assured of sufficient cooling. The driver, not so much.

Aside from a radiator upgrade (discussed in the next section), we thought of installing a supplementary heat exchanger to further keep the engine temps tolerable. We bought a 10-row oil cooler kit from our favorite performance parts resource, Iikdo Car Accessories, in Las Pinas. The kit includes the heat exchanger unit for oil, a sandwich plate, an oil filter and steel braided oil lines to tie everything together With the help of Peque Alacbay, the proprietor of Iikdo, we were able to get the correct fittings for the sandwich plate for it to properly seat to the stock oil filter location. We then had to have had custom brackets fabricated to put the heat exchanger and the oil filter relocation plate in place.

When we removed our ABS, we freed up a nifty space where we could relocate our oil filter. This location used to be where the ABS pump was. Also in the picture are the sending units for the oil pressure and the oil temperature gauges.


Water Temperature Gauge

Earlier, we talked about providing adequate heat management after turbocharging a car. While installing the water temperature gauge, we used the opportunity to upgrade the cooling system as well.In all honesty, the sensor only needed an in-line radiator hose adapter to be used. But the radiator hoses were completely perished. We had to buy new hoses, but while replacing them we saw that the hose barb at the upper end tank  of the radiator have sheared off. Normally, to address the issue we needed to either get a new radiator assembly or convert the damaged end tank to copper. We did neither. We got ourselves a bigger radiator.

Ask yourself this question: where in the great archipelago of the Philippines can you buy an aftermarket, uprated radiator for a 1998 Hyundai Elantra? The answer is, none. The radiator shop in front of the Garage gave us an idea. Why don’t we look for a two-row radiator made for some other vehicle, but with the core having the same frontal dimensions as the stock one, and simply making it fit? That’s exactly what we did.

Water Temperature Sensor Adapter

A stroll back into Evangelista St. in Makati netted us a two-row copper radiator from an unknown Toyota model. It had the hose barb locations at the wrong places but otherwise dimensionally identical to the stocker. We then brought it back to our radiator repair shop neighbor and have them make custom end tanks aping the stock fitment, even down to the mounting tabs for the stock radiator fan shrouding.Speaking of the fans, we aimed to retain the stock fans because we do not feel that a slim-type fan would be powerful enough to pull in enough air to maintain engine temps while the car is stationary. Unfortunately, the increased thickness of the radiator made the motor of the primary fan conflict with the turbo piping. We once again visited a surplus parts shop and found a smaller fan motor with matching fan blade from a Honda Civic that would almost fit the stock shroud. After some drilling and screwing down, it did the trick.

Now, we had increased capacity for engine coolant, plus more surface area where heat can be exchanged from the cooling system to the air vented from outside. What’s not to love? However, if we are to do it again, we would take more effort in looking for a radiator made of aluminum. Though copper is more superior as a material for thermal conductivity than aluminum, and radiators made of this stuff are easily repairable by every radiator shop in the country, copper rad’s are heavier. More weight up front may simply exacerbate the car’s tendency to understeer, and that is undesirable, don’t you think?

Next Time

This article has already exceeded 1500 words in length, and we have merely talked about three of the six total gauges we have fitted!  We’ll continue the saga on gauges the next Project Elantra update. And, after gauges, there is still quite some stuff to talk about. Stay tuned, and keep it slow out there!

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