by Chris Barrington

Installment 15 - My least favorite activity: Maintenance

One side-effect of driving a car in anger is the need for frequent maintenance. I had been putting off a few areas of maintenance, because they're a huge pain in the ass: clutch and timing belt. The former was not preventative maintenance, unfortunately.

At an event at California Speedway, I was in the infield shifting from 3rd to 4th when the tach hit red and all the sudden I was coasting. Thankfully I was carrying enough speed that I actually coasted down pit out and nearly two-thirds of the way back to my garage before having to jump out and push.

I towed the car back home and got to work to assess the damage. First, I removed the axles, exhaust, and trans. Once that was out the way, I disconnected the torque tube from the engine-side bell housing and wiggled it back as far as I could. Trying to disconnect the bell housing from the engine was much less fun. The top two bolts are a pain in the ass to get a tool on, and getting your hands in between the firewall and engine to get the reference and speed sensors disconnected was just as frustrating.

I ended up putting a jack under the engine, loosening the crossmember bolts by a few turns and then lowering the engine down about an inch. This finally gave me the room I needed to get the reference and speed sensors removed from the bell housing, and get the upper most bell housing bolts removed. Here's a pic of the sensor mounting.

With all that finally removed, I got a look at the clutch pack. I think the reason for the clutch engagement issue is pretty obvious. I think this clutch might actually have been stock (165k miles!)


I took the opportunity to clean the bell housing, and apply a little grease to the clutch fork surfaces that needed it. This clutch disc, pressure plate and TO bearing are all used items from eBay. I know that these are not items to cheap out on, but if you look wide and far you can find excellent, albeit used, items for a fraction of new.

On to an area I do regret getting lazy and/cheap about: the flywheel. I didn't have an issue with chattering, so I simply hit the flywheel surface with a little mild sandpaper and thought nothing of it. Horrible mistake. Do yourself a favor and have yours machined, if you're ever staring at one. I don't know if the friction material is different in my new disc, but this baby chatters something fierce when it heats up. D'oh!

All buttoned back up! I painted the bolts as I torqued them, to make sure none got missed.

With that major undertaking done, I headed over to the front of the engine to make sure I didn't lose out on track time for another reason. Snapping t-belts will really ruin your day. It couldn't hurt to put some soap on this engine and give it a fresh water pump either.


Teardown included draining the coolant, removing the rad and the belt covers. My alternator tensioner decided it had had enough :(


With the balance shaft belt removed (and all tensions and routing duly noted!), I installed the flywheel lock and removed the crank pulley using a breaker bar. Take note of the big washer orientation. Get it wrong, and the motor may not build oil pressure!


I don't have the proper tool to remove the balance shaft pulleys, but that's nothing a few screwdrivers and breaker bar won't fix.


Old vs. New


Now onto new seals. Each component needed to be removed, but no rocket science here.


Finally all back together! I know that you can get a fancy belt tensioning tool online, but I prefer to learn track-side repair techniques. Using the photos I took of the belt tension (by twisting them with my hand), I simply duplicated that tension. I can recheck easily at the track.

Some proof the car still works :)


All photos: