Cars, Computers, & Random Thoughts
Another Laser Update – Overdue Edition
Another Laser Update – Overdue Edition

Another Laser Update – Overdue Edition

I must first apologize for my long absence. I’ve been good and busy with work lately and I’ve been demotivated by receiving the wrong parts. I get all excited for the parts to arrive and then they don’t work. Send them back, reorder, repeat. Bleh. So I was kind of hoping I’d actually have something good to put in my update, and now I finally do. So here we go, the last three or so week’s worth of work.

The first thing I did after last update was port out the turbo 02 housing and exhaust side to match the gaskets I’ve got. This isn’t really that hard to do but it is time consuming and you need the right tools. I don’t, but my brother does! These came in the form of a MAC die grinder and a Cornwell Tools pencil grinder. The MAC grinder came with some carbide bits to do the heavy lifting and the pencil grinder was basically used as a glorified sander. A sander that could reach hard to get spots, which is important here. Below you can see how the exhaust manifold to turbine fitting looks from the factory. As you can see, that lip gets in the way of airflow, can cause turbulence and just in general reduces your efficiency, turbo performance lives by efficiency. The gasket also allows plenty of room to remove material and still seal fine.


This next shot is after maybe an hour of grinding. It can be done much faster, but I thought it wise to take things slow until I was used to the tools. Measure twice, cut once and all that.


You can tell that’s a pretty rough cut with the carbide bits, just aimed at taking material off. I went over it again to smooth things out a bit and try to maximize air flow efficiency. Once you get it as smooth as the carbide bits allow, you move to a sanding method to further polish things out. I did the same thing with the 02 housing on both ends. The end pictured below is the end that bolts up to the exhaust down pipe. This is also a rough cut and you can see that there is still plenty of material to come off to make this flush. Our home made compressor doesn’t quite keep up with this sort of work, so it makes for slow going and lots of waiting.


The main area that needs attention, pretty much the entire reason for doing this actually (from my understanding anyway), is the waste gate flapper. From the factory these don’t open very much. At higher RPMs this leads to the flapper not opening enough to relieve all the boost pressure, causing boost creep. This isn’t a huge issue if you’re running conservatively, but when you’re flogging the car you really don’t want boost creep in excess of the levels you’ve built the car for. This is a big issue people see when moving from the 14b to the 16g on DSMs so I wanted to do what I can to eliminate that. You can see the area I’m talking about in the shot below, the flapper only opens to maybe a 60 degree angle from the factory.


I took some more off to make sure the flapper opens as much as possible. I got it to the point where it was limited by the rest of the housing. Short of cutting the arm it’s own groove in the housing (probably a bad idea) this is about as good as it gets. But it opens to nearly a 90 degree angle now.


I should mention that many people have also put a larger flapper on and widen the actual wastegate hole as well to help relieve boost creep. I’m not sure that’s necessary, but I guess I’ll find out when I start really ragging on my car. That’s also a more involved method as you have to grind the old flapper off and weld the new one on. I chose to try this method first.

Next I busted out the pencil grinder and started smoothing things out. I figured the turbine exhaust outlet was a good place to start to get used to this tool. It probably won’t make any perceivable difference but I figured I’d go ahead and smooth it out a bit anyway.


Once I got more confident with the pencil grinder and let the compressor refill the tank, I moved back to the wastegate flapper. I was able to open it up just a bit more. Enough to make me happy anyway!


Then I moved to the original area I ported, the turbine inlet.


I pulled the rag out of the turbine side (do this with the opening facing down so all the metal bits fell to the floor rather than into the turbine) and admired my handiwork. Shiny!


The 02 housing is probably the biggest pain of the whole porting and polishing operation. It’s a tight fit for the pencil grinder, and you won’t be able to get absolutely all of the surface. I wasn’t super worried about it, so I just cleaned up what I could. You’ll want to be careful in here, one slip around the 02 sensor threads could make installing that sensor a bit of fun.
One area I did focus on is the divider between the exhaust and the wastegate flow paths. You want to remove as much of this as possible to improve airflow. I wasn’t able to remove much, but I did my best. Crappy pictures of “what the heck am I looking at?” below!


That divide in there is the bit you want to take out.
That divide in there is the bit you want to take out.

This shot shows a bit more of the material removed.
This shot shows a bit more of the material removed.

I settled into a good rhythm of using the Mac grinder while the compressor was full, and switching to the pencil for porting when the compressor couldn’t keep up with the heavy stuff. After two days of working on porting and polishing after work (probably 6 hours in all) I was ready to call it done. I used brake clean on a rag to get the remaining residue off the metal and really bring the shine out. Because OCD. The 02 housing proved a bit difficult again, so I just sprayed it out, you’d be surprised how much metal dust sticks around!

Metal puddle!
Metal puddle!

Speaking of, make sure to wear proper PPE for this stuff, I don’t think it’s a good idea to just go breathing this stuff in. You can see that it actually did catch a fair amount of metallic dust.


I did end up taking off a fair amount of material, this is just the stuff that stayed on the table.


Also, don’t forget to put the wastegate flapper cotter pin back in when you’re done porting that area. You’ll need it out to test your porting job and make sure the flapper opens better.


Now that my turbo was all done being ported and polished I needed some new studs to keep it together. It only came with one. I pulled that one out and took it to Weavers, a few minutes later I had the studs and nuts that I needed for the 02 housing to turbo and the turbo to manifold. Unfortunately they’re all just normal steel, nothing fancy so they won’t resist corrosion as well as I’d like. That said, I used plenty of hi-temp anti seize on these, in case I need to take them apart. I really hope I never have to.


I ran the nut all the way down the stud so I could use that to put the other end all the way into the housing. Otherwise you’ll have a hard time getting all the studs in tight.

Stud on the left isn't tight into the housing, the right stud is. The nut gives you something to torque on to bottom the studs out.
Stud on the left isn’t tight into the housing, the right stud is. The nut gives you something to torque on to bottom the studs out.


I also got my new wheel seal and was able to put the wheel bearing together and have two functional front wheels hubs. Hopefully they won’t need attention for quite some time.


That was a pretty good way to end that week. I got plenty done and was feeling good!


Then Came the Snow: Chapter 2


Then it snowed. No biggy I thought, I’ll just get the water lines installed and then put the turbo on. That’s enough to keep me happy for another week on this project.
I’m pretty sure I previously mentioned the oil feed line fitting that is about 1mm too long to not rub against the main water line. Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s a thing. I bought my kit on EBay, maybe that was my mistake, but they look to be pretty similar everywhere. The point is, I had to purchase another kit just to get the shorter fitting for the end, and that kit wasn’t cheap. I couldn’t find the banjo fitting locally or online at all, not in it’s shorter iteration anyway. So I ordered the other kit (which actually looks to be a good quality kit for running an oil feed from the oil filter) and used the shorter fitting from that. I’m not sure if I’m going to send the whole kit back with the longer fitting or not. I’d feel a little bad. But it works, you can see the old fitting is just a tiny bit longer, but long enough to get in the way.


My new water lines didn’t fit either. So we tried to get around this by bending them a little. We figured if we could get that basic problem out of the way that we’d be able to find a way to get everything attached afterward. So we bent them a bit, and that part was successful.


So I figured I’d just need to remove the old water return line, and maybe get a hose nipple that would fit in there, and then attach that to something?


Maybe a braided line since the new water lines I got don’t connect directly to the main water pipe? We went through half a dozen different ideas and just couldn’t come up with a way that would be as reliable as the OEM fitting.
So I finally broke down and just bought the OEM lines from STM so that should be here by next weekend and should get me that much closer to having the turbo on and the engine ready to drop in. I still have no clue where most of the water/vacuum hoses go so that is going to take some research as well. Dear STM, screw you for charging so much for these.

So instead I decided to sit in the aforementioned snow and try to get my inner tie rods swapped out. I got myself a pretty alright inner tie rod removal tools from Amazon and was ready to try it out. It works pretty well!
You need to take the outer tie rod off, get the nut off as well (easier said than done) and remove the boot. Then you can slip the removal tool over the inner rod, fit the correct size key into the tool and hook the ratchet up. It’s pretty easy, though the key part can be difficult as there isn’t much room to work up in there.

This is the basic idea, the tool slides over and a certain sized key fits the rod.
This is the basic idea, the tool slides over and a certain sized key fits the rod.


Now do it all again, but the other way around. I will say though, the adjustment nut for the outer tie rod will be fun to remove. I had to cut mine on the passenger side as I just couldn’t get it broken loose. The metal ties that hold the inner tie rod boot are a pain to reinstall as well, they tend to get in the way more than anything. I replaced mine with zip ties, much easier to get in place.


As I mentioned, I had to take a sawzall to the passenger side nut so I could get the boot off and get the tool on.


Not that it really mattered, because I then hit my second disappointing snag for the weekend.


Yea, I don’t think the new one is the same size as the old one. Sweet.
That’s when I gave up for the second weekend. Which brings us to this weekend! Or the weekend I’m posting this on anyway, I’m not a time traveler. Yet.

Chapter the third, in which I meet a slant 6

It’s true, I got a close up look at a slant 6 engine in my brothers ladies new-to-them winter beater truck. I could probably make that more confusing if you’d like.


I also helped my brother work on getting his winter beater Cutlass running. It’s going to be pretty sweet when it’s fully done, the name is Scavenger, and they’ve already got a 40-something inch lightbar for the top. I actually lost a bet (bet my car will be running before yours!) which necessitated the lightbar purchase.


I also once again realized how much I love my cars. Damn, they are a pretty bunch.


Anyway, to the work! I also ordered some other things from STM. Namely a flywheel inspection cover (I don’t think my car even had one), a new starter plate (mine was bent pretty bad, might as well), new throw out bearing clip (wasn’t super happy with the other one, and I bent it a bit), and new transmission dowel pins as mine were really beat up. I conned my brother into helping me get the transmission off again and set to work.


I started with the starter plate, and just now realized I forgot to put the starter back on as I’m typing this. Oops.
The starter plate is held on by two short 10mm bolts, and I’m happy to say that it is possible to remove with the flywheel, clutch, and pressure plate installed. I wouldn’t recommend it though. Though it is easier than torquing the flywheel while trying not to rotate the whole assembly!


The bolts are easy to remove, but hard to get back in place. My best method was to use the closed end of a 10mm wrench, drop the bolt head into it (with the wrench behind the flywheel, otherwise it won’t fit with the bolt in it), get the bolt into the thread, hold the bolt in place with a screwdriver and then get the open end of the wrench on the bolt and start threading it in. Luckily these are very short bolts.


Next I changed the throw out bearing clip. This new one is an OEM piece and it shows, it’s easier to get in place and secures the throw out bearing much better. While I was in there, I actually wiped all the anti seize off the throw out bearing and shaft as my brother revealed something I didn’t think about previously. Clutch dust. It would probably stick to the anti seize and then gum up the whole thing, the exact opposite of what we’re hoping to accomplish.

OEM left, aftermarket right.
OEM left, aftermarket right.


Then I went after the dowel pins. My old ones were pretty beat up.


The new ones installed into the transmission just fine. So I thought I was good to go and we tried to get it back together.


Nope. We couldn’t get the rear one to fit fully into the block. So everything came back apart again. What I found was that the starter plate must have been misaligned just enough to catch the dowel and prevent it from seating. I went ahead and filed off the ridge.


Next I loosened the two small starter plate bolts to make sure I could insert both of the dowels into the block. Don’t worry, I did remember to tighten them back up before putting the transmission on.


Lo and behold, after a bit of getting the proper application of force in the correct direction, everything fit together better than it had before.


This makes me seriously happy, it’s the first real progress I’ve had in weeks and one less thing in the way of dropping this engine into my Laser.


And so there it sits, waiting for the OEM water lines to come in. Once those are here, the turbo should be a smooth install (hah! wishful thinking at it’s best) and then the engine can go in. I don’t expect it to be that easy, you have been reading my journey so far right? But it’s something, I’m getting closer!

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