21 Dec 2017

Tamper Resistant Wheel Locking Nuts

Many of the mods that I have done has been purely want instead of need, but this one is a neccessity because of the times we live in! I do not wish for my vehicle to end up like the one below belonging to some unfortunate soul in Bangalore and these OE wheels are quite expensive to replace.

What a sad sight!

The brake pads too!


Given enough time a determined thief will get what he came came for, so what we can do is make it harder for the thief by robbing him off the time and he will be persuaded to go after easier targets. To do this tamper resistant wheel lug nuts should help. Note that the key word here is "tamper resistant" and not tamper proof and it works as a deterrent. Nothing is tamper proof given there is enough time.

These come as a set to suit 4 lug wheels, 5 lug wheels or 6 lug wheels. My suggestion is if your vehicle has 4 lug wheels go for 5 lug set and if your vehicle has a 5 lug wheel set go for 6 lug set, this will let you keep 4 spare lug nuts if required in future. The key that comes with the lug nut set is unique and it makes sense to order and keep a spare key with you. You will need the number on the sticker to get a spare key made.

Have to change the rest of them nuts now. This is a test fit and its perfect. Sits inside the wheel lug nut holes and does not protrude out like stock lug nuts.

I can park with peace of mind even on the road when I travel out of the city. With the wheels upgraded to 17 inchers wrapped with Michelin Primacy 3ST in 225/55/17 the loss I would suffer would be too huge if some low life decides to take off with my wheels. Not to mention that I will be stranded!

Amazon Fire TV In Car Entertainment

The Streaming Device & Why

This was not difficult for me, I chose Amazon Fire TV stick among the three devices I considered initially; 1) Chromecast, 2) Fire TV stick and 3) Roku Express.

Chromecast was not really in contention actually because as an entertainment device it falls short when compared to Fire TV or Roku. The choice had to be made between Roku and Fire TV, and I chose Fire TV as it was available in India officially.

I could have done a car PC or a Raspberry Pi based in car device using headunit as the display screen, but all I need is better in car entertainment and for that I choose the most simplest of the setup which will get it done. Local FM radio stations are crap with more talks and advertisement than good music and the music collection I have is quite old, so with Fire TV I can tune into some Internet radio stations while on the move and catch up on some programs when parked and sitting in the car. If I install a rear roof mounted video screen then it will keep the backseat drivers entertained :-)

The AV Receiver Headunit

To be honest you don't need a stereo even all you need is a tab to enjoy streaming content, but here the topic is Fire TV stick through car stereo/headunit so tabs or other handhelds are not even in my options list.

To get Fire TV play through car headunit you need 1) An AV receiver headunit with atleast WVGA resolution, 2) AV input and 3) two USB power source for Fire TV stick and 4G wireless router dongle or the "wingle". No.3 is good to have if a simple and dicreet install is preferred, a regular USB car charger plugged in a cigarette lighter socket works just as well.

I had this part really really easy because my Pioneer 8890BT already had a HDMI input port and two USB ports supplying 1.6 amps each more than enough to power the devices! God bless Pioneer! Yaay!

So all I had to do was hook it up. So easy! Because I want this is to be a hidden installation with no wires or devices visible outside I chose to use both the two USB ports to power up the Fire TV stick and the wingle. This means leaves me with no USB port for my phone to connect to the stereo for Android auto. But this is not such a big problem and its easily solved because the only thing that I really use Android auto is to display google maps on the larger screen of the stereo when travelling somewhere new and the map displayed on the screen is a major advantage, but problem is solved using Miracast supported by my phone and the Fire TV stick, its easy, I tried it and it works.

Installation is really really easy, all you have to do is replicate what you do to install the Fire TV to your home television, connect the HDMI cable then power it using the USB port and find a suitable place to stck the stick using 3M double sided tape. Wingle installation is the same except you need only USB connection for the power. I placed themboth next to each other and bot are hidden from the view. A proper hidden installation.  I decided to hide the devices is because I plan to leave this in the car indefinitely and when I give the vehicle to the workshop or some other place I can't trust myself to take it out without forget. If I leave it in there in plain sight I do not want to end up losing the devices.

In the photo below you can see 4G wingle and Fire TV stick both stuck close to each other and out of sight of any prying eyes and the cables neatly tied to the crossbeam behind the dashboard.

Things get a bit complicated if the stereo does not have a HDMI port but its not a dead end as long as the headunit has audio and video input ports. All you need is a HDMI to RCA converter and the respective cables to connect to RCA input to your car stereo. And for the power supply to Fire TV and wingle use a 2 port cigarette lighter socket USB charger to power it up.

The Internet

For an enjoyable without breaks and buffering interruption mobile content streaming experience you need a reliable and fast broadband Internet connection, if there is none then no reason to proceed, it won't work. A 4G connection is recommended to stream high quality audio & video but a 3G connection might work for lower content quality settings. Fire TV stick has three options to choose from - Good, Better and Best, based on your broadband connection speeds and usage limits you may choose one manually. If you let Fire TV decide the quality settings over a reliable and strong 4G connection it will choose the highest quality settings and will eat through your usage limits in no time. Be warned!

Without getting into the corporate or political side of things I wholly welcome the move by the Ambanis and it has definitely made life better for the average Indian including me when it comes to the connected world. Before Jio there was no nationwide, reliable and roaming charge free mobile broadband service with decent connection speeds wherever they are present with their cell towers. Jio was a revolution, and thanks to Jio now competitors have come up with better schemes and faster speeds to serve the Indian market. And obviously as you may have guessed by now my choice of 4G connection provider for my Fire TV stick is Jio.

I am doing a permanent 4G WiFi hotspot installation in my car instead of using my phone as a WiFi hotspot. For this I need a 4G LTE WiFi dongle without battery so that it turns on and shuts down with the car headunit whenever its powered up and powered off. Another reason of not choosing a battery powered wingle is to prevent any battery related issues when the device is subjected to high in car temperature when its parked in the sun.

All that tape you see wrapped around the wingle and the Fire TV stick is to help keep the wires connected to the device securely as the installation is not a typical home environment and I do not want the cables to loosen up and come out over time due to engine vibrations and road undulations. Strong fibreglass tape under the insulation does the actual securing, and the black insulation tape just holds it tight together.

Amazon Fire TV on Pioneer AVHX8890BT

And here is the final result. The pics are of some random programs and an Internet radio station. With the option to install a lot of apps the whole deal looks good.

And oh I almost forgot, there is Alexa in the bundled voice remote. All I have to do is to tell Alexa through the voice remote and she will respond with a list of options and if I am being more clear the first time she will follow the instruction readily.


30 Nov 2017

DIY Unichip Re-Tuned Innova Crysta

In one of my earlier posts I wrote about getting the Unichip for my Innova Crysta, which at that time was the first Toyota 2.8 GD Diesel engine in the country to get a proper custom tune. Being the first to experiment with a particular make/model in a country not known for tuned cars or tuner culture has its downsides and being a guinea pig is one of them. Unichip is a universal piggyback ECU and not a pre-programmed Diesel tuning box. And being a universal piggyback ECU the tune will only be good as the tuner, and chances of getting a crappy tune is quite high and I got a not so great tune from the tuner.

Re-tune upto my satisfaction never really happened. But all was not lost because I could tune it myself now (read below). In my installation and the tune I finalised Unichip was programmed to do these functions only 1) Rail pressure, 2) Boost control, 4) Injector duration and 5) SOI. The rest including safety features were turned off.

I was interested in becoming a Unichip agent myself since I believed the kit has potential if tuned well and I talked this with the main dealer and signed up as the Unichip agent in my region. This also gave me access to Unichip software.

Now I had Dastek's software and some very limited amount of documentation to get me started with reprogramming my Unichip. Each Unichip plug and play installation is specific for that particular make and model of the vehicle and often the kit will have additional modules apart from the main Unichip and the tuner gets access to the documentation relevant for that kit. Unfortunately I did not have access to the documentation for this kit or the Diesel specific information. But when you get a lemon you make lemonade Any how I decided to work with what I have and see what I can do, for now.

The tough part was the closed nature of Unichip and there was not much information available on it outside their network and this is a system that is new to me and the lack of relevant documentation put me in a spot. I went through whatever relevant documentation I could get my hands on even if that was for another manufacturer's piggyback. Once I gathered all the info I could possibly get I got on with programming, testing, reprogramming, and retesting. Lucky for me I chanced upon a Unichip competitor documentation and decided to try a different approach and made a completely new map based on what I learnt there. This proved to be a huge success and used this approach to build a new base map, rest is easy now.

If more power is needed a larger bang needs to be made inside the combustion chamber and for a larger bang more fuel and air needs to be delivered. While making larger bangs be careful otherwise engine would just go bang.

I had to burn a lot of midnight oil and Diesel doing the testing but the perseverance paid off finally I made a tune for my Crysta that I am kind of proud of. With Unichip my guesstimate would be around 230BHP and 450NM at the crank. Its time to put it on a dynamo-meter and measure the actual power output.

This is what I paid for when I decided to get the Unichip, if I never had the software it would have been a huge loss. But in hindsight would i buy the Unichip again? The answer is a big NO. The tune is only good as the effort the tuner in India puts into the tune.


Update: 230BHP and 450NM at the crank was a consevative figure when i guessed?!! I am surprised by the results myself. It made 214BHP 567NM at the wheels!

25 Jul 2017

1GDFTV EGR Block Without Error Codes

Finally it's done! Complete EGR blank on the new GD engine without using any electronic modules or a remap. I think this is the first "documented" case of a no codes thrown complete EGR blank on the new 1GDFTV.

Blanking EGR is a two step process and one of them steps is an invasive process which is probably going to be irreversible depending on how you do it.

Step 1 - Throttle body plate delete
This depending on how you proceed with it, i.e., carefully and with patience, you can get the screws out without damage and slide out the plate. But me I just drilled the screws out. You can read about it in detail here - throttle plate delete.

Step 2 - Blanking the EGR
This is a relatively easy thing to do all you need is a EGR blanking plate which you need to install it at the rear end of the cast iron exhaust manifold. This prevents exhaust from getting into the EGR system. I got the EGR blanking plate made from a gasket sample on a 2mm thick stainless steel plate. There was a water cutting shop near my place and they got it done for me.

It might be possible to get away without removing the throttle plate if you drill a large enough hole on the plate, probably a 14mm hole. But I would suggest removing the plate instead of making a hole in it. Once you drill a large hole on the throttle plate it is as good as being not there.

It is important that the plate be removed (or drilled) because if you do not ECU will throw a code. When the ECU decides to let in some exhaust it will close the throttle (explained in linked post above) to generate vacuum to assist the fumes from the exhaust to be sucked in. In theory if EGR is blocked without removal of the throttle plate the manifold pressure goes when throttle is closed when ECU expects exhaust to flow in, but it does not and ECU throws a code.

Update: 28/07/17
No EGR block error codes so far. No its not always based on airflow if someone is scratching their heads.

Update: 16/02/18
Same as above. All good.

28 Jun 2017

20 Inch Rigid Industries E2 Hyperspot Combo Lightbar

The search for a good quality LED lightbar ended with Rigid Industries E2 Hyperspot combo series. What is special about the Hyperspot Combo light bar is that it contains two kinds of optics. The Hyperspot optic provides for long reach and the Specter optic provides a spread beam to illuminate objects towards the sides. So with a mix of these two beam patterns it is ideal for high speed use on unlit highways. Rigid Industries is well known manufacturer and are one of the leaders in LED lightbar industry. The lights are American made and when you buy Rigid it is quality assured.

I settled for the 20 inch version of the Hyperspot combo lightbar, the kit came complete with wiring harness and L mounts. My friend in USA bought the lightbar and he carried it to India. The light is quite hefty and bulky and I can't thank him enough for carrying it for me!

Some un-boxing photos he took for me


As soon I had the light bar in my hand I was too excited and wanted to do a trial run before the actual install and so I hooked it up to the battery and aimed for the sky and turned the lights on. Bright?

The Rigid Industries E2 Hyperspot Driving Combo 20" Lightbar

Specter optic which is for driving beam pattern

Hyperspot optic which is for long range illumination

The Deutsche connector which is waterproof.

Decided to put the lightbar on top for the hood and being on the hood the beam travels far before falling down. Being on the hood I do not need additional mounts to be fabricated. They won't affect airbag sensors either.

The measurements had to be spot on. The Light should be centered on the hood and at the same time it should point straight ahead. I measured thrice and marked once and again measured after the marks were made on the hood. Once I drill the holes through the hood skin and through the structural member below there is no going back. If it did not align it would be an expensive repair.

To get it right the hood was removed from the Crysta and my better hlf helped me carry it inside to our living room where I could work on it.

Hood back on with new holes.

The light bar is mounted on the hood with rigid L mounts and secured using ICI Lightlocks tamper proof nuts. These are the best tamper poof fasteners I could find with a unique key.  A new key if reuired should be ordered using the nut's unique code laser etched on the inner face of the nut. Code should be noted down before its mounted and tightened.

The light is leveled using a spirit level with the vehicle on flat ground. It is set a bit down so that beam does not go high when there is load.

Light is powered from the battery through a relay. The harness supplied with the Rigid was adapted for simple installation and connections are soldered, heat shrinked and wrapped in 3M 7mil electrical tape. I hate poor electrical joints and wiring. The relay is connected to the high beam fuse slot in the fusebox using a fuse tap, OE wires are not tapped or spliced.

Rigid Industries brochure
Now Sold!

26 Jun 2017

Hollowed out Catalytic Converter & Magnaflow Exhaust

What is the best muffler available for a turbo diesel if you ask, then the answer you are going to get from everyone is that no muffler! For the best performance the answer is mostly true for turbo engines. Unlike a normally aspirated engine which needs a properly sized header/extractor to scavenge the spent gases and help aid cylinder filling a turbo diesel would actually prefer to have a large enough down pipe at the turbine outlet and going down stream a free flowing muffler or better still a straight pipe till the end.

If you ask a large as a drain down pipe and exhaust pipe is OK? Or what if i hollow out the catalytic converter?

Then the answer would not be that simple. It is a No if you wish to have a pipe that goes till the tail end or a side exit. But if you want to dump it in atmosphere then it will be OK to have a large turbo exit pipe which in some race cars points up instead of down.

If the exhaust pipe diameter is too large the exhaust gases would lose its heat energy and velocity which slows the gas down and it stagnates in the pipe which increase back pressure.

It  is ideal to have a slightly larger pipe than stock if you are keeping the rest of the engine mostly stock without any turbocharger, inter-cooler, air intake and fueling upgrades. If the stock exhaust size is 2.25 inch in diameter it would be OK if you up sized to 2.5 inch or even 3.0 inch with a chip or remap.

The advantages of a free flowing exhaust in a turbo diesel is very noticeable. The turbo spools faster, the low end to mid range torque gets better and the engine responds to your leg faster.

In my Innova Crysta we did a partial exhaust upgrade of the exhaust system. Partial because we did a cat back down pipe exhaust system in 2.5" stainless steel pipe with a Magnaflow straight through muffler. The catalytic converter is still on the vehicle, a turbo back catalytic converter delete is on the cards for another day.

The stock silencer or the muffler of the Innova is 13.5 inches in length and sits ahead of the rear axle.

Stainless steel Magnaflow straight through replacement. Magnaflow was bought from Amazon USA and had it shipped to me in India. It arrived safe without any defects.

Innova on the lift at Carmed Autologistics, Cochin. They are into performance modifications and remaps. The original mid section and silencer section of the exhaust was replaced with 2.5 Inch diameter stainless steel pipe and the Magnaflow.

We did a side exit exhaust for fun as you can see in the photos. There is enough clearance of approximately 8 inches from the ground. Side exit exhaust helps keep the total length of the exhaust system short and helps avoid couple of bends on the pipe when it goes over the rear axle for a rear exit.

The first start after the exhaust work. As expected and hoped it is not much louder, I just need lower restriction.

Eventually after a week of running with the side exit we returned to a rear exit setup because I did not want fumes inside the vehicle when parked with engine idling and windows down. So carmed re-routed the exhaust to the rear and connected to the stock rear section. This section will be upgraded to 2.5 inch pipe when we do the turbo back down pipe.


18 Jun 2017

Unichip Tuned Innova Crysta

Remap or Tuning Box?
This question was answered many suns ago and I decided to go the tuning box route with a rail pressure and boost pressure modifying box. But the itch for more persisted and soon I was looking at other options and I warmed up to the thought of getting a remap if it were available. Fortunately or unfortunately a remap was still not available for this particular ECU variant which comes in the Innova Crysta and so for the time being that option was put to rest. At the same time I opened discussion with Unichip as I found out that they have made a plug n play kit for the new 1GD-FTV.

Good News!
I got confirmation from the Unichip distributor in India that the kit should be compatible with the Innova. My main concern was the wiring harness matching up with the variant of ECU we have in the Innova here and not with the chip as the chip can be programmed as needed. Again I was re-assured that wiring harness should be compatible. So on that assurance I proceeded to move ahead with the Unichip.

Yes, very expensive. To put it into perspective and get it out of the way let me just say that the harness alone costs as much as a remap some folks charge in my country.

Plug n play. You can remove or re-install at your will. Factory ECU is totally unharmed and not violated in any manner. Stock wiring untouched, no cuts, no splices, nothing.

Is it just a tuning box then?
Well, No. Period. It does a bit more than a standard tuning box does. Its more of a piggyback ECU rather than a much more simpler tuning box.

So what all does it do?
Boost Control: Unichip has complete control over boost pressure across the operating range of the engine. Helps to burn more fuel as cleanly as possible!

Injector timing: Unichip can time the start of injection. When adding more fuel to the combustion chamber by means of higher rail pressure and/or adding pulse width to injector the fuel will need slightly more time to complete the burn. By advancing the injection timing it allows complete burn of the fuel before the piston is at BDC.

Fuel Rail Pressure: Unichip has control of Fuel Rail pressure, the simplest way to increase power on a turbo diesel. This is what most of the ready made ready to plug Diesel tuning boxes does.

Injector Pulse Width Modulation: This lets Unichip have direct control of the injectors and modulate the pulse width to alter injector open duration. This allows to put more fuel into the engine.

Throttle Booster: Helps to increase or decrease throttle sensitivity and helps to achieve a faster or slower throttle response as per user demand.

Coolant temp Protection: This lets Unichip pull back the performance of the engine if the engine coolant temperature sensor reads very high. This is a safety feature. If the Unichip reads high temperature it pulls back the fuel and the boost for 15 seconds. If it happens again it will pull back the fuel and the boost for 40 seconds. This is a way to protect the engine from misuse.

Canbus Map Select: This is a new feature developed specifically for the new 1GD-FTV engine foud in Innova Crysta/Fortuner. It is designed to switch Unichip maps via the factory PWR and ECO buttons. This means you can have 3 maps selectable by the factory Power and Economy buttons.

EGT Protection: This we have not yet done in this installation but someday i hope to get this done. For this we need an EGT probe to the put into the exhaust manifold before the turbo charger and its input given to the Unichip. With this we can achieve the same thing as Coolant temperature protection, the advantage of doing it based on EGT is quicker response.

So what it achieves is closer to a remap than a simple tuning box. Of course each has their own Pros and Cons the user need to chose his poison.

The Kit
The 1GD-FTV plug and play kit consists of 4 items. 1) The Unichip Q4, 2) The GDE module which is used for CAN bus integration, 3) HV4 injector driver module (it looks like another Q4) and 4) the plug and play high quality harness.

The Harness
Harness is made of high quality materials and the ECU connector socket is OE quality. The wire harness is neatly tucked inside a braided protective sleeves and the ends are wrapped using high quality tape.

The installation was done at Spitfire Automotive Performance at Coimbatore, they are the authorised dealers for Unichip in India and has a chassis dyno. This is my third time at Spitfire actually. Twice with my Swift 1.2K* and now with the Crysta,

Before commencing the installation they went over the actual wiring and the wiring diagram to confirm the harness compatibility. This step was thoroughly done and that took almost a full day to complete. For the next Innova or Fortuner installation they probably can skip this step because this is the first GD-FTV installation in the country.

Highlights about this installation is that no wires need to be cut, spliced or tapped. There are no wires in the engine bay to be installed. The PnP harness plugs into the ECU and the Unichip and the original ECU connectors plug into the PnP loom, neat and clean.

Once the wires were confirmed the unit was plugged in and soon the tuning started with J.Balamurugan with the Crysta tied down on the dyno.

It was getting late time to wind up and plan for another day.

The graphs for the dyno run is available, but the tune is not final. But here it is anyways. The Green line is the stock tune and the yellow line is the Unichip tune.

A revision and some tweaking is necessary to get the final tune. The present conservative tune is more like a test tune, but still it feels impressive

Edit: Retuned by myself!!
* Swift 1.2 Unichip Installation & Swift 1.2 to 1.4 conversion.
** No launch, Accelerating in D from standstill.