Category Archives: Cars

Cars and stuff

For some silly reason a JDM Forester XT (SJG) comes with a single rear fog light on right side (and a dummy on left side).

I am amazed that these rear fog lights are not disabled during compliance. They are useless, annoying and illegal in NZ.
Too many times I was stuck behind an oblivious BMW driver in rain only to be blinded by their rear fog lights.
In my opinion these people who drive with rear fog lights should be fined.

So, the rear fog light got to go.

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I decided to replace the 6300k HID bulbs on one of my cars, with more sensible 4300k OEM solution.

I came across reasonably priced Toyota Genuine Bulbs on (NZ ebay type of thing).

The particular bulbs I was after were D4R, or Toyota Genuine Part 90981-20015 (alternatively Philips 42406).

They were priced (~$80NZD) similar to Genuine Philips 42406 in USA (~$50USD), so seemed to be reasonable. The Toyota Genuine are after all Philips 42406 in TGP box.

When I tried to fit the bulbs I noticed they were extremely tight. Then I looked closely and did some googling.

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Since day one of our ownership of this particular 1NZFE powered Toyota IST the engine was a bit on louder side.
Previously all my other cars had timing belts and I put it down to simply being a “feature” of chain.
After more family and friends upgraded their cars to xNZFE, it was clear that this engine was slightly louder in chain department then the rest (especially in the mornings).

One day after coming back from a holiday I started the car only to be greeted by loud chain slapping noise.

OMG! My wife’s car turned into a Nissan!

I decided to exorcise the Nissan out of it by replacing the chain tensioner and guides.

Below is how I did it, not necessary the “correct” way. This process took about 6 hours, good chunk of it was spent on cleaning the surfaces.
It was pretty much like replacing timing belt, except with way more RTV.
Over all I replaced two oil pump O-rings, front crank seal, valve cover gasket, both chain guides and chain tensioner.

In retrospect I prefer timing belts as opposed to timing chains, especially considering that the tensioners still fail on chains occasionally.

Interesting notes:

  • Old guides were PA66, new guides are PA46 (improved)
  • Old tensioner had larger oil hole than the new tensioner.
  • In hand old tensioner functioned correctly, but while fitted it would skip.
  • For some reason Toyota decided it is great idea to incorporate water pump flange into front cover. This creates a potential of RTV failure and leakage of coolant into sump. It also requires pump removal when removing front cover. It would saved me 2 hours if the pump was not part of the front cover.
  • The oil pump is mounted on front cover, thus requiring two O-rings for inlet and outlet.
  • One of those O-ring was completely flat, possibly leaking oil. It is hard to tell if the O-rings seated properly when fitting the cover.
  • For the crank pulley Toyota gone away from woodruff key in favour of tiny hollow pin.
  • The 10mm cover bolts and water pump bolts torqued at 11Nm. The 12mm cover nut and bolts torqued at 24Nm. The crank pulley went in hella-tight with crappy rattle gun and on top with some hammer on spanner action (It should be 128Nm). The tensioner and guides bolts are torqued to 9Nm.
  • I used Threebond grey RTV. The manual specified two kinds of RTVs for water pump and the rest of the cover, good luck buying two Toyota genuine RTV tubes ;).

Slack Before and After:

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Recently we got a nice 2005 Toyota Vitz RS (NCP91) with a manual transmission.

It is great car in all aspects except power delivery and throttle response is pathetic.

We already have 1NZ-FE powered car in the family – Toyota IST and unlike the Vitz RS it is not that pathetic (in fact it is kind of fun to drive).
Yes, I have driven multiple Vitz RS and they were all asthmatic.
So what is so different between IST and RS? IST happens to have cable driven throttle, while RS has drive-by-wire.

Here is where Toyota screwed up and completely ruined the car: they made throttle map to emulate steam roller.

If I was Toyota I would not stick RS badge on the car, it is not a hot hatch simply because it lacks in engine department. Vitz RS should have came out with 1ZZFE at least.
What is even worse they decided to stick this anaemic throttle map on top. As if the car was not boring enough.

After consulting google and various forums I had two minor mod options:

1) Stick a throttle controller
2) Stick a throttle body off 1ZZFE.

I decided to go for second option as it is transparent from end user point of view. There are a few minor hurdles with this mod.

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JDM GRB STI: Rear diffrential – which type?

After conflicting information on the net I finally purchased el-cheapo endoscope camera and took some snaps of the differential.

Pictures are crap but enough to confirm that the diff is Torsen:



What you see is the helical gear shafts (I also confirmed that by spinning the wheel and observed the shafts spinning).
If it was clutch type it would had clutches, shims and cam mechanism visible instead.

In conclusion at least my JDM GRB STI came with Torsen (and it does not look like it was after market installation as all the bolts and seals are pristine).

Replacing Transmission and Differential oil in GRB WRX STI

The oil:
For gearbox/front diff and rear diff I use Motul Gear 300:

Oil Volume:

  • Gearbox and front diff: 4.1L
  • Rear diff: 1.1L

Requires 6L to purchase (or 4L can + left overs from last time), about $250 NZD for Motul Gear 300.

Before start make sure that car sits on four axle stands, and is levelled.
It is good idea to replace all the drain plug washers at same time.



Rear differential:

Relatively easy job.
Tools required:

  • Jack
  • 4x axle stands
  • 17mm socket
  • 19mm deep socket or 22mm deep socket
  • Hand pump or syringe like device

Assuming the car is already on axle stands and levelled…

To drain oil:

Remove drain plug (17mm bolt on the bottom).
Here is both drain plug and temperature sensor removed (used later for filling).

Here are plug and the sensor:

To fill oil:

Remove either 22mm nut with the sensor or sensor itself (19mm deep socket). I didn’t had 22mm deep socket so I removed the sensor. It is better to remove 22mm nut with the sensor as it is easy to over-tighten the sensor itself.
plug the drain hole and pump in the oil via temperature sensor hole, until it starts overflowing.
Remove the hose and let the excess oil drain.

Torque settings I use (found on internet):

  • 50Nm drain plug
  • 50Nm 22mm sensor nut
  • 10-20Nm??? sensor (not very tight!)


Gearbox and Front differential

A little bit harder job than rear diff…

Tools required:

  • T70 Torx bit (cannot do without it).
  • H10 Hex bit
  • 12mm socket
  • flat screw driver or some other device to remove clips (finger nails?)

Hand pump or syringe like device

Assuming the car is already on axle stands and levelled..

Remove the plastic guard (few clips and 2 12mm bolts at the front).
Although it is possible to change oil without removal (there is an inspection window), I removed the guard as it made easier to do so.

To drain oil:

There are two drain plugs, one for front diff (T70) and another for gearbox itself (H10):
Both of the drain plugs have to be removed.

Here are all plugs removed:

To fill oil:

Tighten both of the drain bolts.

Torque settings:

  • T70 Plug 70Nm
  • H10 Plug 50Nm

Unlike previous STIs the GRB STI does not have dipstick. Some might think this makes it worse, I think otherwise, as I don’t have to remove inter-cooler to change gear oil. To get correct amount of oil one must fill through side filler plug while the vehicle is levelled.
Here is the said filler plug (H10):

Using hand pump (or otherwise), oil is filled until it overflows through the filler hole:

another angle:

Once oil is overflowing remove filler tube and allow it to drain.
Tighten the filler plug to 50Nm.

Bolt/Clip on the plastic guard.

Toyota CVT oil change

Changing transmission oil should be a simple process, but in case of Toyota CVT (2004 Toyota Vitz RS in this particular case) it is not very simple.

Yes, the drain plug is not really a drain plug.
Yes, the sump has to come out, and new gasket is needed.*

* Except I believe there is another way (quick and lazy) as the oil can be sucked out via the filler plug given the tube is rigid enough. I haven’t tried this method. It is lazy because you don’t inspect and clean the magnets, and you cannot tell the condition of the transmission beyond the oil condition.

Here you will find how I changed it (not necessarily 100% “by the book”, just applied common sense with some googling).

What is needed:

  • Jack
  • Axle stands
  • Oil tray
  • Funnel
  • ~12mm diameter, ~1m long hose (to attach to said funnel)
  • 6mm hex socket (for sump plug)
  • 10mm socket (for sump and filler plug)
  • New sump gasket (p/n 39168-52040 for Vitz RS)
  • Toyota Genuine CVT Oil (p/n 08886-02105 for Vitz RS)
  • New sump plug washer

Toyota would not tell me how much oil is a normal fill. Basically I was told to put the same amount that came out. To figure out correct volume I drained old oil into an empty container and weighted it. Then I emptied old oil out and matched the weight (in same container +100g for spillage) with new oil. Basically I had about 2.8kg of oil (excluding 275g container weight) in the sump (about 3.2-3.5L depending on the temperature and spillage). It works out that oil must be just below the filler hole that I used.

To drain the oil one needs to remove the sump “plug” (6mm hex).

It is not a real drain plug as only about 200ml-300ml would come out. Once the fluid stops draining, use the same 6mm hex socket in the hole where the sump plug was, and gently unscrew the plastic tube. This time there will be about 1-1.5L of fluid coming out.

Here is the plastic tube that sits inside of the drain hole:

By removing the plastic tube the oil level will become just below the gasket line, if the car is jacked up front up the fluid will be above the gasket line (about 200-300ml) on the far side of the sump (due to angle of the car). The spill can be avoided if the rear of the car is jacked up as well to make it levelled. I found this hard way.

Once it is drained via sump plug, put the plug back in and unscrew 10mm bolts holding the sump. You will find the sump is “stuck” and will need a gentle pry to remove it. Watch out for oil as there is about 1L of oil left in the sump!


Clean magnets while the sump is out (they should have minimal amount of shavings):

New gasket:

Make sure the mating surface is clean:

Don’t forget to screw in the plastic tube! It goes in the same way it came out.
Check the condition of the strainer (should be clean).

The torque that the sump screws needed to be tighten to is very tiny (8-10Nm), I don’t have exact figure, but it should not be too different from other Toyota auto transmissions (hence the 8-10Nm figure), it must be done evenly. Do not over tighten, as the torque required is almost finger tight! I tightened it in multiple passes (allowing gasket to spread evenly). Best way to start once the sump is held by all screws, is to undo all screws so there is a play (sump can be pushed up) and tighten them in criss-cross pattern with very small torque evenly.

Oil comes in a metal tin can:

The filler hole (in the centre of the picture, black flat oval plug) is located where the dipstick on normal auto will be, it is blocked by a plug held by a 10mm screw:
To find it just look down from throttle body, it will be just below the transmission breather, in midst of various plugs a next to oil cooler.

Here is the filler plug up close:

I used a funnel with a plastic hose to fill new oil:

Here is another angle of the filler with tube in it:

As interesting note to this exercise, one could retrofit dipstick from conventional auto, as well as to weld on a real sump plug, to make these changes easy enough (although they are not frequent enough to warrant such measures).

Tuning GRB STI for 95 RON

Due to scarcity of 98 Octane (RON) in New Zealand, beyond major centres, I got my WRX STI tuned for 95.
Tuning has been done by David Wallace ( I chose David because I had really good experience with him tuning my ST165 Celica GT4 (when he was with torque performance), as well as he has really good reputation.

Thanks to Subaru open ECU interface the process was very painless. The most difficult part of this tuning process is getting fuel tank empty to ensure it has 100% 95RON.

Basically David uploaded new tune at my place (via OBDII connector), and we went for a drive while David was monitoring the sensor output. After some minor adjustments the final tune was uploaded at the end of the drive.

The whole process took a little bit over an hour.

I am very happy with new tune, as not only I can safely fill up with 95 RON (although it is still better to run on 98 RON as ECU will take advantage of that), but it actually performs better.

Highly recommend doing this for every JDM GRB STI in New Zealand (even if it stock like mine).

GRB STI TGV deletion

Q. What is TGV?
A. Tumble Generator Valve.

The purpose of TGV is to create swirl/tumble of air-fuel mixture to improve emissions at certain conditions.
TGV consists of butterfly valves located before the injector in each intake runner. These valves when closed force air through a small passage.

Generally under normal operation these valves are open. The main reasoning of TGV removal is small performance gain due to removal of restrictions from open butterfly valves. As bonus it will also increase reliability by making the system simpler.

One thing I noticed: since removal (even before tune) the “hole” around 3000rpm during warm-up has disappeared.

The TGV system on GRB STI consists of following parts:
Two TGV position sensors.
Two TGV actuators.
Four butterfly valves connected in pairs on each bank.

It is located under manifold, in the spacers between heads and the manifold. The cars equipped with TGV can be recognised by having sensors and actuators attached to the sides of manifold spacers.

Here is the TGV in all of its glory (the black spacer is Zerolift TGV deletion “kit”):

The exercise of TGV removal (aka TGV deletion) for me was a “by the way” thing as I was getting my car retuned anyway (I needed to run 95 octane safely as in New Zealand beyond main cities 98 octane is very scarce).

Due to difficulty of locating the genuine spacers without TGV (these exists and normally found on 2004-2007 WRX STI), I settled for plastic Zerolift TGV deletion kit.
A bit of warning on Zerolift TGV deletion kit: because they are plastic THEY MUST BE TIGHTENED TO CORRECT TORQUE! Which is very low, and feel little bit tighter than finger tight. They will crack otherwise!
Once I reach 100,000kms and have cam belt due, I will replace them with genuine spacers.
Another thing is because my STI is JDM the Zerolift kit didn’t fit correctly (the middle holes didn’t line up), I had to modify the manifold to fit (slot the holes):

The Zerolift TGV comes with O-rings, and these must be installed evenly (a bit of exercise for fingers). Do not use manifold gaskets!

At the same time I decided to do the spark plugs, I settled for LFR7AIX (one range colder, iridium). Note: unlike previous EJ20, EJ207 (at least on WRX STI) has long reach spark plugs!

Now to the process (it was my first time working on STI)…

Intercooler and battery out:

Remove BOV:

Remove earth lead and fuel lines:

Remove coolant bottle:

Remove air pump hoses:

Remove air box:

Remove alternator:


The main loom will need to be disconnected from the plug near firewall, and then after unbolting and unclipping numerous hoses the manifold comes straight up (almost):

More of TGV:

Now for the spark plug change.
The access if fairly limited but no need for special tools or jacking or pushing the engine:

The coil is held by 12mm bolt and comes out with a bit of wiggling.
The coil:

The spark plug:

Back to the TGV.
Assembled manifold with TGV deletion kit:

Make sure the PCV valve is connected back (easy to forget as it is right under the throttle body):

All together (bar alternator):

Since spacers are plastic I decided to add an earthing wire. I have also moved original earthing wire to the head (just on top of the AVS solenoid). I had to drill a hole on the A/C pump bracket and cut thread as I found no suitable place for the new earth wire:

Starting the car without TGV brought up numerous non-TGV related error codes. To test that they are false positives I have connected the original spacers back:
It turns out that they definitely were false positives. Interesting that ECU would only trigger TGV error codes if TGV was partially missing.

To get it ready for new tune I had to drain the fuel tank. The reason for draining as it was filled up with 98 RON, and I needed for tune to be safe for 95 RON. Unfortunately I found the hard way that you cannot simply remove the return line and run the car until it stops, due to shape of the tank. It would only empty the fuel pump side this way (there is a siphon between sections which is feed by return line).
To drain the tank completely I had to remove fuel pump and the cover on other side. Then I had to siphon both sides (very difficult on such low car), as GRB is missing drain plug on the fuel tank.
Here is what fuel pump (housing) looks like: