Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dave, we have to talk, your car has issues

President Regan famously said "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" If you are a Ferrair owner the thirteen most terrifying words are “This is Chris from Ferrari service we need to talk about your car.” The sparkplugs and new O2 sensor fixed the car but only for about 30 minutes then the rough idle came back. Barb and I were getting ready to go pick up the car when Chris called and suggested we hold off.

I stopped by the service center on Thursday morning to drop off the binder with the car’s service history. It’s a pretty impressive binder. On the way there I made a detour through RTGT to take a look at a 430 they have. I have decided I will get another Ferrari. I doubt it will be immediately after I sell the 355 but fairly soon. The 430 they have is interesting because it has sport seats, big sport seats, which make the car much more comfortable for someone my size. The car is in beautiful shape. I also sat in a 575. I did not like it so much. Not that there was anything wrong with it but it felt too soft, especially after climbing out of the 430. Steve suggested we take the 430 for a drive but I know exactly where that will end.

At the service center I talked with Chris and Matt, the technician who is working on my car, about the next steps. Both think the timing is off in the car. The compression on one bank of cylinders is higher, by between one and two bars than the compression on the set that was running lean. When we compared the compression test that Dick at ATD had done to the current test there was a big difference. This is odd because, I believe, the car has always had the rough idle, and if it and the low compression is caused by timing Dick would have caught it during his compression check.

As I have only a fuzzy idea of what is involved in a compression check I decided to do a bit of research. Compression checks test the amount of compression in each cylinder when the piston is at the top of its stroke. Air is pulled in as the piston goes down and compressed as it comes up. To test compression the spark plug is removed and a device to test pressure is put in its place. The engine is turned over and the device records the pressure. Dick’s results show most pistons compressing to around 225 PSI with just a few % variance between the highest and lowest. RTGTs test show a 10% variance between one bank and the other with readings similar among cylinders in each bank.

The 225 PSI number threw me. The engine has 11 to 1 compression. Meaning the piston squashes the air to an 11th of its original volume. Why isn’t the compression 161.6, 11 times atmospheric pressure? The answer turned out to be pretty obvious, when you compress gas it heats up, tries to expand, and causes higher pressure.

So, what next? The engine comes out. To check timing on a 355 the motor comes out. Yes, I know that is silly but that’s the way it is. Matt’s worry is the belt has skipped or the device that keeps the timing set has failed. With the engine out the belt service I thought as about 9000 miles way happens next week. This is essentially the nightmare scenario I was trying to avoid by carefully researching and buying what I believed to be a solid well maintained Ferrari.

Know what, I am not alarmed, upset, or the least bit worried about the prospect of the engine coming out. In addition to buying a Ferrari, driving it on a track, valet parking it, taking it apart and all the other goofy stuff I did I have learned something. I determine how I react to things. I can choose to get upset, to get mad, to be happy, or to not have any emotional response at all. I get to decide. This is not a find the silver lining or look for the good in the bad idea. As an independent actor I determine my reaction to events and further do not need to justify that reaction with any set of validating circumstances. Is it unfortunate the Ferrari’s engine comes out, sure, am I sad, mad, or losing any sleep over it no.


Ryan said...

Your blogs are just what I've been looking for. One day I hope to own a ferrari, especially the 355 since it is my favorite out of all of them. I'll be buying your book for sure.

David said...

Thanks Ryan,

Working on the book right now.



adampoth said...


I've enjoyed reading your blogs the past few's a good way to see the daily pleasures/pains of owning a Ferrari. I'm getting one myself (still a few years down the road) so the more info I can research the better.

Which one are you getting next??

Hope the belt service isn't too hard on the wallet = )


David said...

Thanks Adam I hope it is not to hard on the wallet as well, unfortunately I don't think that will be the case.
Not sure what I will get next but if I stay in the Ferrari family, which I will if the next car is a road car, it will probably be a 430 or a 360 cs. If it is not a road car but a track day toy I will probably go with a Radical or a 911 RS America.
Which Ferrari is on your list?