Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Continued 355 Engine Saga

Almost exactly one year ago I sat in the chair in the corner of the office I share with my business partner and decided to buy a Ferrari. I had hoped to transfer the car to dad today. I like the symmetry of dad taking the car on the date I decided to buy it. If dad wanted the car today I would have to recruit some big strong fast guys to stand in the engine bay with me and run dad around in a very low, very expensive rickshaw. I did not get the car until 12.5.07 so I have about two months to get it put back together and sell it to dad, assuming he still wants to buy it.
I could not get my mind around the car needing a valve job.

Here’s what threw me:
1. The car was running fine 99% of the time and every once in a while would idle roughly
2. The car had compression checked less than one year ago and it was perfect
3. The bank of cylinders in question are all equally low

To me these things suggest timing and initially the folks at RTGT felt the same but now with the engine apart they believe timing is not the issue. I wanted to understand why so today I went to visit them and discuss the process they went through to determine valves were the cause of the problem. Matt, the technician working on my car and who strikes me as enormously competent and trustworthy, spent a significant amount of time answering my questions, describing his process, and eventually providing a good demonstration of why he felt it was the valves.

The compression on the side which was repaired prior to me getting the car is fine, not as equal among its respective cylinders as the side which is leaking but the compression is roughly 30 PSI higher. Matt, expecting timing, had checked timing on both sides and found it to be within one degree, Ferrari allows for two. Next he pulled off the exhaust manifold, pressurized a cylinder, and found that with the cam at top dead center, meaning all the valves for that cylinder should be closed, air was escaping through the exhaust port. The exhaust valves are leaking on all the cylinders. He also checked to see what type of valve sleeves the car has and was able to give me a bit of good news, the car has steel valve guides not the brass ones.

Unfortunately Matt could not explain how all the exhaust valves would fail at the same time and to the same degree beyond saying they were all installed at the same time and have all taking about the same number of tiny back and forth trips. He also had no explanation as to how the car could have passed its last compression test with flying colors. I appreciate his tact in not suggesting the last test was in error. I am used to dealing with engineers and technicians whose technical knowledge and experience greatly exceeds mine. I am used to situations where my gut instinct tells me one thing they are arguing the opposite. This is one of those situations. Intellectually I still cannot come to grips with the valves being the issue but I trust Matt so the head is coming off and going to the machine shop. The car will convalesce at RTGT for another few weeks.

On another note, I have been devoting most of my Ferrari time to writing my book. Well, that’s not totally true I have been devoting about half my Ferrari time to writing the other half I have spent tying flies and fly fishing. At this point I have just over 100 pages of book which I am reasonably proud of. I sent the first hundred or so pages to my dad to get his opinion. Sure he will be biased but so what. He liked it, what is more he gave the copy to my Grandmother who read all 100 pages in one sitting and also liked it.

I have been refining my writing and plan on beginning the process of finding a publisher soon.

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