Well, that didn’t go as planned…
I got in the car and drove through the parking lot at Sonoma and something felt decidedly off about the car. The handling was a bit weird. The exhaust sounded a bit strange. I wasn’t sure what it was, but from an eyeball inspection, the alignment appeared off. There was too much toe in. Tiernan got in the car and concurred that something was off. Since he’s a flagger at Sonoma, he knows some of the people around, and he was able to get an emergency alignment done in one of the shops. $150 just to set the toe.
It was now time to get in the car to test it. Tech inspection was coming up, but there was definitely time for a few laps. The car felt strange. The steering was really quick and the car shimmied when the brakes were applied. And there was a klunk sometimes on acceleration. I did 2 laps and brought it in.
Mike to the rescue
We spent the next couple of hours trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with the car. Lemons veteran and actual mechanic Mike Mercado gave us a lot of help. He went all over the car pointing out shit we hadn’t done correctly.
- The brake lines were twisted and not secured properly. This was fixed by taking the calipers off, unwinding the lines, reattaching, and securing with the captive nut.
- The dogbone mount and some of the subframe was a little loose. Probably not the source of any problems.
- The front suspension top hats were probably not tightened enough. There was a thought they might have been assembled correctly, but they were. But maybe not all the way down.
The car went through safety inspection without issues. We were classed in C with no penalty laps. Maybe the theme had something to do with it? In addition to the virus theme, the navigator in the passenger seat is fooling a lot of people. In fact, when I went on to track, the track stewards didn’t want to let me go on track because of the passenger. I had to point out that it was a mannequin.
After inspection it was time for Tiernan to take the car out. I took my time getting to the track, but when I got there, I noticed there was a black flag. Every time I see a black flag I worry that it’s my car. I saw some cars come in, but none of them was mine. I could see 3 emergency vehicles on track but not which car it was. As the minutes dragged on without any sign of Tiernan, I feared the worst. I went back to the pit and as I turned my head to check one more time, I saw a bit of blue and orange pass behind the building. I couldn’t tell if the Yaris was coming in on its own power or was being towed in.
Turns out the Yaris was fine. It spun in T8 and ended up against the wall and unable to move. They yanked it out and it drove back to the pits with a few new dents. I’ve stopped caring about dents. I’m more concerned with a car that doesn’t handle correctly.
Mike came back and after some more inspection found that the steering knuckle on the right side was loose. This was probably the source of the handling problems and probably resulted in the spin. I’m not sure how the alignment shop didn’t notice something like that. Looking closer, the knuckle has a nylock on it while the other side has a castleated nut. Not sure when that bit of asymmetry happened.
After tightening things up again, I drove it around the parking lot a few times. It feels better, but I think there is still something wrong. The klunk may very well be the transmission mount. I’m picking one up tomorrow on the way to the track. Somehow I suspect that even after we fix that there will still be problems to chase.
Sometimes I hate cars. Honestly, most of the time I hate cars. If I didn’t love driving so much I would have given this up by now. Speaking of driving, those 3 laps were over $100 each…