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VR38 Killer
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998 Posts
I have laid out everything chronologically to the best my memory serves me.

December 8[sup]th[/sup] TNT Drag
Wednesday, January 2[sup]nd[/sup] Grenade

Preface:

This story has been carefully thought out and written for all solemnly to help others not feel and share the same expensive fait I have the last several weeks. I was originally looking to find a way to make a splash in the GTR community, but this is not what I had in mind. Before you reply, understand that I didn't have to come forward and post this. I'm electing to because I want the community to be even more aware of the silent danger of modifying the VR38 beyond stock.

Back Story:

Purchased a CPO 09' GT-R from Nissan dealership in OK. It checked out on car fax, checked out on the limited service history. Limited, because the GT-R only had 7,500 miles when I bought it. It now has 11,300. At the time of purchase, I bought a Nissan extended warranty. Before anyone says it was out of the warranty period to get an extended Nissan warranty, know that I got one somehow and I recently cashed it out.
The few who know me, know I do all my own labor, so there's no shop to involve. My tuner has been John Visconti and will continue to be. In the near future Ed of Equilibrium Tuning will be displaying his tuning abilities on my car as well . He will be adding Ecutek to his list of GT-R tuning options. My car will be at his shop getting repaired and upgraded, so naturally it's only fair to allow him tune a built big turbo GT-R.

Hindsight can be 2020:

I attended dyno day back in November at EQ tuning. The first time ever on a dyno with the GTR and I put up impressive numbers there on Ecutek John V's e-tune, but still relatively common power numbers comparing to other GT-R's around the country. After an 18psi pass, I reluctantly gave Ed the go ahead to set 20psi of target boost. It actually generated 21.5psi for 581awhp and 602awtq once. This was dynode on a Mustang AWD dyno. It reads between 10-15 % less than your average dynojet. I decided to call it quits from there. I always kept street boost on 15psi max target because I couldn't launch at all on higher. I've also never launched higher than 3krpm. Most of the time I launch in RRR because it takes off better, otherwise R R Off burns through first gear. Went to the track 3 times total. The first was on 100 octane gas (17psi peak) tuned light mods. Second was a few days after the dyno never exceeding 15 psi (e85) because traction was horrible on stock RFT's.
A few weeks after that, I went to TNT with nothing less than 4 drag radials. It was between 50-60 degrees and I got in 13 passes. The most consecutive runs I did were 3 passes. Trans temp never exceeded 200 and engine & coolant temps always remained stable. I ran many mid 10 second passes without exceeding 15 psi of target boost (16-17psi) with hardly respectable short times. The bulk of the launches were at 2500rpm. Traction was turned off for some runs and left in R for others to test. Regardless the outcome was either burning out 1[sup]st[/sup], traction control kicking in, or the awd light kicking in killing the pass as was happening to two other of our members that were participating.
That thread and those videos can be found here: http://www.gtrlife.c...ento-tnt-12812/
I would drive around until the awd light turned off. Other times I would let her sit. I was joined by TXTT2SP(Andy) and M3sparky(Vince) that day. They can attest to most of what I've written thus far at TNT.
As driving home, I thought she felt a bit less powerful. If I put a number on it, I would say 5-10% less power. I had a passenger and a spare tank of fuel along with tools in the back so I assumed it was just weight or my imagination. Once I got home in the familiar setting of my level concrete floor garage parking spot, I put her into park to let her cool down after the 1hr+ drive. At that moment as my girlfriend exited the car I felt a new sensation, an ever so slightly rocking from left to right or vise versa sitting in the driver's seat. Almost like a cammed V8 feel. Noticeable, but not enough to really make me know something was clearly wrong. Looking around there were no other indicators something was amiss.
Next day I started her up and the rocking was there still, I started to fear a bell housing issue, so I researched it right away. I text John V and another member about it. I followed the sounds and they all turned out to be normal. I went on long data logging drive's and found no issues. I also sent them to Visconti along with a couple from the track day. Eventually convinced myself to stop freaking out and that what I was feeling was due to the softer sidewall of the new drag radial tires. There was no other indicator to lead me down another path, and I most certainly didn't think I hurt the motor running mid 10's.
I drove the car a few times here and there. It rained for roughly two weeks; I drove it twice when it would briefly clear up. I have yet to drive my GT-R in the rain… Tough enough to keep it clean already. I kept enjoying it as usual with occasional outings, always between 10-15 psi of target boost. I went on an old road and tried different launching techniques. Always launching at 2500 but at different boost, tire pressures and vehicle dynamic settings. If anything would have made sense to give out it would have been the transmission.

The Event:

Over a weekend, a buddy of mine came to stay with us and he hadn't had a ride so we went out. I cruised for 20 minutes around before I reached a road with no traffic and started driving faster. I would start out at 10psi and get up to 20 on the fly, to show the difference. Since launching was no fun, I did it once at [email protected] 2500 RRR. The next day we left for breakfast, never exceeding more than 40% throttle. When we arrived, I got a CEL. I quickly checked it and it reported a cyl 1 misfire. Car was idling with no signs of anything wrong. I cleared the code and went to breakfast. Came back and casually drove it back home. No code. She sat a few hours until I had time to go out and log.
Few hours later, I logged 8mb worth. I put her through the paces. No codes. A fluke I thought. What else could I go on? I drove her to work on that following Monday, garage parked on Tuesday, drove back to work Wednesday. After work I came home, changed and went for a brief joy ride. All cool still no codes. I got home and met my sister who's visiting from Italy. I told her I'd give her a ride. She hopped in and we took off. I got about ¼ mile away, downshifted from 3[sup]rd[/sup] to 2[sup]nd[/sup] to make a right turn at about 15-20 mph. As soon as I got straight, I put the tach needle on 3krpm and floored it just to fuck with her, it took off as it does and at around 6k+ a big metallic explosion went off, the cluster lit up like a Christmas tree, and some light smoke poured out from under the hood. I quickly went to neutral and coasted to a stop on the side of the road. I knew it blew. I paused, and just laughed. I couldn't believe it. I called my girlfriend to pick us up and text John V. John called right away. We discussed the many possibilities as I got home and grabbed a flash light and a jacket and went back alone to see. To my surprise, there was no oil trail. Looking at the car or engine bay, nothing stood out. The curb however, was a puddle of oil and coolant. There was nothing more to see or do. I called for a tow and went home.
I never tried to restart the car and it blew at the top of 2[sup]nd[/sup] gear. The next few days were the most interesting. John and I discussed that we both had to be extremely thorough with everything moving forward. Run as many tests needed to determine the culprit. From the get go regardless of outcome, John was 100% on board with posting this here today.

Aftermath:

I pulled the under panels off, cleaned all of the oil and coolant and went to work looking at everything else. A crack in the magnesium oil assembly case, a half dime side hole in the driver's side block and another above it. I pulled the intake manifold off and cast aluminum bits were rattling around inside. Cast aluminum parts as big as a nickel and as thick as a small rock. I looked into the intake ports of the head. Cyl 2 had a missing intake valve, and two broken valve guides. This explains the material in the intake manifold.

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Next day I removed the oil pan after some strategic positioning removal of 3 10mm screws being partly blocked by the front sub frame. When the oil pan popped off, the mother lode hit the ground. After cleaning and straining parts using screen door screen I sectioned everything out to photo catalog.

Automotive tire Motor vehicle Gas Auto part Automotive exterior Motor vehicle Automotive tire Gas Auto part Automotive wheel system Font Metal Event Box Fashion accessory
  • Half cyl 1 rod
  • Cyl 2 intake valve
  • Cyl 2 exhaust valve
  • Shattered cyl 2 piston
  • Two wrist pins
  • 4 locks
  • 1 cyl 2 intake Valve seat
  • Fragments of two cyl 2 valve guides
  • Many pieces of rings
  • Lots of lower cylinder cast aluminum
Looking through the oil pan, you can only see Cyl 1 & 2. Attached to the crank was half of rod 1. Rod 2 was attached to the crank but was very badly warped. Cyl 2 could clearly be seen as empty up to the mangled combustion chamber. The spark plug had no top left. The cranks counter weights, were warped and mangled.

Terrestrial animal Snout Circle Electric blue Darkness Automotive tire Automotive lighting Automotive wheel system Font Rim Liquid Automotive lighting Fluid Amber Tints and shades Automotive lighting Bumper Automotive exterior Gas Fixture

With the amount of material extracted, and the recovery of two wrist pins and 4 locks, I deduced I had shattered both pistons 1 & 2. It wasn't clear yet what failed first. Cyl 1 was the only code I got, yet cyl 2 is in the worst over all shape. Things didn't add up. Add in a recovered exhaust valve and now, im panicking that my driver's side turbo might be damaged too! In the next few days, I started reading data online scouting for part and figuring out my options. To rule out failure I sent the pumps and injectors to RC for testing. The injectors tested out perfect although one of the pumps showed around 5 % less flow than advertized, it wasn't enough to cause any detonation which was John from RC Engineering's opinion. Bill has since replaced them. I sent an oil sample from the only location left with oil; the filter to Blackstone. The results came back great without any trace of an engine that let go. Mind you this oil had fewer than 4k miles of use and was still tested to be in great overall shape mostly on E85. I tested the ethanol content in the tank; it tested as true E85. Lastly, I pulled the down pipes to see if there was any damage to the turbo's. None.

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I really wasn't satisfied yet. I wanted to poke around more in the engine, but promised Ed I wouldn't take it apart. I bought an endoscopic camera at Costco that I had seen weeks before. Although I still couldn't find a way to get in to cyl 3-4 and 5-6 through the oil pan because the main caps seal every two cylinders off from one another, I went from the top. All pistons, spark plugs and valves were in normal condition from what I could tell. What I did find with the camera however was that although I had recovered two wrist pins, 4 locks and a lot of cast material, cyl 1 still had its piston in the cylinder… for me that instantly explained it all.

My Reason:

My theory is that cyl 1s rod tweaked at the track and that's the initiation of the slight off balance rocking I felt.
The crank is spinning in the same side to side rotation. If the crank is off balance because of a bent rod it would explain the side to side rocking I was feeling. Over the course of a few weeks it continued to bend until either it snapped at the center or the severe angle of the bending rod snapped at the cast pistons wristpin. Dropping a wristpin into a rotating crank not to mention the already tweaked-broken rod eventually took out cyl2. Cyl 2s rod could have been fine but was found majorly tweaked probably by crumbling parts thus eventually pummeling its own piston into a million pieces taking the combustion chamber along for the ride. Until I see the rest of the rods, I can't say 100% that only cyl 1 failed or both 1 & 2. So far all other cylinders appear to have suffered no damage, not that it matters from a rebuild stand point.

Conclusion:

I really hope my misery can help everyone here. It's going to cost near 11k just to get back to ZERO or stock. And that's getting helped out. I ask that negativity, finger pointing or general mass hysteria stemming from this be avoided. I signed up for more power, I knew the risks. I relied on John V for a tune. If he had past engine failures then that would be one thing, but he doesn't and I'm a reasonable man. I'm just another unlucky one. John's been with me every step of the way and I have a feeling he will be"helping" me with future tunes moving forward.

There's nothing left to type, I'm part of an exclusive, but infamous club now. One I have no reason not to embrace. I'm making educated decisions and am building a reliable big HP VR38 on a budget.

Edit: More aftermath photos.









~Dv8
 

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Us running similar set ups appreciate your story and your honesty. I know every time i lay into my car with WOT this is a risk I am taking.
 

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Christian, I'm so glad you agreed to post this experience. There has been others down this road before but haven't been publicly open about it.

-John
 

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Thanks for the write up Christian, this news is unfortunate however it is something that people that tune their GTR's should be informed about. Thank you for sharing the in depth time line and I can't wait to see you up and running with the new monster. You are in good hands with Ed and his crew, from my past experience they go the extra mile to make sure things are done right and no short cuts taken.

John
 

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7.9 @ 175mph (Gen 3 SBD1400R)
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8,564 Posts
You're always gambling when you modify the car outside the factory parameters. John does phenomenal work, so I can't blame it on the tuner..

You tune enough cars, you're going to experience some failures/deficiencies.....the hope being they don't result in catastrophic engine failure.

I appreciate the post and look forward to seeing your beast back together on the road soon ;)
 

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Sorry to hear this and hopefully everything will work out for you. ive been that road with my other car and i know exactly how you feel. Its great you are getting the support from your tuner as well.
 

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R35.se
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453 Posts
Bad news :( Hope you get all the help you need to get back on your feet.

So, the theory of controlling torque to avoid bending the rod is false? Visconti had ignition/boost under control to keep the torque down ( I guess), so the rod failures seem to be random? Bad luck?
 

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Every tuner that tunes enough cars will eventually have one of the engines they tuned fail, even if they did nothing wrong.

That said, my opinion is that if you want your stock VR38 to last is to limit it to 18 PSI for occasional blasts on the street and 16 PSI for hard use on a circuit, even if you have good cooling, good octane, no knock, correct AFR, a boost curve that is careful to avoid overboost and a well maintained engine. Even if you do that or leave it stock, **** can still happen.
 

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more than 20psi on E85 stock bottom end, let alone stock turbo...LOL and all those 9sec stock bottom end engines.. theres no free ride..this will catch up sooner or later..

how do they call this?? ... amateur... why do you let history repeat itself? how many blow ups do you want to hear before you learn? I suspect mass tune recall in the up coming weeks

nonetheless OP, respect on sharing the failure.
 

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Super Moderator
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Thank you for sharing your experiences. It takes not only a good man but a big man to come forward with information like this, which help the entire R35 community. Unfortunately not all cases are reported whether from embarrassment or protection of vendors involved. We can all learn from this.

There is potential here for this thread to explode and not necessarily in a positive way. Please follow forum rules and be courteous to others.

Thanks.
 

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Sophisticated
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Christian,

Can you give us a ball park figure of how much Torque to the wheels (mustang) you were running daily and the few times you visited the track?

So sorry to hear about this. Stay strong.
 

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i remeber the tnt day we had , and your car was pulling very strong that day, very suprised to see the engine grenade on you like this. havent heard about similar incidents before on the forum. wish you the best of luck on your build, hopefully you wont get into any more bs problems like this bud. let me know if i can help in any way.
 

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1) What fuel were you on when it happened? What fuel did you run just prior to that?
2) Do you have an intercooler?
3) What downpipes do you have?
 

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Thank you for your careful documentation with photos and recollection. I hope you can get rebuilt and back on the road.

I wonder about what could have been done when you first detected the "rocking"sensation that was new. Assuming damage was limited at that time how could you have diagnosed the exact problem without putting your engine at risk?

Keep us apprised of any new developments.
 

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RSP fetish #23 GT-R driver
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Thank you for sharing your experience. It's definitely one we will all learn from. Wishing your GT-R a quick recovery.
 

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Knowledge is recession proof!
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This is some scary shit! With only minor mods (intake, exhaust, fuel support, and tune), you can have a catastrophic failure like this. WTF?

IMO this really doesn't sound kosher. I'd expect this from a modded GTR boosting to the moon w/o a tune.
 

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This is some scary shit! With only minor mods (intake, exhaust, fuel support, and tune), you can have a catastrophic failure like this. WTF?

IMO this really doesn't sound kosher. I'd expect this from a modded GTR boosting to the moon w/o a tune.
This are not minor mods my friend, though they are only boltons on a turbo car you are asking the engine to make and sustaine 20-30% more power than it was designed to do. if the car was making around 580whp thats over 700 at the crank!! That is not minor its allot to ask for. With that being said though we all love power and speed so we are willing to take the risks. Atleast I am anyway...
 

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Wow, man seems like it was only months ago you PM'd me about some flickr data research I was doing and we discussed the possibilities of you getting a tune or not.

on a side note, wasn't there an article a while back when Switzer posted a safe torque number they thought was acceptable for stock bottom end? 600 ftlbs at the wheels is a lot of power!
 
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