Project Prizm Part 5

36w ago


Before I start the rant that precedes my next installment of beater-tastic modification, I want to drop a random fact. Two-stroke engines lubricate their moving parts by burning oil mixed in with their gasoline. The ratio of gasoline to oil varies from 32:1 to 50:1 depending on the type of engine. The Prizm has something like an 11 or 12 gallon tank, but a typical fillup is 10 gallons. I am well aware that the car burns oil, so I typically check my oil level every time I fill the tank. I usually need to add around a quart of oil. With 128 ounces in a gallon, and 32 ounces in a quart, that means that my Prizm is burning a 40:1 gas/oil mixture, or about what the average two-stroke engine uses. And that’s when I’m not autocrossing.

For legal reasons, this update is coming to you from an undisclosed location that is definitely not in New York state or California. Ignore the fact that I have repeatedly mentioned being from Buffalo, NY, and the fact that the garage in these pictures looks identical to the one most of the other work took place in. This definitely happened somewhere else, especially if the New York Department of Environmental Conservation asks.

Let me explain. In 2013, NYS made it illegal to install non-CARB certified catalytic converters in your car. CARB stands for California Air Resources Board, which has been keeping a stricter hold on vehicle emissions than the country-wide standards set by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for years. This is why it's so hard to modify cars in California, and also why it makes zero sense that it is the hub of everything having to do with modifying cars in the US. Why not somewhere like Texas? There's still no winter, and I'm pretty sure Texas doesn't actually have laws. I think I would like Texas. What was I talking about?

So anyway, when you need to buy a replacement catalytic converter for your car, you can spend a large amount of money and get an EPA certified cat, or you can spend about three times as much and get a CARB certified cat. What’s the difference? Usually just the stamp. Most of the time, the two are made to the same standards, but the testing and certification process for CARB takes time and money. Now, I'm not opposed to keeping the cars on the road as clean as possible. With the increasing population and therefore increasing number of cars on the road, the effect on the environment is a cause for concern. I have no issue with keeping a good, working catalytic converter on my cars, but I do take issue with bureaucratic idiots forcing me to buy an unnecessarily expensive cat, just because they don't actually know anything about cars.

While I'm at it, part of the new law states “It is unlawful for any person to install, sell, offer for sale, or advertise any used, recycle, or salvaged catalytic converter in New York State” - 6 NYCRR Part 218-7.2(c)(2). I wouldn't really recommend a used cat anyway, but what concerns me is that the vague wording means it might be illegal to install your own used cat after you’ve removed it for any reason. In theory, if you had to remove your functioning catalytic converter to change an exhaust gasket or replace a clutch, it would be against the law to put it back on. You would have to install a new CARB certified unit, or be subject to a minimum $500 fine.

So anyway, yeah, I installed a new EPA certified catalytic converter on my Prizm. It works fine.

ACAT, describes what it is.

While I was replacing things, the exhaust manifold and everything leading to the cat was rusty, old, and cobbled together. So I bought a cheap eBay header. It probably won't add any power, but it was less than $100, therefore it's perfect. The internet told me it will crack because there's no real flex joint. I said when it cracks I’ll weld one in.

Here's at least 10 years of me welding random shit together to keep this car running for my sister.

Need to cut exhaust? A reciprocating saw (Sawzall) is the perfect tool. Actually, it's the perfect tool for cutting just about anything.

The exhaust manifold actually unbolted without any broken bolts!



Old manifold versus new header. Should flow marginally better.

Bolted in. Check the nuts after a few weeks, or you car will get louder and louder until you give in and look, only to find that all but two have rattled off entirely.

Boom, exhaust. definitely won't crack, leak, or loosen.

Everything after the cat is pretty bad too, but it all works, so that means it can stay. I did, however, finally replace the chunk of wisk with an actual bolt to hold the muffler in place. Wisk is still in the car though, just in case.

After a few months, shockingly enough the exhaust started to crack and leak, so I welded in a flex joint.

The clamped connection between the cat and resonator have clearly been leaking.

A universal flex joint should solve the problem.

More Sawzall problem solving.

Some ugly joints with the metal hot glue gun.

There was a crack on the other end of the resonator that I globbed some weld on to seal. In my defense, the welding helmet wasn't working right.

With the new cat, the remaining OBDII codes could be cleared, and the car finally passed inspection. I don't think I gained any power, but I like not having a Check Engine light.

With the exhaust in workingish condition, the car is ready for a performance upgrade in the form of some serious weight reduction. But in the meantime, here’s a picture of me clearing snow from my car with the infamous whisk.

I forgot my snow brush.

Some info about New York State's catalytic converter laws.