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zjrog 09-09-2013 05:21 PM

Checking back in...
Been a while guys... Hmmm, short version... Let me son keep my Neon wayyyyyyyy longer than ever intended. He got married over three years ago, 2 years ago daughter decided not to go back to school... Days later Inearly died in a bicycle wreck, crushed vertebra in my back and lots of other damage, lucky to be alive and walking. Have additional nonstock internal hardware... Beginning of summer, son became employed as an intern with a construction company and was finally hired as a Project Engineer. So, they bought a car so I could have my Neon back...

Glad to have it back, he did take care of it and I did get to use it for trips now and again. My best MPG from the car was 38.9, he turned in a single tank at 41.5. but managed to keep it close to 36 most of the time.

I have a heep of maintenance to do to the thing. Timing belt, water pump and tensioner is ordered and hope to get to it this weekend. Then a round through the sensors and such. Giving a ot of thought to LED swaps, but not sure there is enough payoff for that... Also considering a HID upgrade to the replacement headlights I have, with projector low beams... The desert gets awefully dark at night. Also looking at some offroad LED lights for the foglight locations.

Plans? Service it, drive it and get used to it again. Not sure what mods I might throw at it. But I really need to adjust the nut behind the wheel first. I want to use the "Torque" app wth my Bluetooth scanner adapter. Wow is that a fine toy. TIme will tell and I can see what changes or mods to make along the way.

MetroMPG 09-10-2013 09:46 AM

Welcome back. Sorry to hear about the bicycle incident, but glad you came through it (with a few "upgrades").

zjrog 09-10-2013 06:48 PM

You know, every day is a gift, brother... I was 2mm from a paraplegic. Or, if I'd tried to stand on my own, it would have been my last attempt. Friend riding with me was an EMT and literally sat on me keeping me down. But I digress.

2003 Neons have the NGC controller and don't take kindly to too many mechanical mods without throwing codes. Adjustable cam gears can throw codes, too large a throttle body throws codes. Too high intake air temp throws codes. So most of anything I do is going to be between my ears and maybe some grill blocks.

I am also considering taking the car to the local race track for open track days. No performance mods, but suspension work. Lowering a little. Giving some thought to flexible side skirts and coroplast underpans.

And being a Jeep guy, and wanting light on the road in the desert, a friend and I are looking at a removable light bar that looks a little like a pushbar. Removable for regular driving. And back on for those few times I need night time vision.

I gave some thought to a little lift (like the Subie guys do) with cutting board material for spacers between the strut and the body. And then running Rally Cross. But I'm not really sure my back will tolerate that sort of pounding. While I can do most of what I used to, I need to understand I now have limits.

The majority of my driving will be less than 5 miles at a time, I can at least coast (in neutral if I hit all the lights right) down the hill in the morning to catch my vanpool (4 days/week). And weekly trips into the city (Fridays). Trips are planned so we don't have to back track or use city streets as little as possible. Even just around town I don't go out for just one thing if I can help it... While the Jeep doesn't do bad, the Neon will easily double that MPG. I would like to get my overall average to at least 35. The more longer trips I take the better that number of course.

I'm currently on the lookout for either a Ford Pinto or an early Bronco 2. Last year, my son and I stripped both his Explorer and Ranger. EVERYTHING possible from the Explorer went into the Ranger. The Ranger went from being a lawn ornament to useful, and now gets much better mileage than the Explorer ever did, even pulling a trailer with an ATV. We are looking for a 5 speed to improve those numbers.

So, why am I looking for a Pinto (I had a 1972 many many years ago!) or Bronco 2? Well, I have the complete 2.3 and 5 speed from the 1990 Ranger. In a Bronco 2, the 2.3 would be a bit underpowered compared to the earlier 2.8, but has the advantage of the 5 speed where the 2.8 had a 4 speed manual or 3 speed auto. But I want to have a fun cruiser, and maybe something just a bit different. In a Pinto, the 1990 engine is 15 or more HP than any 2.3 that came in one. The 5 speed should make it a fun driver. And, well, it would amuse me to have a 4x4 drivetrain in it, sort of Pinto meets AMC Eagle. I am looking for a 2WD 5 speed in case a car becomes available, I can get the thign running and then make it 4x4 whenever I want to. Simplest would be to use a Jeep front axle. No, I have no desire to have tall lifted Pinto. Keep it as low as possible, on nothing larger than a 235/75-15 P series tire. I have parts on hand, and in a front axle I have 3.07, 3.55, and 4.10 gears. The 2.3, 5 speed and 4x4, 4.10 gears and 31" when it was in the Ranger, got me 28MPG before I parked it and began the never ending project. In a Bronco 2, I doubt I could touch 28, even with the idea of keeping it low on smaller tires. In the Pinto, I see no reason even as a 4x4 I couldn't get the 28. Either vehicle would be fun for Special Interest in car shows... Everything I need is sitting in my shed and garage. Minus the project vehicle itself.

MetroMPG 09-10-2013 08:00 PM

Lowering counts as an ecomod too. :)

And for all those short trips, a coolant/block heater would really help.

zjrog 10-09-2013 06:46 PM

Hmm, maybe the nut behind the wheel is doing something right. First 4 fills since getting the Neon back, 3 in the 33s, and one in the 35s. Still have service to accomplish, and finding more that needs done, likely going through the suspension bushings soon as well. I keep looking at the rear fascia and wonder how much air builds up in there. I want to add a trailer hitch at some point soon, so I might look at tucking it in tight and fitting a belly pan.

Looking seriously at that block heater.

Daox 10-10-2013 09:59 AM

Welcome back.

zjrog 12-18-2013 01:41 PM

Block heater purchased and should be installed soon.

Had some health issues with my wife at the end of October. Which required a few days in the hospital and a bit over 5 weeks in a skilled nursing facility... One of the first evenings she was there (35 miles from home), I delivered some clothing and other needs. As I was leaving, and waiting to pull from a stop into traffic, the Neon died. Wouldn't start. I figured it was either a the cam sensor failed (2 codes for cam sensor) or, the timing belt broke. Breaking at idle is good. Better than at speed. Got the car pushed out of the way and a bit later a friend with a trailer showed up and brought my car home. Its nice being a Jeep guy and having friends!!! So the little car sits forlorn in the garage waiting for me to get to it. I had the timing belt, tensioner pulley and water pump on hand and was looking to do the service the weekend my wife went into the hospital... I hope to get to the little car weekend after New Years. My son is planning to come help. Besides, he wants me to fab a front bumper, light mounts and front and rear racks for his ATV...

Other news, plans for lighting the Neon have been seriously upgraded. I have on hand, HIDs as planned for the low beam projectors. 75 watt bulbs for the highs. A relay harness to provide battery voltage for higher watt use without throwing that extra current trough the headlamp switch. And, to keep the HIDs on with the high beams. The pushbar idea is going through. Removable when not needed.
And I will be blasting light off them with these big 8" offroad lights. Mostly for winter time, or the couple weeks in summer I have to be to work in the dark. They have a really tight spot out some distance and light the area in front a little as well. I have 4 of the 6" lights, 2 are already on my Jeep, the other pair will be getting HIDs palced in them for the front of the Jeep. I have to remove the front fascia anways to replace the washer reservoir, more easily route the power for the block heater and fab and install brackets on the crashbar/bumper for the lightbar and the lights being fit where the foglights go.
The LEDs are 18 watts, 1800 lumens and have a 30* beam. These will be going in the factory foglight spot, as well as some projector fogs. I'm also using a pair of the LEDs on my Jeep. The projector fogs might get HIDs also, since I would prefer to maximize light output without placing too big a demand on the electrical system. Unless, of course, I have high beams and driving lights on. Otherwise, I'm also looking to swap a lot of bulbs over to LEDs, again to lower demand on the alternator, and the Neon only had one size, 85 amp.

On my Jeep...
I have the 6" Harbor Freight lights mounted to the A pillars. They are a better light than the $10 price suggests. I am adding the LEDs to the top of the bumper as well as the other pair of the 6" lights, with HIDs as soon as I order them.

Again for the Jeep. I hate the stock headlights. They are a bad design. And I've been through a bunch of lights trying to find something that works better. Yes, even the Silverstar Ultras were not what I wanted... I found a better bulb, in my opinion. With Solux Tehchnology. I have no idea what that means or what makes them so much better to my eyes.
9007 Silverstar on the left for color comparison. Solux in the middle, and normal 9004 on the right. I don't see anything significant different, but the light is so much better than the Ultras I took out. With low beam, I no longer feel the need to drive around town with my foglights on, and the high beams are substantially better. To me. I realize for most folks, lighting is purely subjective...

Also, for the winter, I put on smaller tires than I prefer, to save fuel and offset the winter blend loss of MPGs... Since the Jeep has to get me through till the Neon is on the street again...

zjrog 12-18-2013 01:46 PM

Oops... Guess I should have also mentioned I'm doing an upper grill block on the Neon. Along with coroplast I'm planning to put under the engine area, this ought draw enough air through, improve cooling and move more air up and over the car.

zjrog 03-09-2014 01:12 AM

Finally got the timing belt and associated parts changed after the first of the year. MPGs have been all over the place, but the worst was a couple in the 28 range. Changed plugs and wires, and was back at 33s. I can barely wait for summer blend fuels...

As far as lighting upgrades have gone, I tried HIDs in my projector low beams, and they just plain sucked. Went back to Halogens. After more research, the lens for the projector is good, but the bowl design of the reflector isn't. Leading me to consider replacing that projector with a better quality unit. Time will tell.
I added the 8" lights, and needed a way to mount them. I used a bunch of cardboard before settling on this shape. Its 3/16" plate, weighs less than 10 pounds. And is solid enough for the lights. It also shouldn't be difficult to remove since I don't intend to need extra lighting all year. And so far, seems to only cost me 1 MPG. The 8" lights are 100 watts and throw a tight pattern well over 1/2 mile, but can't use them if there are ANY cars on the road. The LEDs are 18 watt, 1800 lumens and 30*. Plenty wide, do a great job spotting critters alongside the road in the dark, but shine too high for use in fog. The projector fogs have a great cutoff, but scream for better quality bulbs.

I do have other lights I want to try before calling this project done. I also need to replace the splash shield under the front of the car. Probably going to use 1/8" aluminum sheet for that. And might extend it back under the powertrain. I'm also looking at cleaning the air up under the rear of the car. This will wait till winter is well over. I also need to do a bunch of other maintenance related things, suspension bushings are all worn, shifter bushings are worn, so I crunch getting into a couple gears if I'm not paying attention to speed. Then again, this little car does have almost 170,000 miles on it.

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