Tag Archives: F1 clutch

Why Should I Pay for a Pre-Purchase Inspection for My Exotic? (And what to watch for)

 

Why Should I Pay for a Pre-Purchase Inspection for My Exotic?

So let’s break this down a little bit. Many might not be new to this concept; alternatively, many might be purchasing their very first exotic.  I am going to use my very own experiences, not what someone told me, but my experience both as a Mechanic, and many times over, as an Exotic car Purchaser. I feel it would help you, to hear from me, and see that if dealers attempted to do it to me, actually knowing who I am, they will also do it to you.

First,  what is a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI for short and what most call it), and what’s involved? A PPI is a preliminary inspection on the vehicle that you are about to purchase. To be honest it’s not limited to the Exotic car world, I just feel it’s that much more important when purchasing this type of vehicle.  What a mechanic does in a PPI is go through the entire vehicle top to bottom and identify pre-existing issues with it.  It is NOT a way for a Mechanic or Shop just to swindle money out of you, and I feel if you actually read this article, by the end of it, you will be thanking me that you read it.

If the car you are purchasing is an F1, E Gear, or Sportshift car, this PPI should also detail the clutch wear life, solenoid leakage rates, and the health of the F1/E Gear/Sportshift Actuator.  This is of vital importance. The Shop that you take or send the vehicle to should have a scan tool that can access all of the functions of the vehicle’s gear box that you are purchasing. Do you want to come out of pocket by literally thousands of dollars right after you purchase the car? If the PPI is performed by someone who doesn’t have a scan tool to access these car’s sub-systems, this could happen to you because it’s a gamble. You cannot accept an answer from a car dealership about any of these vehicles because they are in the business to sell cars not service them. If they have documented proof of the clutch being at a certain read out that’s one thing. It’s an entirely different thing however to time pump cycles, or solenoid leakage rates. Simply replacing the solenoids in these cars will cost a few thousand dollars.

Now I’ve just mentioned details about the gearbox but let’s also talk about paint/body work, as this one of the most important areas to be concerned with and is often completely overlooked during a PPI. When you are performing a PPI did you know that most regular mechanics don’t specialize in paint and body work? There are so many different areas in working on cars that to be honest only really talented mechanics have knowledge in all of them. It is really akin to having a Juris-doctor, or being an attorney practicing Real Estate law. He might have no knowledge in criminal law whatsoever, although technically in many state criminal courts he can step in and represent someone.

This is why there are ASE certifications for various parts of a vehicle’s systems. Even with a Master Mechanic Certification having many ASE certs, this doesn’t mean he will know paint and body work.

Clean Car Fax!

I feel obligated to place this under it’s own sub-title.  I separated this from what I just spoke about above because, dear God, this will be a big slap in the face to most people.

My friend, the fact you have a clean car fax means absolutely nothing.  Are you ready to hear some of my personal experiences in this field? How about one right from my shop, from a guy hired to work there?

Felipe is an honest, good hard worker. He owns a 2011 Hyundai Sonata. One day someone drove down the street hit the back of the vehicle and smashed it really badly. So badly in fact, the car was Salvaged out. They paid him out on the claim, and he liked the vehicle so much he purchase it back from them pennies on the dollar.  It was in a few accidents afterwards as well, but run the VIN number on the car, and there’s nothing. Not one single accident shows up linked to this VIN.

What am I saying here? I am telling you if you honestly think the advertisement of an unblemished or clean Car Fax means anything at all you have been believing a lie. Sorry trying to confirm this with mileage? I’ve seen cars totaled, or wrecked, with 75 miles or 800 miles. I know you want to believe the car Salesman. I do as well. They are dressed nice, talk in a well mannered professional way. They even remind you of your brother, sister, mother or father.  But you are seriously mistaken if you think they don’t make a living selling cars. Now I am going to digress here, and also state, there are some very honest Sales people out there. No, seriously, there are, but they also aren’t mechanics.

Personal Experience with Ferrari 360

What do you think of this beautiful F360 above? Well obviously you know it’s rhetorical, right? Couldn’t use it as one of my examples if there really wasn’t anything wrong with it right?  So this specific F360 was purchased out of Missouri by a Client of mine months ago. It was finally brought to me after another Client of mine pretty much demanded or convinced the Gentleman to do so.  It had already been to a really well known Exotic Mechanic on the Southshore, and to be honest when I met him, he was just exhausted. He was exhausted of getting taken advantage of by mechanics, he was tired of the car, and tired of the constant problems with it. So lets use this as one of my foundations for the discussion on why it’s so important to get a PPI.

First, and foremost, the car was brought to me on the basis of F1 shift issues, which is one of my specialties. Next he complained of a gear box whine as well. These by themselves aren’t necessarily uncommon for F1 or E gear cars. Something as small as using the wrong gear box differential oil could cause it to whine a slight bit more than normal.

The very first time I saw the car, however was a different story. I had already spoken to the Client on the phone as I always try to understand the history of the car I am about to Service. Clean car fax, and he a PPI was performed before it was shipped to Boston from Missouri. On the phone, so far so good. Seemed like just normal stuff.

Within about 5 mins of the car being at the shop however, I noticed a serious issue. There was Clear coat blending above the door pillar.  (Please note most Industry professionals will know where to look for blend, over-spray, or tape marks).  This is indicative of rear quarter panel work being done, whether it be from a bad scratch or a bad crash. Please also know that not every car that has been painted has been involved in a crash; there will be other indicators not just blend marks as there were in this Ferrari’s case.

I want to add a small digression here as well. Just because a vehicle had an accident doesn’t mean it’s unsafe. I would not hesitate to purchase an Exotic vehicle that had a small crash if all new OEM parts had been installed and the repair was done with a high quality of workmanship. Unequivocally, I am certain there are Industry Professionals that would not sleep good at night if a repair was not done right regardless of what they are paid. They may be few and far between, but they do exist.

I am not sure if this video will show up, but I am going to Hyperlink it here so you can access it through my Facebook page if it doesn’t appear below. I want to show you the blend job on this Ferrari.

Now, in the video you will hear me state there is a line that goes all the way across the back pillar that leads me to believe the rear driver’s side quarter panel had been replaced.

What led me to believe that? There were a few things that led me to this conclusion.  First, when you order parts for these vehicles, such as the F360, they are constructed in a way in order for you to patch them back into the vehicle you are working on. You couldn’t see it clearly in the video but right where I put my finger, it was slightly raised, and went across in an “S” or “Z” pattern common for where a body person would remove and re-weld the quarter in. I also weld, not only regular mig but also aluminum. These cars, like for instance the Gallardo, are designed with crush points in the aluminum sub-frame, with impact points to fold. They WANT it to crush on impact to save your life. A person in the field will know where these are, what to look for, and where the tie in points will be.

Let me state again, I don’t mind that the work was done, I do mind that it wasn’t all done correctly, and in this case, the investigation led me to believe all of this Client’s problems in this car were from the accident that went undisclosed to him in the PPI.  In fact, it all made perfect sense to me in retrospect, the differential whine, the actuator shift issues and rear quarter tie in, all pointed to an accident that damaged the car in a serious way because as a whole F360s don’t exhibit all of these issues at once.

So what about the previous PPI? Glad you asked?! Listen don’t get a PPI from a person who does all the dealership’s maintenance work. There is just too much conflict of interest. They could have a stellar reputation. But who feeds them? It’s akin to hiring the Prosecutor’s wife to represent you in court, not saying you’d ever be in that situation. She could be absolutely the most honest person in the world. But it’s the appearance of impropriety that’s the issue.  The people who did the PPI was right there in the same place as the dealership selling the vehicle. They convinced him they had used a paint meter and checked all the various depths of the paint and it all matched.  It’s possible, but depending on where I put that meter I can get a false positive as well.

Own Personal Buying Experience

So I will give my own personal experience as a Buyer hoping it will guide you on your way.

Many years ago, I flew out to the Sunshine state of California.  My wife liked the Italian curves of the Maserati, and after all it was the only woman the Mrs, would allow me to fornicate with. A win, win for us both. It was a Maserati Coupe and it was a nice deep blue color. The guy on the phone sounded like an absolute gentleman, as they always do with this much money involved. He promised the car was in excellent running condition, and…insert all the other promises that you have heard as well.  However, as the PPI went on, I noticed various things wrong with it, including getting passed on the Freeway on-ramp, by an F-150 when I floored it! In retrospect, it was kind of humorous. He was trying to sell a vehicle for as much as he could get, and I was trying to get it for the lowest price possible. But, alas it was a lemon. Most of what he’d told me was a lie, and though I spent money on airfare, a rental, and hotel, I wasn’t completely discouraged. I had jet lag, and I was upset with the guy, but I knew it was money well spent. I flew back the next morning, and left the junk pile there.

See I factor all of this in with the Cost Analysis of purchasing an Exotic. You honestly should as well; if you want to be a smart consumer. See this is all friendly advice, you’re not paying me for it. You came here free of charge, even if you decide to donate, you don’t have to. So honestly, you are free to determine if what I wrote is wisdom in your mind, or just another Mechanic trying to take your money.  But briefly, bear with me for just for a minute. Let’s take a $100,000 exotic. For arguments sake, I charge you $500, plus expenses to fly out to perform a PPI. We will say $1000 total as an example to fly half way across the U.S. What percentage is $1000 on a $100,000 car? See, this is exactly my point. Most of the time, I can save that in the price off the top anyway. So why do you still want to substitute your wisdom for mine or another trained professional? You’re a doctor, lawyer, or finance guy, how would you feel if I came in your office, and substituted my wisdom for your education and life experience? Hey I’m all for it, there’s one way to make a fool listen, give them a life experience they will never forget! It will happen.

One Last Experience to Share

There is a reason I am sharing my own personal experiences with you. See I can not get sued for defamation of character when the stories I share can be proven to be fact, and true. I am only liable should I tell a story that injures the character of another, affecting their business and it’s a false hood.

This last example is fresh on my mind because it literally happened about two days ago.  Today it’s Christmas Eve, and I felt this article was important enough to encourage people in this area now. This Christmas story is going to be significantly different than the feel good stories you are used to. Much rather, it’s more than likely going to make you very angry, at least it should. Because as you’ll see if they attempted to do it to me, they definitely would do it to you.

So the story goes something like this. I ended up selling my Maserati GS to a Client of mine. He Car faxed it and my service history looks similar to a short story in a novel. From stainless steel braided brake lines, to an all brass, heater core from Brass works, it’s all on the Car Fax. Any Exotic I touch will be shown on the Car Fax, doesn’t matter if it’s a clutch (which also is on there) to a detail/wash (lol..not on there for my car, would have a whole bunch of entries for that).  He was set that he wanted it, so I sold it to him. I was left in a quagmire though, my wife wasn’t happy, and now I needed to find a new vehicle representative of what I do for a living. Did I already state the wife wasn’t happy?

Let me also say she has great taste in vehicles, is highly educated, and I am not ashamed to say, pretty sure she rivals me on income, if, probably not more so. Heck, I don’t mind bragging on her, she has two Masters, and a Doctorate. She’s been to Brandeis, Yale, Stanford, and finished at Harvard. So doesn’t she deserve something nice, and not to be ripped off after spending most of her life in school? Yes of course she does, don’t you as well? But many look at this as an opportunity as well.

We basically settled on a Maserati MC Stradale (U.S. version), it’s more a package than the true Stradale. We set out on the narrow road as we all do looking for that spectacular Italian beauty.  I usually, like everyone else look at the Car Fax history paying particular attention to how many times a car went through an  auto auction. Most of the time, if an exotic goes through an auto auction there is a reason for it. Think of this, if the Industry Sales Professionals push it through at auction, and they are scratching for every dollar and dime they can get, why did they send it there?

We passed on one in Florida, decent price, but it went through auction four times. Just know this with negotiating, there’s nothing new under the sun. If I told you the amount of times, “we only make hundreds not thousands” on a deal. Another popular one is, “we just put tires”, “did service”, “did etc., etc.” “That’s why you need to pay what we are asking”. Look we all know how trade-ins work, we know what they give. Most people almost have a heart attack the first time they trade in a vehicle. Do us both a favor, lets pretend I know what you do. We both will get along better this way.

If the car has been through auction, like the one above I mentioned, most people in the field have access to that data. They were quite surprised when they gave me the speech above and I told them you paid $57,600 for the car you are asking over $62k for it.  See, I try to keep it all upfront. Most of the time they are used to telling stories. I would rather tell them who I am, being upfront about what I do for a living, and give them this website address. I’m not pretending, I am going to be honest about it, that way you have the rope, you can hang yourself with it or pull me in with it.  If you lie to me, I will burn you. I will give you an example in a minute of that.

So, after the above negotiations stalled out, I found a Stradale on the Indiana/Ohio line, actually I found two places in that area, one was only about an hour from the other. It was a Silver color, something neither my wife nor I was keen on, but nevertheless he was willing to negotiate.  The gentleman’s name was Gerry, or however he spells it, the name of the business was Whitewater motors. He stated he owned the business. He told me all of the right things I wanted to hear. I again, told him what I do for a living, how I was looking for a personal vehicle, and asked he pleased checked me out on this website or Instagram (Trident456).

I put a $2000 deposit on this car, it’s actually the one at the very top of this page. Here it is again so there is no confusion about who I am talking about:

I had my wife book a ticket out to the Cincinnati airport closest to him. He arranged for me to be picked up at the time I arrived. I met a really decent guy, named Jimmy, who went on about how Gerry was this great guy and the vehicle was remarkable. I reiterated to Jimmy what I told Gerry on the phone, I know what the car is, I do this for a living.  I even told them both about the F360 above. See I am building a picture, a background, a foundation for you in this story if you will. I need you to understand. Gerry told me personally he had looked me up on this website, and found everything very interesting. I want you to see that some of these guys have been in business for “decades”. They know all the right words to say, they are even willing to try their luck, to gamble if you will, with a person who knows more about these cars then even they do. They have convinced themselves they can truly sell people anything they want with the right story.

As Jimmy, drives me through the “new side” of town, I noticed it really looked like an unremarkable place. The “other side of the hill” where they were located looked even worse. But I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, never judge by appearance. As we passed the “detail shop”, Jimmy mentioned the car was there and the boss would take me to it. Seems like they “owned” a few places.  We arrived at Whitewater motors, seemed like a nice enough lot, and had a nice building with decent vehicles there.  I met Gerry, older gentleman, white hair combed back, decently dressed. Mentioned to me that he was “off” today (Friday, 22nd of Dec.) but made an “exception” for me. I guess I was supposed to think that the $60k certified bank check I had with me didn’t mean anything to him, that’s not counting the deposit.

Gerry asked if I needed anything, coffee, bathroom break, etc. I mentioned the bathroom would be great. Jimmy said, “Hi” to the boss, and then went to the back of the lot where there were a few buildings, and I never saw him again. I received a few stares from the few people he had there, not that it was weird. I have Exotic logos on my work shirts so that people know that’s what I do. Just seemed like they were watching my interactions more than anything, but hey whatever, I’m here to purchase a vehicle right? As you can tell I pay close attention to my environment.

As I walked to go to the bathroom, my OCD again got the best of me. I looked down at a Porsche sitting on the showroom. The front bumper was slightly off in color from the rest of the front of the car. Anyway, coming back out, I asked Gerry if we could go get the car. As we drove to the detail shop, Gerry disclosed that he viewed my website, and shared other details about the car. Now remember this car only had just over 13k miles on it, so it “had” to be perfect. He told me, the car was at the Detailer still because he didn’t want to get it wet, he wanted to let me do that. I will give him that, it had been slightly raining in the area, I noticed the ground as I was driven in from the airport.

Upon arrival I could see the beautiful front end of the MC Stradale sitting off in the dark of this detail shop. It was weird all the lights were off, just the front was illuminated, but hey whatever. Gerry asked if I wanted to drive it back. I stated absolutely. It seemed to drive well enough for the roughly less than a mile back to Whitewater. Gerry seemed to pull to the front of the dealership by the street but I was by no means done with the car.  I pulled right in beside the building, and I began my own PPI on the car.

First thing I noticed, the rims had been repainted, paint was flaking off the rear driver’s rim. The calipers were all red, but a chalky colored red; they should have been powder coated, with a hard shine. To be honest, that was a first for me on Calipers. I don’t know if someone attempted a repaint or some other experiment went wrong. They were the worst I’ve seen. If my “Spidey” senses weren’t tingling before, they definitely were now.

As I walked to the back of the vehicle it was very obvious, the body lines on the rear were off, and the passenger rear light did not match up.  Here see for yourself, pay attention to every detail:

Look at the gap where the trunk meets the bumper, also notice the slightly variant shade, and marks on the trim piece in that little space between the trunk, and bumper. That trim piece covers the holes of the bolts that hold the bumper in place there. Next, do you see how the bottom of the tail light from the quarter panel meets the light of the trunk lid, and that they don’t meet up? The trunk lid rear light is slightly higher? Look at the rear back up sensor holes……see the black speckled marks on it? Wait………..

Now do you see it……..looks like primer over-spray to me. See picture below:

 

Moving on from this, and I am not even sure you can see this with a Camera. In the picture below I attempted to photo the paint mottling, basically light and dark spots in how the Silver Metallic base coat was laid down. You need to focus on where the light hits the top of fender to see it.  Don’t look at the shine of the Clear Coat, look through the Clear Coat to the Base Silver Metallic.

 

If you can’t see through the Clear Coat to catch the mottling there, let’s see if you can look through the Clear Coat here to where the Painter actually left tack rag marks in the Base Coat, and then Clear Coated over them. This is actually a common mistake with metallic paint and tack ragging. You have to be careful in how you tack rag between Base coats or else it will look identical to this:

Basically what you are looking at is what appears like lines in the Basecoat under the Clear. They run across right about the middle part of the picture.

These are just the photos I took. There were also tape marks inside the passenger side wheel well with over-spray where the tape was taken off. There was rough over-spray line when you opened the passenger door. The Passenger door didn’t shut correctly. The front bumper had also been painted. The paint mottling I mentioned earlier, well that went all the way to the Passenger door. So it’s obvious this car wasn’t something I was even remotely interested in any longer. I’m in a Lemon situation again.

 

Let’s get back to Gerry though- as I opened the trunk to get a better view of what was going on right there with the trunk, and rear bumper body line, Gerry attempted to draw my attention away from that and ask me about the OEM car cover in the trunk, and tire inflator. Now these vehicles, when kept correctly, would have the original paperwork and all the accessories like the OEM car cover included. It was obvious this one did. Look again here is the original listing with the mileage that I took a screen shot of. Here is the VIN number as well: ZAM45MLA6C0061853

See in some of these situations the Salesman will attempt to draw your attention from the fact there might be fundamental flaws in the vehicle. You need to understand there is a psychology to all of this. I try to be a Gentleman in these situations. This was my personal situation, and it honestly would have been easy to get angry and start hollering at Gerry.

After I pointed out all the contradictions in the vehicle to Gerry, he asked “what could we do”?  He still wanted to sell the Lemon even though now he knew that I knew what it was. I respectfully told him I’m not interested, not even remotely. I believed there was enough damage to the vehicle to know it had been in a bad accident, if not a total loss. It most certainly didn’t meet Industry standards for a vehicle of this caliber and how it should have been fixed. Some body shop made a lot of money on this car, I assure you. I decided to step out of the situation to make a phone call. Basically I  called my wife and began to explain the situation, and all the flaws in the car as well. I asked her to get me a flight home ASAP.

Between the phone call, I overheard Gerry telling his workers “he’s “hemming and hawing” over the vehicle. I could also see his workers watching me intently as I looked over the car as I previously mentioned.  So when I got off the phone, Gerry started explaining how it was unfortunate that I would now have to drive back across country in a rental car. I told him, “oh I have no intention of driving across country, my wife already booked a return flight”. He then asked if there was anything he could do. I stated sure, and asked if he could he take me back to the Airport where he picked me up from.

People’s true colors always come out in the midst of these situations. His response wasn’t one of regret or feeling sorry for me flying all the way out, and him not knowing the damage of the car. He was genuinely angry he didn’t make a quick sale and unload a problem car. He stated, “I’m not going that way I am going in the opposite direction”.  It was how he stated it, not just what he stated. He somehow honestly thought by me flying out, I had to take this Lemon car and drive back across the country to Boston.

He stated I can drop you off at the rental car place. I told him that would work for me. Not one time did he attempt to make any of this situation right. As a matter of fact, when he dropped me off at Enterprise rentals, they were closed, and I could see him pause as he was leaving to see me try the door and not be able to get in. He turned left and drove down the street anyway. Honestly it didn’t matter to me, I called Uber, got on the first flight out, and was home before 10 pm.  I was in no way stranded, and he probably didn’t know he would become the standard in what not to do in online sales for this post. Do you honestly think he became this way over night? Do you think this is uncommon?

You need a champion in your corner. You need someone who’s going to fight on the ground in these situations, with knowledge and experience. This stuff happens all the time. Remember I told you there were two Dealerships in this area?

Thomas Classics is located on South Main St. in Akron, Ohio and since I was in the area, I called them as well. They had a White color Stradale at their location. Vin # ZAM45MLA4C0063469 . I called them and spoke with a gentleman named Mike. I attempted to talk to him about their vehicle. His response was interesting, it’s not that I cared they didn’t want to work with me on the price of their car. It was more that after I explained to him I work on these cars for a living, and also told him that Whitewater had one identical to their’s with less mileage, that he responded the way that he did. Again I always give people the website so they can see I not only say I do this for a living, I have a web presence proving it. I don’t want to trick them in anyway, I want to be upfront about any negotiations and who they are dealing with. Anyway, his response was that Whitewater’s wasn’t a “true” Stradale. He tried to convince me he was looking at the car as we spoke on the phone and it didn’t have “hood vents”, which it absolutely did. Also he ran the VIN in this special data base he had access to, it absolutely wasn’t a Stradale. He was just looking out for my best interest in buying something  that was a fake. But I could do whatever I wanted.

Of course then I couldn’t resist in all this Salesman’s madness. I had to let him know exactly how much I knew about this Exotic he didn’t know. In the U.S. we do not have the true Stradale version of that car. The real Stradale has the F1 transmission like the F599gto. To the right of the Media screen the top button actually states RACE to change the F1 systems parameters, not SPORT which is what the ZF transmission car has. It also doesn’t have rear seats. It doesn’t have a stick up from the floor like the ZF automatic transmission. It has buttons akin to the 2009 GTS with the F1 system. There were only 300 GTS’s of that year with the F1 transmission in that car. There are a few other details but you get the gist.  Even still this Salesman, thought he could say whatever to whoever, and it was Gospel. Finally, he closed that if I could get a better deal than the $69,999 I should do it, there was no way they were letting it go for that price.  I of course gave them the benefit of the doubt and called again while I was still there to attempt to work out a deal.

Look to be honest, I’ve already done better than that. I put a deposit down on a Stradale a year newer, with about 5000 less miles for thousands cheaper, than theirs. Who really hurts for this type of conduct, me or them? I fly to Florida Wednesday to see if this Stradale is what I am looking for. I’m pretty sure I won’t be disappointed and I will attempt to update this post with who I purchased it from afterwards with photos.

Look friends, I hope this helped you out in some way. It’s 6:00 on Christmas eve, I wanted to relay my experiences while it was fresh on my mind. My desire is that you do not get taken advantage of, any more than they attempted to do with me.

 

Why Do I Need A Scan Tool After F1/E Gear Clutch Replacement

IMAG1882

So every once in a while I will get this question about replacing an F1 Clutch by an owner who’s looking to have someone install it that doesn’t have the scan tool to re-set all the clutch parameters on an F1/E-gear car.  Some come up with these ideas about what’s happening in the car’s TCU or NCR obviously unfounded by any true understanding of the system. But yet and still they are willing to take parts that cost anywhere from $2000-$4000 and mess them up instead of paying to tow the car to someone that can do exactly what I am going to write about here.

Let me start off by saying this first. There is a ton of data now available on-line that did not used to be available to change one’s own clutch or have an independent shop do so. I wrote one such article years ago, documenting the process on Maseratilife.com before anyone else had in order to help facilitate people to do so. I’ve since moved all of those photos here to this web-site. However, even before I owned my own scan tool, I knew enough to know, to tow the car to Aston Martin of New England to have all the parameters re-set so as not to mess up a new clutch. So let’s talk about this, let’s discuss why you should just pay the $300 or so dollars to have the clutch parameters reset after such a costly repair.

Another misconception going into this is that the clutch wear algorithm is somehow inaccurate in these cars’ computer systems. So that when it states it’s 50% worn, that number in all actuality could be incorrect, and the clutch really could go at anytime. This ignores the fact, that the friction disc build thickness can vary in thickness size, and whether the flywheel has hot spots or the friction disc material itself has developed any sub-par issues like glazing from an incorrectly set up clutch. This is most evident in early model F360 cars that had auto-calibrated Kiss points. The build thickness isn’t taken into account when there is a build tolerance from one new friction disc to the next. In the algorithm the number is set to 5.56mm (depending on the clutch and tolerance build). A person literally could be running at 100% worn and the clutch be somewhat fine when that variance is in their favor. The car can “sense” hot spots, glazing,  (or basically slippage) but it doesn’t tell you which one it is. Under the scan tool parameters it will be called Clutch Wear Index, Clutch Degradation Index or something similar.  You could only be 50% worn and need to replace a clutch for this issue or a number of other ones.

Let’s talk about just four important parameters the TCU of F1/Egear cars store. We aren’t going to go into all of the sensory data because this would be very long and drawn out.

New Closed Clutch Position (NCCP)

Closed Clutch Position (CCP)

Clutch Wear Index

PIS/KISS point.

New Closed Clutch Position/Closed Clutch Position:

The NCCP is basically the closed clutch position from when the clutch was brand new. This figure is in millimeters written into the car’s computer from the Tech that usually installs the brand new clutch. This is the figure that all of the rest of the above parameters are built on.

So for instance, the car’s clutch wear percentage is an algorithm built from this number as it’s foundation. When this isn’t written in correctly a few things can go wrong, which is why it needs to be re-written immediately after installing the clutch and before bedding in or driving it.

One can learn quickly that writing in a measurement to far from the actual foundation point  into the computer that’s not accurate can severely mess with how the clutch engages.

Additionally, the reason why this has to be re-written for every clutch change is because every new clutch doesn’t sit it the same location as it’s predecessor. So in sum, using the previous written data could either cause the clutch to engage or not engage correctly.

Closed Clutch Position:

This is a number automatically calculated by the TCU of the car, that CANNOT be changed by a Tech, in millimeters, telling the system the exact location of the clutch’s position. This is based off of the vehicle’s clutch position sensor, and the sensory data provided by it. This measurement is also why no matter how worn a clutch is the KISS or PIS is still accurate. (Although as the car’s clutch beds/wears in, periodic resetting could be beneficial to the life of the clutch to help it better engage).

Clutch Wear Index:

This is a figure given between 0-10,000 in the data log of information explaining whether the clutch is biting aggressively 0-3000, or slipping and not biting correctly at all 5,000-10,000. The target number is usually between 3,000-4000 in a new clutch. This torque transmissiblity  curb is very important data as it tells you exactly whether slippage is occurring and at what rate.

This data is also reset with a scan tool after installing a new clutch, and adjusting the Kiss point. You want it specifically reset so that you can tell how the new clutch engagement is graduating. It helps to catch or identify an issue early on should something in the install have went wrong.

 

Kiss Point/ PIS

Now this is the one of the most discussed topics usually addressed in changing a clutch. Ironically, you can get away with just throwing a new clutch in a car and not changing it because this is always based off of the current closed closed position which we already have discussed cannot be played with. Now is it wise to do so, I think not.

Let me give you a working definition of KISS point or PIS. Essentially it’s this. Imagine you were in a three pedal car stopped at a light. The light turns green, you raise your foot to engage the clutch. The moment it begins to bite is the KISS or PIS point. That is what is being written into the TCU of these cars. The lower the point in MM written the faster, and less slippage that occurs. The higher point that is written, the more slippage that occurs. A previous PIS point can work on a newer clutch, but isn’t advisable because it could be too hard or too soft for a brand new clutch. Additionally, I always reset the PIS after the clutch has been properly bed in solely for engagement reasons.

Here is an example, I have a Gentleman named Joe that used the website in order to change his clutch. I drove down to him set the clutch up in a way to help bed it in. However, as soon as he followed the steps I asked him to follow to bed the clutch in, it began to stall out. This was normal, and I reset the KISS point again for a post bed in clutch. I might add he had one of the best engaging F1 systems I had tested in a while when I reset it.

Closing

In closing, let me offer my advice. Maybe we should again think of this, and understand the circumstances correctly. You just paid $2000 in parts, and you are concerned about protecting that with a $300 bill? Penny wise, pound foolish much? After all that work, you need someone with the proper education and back ground to protect it. It’s what’s best for the vehicle and the investment that you just put into it. Sure I am certain you will hear glory stories of people who have beat the odds, and  come out on top. But you will also hear stories tomorrow of who won the lottery, yet you did not. This advice is free, do whatever you feel is in your best interest. The article was merely mean’t to inform you. Chances are we’ll probably never meet, and  whether you used it or not is truly inconsequential to me.

 

 

How to Change a Clutch in a F1 Maserati

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I think one of the longest threads I’ve ever posted on Maseratilife.com or SportsMaseratiuk.com had to do with changing a clutch in a F1 Maserati. It’s another reason why I think a separate website is so much better to host this information. Most of the time it just bleeds into the rest of the other forum topics and isn’t found again until a specific Google search is performed.

So you are either a DIYer and want to try this on your own, or you’re a shop trying to expand your experience with these automobiles.  Before I get into this subject however, I must warn you. This is not for the faint of heart. You will still need to bring the car to someone who can set the PIS on the car, and also re-write the clutch configuration data so the vehicle knows it has a new clutch in it. This can only be done with an SD2/3 tool or an aftermarket tool like the Leonardo system.

Additionally, be warned, you always need to bed a new clutch in. You should not be taking off like you are in a F1 race as soon as you are finished. No, much rather for the first 500-700 miles your shifts and take offs should be nice and smooth. You will not be going over 55 mph. Your driving should be akin to your grandmother driving a car. I assure you, you will not be happy if you glaze over the brand new friction discs in the car or hot spot the newly re-finished flywheel. If you do so you will have terrible engagement, or you will be taking the car apart.

I want to add here as well, there are really two ways to take these cars apart to do a clutch job, and depending on whether you are doing this yourself or in a shop would probably determine which way you should go. If you are in a shop I would more than likely drop the entire sub-frame with tires and all, you will have the lift to raise the vehicle. Keep the sub-frame/torque tube as one unit, take the torque tube from the bell housing.

If you are attempting this by yourself or with a friend I would leave the sub frame. Loosen it for clearance, and remove the torque tube and gear box from the sub frame but leave it in the car. Either way it is totally up to you. If you are removing the sub-frame with the gearbox and all, don’t take the trunk apart unless you are having clearance issues. You shouldn’t. The sub-frame, gearbox, and torque tube can be removed as a unit if you have the correct tools to do so.

I will be showing here, more of a private setting to take it apart though I do have the car on a lift.  My first F1 Maserati I did with cradling, in a small garage years ago, so it is possible. Contrary to what people may think you don’t need a huge garage with a lift to service these cars. If you are a mechanic, or mechanically inclined the tools don’t give you experience or skill you must have that already. If you have that you could do this in a driveway if you wanted to. I once replaced an F1 pump in the driveway of a Client’s car that was a few hours away from me. I laid on cardboard as a make shift creeper. He needed the help, and I didn’t mind doing it.

Take the Trunk Apart

 First things first, lets get the trunk apart so you can have enough clearance to slide the gear box back away from the torque tube.

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As you can see by the photos above,  you simply first need to remove the plastic trim piece around the trunk latch before you can pull the carpeted piece up that sits in the trunk well.  You will need a Philips screw driver or a motorized tool of your choosing. You’ll also need this to remove the well itself. This is assuming if you keep stuff in your trunk you have removed it, including a spare tire if you have one.

Next is the actual trunk well itself, again a Philips but you’ll also need an 8mm because there are some studs that come through with nuts on them.  The studs should come up at the bottom of the well closest to the latch.

In the last photo above you can see exactly four holes (those are the 8mm studs) at the bottom and two on the side. On the sides its philips and sometimes you need to pull the insulation away to get to them like this:

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When you are finished you pull the well out and set it aside. You should see this heat shield next:

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In order to take the heat shield out of the way. You have to get under the car. Now I’m assuming if you are at home or have your own garage you should already have the entire car about 2′-3′ in the air. Whether cradling or jack stands, you’ll want to be able to put a creeper under the car and slide back and forth. You’ll also want to be able to drop the entire exhaust to slide it out. So you need to get the car in a position that makes it easiest on you.

When you get under the car you should remove the rear valance, it’s the one below.  It will be easier after removing the valance, which is basically torx head bolts, to then remove the exhaust before we remove the heat shield.  The 4200 is a bit different how it detaches as there are other bolts inside of the valance on either side. Whereas the pic below just shows torx heads on the outside parameter and sides.

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Front Sway Bar and Exhaust

Next we need to remove the front cross member and sway bar in order to drop the entire exhaust out of the way. 20160323_17210920160323_17210720160323_172138 20160323_172705 20160323_172940

The first two photos above show the support cross member that has to be dropped. It’s two, 13mm bolts, on either side that needs to be removed. After doing so, pry it down and remove it. It should be concave and must be put back the same way.

Next you are looking at detaching the front sway bar. You don’t need to remove it, you can just let it hang out of the way. Both caps are easy to spot in the next photos above. I cannot remember but I think they are 14-15 mm. Remove these and drop the sway bar down.

Here is another photo with the cross member and sway bar dropped:

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Next we need to drop the exhaust:

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Unfortunately, this photo is blurred. But you can basically see that each manifold just before the secondary cats have two bolts. They are hex head bolts and need to be removed.

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Here in this photo above on the top right hand side you will see a metal bracket attached by the secondary cat. It’s 13 mm and is holding each cat in the same area. They need to be loosened to drop the exhaust down.

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There’s brackets attaching the rear part of the exhaust manifold to the gear box like above. Those also need to be detached. There’s one on either side.

Lastly, you’ll need to remove the pipes from the rear boxes like so, it’s 15mm on each box. Just rock and twist them out:

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Removed and out of the way it will look like this:

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Okay, now lets get that heat shield out of the way:

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8mm nuts on these studs, the front ones are easy, the ones toward the rear of the car will be a bit more difficult. Use a wobble socket with wobble/swivel extensions it will help out. Then fold up the heat shield a bit to get it out of the way. Remove it from the car being careful not to scratch the paint on the rest of the rear valance.

Torque Tube and Gearbox

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So you are looking at 8 15mm nuts on each side to the torque tube. In order to reach the 15mm nuts on the top part of the torque tube toward the gear box you need an “S” wrench like this one.  However, toward the front you can just use a couple of long extensions with swivel/wobbles like these photos below. Obviously, the impact is optional. You can also get to the top bolts on the other side with an “S” wrench as well:

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What you’ll want to do is detach the torque tube closest to the gear box first.  You’re not dropping it yet. You will just be detaching it in order to get the gear box ready to slide back out of the sub-frame cradling. Additionally, since you are close to the floor already you can get a jack stand to support the torq tube so it doesn’t hit the floor when you remove it from the gearbox.

Next before we separate the gearbox we need to remove the mounting bolts to the Emergency brake. In order to do so, if you are under the car, you should have it in the air anyway. You can not have the emergency brake engaged to loosen the hardware. It will create too much stress on the cable if it’s engaged.

Here are some photos of what you will need to be loosening:

20160324_124835 20160324_124841 20160324_124855If you have a 4200’s series car, the E brake will be attached to the Torque Tube. You’ll have to reach around on top, and you’ll also have it bolted into the slot of the side of the torque tube. The GS you only need to disconnect the hangers and brackets. The last picture is the hanger above the gearbox. You need to make sure and detach it or you’ll have a heck of a time getting the gear box out.  Here’s a photo of the one above the gear box that was bent when it was done not realizing it was still there:

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Next, you’ll go around to reach up into the trunk area. You will see the connecting harness to the gearbox on the left side of the car like so:

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Now, you will also see the rear cross member in this photo. But before you loosen those you’ll need to detach the half shafts on either side of the gear box going out to your rear wheels. Unfortunately I don’t have photos for that specifically, but it’s okay because you’ll clearly see where they attach. You’ll need a 13mm socket or wrench. If your car is in neutral it will make it that much easier. Just spin the rear tires to rotate around to the next bolt.  Once you are finished push the half shafts out of the way. You don’t have to worry about removing them.

Next is the rear cross member, four 13 mm bolts on either side, but also remember to detach the heat shield on the right side that folds around it. You should have a jack under the gear box. Once you complete this you’ll pry apart where the torque tube is in front of the gear box. This will push the gear box rear-ward in order to separate it. The cradling will support the gear box as you continue to pull it rear-ward and pivot it out of the cradling. If you feel you need a little more space you can un-bolt the sub-frame bolts, 3 on either side to give you more. You don’t need to completely remove them. Here’s what you’ll have when done:

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Again you should have already had the jack stand holding the back of the torque tube up. You can just slide the gear box out of the way as a unit.

You will see the hydraulic line running down the torque tube. I don’t think I mentioned disconnecting this from right under the gear box above but it’s a quick disconnect similar to what you’d see on an air compressor. Just push it back and it will detach.  Running down the torque tube is 10mm nuts holding the hydraulic line that need to be unbolted before you can take the torque tube down.

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 Once you’ve done so, you can detach the other bolts on the torque tube. Place a jack to support the front part.  Pry it apart from the bell housing and lower it down. Remember this is heavy!

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 Bell Housing and Clutch Removal

Next up you’ll need to unplug the F1 position sensor wire on the right hand side of the bell housing. I usually just wind the hydraulic line up and wire tie it together to get it out-of-the-way. F1 position sensor wire below.

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Next you’ll need to get that swivel/wobble end ready again for the top bell housing bolts.  Work your way around until you have them all.

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Once you get them all out, just make sure the heat shield is out of the way above the bell housing when you start prying it apart, it will take some persuasion to get it apart. The heat shield begins to sag down a little over time. Just take the end of a hammer and press up.  It bends fairly easy.

When you are done this is what you should have:

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Next you will have the pressure plate and clutch still on the flywheel:

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You should notice nine (9) different hex head bolts around the outside diameter of the pressure plate. DO NOT try and take those out one at a time. You will strip the last couple of bolt holes with the remaining bolts as you take them out. Since you’ll want to resurface the flywheel this would be a terrible situation when you go to reinstall the new pressure plate and flywheel.

What you will do is take your 5mm or 5.5 mm hex head socket, and go clockwise. or counterclockwise. Slowly loosen each bolt about a half a turn. Walk it around just like this to slightly release the tension of the pressure plate to remove it.  When it’s off you will have the flywheel like below.

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No special tricks for this. Take a socket and take the bolts off, and tap the flywheel off. Be careful as well, it has a bit of weight to it like the pressure plate and friction discs do.

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The final step will be your spigot bearing- in the U.S. we usually call it the Pilot bearing. If you don’t have a pilot bearing puller, don’t fret, let me teach you an alternative method.

Basically this method is a way to apply a kind of hydraulic pressure to the back of the Spigot bearing to press it out of the crank shaft. Some guys like to use grease which is going to be really messy. I like to use bread because it’s less messy and you don’t need an air tight seal so the grease doesn’t blow back on you.

So here’s how you’ll do it. Take black electrician’s tape, or a good holding tape like this. Wrap it around your 3/8″ socket extension until it barely fits into the hole in the middle of the spigot bearing.

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Next shove bread into the center of the spigot bearing hole until you cannot get anymore in:

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Next take a hammer and put the extension right into the hole, and hammer the bread into it. Take the extension out, and put more bread in. Repeat over and over again until the Spigot pops out like this:

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Then just clean all of the bread out of the hole. If you’d like, take your new spigot bearing that you have and get a socket that covers the outside edge of the bearing. Now flip the socket around where the rachet would normally go, and hammer the new one into place.  It’s supposed to be really snug, so don’t lubricate this at all, in order to get it into the crank.

F1 Position Sensor and Thrust Bearing Removal

When you flip the bell housing up, the first thing you are going to see is the center shaft coming through the middle, the thrust bearing sitting on the sleeve, and the F1 position sensor with the wiring coming out.

The earlier model 4200’s don’t have the star set up like this where there are 5 hex bolts at each point to release. This one is from a GS so it does have it like this. A Quattroporte should also look like this. If it’s a GranTurismo S F1 car, the F1 position sensor will be off to the side a bit.  Let me show you the difference- this photo is the GS/Facelift/Quat bell housing:

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This one below is the really early model 4200’s assembly:

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 Before loosening up the hex bolts at the five points you will need to detach the hydraulic lines going to the slave cylinder of the thrust bearing. Additionally loosen the bolts holding the F1 position sensor wire in place.

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After you pull the lines out you can remove the 5 bolts that are at each point of the star in the bell housing. Then remove that assembly, it will look like this:

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The photo above is how you will do the later models, however, if you have the earlier model without the star mounting, this is what you’ll need to do:

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Take the two opposing bolts out on either side of the base of the thrust/slave cylinder sleeve.

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Then the thrust bearing mounting bolts:
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Please again note you will not have to go through this with the star mounting in the later models.

After you loosen these, you will be able to slightly clock the slave cylinder sleeve in order to get to the hex head mounting bolt underneath it. This older design was a bit of a hassle as you can see. But when you’re done this is what you’ll have:

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Now that you have this apart, you can remove the F1 position sensor and it’s mounting base from the bottom of the assembly:

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Tips for Installation

The magnet protruding from the bottom of the slave cylinder is a very important piece. This is what the F1 position sensor slides over in order to make the hall effect sensor work. Additionally, do not forget, this is what tells the NCR what position the thrust bearing is in. It transmits the data for clutch wear, PIS, and a host of other functions.

The pin must be pressed out, or you can remove it with a hammer and pin of like size. When you put this back on the new thrust bearing, that screw head ALWAYS faces forward, regardless if it’s a Ferrari or Maserati.

A small digression on this topic. Not long ago I helped a gentleman with his GTS F1 car. The car wasn’t shifting correctly, and throwing F1 position sensor codes. He took it apart and thankfully he sent pictures to me. The clutch had been replaced not long ago. At first, my thoughts centered around the F1 position sensor being faulty. When I received the photos I could tell right away, they had installed this magnet backwards. That, we believe, was the actual culprit though he replaced the sensor anyway. Magnets do have poles, don’t reverse them by placing the magnet backwards. Here are some photos showing what I am explaining:

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I normally do not use the OEM thrust bearing from Maserati. They had various issues to begin with, and I feel Hill Engineering makes a more trustworthy component.

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When you get ready to put this back together, I am kind of hoping you paid attention to how it came apart. If not here are a couple of pics to help out.

This photo is how the springs should sit in the back of the thrust bearing. Because they can fall out if you’re not careful, it’s best to post these:

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Flywheel Resurfacing

Most people think they have to purchase a new flywheel in these cars in order to complete the full service. I know mechanics that merely clean off the old one and re-install. That’s one extreme. The other is to purchase a new flywheel.

You can get away with not doing anything to the flywheel at all. I don’t recommend it.  These flywheels develop hot spots because of the F1 system and how it engages. This is especially true when the PIS point is high and it slips more off the line. Maybe some pictures would be better to show you. Here are two flywheels from two different F1 Maseratis:

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Hot spots in flywheels will cause the friction discs not to engage the full surface of the flywheel face. It’s basically hardened metal in those areas where increased heat was created.

When flywheels are resurfaced minute amounts of metal are taken from the face, and run out is checked. This positively removes any hot spots and additionally removes any micro cracking on the surface as well. This will affect where the PIS of the car will be set but any tech that knows how to set the PIS, will be unconcerned about this. Before I forget most machine shops will already see where the pressure plate mounts around the outside edge and will take the same amount off here to make sure it’s all done uniformly. If you’re concerned, make sure you mention this to them when you bring it in.

Here are those same flywheels after being machined, hot tanked, and checked for run out:

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Please notice the difference in thickness of the top flywheel from the one just below it.  The top flywheel is from an early Spyder. The flywheel weighs about twice as much as the one below it. The one below it is from a later model GS. Flywheel resurfacing will only cost about $100.

Clutch balancing comes up from time to time. Here’s my recommendation. If you have the heavy flywheel get the clutch and flywheel dynamically balanced together at a machine shop. If you have the smaller flywheel don’t worry about it and follow the service manual and clock the factory balancing marks 180 degrees apart from each other.  Below is picture of a dynamically balanced flywheel. I don’t want to draw this out by talking about tolerance stacking and why it would be beneficial for one and not necessarily the other. I can state I’ve had both tested at machine shops. The thicker ones tolerances were a bit more than the thinner one. I was specifically told not to waste money on the thinner flywheels, but the thicker ones benefitted more from being balanced together with the clutch assembly. I bring all this up because they sell kits to balance the flywheel in the car. I can say with certainty they are not necessary, and I’ve seen people charged for them when the dealership knew they would not use them.

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I mentioned clocking the factory marks 180 degrees from each other. When you take the flywheel in make sure they score it so it’s not hot tanked off . But here are the marks on both the flywheel and the pressure plate. It’s the yellow and white lines. When you open the new box of the clutch/pp you will see the factory mark right on the front face of the pressure plate.

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As you can imagine, this has been a very long post and I’ve been waiting to say this. The rest of installation, is the reverse of how it was removed. I think I’ve covered everything I could to help out.

Please feel free to contact me if you have a special situation or need consultation on a specific issue.

Maserati F1 Clutches

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Another subject you will hear a lot about with F1 cars, is of course F1 clutches.

F1 clutches in Maserati F1 cars are not like standard three pedal car clutches, nor were they ever designed to be. Generally they last about 30,000 miles in these cars. The older these Maserati cars have become the more Techs are learning about how to set up the clutches so that longer shelf lives of the clutches are documented. This includes using mods such as Formula Dynamics Drive-by-Wire system in these cars.

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Above is an F1 double disc Maserati clutch.  They are manufactured by Valeo.  Many times, by many different people, different types of clutches have been tried in Maserati F1 cars, usually the hot topic is Kevlar. All todate have been unsuccessful. You can get them in the car, and initially get them to work but not for long periods of time. The engagement is usually too harsh stalling out the car or too soft constantly slipping the clutch.

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Above is a brand new stock F1 friction disc set up. Brand new you can see the mm measurements are approximately 6.34/6.21mm. Fully worn these disc will measure respectively right at 5.34/5.21. There is a manufacturer variance, so not every clutch will have exactly this mm size but it will be close. Here is another brand new clutch measured to show you the variance:

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Clutch Wear Reading Algorithm 

Clutch wear readings are done using a Maserati specific scan tool, or aftermarket scan tool like Leonardo that can access the gear box computer known as the “NCR” in these cars. When a new clutch is installed in the car, the new clutch parameters are written into the NCR by the Technician doing the install. The NCR of the car measures the friction disc material through the F1 position sensor from this starting parameter.

That data will read like this on a scan tool.

New Closed Clutch Position (This literally means the closed clutch position when a new clutch was put into the car, and the Technician re-wrote those parameters).

I will use a previous car’s parameters: 18.281mm

Closed Clutch Position (This is the current closed clutch position in the vehicle and cannot be changed)

In this instance it was: 18.423mm

Much has been made about the algorithm the scan tool uses to calculate the clutch wear percentage, usually by people who don’t understand that computers don’t use snake oil, they use hard numbers. It is accurate, but isn’t the final say on whether a clutch needs to be replaced. For instance, if you have a high KISS point, or PIS set up (Explained in another article) it causes a lot more slippage of the clutch. You can have 50% clutch wear left, and yet need to replace the clutch because they are glazed over, or you have hot spots all over the flywheel affecting engagement.  Additionally, depending on where the car has come from you can also get an unsavory character to go in and change the New clutch settings to give you a lower wear reading for a clutch than it should have.  (Also discussed later).

Here are the hard input numbers of the algorithm the Scan tool bases the F1 clutch wear reading on from the example numbers above.

Closed Clutch Position: 18.423mm

Subtract this number from: New Closed Clutch Position:  18.281mm

this equals, 0 .142,

then it will be divided by 5.56*.

We now have, 0.025. This number is finally multiplied by 100. So the clutch is worn 2.55% in this Maserati.

The scan tool always shows how much it’s worn, not how much is left. I usually invert the number for the client. In this case, that would mean it’s 97.45% remaining.  The Maserati Scan tool does not show the Tech this Algorithm, it merely gives him the parameters of where the clutch is from New, Current, and calculates those figures with all of these number to give him/her the clutch wear percentage. So it’s very possible for him not to even know this.

I usually take those numbers myself, with my phone calculator and calculate every clutch wear reading  from the scan tool. I don’t base my clutch wear percentage off of the scan tool’s inputted algorithm. I base it off of the new/current clutch position numbers themselves.  I do this mainly because I’ve had a problem with a scan tool calculating these number correctly.

Again, the scan tool does this automatically, the NCR is merely providing the scan tool those New/Current clutch parameters. The NCR itself doesn’t calculate that algorithm, it provides in millimeters the distance worn through the F1 position sensor.

[*This number is ostensibly the actual thickness of the friction disc material on one plate, minus the metal in-between it. As you can imagine since there is a manufacturer’s variance in friction disc thickness this would also slightly throw off the actual wear reading itself.]

Physically Checking the Friction Discs

Many times I’ve been asked is it physically possible to check the friction discs of these cars. The answer is yes, with a little bit of trouble on your part you can.

There are two cut-outs around the bell housing itself not specifically designed for this but can be used to measure the actual physical thickness of the friction disc material.

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The photo above shows a cut-out basically  at the 11-11:30 o’clock position, and another at basically the 7-7:30 o’clock position.

Another view:

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The trick is to spin the motor so the clutch friction discs can be seen through these cut-outs. Either from the top passenger side under the hood, or under the car at the other position. If you look you could also remove the exhaust hanger from the bottom of the bell housing (the black bracket in the photo above), to check as well.

You basically are trying to line up the cut-outs of the bell housing with the cut outs showing you the friction disc of the pressure plate like below:

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You’ll only get a good look and measure the outer most disc which is okay because they wear evenly. If you bump the key in the ignition you can look from the top and see when that one is lined up.  Photo below

The only thing left to do now is to get a measuring tool. You already know the dimensions from above of a fully worn, and brand new clutch. You can stack long feeler gauges together, or use a long  “T” handle hex key tool to do this. For instance, a 5.5mm or 6mm “T” handle hex key stuck down between the two metal plates would give you a fairly good idea of how much actual clutch life is left. (See photo below.)

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I have to add this caveat here though, it’s going to be very difficult to see fractions from 5.5 to 6mms, with T handles. But, either way, there you have it.  If it’s truly a brand new clutch a 6mm should fit right down to the friction disc without forcing it.