Saturday, July 16, 2016

eL Blue Goes Square...

The wheels and tires on the Spark EV are staggered; that is to say, the front wheels/tires are narrower than the rear.

Wheel specs - Factory
bolt pattern 4x100 mm
Center bore 56.5 mm
weight 19 lbs
Part number 95024486
Tire:  185/55/15

bolt pattern 4x100 mm
Center bore 56.5 mm
weight 19 lbs
Part number 95024487
Tire:  195/55/15

TPMS sensors 315mHz; part # 13581558

Tires are Bridgestone Ecopia.  They give excellent range, being LRR (low rolling resistance).  They are not performance tires.

The New Setup:

Kia Wheel Swap:
Kia wheel specs:  17” x 6.5”;

Number of Bolts:
Manufacturer Part Number:
529101W450 or 529101W400
Bolt Pattern:
Rim material:
Rim Width:
Hub Bore:
Weight = 21 lbs
Center Cap = 58mm

Have machine shop open up hub bore to 56.5mm.

Tires:  Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 205/40R17

The tire choice was determined by what would fit and, unfortunately, LRR tires from Michelin wouldn't fit in the front (PREMIER A/S 205/45/17).  The strut spring perch was in the way.

The Pilot Sports are performance-oriented tires; thus, range takes a solid hit...perhaps 20 miles.  Fortunately, here in Georgia, DCFC proliferation is terrific, and Interstate corridors are being connected allowing travel from Atlanta to each adjoining state.  This. Is. Great. News.

I kept the factory wheel/tire set just because.  I have entertained the idea of swapping back to it for extended road trips.  They don't look as cool, but ah, vanity...

                                    Below:  the factory wheels/tires.

One of the things I put high on the priority list for upgrades to this car was wheels and tires.  If you're a car guy/gal, that's always one area where things get personal.

In doing my homework for this job, it became clear that there is a narrow range of fitment for this car.  The reason for this lies in the manufacturing technique of the car itself.  It shares with its gas-fueled cousin some assembly from the front bumper to the rear seat; after that point, things get radically different due to the existence of the traction battery...700 lbs of lithium-ion traction battery.  The rear suspension is different to accommodate the weight, therefore, and this includes Chevy's choice of rear rim specs.

The Spark EV has wider wheels than its gas-car cousin; the wider rear wheels (15"x6.5", ET 54 mm) are thought to address the extra weight.  In addition, the tires can't be rotated in the normal way; the fronts and rears being different sizes, the only "rotation" that could be done is side to side.  Not optimal.

So, when I went looking for wheels/tires, I had some inclination that the search would be...interesting.  And take a looooooong time.

I don't remember how I found the Kia Rio wheels that I eventually chose; I first searched aftermarket, and even purchased a set of Enkei EDR9 17X7 ET 45 mm, but they didn't fit.  7" is too wide for this car.

In the end, I found wheels from the 2012 - 15 Kia Rio (Kia part # 529101W450):  4 x 100 mm bolt pattern, aluminum, 21 lbs, 17" x 6.5", ET 43 mm, hub bore 54.1 mm:

I bought one on eBay and took it to a machine shop to have the hub bore widened 2.4 mm to fit the Spark EV hub, then test fitted it in my driveway:

It fit, no problem.  However, tires would be the deciding factor.  So, I took the wheel to Gran Turismo East, recommended as wheel/tire/suspension experts.
We test-fitted the wheel, no problem:

Then, we mounted a used 205/45R17 tire and test-fitted again.  No problem:

Yay!  Now, I just have to find three more of these wheels!

Little did I know that suddenly the supply of these wheels (used) would go from abundant to out-of-stock seemingly overnight.  And the price went up with it!

Took me a few months to fill out the wheel set.  Bought the first one for test-fitting May 24, 2016.  Installing the full set + tires was not done until July 12.


Ah, well, c'est la vie, eh?  Onward!

The crew at Gran Turismo are, indeed, experts at this wheel and tire business.  Kieran, Chris et al are true professionals.  The tire mounting, balancing and fitting took about an hour.  Chris was lead technician and was kind enough to answer my questions as I made a pest of myself during the install:

                           Loading up the wheels (they've been reconditioned):

                                      Getting ready to go up on the lift:

                                                New TPMS sensors:

                                                      Spin balancing:

                                         A little anti-seize on the studs:

                                                     Almost there...!

                 Final step:  spin balancing on the car.  Old school, they tell me:

                                 Reprogramming the new TPMS sensors:


                                             Et Voilá!  Lookin' tough!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cargo Light Clone

Needs more cowbell...

The cargo light in the Spark EV is a tiny 194 bulb located on the left wall of the trunk.  The incandescent lamp is lame and puts out a tiny amount of light.  I changed to an LED that's a little better, but it's only one light and the trunk needs more than that.  So, I purchased a second cargo light housing on; this light is a crossover to many GM cars.  All I had to do was to match the lens to my current light.

But where to put the new light?  The most obvious place was across the trunk on the opposite side, in the mirrored location.  All I had to do was measure as precisely as possible (like, 90 times), then use my dremel, a razor knife and a file to clean it up.

Yeah, but I also had to basically disassemble the entire rear area of the car; back seats out, trunk liners out, rear seat bolsters (w/air bags...disconnect 12V battery first) out, rear side door sill garnish moldings out, quarter lower rear trim panels out.

Well, I was fixing to do a sound deadening project on this car anyways, so all that stuff was out already.  In fact, I also plan to install a backup camera and subwoofer, so the rear of the car will remain in disarray for a time until those projects are completed.

Measuring:  not difficult, really.  I measured the location of the original rectangular hole, made a template out of thin clear plastic, transferred the template to the other side after measuring 90 freakin times, cut the hole with my dremel, trimmed a fair bit of plastic from the back of the trim panel so that the light housing would fit, and et voîla!

Below:  the light housings.  The top ones are from late-model GM cars, including the Spark EV.  To the right of those is a 194 LED.  It's not very bright and will be replaced with a brighter unit.  The bottom light housings are from a Chevy Aveo and a Mazda something-or-other...both salvage yard finds.  Cost less than $5 for those two.  I plan to use them elsewhere in the car for more interior lighting.  Most likely they'll go in the center console and shine into the footwells...if I can figure out how to tap into the BCM (Body Control Module).

Below:  Measuring and cutting the hole...

Below:  trimming the plastic on the reverse side...

Next, I had to create a wire harness for the new lamp.  I made a wiring harness out of some leftover 22ga wire from my archives (red and black):

I twisted the wires together with my drill, then sheathed them in 

Various connectors, shrink tubing and zip ties were used:

The wiring harness is snaked behind the liftgate sill garnish molding:
Passenger side

Passenger side

Driver side

Driver side
A short clip of the liftgate sill garnish molding:

Below, what the cargo light housing looks like, passenger side, dangling...

Below:  Final product.  Can't tell which is the original?  :)

And a video clip:

Friday, May 20, 2016

Sunroof install

Let the Sun Shine In!

Other than Tesla, none of the EVs sold in the North American market offered a sun/moonroof as an option...until Kia's 2016 Soul EV.  It is, of course, a personal preference, and many people are against "cutting a hole in a perfectly good roof", as I've been told.

My first car with a "hole in the roof" was a 1972 Triumph Spitfire.  Bought it in 1977 for $1700, a lot of money for a high school senior!  Terrific car when it ran, but electrical gremlins constantly stranded me.  However, it was way fun to drive.  1.2L inline 4, carburetor, 4-spd, great handling in the curves.  Total chick magnet.  Alas, sold it to pay for college.  Bought a 1969 VW Beetle after that for $500; it had a sunroof!  In fact, it had a sunroof that leaked like a sieve!

I rebuilt the manual-crank sunroof to as-new condition and it never leaked again.  Loved that old 'Dub.  Very reliable, easy to maintain.  I learned to wrench on that car...John Muir's "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive" was a tremendous resource, along with Chilton's and Haynes' Repair manuals.

Fast forward to 1990's, and the first new car I bought was a 1997 Ford Mustang GT convertible.  Arrest me red, 205 hp at the rear wheels, 5-spd, lots of power, electrically-operated top.  Had a lot of fun in that car.  Very reliable, never gave me any trouble and warranty coverage was superb.  Great car.  I had fun "personalizing" it...added OTPD (one-touch power-down) to all the windows, changed the rear-end gears from 3.27 to 3.73 which allowed the car to get into its power band much more quickly and changed the car drastically.  It was a bit of a pig prior to that; after, it was very quick.  Got 24 mpg on the Interstate, too!

And now to the Spark EV, the second car I've purchased new...after leasing a couple of Leafs and getting infected with that EV grin!  No sunroof option, and nobody of which I'm aware is installing sunroofs into their Spark EVs.  So, we're breaking new ground, here.

My research led me to an installer in Lawrenceville, Ga,  Auto Accents on Pike Street.  Le was my installer.  $999.99 for a Signature Series sunroof.  Expertly installed.  Le is a craftsman and it shows in his shop, the work he does is top-flight.  Highly recommended.

He showed me the units he recommended for the Spark EV; I wanted the folding-leather kind, but he suggested that leaks are a problem with that design.  We settled on a Signature Series Inbuilt.  We picked one that was sized appropriately for the Spark EV's roof.  Le showed me the unit; showed me how he would have to re-make the headliner and had me pick out the material that was a close color-match.

Above, Le shows me the unit that he will install.

Below, template in place, readying for surgery...

Below:  Before the cut...

...and after the cut...too late, now!

Once the cut was made, Le proceeded to complete the installation.  I had to rush off to work, but Le was kind enough to take pics as the project progressed!

Hole expertly cut below...

Frame installed, sliding portion installed, glass installed...

 Below:  One. Happy. Customer.!  :)

The switch is in the picture above, upper left.  It doesn't match any of the switch gear in the car, but I don't care, it doesn't bother me.  Simple switch setup:  three buttons:  Open, Close and Vent.  The roof automagically closes itself when power to the car is shut down (a nice feature!).

The sunroof is a welcome addition to this tiny city car.  No leaks (yet), good warranty on hardware and installation, and it adds a dynamic to ventilation that otherwise would not exist.  I enjoy rolling down the road with the roof open.  It lets in a lot of light (and wind, of course!).