Last month, I paid a visit to Southern California's Inland Empire in order to stop by Vein Engine Stands, where I was walked through the ins and outs of their homegrown business and picked up a K-series engine stand for my own project, along with one of their very capable shop cruisers.
Since they offer custom colors, I opted for the matte red and black wrinkle finish I've used throughout this build. Assembly is as easy as bolting on the four legs with provided nuts and bolts, along with bolting on the casters.
To transfer the engine from the old stand to the new Vein setup, I clocked the engine forward 90 degress to clearance the legs of the new cradle. I bolted on the legs and base before calling on a neighbor to give me a hand lifting the entire thing up and placing it safely on the ground.
The rubber casters make rotating and rolling the entire engine around my garage so much easier than the old-school stand that I was relying on with its unforgiving metal wheels that just loved to bite into anything larger than a dust spec and hang—causing me to give the stand a kick or back up a few inches in order to get it moving again.
Getting the old stand over my floor's contraction joints—the gaps that divide the four concrete slabs found in most home garages—involved lifting and shuffling the engine over the divide. Now, with the Vein Stands engine cradle, it passes over those gaps like they're not even there, and it does so quietly, unlike the previous stand that sounded like a dryer full of nickels when I rolled it around.
Another bonus with Vein Stands is the ability to install your flywheel, clutch and even mount your transmission while the long block is in place. Traditional stands bolt in on the transmission side and in the past, I'd pull the engine off, place it on an old tire or capable dolly, then work on the flywheel and clutch, usually while kneeling on the ground. This time around things were going to be a whole lot easier with the engine secure and the Vein Stands Shop Cruiser that would seat me at the perfect height to work on all aspects of the engine.
After having the transmission thoroughly inspected and cleaned up internally by my friend and transmission expert @ghostwerks, I brought it back home and mounted it on the traditional engine stand to get it off the floor and to refinish the outer casing. While they were so easy to get to, I thought it would be the ideal time to install Hybrid Racing's new Heavy-duty Transmission Detent Springs.
Incredibly affordable and even with the transmission in the car, simple to install—Hybrid's detent springs are 80-percent stiffer than the factory version, giving your gear selector fork some additional strength. That means you get a more direct, solid gear shift that you'll actually feel in its back and forth movement. They work with street and track cars and they're black zinc chromate-plated, so they're ultra-durable.
Installation involves first removing three factory bolts that retain the original springs.
The factory springs lift right out and as you can see, sit inside the shank of the original hardware.
Be aware when you pull the bolt and spring out, there is a metal ball at the bottom and you want to verify it's in there when you swap in the new Hybrid springs. It most likely won't come out during spring removal but it's always good to double-check.
Here's a look at the OEM K20 transmission detent spring as compared to Hybrid's longer, stiffer version on the right. The additional material, pushed into position, increases tension considerably, resulting in more pronounced forward and backward haptics while shifting.
Drop the Hybrid springs in place and torque those original bolts to 16 lbs-ft. and you're done. These are also available for all B-series transmissions as well as F20/F22A and H-series, though only two of the springs are used externally, and if you want that third inside your B-trans, you'll have to open it up.
After refinishing the outside of the transmission and reinstalling the parts I had powder coated, I ditched the factory bolts for a complete set of Downstar Inc. hardware.
I've used Downstar throughout the rest of this build to replace some corroded hardware as well as quite a few bolts that were painted over in blue or white during the Civics previous life with Import Tuner. Downstar owner Frank Garcia did his homework years ago and has a solution for just about every nut and bolt on your Honda's chassis, engine, suspension and transmission using the correct pitch and length, and his extensive product menu allows you to customize with multiple color options.
I recently used the Downstar F-Series Engine Hardware Kit on another project I worked on earlier this year, the Super Street W2W S2000 revamp. That kit included everything I needed and separated different groups of bolts based on where they're used to keep it simple and organized. With the transmission kit, Downstar includes the casing bolts as well as the trans-to-block bolts, but there's also a K-Series engine kit that includes hardware for the sensors, solenoid base, shift cable anchors and more, if you want a complete upgrade.
Back to the engine itself, I had a box full of red label Honda parts from the only place I rely on for OEM goods that are basically always in stock: AFHkparts.com. I've worked with this team on multiple builds for the Super Street Network and have also purchased Honda and Acura parts from them for builds that I've done outside of my day job and they've always had everything available and on my doorstep in no time.
Having recently updated their website with a fresh new look, you can find just about anything you need for your build or daily, and that includes a number of aftermarket brands they've added to their inventory over the past few years. In addition, they offer some well thought-out kits for various swaps using OEM parts, like the K20 oil pump conversion I did previously on this setup, along with their K24 Frank Essentials package that also made its way onto this K24/K20.
I was missing quite a few bits and pieces for the engine, from sensors to coil packs to the VTEC solenoid, and of course, AFHkparts had everything on deck and ready to ship. Where most dealership parts counters don't stock the sort of items that enthusiasts need regularly for these build-ups, AFHkparts.com takes pride in the fact that they do. The staff is the same sort of Honda builder that you are, so they know exactly what's needed.
If you're a Honda nerd like myself, then you bask in the glory of red label OEM parts being unwrapped and installed on a new build—it's a sickness.
Before the transmission could go on, I needed a clutch and flywheel and that's where Mcleod Racing stepped in. Some might not be as familiar with McLeod as some of the other clutch manufacturers, but don't think they're some newcomer to the clutch world. They've long served as a global supplier of various clutches and components, flywheels, bearings and other associated goods, along with offering kits for performance auto and racing enthusiasts, even light truck options, since way back in 1971.
In 2008, the McLeod brand was acquired by entrepreneur Paul Lee—someone that knows a thing or two about performance, being that he's an NHRA professional driver. With Lee's guidance, McLeod ventured into new markets and the result is the extensive line you'll find on their website today, which of course includes Honda's popular K-series.
McLeod's experience and expertise make choosing a clutch an easy affair. I told them my potential power goals and that the car would be driven both on the street and weekend track days and they knew exactly what would work for my K24/K20 setup—and it all starts with their lightweight aluminum flywheel.
Ideal for anyone looking to shed some unsprung weight and gain those quicker revs, whether it's a hotter all motor setup or a forced induction application. CNC machined from durable 6061 T6 aluminum, the McLeod aluminum flywheel features a replaceable steel friction plate backed by a 1045 steel hardened ring gear. Built to last, these flywheels can be found in daily drivers as well as full blown, track-only competition builds.
Like any flywheel installation, a thorough cleaning with brake cleaner or something similar is recommended to remove any contaminants, and even if you're not a "glove guy," it's a good idea to wear a pair of clean gloves to avoid oils transferring to the surface and causing hot spots.
ARP provided a set of their flywheel hardware, which carry a 180,000 - 200,000 psi rating, based on application, and are heat treated prior to thread rolling and machining. The 12-point head ensures a solid grip while installing or removing, and a larger than stock shank grants increased strength compared to OEM hardware.
The head of the ARP hardware is larger and requires a 19mm 12-point socket, whereas I believe the OEM bolts are 17mm. Depending on your socket brand, you might run into clearance issues between the bolt heads, like I did. Fortunately, I found a thin-walled socket to replace the thicker original one I tried, and it cleared.
*Note - if you're ordering ARP flywheel bolts online, they are in fact that same as Honda SOHC D-series bolts, but keep in mind that the K-family requires 8, while the D-series only 6. So, make sure you order the correct count to avoid delays on your build.
Everyone has their own methods, but for me, I use a dab of red Loctite, and even while initially threading the bolts by hand, I strictly rely on a cross-pattern method before cinching lightly with a socket in the same manner, then moving on to using a torque wrenching and gradually building force in increments of around 20 lb-ft. until I reached 87 lb-ft. With the Vein engine stand securely holding the longblock, I didn't have to worry about steadying the engine while I torqued down the hardware and only had to use a crank tool with a breaker bar attached and wedged against the ground to keep the crank from rotating.
When it comes to clutch options for the import crowd, McLeod has no shortage of options. For example, if you're just looking for a replacement clutch for a mild project with increased clamping force, their Street Tuner package is the right choice, offering increased holding power up to 20 to 25 percent over stock. Their Street Power series offers a bit more grip for increased power applications before jumping into the Street Elite and the Street Supreme, which I'll be using.
This clutch uses a 6-puck design with a high-quality clamp load pressure plate for superior holding and it promises a smooth engagement. It's slated to handle power increases of up to 70 to 100 percent and is fully streetable.
The Street Supreme RSX kit used here includes an alignment tool, new throw-out bearing and a fresh pilot bushing. All you'll need is hardware for the pressure plate, which I also picked up from ARP when I grabbed those flywheel bolts. A touch of Honda Urea grease on the pilot bushing and it slides in place with just a few soft taps from a mallet, though you may want to tap it in further using a socket.
With the disc aligned with the provided tool, the pressure plate is trued up using a trio of provided dowels that you'll have to tap into place. Offering more than one configuration, I assume the flywheel is used for multiple K-applications (i.e.: EP3, DC5, etc. ).
Using the same cross-pattern process, I began by finger-tightening the ARP hardware to hold the pressure plate on before slightly tightening with a socket and making my way to 19 ft-lbs. in four gradual steps and the McLeod clutch and flywheel was on without a single hiccup.
The fit and finish is perfect, and as mentioned, it includes everything you'll need other than new hardware, which you can find through an OEM provider like AFHKparts.com or an ARP dealer, depending on if you prefer OEM or aftermarket fasteners.
The design of the Vein Stand is offset in order to accommodate the heft of your transmission, and because of its locking casters, I was able to mount the trans on my own, without a second set of hands to steady the engine or worry about it falling over. Once I shimmied it into place, I carefully threaded in a few of the Downstar Inc. transmission bolts, with a touch of anti-seize, and worked my way around the trans to cinch it up before torqueing to 47 lbs.-ft.
Now with it all bolted together, the entire engine and transmission can be rolled throughout the garage smoothly and I can ditch the old stand entirely.
Next up on the project's checklist is a suspension makeover that is half done now and once the rest of the parts arrive, I'll put together that write up. Stay tuned...