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Running leaded gas in my Subie (Nicaragua)


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24 replies to this topic

#1 dbenzmaine

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 04:16 PM

So here's how it is. I'm driving down to Central America next month to spend some time in Honduras and Nicaragua. People tell me that unleaded gas is not available in Nicaragua, so I'm wondering what I can do about that.
I have a 1989 GL Hatchback with an EA-81 and a Hitachi carb. I know that leaded gas clogs the catalytic converter, so i'd either have to punch a hole in it or remove it. However, I think the O2 sensor is on the cat... haven't actually done any work on that though. If i mess that up, is my carb going to go haywire? Anyone have experience with either jamming some re-bar through the ceramic or actually taking the whole thing out?
Also, will running leaded gas have any effects on the rest of the engine besides the cat? How much of a pain is this going to be? I live in a state that doesn't have emissions testing, so i could get away with still running it in the states when i get back as long as it doesn't look too different from the outside.
Am I crazy? Any recommendations?
Thanks!
Dave

#2 MorganM

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 04:24 PM

About punching the cat... I"ve done a couple. Just pulled the Y pipe off and from the exit pipe out the back I used a long crow bar and a big hammer. Busted through the screen mesh then busted up the honey comb of catalitic material. Was a kinda slow process but not hard. Just takes a while to bust them up into chunks small enough to pull out. Another tough part was getting the the wire mesh out first. I had the luxary of cutting the pipe just after the cat giving me easy access to the internals of the cat itself.

As for the effects of leaded fuel on your engine I really have no idea. Would it really clog up your cat THAT fast? I dont know the answer to that either.

#3 phishy75

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 04:32 PM

I don't know the answer to your question, but having lived in Honduras for a couple of years, I can recommend that you take a good "spare parts" kit (especially a set of t-belts). You don't see a lot of subies down there, so parts might be hard to get if you have any problems.
Where I lived in Honduras there was unleaded gas. As for in Nica, i was traveling by bus, so i never took notice.
I'm sure your subie will get you through if you treat her nice:)
Have a great time - those two countries are fantastic - especially Nica - my favourite country in all of central america.

#4 dbenzmaine

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 04:33 PM

Thanks! So you didn't have any problems with the O2 sensor and other emissions control stuff that supposedly controls the carb? Interesting thought on how fast it would clog the cat. I won't be in Nicaragua for more than a couple months, and i don't know how much driving is going to happen.
Did you notice much of a noise change after punching through the cat? Mine's already kinda loud after i repaired the pipe with some dryer tubing and a couple of clamps!

#5 dbenzmaine

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 04:37 PM

Thanks Fishy! I'm definitely looking forward to the trip. I've been to Belize but none of the other countries down there. I figure the road trip through Mexico will be a blast too.
In terms of spare parts, luckily i've got an EA-81 so no timing belt, but i'm definitely going to bring a lot of stuff. Did you have any experience with the mechanics down there in case i get in over my head?

#6 MorganM

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 04:40 PM

Pull out the O2 sensor first. So you dont damage it while punching the cat. Then just put it back when done. It will still do its job with or with out the catalyst :) Noise will be increased but these little guys sound mean so thats okay in my book! If you want to quiet it down you'll need something a little more sturdy than some flexy tubing and 2 clamps =P

#7 dbenzmaine

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 04:44 PM

Sounds good. Nice to know that i won't screw up the way it runs. I don't mind the noise at all either, i just don't want to attract too much attention from the cops when i'm driving around here in the states. Some of my repair jobs make it tough to claim that "I only just noticed the problem this morning!" Did you notice any power difference, or does it not affect air-flow that much?

#8 phishy75

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 04:48 PM

oh yeah - didn't notice the EA81 part in your post...
The mechanics down there can really work wonders with nothing - kinda like Cuba.
Everything down there is CHEAP - especially in Guat, Hond & Nica.
If you speak Spanish and like to haggle, you should be able to get work done for next to nothing. If you don't and they rip you off - then your still paying way less than you would here:drunk:

PM me if you've got any specific questions about places to go

#9 naru

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 05:55 PM

Unleaded will kill both the O2 sensor and the catalyst.
Don`t think it will plug the cat just destroy its effectiveness.
Additionally,leaded gas pump nozzles aren`t supposed to fit an unleaded filler neck.

#10 dbenzmaine

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 06:05 PM

Hmmmm, that would suck if it messed with the O2 sensor. Do you know any way around this? The nozzle issue is easily bypassed by sticking a screwdriver in to hold the little springloaded lid thing open. Do you have any experience with the O2 sensor issue though?

#11 NorthWet

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 06:44 PM

As naru said, the lead will "poison" the catalyst and the O2 sensor. It doesn't clog, but coats and/or binds to the surface, deactivating the device. It also depends on how much leaded gas is used, how leaded it is, etc. Sometimes if it is just a little contamination the devices will still function.

I think that there was some snake-oil that was marketed once that was supposed to help protect the cat, but can't remember if it really worked or not.

As far as the O2 sensor goes, it is cheap to replace. Do so after your trip regardless. And the carb and ECU may just run "open loop" if the O2 sensor gets poisoned, or it may run rich or lean (I'm not sure). Force it open loop by unplugging the O2 sensor, or just remove it and plug the hole. (I believe that it is the same thread as standard spark plug.)

Use of leaded gas for a short period of time will have no obvious effects on your engine. If used for long periods of time, you can get deposit buildups in the combustion chambers, and it will shorten the effective life of your spark plugs.

Happy travels!

#12 dbenzmaine

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 08:27 PM

Thanks for the advice. Sounds easy enough to follow. I don't think i'll be using leaded for much of the trip, so it seems like i won't run into too much trouble. All the input is appreciated.

#13 kevinsUBARU

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 08:31 PM

what is the estimated round trip mileage?

#14 dbenzmaine

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 08:56 PM

It should be about 10,000 miles total. Maine to Flagstaff, Arizona. Arizona to Nicaragua. Nicaragua back to Maine. It comes out to less than that, but I'm sure there'll be plenty of side trips.

I'm certain that unleaded gasoline will be available in Mexico, Guatamala, and Honduras. That means that the leaded portion will be limited to Nicaragua. If i just go in to Managua and back, that'd be less than two tanks of gas. However, if i want to explore the country (the car will be there for at least two months) that total could be greatly increased.

#15 [HTi]Johnson

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 12:52 AM

I have an EA-81, with no cat now. Runs better. You can smell gas out of the exhaust though. Before the cat was removed, I notice one of the prior owners removed the O2 sensor.
Is there a reason you're going to Central America? Like for fun or school?

#16 bajavwnsoobnut

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 04:27 AM

well if you have no emissions testing where your at why not just get a weber and forget it and the carb is simpler to work on especialy if your going down to central america and also you don't need to worry about destroying the O2 sensor cause it won't be hooked up anymore

#17 MorganM

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 10:07 AM

As naru said, the lead will "poison" the catalyst and the O2 sensor. It doesn't clog, but coats and/or binds to the surface, deactivating the device.

Use of leaded gas for a short period of time will have no obvious effects on your engine. If used for long periods of time, you can get deposit buildups in the combustion chambers, and it will shorten the effective life of your spark plugs.


It will indeed clog the cat then. Have you seen what's really inside of those things? The air passages throguh the catalyst are VERY VERY narrow. An ant would clog one of the pasages. You could always punch it out while you are down there if it does get clogged up :) Maybe bring a few cans of Sea Foam to run through her after you've ran leaded for a while. That stuff cleans out your combustion chambers good :D

The O2 sensor is hardly anything to worry about. If it does get clogged up to the point where it cant read O2 anymore you will just get slightly worse gas milage. Your car will still operate just fine with out it.

I think the little Subaru will do fine down there :drunk:

#18 NorthWet

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 10:46 AM

It will indeed clog the cat then. Have you seen what's really inside of those things? The air passages throguh the catalyst are VERY VERY narrow. An ant would clog one of the pasages...

I have actually "rodded" out the honeycomb on a cat before, so, yes, I know how narrow the passages are. The combustion chamber deposits occur over 20k-50k miles; the cat will not clog because of a few dozen tanks of leaded.

Soapbox time: The CatCons are on the car for a reason. They are the single most effective means of lowering harmful/poisonous emissions from the car. Properly designed and implemented, they have no negative effect on road-going engines. The "gas smell" are emissions that you would not want yourself or your family to breathe, so why make others do so? Your area may not require testing, but that doesn't mean that what you do doesn't effect everybody down wind from you.

Please be environmentally responsible.

OK, I am off my soapbox.:)

#19 MorganM

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 10:49 AM

I have actually "rodded" out the honeycomb on a cat before, so, yes, I know how narrow the passages are. The combustion chamber deposits occur over 20k-50k miles; the cat will not clog because of a few dozen tanks of leaded.

Soapbox time: The CatCons are on the car for a reason. They are the single most effective means of lowering harmful/poisonous emissions from the car. Properly designed and implemented, they have no negative effect on road-going engines. The "gas smell" are emissions that you would not want yourself or your family to breathe, so why make others do so? Your area may not require testing, but that doesn't mean that what you do doesn't effect everybody down wind from you.

Please be environmentally responsible.

OK, I am off my soapbox.:)


Ah over 20k miles; I'd say he's good to go then. I wouldnt punch it out unless it started getting clogged up but it looks like that wont be much of an issue. Maybe just run some sea foam after you are out of Nicaragua.

I like huffing emissions; makes me stronger (or sleepier?) :lol:

#20 dbenzmaine

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 03:31 PM

Wow! All sorts of good input.
HTI - It's sort of for both fun and school. I'm doing an elective in which i'll work at a hospital in Honduras for three weeks. Should be an amazing experience.
Baja - I've heard lots of good things about the Weber carbs. I've also heard they're hard to find though. Is it something that a hack like me would be able to install, or is it hooked up to lots of sensors and an ECU like the Hitachi is?
Morgan - What's Sea Foam?
NorthWet - I hear you on the clean air thing, and I agree. If i can do this without getting rid of the cat, that's the best option. On a related note, i've heard lots about how catalytic converters essentially run out of catalyst and become useless after 5 or 10 years worth of driving. Urban legend? Mine's got close to 200,000 miles on it. Is it doing anything anymore?

#21 MorganM

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 03:46 PM

http://www.seafoamsa...om/products.htm

They have material data sheets.... its bonefied! :drunk:

#22 bajavwnsoobnut

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 05:11 PM

yeah used webers are sometimes hard to get but you can still buy them new for like 300 bucks which isn't too bad and they are a standalone after it's properly jetted (and some of these guys have it sat right on the dot just you need to get the jet sizes from the board) it will stay adjusted and also they are easy to dismantle if you need to clean it out for any reason and also are robust too

also a recommendation is to carry TONS of fuel filters (both types!) cause of Mexico is notorious for having tons of crap in their fuel so it's a good idea to carry at least 10 pairs with you just in case and also for your sake take 1-2 rebuild kits just in case also

#23 dbenzmaine

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 05:38 PM

I hear ya on the fuel filters. I carry a spare set even here in the states as my tank is corroding into a pile of rust. It's had a slow leak for three years now, and i haven't had the time or initiative to find it (it's above the seam between the tank and the hatch-floor somewhere).

Do you mean entire engine rebuild kits? Hopefully that won't be necessary, as my time is a bit limited.

I've thought about doing the Weber swap. Sounds like it'd be nice, but the car's getting rusted out to the point that i won't be able to keep it street-legal here in the states for too many more years (that's Maine winters + lots of salt on the roads for ya). It'd still be fun though.

#24 bajavwnsoobnut

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 03:34 AM

no not engine but carb rebuild kits just in case you need to pop open the carb for some odd reason

#25 phishy75

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 03:47 AM

Yup, ditto the fuel filter idea. The gas I used to put in my truck in Honduras was half water I swear. Might be a good idea to take a jug or two of methyl hydrate (gasline antifreeze) and a funnel to put it into the gas tank whenever the gas gets questionable.




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