I wish I noticed it. I should have. It should have been me. It’s my car and I was trying to be extra attentive that day.
When we were bombing the track at Motorsports Ranch a few weeks ago at Skyline Nationals 2015 (I still need to write a blog post about that meet!) it was 2 days after the car got out of PowerDynamix in McKinney, TX having a ton of work done. I was already a bit nervous to take the car out and bash on it without any real shakedown test before hand. If an oil line or the new fuel rail started leaking, or worse…broke, I would have been in a precarious situation nearly 2 hours’ drive from home. So I was paying extra close attention to the smells, sounds and scenes of fluid leaks.
Or, at least, I thought I was.
It was after our two lead-follow laps, and after our first full-speed lap that I had my hood propped open letting the beast of an RB26 cool down. My buddy Josh pointed at the car and said, “You’re leaking power steering fluid!”
Part of the recently buttoned-up modifications was a relocation of the PS fluid reservoir about 14″ forward in the engine bay to make room for the new intake. But it didn’t take long with a roll of shop towels and a can of brake cleaner to realize that it was, indeed, leaking from the filler cap and not any of the new lines or fittings.
Not much I could do about that.
I cleaned it up really well, made sure the cap was as tight as could be, and took the R32 Skyline back on track for a 20 minute session. I wasn’t easy on it. I knew that it would likely be my last session of the day, because a car with a fluid leak isn’t technically allowed on the track.
The GT-R performed wickedly. I am not ashamed to admit I literally screamed with joy more than once as my pet Godzilla leapt out of apexes with a roar of “GIVE ME MORE!” I was as brave as I could be but the car was braver. I wasn’t able to find his limits that day.
Back into the paddock with fluids steaming and I could hear the whine of my power steering system echo off the pit walls. I knew what I’d see when I popped the hood. PS fluid everywhere.
More brake cleaner. More fluid. All of the shop towels.
On the drive home that day it didn’t leak at all. I suppose it didn’t get hot enough. For those of you who don’t know, the R32 GT-R’s HICAS (High Capacity Actively Controlled Steering) all-wheel steer system is slightly different than the R33 and R34. It is actually operated by the main power steering system. That means the same pump and fluid that powers the main steering rack at the front of the car is also pushed all the way to the rear rack to make it do it’s thing. Take all that out on an August day in Texas with a track temperature of over 125°, and that makes for a great recipe to test your 25 year old technology’s durability.
Fortunately for me, the only thing that seemed to be aged beyond reckoning was the gasket on the reservoir cap.
eBay – here I come.
I could buy a used PS reservoir for an R32 Skyline GT-R if I wanted. But I figured it wouldn’t be in much better shape than what I’ve already got. So I bought a generic PS reservoir cap that fits the Nissan and decided I’d swap the gasket over.
Why swap the gasket and not just use the new cap? Because GT-R.
You see…that is the GT-R cap on the left. Complete with floating level sensor. I could put the cap on the right directly on my car – and it’s a nice, snug fit – but it would trigger a light on the gauge cluster for the HICAS/PS system and I don’t want that.
So I pulled the gasket out of each cap and compared.
Crap! The new gasket is thinner than the old one. You can see it best if you look at the rear radius of the gaskets in the pic above. It’s subtle, but it’s enough that the new gasket won’t work in the old cap.
If you pay attention to the pic above you can see something else I noticed. The old gasket (left) has a ridge worn into it from the top of the reservoir neck. This gasket used to be flat, but over time that depression has grown just deep enough that it won’t hold under the heat and pressure of a track day.
So…my solution, for now, was to flip the original gasket over and install it with the flat side as the fresh mating surface. Part B to this solution is to carry that generic cap (which still fits tighter) to track days for temporary use as needed.
I’d like to find a gasket that actually makes the OEM cap fit and work as intended. I’m sure I’ll eventually track one down. But for now, hopefully, the leak is one less thing to worry about.