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OBD II Smog Monitors on Ferrari Maserati Cars

Article Published by Forza Magazine - Written by Jesse Westlake

I have heard about three separate Superamericas that had difficulty passing the California smog test. Is there something unique about the 2005 Superamerica’s exhaust system that is causing this? Fortunately, I have had no issues (yet) getting my 2004 575M smogged, and hope that I won’t run into the same problem! There’s nothing unique about the Superamerica versus a 575M?that would make it difficult for the car to pass a smog test. If I had to guess at a cause, it would be that a typical Superamerica is driven less than a typical 575M. Why does that matter??The answer calls for a brief history of automotive emissions-control devices. Before the current European vehicle-emissions standards arrived, just about every emissions device and test came into being through the efforts of an organization called the California Air Resources Board. Formed in the late 1960s to battle the smog that was then hiding Los Angeles’ skyline, CARB set emissions standards for all new cars sold in California. Many other states adopted these standards, which are stricter than the Federal ones, and given the size of this combined market vehicle manufacturers ultimately built almost every U.S.-model car to meet CARB’s standards. Over the years, these standards led to a variety of emissions-control devices, including air injection, oxygen sensors, feedback carburetors, EGR valves, and catalytic converters. In the early 1990s, CARB introduced a new mandate that cars had to have a universal, standardized On Board Diagnostic system, which would allow for more accurate and comprehensive smog testing. OBD-II would come into effect in 1996. OBD-II introduced a standardized diagnostic connector, trouble codes, and readiness monitors. These monitors check to see if the vehicle has performed all of its emissions-related diagnostic self-checks, which extend far beyond the tailpipe. If you’ve ever left the gas cap loose on a post-1996 vehicle and had the Check Engine light come on, that was because the evaporative-system monitor discovered the leak. (The EVAP monitor also checks for vapor leaks from the fuel tank and lines.) However, while the vehicle manufacturers were responsible for monitoring emissions and communicate the results, there were no requirements about how they did so—more on that later. Here in California, the state has a three-part smog-testing program: a visual inspection to make sure all of the emissions components are installed, a functional inspection to make sure (some of) those components are working, and a tailpipe emissions test for some model years. (Many other states have similar smog-check standards.) For a post-1999 model like the 575M to pass the test, all of the OBD-II monitors except the EVAP monitor must be tested and passed, and no tailpipe test is required. This is done with a state-mandated machine that sends the results directly to the DMV; if the car fails the test, it cannot be registered. Outside the confines of a state emissions test, the monitors’ status can be checked with any generic scan tool that’s plugged into the OBD-II Data Link Connector, or DLC. On the scan tool, the passed and not-passed (this does not mean failed) monitors are usually displayed as red or green, or sometimes flashing circles with the corresponding acronym inside. You won’t always see the same results from vehicle to vehicle, however, because different cars can have different monitors. For example, the F430 has a monitors to check the evaporative system but not the EGR valve or the secondary-air system, because it was not built with those systems. But the later 430 Scuderia and Scuderia Spider 16M were equipped with a secondary air system (to compensate for their lack of pre-cats) so therefore have the accompanying monitor. Most OBD-II Ferraris have monitors for the oxygen sensor (O2S), oxygen sensor heater (HTR), catalytic converter (CAT), secondary air injection (AIR or SAIR), and evaporative system monitor (EVA or EVAP), along with a standard key-on electrical monitor called Comprehensive Component Monitor (CCM)—usually seven to nine monitors in total. Still with me??If so, here’s where “driven less” comes in. One common side effect of letting a car sit for long periods of time is that its battery will drain. (A battery maintainer will prevent this, but I can’t tell you how often I get calls after the power cord has been accidentally unplugged.) The OBD-II monitors reset to “not passed” when the battery dies or gets disconnected, and the car won’t pass a smog test until the monitors are “set” and then “passed.” This isn’t always easy, since there are several checks that need to take place. Sometimes, they need to take place over and over again before the monitors will set. Ferrari’s programmers wrote code into the engine-control software that defines exactly how and when the monitors function; this is called the enabling criteria. Enabling criteria happens during what is generically called a drive cycle, a set of parameters and circumstances that allow an individual system to be tested while the car is being driven in a baseline manner. For example: An oxygen-sensor heater can only be tested after a car is started when cold. In order for this monitor to pass, the car’s computer must see an initial oxygen-sensor voltage (usually 5-9 volts) with the ignition key turned to the On position. Then, after the car is started and is being driven, the oxygen sensor heats up and the voltage decreases to 0.2-0.8 volt. When all of this happens as expected, the HTR monitor is set and passed. But if the vehicle is too warm when started, or driven too aggressively immediately after being started from cold, the enabling criteria is not met and the monitor is not set—and therefore cannot be passed—on this particular drive cycle. It’s important to note that a monitor that is not set does not mean there is a problem with the car. It just means that the steps necessary for the car to test itself have not been completed. As I mentioned earlier, the OBD-II standards state that each car must meet the emissions results but don’t dictate how to do so. As a result, each manufacturer does things a little differently, and Ferrari is certainly not the only small-production European automaker that struggled to correlate its engine programming with passing the California smog test. That challenge falls to the technician working on the car, and there’s no universal set of guidelines available from Ferrari on how to do it. Another example: I frequently get calls throughout the summer about 360s, 456s, and 550/575Ms that will not pass the secondary air monitor. This doesn’t indicate a problem with the secondary air system, which blows fresh air into the hot exhaust to ignite any unburned gases remaining after combustion. Instead, it reflects this monitor’s very specific enabling criteria. Specifically, the car must have been sitting for two to four hours, minimum. Next, the ambient temperature must be below 70 degrees, and the car should be allowed to warm up for five to ten minutes after starting. Then comes a few miles of driving between 50 mph and 60 mph on a flat or nearly flat road, followed by a stop and some more idle time. While this enabling criteria will be met eventually during normal use, how often do all of these exact steps happen in this exact order? Not often, which is why I have sometimes had to resort to driving customers’ cars with scan tool in hand, monitoring the oxygen sensors and OBD-II monitors, after wiring a light into the secondary air pump relay so I?can see when the pump is turning on. Why? Because the pump occasionally cycles on for just a second at a time during steady cruise, and it’s at this moment that the car checks, via the oxygen sensors, that there really is fresh air flowing into the exhaust system. Sometimes it really does take a professional mechanic just to pass a smog test!

Ferrari Limited Slip noises

Published by Forza Magazine

A “rubbing” noise has just started at the rear of my 599 GTB?Fiorano. My family has owned the car since new. It has 14,000 miles and receives the factory-recommended service/oil change/inspection every year. The noise occurs at low to medium speeds when the steering wheel is turned away from center, but it doesn’t sound like a worn bearing or CV joint, a tire rubbing, or anything I’ve heard before. Performance seems unaffected, although I’m not going to attempt any burnouts or try to hit top speed until the issue is figured out. 

I?applaud your decision to drive cautiously and investigate this noise!?It truly is better safe than sorry with these cars, as undiagnosed issues that get ignored can quickly turn into very expensive, potentially dangerous problems. 

I suspect I know what’s causing the noise, which is a fairly common issue, but rather than jump the gun let’s start with the basics. First, is anything about the noise related to traction??For example, does the noise occur when you turn the wheel and stand on the throttle, and the worn rear tires scrabble for grip??I’m guessing not, because you’re likely very familiar with the car’s behavior after 14,000 miles, but it’s important to address the most obvious possibilities. Second, during its yearly visits to your dealer or mechanic, has the car received its most recent biannual gearbox fluid change??Ferrari calls for changing the fluid every two years with Shell/Pennzoil TF1055, a special blend that’s much different from a generic, Brand X gear oil. Assuming the noise isn’t related to traction and the gearbox is current on fluid changes, the issue likely relates to the internal workings of your car’s transaxle. It’s probably not a serious problem, at all, and it provides the perfect opportunity to do a little digging into a piece of performance hardware most people have heard of but few understand. 

Most readers of a certain age will have heard of Posi-Traction, an American brand name of the humble limited-slip differential. Many readers may also have learned how these devices work thanks to the courtroom scene in My Cousin Vinny, starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei, but for those who haven’t seen one of my favorite films, here’s the basic theory. The right wheels of a car making a right turn are covering far less ground than the wheels on the left side. At the same time, the engine and transmission continue to drive the car forward at a constant speed. In order for the car to turn smoothly, without jerking or skidding, the driven wheel on the left needs to be able to turn at a different speed from the one on the right—and the device that allows this differential in speed is called, suitably enough, the differential. In a front-transmission, rear-drive car, the differential is housed in the rear end. In cars with transaxles, like your 599, the differential is integrated into the transmission casing. However it’s packaged, a differential contains a small gear set that allows the constant flow of power from the pinion to the ring gear to be split through two axles spinning at different speeds, and then to the wheels. This “open” differential design works perfectly well in many situations, but there’s a catch:?It only supplies torque to the wheel with the least amount of traction. This means that if one wheel has no traction, the car may not be able to move at all, as one wheel spins endlessly and the other just sits there. The solution to this problem was to add internal clutches to the differential assembly that allow power to be transferred to both wheels, which can keep a car from getting stuck in place and deliver more torque to the tires for improved performance. 

Over time, those internal clutches have been augmented and enhanced with springs, pumps, and/or electronic forks (as found in Ferrari’s later E-diff electronic differentials), although the basic function remains unchanged. That brings up one final piece of the puzzle:?If these clutches were only able to be fully open or fully closed, the car couldn’t turn smoothly without the jerking and skidding the differential was invented to prevent. As a result, they have to be allowed to slip—a limited bit—to allow for smooth cornering. To do this slipping, the clutches require a special type of lubrication or friction modifier. On cars with a separate differential, this friction modifier just gets poured into the differential housing along with the differential oil. On a car with a transaxle, the same fluid lubricates both the gearbox and the differential, so changing that fluid is key to maintaining the limited-slip clutches. That’s why Ferrari specifies the TF1055 fluid, which already has the proper friction modifiers. This brings us all the way back to your issue. When limited-slip clutches get “dry,” they will let you know by a groaning or rubbing noise on turns. In severe cases, you will feel a chatter around tight turns. Sound familiar? This issue usually occurs on cars with low transaxle fluid levels, but every once in a while a correctly filled 599 (or, much more often, F430)?transaxle will create the rubbing noise. In these relatively rare cases, a bottle of limited-slip friction modifier—we use BG Products’ MGC 328CC here at San Francisco Motorsports—should take care of those around-town groans. 

Ferrari 348 Gearbox Shifting

Published in Forza Magazine - Written By Jesse Westlake

I just bought my high-school dream car: a red/tan 348 tb. I still have all the magazines that reviewed the 348 when it was new, and never cared about all the complaints -- the 348 just looked so perfect. I drove several cars before buying mine, and mine was definitely the best of the bunch. There's only one problem: In every single case, the shift lever was really stiff. It's something "built" into the car, and that's okay, but is there any way to make the shifting lighter, easier, something? Shifting improves very slightly when the car is fully warm, but remains very stiff.
Growing up, the my Testarossa print sat alongside posters of two supercars. An elite German car of the 80’s as well as a timeless, over-hyped, English rocket ship. I should have had the F40 because it was the rightful part of that awesome trio. But the Testarossa just had these irresistible lines that I just had to have. Now, all grown up and having the chance to work on and drive all the horses in the stable, when I want that 80’s look and feel, I gravitate towards the 348 that I dub The Mini-Testarossa. All those great lines put in a small sports car package that’s much easier to handle. It may be the door scallops that do it for me, or the square taillights. Or, maybe it’s just because they represented a whole new language of love. Either way, I think Ferrari got it right with the 348 in that era.
While ushering in new design for your senses, Ferrari also made mainstream the concept of the modular powertrain and subframe unit found on the 288 GTO. The GTO had an interior access cover to perform timing belt maintenance but still had the powertrain set on a removable subframe. On the Testarossa, Mondial T, and 348, timing belts meant major surgery in removal of the powertrain due to the cooling system moving to the midship and the fuel tank sitting directly below the rear window. During the course of this service most people will replace all fluids including the gearbox and will at least have to uncouple and recouple the shift linkages. Since this service is so time consuming, it also means quite costly. Therefore, most 348s commonly suffer what we call “deferred maintenance”. The prescribed three-year timing belt maintenance makes a lot of sense to many owners in the first ownership or decade. Resale value is still high and pride of ownership trumps all. As time ticks by the conversation shifts more to the five-year timing belt interval and “but I hardly ever drive it…” objection. Beyond just timing belts, these intervals inspect and address most items like bulbs, air conditioning, door/window function, and shift linkage adjustment and lubing. The longer in-between these major services, more opportunity lubrication has to get hard or go away completely. The more a poorly adjusted pivot has to grind a permanent groove on itself, the less likely it can be nursed back to perfection. These facts don’t change the valid conversation of cost of maintenance, but they still remain the same. At San Francisco Motorsports, we strive to make a car feel different after any service – better than when it came in. You bet the engine runs its best. But the park brake is adjusted a perfect 3-5 clicks, the doors don’t creak, hopefully the windows may roll up just a little faster, and yes, the gear shift feels as good as possible. This is accomplished through adjustments and lubrication at the shifter itself and at the gearbox during the course of these large services.
The 348 especially suffers from a stubborn cold shift. There is no doubt that temperature is a major factor with the 80’s Ferrari car shift feel. It’s such a non-secret in 348 that Ferrari made continuous changes to the gear shift and clutch throughout the vehicle build. In the field there are many things that can help, including some parts that can be replaced that are “more 355”. There are also aftermarket remedies in fluids and hard parts that can help.
There are three big effective players in the gearbox fluid conversation. I say conversation because all three have been claimed to help, and all three (in my experience and what I hear) have been claimed to be the best. First is The recommended factory fluid which was known for a long time as Shell Donax TF1055. This is a specialty fluid packed with Ferrari co-developed additives and modifiers that they believe works best in the gearbox they engineered and built. SWEPCO makes a very good gearbox fluid that can come in several viscosities and seems to hold up to the miles. The most popular alternative is Redline Shockproof gear oil which also comes in a variety of viscosities. This is a slick fluid that has good initial results. The only downside is that it seems to lose those properties relatively soon and requires frequent changes. I carry all three on the shelf and will fill any request. Without a request, we fill with the TF1055 (which has recently been replaced with Spirax oil as the recommended fill that covers DCT gearboxes as well). Fluid fill is a hot topic for all that have an opinion. When it comes these gearbox oils, or other high quality synthetic oils, you really can’t go wrong. But in the end a well revved and timed shift on a warmed-up car is the best recipe for a great gear change in car and gearbox that has no other peripheral issues.
The shift control on 348/Mondial T is different from all other Ferraris in that they use two cables to translate fore/aft and side-to-side movement. Previous cars used a single rod that twisted and push/pulled. 355 and later cars all went back to the rod setup until 360/F430 where selection cables made a comeback. These cables came together under the left of the engine to a box that re-translated movement into a twist and push/pull movement for the gearbox input. This box, while being redundant, is nearly the lowest hanging equipment on the powertrain. It is common to see this box damaged from a road hazard and needing attention. With this box put out of place and impacted, the fussy cold shifts are even more impacted. This is a first step inspection for a shift concern and must be inspected, repaired, and adjusted before moving onto other candidates. With a screwdriver in the cockpit a handy person can take on a few inspections and repairs. The shift gate is easy removed by removing two screws. Found under the gate should be a pleated rubber cover. The early cars had foam instead, and some cars have nothing by now. This cover keeps dust, coins, and liquids out of the gearshift mechanism. Some cotton swabs put to work here and underneath this boot followed by a good sticky lube is a great way tackle the low hanging fruit. There is also a “slick shift” gate available on the aftermarket that can assist those who’d rather pay attention to driving than how imperfect their shifting is. These feature more rounded entry and exit points for the gear positions. With a stock gate or aftermarket one, the two screws are tapered and determine 90% of the final position. The remaining 10% can allow an extra bit of adjustment for smoother shifts.
Finally, either from refinement issues needing field fixes or for 355 future development, Ferrari made significant updates to the clutch and clutch release mechanisms. The 355 shifting was a huge improvement over previous models’ feel. Early 348s and Mondials used a twin clutch disc that was later replaced with a single disc. The throw out bearing was also updated to a far more solid design. A clutch that continues to spin the input shaft will not allow a shift to take place. Given that so many issues with 348 were worse on the twin disc cars, it is possible to suspect the dual disc system was not able to disengage fully or carried too much mass to slow the input shaft when released. If shifting is truly miserable, and you know you have a twin disc equipped car, it can be upgraded to the single system by replacing multiple components like the flywheel and throw out bearing pedestal along with the clutch and release bearing. I would caution that this is expensive and will not change the stripes on this zebra. There will be a greatly improved shift feel but a resistance into 2nd and 3rd will always be present when cold regardless.
Like all Ferraris, the 348 comes with its own personality. And not surprisingly, those characteristics can be better or worse from one car to the next. As always, a qualified mechanic with a caring ear can help investigate and counsel you on what exactly your 348 needs.

Ferrari interiors

Featured in Forza Magazine 

I have been a subscriber since I bought my 612 Scaglietti in 2013. Jesse [Westlake] is quite knowledgeable, so I am writing today to get his help. The button for the electric mirrors does not work. Is there any specialist that you know who can fix the part? The Ferrari dealer asks $2,000 for it! Any other options would be good to know. This reader brings up a very common issue on both the 612 Scaglietti and the 599 GTB?Fiorano. The mirror switch is commonly found broken, barely hanging on, and/or needing replacement. Normally, an interior plastic piece breaking isn’t a huge issue, but, as stated, Ferrari asks a mint for these switches. The reason is that Ferrari took the standard mirror switch used by former in-house stablemate Maserati and added a gorgeous, knurled-aluminum knob in place of the original black plastic one. The problem is that, while Maserati’s plastic knob weighs next to nothing, Ferrari’s machined billet version weighs too much for the tiny plastic joystick that supports it. The switch is nearly hidden behind the steering wheel, and the forces applied when the driver twists the knob to select the left or right mirror then pushes the joystick in the desired directions means they simply don’t last long in the real world. While it’s a common problem, there are few options to resolve it. The first is simply to buy a pricey replacement from Ferrari. The second is to head to your local Maserati dealer and purchase a mirror switch for one of its 2005-12 models. This switch is a direct replacement, but comes with that black plastic knob instead of the machined metal one. The third option involves a bit of extra work. After purchasing the Maserati switch, you will have to gently break/cut the knob away from the joystick, making sure to keep the latter intact. Next, transfer your car’s original metal knob over to the new switch and secure with glue. This is a very delicate process that is not guaranteed to work the first time, and it will eventually fail just like the original did—but in the meantime, you’ll have the correct factory look at a much lower price. Generally speaking, the 612 and 599 are getting to the age where their cockpits may need some freshening up. The infamous “sticky”?issue is common but straightforward, while other problems are more difficult to resolve.
Leather shrinkage/delamination is another very common issue. This happens most often at the front of the dashboard and around the third brake light trim on the rear parcel shelf, thanks to a combination of heat and sunlight through the glass and the difficulty of applying leather conditioner to the last four inches of the dash below the windshield. Watching the dashboard’s leather slowly peel away is a sad sight, and it’s important to know that the process can damage other items, including the solar sensor, alarm LED, and defroster vents. (I have seen defroster grilles break and become so far dislodged that they leave gooey marks on the windshield, which are nearly impossible to clean away.) These repairs get expensive, as we at San Francisco Motorsports have to remove the entire dash and send it out for leather restretching or replacement, send out all the sticky interior pieces for reconditioning, and replace any damaged upper-dash components. On the 599, if the rear area is peeling, parcel-shelf strips are sticky, or if the headliner is sagging, now is the time to take care of it all. In either car, I think the completed project is well worth the cost—it’s such a beautiful reward!
There are two other items of regular concern:?the steering wheel’s RPM lights and the 599’s radio cover. The RPM lights, an option on most modern Ferraris, are an embedded LED strip in the 12 o’clock position on a carbon-fiber steering-wheel rim. The LEDs start illuminating near the redline, right in the driver’s line of sight, so he or she can keep their eyes on the road and not have to look down at the tachometer to avoid over-revving. The lens that covers the LEDs tends to crack, and sometimes fall out, over time. Replacement LEDs are available, but it wasn’t too long ago that the only repair was to replace the steering wheel, which was as expensive as you’d expect. The 599 radio cover is neat, carbon-fiber piece with the Scuderia’s flags that presses closed over the radio. The cover itself is sturdy enough for the job, but one of its plastic gears, called a dumper, isn’t. While the dumper costs only around $15, replacing it requires multiple hours of labor, as you have to remove the center console, locate hidden bolts, and so on. While these problems sound potentially significant, I’m actually a huge fan of 599 and 612 interiors. While it can take a bit of a budget and some time, once refreshed they are truly stunning and timeless.

By Jesse Westlake
Owner, San Francisco Motorsports

Ferrari oil leak inspection and diagnosis near San

We were asked the following question by Forza magazine:

"I think the valve cover gaskets are leaking on my F430. The car is stored for the winter, so I’ve got some time to tinker. Is this a straightforward job?"

They wanted to know our thoughts based on past experience specializing in Ferrari repairs.  Here's what we had to say:

 

The introduction of the F430 brought sweeping changes to everything Ferrari owners knew about Maranello’s V8 powertrains. The gearbox hardware and software had been upgraded, an electrical differential was added, and the engine was all-new. Compared to the 360’s V8, the new engine boasted more displacement, more power, computer adjustment for all four camshafts, and no timing belts. While the additional 90 horsepower was nice, that last item was a game changer for Ferrari owners who had long agonized over the high cost of timing-belt services.

 

Over the last 13 years, the F430 has proven to be very inexpensive (by earlier Ferrari standards) to own. Aside from problematic headers and some convertible-top issues on the Spiders, these cars are worry-free. Routine maintenance and away they go!

 

We’re just now starting to see some small issues with the lovely 4.3-liter V8, one of which has been oil leakage from up high. The cam-cover gaskets are as updated and beautiful as the rest of this powerplant—they’re one-piece, molded rubber as opposed to the fiddly, four-piece, cut-it-out-and-glue-it-yourself green paper gaskets Ferrari used to use—but, as with anything that is heated and cooled, oiled, expanded and contracted, they do eventually lose their structure and start to leak.

 

When they do leak, it most often shows up at the rear of the cylinder heads, where the gasket is shaped like a pair of half-moons. Spotting oil here is not where the diagnosis stops, though, as there have been many mistaken “cam cover” leaks that were actually caused by leaking variator control solenoids.

Ferrari’s fantastic adjustable camshafts are adjusted via oil pressure, and not the regular engine-oil pressure. Instead, there’s a high-pressure oil pump, driven by an intake cam to an accumulator, that operates the system. The variator control solenoids regulate this high-pressure oil to phase the cam angle. Due to the high internal pressure running through these solenoids, over time oil tends to push through the wiring and out of the connectors located on top of the cam covers.

 

All four connectors come from the factory wrapped in a foil cover and closed with blue zip ties. My recommendation when diagnosing an oil leak up-high is to open up all these foil wraps and slide them back. Even if you find one or more leaks, don’t stop there. Next, using two small picks (I use two paper clips slightly filed at the end), lightly pry the solenoid connector tabs open, slide the connectors apart, and check inside for any signs of oil. If pressurized oil has forced its way inside the connector, that solenoid must be replaced.

 

If a shop is doing this work, given the cost of parts and labor it makes sense to replace all four solenoids while everything is apart. Unfortunately, this can run the repair cost up quickly. If you’re doing this job yourself, however, you have option to repair just one bank or just one solenoid; all the parts are available separately.

 

To answer your specific DIY question, this is not an extremely difficult job. Owning a coupe will make the job tougher, as you will have to do some deep reaching to the front of the engine. I have never removed the interior access panel for this job, but that may be a worthwhile step if time is not a factor for you.

 

A few tips for the DIYer. There was a service campaign (#225/#274) that fitted breather vent covers, which look like odd-shaped rectangles, to the tops of the ignition coils. At first glance, they may seem like they’re part of the coil, but when you remove a coil bolt these will fall straight off—so take care when you’re removing the coils (which you need to do in order to remove the cam cover) and be sure to collect all the parts. When reassembling the cam covers, don’t stress over the position of the solenoid pass-throughs. They’re not fussy even though they look like they’re keyed in place.

 

Finally, it’s important to apply a dab of silicone at the points where the timing cover on the front of the engine meets the cylinder head (there are two points for each bank), as this is a potential leak point. Also apply silicone at the corners of the gasket’s half-moons at the rear of the heads.

Slow Down Light

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Slow Down Light

I’ve been having this new problem with my F430 lately.  I have been getting a Slow Down light and the car gets stuck in gear and will not shift.  This has been happing more and more.

Started late in March when on the track.  Then I did a run of 5 track days in a row at Thunderhill Raceway Park late April and after a few laps at speed it would get a solid Slow Down light and stuck in gear.  Most times it would come back to normal after a few corners and I would pit.  One time it had a clunking like sound and I stopped in the bypass of turn 5.  At the end of that session it started and seemed fine as I once again returned to the pits.  Later laps I reduced the RPMs to no more than 7,000 and I would get a few laps in before the problem happened.  By the end that 5 day stint at the track I was down to half a lap before the problem would occur.  On the street it doesn’t ever have this problem.

I’ve had some issues with the exhaust on this car.  Late last year I put my Tubi exhaust on the car as it appeared my old stock muffler was blowing white powder over the engine.  Looked to be the headers and they were replaced last year also.

After this new problem started happening I also managed to have the Tubi tips on the left side break off on track.  So I put the old stock exhaust pipes and a different center stock muffler I got from Jesse and installed that.  I also replaced the thermocouples and rear O2 sensors.

When all this was happening I noticed that the left side of the that different center stock muffler seemed like it was torched (see picture below).  And the usual white ash on the the inter tail pipe when running on the track appeared on the right side but not the left (also see photo below).

So with all this I’m thinking maybe some how the left side is not working correctly and heat is getting backed up into the system and eventually the thermocouple gets triggered and the solid Slow Down light happens.

I have seen flashing Slow Down lights on hot days at the end of a track day before.  But never a solid Slow Down light and the car stuck in gear.  And these were cool days by Thunderhill standards.

Finally I did get a nice take off F430 stock muffler and pipes which are on the car now.  Did a few touring laps at Laguna on the Ferrari Challenge weekend running a bit high RPMs with no issues, but that is not much of a test.  We’ll see what the next track day brings.

Any thoughts on what can  an F430 Slow Down light and the car to be stuck in gear?


The complexities of these cars can be intimidating and quite frustrating at times!  It takes years of experience and training to diagnose the technology that keeps Ferrari so respected and exhilarating.  And I find it so fun and important to have a basic understanding of what’s going on with each click, buzz, and whine while out on the open road or all-out hustling around the track.

For decades Ferrari has used exhaust temperature sensors known as thermocouples to monitor engine performance and catalytic converter safety.  Threaded into the exhaust are thermocouple probes that don’t look too different to the probes used in your oven for that prime rib roast or turkey.  They are wired to thermocouple ECUs.  The ECUs translate the thermocouple analogue signal into a warning light on the dash.  Or, on later cars the signal is converted for the main engine motronics to read and interpret.  The exhaust temperature is a great way to monitor engine efficiency from a basic safety point.  An engine running without enough fuel (lean) can get extremely hot and damage itself.  An engine with too much fuel (rich) or misfiring (passing unburned fuel to the exhaust) with start to overheat the catalytic converters.  Too far advanced ignition timing can cause engine damage through pre-detonation.  A precursor to the damage is hot exhaust.  So, this is a reliable system to get the driver to pull over or “slow down” to protect the engine.  When the exhaust starts overheating the dash will indicate to the driver a “slow down” light.  On late cars a slow-down light can be accompanied with engine torque reduction.  As most Ferrari owners know, the engines and cats have been far more reliable than the individual components of the thermocouple systems.  Most slow down lights that I have encountered are due to a failing thermocouple or thermocouple ECU rather than a cat failing or engine malfunctions.

The F430 introduced an all-new powertrain system known as “E-Diff”, standing for electronic differential.  The system takes what we know as a standard limited slip differential that was automatically and mechanically controlled and takes full control through hydraulic pressure with electronic modulation.  This E-diff (like most things Ferrari) takes traction control to all new heights.  With the introduction of the E-Diff also came the steering wheel manateno.  The pilot could choose between different settings of electronic intervention for ABS, throttle, and traction control to meet road conditions and driver skill.  

The reason E-Diff is being discussed in a slow-down/thermocouple article is because Ferrari hydraulically tied this to another vital system on these cars: the F1 gearbox.  E-Diff shares the F1 reservoir, pump, accumulator, and valve block.  On a gated shift F430 these components are present solely to run E-Diff.  The combined demands of an active differential clutch, gearbox clutch, and automated shifting hydraulics can sometimes overcome the F1 system pump and accumulator.  Instead of creating yet another driver warning, Ferrari alerts the driver to cool-it with the slow-down light.  If there is an outright failure with a sensor there are other failure lamps that will come on along with some sort of limp mode.

Any developing issue with the E-Diff will first manifest with the slow-down light and start storing faults in the sand-alone E-Diff module and/or the gearbox module.  Our reader’s symptom of not being able to shift gears is the determining factor to start looking at the E-Diff for the cause of their slow-down light.  The fact that gears become unavailable leads to reason that the F1 pump is unable to keep up the track demands of gear shifts and E-Diff use.

Our scan tool would be able to hook up to the car and read stored and live data.  Aside from stored faults to guide our diagnosis, we’d be looking at gearbox parameters such as F1 pump run time and base pressure.  Just opening the door on an F430 will tell me much about the health of the F1 pump and related system.  The pump is programmed to run to prime the F1 system upon door opening to apply the clutch and achieve neutral for start-up.  A weak sounding pump or one that runs too long can be indicative of a failure.  Ferrari has bulletin **_(FNA29?)_** to monitor pump on-time as a percentage and determine if it is running too much.  An early issue while I was at the dealer with these cars under warranty were loose bleed screws on the hydraulic actuator.  These would allow internal fluid to bypass and use more circuit flow than needed from the pump.  Another suspected internal issue may be a worn F1 accumulator.  An accumulator that does not hold/maintain pressure anymore can overrun the pump and also start polluting the F1 system with metal.  This metal normally gets caught in one of two filters in the system.  I generally pull these screens and inspect as a first step in the diagnostic process for a pump running problem.  A pump that flat-out won’t run can also cause those symptoms and could easily be identified during the slow-down event with an ear.  The relay would be my first stop in this case.  Pumps that run too long generally wear out prematurely and would be replaced in conjunction with another component as a secondary failure.

Ferrari Cooling-System Service

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Ferrari Cooling-System Service

In the world of Ferrari maintenance, there arefierce debates about virtually everything, whether you’retalking about miles versus age when it comes to timingbelt changes or driving versus storing when it comes to collector cars. Of all the contentious topics, however, there’s onethat always stands out in my mind: that mysterious green fluid flowing through every Prancing Horse’s veins called coolant.


Without getting into the nitty-gritty, I’ll just say it sometimes seems like there’s more thoughtful debate around climate change than there is about cooling-system decay. There’s little need here to get into the subject of electrolysis and corrosion. For our purposes, let’s just says it’s something that happens and is impossible to prevent entirely, but the best way to slow it down is to service the cooling system every three years. This means flushing out all the old coolant and replacing with new. If you want to add a cooling-system conditioner such as Water Wetter, so much the better (though opinions vary widely there, as well).

To my knowledge, there’s not a single Ferrari that will not suffer some specific harm if its coolant isn’t flushed. The gearbox-to-cooling-system heat exchangers on F355s, 360s, and F430s, for example, are subject to settling debris and internal corrosion. The large metal radiators that keep frontmounted V12s cool can corrode inside and leak at the welds. If one of those weak welds makes contact with a speed bump, what was once just a green hue can easily become an active drip.

During a cooling-system service, it’s important to drain as much coolant as possible.That means all radiators must be drained (the mid-engine V8s havetwo, located up front), and here at San Francisco Motorsports we always pull theengine block drain and at least one of the major coolant hoses attached to theengine.

No matter how and where you drain, however, refilling is the most important part of the job. Because of this, I think using a vacuum filling system is a necessity. (Sorry, DIYers: This may be the one specialist tool you absolutely have to buy. Otherwise, bite the bullet have a shop so equipped do the job.) The main reason vacuum filling is so important is that there are many internal passages and high spots that can trap air so that it will never bleed out on own. Furthermore, the airbleed screws on F355s, Testarossas, and earlier cars cannot be trusted; they are often nearly welded closed [WHY?], and the soft pipes they are braised or pressed into can easily be damaged.

What happens if you have air trapped in the cooling system? Consider the 360. The Modena’s cooling fans do not run based on a sensor on the engine block, but based on a fan switch on the right front radiator. Air can easily be trapped in that exact spot, causing the fans to never run or to run too late— your only clue something’s wrong will come when you spot the engine-temperature gauge climbing into the red.

Coolant is only part of the coolingsystem story, however. On 1990s and earlier models, such as the 328, F355, 550, and Testarossa, electrical issues often cause problems. On high-amperage circuits such as blower motors, radiator fans, and fuel pump(s), I commonly find fuse-board failures, so when in doubt, test the fuses. The second most common reason cooling fans don’t work is poor wiring contact at the fan switch or a failed switch.

One problem that’s starting to crop up regularly is imbalanced cooling fan blades on F430s. This can be severe enough to vibrate the steering wheel when the car is idle. I’ve disassembled them to look for chips, pits, or even tire clag, and found nothing, and so far attempts to rebalance the blades have failed. The only cure appears to be replacing both fans.


Source: Forza Magazine - ShopTalk (November 2018 - By: Jesse Westlake)

Ferrari 550 Alarm Remote

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Ferrari 550 Alarm Remote

       I’ve been a FORZA subscriber for many years and always look forward to the “Shoptalk” column—until now, though, I’ve only read it for pleasure! I have a 550 Maranello I bought five years ago. It’s been completely trouble-free but now I have a problem I’m not sure how to solve. When I was playing with my 3-year-old son in the back yard, he somehow scooped the key and fob out of my pocket and tossed them into our pool. I fished them out quickly but it was too late for the fob, which hasn’t worked since. I’ve now been told I can’t simply replace it without “the red fob” or the alarm code, both of which apparently came with the car when new, neither of which I ever saw. I only had the one key and fob. My questions are as follows: 1) Is the red fob real, and if so do I need it? 2) Where do I get one and/or the code? 3) If I have the code, can I start the car without a replacement fob?


Great questions! The alarm systems found on the F355, 360, 456, 550, and 575M are generally reliable, easy to diagnose, and get the job done. The main downside of Ferrari’s alarms from this era is their focus on internal security, which makes servicing and programming remotes a long process and limits repair options.

The red remote is real—very real. (That said, on new replacement remotes, this red “master” remote is now black.) It is the gatekeeper for the trio of remotes, and is paired to the two black remotes, and no others, via a secret code.

When a new 550 Maranello was delivered, the client received a few very important items: two ignition keys, two black remotes, a secret code slip, and a red remote. It was suggested in the shop manual that the client put the code, one key, the red remote, and one black remote in a safe place. This is a great idea, at least until one of two not-sogood things happens: Either the car gets sold and these items are forgotten, or the batteries corrode in the red remote.

The red remote is required when your technician wants to program another set of remotes to the car for diagnostic purposes, with the intent of later programming the original remotes back to the car. Without the red remote, the black remotes will become permanently orphaned once a new set is introduced. Furthermore, the remote programming process, whether manual or assisted by the factory-approved SD2 diagnostic computer, requires the red remote to be activated as one of the first steps. No red remote? No remote programming.

A black remote that took a swim is not the end of the world if you have the other remotes on standby in the aforementioned safe place. However, Ferrari doesn’t sell individual replacements, only a full remote kit, which consists of three new remotes (one master and two slaves) and a new secret code.

Even if all the remotes are missing, all hope is not lost, as the car can still be started with the secret code. The method is outlined in the owner’s manual, and involves entering the code by turning the key in the ignition, waiting, and turning it some more, all while monitoring the dashboard. While it’s a bit cumbersome, this process will disable the alarm and allow the car to be driven until a new remote kit can be purchased and programmed.

Since you say you don’t have the code, things get a little dicey. Ferrari keeps on file all codes that have ever been supplied for your car’s VIN. If all the remotes used on the car since new have come through the dealer network, you can get the code from Ferrari by supplying proof of ownership and paying a fee. But if a past owner bought a used factory remote or turned to the aftermarket, Ferrari will have no record and won’t be able to supply a code.

If this happens, you’re stuck staring down the rabbit hole of buying a complete alarm system—and as you can imagine, factory replacements aren’t cheap!—or trying to hack the original. There are vendors out there who claim they can “jailbreak” the factory alarm and supply cloned remotes, but I have seen both success and costly failure down that path. You can’t simply remove the factory equipment because the car won’t start without it, and while there’s a kit available that bypasses the system and allows the car to start, then you won’t have a functioning alarm. Whenever possible, I prefer to stay with the factory setup.

You can’t simply remove the factory
alarm equipment because the car won’t
start without it.

Any time you buy a new factory remote kit, the remotes need to be programmed. This is easy with an SD2, but there’s also a passive way to do it [IS THIS ALSO OUTLINED IN THE OWNER’S MANUAL?]. Using a series of key cycles, choreographed on/offs to put the remotes in programming mode, and button pushing, you’ll have three brand-new remotes programmed to your car and its new code.

For anyone who buys a new remote kit and still has the original code and red remote, be sure to keep them. This way you’ll be able to program “away” from the new set, and back to the original, if diagnosis is ever needed.

Finally, just like Ferrari recommended in the first place, take the secret code, the master remote, and one slave remote, and put them in a safe place—and don’t forget about them! The factory recommends replacing the remotes’ batteries every six months, which seems excessive to me. Instead, I recommend bringing all three remotes to your shop during your car’s annual service for battery replacement.


Source: Forza Magazine - ShopTalk (April 2019 - By: Jesse Westlake)