The Airbox Of Lies. A Future Writer Story
10 horses more, promise
It began as most projects do: with the triumph of Hope over Experience. I have a 2002 Camaro SS. One of the easier modifications is the installation of an aftermarket airbox lid from SLP. It has a smooth interior that reduces turbulence and shoves more air into the engine, resulting in more power and noise, or so it says. The SLP also comes with a cool K&N sticker, hence it must be good for at least 10 extra horses.
SLP’s website promised a “15 minute” installation time. I knew that was nonsense. I figured it would take an hour. What follows is a blow- by- blow account of how Hope snuck up behind Experience and slugged him with a sock full of nickels.
Typical 15 minute job
12:50 PM: I take the Camaro for a shakedown run so that I can make an accurate “seat o’ the pants” comparison later and get to work. SLP’s 15 minute installation time goes out the window when I spend 10 minutes looking for my ratcheting box end wrench to loosen the battery’s negative terminal before giving up and breaking out my socket wrench set. Still, the rest of the teardown goes easily enough. Soon I’m left with the air intake duct resonator which has the Mass Air Flow sensor (MAF) attached to the rear and the intake air temperature (IAT) sensor mounted slightly above it. Both of these parts have to be reused on the SLP lid. I grab the MAF with one hand, the resonator with the other, and pull. Nothing happens.
1:35 PM: Ten minutes of brute strength accomplishes nothing. Time to work smarter, not harder. Give me a lever and a place to stand and I shall remove my MAF from my restrictive factory resonator… provided I can work a screw driver between them. I can’t. I grab a hammer, but hesitate. One of the original grease pencil slashes from the final assembly line inspection stares back at me. I can probably hit the plastic resonator gently enough to free the MAF without damaging it, but should I? Contemplation is required, as is hydration. Have I really been out here for almost an hour?
2:10 PM: My break is over, as are another 15 minutes of the futile application of brute strength and profanity. Enough sentimentality. I grab the MAF with my left hand and swing the hammer. Two blows and the resonator falls to the floor.
2:15 PM: The IAT sensor is held by a rubber grommet. I pull on it. Nothing happens. I retrieve the screwdriver and start to work the grommet through from the inside. One slip and- sonofaBITCH!- I stab myself in the palm of my left hand. Back in the house for antiseptic. How long has it been since I got a tetanus shot?
2:30 PM: I go back to working the grommet carefully with the screwdriver. It finally pops free. I pick up the MAF sensor assembly and try to push it into the SLP lid. Nothing happens.
2:45 PM: SLP can’t be serious. The diameter of the airlid’s neck is three millimeters smaller than the circumference of the MAF. Brute force and profanity are even more useless than they were when I was trying to get the damn thing off. The instructions suggest using a hairdryer to heat the plastic up in order to make the assembly process easier. I go inside to get hers. My wife looks at me askance and asks how much longer I’m going to be in the garage.
3:30 PM: I sit on the floor of the garage, seething at the two lumps of evil that have mocked my attempts to mate them for the last hour. I have heated up the infernal plastic airlid multiple times to no discernible effect. Each time nothing. I hate MAF sensors, my Camaro, and the jack wagon who decided to advertise this tour of Hell as a 15 minute install.
3:35 PM: The neck is simply too small. I retrieve my rotary tool, warranty be damned. This project must be completed or let no man come back alive. Plastic dust fills the air. Maybe I can apply for black lung benefits.
3:55 PM: Several turns of polishing with the rotary tool, followed by obsessive- compulsive wiping of the inside of the lid to eliminate any stray bits of plastic, and the edge of the MAF barely fits. I heat up the plastic for 10 minutes before I start to shove it home. It starts in, but I put too much pressure on one side and it suddenly slips in too deep. Somehow I have managed to cross- thread the MAF into the airlid.
4:05 PM: Once again the right tool for the job turns out to be a hammer. The problem is that this time I will have to strike the MAF assembly itself instead of the plastic airlid. I find my rubber mallet. One swing knocks the pieces loose. I line up the MAF with the airlid and drive it into the neck as carefully as I can. When I finish the MAF is rotated about 90 degrees from being centered correctly at the top of the airlid so that I can plug it back in and it won’t turn by hand. I persuade it with the mallet while accusing it of the vilest forms of incest. It turns about three degrees with every blow. Eventually I have it straight enough for government work.
4:15 PM: Finally, the installation proceeds without much further delay, although just buttoning everything up takes longer than the advertised 15 minutes. How many times can you hit a MAF sensor assembly before it starts throwing codes? At least one more time than I did, because everything works with no idiot lights flashing on the dash.
Sounds more powerful
Time for a test drive. SLP claims a gain of 10 RWHP with the lid. It passes the seat o’ the pants test, for whatever that’s worth. What is definitely noticeable is the noise. I nail the throttle and the LS1 roars. I wasn’t expecting such a change in tone without an exhaust swap, but there’s no denying it. It just sounds meaner.
I feel a wide grin creeping across my face. That’s why I bought this car: It can make me smile. I’m already forgetting the frustrations of the last three hours, the way a mother forgets her labor pains when she holds her firstborn child. I pull into my driveway with a single thought coursing through my brain:
“I better bring that hairdryer back… ”
David Hester is a detective with the Lexington, KY Police Department by day and night. He drove a Crown Vic for work, but “does not suffer from an overabundance of Panther love.” David is a Editor’s Choice Future TTAC Writer, just in case we ever driver through Lexington, KY.
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As a fellow fourth gen F-body owner (2000 Trans Am), I know the joy you felt of having to do anything under that hood. That's why As of today, I still need to work up the courage to replace my passanger side spark plugs and wires. I kept telling myself it was going to happen when I installed headers and deleted the air pump/wiring, but who knows if that's ever going to happen. Beautiful Camaro by the way, and enjoy her while you can. Looking forward to reading more of your tales with your car.
Hell, I had the same thing with just a maintenance item--changing the air filter on a 2006 Accord V6!! Took me 15 minutes end-to-end on my 2000 Accord, but on that 2006, the airbox took a little more "persuasion," along with skinned knuckles on both hands, and much profanity!! Thankfully, when I started it up, let the fan cycle twice, and took it around the block, no MIL/CELs! Don't get me started on the driver's headlight replacement on that same vehicle, going through the front fenderwell...! Fortunately, my brand-new 2013 Accord Touring has LED low-beams, and the rest of the lights are accessible from above, under the hood!