The day finally came to go to the supposedly super-evil California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) station. To go there, you need an appointment, which is easily done by calling the number at asktheref.org. To get the appointment you also need you SB-100 sequence number and the VIN from the CHP, so that step needs to come first. I was able to get an appointment within two weeks of calling up. Easy.
All of the stations are at community colleges. The closest one to me is Skyline College in San Bruno. That’s about 15 miles to drive each way involving a traditional commute route on the way there. I was honestly a little bit nervous, not at all about the appointment itself, but about getting the car there. Being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for an 8:50 am appointment could cause cooling issues again plus I’ve simply not driven the car very far and now I need to be in traffic, on the highway and drive super far from home.
So I did what I could: left early to be there well before 8:50 am, brought the laptop in case I need to debug something, gloves, paper towels and I asked Chrissy to be on standby in case I needed a tow. I ended up needing everything except a tow from Chrissy!
On the way there, the car ran great on the highway and stayed cool at 87 C. Once I started driving local roads I noticed fuel pressure problems though, going as low as 0 psi. That’s no bueno, so I pulled off to a side street and started debugging. The culprit was pretty clear right away: the lift pump filter had some gunk in it that got stirred up from finally driving a bit and sloshing the gas around the tank. I cleaned it out and got back on my way to the station. (The car has a lift pump which pumps into a swirl pot where there’s a high pressure pump into the fuel rail)
Pulling into the station was fun. Since it’s at a college and I was there at 8:30 am, I was immediately swarmed by 30 or so students. It was pretty fun to answer questions. Some I couldn’t even answer since they probably know more about car design than I do. It was cool. Nice kids. Super enthusiastic and passionate. It wasn’t like “yo yo yo you should get a turbo” or “what’s the zero to 60”, but instead it was about car design, did I build, where did you get the engine, how do the shocks adjust, etc. Good stuff.
The referee was out there right away and started taking the necessary pictures for documentation. He was a real friendly guy, but I’ll say that this is definitely a two-way street. I came in with all my paperwork, was super friendly myself, answered any questions he had and moreover, I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one on him, the state or the law in general. Unfortunately, there are a ton of folks to try things like disassembling and reassembling an Ariel Atom, bringing in a BAC Mono or trying to otherwise abuse SB-100. There are also the ones that got a “loud exhaust” ticket and need to go there to fix it – way too many fail over and over. As referee I’d be super annoyed. This gentleman was a real enthusiast, we had a fun conversation and it couldn’t have been a better interaction. We chatted a bunch about all the trickery as he was photocopying my documents.
But back to the appointment. The way the BAR SB-100 visit works – at least at Skyline College – is that the referee puts all of the pictures, copied documents and rest of my application in a PDF and sends it to his supervisor for final approval. It’s not an on the spot kinda thing and I was given an expectation of the response taking as long as two weeks. For the actual inspection piece, the referee essentially just looked at whether all my pollution control equipment vents to the intake, which it obviously does in my case, though via a complicated set of connections due to the dry-sump.
Thirty minutes later I was on my way home again and told to expect a call. That’s when things got more exciting: no throttle response at all in the parking lot of the college, thankfully generally out of view. There was a throttle alarm, so I cleared it, but I still could not get the throttle to move. The car wouldn’t even idle properly. I ended up doing a recalibration of the throttle and that solved it. A strange issue and I was mostly just thankful that I had my computer with me.
The ride home was a limp-fest. I know that the second fuel filter, the one behind the high pressure pump was starting to get clogged and I need tools to get it undone. I managed to do the 15 miles back home by driving very gingerly. Only on the last 200 feet did the car start to have cooling issues again after driving back up the long hill. I’ve got a few potential solutions to work on for this.
Happily on my way to work and not an hour after getting home did I get the call: you’ve been approved, c’mon back for part deux. Yessss!
For that, I’ll need to get a brake and light inspection done first, but I’ve now passed all the hard parts and I’m close to getting plates. Overall, this was a really pleasant experience and there were not gotchas or unexpected turns. The referee knows an enthusiast when they see one and they want to see you pass, especially if you’ve truly built it yourself. Simply put, they’re definitely not out to get you unless you’re out to get them.
Stay tuned for the next update – hopefully later this week!