Conversion To Throttle Body Injection (TBI)

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ECM Connections

1st Start Check List

1st Start Results

Driving Impressions

Reliability & Parts

ECM Trouble Codes

Data Logging

Flashing A Chip


Prologue or is PostScript?

NOTE: Throughout this write-up, you'll see references to John Wilson who supplied the electronic components of the TBI conversion kit for my upgrade done in 2006. While John is still doing a Triumph conversion kit, Rick Patton has now partnered with Affordable Fuel Injection (AFI) for all of the electronics. The main advantage to this new partnership is that you now have one stop shopping with Rick. Everything from the adapters to the electronics to the distributor modifications are all handled and shipped by Rick. In addition, AFI will provide all technical support and up to 4 custom chip programs.

Anyway.....this gets written after the system is installed to share some thoughts now that I've gone through the whole process. Let's start with the fact that I am "automotively inept BUT mechanically adept" and I'm also a good problem solver. In other words, I've never rebuilt an engine, transmission, suspension, differential or even done my own brake job etc. etc. I have tremendous admiration for people who can and would love to do that someday under an expert's watchful eye. But it's nothing I would ever tackle alone, no matter how good the instructions are. So why would I ever consider tackling the installation of Throttle Body Injection (TBI)? The answer is simple.....this is basically a "plug & play" system that anyone with basic mechanical skills can do. I did this in my garage with the car on jack stands. No lift required. It was done with all the tools I have on hand, which is nothing out of the ordinary. I did, however, spend a lot of time emailing and talking to Rick Patton (Patton Machine Products) and John Wilson to get comfortable with what work was required of me and how responsive they'd be to my endless stream of questions. Being overly cautious and not a risk taker, I did ask them hundreds of questions as I moved through the installation. For others more adept then I, the questions would probably be far fewer. The one thing I did do was have John Wilson do the distributor conversion for me. Basically he guts the existing distributor, installs a ball bearing race around the shaft to prevent wobble and converts it to electronic via some custom parts he has machined. The option is, he will supply the parts and you can do it yourself. Not a route I'd recommend. The hardest part of the installation was running the fuel lines and installing the new fuel pump. It just took me a few different routes to find the one I liked best. The most stomach churning was removing and then re-installing my distributor, a task I haven't done since 1978 on my old Chevy Suburban. Again...uneventful. Beyond that, everything is a direct bolt on product or a plug ended connection that can only go to one place. There are absolutely NO MODIFICATIONS (except distributor) required to make this all work. With the exception of the distributor conversion, everything is reversible if, for some reason, you'd want to go back to the original parts.

Rick and John are very different personalities to work with. Rick owns two NAPA stores in Maine and enjoys interacting with customers in a business-like yet fun manner. I always know that Rick will be answering his email at 3 AM after he comes up from his shop. Rick's components are typically delivered immediately upon receipt of payment and if there's a problem he will let you know. John is an engineer who's a TBI expert and can diagnose and fix any injection problem you come up against. Emails are secondary to problem resolution and it sometimes takes a creative subject line to grab his attention. Subject lines such as: HELP NEEDED or ANSWER PLEASE usually worked for me, but your experience may differ. You should also expect delivery to take 6 - 8 weeks as each unit is custom assembled for your car. I know he's working on reducing his delivery times but if you expect it in 8 weeks and get it in 2 weeks, all the better.

So, who should do this conversion? Well, if keeping your car original is your goal then this isn't for you. But there are so many British Car owners who consider their cars original but are running modern shocks, other upgraded components, electric fans, electric fuel pumps and electronic ignitions that this is a logical next step. The cost is about $1300 but you'll never have to rebuild your carbs again or even do a "tune-up". No more misses, stumbles, hesitations, hard starting etc. Drivability is like a modern car with the same reliability. More power and torque coupled with significantly better fuel economy. You've probably spent more then this just maintaining your car over the years. I know that in the past 10 years I have.

Bottom line..............If I can do this, anyone can.

The Background

Ever since hearing about Rick Patton's adapter kit for converting ZS carbs to TBI, I've been intrigued with the idea. Now that he's had almost 2 years experience with the kit, has made various improvements and "partnered" with John Wilson  for the electronic components I've decided to take the plunge. A number of people on the Triumph Mail List have asked why I'd spend the money (probably be close to $1800.00 when finished) when these cars run fine when properly maintained. Well, I figure I've probably spent close to that over the past 9 years keeping the car running from a carb/fuel and ignition standpoint. When I got the car I had the carbs rebuilt ($300), 5 years later another rebuild ($300) and earlier this year I had them totally refurbished/rebuilt by PalTech ($400). So that's $1000 right there on a maintenance component that I felt should be done by a professional. This summer my mechanical fuel pump started acting flakey so I converted to a Facet electric pump and a Holley regulator. Between the main components, filters, hose, clamps, etc...another $150.  Now on top of all this there's been a carb backfire issue that just refuses to go away. To compound the issue, it's an intermittent problem. Sooooo.....I finally brought it to a professional who fixed it and then fixed it again. After the second visit, they found that the Holley regulator is inconsistent at holding fuel pressure. A problem they've seen in their MGB race car so they no longer use the Holley regulator. Let's just say the cost for the Pro gets me up close to the cost of the TBI conversion. Then there's the failed condensers and rotors which caused all kinds of misses....aggravation factor - Priceless!

So in response to the "WHY" question from a List member I wrote the following response:

"The TBI upgrade is more then an ignition upgrade as the car is now converted to fuel injection or Throttle Body Injection. The only function the carbs have after this is to hold the injectors and suck air in. Over the past few years I've probably spent close to the cost of this system chasing assorted misses, backfires, failed condensers, bad rotors, carb rebuilds, conversion to electric fuel pump, fuel regulator that likes to change it's setting on its own etc. both money and time...and I should add aggravation. Anyone who knows my car knows that originality isnít a concern but reliability and decreased maintenance is. It's like Dan's wire harness, why install it rather then just continue to troubleshoot and repair the original harness? I did it because I was tired of chasing electrical problems that could be eliminated with this upgrade. Two driving seasons later and there hasn't been a single harness related problem, blown fuse or electrical glitch. The Lucas Prince of Darkness has been banished from my car :-)

I've toyed with Rick Patton's TBI system for 2 years now but really wanted to see him get more systems out there as well as wanting to see Aaron's car at Stowe and get to talk to the two of them. On paper it all made sense but nothing beats 2 years of driving to see if it really works as advertised, so to speak. Since installing the system in Aaron's car, it's been bulletproof and hasn't been touched. In other words, rock solid reliable. Starts and runs from cold just like a modern day car. Better fuel economy and some performance increase.

While some of these components are available at your local junk yard or new car dealer, Rick and John  have engineered unique components specific to our cars. You won't find the carb adapters or the TPS mounting bracket anywhere but from Rick............ and John's distributor conversion parts are his own design and definitely not "do it yourself" unless you also happen to be an engineer with computer aided drafting design capability and access to a CNC machine shop. John also supplies years of knowledge in the ECM/TBI area to ensure that your chip is properly calibrated for your car and driving needs.

As I've researched this conversion, I'm amazed at how common this TBI conversion is in the classic/old car world at large. While Rick's focus is on British cars, John has kits for everything from Jeeps to GM products to VW, Porsche, MG and Triumph. This conversion isn't for everyone but neither is a Toyota 5 speed or a Nissan differential but they all work well. Now I wish I could afford those two upgrades!

What made this decision easier was my wife's suggestion that she give it to me as a combined birthday/Christmas present if I build her a new PC as a combined birthday/Christmas present. Sounded like a deal to me! How's that for a wife? I'm holding my breath, crossing my fingers and trusting both Rick andJohn  to hold my hand, as needed, through the process. " what makes up this system? As mentioned before there's two ordering components: Rick Patton and John Wilson

Rick's Part:

Two carb adapters to hold the GM fuel injectors A GM Throttle Position Sensor (TPS), Adapter and Block Off Plates

What I love about dealing with people like Rick or Dan Masters or Jeff Palya is the creativity they show in creating products to make our cars better as well as the outstanding quality of their product. I feel that they take great pride in what they produce and won't ever provide an inferior product.

I won't receive John's components for a few weeks as each one is custom built for the application, but here's what he includes:

1) CNC milled distributor electronic ignition conversion parts;

2) two reconditioned GM TBI fuel injectors;

3) New CNC fabricated adjustable fuel pressure regulator with pressure gauge;

4) All new coolant, MAP, and O2 sensors (exhaust bung included);

5) A reconditioned GM ECM (engine control module) with new custom built wiring harness;

6) A high quality frame mounted EFI fuel pump with mounting bracket and fittings;

7) A custom flash calibration chip will be included and programmed for the injectors and engine size for a stock engine. Further tuning on non-stock engines is included as part of the optional flash chip programmer below;

8) An ALDL cable that converts a laptop computer (laptop computer furnished by the customer) into a GM ECM scantool. My cables have a 9 pin serial connector so your laptop must have a 9 pin serial port. 9 pin serial ports are typically found on older laptops only. If you only have USB ports you'll need a 9 pin serial to USB adapter cable commonly found at computer stores. A scantool displays engine sensor information and allows you to diagnose and tune your GM EFI system.

OPTION: An optional flash chip programmer allows the customer to reprogram the calibration chip at his location. This device works off a USB port and does not need a separate 120V power adapter like most programmers, so you can use it in the car with a laptop if desired. You will use the programmer to reprogram the flash chip with calibration files that I send you via email. This allows the customer and I to tune the system together. The flash chip programmer option is $125.

Moving on to Removing Stuff