Way Motor Works Turbo Heat Shield for R56 MINI Cooper/Clubman S
Product Review by Ryan Malcolm
Photos by the Author
2) Shipment, Packaging, & Parts:
3) Instructions, & Installation:
4) Behind the Wheel; Subjective impressions & Objective data:
5) Conclusions; Likes, Dislikes, & Recommendations:
I was walking down “Vendor Alley” at the '08 MINIs On The Dragon and something caught my eye at Way Motor Works booth. It was gleaming in the beautifully crisp afternoon sunshine and beckoning my attention. I had no idea what I was seeing and I had to find out. Being the curious, mystery-solving detective I am, my feet swept me over to Waylan to discuss this intriguing looking new toy. As it turns out, Waylan had a brilliant idea; use aerospace materials to help the turbocharger in the R56 MINI Cooper S [2007 model year and newer hardtops] work more efficiently. Enter the WMW Turbo Heat Shield. Using high-tech aluminum-coated ceramic fabrics and filled with silica insulation, the Heat Shield demands attention with its sparkling vapor-deposited aluminum exterior.
The Heat Shield is a custom-tailored heat-resistant fabric wrap that encompasses most of the stock R56 Cooper S’ turbocharger turbine housing. It is designed to fit between the turbine and the stock stamped aluminum heat shield…the one with the big ugly “don’t-put-your-hand-here” warning sign. Waylan and I chatted about where he came up with the idea and the rationale behind the product offering. WMW has seen lots of race cars during his busy and successful race schedule and found several instances of fellow racers using products to improve the thermal efficiencies of their turbochargers and exhaust systems. He claims the Heat Shield will improve turbo spool-up time and reduce bonnet temperatures by keeping the heat in the turbochargers’ turbine [also known as the “hot-side”] instead of radiating it into the engine bay and bonnet. Some R56 Cooper S owners have experienced some tragic bonnet scoop deformation from excessive temperatures in the engine bay; would the WMW Turbo Heat Shield actually help?
Back at the Motor City Lab, I took a closer look at the Heat Shield. Taking the WMW Heat Shield out of its packaging, it’s clear this piece is very well made, and there are several technical points that are worth mentioning. The materials selection look top-shelf, the stitching looks first class, and as a bonus there are four hooks that can be used to safety wire the Heat Shield to the turbine housing for an extra level of security and heat transfer. WMW is pretty tight lipped about the exact composition of the Heat Shield, and that is to be expected with any advanced materials technology, only saying the piece is made from “space age materials like silica and ceramic”. Taking a closer look, this is only part of the story. The Heat Shield is made up of several components;
1) An outer fabric section that appears to have a vapor-deposited layer of aluminum
2) A fabric layer that contacts the turbocharger itself composed of a much coarser fabric looking very similar to Nomex®
3) An inner core that appears to be loose granules of ceramic or silica-based material
4) Four stainless steel tie-down hooks that are riveted on
5) And finally a course looking fabric thread that looks again like Nomex® used to neatly shape the whole package into a form-fitting curve.
Installation of the Heat Shield is relatively straightforward, but does invite some innovative tool usage. The Cooper S’ turbocharger packaging does not lend itself willingly to the lazy mechanics wishes, but fear not, the task at hand can be finished in about 30 minutes. The first thing you’ll want to do is ensure you’re working on a cooled down engine, as the turbocharger exhaust gases can get up to about 1600 degrees Fahrenheit! Once things have cooled down, begin by removing the exhaust gas Oxygen sensor from the turbocharger turbine exit housing and its wiring from the clips in the valve cover. Use a pair of needle nose pliers to help remove the harness attachment clip from its mounting hole by squeezing the bottom-side tabs together. Place the O2 sensor off to the side; I usually set it on the “boomerang” chassis brace near the passenger strut tower, but just keep it out of the turbo area, ensuring that no debris enters the fragile sensor.
Next, following the Oxygen sensor wire harness to its connector, rotate the mounting bracket away from the heat shield. There is no need to worry about the mounting bracket bolt, just give the bracket a firm push and it will give enough clearance to access one of the heat shield bolts. There are six heat shield bolts total; there are three on top, one by the Oxygen sensor harness bracket we just gained access to, and two more on the front side of the heat shield. These two are tough to reach by mere mortals. Using a ¼” ratchet coupled with a two foot section of ½” copper pipe as an extension of the ratchet I was able to remove the tormenting bolts. A low profile ratchet helps tremendously, as does temporarily crimping the copper pipe to the ratchet to keep the ratchet from dropping down. Once you’ve wrestled with the six bolts out of the car, it’s time to put your weight lifting gloves on. No, the heat shield is not heavy, but it is stuck between its mating half that is mounted to the engine block and a large casting boss that is part of the cylinder head. Grasp the heat shield as firmly as you can and tug it off swiftly. You basically have to reshape the par t of the aluminum around that cylinder head boss in order to remove the shield. It can be frustrating, but trust me, the more muscle you put into it, the easier it is!
Congratulations, you are halfway through the install! Removing the stock heat shield is the toughest part of this job. Now take the shiny new WMW Turbo Heat Shield and bring it over to your MINI. The Heat Shield orients such that the split fork section is at the very bottom of the turbine, between the linkage of the waste gate controller and the turbocharger turbine housing, with the bottom two safety wire tabs on the front side of that linkage. The topside safety wire tabs are straight up at the top, with a slight bias towards the rear of the car. Please look at the pictures for positioning guidance, but also take a few minutes to knead the Heat Shield into its natural position as it wraps over the turbine. If it doesn’t feel right, remove it and fit it again, starting with the split section of the Heat Shield at the bottom, until it sits naturally and wraps cleanly around the turbocharger.
For my testing, I chose not to safety wire the Heat Shield into place. I was initially cautious that the Heat Shield would interfere with the waste gate linkage, however just as you should check, ensure the linkage is free moving and does not touch or bind on the Heat Shield. This is not safety critical, however it will cause your turbocharger system to not properly manage boost and most likely cause a Check Engine light as well as reduced power. Please be careful and mindful of the linkages’ need to slide back and forth freely on its axis. When the Heat Shield is properly positioned and the factory stamped aluminum heat shield is fastened back in position the WMW piece will be sandwiched in place and will not move. The sandwich effect will also improve the thermal characteristics of the assembly, since you’re literally adding a layer of insulation. Now that we have completed the installation, let’s go for a test drive!
But wait, there’s a caveat! The nature of the Heat Shield means you have to let it “break-in” before driving with it. You must expose the Heat Shield to one complete thermal cycle. What does this really mean? Well, the first time the materials are exposed to exhaust-level temperatures, they have to burn off all their assembly oils and excess adhesives, and by burn-off, I mean let all their smoke out! This may sound a bit scary, and may cause your neighbors to ask if they should call the Fire Department, but after about 5 minutes with your bonnet open and the engine idling, it should be finished with its smoke-signaling and ready to motor. At the end of these theatrics, the Heat Shield will have “molded” itself precisely to the turbine housing, creating a snug thermal connection.
BEHIND THE WHEEL; SUBJECTIVE IMPRESSIONS & OBJECTIVE DATA
My test driver and vehicle owner drove around for 1 week on the new WMW Heat Shield to get a thorough, real world feel for the Heat Shield and provide feedback on any subjective differences he may have felt. The test driver puts about forty thousand miles a year on his MINI, taking similar routes every day during his business trips. After 1 week he came back to the garage and provided his feedback. He did not notice any appreciable difference having the Heat Shield on the car in terms of turbo-spool or engine performance; however he did notice the bonnet and bonnet scoop to be much cooler before washing his car. Fair enough, not everyone can notice subtle nuances in the drive train, so let’s hook up the objective measurements!
With the Heat Shield thoroughly thermally cycled and the bonnet closed and ready to go, I hooked up my Auterra OBDII scan tool and brought along my B&K multi-meter with a K-type thermocouple plugged in. We set off getting the car up to temperature and getting to the start of our controlled Test Loop. While I don’t have the luxury of a dedicated closed circuit to test but I have taken the time and effort to map all the stop lights in my area and can easily align myself between traffic mobs into the large gaps of open road. This allows me to maintain very consistent speed and acceleration between test runs. I ensure that I cover the gamut of normal enthusiast driving; from full throttle acceleration to high efficiency cruising and everything in between, depending on the section of the test loop. I recorded Inlet Air Temperature [IAT], Engine Coolant Temperature [ECT], and Manifold Absolute Pressure [MAP] while we drove the Test Loop. After completing the Test Loop with the WMW Turbo Heat Shield in place, we came back to the garage, and giving my heat resistant Kevlar gloves a work-out, I quickly removed the WMW Heat Shield and returned the car to stock condition. We then ran the car up to temperature again and went back out for another lap of the Test Loop.
Once again I measured the same parameters, and the driving was kept as identical as possible in terms of acceleration and speed within the Test Loop. The results are in: the IAT, ECT, and MAP measurements practically overlaid each other. I could not detect any changes under the hood with my Scan-Tool. The thermocouple probe, on the other hand, proved one observation the Test Driver found; one under hood temperature was significantly different. I measured the “don’t-put-your-hand-here” position of the stock stamped aluminum heat shield with the WMW Turbo Heat Shield in position and with the car in stock configuration. The measurements were done exactly 30 seconds after engine-cut after pulling into the driveway of the Lab. The thermocouple was positioned in the exact same position, and was held in position for 2 minutes. The peak temperature was recorded, and we observed the temperatures over each 2 minute period. With the WMW Heat Shield installed, the reference thermocouple probing location was 70 degrees Fahrenheit lower! This is a significant delta. Why then, did this delta not show up in other temperature-sensitive locations like engine coolant or intake manifold air temperature?
There must only be one reason; the critical engine systems were insulated sufficiently by the stock heat shield during my tests. However, this does not diminish the WMW Heat Shields effectiveness at reducing radiated heat into the bonnet and bonnet scoop once the vehicle is parked and the engine turned off. No doubt those that are wary of the stock heat shields lack of holistic shielding will hesitate to see the value added by the WMW Heat Shield.
CONCLUSIONS; LIKES, DISLIKES, & RECOMMENDATIONS
There are aspects I would have liked to measure during my short stint with the WMW Turbo Heat Shield. I did not get a chance to use Exhaust Gas Temperature sensors to closely monitor with and without the WMW piece. I would also enjoy measuring bonnet scoop temperature during driving in the Test Loop. These and other data would help quantify further the effectiveness of the Heat Shield. I was unable to prove the Heat Shield to have a noticeable impact on engine performance in my Test Loop. Perhaps a racetrack setting where long-term heat soak is a concern may bring out the best in the Heat Shield. I did find one technical flaw with the Heat Shield; after the 1 week test drive, part of the vapor-deposited aluminum that initially sparkled in the sunshine was burnt away by the hot turbine. This may reduce the Heat Shields effectiveness slightly, but also keep in mind I did the thermocouple measurements after that 1 week period. The Heat Shield showed it could still significantly impede heat transfer even without the full aluminum compliment. As such, I can wholeheartedly recommend this product to those keenly interested in cooling down their bonnet and bonnet scoop. The Heat Shield will undoubtedly make melted-hood-scoop threads on NAM a thing of the past! I cannot recommend this piece as a high-value item for those looking for more horsepower; however this is certainly a tech-geeks icing on the cake.