ATI strikes again! Aaron's story
During the spring of 1998, I finally decided to buy one a ProCharger system. I wanted a reliable supercharger that I could drive on the street everyday. My decision to buy a ProCharger was based on several phone calls to ATI's company, reading magazines that ATI was featured in and the assurance of their staff that I would have the world's most powerful and reliable supercharger system on the street. ATI sent me literature on the P600B and the intercooled systems. I also talked to owners of Pro- Chargers at car shows. I impressed the fact that the car was to be street driven and I was willing to run less boost to keep from destroying the engine.
The car is a 1990 Pontiac Trans Am. I made sure to tell ATI about all of the modifications. They are:
- Accel 1000-cfm throttle body
- Accel Super Ram with plenum and runners
- Accel Super Ram Base plate
- Air Flow Research Al heads with 190 intake runners (2.02/1.60 valves)
- Hydraulic Roller Camshaft with 220/236 duration,490/510 Lift with Crane Gold Race roller rocker arms (1.6)
- Edelbrock headers, high flow cat, and Borla exhaust
- Art Carr 10-inch non-lock up torque converter w/ 2400-2600 Stall
- Currie Enterprises Ford 9-inch with 3.70 gears
- Compression Ratio was 9.0:1
- MSD-6AL box with Blaster 2 coil and wires along with a MSD distributor
- ATI Pro Charger P600B 12psi 3-coreintercooler serial#42299
My system was ordered from a dealer of ATI, and not ATI themselves. The dealer was negligent on the time it took to send in the order to ATI. However, when I contacted ATI about the delay, no mention was made about the dealer screw up at the time. Before ordering the system, I called ATI and they informed me that it would only be two weeks wait. After several phone calls, I was reassured by ATI that it was being processed and I could expect it in a week. Three more weeks of time passed. After being put on "hold" for 22 minutes on long distance one day, I was told that there was a problem with my order. Well, I had already figured that out on my own beforehand. ATI informed me that they were out of fuel pumps for my system. "It should only be a couple of more days," I was told. Several weeks passed before I had to call ATI about it again. I really wanted to give ATI the time to get all of the parts, and told them to be sure and send all of the correct parts. Finally, the system arrived.
After it arrived, I spent the time to make sure I had everything that I was supposed to get. Upon initial inventory, I discovered that I had none of the brass fittings for the oil boss that supplies pressurized oil to the blower. Another call to ATI (long distance, put on hold for 20 minutes on my phone bill) and the promise that they would send the correct parts. They never arrived. I also told the ATI representative that I was concerned that I had the wrong intercooler tube from the MAF sensor to the fender. I had already tried to run the tube from the MAF sensor to the fender and it appeared to be about six inches to long. Reassured that the Tech Rep had made sure I had the right part, I put that worry aside. Later, I discovered on my own that it was indeed the wrong part after about twenty-five minutes of colorful and descriptive adjectives and metaphors. Another phone call to ATI, the standard 18 minute wait on "hold" long distance and the promise that they would send the correct part if I sent mine back. "No problem, I'll send it UPS," I said. Two more weeks had passed, and all I was waiting on was the correct tube. When it finally showed up, it was the same tube I had sent ATI. I was furious, called ATI and was told to return it to them and I would be sent the correct part when they received mine. I paid the shipping for all of this, even though it was ATI who had sent the wrong parts. Well, when I had spent $3500 on a supercharger, I was really insulted by the fact that ATI wanted me to send the part back to them (twice now) AND PAY the shipping myself. Well, after waiting for almost three months to get the system, all be damned if I was going to wait two weeks for all of this to take place again. I suggested that ATI send me the correct part and not worry about the other tube that was wrong. "Sorry sir, we can't do that," I was told. "Why not?" I asked. "Well, those tubes are expensive. When we get yours, we'll send you the right one." "ATI has already received it once, and it would be good business to just send me the correct one," I pleaded. No good, they wanted the old one back. I inquired about how expensive they were, and was told that they are made of a special tubing material and it was expensive to mandrel bend them. I almost burst out in laughter at such a ridiculous answer. Finally, I fixed the tube myself by hacksaw method and having the local muffler shop flare the end. I gave up on getting the part that was correct that I had paid for. Also, I later discovered that I was wrongfully shorted a rubber intercooler connection, which I never received, even though I called and asked for it. Oh, I was also sent the wrong intercooler originally, and had to send it back for the correct one
By now, I'm still happy with the ProCharger, even though I questioned their service. The install was complicated by inadequate instructions (in other words, they need to be revised or burned). I had been involved with a Paxton and Vortech install on two different F-bodies and they had top of the line instructions with clear illustrations. The ATI illustrations were dark, hard to tell what was what and difficult to tell which part of the car I was supposed to be working on.
It was very difficult to find the exact location of the intercooler mount under the car. After several attempts, I finally figured it out. However, I was extremely concerned with the way the intercooler blocked incoming air to the radiator. I called ATI, and was assured that this was normal. From the picture on figure D4, I couldn't tell if it was properly aligned. Of course every Tech Rep at ATI had never installed one of these before, at least that was what I was lead to believe from the people I had talked too (I was put on hold and the ATI representative went to find someone who had installed an f-body system. He later returned to inform me that no one in the shop had ever installed one. I can't believe that, seeing as ATI can give tech advice on a system that no one has ever installed.) My concern was confirmed on my drive to work when I noticed that the temperature gauge was getting hot as I drove down the road. That night before I left work, I reexamined everything on the checklist about Installation Review and Safety Check. The car ran at normal temperature sitting still, but would overheat as I drove down the road (which really worried me since I had aluminum heads). I had to pull over and let her cool off during my five-mile drive home from work that night (it was only 52 degrees outside). I took a piece of "all thread" and some nuts and lowered the inter-cooler enough to allow fresh cool air into the radiator. After I had done this, the car ran cool the rest of the way home. Almost near normal. For that reason, I believe that is why the car kept overheating. Subsequent experiments reconfirmed my hypothesis.
Believing that I had installed something wrong with the intercooler, I called ATI. One of your Tech Reps told me that my fans weren't running all the time and that I needed a HOTTER thermostat because the cooling system was unable to recover after a full throttle blast. A HOTTER thermostat? Well, I hadn't even got to get on it because the car was hot all the time. I didn't want to tear anything up. About the thermostat comment: Why in the hell would you put a hotter thermostat in your car if it were overheating? Besides, it was only overheating while it was being driven (yes, the fans were running all the time before I ever called about this problem). So, in an order of despair I took the car to a shop in my area that works on cooling problems. They have built cooling systems for all of my drag racing friends and streetcars also. They definitely know what they are talking about. ATI recommended that I have a shop look at my cooling problem and that I may need a bigger radiator. I'm really glad that I took it to the radiator shop because they saved me over $450 on a new radiator. I did not need one. The problem? Their diagnosis was that not enough air was getting to the radiator because the inter-cooler blocked it. I called ATI again about the problem and they said that they had never had such a problem with any of the intercooled systems. Oh, ATI also stated that they would do some research on the problem and contact me about it. "Yeah, I bet," I thought as I hung up the phone. ATI never called me back about the problem. Now, convinced I was on my own to solve the problem, I remedied it by making my own brackets that lowered the intercooler a couple of inches. All of my heating problems were solved. I had also had the oxygen sensor checked to see if the car was running lean, which would cause it to run hot. Everything was normal during the scope. After being told about putting in a hotter thermostat, I really began to question the technical support of ATI.
Finally, the day came when I was confident that everything was up to par. I was probably more patient about stepping on the loud pedal than I have ever been. I take the car to the drag strip, and it only runs .2 tenths faster than without the blower. I check belt tension, fuel pressure, made sure all intercooler connections were tight, and made another pass. The car was only a .5 second faster. Next, I put on a boost gauge, and found the blower was only making 4psi!! It was suppose to make 12psi! I thought, "this is not good" and decided to make one more run to see if it would make full boost with the gauge installed. Half way down the track, the blower belt flies off of the pulley. I loaded up the car, and went home very disappointed. After all this, I call ATI first thing Monday morning, and was told every car responds differently by a Tech Rep. I became very upset, and asked why the blower only made 4psi. The Rep didn't know why this was happening, and made suggestions to check the stuff I had already done at the track. Then, he had the nerve to tell me it was probably something I had done during the install. I bought a new belt, installed it, and it flew off before I got out of the driveway. This would happen to me 5 more times, and I finally pulled off the blower. Inspection revealed that the blower pulley was not fully on the shaft and was causing enough offset to shred the belts. ATI claimed that I had bumped the pulley during install, which was absurd. If the pulley was bumped, it shouldn't have came off the shaft that easy anyhow. After the pulley ordeal, which I solved on my own, I went to work on the boost problem. I think the pully was slipping on the blower shaft, because now it made 8psi. I was so mad at the track that day; I almost burned the car. ATI said that the problem was because the blower wasn't very reliable for 12 psi. I found this very interesting, because ATI advertises a 9, 12, and at the time, a 15 psi system, and if the blower wasn't capable of 12psi, why were they selling them?. Now, I realize I have the 3-core intercooler, and my heads and manifold are bigger than stock, but it should make at least 9psi, if not 10psi. ATI offered to sell me a Dominator blower, or sell me pulleys for the 15-psi P600B in hopes of attaining 12psi. I replied that there was no way I would ever buy anything from ATI again and that I would be glad to inform the world of ATI ProCharger via the internet. I thought, "let's see here. Design a product, sell the product, and sell parts to make it do what it is supposed to originally and sell it to customers. I have received replies from over 22 people, (in the first three days) that have had similar problems as I. Chad Byers, another ATI customer who has worst experiences with ATI than me, and I are starting web pages about our cars, and rest assured that ATI will be part of the story.
As if I hadn't had more than my share of problems, when I installed the FMU, I noticed that mine didn't look anything like the one in the directions. To be sure it was the correct one, I called ATI to confirm it. Mine was totally different than the one in the picture. After installation was complete and I had the whole system operating, I performed a check to see if the fuel pressure was increasing at high boost levels. Not suprisingly, the fuel pressure never came up with boost. I called ATI and told them of the problem. They recommended that I try changing some of the lines around because they thought I might have the wrong lines connected to the FMU. I did this, and it didn't help at all. I finally took the fittings off of the FMU and set it to how the picture was in the directions. From there, fuel pressure rose to around 85psi when the boost levels rose. ATI swore to me that the FMU was assembled correctly. Why did I have to move around the lines and why wasn't the fuel pressure increasing then until I made the swap? I guess they were wrong because according to the directions and their own literature, the fuel pressure should increase with boost.
I had only drove the car about three times in the last 4-monthes. After all of the cooling problems, wrong or missing parts, and frustration over the whole ordeal, I was sitting at a stop light one day and noticed that my car was smoking from under the hood. I panicked that I had a fire, pulled into a filling station and found a huge amount of blow-by was coming out of the PCV hose off of the valve cover. I knew right away something was terribly wrong, but I had to get to work. I made sure oil was in the crankcase, and drove on to work. I did not realize how serious the problem was until I began to come home from work that night. At first, I noticed a lot of smoke coming from under my cowl hood. Yes, I was concerned, but reassured myself that it was probably the blow-by. Seconds later, the bottom of my windshield was covered in flames. I stopped on the side of the road and found fire on everything under the hood that had oil on it. Being in the middle of the country, I had no way to fight the fire except for using my floor mat. I have over $14,000 in performance parts on the car, and I wasn't going to let fire claim my money pit of speed. I put out the fire and found out later the next day that oil had somehow erupted up and on to the engine, which caused my "small" oil fire.
As I finished driving home after everything that had happened to me that night, I began to notice the temperature gauge was starting to run over normal. Still fresh from the smoke fumes, I was really angry that now it was overheating again. The temperature rose rapidly, and then came back to normal. Then, it did it once again. "Well, there goes a head gasket" I thought.
Just being happy to be home, I left the car in the driveway for several days. Finally, after all of this, I took the headers off and did compression test. Very low compression in three cylinders, no compression in two cylinders and all of the anti-freeze was in the oil. The head gasket was definitely blown, and serious engine damage was present.
I had Ligenfelter Performance Engineering build a stroker 420 with the idea of running a blower. LPE did all of the DFI work and after a long wait, they called me to come get my new beast. LPE recommended that I not install the blower for at least 500 miles, and they would prefer 1000 miles, which I complied with. After the mileage was up, I returned to LPE and had them install my ProCharger. I was sure all of the past problems were remedied, and went to the track to see what my GTA would do. It ran 11.2 @ 123 MPH on the first run without tuning. On the chassis dyno, the car made 668 hp and 750 ft/lbs. of torque at the rear wheels with 8psi. It was also the last run of the day, because the impeller hit the side of the case and sent metal through the 1100-mile old motor. That is were I stand now with this nightmare. The LPE 420, which cost me about $12,000, needs to be disassembled, and inspected for damage. ATI's ProCharger will not be put back on this motor. I have had enough of their promises about performance.
After all of the problems I have had, I think that ATI can see why I'm so angry over this whole ordeal. I ordered one of their systems because I wanted reliable performance. Instead, I had nothing but problems, from the order, to the install to the finished product. I stood by my decision to get a Pro Charger when all of my friends asked who was ATI and told me I should have bought a Vortech or a Paxton. Since none of them have problems with their supercharged cars, (a few of them run 10.90's @129 and 11.20 @126) and now that I'm the blunt of all their jokes, I really wish that I would have taken their advice. I will never recommend a Pro Charger to any one with an 88-92 F-body.
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