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Horror Story #1 - Jackson Racing

Marc Barth

I am writing this to warn everyone how the people at Jackson Racing (JR) AKA Moss Motors do business and treat their customers. I have never experienced such horrendous customer service in my entire life. For those of you who donít know me, I am the one who wrote the article located at http://hybrid.honda-perf.org//marcbsc.html. I wrote this article about a year ago. I had the supercharger kit on my 1997 Honda Civic for about nine months and put on less than 10,000 miles. Now the kit is failing and Jackson Racing is refusing to stand behind the product they sold me. The supercharger is leaking caster bean oil (the fluid inside the supercharger) through one of the seals and the bearings have become unseated. I thought Jackson Racing would stand behind such an expensive product and would want to service their customers. Apparently, I was wrong.

First, let me clear up some confusion. Jackson Racing is a Honda/Acura repair shop located in Westminster, California. The Jackson Racing sales office and warehouse is owned and operated by Moss Motors, in Goleta, California. Jackson Racing sold the rights to use the "Jackson Racing" name to Moss Motors. Moss Motors sells the supercharger kits with Jackson Racingís name on it and Jackson Racing merely gets a residual from the sale. Jackson Racing has no authority nor are they apart of the decision-making process regarding sales, features, pricing, or warranty repair. Moss Motors is a company that specializes in Miatas. In fact, that is their main business. The only product they have for Hondas is the supercharger kit and some rebadged accessories. All of the product development and decision-making regarding the Jackson Racing supercharger is done by Moss Motors not by Jackson Racing. Jackson Racing only does installation. Some fitment testing and dyno tuning is done at Jackson Racing but thatís it. If there are any problems with the supercharger kit, they must be taken up with Moss Motors and not Jackson Racing.

I was working under my car with a friend of mine a little while back and we noticed that there was a lot of fluid on the bottom of the blower. It was beige in color and looked a lot like brake fluid but it wasnít brake fluid. It took a few paper towels to wipe up the mess. I meant to call Moss Motors that week but it slipped my mind. About a month later, we were working under the car and noticed more fluid on the bottom of the blower. That week I called Moss Motors and spoke with Keith. I explained the problem to Keith and he seemed very concerned about the problem. Keith said I described the fluid inside the supercharger (caster bean oil) perfectly so we were sure the fluid came out of the blower. He told me to get under the car that night wipe up the oil and see if I could determine where on the supercharger it appeared to be coming from. Keith also told me to check to see if the bolts on the bottom of the blower were torqued properly to 22 ft/lbs.

I called him the next day and explained to him that the fluid appeared to be coming from one of seals on the bottom of the supercharger where the two housings meet. He wanted to be sure that it wasnít coming out of the nose of the blower. He said sometimes the units are overfilled with oil from the factory and the excess oil may seep out of the nose of the blower. I said all of the fluid was around the seal of the blower where the two housings meet and not the nose. I told him that I also checked the bolts and that they were torqued down properly. He told me to make an appointment with Jackson Racing to have the unit inspected. I told him to send a replacement unit to Jackson Racing so upon discovery that the supercharger is defective; it can be changed on the spot. This way I will only have to make one trip down to Jackson Racing. Jackson Racing is over 50 miles from my house and takes well over an hour to get there. Not to mention Jackson Racing does not have hours on the weekend, so every time I go down there I have to take off from work and lose pay. Keith didnít seem to care about this fact. He said that he couldnít ship out a replacement until it is confirmed that the blower is bad. "We canít send out replacement units every time a customer complains because that would add up to a lot of money." I was shocked and told him "you would think that after a customer buys a $2700 supercharger kit, they wouldnít mind springing for $5.00 worth of UPS to service their customer." He was unwilling to oblige. I told him I was very upset and felt I was getting the runaround. He said that he was going to call Jackson Racing to discuss the situation and told me either he or Oscar Jackson would call me back to further discuss the problem. Neither Oscar Jackson nor Keith called me back. Travis, one of the workers at Jackson Racing called me telling me to come down but he would have to charge me for any work done to the car. Jackson Racing seemed to be more interested about me handing over my Visa card rather than repairing my car. I called back Keith furious that neither he nor Oscar called me back. Instead, he had one of his lackeys call me. Keith told me Oscar was too busy to call me. "Too busy to talk to a customer who has a leaky supercharger?!" I called Keith later that day to further discuss this problem and Keith never returned my phone call. He claimed he accidentally erased my voice mail and then later told me "it slipped his mind and that he had eight voice mails to return."

I went to Jackson Racing later in the week. JR checked the bolts on the bottom of the blower to see if that is where the oil was leaking from and that they were torqued properly. When I got down there, we couldnít locate the leak. Everything that Moss Motors told me on the telephone, Jackson Racing said the exact opposite. I told JR that the reason we didnít see any fluid was because I had just wiped up the oil and that is why we couldnít locate any leak. "Why would you do that?!" said JR. I told him Keith at Moss Motors had instructed me to do so. "Oh you shouldnít have spoken to Keith, you shouldíve spoken to me." Keith told me that the oil level can be checked by removing the plug on the side of the supercharger and that it can be refilled. Jackson Racing said the oil cannot be checked with the unit still on the car because it doesnít sit on a level surface and it cannot be filled because it is supposed to be sealed. Jackson Racing was sympathetic to my problem but said there was nothing that they could do because "Moss calls the shots." They canít replace the unit without Moss Motors approval. "We kind of sold our souls to the devil," said Jackson Racing. Oscar Jackson looked at the car and just walked away. He didnít even come over to talk to me. Jackson Racing told me that if it did lose a lot of oil it would start to make all kinds of noises. Jackson Racing said, "It probably wouldnít leave me stranded but if it did, I could just remove the belt." I told them, "Thatís not the point. I shouldnít have a failing blower after only nine months of owning the kit."

So, I leave Jackson Racing and go home. Later that afternoon, I hear this awful sound coming from the supercharger. I suspected the bearings might be bad. I spoke with Keith and explained the problem to him. I told him that the reason why we didnít see any oil leaking out of the blower is because Iíve lost so much fluid that it has dropped below the level in the supercharger.

Keith tells me that we can ship the blower off to Magnuson for repair. (Magnuson repairs all of the Eaton and JR blowers.) Keith told me the blower could be shipped out and returned in less than one week. Jackson Racing was surprised when I told them this. Jackson Racing told me that they have a Honda CRX that has been sitting in the back that hasnít had the blower in two weeks. They are still waiting for it to come back from repair. Jackson Racing said it could take as long as two to three weeks. I told Keith that I cannot be without a car for two weeks. After arguing for nearly an hour, Keith agreed to send a replacement unit to Jackson Racing, which would be replaced upon inspection.

I told both Moss Motors and Jackson Racing that this would be my final trip down to Jackson Racing. I told them that "we will either replace the blower or we are ripping the whole thing off." Everytime I have to go down to Jackson Racing, I lose at least a half days pay. The following week I went down to Jackson Racing to have it inspected. Naturally, the sound disappeared before I got to Jackson Racing. We went for a ride for about 15 minutes but it wasnít making the noise. I told Jackson Racing to pull off the blower and inspect it for any oil loss. This would show that there has been a loss of oil even if they couldnít see it dripping from the blower. JR said it cannot be inspected because the intake manifold and supercharger are sandwiched together from the factory and only Magnuson can take it apart. I asked if they "couldnít or wouldnít take apart the blower?" I got no answer. Jackson Racing was unwilling to swap out the blower unless they heard the sound. I told them I could not afford to take off any more time from work and I needed this kit repaired today. Jackson Racing said that they couldnít do anything for me and that I should keep driving it until it starts making all kinds of noises and stops working. Then I should bring it in for repair. I told them I wasnít about to go home only to have the same problem arise tomorrow or the next day and then have to take another day off from work and drive back to Westminster to have it inspected again. At this point, I was absolutely furious with both Jackson Racing and Moss Motors. I told them to rip off the damn supercharger and put the car back to stock. So, after about 5 hours Jackson Racing finished and charged me $625 for removing the supercharger kit! I asked, "why so much?" They said they charge the same for removal as they do for installation. I told them I only paid $525 for the installation. I made them look it up in the computer and then they said they would only charge me $525. They charge $525 for the installation but that includes dyno runs. Why should I be charged the same amount with no dyno time? Since I was caught between a rock and a hard place, I had no choice but to pay the $525.

After having the supercharger removed, I sent it back to Moss Motors who in turn sent the blower to Magnuson for repair. At this point, I was no longer dealing with Keith at Moss Motors. I moved on to his supervisor, Mike. Mike seemed like a good guy at first and acted as if he was going to do his best to resolve the situation. After three weeks of leaving messages with Mike and not having my telephone calls returned, I finally caught him in the office. Mike told me that he couldnít be bothered and he was very busy. He had Keith call me and finalize the details. I asked Keith what Magnuson had found out about my blower. He said Magnuson found the front seal to be bad and that the bearings had become unseated. Magnuson was nice enough to repair the blower at no charge. The entire time Keith, Mike, and everybody at Jackson Racing insisted that there was nothing wrong with the bearings and that they have never had a leaky blower. They insisted the noise I was hearing was a result of something else. Mike tried to tell me that it must have been one of the other modifications on my car. All this time I was right and nobody at Jackson Racing or Moss Motors wanted to believe me or stand behind the product they sold to me. After having the supercharger repaired to working order, I promptly sold it. Good riddance. The longer I had the supercharger on my car the more I regretted it. The constant belt tightening, bogging, and an ever-constant battle with detonation was getting on my nerves. Not to mention, the car really wasnít all that fast especially when compared to turbocharged civics or hybrids.

I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you about my experience with the Jackson Racing supercharger over the past year. The Jackson Racing supercharger is NOT maintenance free, despite what their ads claim. In one yearís time, I had to tighten the belts on three different occasions and after only one year and less than 10,000 miles the pulleys were worn out and needed replacement. As many of you know, I had detonation (pinging and knocking) problems when I first had the kit installed. Installing the JR fuel pump solved most of the detonation. However, the fuel pump cost me five horsepower on the dyno (Yes, I have the dyno charts to prove it).

Another problem with the Jackson Racing supercharger is that the fuel pressure is too high. At 18 in/hg, I saw about 42 psi of fuel pressure. At 0 in/hg I saw 62 psi of fuel pressure and at full boost/wide open throttle (WOT) I saw 85 psi of fuel pressure! Keep in mind; the correct fuel pressure on a Honda Civic should be between 28-46 psi. Excessive fuel pressures can lead to fuel injector failure. Operating at nearly twice the maximum fuel pressure is a recipe for disaster.

Another problem is that I was getting detonation at throttle tip in and WOT. I purchased a J&S knock sensor, which solved the remainder of the detonation but not without costing me additional horsepower. The JR fuel regulator cannot supply enough fuel at throttle tip in when boost goes from vacuum to 3-4 psi almost instantly. The fuel delivery with the Jackson Racing kit is a constant problem. The Jackson Racing fuel pressure regulator is insufficient in supplying enough fuel at throttle tip in and supplies too much fuel at WOT. My air/fuel meter reads full rich (11.0:1) at WOT. This improper fuel delivery leads to detonation during partial throttle conditions and decreased performance at WOT due to an over rich mixture. Perhaps JR specifically setup the fuel parameters to run rich at WOT to use fuel to help cool the charge because you cannot connect an intercooler to cool the charge?

Another issue that needs addressing is the lack of an intercooler or even the ability to connect an intercooler to the Jackson Racing kit makes it difficult to raise boost levels beyond 9-10 psi. 10 psi is the point of diminishing return on the M45 blowers. The heat rise charts are available at http://www.eaton.com/supercharger/M45.html. Raising the boost level on the supercharger is not an easy task. You have to remove the supercharger/intake manifold from the car to install the smaller diameter blower pulley. This task will take about 6 hours for a competent mechanic to finish. This is quite different from raising the boost with a turbocharger. With a turbocharger, raising the boost level is simply a matter of turning a knob. Many people have decided to raise the boost level on their Jackson Racing superchargers despite these facts. This often results in dyno graphs that look like this. Note how this dyno is filled with detonation (spikiness) all over the entire 8-psi graph. (This dyno graph was measured on Jackson Racingís Dynojet 248E Dynamometer.) Engines that experience this much detonation arenít long for this world. Others have invested thousands of dollars in replacement regulators, injectors, electronic fuel controllers, piggyback devices, ignition retard boxes, knock sensors, water injection, and high output fuel pumps in order to help alleviate this detonation.

Many people who have pushed the envelope to 10-12 psi have found HUGE increases in temperature rise and SMALL horsepower gains. The increase in temperature eliminates the horsepower caused by the increased boost and increases the chances of detonation. Not to mention spinning the supercharger at excessive speeds will lead to overspin and may lead to premature blower failure. Despite the high dollar investment, many people still find themselves rebuilding the motor in just a few months. If the same amount of money had been spent on a turbo kit, it would be faster, less prone to detonation, and easier to upgrade than the Jackson Racing supercharger. Itís funny how many people who have Jackson Racing superchargers on their cars decide to go turbo. I have never met anyone who had a turbocharged Honda and then decided to put a Jackson Racing supercharger on it. Remember, all of the worldís fastest Hondas utilize a turbocharger and not a supercharger.

Another issue that needs addressing concerns parasitic drag on the motor caused by the supercharger. When I first had the supercharger removed and drove around in stock form, I was amazed how well the car got out of the hole. The low rpm response was very impressive compared to the response when I had the supercharger installed. I wasnít sure if the increased low-end response was because my ignition timing was no longer retarded or because there was no more drag on the motor from the supercharger. I assumed it was probably a little of both. However, recently I discovered that Jackson Racing had set my timing incorrectly, when they put the car back to stock. All this time I was driving around at 8 BTDC. The mechanics at Jackson Racing didnít set the timing properly. Despite the fact that when I picked up my car I asked them if they properly reset the timing and they said they did. The increased low-end response is because there is no parasitic drag on the engine from the supercharger. I guess we know who wins the turbo lag vs. parasitic drag argument.

I was somewhat disappointed with the power of my car after I had my supercharger kit installed. All of the magazines and the Jackson Racing website had reported higher horsepower and torque numbers. When I first had the supercharger kit installed, I expressed my disappointment to Jackson Racing. I thought perhaps my header was a poor design and contemplated other factors that could be costing me the additional 4-7 expected horsepower. Jackson Racing proceeded to show me all of the dyno graphs they had on record. Not one car on file had horsepower numbers similar to those reported in the magazines. I later learned the cars that the magazines received from Moss Motors were secretly running high-octane racing fuel and had advanced ignition timing to increase the output of the kit. This is why nobody gets the amount of horsepower reported in the magazines and on the Jackson Racing website. The performance numbers that were reported in the magazines are fraudulent and do not accurately represent the power of the kit set up to the manufacturer's specification.

Some of you may remember the cover story of the October 1999 issue of HYBRID. It was entitled "Two paths to the darkside." It featured my supercharged civic and Greg Samarooís turbocharged civic. My supercharged civic never eclipsed the 140 whp mark and had nothing but trouble while Gregís turbo civic is pushing over 400 HP and runs 11ís all day. It is obvious which path to the darkside is the right path.

I believe that my problem with the supercharger leaking caster bean oil through the seals is an isolated incident. I doubt few people if any will have the same problem I did. The situation should have been handled with quick and courteous service. Instead, I received nothing but grief and heartache from both Jackson Racing and Moss Motors.

Please think long and hard before you decide to purchase a Jackson Racing supercharger kit.


Editor's Link: FAQ Topic #3 - "John, why do you hate the JRSC so much?"