Dec 312013

The Arduino Pro comes with a bootloader installed, meaning it is plug and play ready to work with the Arduino environment. All you need is a way to hook it up to upload new firmware.

The Pro is a stripped down version of the Arduino UNO. One of the stripped parts is the USB to serial programming interface. Programming the Pro requires either an ISP programmer or a USB to serial translator.

The Pro brings out the standard green to black FTDI cable programming header and Sparkfun recommends their FTDI programming cable (5V) for a plug and play experience. That is all well and good but a FTDI cable is pushing a cost of $20 USD (Sparkfun’s 5V and Adafruits 3.3V). You can buy FTDI breakout boards with the same pinout for a little less, around $15 USD (Sparkfun, Adafruit). That’s better than $20 but still more than twice the cost of other options.

If you are willing to wait for the shipping from China (or you order ahead) you can get a FTDI breakout for less than half the price of the Sparkfun or Adafruit breakouts. The iTeadStudio FOCA breakout has a couple of nice features over the Sparkfun and Adafruit breakouts, and one glaring hassle. First the good, the FOCA interfaces with either 5V or 3.3V systems with the flick of a switch. The FOCA also has an XBEE footprint allowing it to be used as a USB to XBEE interface (compare to Sparkfun’s USB to XBEE board at $25). All in all a pretty nice package for $6.50 USD (as of Dec 2013).

iTeadStudio FOCA

iTeadStudio FOCA

Now for the hassle part. The pinout of the FOCA is NOT a direct crossover to the “standard” green to black programming pinout on Sparfun’s and Adafruit’s FTDI cables, and of course the pinout on the Arduino Pro.

The pinout on the Pro is green to black being reset/dtr, TX, RX, power, cts, gnd.

Sparkfun Arduino Pro

Sparkfun Arduino Pro

The pinout on the FOCA is power, TX, RX, gnd, dtr/reset. Not a straight across plug and play.

FOCA Pinout

FOCA Pinout

Fortunately for half the price it is pretty easy to make an adapter cable. I happened to have a 6 pin to 6 pin inline cable with crimped on connectors which made it easy to move the pins around.

The pins are held in place by little plastic fingers that can be easily lifted back with the tip of an Xacto knife or dental pick, allowing each pin to be slid out of the connector and moved to a different position.


A quick shuffling of both ends of the connector, to move green to one end and black to the other end on the Pro side, and to line up power, gnd, TX, RX, and reset on the FOCA side and wa-la, a FTDI programmer for under $7.50.


Dec 292013

I picked up an Arduino Pro from Sparkfun during their cyber monday sale. The Pro is a stripped down version of an Arduino UNO for about half to a third the price. It is missing quite a few features so if you are just starting out a standard Arduino is probably a safer bet. If Arduinos are old hat the price point is pretty attractive, I picked mine up for just under $9 USD.

The Sparkfun Pro has a round footprint in the middle of the board that turns out to be meant for installation of a buzzer, specifically the Sparkfun 12mm Buzzer. This little buzzer drops right onto the board, but other than a comment from Sparkfunion Robert there is no documentation on how to mount or use the buzzer.

It turns out the Buzzer recommended is really a tiny speaker. A mag coil driving a tiny disk. The two pins connected to the mounting holes connect to the Arduino digital pins 4 and 5. It doesn’t seem to matter which direction you mount the buzzer. I happened to mount the buzzer with the words arbitrarily “up”, which resulted in the “+” side of the buzzer “down”. Down being connected to D4 and Up connected to D5.

Sparkfun Arduino Pro

Sparkfun Arduino Pro

Driving the buzzer is relatively simple, you just set one of the pins, D4 or D5, to an output, pinMode(4,OUTPUT) or pinMode(5,OUTPUT), and drive the other pin, 4 or 5, with a changing signal. The recommended buzzer is basically a speaker and so the input needs to be modulated to generate a sound.

The simplest code to generate a 1 second, 1 KHz tone is:

void setup()
tone(4, 1000, 1000);
void loop()

The built in Arduino example toneMelody can be easily modified to play out the buzzer.

First open the toneMelody example:

Arduino toneMelody

Arduino toneMelody

Modify the bolded lines and upload the sketch to the Pro:


#include "pitches.h"

// notes in the melody:
int melody[] = {

// note durations: 4 = quarter note, 8 = eighth note, etc.:
int noteDurations[] = {
4, 8, 8, 4,4,4,4,4 };

void setup() {

pinMode(5,OUTPUT); // set the "other" buzzer pin to an output

// iterate over the notes of the melody:
for (int thisNote = 0; thisNote < 8; thisNote++) { // to calculate the note duration, take one second // divided by the note type. //e.g. quarter note = 1000 / 4, eighth note = 1000/8, etc. int noteDuration = 1000/noteDurations[thisNote]; tone(4, melody[thisNote],noteDuration); // output the tone on the "+" pin

// to distinguish the notes, set a minimum time between them.
// the note's duration + 30% seems to work well:
int pauseBetweenNotes = noteDuration * 1.30;
// stop the tone playing:

noTone(4); // turn off the tone

void loop() {
// no need to repeat the melody.


The Arduino Pro buzzer playing the toneMelody example sounds like this:

Dec 122013

It turns out somewhere along the way Ford changed the head design on the Triton and changed the way the spark plugs seat in the head. This affects how the insert tools cut, or don’t cut, the seats for the insert.

You can read the Timesert paper on the issue here here

I posted a video of my heads here

According to Timesert the problem heads have the casting mark with a 1L2E in the casting number.



The problem heads have a step which prevents the seat cutting tool from registering properly in some insert kits.


The casting mark on the heads of my truck look like this

FordF250EngineCasting 009inv

I blew up the image and inverted the color so I could see the numbers better. No 1L2E on my heads. Looking down the spark plug hole with a bore scope on a fresh, uncut spark plug well shows a smooth sloped transition from the well wall to the spark plug hole.


It turns out the Timesert kit I purchased, the 5553, accommodates both head styles, but it’s nice to know what you’re working with before you start cutting.

Dec 102013

It’s been a while since I updated the status on putting inserts into my Ford Triton V10 aluminum engine head. Since my last post in this series I’ve installed inserts in all 10 cylinders, created a series of videos on the process, and driven a couple hundred miles on the newly inserted heads. All in all the process was relatively pain free, no major FUBARS, and the truck seems to be running great. We’ll see when I put a heavy load on the engine or get a few thousand miles, but so far all seems well.

I’ve uploaded the videos of the process to Youtube and linked them here.

F250 Triton Timesert spark plug blowout repair Youtube playlist

Dec 102013

Here are the images of the inside of the cylinders at different stages of tapping and cleaning.

With the valves open and the original spark plug seats and threads:

In these first two images you can see the edge of the valves. Hitting one of these with the cutter would be catastrophic and require a head removal and valve replacement.



Here are a couple pictures of the original spark plug threads. You see the wells are only threaded part way.



Here are some pictures of the tapped spark plug holes cleaned and waiting for the inserts:





Here are some images of the tap cuttings down in the cylinders. These all need to be cleaned out 100% before installing the inserts. The tapped holes are quite a bit bigger than the inserted spark plug holes so it’s best to get the chips out while you have more room to insert a blower or a vacuuming hose.






Here are some pictures after cleaning, blowing and vacuuming the cylinders:





In the following images you can see the insert after it is installed, seated, set, and loctited in place. You can see the new bevel for the spark plug seat in the center of the insert. The first two images show I used a bit too much loctite on this cylinder. I cleaned up the excess loctite and let the heads sit for a few days after installing the inserts and before putting in the new sparkplugs. The last two images are how each hole looked after I installed a new insert.