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N546RV

Heel & toe, or maybe brake weirdness. Especially interested in input from E9X drivers.

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This is going to be kind of long, but it's a nagging problem that I want to solve. The quick summary is that I'm consistently unable to heel-toe in my car on-track, and I'm unsure if it's something inherent about the car, or a problem with me, or if something is up with my brakes.

Background: I've been DDing manual cars for about two decades now. I taught myself a street version of heel-toe some time ago, and it's served me well over the years. The technique I learned is what I've more commonly seen called "toe-toe." Basically, I put the ball of my foot on the brake pedal, and the outstep (not sure if that's the right term but oh well) of my foot overlaps the edge of the throttle. Under street-driving braking, in every car I've driven, this puts my foot in a great position to pivot around the ball a bit and blip the throttle for downshifts.

After a few track events, as I started to actually really use the brakes, this technique became problematic. Going deeper on the brakes meant that having my outstep overlap the throttle was problematic; there were more than a few occasions when I'd inadvertently add throttle while braking heavily. At that time I tried modifying the technique by trying to keep my outstep higher (ie pulling my knee to the left), but it was never high enough to eliminate the problem.

So I ended up developing a new technique for the track. Whereas normally I have my heel on or close to the floor, the "new way" was to put my foot higher on the brake pedal - say, with the top edge of the pedal kind of at the bottom of the ball of my foot. If I did this, and sort of pointed my foot out as I was braking, I could pivot it around the ball and catch the gas with my outstep. I never got super comfortable with it, but felt I was at least somewhat confident with it.

Lately, though, even that technique doesn't seem to be working for me. What I feel like is that the brake pedal is going deeper than before, such that even with this "pointy-foot" method, I can't easily get my foot over to blip the throttle.

When I mentioned this to a friend a year or two ago, he suggested adding some sort of pad or spacer to the brake pedal to improve the relative position of the pedals. I thought it seemed like a decent idea at the time, and still kind of do, but I worry about my perception that the pedal is getting softer and/or going deeper. That is, I don't want to mask a mechanical issue with something like this.

This concern is kind of highlighted by what seems like a consensus from other E9X drivers that the brake pedal is too high for heel-toe except under heavy braking conditions. This may just be due to different techniques - maybe these people are trying to do a traditional heel-toe and not my toe-toe thing - but it's still enough to concern me.

So that brings me to the first set of questions, specifically aimed at anyone else here who drives or has driven an E9X (only ones I can think of offhand are @dbyrd¬†and @SchadenFredūüėě Do/did you have trouble heel-toeing in your car? Do you feel that the brake pedal ends up significantly lower than the throttle under heavy braking?

Next are some tech questions regarding the possibly abnormal soft pedal: any thoughts on what might cause this? I regularly (every ~6 months) flush the system, and I use RBF600. Flushing is done with a pressure bleeder, and I even did a manual bleeding before going to Cresson last month, on the off chance it would change something (it didn't). Soft lines were replaced with braided steel lines a couple years ago. Brakes are otherwise stock, and I run cool carbon S/T plus pads (other than one weekend with the free EBC Yellowstuff pads I got off @SchadenFred).

To be clear, I've never felt the car was not stopping like it should, just that the pedal position was further down than where I think it ought to be under heavy braking.

Finally, assuming the conclusion here is that there's no mechanical issue, and that this is normal pedal positioning - any recommendations on pedal changes to make to accommodate heel-toe better? I know I've seen pedal sets with a wider gas pedal, but I don't think I've seen anything like the sort of spacer thing my friend suggested for the brake pedal. I guess I could always fab something up, but this isn't exactly an area where I want to half-ass anything.

Any thoughts are welcome. This is something that's been bothering me since last fall, and my continued efforts to find a technique to work around it have failed, and I'd like to fix the problem for real. I feel like it's a glaring hole on my driving skill repertoire.

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In most cars you need to rotate your foot more (hence the heel-toe name) so that you're using your toes/ball of your foot on the brake and the outer edge/heel on the gas:

Image result for heel-toe

Image result for heel-toe

The farther apart the pedals, the more you have to rotate your leg/foot.

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I'm in the same boat.  After over 2 decades of driving manual cars, and a few years worth of track days I'm still hopeless at heel&toe.  I get it just right now and then, but like you I often wind up adding throttle at inopportune moments.  Generally I often clutch drag a bit as I'm braking to minimize chassis upset.  Not ideal I realize.

At this point in my life I'm not sure I will perfect it nor care that much to. I'm all for cheating it with an auto-blip device (auto-blip.com) that does the work for me, so I can focus on the rest.  Some new cars have this already baked in.  But then I'm also ok with a sequential gear box that completely takes the manual clutch out of the equation.  If it's more efficient, helps the car accelerate with less waste, and decelerate smoothly - thereby helping improve ultimate lap time capability, I'm all for it.

Auto blipper is on my short shopping list...

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Well first you need to have your brake pedal about level with your gas pedal when you are at max braking. This is when you should be shifting anyways. 

Second you may need to accomplish this with spacers/covers. They should in no way change pedal feel as they should be very rigidly mounted. 

Lastly. my pedals are closer, so I much prefer using the side of my foot to hit the gas and I "rotate" it off the side of the brake pedal. 

 

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Grabbed some photos when I got home.

Here are the pedals at rest. Brake pedal is maybe an inch or so "above" the gas.

h4MIdmF.jpg

And here I am applying firm but not ridiculous pressure to the brake pedal (at this point my SO might chime in and and remind me that I am a massive brute who doesn't know his own strength, but I digress):

SbWMV7r.jpg

At this point the gas pedal is almost even with my ankle bone if I hold my foot in what seems like a natural position to me. If I point my foot like a ballerina I can kind of roll over and hit the gas with the side of my foot but it's super awkward.

One thing I noticed while playing with this tonight: If I pump the pedal, it firms up and only goes an inch or two below the gas, and if I hold it there, it'll slowly soften up and sink down. Since I'd bled the system repeatedly, I kinda wonder if there's an issue with my master cylinder leaking internally.

Edit: Spoke to a friend who's a Germanaphile or whatever, he also thinks that it may be the master. Probably going to just go ahead and replace it and see if that helps.

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2 hours ago, N546RV said:

And here I am applying firm but not ridiculous pressure to the brake pedal (at this point my SO might chime in and and remind me that I am a massive brute who doesn't know his own strength, but I digress):

 

One thing I noticed while playing with this tonight: If I pump the pedal, it firms up and only goes an inch or two below the gas, and if I hold it there, it'll slowly soften up and sink down. Since I'd bled the system repeatedly, I kinda wonder if there's an issue with my master cylinder leaking internally.

Edit: Spoke to a friend who's a Germanaphile or whatever, he also thinks that it may be the master. Probably going to just go ahead and replace it and see if that helps.

Yeah that seems overly deep. Like when you have 5% pads and a line full of air kind of deep. 

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But also some aftermarket pedal mods are in order. Some use just extenders, others are a gauged and decent thickness throttle plate to bridge the gap.

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The brake pads that came with my E90 M3 must of been super thick because the brake pedal barely moved at all. I got nowhere near the gas pedal. I changed out the pads and now the h/t is much easier. I use the side of the foot btw. 

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10 hours ago, Hollywood said:

But also some aftermarket pedal mods are in order. Some use just extenders, others are a gauged and decent thickness throttle plate to bridge the gap.

I'll probably look into that at some point in the near future. I went ahead and ordered a new master last night, should be here in time to install it this weekend and see how that changes things. From there I can evaluate possible pedal improvements.

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Are these pics taken with the car running? If so is your vacuum line hooked up correctly etc?

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I never had an issue with my E36 or E46 M3.  The issue I had with my E90 M3 was that the brake and accelerator pedals were too far apart.  Never worried about the E90 since I didn't track it.

I found my track cars had the brake pedal just slightly over the height of the accelerator at around 50% pressure applied to the brakes.  It was perfect for heel/toe using just the ball of my feet.  I could pop my leg to the right and hit the accelerator perfectly.  I did have an aftermarket clutch so perhaps that played into it being aligned well for me when heel/toeing.  The E36 had an M5 clutch installed and the E46 had a Clutchmasters FX300 installed iirc.

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I can't imagine you having much brake feel with any part of your foot that isn't the ball. The braking is clearly the most important step at this moment, and so should be the focus. American cars, and new cars in general seem to have pedals that make it difficult to heel and toe. I've heard rumors that the gas pedal is shorter due to incidents were it gets caught on the floor mat - certainly seems that all new cars have a short gas pedal (although not really an issue with the bmw style pedal). My old S15 Silvia, 350Z, and bug eye WRX had awesome stock pedal positions, but the mustang and the challenger were woeful. I've installed longer and wider gas pedals for both of them. For the Mustang, I had to also lift the gas pedal 3/4 inch up.

When it comes to the heel toe technique, I tend to use the side of my foot as I roll it over on to the gas pedal. This allows you to kind of just pivot your foot, rather than move your whole knee and leg to lift your heel on to the gas pedal.  Pictures below of before/after of my mustang pedals. I should do a pedal cam one day

2016-08-27_15_08_35.jpg

2016-08-27 15.09.04.jpg

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1 hour ago, RobElliot said:

When it comes to the heel toe technique, I tend to use the side of my foot as I roll it over on to the gas pedal. This allows you to kind of just pivot your foot, rather than move your whole knee and leg to lift your heel on to the gas pedal.

This is the technique I like as well, and hopefully I can find a way to be able to use it on-track by the time I'm done. I feel like I have better control overall; in particular, if I'm not rotating my foot it feels a lot easier to kind of maintain the feeling of pressure between my foot and the brake pedal, and thus not change the brake input as I blip the throttle.

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1 hour ago, N546RV said:

This is the technique I like as well, and hopefully I can find a way to be able to use it on-track by the time I'm done. I feel like I have better control overall; in particular, if I'm not rotating my foot it feels a lot easier to kind of maintain the feeling of pressure between my foot and the brake pedal, and thus not change the brake input as I blip the throttle.

After re-reading my post, I've explained it poorly. The ball of my foot is still completely on the brake pedal. I rotate/pivot my foot around the ball, and still hit the throttle with my heel, but the side of my heel. So, still rotate the foot, but don't lift my knee or leg 

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I never had problems with heel toeing in my 335i.  Every shift was perfectly rev matched, every time.

Oh yeah...mine was an automatic.

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Not abnormal to struggle with pedal height from one car to the next. I do as well with the WRL car I drive with, similar deal as you looking at pictures. I'll try to get pics tomorrow.

How I deal with it is not having the heel sitting down on the floor when I go to brake. I modulate brake with the ball of my foot. Only things touching anything are my left foot on the floor for bracing and my right ball of foot/big tor area) giving a good initial punch on the pedal. On the way down pushing the brake pedal the outside of the foot just snags the throttle and applies my blip. After this I roll pressure back to the ball of the foot. As the brake comes up (I trail brake to some extent on every turn) I slide it over to the throttle when they're at the same height on my way back up.

Much simpler in my spec miata.  Just keep heel on the floor, brake with ball of foot, blip with outside, and pivot on heel when it's time to go to throttle. Main difference is that I can keep my right heel on the floor the whole time because the difference in brake.and throttle height isnt stupid

Tl;dr- dont rest your right heel on the floor during the braking movement so that you can rotate the outside of your foot to blip the throttle as the brake pedal goes down 

 

Tl;dr2- what rob said

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Stop making sense.  It's messes up my imagined reality.

I don't have huge feet (11-12 ish depending on shoe) but they always feel like I'm wearing size 24 clown shoes  when I'm trying to use them in the confines of the pedal box

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9 hours ago, KevinDB said:

Stop making sense.  It's messes up my imagined reality.

I don't have huge feet (11-12 ish depending on shoe) but they always feel like I'm wearing size 24 clown shoes  when I'm trying to use them in the confines of the pedal box

I've sort of had the opposite problem. I got really used to my "street heel-toe" using bulkier tennis shoes and whatnot, and when I first got on-track wearing super thin shoes I had to get used to not having all that extra sole to make my foot wider.

I'm really hoping the new master cylinder forms up the brakes and makes my life easier. I doubt it's going to solve all my problems, but not having a super soft pedal ought to help, maybe at lest I can get back the semi-competent technique I had going on a year ago.

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here's a weird one that also contributes...I'm 5'11"...pretty normal height right?  But when I get a good position with the steering wheel, my legs are a bit confined, so when I'm trying to do cool things with the pedals, knees are banging into things.  I need adjustable pedals I guess?  

I'm going to keep blaming it on body issues, yeah thats it.  Really, I know the main issue is getting my brain/foot coordination properly trained, which requires repeated concerted effort with the intent of getting it down.  I have been rather halfassed about it over the years. I'm generally naturally good/decent at things, sports, coordination, whatever, so if I have to work harder to learn it...I don't wanna.

 

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1 hour ago, KevinDB said:

here's a weird one that also contributes...I'm 5'11"...pretty normal height right?  But when I get a good position with the steering wheel, my legs are a bit confined, so when I'm trying to do cool things with the pedals, knees are banging into things.  I need adjustable pedals I guess?  

I'm going to keep blaming it on body issues, yeah thats it.  Really, I know the main issue is getting my brain/foot coordination properly trained, which requires repeated concerted effort with the intent of getting it down.  I have been rather halfassed about it over the years. I'm generally naturally good/decent at things, sports, coordination, whatever, so if I have to work harder to learn it...I don't wanna.

 

Sit more upright? Or I expect your wheel should telescope?

The first thing I adjust when I get into a new car - seat as low as it can go, and steering wheel telescoped all the way out. My latest seat in the mustang is so fricken tall I had to recline it a little more than I liked, but have a deep-ish dish steering wheel to have everything where I want it to be

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9 minutes ago, RobElliot said:

Sit more upright? Or I expect your wheel should telescope?

The first thing I adjust when I get into a new car - seat as low as it can go, and steering wheel telescoped all the way out. My latest seat in the mustang is so fricken tall I had to recline it a little more than I liked, but have a deep-ish dish steering wheel to have everything where I want it to be

Yep, telescoping wheel, all the way out, seat low as it can go.  I do have to recline the seat a bit back because of stupid Camaro cave interior has minimal ceiling clearance with a helmet on. However my ratio is a bit more leg than torso, which leads to the weird position in any car I've driven.  Never quite get the position I want with pedals and steering wheel.  I sacrifice one of them, which is always pedals. I should probably get an adjustable pedal box in the future, as I take the car more track only which is the goal (questionable wisdom of such a goal notwithstanding haha).  Will also get proper seats/harness/half cage in the very near future, the seat will be quite a bit lower than OEM, so I'll have a little more freedom there. 

T-rex arm issues

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2 hours ago, KevinDB said:

Yep, telescoping wheel, all the way out, seat low as it can go.  I do have to recline the seat a bit back because of stupid Camaro cave interior has minimal ceiling clearance with a helmet on. However my ratio is a bit more leg than torso, which leads to the weird position in any car I've driven.  Never quite get the position I want with pedals and steering wheel.  I sacrifice one of them, which is always pedals. I should probably get an adjustable pedal box in the future, as I take the car more track only which is the goal (questionable wisdom of such a goal notwithstanding haha).  Will also get proper seats/harness/half cage in the very near future, the seat will be quite a bit lower than OEM, so I'll have a little more freedom there. 

T-rex arm issues

I thought Camaro's just threw an endless supply of boat anchors out of the window to slow down??¬†ūü§ó

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3 hours ago, jared said:

I thought Camaro's just threw an endless supply of boat anchors out of the window to slow down??¬†ūü§ó

If they kept throwing them out then they'd weigh less, that's why it's just one that they reuse.

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