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Installing A Wideband Data-Logger In A Ford Mustang - Power Hangs In The Balance
Getting the air/fuel mixture just right can be tricky, except when you use a wide-band O2 sensor with data-logging capabilities like this one from Innovate Motorsports.
The horsepower war rages on the street and the track these days, and fuel injection has given a new meaning to streetable power. Every hot-rodder is pushing the envelope, but doing so without knowing what's going on in your engine is, well, just stupid. People spend all kinds of money on high-performance parts and gauges to "monitor" the engine, yet what may be the most important aspect of engine operation-the air/fuel ratio-is often neglected.
Keeping an eye on the all-important chemical mixture inside your engine can be the difference between making power and making the pistons pop out the sides of the block. Lean conditions and detonation conspire to kill engine-block components with great skill, but overly rich conditions can be just as hazardous. Too much fuel can reduce power and even ruin piston rings, as the fuel can wash away the thin barrier of oil between the piston ring and the cylinder wall, losing compression in the process.
With the popularity of chassis dynamometers ever increasing, optional wide-band air/fuel meters provide a great way to optimize a tune-up, whether its through jets and spark plugs, or air, fuel, and spark tables within tuning software. Dyno time can be hard to come by, though, and it's expensive if you frequently tweak your tune-up or just like to take your time with it. Many dynamometers cannot provide real-world street driving dynamics either, so if you're tuning your combination from scratch, it's harder to tune for driveability.
Aftermarket wide-band oxygen sensors have been available for some time now, and one of the leaders in wide-band tuning is Irvine, California-based Innovate Motorsports. The company's LM-1 wide-band meter led the way and evolved into a modular tuning system that includes stand-alone gauges, oxygen sensors, data loggers, and much more. Innovate also has great technical support for its products using its Web forum, dealers, installers, and end users.
For this test, we procured a supercharged, '04 Two-Valve Mustang GT owned by John McGuire of Palm Coast, Florida. Ninety percent of the time, he uses this Pony for drag racing, and it puts down over 400 hp to the wheels. Maguire is also a customer of HP Performance in Orange Park, Florida, which is where tech Jason Combs handled the installation of Innovate's modular tuning system, which included the XD-16 stand-alone gauge kit and DL32 data logger.
The stand-alone gauge kit comes with the LC-1 wide-band controller, an XD-16 gauge, a Bosch five-wire wide-band 02 sensor, a bung/plug kit, a software CD, and a quick-start guide. According to Innovate, the LC-1 is more accurate than conventional designs, and its self-calibrating circuitry can compensate for changes in temperature, altitude, and sensor condition. The LC-1 is ideal for applications such as dynos, data acquisition, stand-alone ECUs, piggyback fuel controllers, OBD-II software or chip programmers, and gauges. The LC-1 Lambda cable is a complete wide-band controller built into a sealed cable and offers a digital input, output, and two user-programmable analog outputs.
While the LC-1 is reading the exhaust gases, the XD-16 tells you what's going on. The XD-16 ships as an air/fuel ratio gauge, but it can also be configured to display any channel in the modular tuning system chain, or it can be connected to the LM-1. The XD-16 features programmable LED colors and a remote-control button to start and stop log sessions, initiate calibrations, or view min/max values.
The XD-1 can be customized via a Web-based print, too. You can choose any unit of measurement, various fonts, upload a logo (or other graphic), and then print the high-resolution scaled image directly onto transparency paper. Use your included blank faces, overlay the clear cut-out, and you've got a custom gauge face.
Using the XD-16's serial ports, you can daisy-chain other Innovate devices such as the LC-1, the AuxBox (LMA-3), the DL-32, the TC-4, and the SSI-4. And speaking of the DL-32, Innovate sent us one of those to try out as well.
The DL-32 data logger and sensor controller is a complete vehicle-mounted data-logging system for advanced engine tuning, and is capable of reading input from all sorts of sensors, including rpm, MAP, temperature, duty cycle, and analog inputs. There are 32 channels of data recording and 17 minutes of recording per MB of the included SD flash memory card, along with a built-in one-bar to three-bar pressure sensor (MAP, vacuum, boost, and so on).
The majority of your time for installation will be dedicated to deciding where to mount and route the various pieces of the modular tuning system. We spent a couple of hours on the install and were up and data logging in no time.
Make sure you have your LC-1 oxygen sensor operating before you run your engine, otherwise the hot exhaust gases can damage it. Innovate also warns against using leaded gasoline, as the wide-band sensors were designed for unleaded. Using them with leaded gasoline significantly reduces the lifespan of the sensor. In most cases, a wide-band sensor provides accurate measurements somewhere between 50 and 500 hours with leaded fuel.
With that said, you'll have a lot of fun being more informed about what's going on in the combustion chambers, and the data-logging capability will help you nail down that tune-up every time.