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 |   |   |  Project BMW M3 Part 18: New Gauges
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Project BMW M3 Part 18: New Gauges

Pablo Mazlumian
May 5, 2003

I love the peace of mind that comes from the gauges monitoring so many different systems on my M3. When all the dials are registering acceptable temperatures or pressures, my paranoia while driving the car all out is very much reduced.

The AutoMeter gauges installed for last month's project article have done a fine job, their affordability a particular attraction. But one of the "themes" I've tried to follow with Project M3 is being inconspicuous, and the A-pillar twin gauge pod was a bit too obvious for me. I think it's a cool look, but it just didn't fit my plans.

I couldn't just rip out the boost and water temp gauges, however; they're far too important. It was crucial to see that information along with the data from the other three gauges--air intake charge, oil temp and oil pressure--on the center console. To the rescue came Al Hafner of BMP Design, who turned me on to SPA Technique's dual gauge setups.

Based in Indianapolis, SPA Technique carries a variety of high-end equipment and accessories for the serious auto enthusiast or racer, including gauges, lap timers, fire suppression systems, steering wheels and wheel quick releases, silicon hoses, race car mirrors and even shock absorber dynamometers that cost anywhere from 10 to 25 grand.

When I was first told about the SPA gauges, I was a little skeptical. Two gauges in one? How could I keep track of two sweeping needles in one gauge? And then I saw them. The gauges not only feature digital readouts, they have programmable warning lights and read from state-of-the-art sensors. I had to give them a try.

I ordered boost/EGT, water temp/oil temp and fuel pressure/oil pressure gauges. Each gauge has several features operated by the touch of one button. For example, each gauge has a peak value recall with memory, which can be reset. Color and brightness levels can be adjusted, along with unit preferences (i.e., Fahrenheit vs. Celsius or psi vs. bar) and whole number or decimal readings. There are custom-programmed alarm settings for low-pressure and high-temperature readings as well.

Again I was back at evosport, only a couple of months after the previous gauge installation, with new ones. "Um, would you guys like to undo all of that hard work you did last time and install six more gauges? Actually, it's only three...." To its credit, evosport didn't throw me out and agreed to continue offering countless hours of figuring out this and fabricating and installing this and that. This time around, it was up to evosport technician Josh Rickards to swap out the entire gauge setup for new ones.

Josh is an expert when it comes to gauge installations and is very detail oriented. He cleaned up the engine bay by using wire sleeves, and he tidied up the wiring mess under the steering column, the result of electrical tampering done by yours truly.

Don't kid yourself in thinking these gauges are easy installations, at least in the E36 BMW. Some custom work will be needed. Project M3 spent three full days at evosport, and Josh had to custom make a bracket to fit the EGT module--known as the Thermocouple Adaptor Box--so it wouldn't vibrate under high-performance conditions. For the boost gauge, the instructions said to tap into the piping after the intercooler. However, Josh felt the most accurate way to measure boost going into the motor was by reading it from the intake manifold. To do this, the intake manifold was drilled and tapped. The boost gauge reads to the nearest tenth or in whole numbers; it's up to you. Keep in mind there's a drop in boost pressure from the air leaving the compressor to the air going into the engine because of the twists and turns the air takes, specifically when passing through the intercooler. This means the turbo is working a little harder than what is monitored--10 psi of air going into the motor means the compressor itself is pumping out more than that--probably a couple more psi of boost.

For the water temp gauge, I had to go out and get Josh a double-male fitting, threaded 14x1.5mm. He then cut the pipe thread portion of it, drilled it out and threaded it to a 1/8-in. NPT (National Pipe Thread) so it fit the coolant temperature probe provided by SPA. The probe went in place of the factory probe on the cylinder head so the function of the factory water temperature gauge was lost. It's okay--I prefer this because now I've got a very accurate reading to the nearest tenth of a degree in Fahrenheit or Celsius. The oil temperature gauge was tapped and drilled into the oil drain plug.

The only gauges not working are fuel and oil pressure, which happen to be on the same unit. I accidentally ordered a fuel pressure/oil temp gauge instead of the desired fuel pressure/oil pressure gauge, which meant I ordered two oil temp gauges. When I receive the correct unit, Josh Rickards foresees tapping into the fuel feed line beneath the car and using compression fittings with a "T" for the fuel pressure gauge. He will also be making a custom bracket to mount the fuel pressure module as he did for the EGT. The oil pressure gauge will have a T-fitting on the oil filter housing.

If by now you're as lost as I initially was, it may be a good idea to find a competent mechanic to install the gauges. In the end, you might well spend over a grand for the three (really, six) gauges and installation, but it won't hurt so much when you see how well they work.

SPA Technique dual gauges are sold in a variety of gauge and color combinations. For instance, if you're already using a twin-gauge pod on your car's A-pillar, you'll be able to monitor four gauges at once without losing the sunglass holder. Or you can do as I did and go the "sleeper" route, monitoring six different gauges from the center console and keeping the Q-ship look.

There was one AutoMeter gauge I decided to keep, the two-channel air intake charge temperature gauge. I like knowing the air temp going into the intercooler and intake manifold, as well as seeing the effectiveness of the intercooler and water injection. It's something I will only monitor periodically, so I think the gauge will go in the glovebox next to the boost controller and turbo timer.

BMP Design
(800) 648-7278

evosport inc.
(714) 731-6040
Order: (888) 520-9971

Spa Technique Inc.
(317) 271-7941
Fax: (317) 271 7951

By Pablo Mazlumian
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