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How to Expand Data-Capturing Parameters for Early OBD II Diesels

Data Plan

John Lehenbauer
Sep 19, 2018
Photographers: John Lehenbauer
Buying a used diesel truck can be a nerve-wracking endeavor. Months can be spent looking for a rig that has the right configuration of cab, bed, engine, and even suspension. And then, once the desired combination is found, the overall condition of the interior and exterior must be considered. The stress of finding a truck that meets your criteria—for a price you’re OK with—is almost impossible to bear sometimes.
Once you find the one, questions arise about unseen problems, whether the seller is totally forthcoming with information, and what should be done to the truck once you get it home.
There is no way to really know how well a vehicle is taken care of. So, even though you got what you were dreaming of at a price you can live with, there may be things you need to upgrade.
This is the exact scenario Jared Lehenbauer experienced in his hunt to replace his overworked, big-block-powered ¾-ton Chevrolet Suburban, which was used to tow a 30-foot toy-hauler trailer. The ’Burb did a decent job of moving the trailer when it wasn’t weighed down, but when Jared loaded the trailer with his ’72 Ford Bronco and supplies, the Chevy was at its limits. With a solid 10,000 pounds hitched to the back, it struggled to ascend the mountain passes that surround Jared’s Southern California home.
So, after spending what seemed like years looking for a truck to replace the old Suburban, Jared finally found an ’01 Ford F-250 Super Duty that suits his needs. It has a strong-running 7.3L Power Stroke engine, nice interior, and decent paintjob, and it gets reasonable fuel mileage. The major drawback is the truck is lifted with 37-inch tires (the previous owner used the truck more for show and cruising than anything else). The higher stance and oversized tires (with stock gearing) may look good, but it’s not the best choice for a truck that tows and does work on a regular basis. The increased drag and rolling resistance kill fuel economy, cause a loss of power, and put undue stress on the engine and drivetrain.
Photo 2/19   |   The dash and gauge cluster on an ’01 Ford F-250 is simple by new-truck standards. The only information the mechanical gauges provide in this vintage truck is fuel level, coolant temperature, voltage, oil pressure, rpm, and vehicle speed. Installing a Banks Power 5-inch iDash digital monitor provides valuable engine and drivetrain information.
Before addressing the effects of the lift and tires, Jared needs to remedy another concern that’s common for older tow vehicles: the lack of accurate instrumentation for monitoring engine and drivetrain activity. Stock gauges in the ’01 F-250 are limited to coolant temperature, voltage, oil pressure, fuel level, tachometer, and speedometer, which leaves many of the other functions and fluid temperatures unchecked. Aftermarket instruments also facilitate determining whether changes make things better…or worse.
Jared believes the truck needs an electronic data-monitoring system that pulls information from the ECM to help drivers or tuners evaluate how the truck’s powertrain is performing. Unfortunately, however, the 7.3L-powered ’01 Ford has an early OBD II system that does not support extensive data monitoring.
The Banks Power iDash 5-inch Digital Monitor is capable of providing 61 different bits of data for a Ford truck with a 7.3L. Using the OBD II port, it gathers and displays information such as boost pressure, transmission temperature, and fuel-flow rate in real time. The digital monitor not only displays details from the ECM, it can also present GPS-sourced values like speed, fuel economy, and elevation. The 5-inch touchscreen can be customized to present information in analog or digital format. The unit can also read and clear diagnostic trouble codes, which comes in handy.
One bit of important information the iDash cannot provide through the ECM on this model-year truck is exhaust gas temperature, which tells a lot about how an engine is performing and how changes affect it. We got lucky; the truck’s previous owner installed a Banks Power Six-Gun tuner that reads and displays EGT.
As Part 1 of a series of reports that chronicles the evolution of Jared’s new-to-him rig, we’re installing a 5-inch iDash in the F-250, configuring the unit to display engine-oil temperature, turbocharger boost, transmission-oil temperature, engine load, and average mpg. These are the vitals (in conjunction with the instrument cluster) we believe will give us a good overall picture of how the truck performs unloaded, loaded, and towing in its current form.
Extensive road testing will allow us to gather information in different scenarios (ambient temperature, road conditions, and such), which will be used to help determine future upgrades.
Photo 3/19   |   Banks Power IDash Digital Monitor Idash Unit
Photo 4/19   |   We start the installation by locating the OBD II port and plugging the corresponding iDash connector into it. However, there is a bit of a problem, as the aftermarket electronic trailer brake control is mounted too close to the port.
Photo 5/19   |   Since the brake controller is mounted to the lower dash panel and the iDash wiring is routed behind the panel, the panel is removed, making it easier to run the monitor’s wiring harness to the A-pillar area. Removing the panel from the end of the dash helps make the wiring work easier.
Photo 6/19   |   Banks Power IDash Digital Monitor Lower Dash Panel
Photo 7/19   |   With the brake controller out of the way, the OBD II plug is connected and wiring is routed along the bottom of the dash. The Network HUB is the junction between the OBD II port and the monitor. It also serves as an interface to accessories engineered to work the iDash.
Photo 8/19   |   Banks Power IDash Digital Monitor Dash Port Network Hub
Photo 9/19   |   The cord for the monitor is routed up through the dash along the A-pillar to the top of the dash in the approximate location the unit will be mounted.
Photo 10/19   |   Banks Power IDash Digital Monitor Dash Apillar Wire
With the wiring harness in place, we plug in the monitor and turn it on. After the system boots up, the correct firmware update is downloaded so the iDash can communicate with the ECM. We then select the style for our gauges and their position on the screen.
Photo 15/19   |   The mounting bracket is installed on the back of the iDash monitor before the suction cup is attached to the windshield. A cleaning wipe is included in the kit to make sure the surface is free of contaminants.
Photo 16/19   |   Banks Power IDash Digital Monitor Idash Mount Windshield Dash
Photo 17/19   |   Excess wiring is bundled with the network HUB before being zip-tied up underneath the dash.
Photo 18/19   |   With the iDash harness plugged into the OBD II port, reinstalling the lower dash panel requires moving the electric brake controller about ¼ inch to the left.
Photo 19/19   |   The information the iDash provides will help us determine exactly how the truck’s engine and drivetrain are performing when tugging 10,000 pounds of loaded trailer down the highway.


Banks Power
Azusa, CA 91702



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