How to Expand Data-Capturing Parameters for Early OBD II Diesels
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.
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.
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.
Banks PowerAzusa, CA 91702