In 2005/6 I converted my Land Rover 88" to a turbo diesel. This conversion increased my mileage from an average of about 16 mpg to about 27 mpg, and almost doubled the power, making the truck much more drivable both on and off road.
At that time I spent $450 at Mopac Auto Parts for a suite of AutoMeter gauges, which included a volt meter, boost gauge, oil pressure gauge, water temp gauge and a pyrometer (EGT). All of these gauges worked extremely well, except the pyro, which fluttered in fits and spats from the moment it was installed. I cannot fault either Mopac or AutoMeter as customer service at both the local and manufacturers level was great. However, after 3 more units replaced on warranty, I've finally given up and the pyrometer still doesn't work to this day. AutoMeter support admitted to having some issues with them, but thought they had it solved. I could still be swapping pyros with them direct, but how many times are you gonna do that before its just not fun anymore?
Well that brings me to 2009 where I've now completed putting a TDi diesel in a 1988 Range Rover. My goal on this project was to have a reasonably comfortable full size SUV that would get excellent mileage both around town and on the highway. I don't use this truck off-road, since I have two other trail trucks. The installation took most of 2008 as I got side tracked on other projects, but in February of 2009, the truck backed out of the shop on its own power. A couple of days of tweaking and fiddling and it was back on the road.
I found initially the diesel's power was a bit flat, but it still had no problem keeping up with traffic and would hold 110 kph on an uphill slope no problem. My first run up and down the Coquihalla, I was happy to see that other than a shift into 4th for the tunnel hill, it maintained speed in 5th gear with no problems.
However, being a fiddler, I wanted to squeeze a little more power from the 4 cylinder 200tdi engine (2.5 l). Most diesel websites and forums will tell you that the first performance upgrade on a diesel should be a Pyro and Boost meter, as even a slight adjustment to the exhaust, intercooler, and fuel delivery pump (especially the pump!) can result in big changes to your exhaust temperature, and since there are fragile aluminum components on turbo-chargers, it is essential that you know what kind of temperatures you're generating out of your exhaust to keep you in the safe range. From what I've read, this means NEVER allow your exhaust gas temperature to go above 725 C / 1337 F because any time above this temperature will result in immediate damage to your turbo.
My first performance item on the Range Rover was actually the exhaust. When the truck was first out of the shop I took it to the local muffler shop and had them make up a custom system that stayed as large as the turbo outlet pipe through the entire exhaust. In my case this is 2.5" with a cherry bomb-style straight through muffler. It is surprisingly quiet as the turbo itself dampens much of the noise.
My second performance item, and the reason for writing this article, was a monitoring system. My previous experience with the analog gauge had left me looking for not only a different brand, but looking at digital gauges. Added to that, there was one spot on my dash that had previously had things screwed to it, (a rough spot) and not too many other spots to put a cluster of gauges, so I thought, if I can come up with a multifunction gauge that would sit nicely on that spot, that may be the way to go.
A friend on the Land Rover Addict forum had mentioned that he thought the Madman gauge was pretty cool. He has played with digital gauges on his truck and had some experience through his work, so I trusted his opinion. Well, after adding up the cost of the individual gauges, the price of the Madman EMS setup wasn't too bad: just under $500, and it included everything I was looking for - volts, boost, temp & pyro - and a number of features I hadn't considered. water level, secondary temp for transmission, oil change hours monitoring, various display options and one very cool option I hadn't even thought of: a dual- plane inclinometer with a built in power shutoff if it hits 60 degrees, in other words, a way to auto shut down the engine when you roll over.
So I dusted off the credit card and sent a payment for two of them (bit of a volume discount) down to South Africa. About 3 weeks later the gauges arrived by air mail. I have to say here, the packaging isn't quite as slick as those Autometer gauges, but the Autometer packaging went into the bin anyway, so I guess packaging doesn't matter too much. Everything was there: the gauge itself, the extra long wiring loom, and all the little senders. The instructions were printed on a folded sheet that was almost too tiny to be readable. I found it easier to just go online and download the PDF file and their install videos.
The install process was fairly straightforward. In the cab of the truck it's as simple as drilling a small hole for the wiring loom (for the EMS1; the EMS2 is recessed and requires drilling a 2.25" hole), then finding an appropriate hole in the firewall to send the loom wires through. The long loom kit is 3 meters in length, so it reaches just about everything under the hood. I also connected the power lead, as per the instructions, to the ignition circuit with a fuse.
The boost gauge was an easy insert of a brass T into the hose that went from the turbo over to the injection pump. I then screwed on the VDO boost sender, with the only issue being a bit of tight quarters down by the turbo, however their kit fit fine. I then plugged the appropriate wires to the VDO sender. (Worth noting here is if you don't have a turbo-charger, or you already have a built in boost meter, you can order an alternative sender to monitor oil pressure rather than boost pressure.) Next was the water temperature. I already had a built in idiot gauge, the kind that shows low, normal and high, but no actual temperatures. I figured I would keep this one intact, but the VDO temp sensor would have screwed in in its place. Instead, I removed the thermostat housing, and drilled a 21/64" hole in the aluminum housing, and used a 1/8- 27NPT tap to create threads in the hole. The tap doesn't come with the kit, but is fairly common at auto parts stores and since it's pipe thread is very easy to get started, as the entire tap is tapered. You work the tap in about 2/3 of the way and it creates a tapered thread into which the sender is screwed. I put the thermostat back together with the additional sender and filled up the antifreeze again, connecting the appropriate wires to the unit.
This is where things got a little more interesting. The 3rd sender to be tackled was the Pyro or EGT meter. This one had me a bit worried. This requires a hole in the exhaust manifold ABOVE the turbo, in other words between the exhaust valves and the turbo, in order to get an accurate reading of the exhaust gas temperatures going into the turbo, where the damage can be done. My first look at how the exhaust was set up had me rather discouraged about removing the exhaust manifold as there are various support brackets for the turbo and the fixing bolts of the turbo and the manifold that are prone to snapping on any exhaust manifold, not to mention new gaskets that aren't readily available at Lordco for my particular engine. So I read the instructions provided by Madman, and to be honest, it got me even more worried. They said to start the engine and at idle drill the hole in the manifold and tap it out - while it is running! So I called a friend that works at a diesel performance shop. They do mostly the Big Three pickup trucks, but he puts in pyros fairly often, so he would know. He said they do it with the engine running all the time with no ill effects. Well, here goes.
I found a nice flat spot where the EGR valve would go if it had one. I started the engine and then used a 1/8" drill bit to create a pilot hole. I can't stress enough to WEAR SAFETY GLASSES during this step, as when the drill broke through an immediate rush of drill shavings burst out of the hole and right towards my face. The pressure of the exhaust at idle was enough to keep the drill shavings blowing out, not falling in. As I drilled the 21/64" hole, same thing, except since there was already a pilot hole, it was a constant blowing of shavings while I drilled. I then used the 1/8-27NPT tap again to create threads. Needless to say things were getting a bit warm by now, but thankfully diesels at idle do not generate much heat, so I could still touch all surfaces with bare hands. If this were a gas engine, you would have to let it cool down between each step.
The final result of this step was that virtually all the shavings blew out the hole and if a few blew through the turbo it was just fanning along so not much of a chance of doing any damage. The alternative is to remove the manifold and if anyone is hesitant to create the hole on a running vehicle, I would suggest that manifold removal is the way to go.
I screwed in and tightened the fitting for the Pyro's sensor, then inserted the sensor so the tip of it sits in the middle of the exhaust flow. I then coiled up the extra wire from the sensor, which is very thin wire, but quite heavily insulated and shielded. The manufacturer suggests not cutting and shortening this wire as it can have an adverse affect on calibration, and as well, the shielding is very tough to get off. So I just coiled the extra into a spot hidden from view and interference below the brake booster on the firewall. This wire connects to two more of the wires in the gauge loom.
I didn't bother at this time to connect the coolant level indicator, as I already have one built into the truck, nor did I connect the secondary oil temperature at this time. I started up the truck and the gauges worked immediately. The digital display allows you to select which senders are on or off, and what the lower and upper ranges should be. In addition almost all senders have an adjustable alarm point. It took about 10 minutes to get used to the interface, but once it was mastered, I haven't looked at the instructions since.
The gauge works very well, does what its supposed to do and hasn't had a single hiccup. I have yet to hook up the additional two senders, but I'm confident that it is a well built unit and they will simply work when I hook them up. As far as senders go, they have kits available for Toyota Land Cruiser, Ford, Land Rover and Nissan at this time, as well as a generic kit that comes with all the senders and you choose where/how to install them. The primary difference in the kits seems to be how it deals with coolant level. I'm also not sure if the Toyotas, Nissans, and Fords over here are the same as they have in South Africa where the gauges are made, so the best kit to buy over here may be the generic kit.
I have continued the performance tweaks to the truck since installing the gauge, making adjustments to the injection pump, and increasing the turbo boost. I installed a Turbosmart Boost adjuster, which allows adjustment of the pressure applied to the wastegate, thus slowing down it's opening. The Turbosmart is available from Mopac ofr less than $100.
When I started adjusting the injection pump, some adjustments resulted in immediate big increases in exhaust temperatures, which I simply wouldn't have been aware of without the engine monitoring system. With a bunch of Google searching you can find details on tuning your injection pump. Most of them also have very big disclaimers about how this should only be done by professionals... My pump is similar to the mechanical pumps found on the early Dodge Cummins diesels, so I used this site to adjust mine: http://dodgeram.org/tech/dsl/more_power/Power_ve.htm . I've now been able to come up with injection pump tweaks that provide significant increase in power, while keeping the EGTs in a safe range.
There are a few things I wish they had done differently on the EMS1, but they don't take away from the overall value as it stands right now:
I am happy enough with this gauge that my company, Roving Recovery (http://www.rovingrecovery.com/index2.htm), has started carrying them. To date we have brought over 4 of them and will continue to do so if the demand is there.
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