Data Plan

Us­ing New Tech­nol­ogy to Mon­i­tor an ’01 Ford F-250

Diesel Power - - Contents - Words by JOHN LE­HEN­BAUER + Pho­tos by JOHN LE­HEN­BAUER

Us­ing new tech­nol­ogy to mon­i­tor an ’01 Ford F-250

BUY­ING A used diesel truck can be a nervewrack­ing 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

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 Power5-inch iDash dig­i­tal mon­i­tor pro­vides valu­able en­gine and driv­e­train in­for­ma­tion.

Here’s a look at the com­plete Banks Power iDash sys­tem.

1. 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.

2-3. 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.

4-5. 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.6-7. 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.

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