Last time we saw Project Elantra, it was left in abject desolation, exposed to the elements, and infested with nascent felines. For the longest time and during visits to two workshops, it lay in similar state as whence we started this series, i.e. immobile and not running. Check out our very first Project Elantra piece and see for yourself how we began this journey.
After many many months of stark rancor, the car is now back and in a mobile state. However, it was returned sans functioning instrumentation as part of an interior update. We cannot know if the car has been made ready to race. What if the engine is overheating or suffering from low oil pressure? That will bring us back to square one, with the motor blown like it did in Clark International Speedway more than two years ago as of this writing.
So our first step is to regain visual acuity on the car’s vital signs. We will do so by installing new instrumentation. But didn’t we discuss gauge installation on previous episodes (here and here)? Let’s just say that we have a blank slate to play with.
As part of our race car’s rebirth, we commissioned the previous shop to fabricate an aluminum racing dashboard. We do not know if there is any weight saving with this versus a standard dashboard. We’re of the opinion that there may be a weight gain. But it sure looks trick.
The design of our dash is more commonly seen on local drift cars. Combined with our existing hydraulic handbrake handle, the Elantra was thought of by the uninitiated as a drifting machine when we took it to a motorsports seminar some time back.
There was a plan to install a fancy racing dash readout unit. Too bad the idea was scrapped and the car was delivered with a blank area where the readout was supposed to be. And thus, our current predicament.
Our main priority was to wire up temperature gauges to check for overheating. As you may know from previous installments, we already have some Autogauge water temp, oil temp, and oil pressure gauges that we can reuse. However, real estate on the aluminum panel in front of the steering wheel is scarce. We still had to install a tachometer, boost gauge, and possibly a fuel gauge. It would be hard to install six gauges in such a small area while being able to gain info from them at speed.
So we got ourselves an Autogauge 5-in-1 5″ monster tachometer. It shows engine speed (up to 11,000 RPM), able to display correctly signals from 3, 4 and 6-cylinder engines. Coolant temp, oil temp and pressure is also shown legibly within the gauge face as separate analog needles. It also features a shift light which can be remotely mounted and is easily adjustable to light up at a user-specified RPM point.
The white gauge face is clean and attractive, really matching the scoured aluminum plate the gauge resides in. At night, however, its LED backlight is a bit of a lightshow, giving off a vibe that’s half beer garden and half effeminacy. Our friends like it, so we can shelve our misgivings.
Since our car is still turbocharged after the repair, we still need to know boost levels. The monster tach we got does not include a boost gauge inbuilt. We could have bought another model that reads boost, but we didn’t like how it looked and it didn’t seem easily readable for the driver.
Instead, we paired the monster tach with an Autogauge mechanical boost gauge. The gauge face looks similar to the monster tach, so they sort of go together on the dash.
We went with a mechanical model because it was reasonably priced. Also, since it only requires a hose feed from the intake manifold, it need not be hooked up to the electrics in order to show a boost or vacuum reading, except for the “around-the-dial” backlighting for night viewing.
During installation, however, we dropped the gauge from a low height. That resulted in the needle becoming misaligned to a couple of lines below the “zero” mark. The gauge reads a couple of psi lower than as it should, but it still works. We’re afraid to either disassemble or knock the gauge around to get the needle back to zero at rest, and therefore letting it be as it is. Do let us know what we can to to repair it.
After installing the tach and boost gauge, we realized that we had no idea how to divine the amount of gas left in the tank. But thankfully, a parts crawl at our municipality’s main thoroughfare resulted in a cheap solution.
We thought that locally-assembled vehicles like owner-type and passenger Jeeps also need gauges. We were also cognizant that many had functional fuel gauges. So we thought to look at a local auto supply that seemed to cater to backyard-assembled vehicles. And so, we were able to procure some Circuit Fuel Gauges.
Don’t let the brand fool you. The Circuit line of automotive electrical parts are not very sosyal. But they are really reasonably priced, and they seem to work okay. We hooked the fuel gauge up and not only did it light up but also the needle seemed to give us a rough indication of fuel level when wired to the stock fuel sender.
However, the stock sender and the Circuit gauge were not exactly ‘on the same page’, so to speak. We thought the car still had a quarter tank of fuel left when we unwittingly ran out of gas at the cusp of a busy intersection. Until we install the matching fuel sender for the gauge (already procured), we now know to fill ‘er up by the half-tank mark.
At the same time we got a Circuit branded voltmeter as well. Nothing much to say about it except that it works and it fills up the space in the dash pretty well.
Given the fact that we are not full-time mechanics and installed them on nights after work, it probably took us two or three weeks to complete the install. Half the job is physically mounting the gauges on the aluminum plate, and the other is in fabbing up a wiring harness for the cluster.
The smaller gauges had included bracketry for ease of mounting to a flat plate such as ours. Drilling the holes with a hole saw attachment on our hand drill was the hardest part. Good thing aluminum is soft enough that you can sort of use a hole saw for wood on them.
The monster tach was not really meant to be mounted in this manner. Usually these tachs are mounted on top of dashboards or on rollcage hoops. We got creative by using the supplied mounting accessories, a few inches of bent aluminum flat bar, and some superglue to affix our tach on the plate with the others.
Then it was time to make the gauges wiring harness. It helps to draw a wiring diagram first before cutting your first wire. We looked at both the various instruction guides of the gauges and the car’s electrical wiring diagram for the points to tap wires from. Then we laid out a drawing connecting the two together using various electrical sockets from Circuit. We made these drawings in Powerpoint; you can find dedicated software if you are designing a more complex harness than this.
We also soldered all wire splices. Our soldering skills are pitiful, but we should improve over time and by using a hotter iron. We used EZ-Taps to tap into the stock harness and even to the programmable ECU’s tach output. Once learning how to utilize them via instructional video, they were a breeze to use.
We made the wiring harness a touch too long, but we think it’s better extra long than a touch too short, right? Plus, the long wires make it easier to remove and reinstall the new gauge cluster to the dash.
Since the car had a smattering of auxiliary gauges before, it already had existing points to install the various gauge sensors. Routing wires from the engine bay to the cluster location was taxing, though.
The pre-planning and installation effort was more than worth it. We were pleased to see all the gauges working the first time we hooked the new cluster to the car. Didn’t have to debug anything. Great success, as the esteemed diplomat Borat Sagdiev would say.
Now we have the gauges installed, we could now see what’s going on with the car somewhat. Initial test drives indicate that we have a problem with overheating. That was something not relayed to us by the last shop who handled the car. Very disappointing considering the monies spent with them.
The next installment may detail further progress as to the car’s rehabilitation towards being race ready. We’ll keep you posted. Stay tuned.