I like playing with cars but I’m not a computer programmer. I feel lucky if I can remember the difference between the colon key and the semicolon key (it’s hard for me because they are the same key). So, when it comes to the more high-tech side of car modifications, I get a bit uneasy when there a lot of wires involved and those wires need to be connected to my laptop in order for them to work. If it is a digital mod, I get scared.
This is why when I considered switching my car from a stock analog dash to a fully digital Racepak display dash, I was very concerned I may not be able to make any of it work. I had played with Racepak’s CL-1 Vantage System while filming an episode of Horsepower Wars. It was easy and intuitive to use in a modern car with an OBD-II connection, but removing all stock dash parts from my Acura Integra road race car to completely replace it with Racepak’s system seemed a bit daunting.
Chris Vopat, Racepak’s sales and event manager, spent time on the phone with me allowing me to express my concerns about installing a Racepak display dash to an older car (a 1990 Acura Integra RS). I was afraid it may be above my abilities. “Our system is very easy to use, you plug in different sensors and the display dash immediately recognizes which sensor it is,” said Chris. “You can do it.”
Our system is very easy to use, you plug in different sensors and the display dash immediately recognizes which sensor it is. You can do it. — Chris Vopat, Racepak
Stepping Into The Digital Age
I took his advice and ripped out all of my stock dashboard and deleted all of the OEM wires and sensors from the engine to the stock dash. A simple ground wire and 12-volts of power to the Racepak display dash and things were lighting up like it was Christmas. Chris was right. It was actually an easy install.
The next part of the process was to connect the Racepak mechanical sensors from the engine to the Racepak display dash so the display could monitor the important stuff — like oil pressure. During the initial installation, we connected a tach lead, an oil pressure sensor, a water temperature sensor, and an air/fuel ratio gauge.
Everything connected with ease through Racepak’s one-size-fits-all V-net connection system. Using a laptop allowed me to design how I wanted my display dash laid out and I was off to the races (literally).
Later, I decided I wanted to know what my oil temperature was (after my engine builder convinced me) and decided to upgrade to another sensor. This article will detail that installation process and show how easy it is to add a sensor to a display dash. It doesn’t matter which Racepak dash it is — Drag, Street, or a full blown IQ3 Data Acquisition dash — they all connect the same with Racepak through V-net connectors.
Installing A New Sensor
Once I ordered the oil temperature sensor from Racepak, the hardest part of the installation of my new sensor (and it wasn’t really that hard) was finding the correct adapter to connect the Racepak sensor to a Moroso road race pan. A simple Google search determining the thread size and pitch of both the sensor and the oil pan led me to finally find an adapter from Summit Racing.
Before I pulled the plug out of the oil pan, I was smart enough to drain the oil first (a good time to do an oil change anyway). I put some Hondabond on the threads of the adapter and the Racepak oil temperature sensor and threaded it into the Moroso oil pan.
They fit perfectly. I carefully routed the sensor wires through the engine compartment (ensuring nothing hot would melt my wires) and pushed the V-net connector end through the bulkhead. The installation was simple.
All V-net connectors connect to themselves like a daisy chain which makes adding additional Racepak sensors extremely easy to wire. All you do is press the latest sensor wire into the back of the last one you connected.
Setting Up The Sensor On The Racepak Software
Once I had the oil temperature sensor connected to the oil pan and connected to the Racepak, I fired up my laptop and opened my Data Link II program to tell the display dash where I wanted the oil temperature information displayed.
As soon as I clicked the “Read Configuration” button to connect my laptop Data Link II program to the Racepak in my car (using a Racepack USB cable), right away the program saw that a new sensor was connected to my car. From that menu, I could customize what I wanted the sensor labeled on the dash display and where I wanted it displayed.
I chose to put the information on my “Page 2” dash display as something I wanted to data log (like AFR) but not necessarily want to look at while racing. I left more pertinent information on “Page 1” like oil pressure and lap timing.
Chris Havill, who does technical support for Racepak, didn’t have to take one single tech support phone call from me during this install. Chris says, “The reason it is easy to add sensors to a Racepak system is because we designed it to be easy to use for all racers who want to install stuff at the track and have it work.” He was right, the install was very easy both mechanically and digitally.
Customizing The System
I became so confident about my digital prowess after my successful sensor installation that I started really delving deeper into the Racepak options. One thing I stumbled upon — and it is my favorite option which has made me a faster driver and protects my engine — is the adjustability of the shift light for different gears. Engines rev much quicker in First gear versus Fourth gear.
I found with a simple shift light that only came on at a certain specified RPM, I was hitting the rev-limiter over and over again on the 1-2 up-shift. The shift light was perfect for my 4-5 up-shift, but late in the game for my own reaction time for the 1-2 up-shift. Racepak fixed that problem for me.
I was able to set my shift light to flash red at 6,250 rpm from the 1-2 up-shift and 6,600 rpm for the 4-5 up-shift. It may sound like a minor thing, but it really improved my ability to keep my eyes up on the track and then just react to the shift light in the correct time. I love it!
Racepak display dashes look great, provide tons of information for the driver, and are much easier to install than you may initially think. I was able to do it, and I’m not the most digital savvy person. Don’t be scared. You can do it!