Gauges are incredibly important in a muscle car. When it comes to gauge installation, there are many different kinds of gauges to choose from. Lets’s talk a bit about the different types and gauge installation.
Gauge Types & Gauge Installation
So what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to aftermarket instrumentation? Which is better, mechanical, electric, or the latest stepper motor instruments? All three configurations can be built into an accurate gauge but, the truth is, the determining factors more involve gauge installation and application than gauge accuracy. For example, some of today’s stepper motor configuration gauges combine the ease of electric gauge wiring with a full sweep dial face like the mechanical gauge.
Mechanical Gauge Advantages – Mechanical gauges have a full 270-degree sweep which makes them easier to read accurately. Mechanical gauges do not require 12V power to operate. They make direct physical contact with the item they are reading. Obviously, this is accomplished through tubing or lines, which eliminates the need for electric signals. Mechanical gauges are ideal for vehicles that operate on voltages other than 12V, with no voltage at all, or operate on a battery with no generator.
Electrical Gauge Advantages – Electrical gauges have a 90-degree sweep. They do not have large connectors and tubing coming out the back of the gauge. Given the design, they can be mounted in more unusual positions without connections showing. The design allows easier gauge installation in tight areas. Gauge installation at a great distance from the item being measured is also much easier to do while still looking clean. An electric gauge also prevents fluid from entering the passenger compartment.
Electronic Stepper Motor Gauge Advantages – Stepper motor gauges have a full 270-degree sweep like a mechanical gauge. Like electric gauges, they do not have tubing or large connections originating behind the gauge. Additionally, the configuration of the gauge allows it to be mounted great distances from the source if necessary. They tend to be shallower than either older electric instruments or mechanical versions. That makes gauge installation in tight confines less difficult. Finally, some companies manufacturing electronic stepper motor gauges offer a huge array of options such as integral warning lamps, in-gauge turn signal indicators, tachometer shift lights and so on.
Gauge Sizes – Most manufacturers offer at least a couple of different sizes when it comes to gauges. Typically, they either have a 21/16-inch face or a 25/8-inch face. Anything smaller is tough to read and anything larger is often difficult to package. When it comes to tachometers and speedometers, the normal sizes are 33/8 inches and either 4½ inches or five inches in diameter. Some companies though, offer gauges in other size ranges. For example, you can get tachs as small as 21/16-inches. They’re not easy to read , but they can be fit into tight locations. Instruments with the shallowest mounting surfaces are today’s electronic stepper motor models. They’re considerably smaller in depth than other gauges.
Tach – When it comes to gauges, bigger is usually better up to a certain point. If possible, install a tach with the largest practical face. Before drilling any holes in the dash, sheet metal, or tubing of your muscle car, start the gauge installation process by taking the time to move the tach to several different locations. That way, you can buckle yourself into the driver’s seat and with the help of an assistant, see which tach location is the most comfortable for you. By the way, this Revolution tach measures 33/8 inches in diameter. Two important considerations when buying a tach are the rpm range on the face and a shift light feature. A tach that reads to 12,000 rpm might be perfect for a high-winding, small cubic inch, strip-only motor, but it certainly isn’t practical on a near-stock 454 that will never see the other side of 6,500 rpm. What’s needed here is a tach face that’s maxed out at 8,000 rpm or so. As far as shift lights go, there are a number of different versions on the market, but the Revolution tach has a cool trio of integrated shift light indicators. When the engine (and tach) reaches the shift point, the LEDs light up in sequence.
Oil Pressure Gage – This is the most vital one in any car. There are a number of different oil pressure gauges on the market, but one consideration is the overall range of the gauge. For example, you can find gauges manufactured in 0-100 psi and 0-200 psi range. You can also find gauges marked with metric BAR readings instead of psi. Which gauge is right for you depends on your engine. If your muscle car will never see the high side of 70 psi, then there’s no need for gauge installation of an instrument that will read 200 psi. As for plumbing, it’s always a pain for mechanical gauges because the plastic lines most cars had were dangerous if not installed properly. For those examples, plastic hose doesn’t cut it. One of the best ways to plumb a mechanical oil pressure gauge is by way of braided stainless steel line. On the other hand, a modern, high-quality stepper motor gauge is plumbed by way of pre-assembled cabling. It routes easily without fear of breaking a pressurized line.
Water Temperature Gauge – This is another very important instrument in your arsenal. A quality gauge is the the best way to go to prevent problems. There are a lot of different combinations of face calibrations, but the most common is one that reads from 120 degrees to 260 degrees, give or take. While some electronic water temperature gauges with wide temperature calibration mandate some form of add-on blackbox to function, that isn’t the case with a stepper motor-based instrument. With those gauge installation is much like that of a conventional electric gauge. When dealing with any water temperature gauge, the basic temperature probe should be located in the water jacket or on the intake manifold water crossover. In a typical water temperature gauge installation, some engines require a ½-inch NPT adapter nut for the probe installation; others require a 3/8-inch NPT adapter. Once the adapter is installed, insert the sensor and carefully tighten the sealing nut. A coating of anti-seize compound on the sealing nut is a good idea. Don’t over-tighten the nut. Typically, you should tighten a 1/4 turn beyond snug to make the connection.
Voltmeter Over Ammemeter – Another instrument that’s very important is a voltmeter. Why use a voltmeter instead of an ammeter? An ammeter measures current flow to the battery or discharge from the battery. With an ammeter that means the entire alternator output used to recharge the battery must first be routed through the ammeter under the dash which means wiring is tedious. A voltmeter works like a fuel pressure gauge but instead of measuring fluid in PSI, the voltmeter measures electrical system pressure in volts. A voltmeter only needs to tap into a circuit. Gauge installation of a voltmeter is easy, quick and safe.
Fuel Pressure Gauge – These actually are not that common on the street. If you’re thinking about adding a fuel pressure gauge to your muscle car, give it careful consideration. Because raw gasoline is found in the line running between something like a mechanical gauge and the source, a fuel PSI gauge should never be mounted inside the vehicle. There are three exceptions to this rule: A mechanical gauge with an “isolator,” an electric gauge, or an electronic gauge. Reliable electric and electronic stepper motor fuel pressure gauges are relatively new. They incorporate an electrical sender plumbed within the fuel line and then wiring to transmit the information to a cockpit-mounted gauge. Today’s electronic stepper motor configuration instruments are extremely thin, which makes packaging a bunch easier.
AutoWorks offers gauge installation services for classic cars and other cars as well as window tinting, backup camera installation, detailing, and other auto services to towns in the Monmouth County area such as Middletown, Red Bank, Oceanport, Rumson, Little Silver, Marlboro, Freehold, Dayton, Aberdeen, Manalapan, Point Pleasant, Millstone Township, Long Branch, Spring Lake, Holmdel, Shrewsbury, West Long Branch, Fair Haven, and many more. To learn more about our gauge installation services and other services contact us today at 732-671-0225 or visit the website.