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Old 06-04-2014, 07:04 AM   #1
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Default ITT We discuss high quality gauges

For the last few years I've relied on cheap autometer short-sweep gauges for water and oil temp.

I've had several issues with strange readings, finicky behavior, etc. over the years, changed the senders out more than once, and each time I have it seems that each new sender has it's own story to tell.

With the new motor that went in, I changed both senders so I'd be sure to get good temp readings moving forward. Gauges behaved normally but oil temp was strangely high. I tore everything apart, tried three different oil cooler orientations, tested every part, and basically wasted two days.

I'm banging my head on the wall, about to pull it all off again to test the sandwich plate/thermostat in a pot of water when my neighbor comes by and offers to loan me his uber-fancy gauges from his STI to compare readings with my autometer.

He comes back with an Omari temp gauge. Full sweep, all the connectors are OEM grade, turns out Omari is the mfg. of gauges for Subaru and that's why all the Suby guys go through the trouble of getting these from Japan because they are top quality and match the illumination of their oem gauges. So I wire it up and swap the sender in and voila! It reads 40 degrees less than my autometer did, and agrees with what my ECU is reading from the oem water temp gauge (my autometer h2o gauge was reading higher than the oem too).

Went for a drive and turns out my new oil cooler config is working great. I spent two days chasing a non-existent problem that I thought existed due to crappy gauges.

For those who TL;DR:
Cheap gauges suck. Factory-grade stuff is still working properly after 20 years. Autometer senders fail constantly and are not consistent unit to unit.

I want a full-sweep temp gauge with a proper range (100*-300*F) that is consistent and reliable and uses high-quality wiring, connectors, and materials so that it doesn't fail/fall apart in a year.
Bonuses would be peak temp recall and/or warning system at a set temp.

I'd go get the Omari units but it turns out they are hard to acquire, mostly available to UK and Japan. My neighbor says they are usually ~$175 per gauge when you can get them. After seeing how nice they are, I think I'd be willing to plunk the money down for them.

Let's discuss options.

I have a sponsor who can get ProSport and STACK gauges, prosport I've heard of, but at their price point (~$70 for the "premium") I'm afraid of their quality level. STACK looks really nice but is really $$ ($240 for premium)

-Ryan
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Old 06-04-2014, 08:41 AM   #2
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Prosport are meh, boost gauge was ok for a while, voltage gauge was off by a couple 10ths. My fuel pressure sender form them started leaking, which is kind of a bad thing. VDO are really the only choice for not baller money. And VDO does also use OEM level connectors, OEM for a 1970's Porsche.
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Old 06-04-2014, 08:44 AM   #3
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Not sure full-sweep vs short-sweep is the defining difference in the two setups you tested. I think full-sweep is nice and easier to see/read, but I am not sure you will get a more "accurate" gauge just because its full-sweep. I am wondering if you had some kind of mismatch between your senders and gauges? do all temp gauges come with the same ohmic range? I vaguely remember seeing different ranges for the oil pressure senders, but that may not apply to temp senders.

VDO gauges/senders are "cheap", but mine have been spot on so far. I am just a bit short of two years on them now.
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Old 06-04-2014, 09:16 AM   #4
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I like VDO, Stewart Warner, Defi, and some of the older JDM *** **** gauges are actually quite good as well.

I've had "sensor drift" issues with Prosports in the past. I'd run them on a street car because cheap and they look decent, but no way in hell i'd run them on a track car.

If you're willing to move from full sweep analog gauges, Zeitronix has an "all in one" solution that's pretty slick and accurate.
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Old 06-04-2014, 09:37 AM   #5
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Get a digital dash if you can stand them. Aimsports or something similar. generally the sensor packages are high quality and some will use motorsports connectors which are way better than the exposed thread sensors most autometer guages use.

The digital dash will be more useful than a dash packed full of gauges, IMO.
Prosport gauges aren't that great. Having used some in a friends build they are no different than autometer.

I had some STRI gauges at one point and the fit and finish was nice, but I believe they use the same sending unit as most aftermarket gauges. they were brass and looked similar to autometer, though Im sure you could replace them with a nice stainless sending unit of the same range.
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Old 06-04-2014, 09:43 AM   #6
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prosport is trash.
vdo is great omori is great and defi is great.
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Old 06-04-2014, 10:39 AM   #7
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My autometers work just fine. Both water and oil temps are within 5 degrees on a boiling water test (BTW, when testing your temp gauges, don't compare to another gauge -- use physical properties instead -- water boils at 212F when subjected to a pressure of 1ATM -- end of story).

BUT, I take great pains with the quality of my electrical work. MILSPEC wire. Aerospace grade crimp connectors installed with a ratcheting crimper. Etc. Absolutely no BS. It's not expensive either. Go to Aircraft Spruce, Wicks or someplace similar.

The gauges are simple voltage dividers. The senders are RTDs (basically resistors). Everyone's senders are RTDs -- and everyone buys their RTDs from pretty much the same sources -- they're almost all made at foundries in the Far East these days. Don't think for a second that Autometer, VDO, Prosport, etc. make their own RTDs. LOL.

If you don't pay attention to your electrical work, you'll introduce resistance into the circuit and then all bets are off.
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Old 06-04-2014, 10:48 AM   #8
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good post Ryan. Do you mind if we use spread this thread out a bit as it progresses to sender discussion and placement as well?

IIRC It's been suggested to me by a few guys in our local crew to check the accutech gauges out. I believe the 949 guys have used them for a few projects. The price seems to be right on these things and they look the part. I'm thinking I'm going to give them a shot in the very near future.

2 Gauge Molded CF Panel with AccuTech

AccuTech
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Old 06-04-2014, 11:42 AM   #9
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Check out SPA's dual gauge offerings:



Dual Gauges - Buy dual gauges online
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Old 06-04-2014, 12:45 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hornetball View Post
My autometers work just fine. Both water and oil temps are within 5 degrees on a boiling water test (BTW, when testing your temp gauges, don't compare to another gauge -- use physical properties instead -- water boils at 212F when subjected to a pressure of 1ATM -- end of story).

BUT, I take great pains with the quality of my electrical work. MILSPEC wire. Aerospace grade crimp connectors installed with a ratcheting crimper. Etc. Absolutely no BS. It's not expensive either. Go to Aircraft Spruce, Wicks or someplace similar.

The gauges are simple voltage dividers. The senders are RTDs (basically resistors). Everyone's senders are RTDs -- and everyone buys their RTDs from pretty much the same sources -- they're almost all made at foundries in the Far East these days. Don't think for a second that Autometer, VDO, Prosport, etc. make their own RTDs. LOL.

If you don't pay attention to your electrical work, you'll introduce resistance into the circuit and then all bets are off.
This is something I've been wanting to move towards any time I do eletrical jobs(MILSPEC wires & connectors, etc). Do you have a particular crimper you recommend?
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Old 06-04-2014, 12:50 PM   #11
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Once you get into high end wiring, you need to consider the connection type for the proper crimper. Not the other way around.
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Old 06-04-2014, 01:02 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Track View Post
Not sure full-sweep vs short-sweep is the defining difference in the two setups you tested. I think full-sweep is nice and easier to see/read, but I am not sure you will get a more "accurate" gauge just because its full-sweep.
I agree, full-sweep =/= more accurate in and of itself. Certainly given the ultimatim, I'd take a high-quality short-sweep over a low-quality full-sweep.
However, assuming a high-quality gauge, I want full-sweep for the accuracy in reading the gauge at a quick glance. Having used short-sweep for the past few years and just now experiencing a nice full-sweep, it's a night and day difference in the confidence you have when reading the gauge, and that's going to be important when you only have 1/2 a second to devote to looking at it between corners.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shlammed View Post
Get a digital dash if you can stand them. Aimsports or something similar. generally the sensor packages are high quality and some will use motorsports connectors which are way better than the exposed thread sensors most autometer guages use.

The digital dash will be more useful than a dash packed full of gauges, IMO.
Prosport gauges aren't that great. Having used some in a friends build they are no different than autometer.
Agreed, a digital dash would be nice, I considered it for a moment but the budget isn't quite there for an all-in-one like that.

OK here's where we are at:

Prosport is out
VDO - I took a look and didn't like what I saw - almost everything is short sweep and it gives me the feeling of a glorified autometer.
Omari - turns out they are out of business
Defi - looks to be great quality, they actually remind me of the Omari stuff a lot. I like what I see here. Retail around $350 for a pair of temp gauges
AccuTech SMi - appears to have all the bells and whistles (full sweep, stepper motor, programmable warning light), and the price is attractive @ $200 for a pair, but I can't be sure about the quality (fake CF background doesn't instill confidence!) and I don't want to be the guinnea pig trying out an unknown... but could be promising.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian View Post
Check out SPA's dual gauge offerings:



Dual Gauges - Buy dual gauges online
The more I look at this the more I really like this option. I know SPA makes really good stuff, and $330 looks like a big chunk, but it's actually better than the cost of two Defi gauges...

Last edited by ThePass; 06-04-2014 at 01:42 PM.
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Old 06-04-2014, 01:14 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThePass View Post
I agree, full-sweep =/= more accurate in and of itself. Certainly given the ultimatim, I'd take a high-quality short-sweep over a low-quality full-sweep.
However, assuming a high-quality gauge, I want full-sweep for the accuracy in reading the gauge at a quick glance. Having used short-sweep for the past few years and just now experiencing a nice full-sweep, it's a night and day difference in the confidence you have when reading the gauge, and that's going to be important when you only have 1/2 a second to devote to looking at it between corners.

Prosport is out for sure. I took a look at VDO and didn't like what I saw - almost everything is short sweep and it gives me the feeling of a glorified autometer.
Gotcha. VDO has the vision series which is supposed to be full sweep I think.

Edit: Most of them are full sweep.
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Old 06-04-2014, 01:22 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Track View Post
Gotcha. VDO has the vision series which is supposed to be full sweep I think.

Edit: Most of them are full sweep.
Yeah, most of the VDO gauges are full sweep, and by that I mean ~270 I've never seen a 360 sweep gauge that wasnt a clock.
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Old 06-04-2014, 01:33 PM   #15
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Quote:
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AccuTech SMi - appears to have all the bells and whistles (full sweep, stepper motor, programmable warning light), and the price is attractive @ $200 for a pair, but I can't be sure about the quality (fake CF background doesn't instill confidence!) and I don't want to be the guinnea pig trying out an unknown... but could be promising.
Ryan I'd ask emilio. He's the one I found out about the accutech gauges from.

This is erik btw... if you didn't know.
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Old 06-04-2014, 01:36 PM   #16
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Just got off the phone with SPA because their site had a typo (max temp listed as 70* C, it's actually 150* C)

Obviously every mfg is going to say their stuff is high quality, but I asked anyways. He said he couldn't say if it was MILSPEC or not, he believes it is, all the wiring is shielded and the gauge is aluminum and glass construction, not plastic.

The only thing I wasn't ecstatic about was they use a regular brass temp sender - The sender for the Omari I used was something else, some kind of chromed steel by the look, and not to say brass can't do the job but coming from experience with autometer brass senders being junk and Omari being awesome and using some other material, it makes me shy away from traditional brass senders, even though I probably shouldn't...

Quote:
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Ryan I'd ask emilio. He's the one I found out about the accutech gauges from.

This is erik btw... if you didn't know.
Ahhh thanks man. I might see what E has to say, but I always hate to bug him with a question not related to buying a product from him. If they're satisfied with the accuracy of the AccuTechs when compared side by side with their other readings from the digital dash, etc. that would be very reassuring. 100*-280* is a perfect range. Has an easily programmable warning system... I like.

edit: Now that I think about it, these are the gauges I saw in Nemo. I acutely remember not liking the look of the flat fake CF panel they were mounted in which is the first link you provided haha. But the gauge itself seems to be legit.

Quote:
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I've never seen a 360 sweep gauge that wasnt a clock.


-Ryan

Last edited by ThePass; 06-04-2014 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 06-04-2014, 02:07 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by shlammed View Post
Get a digital dash if you can stand them. Aimsports or something similar. generally the sensor packages are high quality and some will use motorsports connectors which are way better than the exposed thread sensors most autometer guages use.

The digital dash will be more useful than a dash packed full of gauges, IMO.
Prosport gauges aren't that great. Having used some in a friends build they are no different than autometer.
This. If you plan to have more than 2 or 3 gauges, a digital dash really isn't that much more expensive and looks waaaay cleaner. The Racepak stuff seems really nice, but they require a lot of add-on boxes and adapters and stuff that really drive up the price.

I have a Race Technology Dash2 and love it. You can wire in any sensor you want and calibrate the dash to the sensor yourself. The shift lights double as warning lights so that you can set min/max levels for each sensor channel and then never have to watch your gauges. They also have a serial interface that talks to megasquirt.
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Old 06-04-2014, 02:12 PM   #18
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The Racepak IQ3 i have didn't require any add-on anything. Just plugged into my EMS and i was up and running.
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Old 06-04-2014, 02:20 PM   #19
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I'm sure an all-in-one is in my future some day, but the jump from $200-300 for a couple gauges to $900+ is a big gap.

Speaking in terms of working within a budget, the oem tach and speedometer and my AEM wideband are already there and functioning. If it aint broke, don't fix it. (At least my speedo is working now that I've re-routed the cable through the cabin so the turbo doesn't melt it )

As for other readings, everything except for temperature and AFR is something I don't need to see while on track - oil pressure sounds nice on paper but from all accounts I've heard, within the moment it takes for you to notice the gauge saying something is wrong (or even to react to a warning light), you'd know just as quickly by the bad noises the motor will be making.

Aside from that, fuel pressure, volts, etc. are things better left to just running a sensor to the megasquirt - you only need to see this stuff while troubleshooting in the garage/pits with the laptop plugged in anyways.

-Ryan
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Old 06-04-2014, 02:36 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rokomis View Post
This is something I've been wanting to move towards any time I do eletrical jobs(MILSPEC wires & connectors, etc). Do you have a particular crimper you recommend?
For general wiring on the car . . .

This for wire (high heat, abrasion resistant, super-fine tinned strands):
UNSHIELDED WIRE MIL-W-22759/16 from Aircraft Spruce

This for studs (note the feature "tin plated copper wire support sleeve" -- that's the main difference):
RING TONGUE VINYL INSULATED TERMINALS from Aircraft Spruce

This for spades (Style B):
PIDG FASTON RECEPTACLES BY AMP from Aircraft Spruce

This for crimping. BTW, I've noticed something that looks really similar at O'Reilly's. I'm wondering if there are reasonable quality knock-offs out there these days?
22-10AWG TERMINAL CRIMP TOOL from Aircraft Spruce

The studded senders are reliable if you use these types of parts for wiring. They will not be reliable if you wire them with whatever you pick up at the parts store. The advantage to the more expensive senders being discussed is the modern weather-pak style connectors they include which forces you to use good wiring practices. The actual sensing element in both types is the same and probably came from the same foundry.
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