AEM ELECTRONICS’ AQ-1 DATA LOGGER AND FAILSAFE WIDEBAND SYSTEM
BY JUSTIN CESLER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JUSTIN CESLER
“What happened back there? How did he end up passing you?”
“Uh, I don’t know. The car felt good and I was driving wicked fast. Yeah, I mean, I think it felt a little... slower? But dude, I really got on the gas early in turn 6 and it felt great. Or was that 7? Nah, yeah, 6 or maybe 5 and then it kind of stumbled, but I think I may have lifted a bit. Anyway, I think we need to lean it out a little and put some more timing in it. Plus I want to change the brake bias and put some more air in the tires.”
“Well, I think so. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Sound familiar? Sadly, this is what most enthusiast racers consider “testing and tuning” and we’ve overheard (and been a part of) this conversation more times than we care to admit. The fact of the matter is, without real data – and we’re talking about actual measureable data here – you’re really just guessing. And with HPDE track days costing upwards of 500-bucks a pop and engines roughly ten times that, it’s just not worth the gamble to make tuning decisions based on what you think happened 15-minutes ago in the heat of the moment. But data acquisition is expensive and reserved for real race teams, isn’t it? Nope, not anymore.
Welcome AEM Electronics to the mix, a company that has been building affordable data acquisition since the very early days of the consumer based wideband unit. Today, AEM is all about bringing race car technology to regular racers like you and me at prices that make ‘em hard to beat. This month, we’re going to tackle the installation of AEM’s AQ-1 Data Logger (PN 30-2500, $387.89) and the company’s impressive Wideband Failsafe Air/Fuel gauge (PN 30-4900, $316.35). The AQ-1 Data Logger will be responsible for collecting data on the STI Killer (our ’01 Camaro SS road race project) and will be tasked with reliably handling multiple points of collection while out on the racetrack. Capable of logging at up to 1,000 samples per second, the AQ-1 is one of the fastest boxes on the market, and with an on-board 3-axis accelerometer, GPS track mapping capabilities, and the ability to record other AEM gauges, MAP/Pressure sensors, TPS, shock travel, load cells, analog and frequency based MAF sensors, any 2-wire sensors (think water and air temp), EGT, clutch pressure, brake pressure, vehicle speed, duty cycle, wheel speed, and just about everything else, it’s an info-nerd’s dream come true.
The AEM Wideband Failsafe gauges, well, they also have the ability to run on-board datalogging (for over 3 hours), but for the money you get much more than that. The slick 52mm digital gauges display your air/fuel ratio (duh) or boost/vacuum on both a digital numerical center display and around the ring of the gauge on 24 color sweeping LEDs, but the real magic is in the Failsafe technology. Map a safe air/fuel operating range in the provided software with your laptop, set minimum and maximum air/fuel ranges, program an alarm or a trigger, and head out on track. If at any point (10psi, 11.5 A/F for example) your engine exceeds your maximum, the AEM unit will fire of the alarm and, if you want it to, send a signal to your engine controller to do something to fix the situation. It really can do almost anything, and combined with the AQ-1, can give racers, tuners, and users a major advantage over the guys just saying, “yeah, I think it felt maybe lean-ish...” in the other lane.
1 The heart of the STI Killer’s data logging system is the AEM AQ-1 Data Logger. It’s a simple data acquisition system capable of supporting a multitude of inputs at incredible speeds. We’re going to use it to track GPS data around the racetrack, along with acceleration rates (longitudinal and latitudinal G’s), RPM, coolant temp, left and right bank wideband 02s, brake and throttle positions, and eventually, horsepower and torque...
2 The AQ-1 ships with a 2gb SD card, which allows racers to datalog directly to the device without hauling a laptop around the racetrack. If you’re endurance racing or long hauling it you can upgrade the card, but for most racers, 2gb is more than enough room. That USB port allows for quick and easy configuration changes or data downloads, and the long lead harness (PN 30-2906-96) includes another USB for remote mounting.
3 Wideband 02 monitoring comes from the AEM Failsafe wideband air/fuel ratio gauge system, which ships complete with everything you need for the installation. Six different face plates and two colored rings allow you to mix and match to get the right look for your project and the Failsafe is capable of displaying boost thanks to its internal boost sensor.
4 Capable of datalogging up to 3 hours of RPM, WB02, and Boost/Vacuum, the AEM Failsafe gauge can also trigger alarms or external devices if your engine’s air/fuel ratio leaves your desired target range. This is great for almost any racer since, let’s be honest, it’s almost impossible to watch the gauge while you’re wide open throttle...
5 Running dual wideband sensors on a bolt-on equipped LS6 may seem like overkill, but at just over 300-bucks a piece retail, it just isn’t worth skimping out on the data. Monitoring both sides of the engine will give us better data and save us time in diagnostics when something goes wrong. The dual gauge bezel came from 6LE Designs and pops right in place of the factory A/C vents for a quick, clean, and simple installation.
6 Okay, so gauges in and out on track, right? Well, not quite. Wiring such capable devices requires a little bit of effort and we called in the big guns at AntiVenom to get the job done right. AEM does a great job of labeling and running the wire looms, but you’re going to need some time to figure out exactly what goes where to get everything right.
7 Mounting the dual gauges to the 6LE bezel was simple with the included clamps and screws, as was running the wiring. With two gauges, AntiVenom took the time to splice several common wires together 12V power, chassis ground, RPM signal in) and join both vacuum ports as one to simplify the installation process. The less you have to wire separately, the easier it will be to trace if something should go wrong.
8 Sliding the gauges and bezel in place was the easy part... running all of the wiring through the back of the dash was a little trickier. No worries, there is plenty of room to run everything out, and AEM includes more than enough length to get you where you need to be. For the street guys, notice how the 6LE bezel still lets some air come through, which is great if you still run A/C.
9 Under the car, installing the dual Bosch LSU4.2 sensors was as simple as pulling out the non-functional rear narrowband units, and installing the new ones in place. Our BBK Y-pipe already had bungs welded in place, but if your exhaust doesn’t, AEM includes weld-in bungs for you to work with.
10 The mounting position of the AQ-1 data logger is up to the installer, and the on-board accelerometer can be configured and calibrated in a variety of ways, but you want to make sure it is attached to a solid surface. The STI Killer’s no-nonsense interior made this a simple task and AntiVenom simply chose to mount it behind the shifter for easy access and accurate “center of the car” G readings.
11 Instead of running redundant sensors, AntiVenom chose to piggyback many of our inputs directly from the factory PCM. At the computer, Greg spliced in analog inputs 3, 4, and 5, which he connected to the stock TPS (blue wire 24, red connector), coolant temp (yellow wire 74, blue connector), and tach sensors (white 10, red connector).
12 It’s easy to get turned around with a wiring job like this, so make sure you take good notes while you are wiring and begin your install with a solid game plan. The AEM harness is color coded and marked along the length of each wire to help, but it can’t stop you from connecting Input 1 to the wrong PCM wire if you’re not paying attention. Ask us how we know...
13 Both the AQ-1 and Failsafe gauge system require 12V power and grounds, which made getting them up and running quite a simple task. The AQ-1 will also need a 12V constant source, all of which can be found under the steering wheel on a fourth-gen. With the wideband gauges and stock sensors wired in to the AQ-1, powering up the system was a breeze and, believe it or not, everything worked on the very first try!
14 The AQ-1 data logger and Failsafe wideband system both ship with fantastic software for configuring and reviewing data. Here, we’re looking at the Failsafe setup software, which allows users to configure the fuel range both high and low), and set up the gauge properties. Additionally, this software allows users to download the datalog files to be reviewed in the AEM data software.
15 But, we can’t show you all of this incredible logging just yet. Stay with us for the next installment in which we are going to setup and test AEM’s all-new on-board Dyno-Shaft – which allows for real time horsepower and torque readings – and the GPS track mapping feature. With horsepower, torque, RPM, TPS, Wideband air/fuel, GPS track data, g-forces, temperatures and much more on board, we won’t have to guess at anything that went on during a session.