Properly tuning your engine used to fall more into the witchcraft category than the scientific. It was tough to tell if your ride was running rich, lean, or dead-on. Even if one managed to get it just right at idle, there was no guarantee it wasn't going to be pig-rich at wide-open throttle (WOT), or even worse, dangerously lean. The days of checking plugs and sniffing exhaust fumes are over since the aftermarket has stepped up with easy-to-use, and affordable, air/fuel monitoring systems.
The technology of using a sensor to read the free oxygen level in the exhaust gas and establishing an air/fuel ratio is certainly not new. Back in the early '80s OEMs were already doing it, but the technology was crude by today's standards. It was also geared around emissions more than performance, and had a narrow operation range. It wasn't until later that companies like Bosch and NTK started putting out wideband sensors that were accurate enough for performance tuners. Since then, the technology has progressed and the prices have come down to the point where it can benefit basically any hot rod.
The big question is what the best air/fuel ratio is. While 14.7:1 might be best for emissions, the target for performance is around 12.8:1 to 13.3:1, which is roughly 13 parts air to one part fuel. This ratio ensures that there's enough air (the oxidizer) to support the process of combustion.
Some gearheads make the assumption that having additional fuel in the mix (rich) will make more power, but it doesn't work that way since you can only burn fuel when you have enough air to support the combustion. This ratio is true regardless of the size of the cylinder. If you want to add more fuel, then you'll need to add more air through the use of a supercharger, turbo, or even nitrous. While running rich will rob power from an engine, it's even worse to run lean since this condition can actually cause engine damage.
With this in mind, FAST has introduced an affordable and fairly easy to install wideband air/fuel gauge kit. Unlike some kits that require a laptop, this system was designed to be simple to install and easy to use for the enthusiast who doesn't need, or want to pay for all the bells and whistles. One such person is Mary Pozzi. Mary and her husband David have been trying to nail down the tune on her '73 Camaro but were seesawing back and forth between rich at cruise and rich at idle. With FAST's new kit in hand we wanted to see if a little bit of technology could help the hard-driving duo dial in their Camaro.