Plug And Play? - Technical Article - Super Chevy Magazine

Well, Sort Of, Kind Of... Maybe.

Mike Harrington May 1, 2006 0 Comment(s)

Some confessions need airing before we begin. Nobody has ever accused this author of being smart, witty, or charming; That holds especially true when it comes to wiring. Whether it's automotive, home, or even stereo, wiring has been one of those mysteries of the universe that has always been elusive. With that confession, my burden has been lifted and I am here to say, if I can figure this out, anybody can. That's not to say everything during this install was slicker than snot on a doorknob. As expected, there are always a few bumps on the road. There were a few times a quick call to the tech assistants at American Autowire and Auto Meter gauges set me back on track and the install was able to resume. So I'm here to say again, if I can do it, anybody can.

In some Third-Generation Camaros, the speedometer only goes to 85 mph! Can you believe that? That wasn't the case for this '88. But when it's time for a change, it's time for a change regardless of what your old speedometer says. Our first stop was to select a new dash. For that we went to Covan's Classic's Web site and browsed their online selections of premade panels. Covan's Classic has a few different panel styles and gauge combos to choose from. In this case, we chose the "Brushed Aluminum" panel. Covan's Classic also gives you the option to order the dash with the Auto Meter gauges already installed. For Third-Gen Camaro owners like myself, the Covan's dash only fits '82-'89 Camaros.

We like doing things the hard way here, so instead of the preassembled route, we went directly to Auto Meter for our gauges. They had just recently come out with their new line of NV gauges, which replace the old Lunar gauges. Here is a list of the exact gauges we ordered: 3 3/8-inch 160-mph Speedo, 10,000-rpm tach, 2 1/16-inch oil pressure, 2 1/16-inch water temp, 2 1/16-inch fuel level and 2 1/16-inch volt gauges. The oil and temperature gauges come with the sending units already in the box. Should you decide to switch from mechanical gauges to electric (like we did), make sure to let Covan's know this during the order. You will need a Vehicle Speed Sensor, which you can order from them. A VSS plugs into the transmission where the speed-o cable used to attach and has two wires that connect directly to the speedometer.

Now you have everything in your hands and are ready to do the install, right? One bit of advice, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. I read, re-read, and read again the instructions to familiarize myself with all the different colored wires, where they go, and what they do. There were times during the install that the instructions seemed a bit vague to me. Nevertheless, we plowed through and made only a few correctable mistakes along the way. This article is not going to be a comprehensive step-by-step how-to article. American Autowire has already provided the step-by-step instructions.

4

This is what your dash and gauges will look like when they all come together. Make sure you have the gauges in the positions you want them to be. It's easier to rearrange them now, rather than after you have installed them in your Camaro.

The back of every Auto Meter gauge has pins, and the wiring harness from American Auto Wire comes preassembled to plug right into the instruments. Here is where we ran into a small snag. With the speedometer, only the pins on the back have been slightly rearranged. Changing your wire harness to fit this new arrangement isn't a difficult task, once we figured it out.

Here is the rearranged harness. The grounding wire (black) and the 12V wire (pink/black) were relocated to match the proper pins.

Each wire harness plugs directly into the back of each gauge. The wires are color-coded so you can't plug them into the wrong instruments unless you fail to read the directions.

This is where we ran into a snag when connecting all the wires. The gray wire I'm holding is supposed to attach from one gauge to the next. Well, it turned out the wires were too short to reach from one gauge to the next.

Here is a closer shot of that short grey power wire. A great thing American Auto Wire provides in its wiring kit is plenty of connectors. In fact, they give more than you will need, which is helpful if you mess up a few times. We simply snipped the wire and grafted on a new piece in between them.

Another small snag we ran into was this. The black wire being held is a grounding wire. Either our kit didn't come with them or they were missing. So we made a quick trip down to the local parts store to grab a spool of wire. Then we quickly created these "pigtails" using the generous amounts of supplied connectors in the wiring kit.

The back of every Auto Meter gauge has pins, and the wiring harness from American Auto Wire comes preassembled to plug right into the instruments. Here is where we ran into a small snag. With the speedometer, only the pins on the back have been slightly rearranged. Changing your wire harness to fit this new arrangement isn't a difficult task, once we figured it out.

We put both the indicator LEDs in and they fit perfectly. We made a mistake at the time and didn't know it until later, after the dash was installed. That mistake was putting the high-beam LED light TDC in the dash between the turn signals. The mistake on our part was not knowing how bright that little blue LED light could shine. Once the high beams were turned on...WOW...it's bright. Take our advice--don't put your high beam indicator TDC. Locate it off to the side and bottom of the dash next to the warning lights. You'll be happy you did.

COMMENTS

subscribe to the magazine

get digital get print
TO TOP