Dakota Digital Explains Inner Workings of Ultraprecise Instrumentation

Do your gauges measure up?

Stephen Kim Jun 28, 2013 0 Comment(s)
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Expansion Modules

Dakota Digital's VFD and VHX instrument panel assembly can accommodate a host of expansion gauges with our BIM expansion modules. The idea for these modules was hatched after identifying the need for additional information as well as recognizing people's reluctance to cut up vintage dashboards. With the redesign on our instrument system control boxes, as well as VHX release in July 2010, we added a data port that allows the new BIM expansion modules to plug into the control box for simple connectivity for nearly limitless growth. The most commonly added readings via the BIM series are auxiliary pressure and temperature gauges, engine boost gauges, and compasses. We also offer modules for air temperature, airbag suspension, auxiliary voltage/amp current, EGT, cylinder head temperature, and wideband air/fuel gauges. Up to 16 additional readouts can be displayed in the message centers in the instrument system.

Analog Gauges

In addition to our well-known line of digital gauges, Dakota Digital is very excited about our new analog VHX lineup as well. A classic look with thoroughly modern technology is really the calling card of the VHX series. They feature precision stepper motors for accurate needle movements, LED backlighting for the utmost visibility day or night, and high-contrast LCD message centers for nearly unlimited expandability. While the look is analog, the technology is digital. All sensor and informational inputs connect to one central control box, and a single CAT5 networking cable connects to the cluster. Solid-state sensors for oil pressure, water temperature, and speed are included, and the system has the ability to learn a custom fuel level sensor if yours is not on our pre-programmed list. The supplied sensors combined with direct-fit compatibility make installation a breeze, plus you won't have to cut up a classic dashboard for better instrumentation.

Dakota Digital Explains Inner Workings Of Ultraprecise Instrumentation VHX Gauges 2/7

Fluorescent vs. LCD vs. LED Displays

Dakota Digital utilizes several different methods of display illumination, and we got our start with vacuum fluorescent technology. These are glass displays that energize a fluorescent gas to emit light. Each display has seven-segment digital numbers or symbols, and the software program dictates what a given display will be. We use this type of display for our VFD3 instrument systems. The display color of our VF displays is a light bluish-green color, so we use a colored acrylic lens to make the instrument systems more visually appealing. In contrast, our VHX instrument systems utilize liquid crystal displays known as LCDs. The advantage of an LCD display is that it can be seen in sunlight with no other light source, as it reflects incoming light through multiple filters. The downside is that LCDs require backlights for improved low-light visibility. Consequently, all VHX instrument systems have LED-backlit LCDs that match the rest of the LED lighting. Another feature that makes the VHX series noteworthy is that we use a special type of LCD known as a trans-reflective LCD. Not only can it be backlit, but this style reflects incoming ambient light, making the contrast even stronger. As a result, the visibility of the VHX message centers gets better in very bright situations. Dakota Digital currently does not offer LED-display instruments for automotive applications, but that technology has proven very successful in our motorcycle line. Light-emitting diode displays are made up of seven-segment displays, lit with monochromatic color. The contrast of an LED display is quite good, making them a great option for a motorcycle application.

Engine Swaps Simplified

LS engine swaps are not going away, and builders expect their hot rods to do everything, and for good reason. In response to this changing marketplace, we have developed a few products that take a lot of the headache out of a late-model powertrain swap. The first product is the BIM-01-1 OBD-II/CAN interface, which plugs directly in to the diagnostic port for an OBD-II system. With this piece, we're able to output speedometer, tachometer, temperature, and trouble code information directly to our control box with a single data cable. This is especially helpful with new applications where getting a tach signal can be nearly impossible, and it also streamlines the growing number of gas trucks with diesel swaps we're seeing. Our other product designed to simplify putting a new engine in an older car is the STA-1000. Similar to the BIM-01-1, the STA-1000 plugs into the diagnostic port, outputting a traditional speedometer, tachometer, and trouble code signal to your choice of aftermarket gauges outputs. We realize that a lot of these late-model conversions are happening to existing hot rods, and changing up the dashboard isn't always in the cards for a finished car. The STA-1000 allows hot rodders to retain the existing aftermarket instrumentation and helps the gauges communicate with a modern drivetrain.

Speedometer Calibration

New speedometers must be calibrated due to the multitude of gearing and tire diameter combinations possible in a hot rod. Dakota Digital instrument systems offer two methods of speedometer calibration: Auto and Adjust. Auto is the preferred process, and it's as simple as driving exactly one mile. With a stretch of road that is known to be exactly a mile, such as section roads, start the instrument system in setup mode, select Speed Auto, and start driving. The system will be counting pulses in the message center as you drive, and it doesn't matter if you stop, just try to keep it in a straight line and don't spin the tires. The other method is Adjust, in which you can pace yourself against another car with an accurate speedometer or a handheld GPS unit. Using the supplied push buttons, you can adjust the speedometer reading up or down until it's right on. You have the option at any time to recalibrate the speedometer to account for rear gear swaps or different height tires. All settings are saved in the hard memory of the system, so disconnecting the battery won't do any harm.

Custom Gauges

We have a very capable custom shop that can adapt our digital instrument systems to nearly any instrument cluster. If there is any restoration, paintwork, or chrome plating to be done to the cluster, we ask that this is completed before sending the components to our facility. Once on site, the bezel and instrument housing are carefully measured and drawn in a CAD program. With a digital rendering on screen, our technicians determine if any existing display layouts will fit the opening. If not, a custom board arrangement is drawn up, vacuum fluorescent displays placed, and a custom acrylic lens is drawn. With the display windows and engraving completed on the laser, the one-off instrument system is assembled into the customer's dash components. Since the system will run off of our standard control box, required sending units are included, and as always, even the custom-built systems are covered by a lifetime warranty.

LED taillights

Although Dakota Digital is best known for gauges, we have also started offering LED taillight kits. The feature that draws a lot of people to LED taillights is the brightness. Old hot rods have comparatively very small taillights, sometimes in precarious locations that coffee-slinging, text-reading drivers aren't looking for. And while our LED taillight systems, whether single or multiple-emitter style, are certainly brighter than an incandescent bulb, the speed is what really excites us. Our LED taillights illuminate 200 milliseconds faster than a normal lightbulb, which doesn't sound like a lot, but at 60 mph, that equates to about 19 feet when you take driver reaction time into account. On paper, that gives the driver behind you 19 more feet to get his Prius stopped before driving into and through your prized Bow Tie. There are, of course, other perks to converting over to LED lighting, such as reduced current draw, internal voltage regulators that maintain brightness throughout a range of 8-18 V, and never having to replace a taillight bulb again. We currently offer direct-fit, specifically engineered LED taillight conversion kits for '67-77 Camaros, '64-72 Chevelles, '59-90 B-bodies, and '55-57 Tri-Fives. chp

Dakota Digital Explains Inner Workings Of Ultraprecise Instrumentation LED Tail Light Module 3/7


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