Back in the day, it was not uncommon to see someone tuning his or her car by ear — the act of tuning or jetting your vehicle and adjusting timing until it sounds just right. Clearly this wasn’t an exact science. Fortunately, aftermarket companies sell kits designed to aid you in tuning your vehicle that use technology with a little more of an exact measuring stick by which to compare readings. Innovate is a company that does that – and it’s bringing a new measure of affordability to the table with the LM2 Basic.
Technology such as wide band O2 sensors enable you to take useful readings of your air/fuel ratio after combustion to determine your engine’s efficiency. The problem for many people is the cost associated with such a tool.
Innovate Motorsports saw this problem, and decided to release a ‘Basic’ version of their popular LM-2 Wideband O2 Monitoring system and we are going to show you how easy it is to install.
What is the LM-2?
The LM-2 is Innovate Motorsports’ portable handheld air/fuel ratio meter that uses a common, readily available, Bosch wide-band oxygen sensor to read the air/fuel ratio in the exhaust of any vehicle you plug it into. Innovate offers a few options for the LM-2 starting with the full or basic version and expanding from there.
Nothing about the ability to monitor your car’s A/F (Air/Fuel) ratio is “basic” with this kit. Like the full LM-2 kit, the basic kit comes with:
- Handheld LM-2 Meter
- Bosch wide-band oxygen sensor
- 8 ft sensor cable
- Cigarette-lighter power adapter
- USB cable for PC connection
- Weld-in bung and plug
- LogWorks software CD
- Quick-start guide to get things rolling.
Compare that to the full kit which includes all the said above plus, an analog in/out cable, ODB-II/CAN interface cable, and an SD memory card to log data internally.
The LM-2 basis is perfect for the guy who is just looking to monitor his A/F ratio and maybe record and log the data using a Windows based laptop. If you want to include such data as RPM, Spark Advance, or any other data, you can order those cables from Innovate or buy the full version of the LM-2.
For our purpose we wanted a tuning device that could easily be transferred between multiple cars, many of which are not equipped with OBD-II (Only installed on cars 1996 and newer), and only being able to record to a laptop was fine for these purposes.
Why Keeping Track of Air/Fuel is Important
There are three main reason to monitor your air/fuel ratio: checking your tune or baseline tune, creating a fuel map and fine tuning that map for maximum power, and finally, using it as a monitor to watch over your engine.
Checking your current tune or getting a baseline tune
Knowing where to start is the first step for tuning your vehicle. In order to determine what changes, if any, need to be made, you have to create a baseline.
Even if you already have a tune in your vehicle, occasionally checking up on that tune is a good idea to make sure that it is still correct. Maybe you have changed parts or the outside air temperature has changed from last time you were at the track. There are a number of reasons why you may want to double check next it’s time to fine tune your engine.
Creating A Fuel Map and Fine Tuning It
If you are going to be tuning your late model, then you are going to need a fuel map. The problem is that many people do not have a current fuel map for their car, as it’s a brand new engine combination. With the LM-2 and LogWorks software, anyone can get a start on their fuel map in a few hours.
After you’ve completed this step, you can move forward and begin tuning the vehicle by altering the fuel map, adding or deleting fuel, and using the LM-2 to check those changes to make sure you aren’t running your engine on kill.
Keeping a Watchful Eye On Your Engine
Another reason for monitoring your air/fuel is to use it to keep an eye on the engine. Think of it the same way a fuel pressure gauge watches over the fuel system to alert you of a problem. An air/fuel meter like the LM-2 would alert you to a number of things. It would confirm the fuel pressure dropping, showing a lean condition. If your engine fouled a plug, the reading would show a rich number. If you have a dual channel meter you could even tell what side of the engine it is on.
For the EFI guys, if you had a leaky or suck injector you would see a rich condition. If something got into your throttle body and was blocking airflow, you would see a rich condition – all before you even leave the driver’s seat!
No matter what everyone at the local car meet tells you, adding a wideband O2 sensor is fairly easy. The hardest part can sometimes be just deciding where to mount things or how to run wires, and that’s where we started.
Once under our car, we found a suitable place to mount our O2 sensor. The ideal position to mount your O2 sensor is between 10:00 and 2:00 positions. This keeps condensation from forming on the sensor when your car sleeps at night. Our vehicle already had an extra bung in its exhaust, so we choose to install the wideband sensor there.
It is also important to note that if you install a wide band sensor in your exhaust, the sensor should be powered at all times the engine is running. An unpowered sensor will be damaged in the exhaust stream.
Should your vehicle require a bung to be installed, the Innovate kit comes complete with not only a stainless steel bung, but also a plug for it as well, to close it when no sensor is installed. You simply drill a hole in the exhaust and weld the bung in. If you are not so handy with a welder or do not have access to one, any local muffler or exhaust shop should be able to help you out for a small fee.
After snaking the wire through a grommet in the floor, we found ourselves in the passenger seat and ready to wrap up our install.
We plugged the end of the wiring harness connected to the wideband sensor under the car to the bottom of the LM-2 hand held meter. Now all we had left to do was give some 12v power to the meter before we could power it up. Innovate make this very easy with the supplied power cable. One end installs to the LM-2 meter, and the other end plugs right into your cigarette lighter to receive power. That’s it, we were ready to monitor our A/F now.
Setting Up the Meter and Sensor
Once all the hardware was ready, it was time to sort out the software. Innovate recommends that you calibrate your sensor before the first use, which is why we left it uninstalled and hanging out of the exhaust. To calibrate the the sensor, we selected the correct option from the menu. It only took a few moments for the sensor to warm-up and before long we were calibrated and ready to install the sensor. Yup, that’s it.
LogWorks 3 Software
Innovate Motorsports includes their versatile LogWorks 3.0 software with the LM-2 Basic kit. This software’s reach stretches far beyond its uses with the basic kit. This software is capable or not only monitoring, but also logging up to 96 different channels to get the most out of your tuning experience.
If we wanted to, we could record our air fuel right onto any Windows based laptop and go back and review the data. This would be helpful at the track or on the street.
We could dial in the air/fuel for power at the dragstrip or we could dial in a nice conservative air/fuel for driving on the street. We could then graph the data to view it over time and save it with all the details such as air temperature and other conditions to learn the best set up for the vehicle.
Expanding Beyond Basic
One of the things that we really liked about the way Innovate designed the basic kit for the LM-2 is its expandability.
As mentioned before, there is no difference in the LM-2 meter itself, between the one that comes with the full version opposed to the basic. What that means, is that all of those extra goodies that come with the full version will work with the meter that comes with the basic. This allows someone to build their own LM-2 kit with exactly what they want and nothing that they don’t. This saves you money because you aren’t spending your cash on things you will never need.
SD Memory Card — With the cost of technology dropping every day, this is going to be the first upgrade we do for this kit. By picking up an SD memory card right from Innovate or any electronics store, you have the ability to plug it right into the LM-2 and log all the information from the meter to the card. Then you can take that info and view right in LogWorks. This is much easier than keeping a laptop in the car to log everything.
OBD-II Interface — If you have a late model car, one of the best upgrades for this kit is the OBD-II/CAN Interface cable. All cars sold in the US from 1996 and up have this computer set up installed in them right from the factory. This cable lets you tap into that existing system to monitor its parameters. With this cable, things such as manifold pressure, RPM, spark advance, and engine temperature can all be viewed right from the LM-2, and more importantly, they can be logged as well. You can also read, view, and delete trouble codes and take care of that nasty check engine light we all hate so much.
Dual Channel Expandability — If you are serious about tuning your engine, than the dual channel upgrade is for you. This second sensor lets you read the air/fuel ratio in each bank of your exhaust – key if you have a true-dual exhaust. Sometimes you can have a difference in ratios between banks. This upgrade lets you see if there is one, and if so, you can make the necessary adjustments.
Analog Input & Outputs — Another good upgrade, this is a must have for anyone who is looking to compare their air/fuel to other parameters such as RPM, but who doesn’t have a vehicle equipped with OBD-II. This cable can hook up to almost any sensor or output your car has such as throttle position sensor or engine temperature. Then you can view it right on the LM-2 or in the LogWorks software on the computer. So you don’t have to pick and choose what parameter you want, the LM-2 has provisions for up to four analog inputs. If you are going to be moving the meter between vehicles, Innovate offers an inductive RPM pick up, similar to what a timing light use, that makes picking up RPM a TON easier.
The LM-2 offers two outputs for sending data to other devices such as gauges or data loggers. If your car is running an aftermarket EFI system, the LM-2 can send it’s information to that computer in order for it to make it’s fuel adjustments. Or if you pick up the Innovate XC-16 gauge, you can have a single gauge to watch your air/fuel. If you are running a high-end data logger, than the LM-2 can feed that system the air/fuel data that can be reviewed later.
Overall, the LM-2 basic kit is a great starting point for someone looking to venture into the tuning world. It is light-years ahead of the old school tuning by ear method and we found it to be a accurate tuning tool. With the expandability of the kit, Innovate has made it easy to get exactly what you want out of their system while cutting out what you don’t. No more tossing out what you paid money for but don’t need.