In the olden days, making sure that your engine was running smoothly required having a trained ear, a great feel for the car behind the wheel, or alternatively, paying someone to take a look at your car. All too often, a lot of horsepower was left on the table or just blown out the exhaust.
Nowadays, we have companies such as Innovate Motorsports.
Innovate Motorsports has made it simple for the garage mechanic and professional tuner alike to measure engine parameters, mainly air/fuel ratio, to create maximum horsepower. We decided to put their new LM-2 meter up to the test of a Vortech-charged HEMI to see just how easily this system could be installed and to test some of its features. Now before you get scared away fearing the setup of this device, simmer down. We’ll take you through not only the setup, but also the install of this powerful tuning device.
What is the LM-2?
The LM-2 is a portable handheld air/fuel ratio meter, designed and built by Innovate, that uses a common, readily available Bosch wide-band oxygen sensor to read the air/fuel ratio in the exhaust of your car. But it does so much more than that. Think of it as the Swiss Army Knife of tuning. It is the product of an evolution of wide-band meters from Innovate. The LM-2 is the second generation handheld meter from Innovate. The earlier LM-1 featured a similar design, but was completely different and required external add-ons to handle mild data logging. Not the case with the LM-2.
Innovate includes an ODB-II/CAN interface cable that, if your vehicle is OBD-II compliant as most 1996+ vehicles are, will allow you to view OBD-II parameters such as spark advance, RPM, and MAP sensor readings, right in the driver’s seat. The LM-2 can keep tabs on up to 16 different OBD-II/CAN parameters at a single time.
For those who would like to monitor other things on their vehicle or do not have an OBD-II system, the LM-2 includes an analog cable that can be wired to monitor anything with an analog output on it. You can add up to four analog inputs on the LM-2.
While all of that is fine, it can be hard to keep track of all these different parameters while you are running the car on the dyno or going down the track. Innovate thought of this, and by using the included SD memory card, the LM-2 is capable of recording any measurements it takes and saving them to the SD card for later review. That includes all of the OBD-II/CAN parameters and all of the analog inputs.
Innovate designed their LogWorks software to take in all the information saved on the SD card and sort and organize it in a clean way, so as to be easily understood and analyzed. The software uses a mix of tables and graphs to display information and allows you to break down each bit of information. That way, you can see what changes to make in order to get the most performance.
The LM-2 is set up with two fully configurable linear analog outputs that can be used for a number of things. You can set it up with one of Innovate’s XC-16 gauges to have an air/fuel gauge to mount in your dash, or you can set it up with your favorite data logger to add air fuel to the pile of data that you are already collecting.
What Do You Get?
• LM-2 Meter
• Bosch wide-band oxygen sensor
• 8 ft sensor cable
• Cigarette lighter power adapter
• Analog in/out cable
• ODB-II/CAN interface cable
• SD memory card
• USB cable for PC connection
• Weld-in bung and plug
• LogWorks software CD
• Quick-start guide
• Carrying Case
Narrow-Band vs. Wideband
In the world of oxygen sensors, there are only two contenders fighting for a place in your exhaust – narrow-band and wideband sensors. While on the outside they may seem similar, the way that they operate is what makes them different. A narrow-band sensor can only read a small range of air/fuel ratios and isn’t always accurate. These sensors are what all 1994 and up vehicles come installed with.
Wide-band sensors are more popular in the aftermarket because they are able to see a wider range of air/fuel ratio. That allows the engine tuner to push the limits of fuel settings and still be able to get useful accurate data. The best part about making the switch? Most aftermarket wide-band sensors can be configured with a narrow-band output for use with the stock computer. This way you don’t have to drill new holes in your exhaust.
Speed and Reaction
It always comes back to these two things, and the LM-2 delivers in both categories. The LM-2 provides a near real-time look into the air/fuel ratio that will let the engine tuner have accurate data to base their adjustments off of. Best of all, the meter self-calibrates to changes in temperature, altitude, and sensor condition, so there is no issue with your readings in the cool shop the night before a race or at the track with the sun beating down.
Why You Should Keep Track of Air/Fuel
There are some obvious and some not so obvious reasons why keeping track of your air/fuel is important. To help get a better understanding, we spoke to Felipe Saez of Innovate to learn more about the need to monitor A/F.
Create a Fuel Map
All too often, when a car comes into the shop to be tuned or you start your tuning experience, the car does not have a current fuel map. “By using a wideband sensor such as the LM-2, you use the data acquired from the sensor to build out your fuel map,” says Saez. Innovate’s LogWorks software can help a TON with this.
Make Sure the Tune is Correct
Just as your oil pressure gauge watches the oiling system, you can use a wideband sensor to monitor your engine to make sure it is getting the right amount of fuel. Not only does this make sure that the tune you have for your engine is correct, it will also warn you about failures, such as a spark plug not firing, producing a rich condition.
Fine Tuning Your Engine Across the RPM Band
Having an A/F meter also allows you to fine tune your engine by comparing the readings at different points in the RPM band. Meters such as the LM-2 allow you to compare readings to determine when your engine needs more fuel and where it needs less fuel to make the most power. Saez put it best when he said, “If you know how much fuel is going into your engine, and how much is going out, you can adjust your engine to be more efficient and make more power.”
Innovate even offers the LM-2 in a dual channel version, designed so that you can really dial in your tune by taking readings from each exhaust bank.
Now that you know what the LM-2 is and why you need it, let’s see how to install and use it.
We decided to install the LM-2 on our 2007 Dodge Magnum. Not only does this car pack the punch that its 5.7 L Vortech-charged HEMI delivers, it is also supported by OBD-II. That makes it the perfect platform to test all of the LM-2’s capabilities.
Installing the O2 Sensor
We started out by lifting the car up on our 4-post lift so we could take a good look at the exhaust and determine where to mount the O2 bung. According to Saez, “The best place to mount the sensor is 1-2 feet from the back of the head, and as close to 12 o’clock as possible. But anywhere from 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock is acceptable.”
You must also make sure that you are mounting the sensor before the catalytic converter. When exhaust gas passes through the converter, it reacts with the noble metals found inside of these emissions control devices and will alter the A/F reading the sensor takes. We were fortunate in that our car already had an unused bung installed in the exhaust, mounted before the converter and close to the ideal position – a perfect fit.
You might think that the next step would be to screw in the sensor. Not quite. Before we use the system we are going to have to calibrate it, so at this point we left the sensor out and continued with installation.
Next we had to run a cable from under the car, near where the sensor mounted, to the passenger compartment. We used a few zip ties and chose a route for the cable that would keep it clear of any moving parts or high heat sources. From there, we snaked it up the firewall and through a grommet on the passenger side, bringing the cable out just under the dash. Innovate provides an eight foot cable that attaches the sensor to the LM-2, so taking the long road around dangerous hazards was no problem.
Once we had the car back on the ground, we climbed into the driver’s seat to finish the rest of our installation. All we had left to do was to connect the sensor and power to the LM-2. This couldn’t have been easier.
We attached the sensor cable directly into the meter. If you are only running one sensor, be sure that you plug the sensor into the channel one port. It’s not that hard, the cable will only plug into two ports on the whole meter, so just use the bottom one.
Now we were ready to connect the power. Innovate provides a 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter for use on their LM-2. Should your car not have a cigarette lighter, you can simply cut the adapter off the wire and attach it to your power system however you choose. We chose not to hack up our kit and powered the system through the adapter. It plugged into the meter just as easily as the sensor did.
Using The LM-2
The system lights right up the second you plug the meter in and turn the key. After being greeted by the startup screen, the meter was ready for anything we needed.
We wanted to monitor the air/fuel ratio, but we also wanted to do a few other things such as check for any pending trouble codes, and compare our A/F readings to other parameters like RPM, spark advance, and the reading from the MAP sensor – which can be used to determine boost in a forced induction engine. First, we had to calibrate our sensor.
Calibrating the Sensor
With the sensors still in open air (out of the exhaust stream), we were ready to begin calibrating the sensor. The first step once the LM-2 is powered up is to wait. We needed to let the sensor warm up first. Depending on the environment where you are setting your system up, this can typically take anywhere from two to five minutes.
If you are using the dual channel version, you may connect and heat both sensors and calibrate them at the same time. Once warm, you calibrate the sensor(s) by navigating the menu to the correct spot. It looks like this:
>Press and hold Mode to bring up the main menu
>> Using the arrows and enter button, select ‘Calibrate Sensors’
>>> Select ‘Start Sensor Calibration’
You will be brought back to the main screen where you started this process. The letters ‘CAL’ will be displayed where you would normally see the A/F reading. Once it is done, you will be presented with a reading. Since the sensors are in the open air, it should read 20.9 Lambda. If your reading differs by more than 0.4%, repeat the calibration again.
It’s that simple. Next we checked to make sure that we had not wiped the anti-seize off of the treads on the sensor before installing it into the exhaust.
Reading A/F Ratio
Once the sensor was installed, we fired up the HEMI and the LM-2 immediately began sampling the air/fuel ratio in the exhaust and displaying it on the screen.
We are happy to report that our Diablosport Predator tune worked well and we were seeing a 14 lambda A/F ratio at idle. If we had seen numbers below 9, we would have used the Predator to add a little more fuel. Likewise, if we were reading numbers in the 17-18 range, we would have taken out some fuel. Tuning at idle is only the start. You see, there is no magic number as to what your air/fuel should be.
According to Innovate, your air/fuel measurement should be wherever the engine makes the most power, and that is exactly where we like it. So we know based on the reading from the LM-2 that our HEMI is running a safe air/fuel ratio. We will have to take the car up onto our DynoJet Dyno later if we really wish to dial in the air/fuel for maximum horsepower.
Reading OBD-II/CAN Parameters
One of the most useful features for someone tuning a late model car is going to be the OBD-II/CAN interface. As mentioned before, this allows the LM-2 to peek inside your vehicle’s PCM (Powertrain Control Module) and display such sensor readings as spark advance, MAP sensor, or even other vehicle parameters such as RPM or vehicle speed. Any of these can be a vital tool in tuning your vehicle.
Let’s show you how to set up the LM-2 to read OBD-II/CAN parameters:
>Press and hold the ‘MODE’ button until the main menu appears.
>>Go to the ‘Configuration Menu’ screen
>>>Select ‘Configure OBD-II’
>>>>Select your OBD-II protocol (We always just choose ‘Automatic’), press ‘ENTER.’
>>>>>Choose the number of channels you wish to monitor. You can choose up to sixteen based on the speed of your vehicle’s PCM. We recommend starting off with three, then adding two at a time to see how much your vehicle can handle.
>>>>>>Finally, select the channel priority. This really comes into play if your PCM cannot deliver the information from multiple channels smoothly. To counter this, the LM-2 allows you set any channel to a high, normal, or low priority. High and normal priority channels will be updated often, in that order. A channel with a low priority will be updated a lot less than one with a higher priority. Channels such as coolant temperature that do not change often are good choices for a low setting.
The LM-2 also allows us to read and clear any trouble codes stored in the car’s computer. This is a plus when dealing with aftermarket parts that can sometimes cause that troublesome ‘check engine light’ to be turned on, even when nothing is wrong.
Applying the LM-2
Now we are going to walk you through a quick scenario in order to show you how you can use these tools to help tune your vehicle.
Boosted Late Model Car; Tuning At The Track
Like our late model HEMI, this car needs to have special care taken of it due to the added induction. The MAP sensor measures the amount of air pressure in your manifold. Most of the time this is a vacuum, but when using forced induction, this sensor is in the presence of boost – the opposite of vacuum – so the sensor is still able to read it.
By using the LM-2‘s OBD-II interface, we can keep track of boost as the car goes down the track.
Next we loaded up RPM and the vehicle speed sensor, and we were able to see boost compared to vehicle speed and RPM. We could see how boost would react as the car went down the track and built speed.
But let’s not stop there. How about we load up Spark Advance, Engine Coolant Temperature, and Air Intake Temperature? Spark advance lets us monitor any timing adjustments the computer is making. The various temperature sensors let us keep an eye on how hot the engine is, as well as the incoming air, to learn what the best tune for the car is under those conditions.
Finally, we can take all of those parameters and compare them to the air/fuel reading all at the same time. The driver simply plugs the LM-2 into his car and presses ‘record’ just before the run. After the run is over, he can then download the run file to his laptop and view it in the LogWorks software to analyze and review the information. Now, when it comes to tuning, you can learn how your car reacts in different air, with different amounts of boost – whatever you want.
We found Innovate’s new LM-2 wideband air/fuel meter to be a very versatile tool that has a number of uses. Even if your car isn’t supported by OBD-II, there are plenty of other issues that the LM-2 can help you with. This is a must-have for shops or someone with a lot of cars, because it is so easy to move between vehicles.
We will be doing more testing with the LM-2 once we get this car out to the track. Look for more then!