They say knowledge is power, and when it comes to protecting your investment under the hood and keeping your ride rollin’ down the road, it’s even more important. Most cars have the “fab four” in terms of gauges: fuel level, water temp, oil pressure, and voltage. These are considered the bare minimum for tracking a Camaro’s vitals and keeping it running properly. But there are other tidbits of information that are handy to have access to.
Our ’01 Z28 came from The General with the four most important gauges residing in its factory cluster, but we wanted more. Well, actually what we wanted was a nice shift light to help us row gears at the proper moment down the 1320. The problem was that, given the ’01’s curvaceous dash, there just wasn’t a good place to mount the one we wanted that didn’t look haphazard. The solution turned out to be an A-pillar gauge pod. These come in singles, doubles, and triples, so we figured it would be nice to add in a couple of auxiliary gauges since we were going through the work of putting in the shift light.
After noodling it out a bit we decided to add a fuel pressure and an oil temperature gauge. The fuel pressure gauge will let us make sure our petrol is flowing at the right pressure, which really comes in handy when diagnosing problems, plus if we add nitrous down the line, it will become even more important. Oil temperature is one of those overlooked dynamics going on in the engine and, just like water temperature, an elevated oil temp can wreak havoc on an engine. At higher temps, conventional oil can fail and even synthetic oil will stop working its magic at some point. So, with our big box of parts from Summit Racing, we headed over to Don Lee Auto, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, to get it all installed.
To keep us “in the know,” we ordered up this trio of gauge goodness. The main player, and the reason we started this project, is this Level 3 Sport Comp Digital Pro Shift Light (PN ATM-3389, $250.69). This LED shift light has seven user-configurable color selections and includes a digital tach readout. It also features a launch rpm setting and has engine rpm playback for a full 80 seconds. The 21⁄16-inch oil gauge is a Sport-Comp II Pro-Control full-sweep analog piece (PN ATM-3640, $176.33), which can control ignition kill switches and other functions. It also has a programmable high-temp warning light to get our attention if things get too heated. Like the oil temp gauge, the fuel pressure gauge (PN ATM-3663, $215.76) has bright through-the-dial white LED lighting.
In cars, especially modern ones, there’s really no good spot to mount auxiliary gauges and have them look anything other than tacked on. This is where A-pillar gauge pods come in handy. This one from Summit (PN ATM-12213, $59.95) is made specifically for our T-top-equipped ’01 Camaro.
The two senders that we needed to interface with on our LS3 were a 0-100 psi pressure sender and a brass temperature probe. We really liked the compact design of the pressure sender since ones we’ve used in the past have been extremely bulky. Both had plug-and-play ends.
Our LS3 runs the GM fuel rail so we needed to find a good place to tap in and get fuel pressure. The factory fuel line hooks to the fuel rail by way of a quick connect Schrader valve.
The perfect solution turned out to be this fitting from Aeromotive (PN 15121, $64.95). It simply snaps onto the 3⁄8-inch GM fuel rail and the factory fuel line snaps onto it. On one side there’s a 1⁄8-inch pipe port perfect for our pressure sending unit, and opposite of that there’s an AN-08 port. Instead of plugging the –AN port, we installed an O-ring-equipped fitting and a cap.
And here’s the fitting installed. The best part is that it looks factory. Also, down the line we have an easy point to tap into fuel to feed a nitrous system.
We could have also tapped into the GM fuel system by utilizing the port on the front driver side of the fuel rail. This is done by removing the innards of the valve and picking up an adaptor like the one sold by Metco Motorsports Solutions (about $15). With the adaptor, we could have then added a 1⁄8-inch NPT fitting for the sending unit. The only downside is the sender would be in a less-than-attractive location and we wouldn’t have a spot to tie into for a future nitrous system.
When it came to tapping into the GM oil pan for oil temperature, our life was made easy thanks to this oil level sensor adapter fitting from Turn Key Powertrain (PN TKE013A, $20). It replaces the plastic oil level sender and has a convenient 1⁄8-inch port.
On the side of the F-body oil pan there’s a plastic gizmo that lets us know if our oil level is low. It also happens to be a great spot to tap into for oil temperature.
We drained the oil down a bit, removed the plastic sender, and installed the port adapter and temperature sending unit. The OE wires that went to the oil level sender were taped off and zip-tied out of the way. Doing this sent a code and set off the “low oil” light on the dash, but we’ll just have Mike Norris, of Norris Motorsports, kill that code when he does the next tune.
Like the senders, the oil temp and fuel pressure gauges are also plug-and-play deals. This sure beats the old system of tiny lock washers and nuts.
The new gauge pod fit right over the existing OEM pillar cover. We were impressed at how the grain pattern matched, and of course, black was the perfect color. If for some reason you want a different color, it’s paintable.
The gauges fit snugly into the gauge pillar holes, which was a good thing since there’s no room to use the hold-downs. As a bonus, we’re able to rotate the gauges to just the right angle even after the gauge pod was installed.
To get the wires from the gauges to the senders we needed to cut a small hole in the OE pillar cover using a Dremel. Hey, to make an omelet you have to break some eggs.
The gauges came with detailed wiring diagrams, so we’re not going to bore you with a blow-by-blow rundown of every captivating crimp. We did find that the best place to hook up the power for the LED lights (on the oil and fuel gauges) was to tie into the factory dimmer circuit. This way we can easily adjust the brightness of the gauges just like the rest of the dash lights.
To get the tach signal for the digital shift light, we pulled the red plug on the ECU located under the hood on the passenger side (there’s a red plug and a blue one) and tapped into the white wire at pin 10 (arrow).
With the main wires ran, we started cleaning things up by using zip ties to bundle up the various wires. We couldn’t find a good spot on the firewall to pass the wires through, so we used a drill and made a new one just above the gas pedal. A supplied grommet with some RTV sealant finished off the pass-through.
As we stated earlier, the new gauge pod fits over the existing OE pillar cover. After the OE cover was re-installed we used a drill and the supplied pushpins to secure the new pillar cover in place.
To install the oil temp sender we had to drain a little oil so we made sure to top things off with some Red Line 5W30.
Some people think that a fuel pressure gauge isn’t all that important, but that’s not the case, especially with an EFI engine. Recently, we had a fuel pump start to go out and the fluctuations on the fuel pressure gauge let us know that a problem was developing and kept us from being stranded.
All done and ready to hit the track. Like the fuel pressure gauge, the oil temp gauge gives vitally important information. Without this data we could be flying around a road course with reckless abandon not knowing that our oil is doing the slow boil of death. This info will also let us know if we need some sort of oil cooler. The shift light ended up being in the perfect spot to grab our attention, and the multiple shift point feature really let us dial things in. The launch light function should really help at the dragstrip.