We’re pretty damned excited. Why? Well, over the
next 12 months we’re going to be presenting stories on a whole bunch of new
electronic modules dedicated to do-it-yourself car modification.
Long-time AutoSpeed readers will be familiar with
the electronic kits developed by the author in conjunction with Silicon Chip
magazine and sold by Jaycar Electronics, but the new modules will be better
again. So how will they be better? In short:
When equipped with an appropriate heat sink,
they’ll be able to directly drive big electrical loads like fuel pumps,
solenoids, radiator fans and the like. Or, if required, they can operate relays
or switch LEDs or warning lights or buzzers.
The brains behind the electronics is eLabtronics,
the company with which we developed the pictured Intelligent Intercooler Water
Spray Controller some 8 years ago. That product, still available, combines
intercooler temperature and engine load sensing with a predictive ability that
allows the intercooler spray to actually come on before it is even needed! (Go
here for more on that product –
Intelligent Intercooler Water Spray Controller Module)
This time we approached eLabtronics with a
proposition that they’ve very happily taken up – to build a single electronics
module that can be software-developed to have a myriad of different functions.
By standardising the hardware, eLabtronics can make the product in greater
numbers, bringing down prices. And by using software reprogramming to produce
different modules, the designs can still be fully optimised for their particular
In plain English that means the modules will be
cheap and very useful.
OK, so what sort of functions will these modules
perform? We’ve deliberately aimed at making the modules universal building
blocks - designs that can be used to perform numerous in-car functions. And that
includes functions equally useful in a car running the smallest number of
modifications to ones modified in every respect!
We’ll be releasing different modules that can
switch on rpm shift-lights, operate radiator fans by monitoring the standard
engine management temp sensor, sound over-speed alarms, switch auto transmission
mode when you’re driving hard, steplessly control the speed of fuel and
water/air intercooler pumps, pulse an alarm siren – and literally hundreds of
We’ll be covering each module in a dedicated story
and then running follow-up stories that show the installation of the modules to
achieve performance functions. Note that none of these universal modules will
need to be software programmed – they’ll be available ready to go.
If you’ve looked at the do-it-yourself electronics
that we’ve previously run, and decided that while the kits look great, you don’t
have the component recognition and soldering skills to build them, these modules
are for you.
Let’s take a quick look at the hardware and then
look at some of the different functionalities that will be available.
All the modules are based on the one piece of
hardware called the eLabtronics Multi Purpose Module (MPM).
The MPM has two multi-turn user-adjustable
potentiometers (pots), a four terminal screw-down connector, a four position DIP
switch, a fuse, a microcontroller and an output transistor called a MOSFET. (And
of course, there are other components on the board but we don’t need to worry
The four wire connector is for power, ground,
signal input and output. To put this another way, the maximum number of
connections that need to be made to the board comprises just four
When the output MOSFET is activated, positive
power is available on the output terminal. Without a heatsink fitted to the
MOSFET, the module can output 3 amps. With a small heatsink that rises to 6
amps, and a larger heatsink will allow 10 amps to be drawn.
If you want to handle really big loads like
radiator fans and fuel pumps, a separate add-on module (a high powered solid
state relay) can be used that will allow up to 100 amps to be handled.
In short, there’s basically no 12V (or 24V) load
that can’t be operated.
The two on-board pots are used to allow
user-adjustment of two different parameters. (Some examples are covered below.)
The DIP switch (not fitted to all versions of the MPM) allows the user to
configure various options. The fuse protects against short-circuiting the
output, and a diode is also fitted to protect against reverse polarity
The microcontroller is pre-programmed by
eLabtronics to allow the MPM to perform the desired function.
So what sorts of functions are planned? Let’s take
a quick look, including some typical car modifications that you can do with
each. And don’t forget that many of the modules have greater capabilities than we’re
covering in this preliminary article.
1. eLabtronics Pulser
The Pulser is, as the name suggests, designed to
pulse the output. The speed of the pulsing and the length of time the output is
switched on each pulse are both independently adjustable by the pots.
This independent adjustment is key to the module’s
You can have the output switch on for a very short
time at a fast rate (think of rapidly flashing a LED) or you can have the output
switch on for a longer time much less frequently (maybe pulsing a horn).
Or the output can be on for a short time but at
long intervals (eg a pulsing an intercooler water spray). You can even have the
output switch on for 15 seconds every 3 minutes – great for circulating the
water in a water/air intercooler when off boost.
As the examples suggest, in most cases the output
MOSFET is powerful enough to directly drive lights, a horn or a pump.
The switch that’s used to turn on the Pulser needs
to carry only a tiny current, making it easy to trigger the Pulser from an
existing alarm output or a low current switch like a temperature switch, a
microswitch or a pressure switch.
The speed of pulsing can be set any where from 10
per second to once per hour, and the length of the pulse can be from 1 per cent
to 99 per cent of the available time.
2. eLabtronics Manual Motor Speed and Solenoid
This module is useful wherever you want to adjust
the amount of power going to something – motor speed control and light dimming
are two examples.
Any DC brush-type electric motor can be
speed-controlled. So you can vary the speed of a water/air intercooler pump or a
radiator fan. You can set the speed to the required value and then leave the
system alone, or, if you wish, you can have a pot mounted on the dashboard that
allows you to manually adjust speed. You can also steplessly dim lights.
And when the motor speed or lights are turned down
low, very little energy is being wasted. This is much better than using a big
variable resistor to dim lights or slow motors, where lots of power is wasted
and the resistor gets very hot.
Finally, this module can be used to pulse a
solenoid or an injector. The pulse rate and duty cycle can be independently
controlled, being left at a fixed value or manually changed as required.
3. eLabtronics Intelligent Motor Speed
The eLabtronics Intelligent Motor Speed Control
module adds external electronic input to motor speed control. This means that
rather than manually adjusting the motor speed, it can be done
For example, by monitoring the standard
temperature sensor, you can steplessly control the speed of radiator fans, so
that their flow always matches the required cooling demand. You can do the same
with a fuel pump, matching fuel supply output to engine requirements (so saving
on fuel pump wear, noise and reducing fuel temperature). You can automatically
control the speed of a water/air intercooler pump and another use is to vary
water injection flow with engine load.
The two on-board pots allow the minimum and
maximum motor speeds to be set while the DIP switch sets the control mode.
4. eLabtronics Voltage Switch
This single module will switch on a power feed
when a monitored voltage reaches the adjustable trip-point.
Because most engine management sensors output a
varying voltage, you can use the sensors already fitted to switch things on and
off. To put this another way, rather than having to install new sensors, you can
use the ones already there that monitor engine temperature, exhaust gas oxygen,
engine airflow consumption, manifold pressure, etc.
For example, you can turn on a low fuel warning
light when the gauge gets low, turn on radiator fans by monitoring the standard
engine temperature sensor, turn on an intercooler fan when engine loads are high
or low (you just monitor the output of the airflow meter, MAP sensor or airflow
meter), disconnect the battery if the battery voltage falls too low (or sound an
alarm), build in an anti-wastegate creep function, and so on and so on!
The standard engine management sensor that’s being
monitored won’t be loaded down (so it will still work fine doing its original
function), or if you like, you can add a new dedicated sensor. And remember, in
many cases the module can be used to directly control loads like pumps or fans
without the need for a relay, further reducing cost and simplifying the wiring.
One on-board pot allows the trip-point to be
accurately set and the other pot sets the difference between switch-on and
5. eLabtronics Frequency Switch
This module performs the same function as the
eLabtronics Voltage Switch described above but instead of monitoring a changing
voltage, it monitors frequency. This means it can use the output of
frequency-based airflow meters and MAP sensors, and also monitor road speed and
It’s the easy way of illuminating a shiftlight,
sounding an over-speed alarm, enabling a rev cut, controlling active
aerodynamics and working with anything else speed or rpm related!
that use smart sensors – that is, the sensors communicate with control systems
by CAN bus and the like – will not be able to be monitored by the voltage and
frequency switches. However, this is a minority of new cars. (Note that many
current cars use CAN bus systems to communicate between different ECUs but
not between the sensor and the ECU).
older cars equipped with engine management and/or electrically-powered dash
instruments use frequency or voltage signals between the sensors and the ECUs
(or between the sensors and dash instruments) and so can use these frequency and
Finally in this overview of some of the modules,
we have a universal timer module.
This will be able to be used to drive a cooling
fan for a set period after you switch off, add an extended ‘on’ time to a
pushbutton-triggered intercooler water spay, add wastegate anti-creep or
over-boost functions to a boost control, let you continue using the electric
windows for a minute after switch-off (in cars that don’t already have this
function!) – and many, many other functions.
The time length will be set by the two pots and
the timer will also have many different modes.
The basic functions of some of these modules are
deliberately similar to the kits we’ve previously covered. That’s because those
kits performed very effectively in numerous different applications.
But these modules won’t be kits – they’ll be fully
built and ready to be wired straight into your car.
Furthermore, most of the modules will also have
additional functions – for example, the Voltage Switch output will be able to be
configured to give a couple of warning beeps, pulse the output on and off, or
stay fully on. The Pulser will be able to be triggered once a certain monitored
temperature is reached. Being able to directly drive loads will simplify wiring
and integration into existing car systems.
We’re aiming to make the modules as
straightforward to use as possible - but that won’t prevent some very tricky
So standby for the full tour and detail, starting
with the eLabtronics Pulser. We think you’ll be pretty impressed.
the descriptions of the modules contained in this article cover proposed
functionalities. Changes may occur during individual module development.
eLabtronics modules are engineered and manufactured by eLabtronics. The modules
are based on concepts and specifications developed by Julian Edgar, with the aim
being to provide cost-effective and useful modules for car modification (and
also industrial and educational uses).