Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Desperately Seeking Boost

Apparently, 50% of all my posts this year must be about my new car, so here's another one. This one has a twist, however: I'm asking for suggestions.

I'd like to install a boost gauge in the car, not just because it's cool, but because it would help me both to drive and to diagnose problems with the vehicle. In particular, the Mazdaspeed Miata sometimes suffers from a leaky bypass valve, which can result in decreased compression. I'd like to be able to tell if I'm getting the 8-or-so PSI of boost that Mazda designed into the car, or if I need to replace my valve. I might also want to add other gauges in the future: a voltmeter would be useful, as would an oil-temperature gauge. Shoot, if I went to an aftermarket ECU, I'd probably want a wideband air/fuel-ratio gauge, too.

The trouble is, there are numerous places to put the gauge, but each location has significant drawbacks. Below is photo of Mia's dashboard, with potential gauge-mounting locations marked:

  1. It turns out that the "eyeball" vents of the first- and second-generation "Miatae" are a perfect fit for the smallest commonly available gauge size, 52 mm. So, I could mount up to 3 gauges in easy-to-read spots, indicated by the 1A, 1B, and 1C in the pic. One advantage to this location is that I wouldn't have to purchase any kind of mount(s), so my only expense would be the gauge(s). Another advantage is that the installation looks pretty clean. I could easily put a boost gauge in 1B and a voltmeter in 1C, and the setup would almost look factory. I also wouldn't have to cut any holes to run the leads; I can just route them through the vent ducts. That means that I could undo the installation without leaving any unsightly evidence. The downside, of course, is that the vent ceases to exist when you plug it with a gauge. I'd also worry about overheating the gauges when running the heater.
  2. I could purchase something called the ePod, which would allow me to mount 1 gauge on the steering column just in front of the instrument binnacle, as indicated by the 2 in the photograph. The upside to this location is that it makes the gauge easy to see. Also, since the ePod replaces an existing plate on the steering column, I wouldn't be required to cut any holes to run the leads; I could simply replace the OEM plate if I ever wanted to remove the gauge. The downside is that the gauge would block my view of the odometer and several warning lights. There's also a somewhat cheaper mount from SpeedHut that would do something similar, and would probably hold the gauge better, but it would require drilling a hole in the OEM plate. Of course, that plate could be replaced if need be...
  3. I could buy a 1- or 2-gauge pod that mounts on the driver's-side A pillar. The pod would let me put 52-mm gauges at locations indicated by the 3A and 3B. This location has the advantage that it interferes not at all with the functions of the other interior components. The main downside is that I'd have to ream holes in the A-pillar cover to route the leads and to bolt the pod in place. Even if I I wanted to use some cheesy, flimsy fasting technology like Velcro or 2-sided tape to attach the pod, I'd still need to run the wiring. Additionally, A-pillar gauge pods scream "ricer," which is not the look I'm going for.
  4. Several companies make 1-DIN panels for the radio/climate-control panel; the plates are holed to allow mounting up to 3 52-mm gauges. So I could put gauges where the non-too-visible 4A, 4B, and 4C are in the photo. At least 1 such panel angles the gauges toward the driver, which is certainly nice. The main downside is that I'd have to replace my schmancy Bose 6-disc-changing head unit with something 1-DIN-sized. Also, since the speakers are low-impedence models that work best with Bose head units, I might have to replace them, too. That's stating to sound very expensive, and I haven't even included the cost of the gauges. Additionally, the OEM head unit has the same matte-silver painted finish that the climate controls, door handles, and vent bezels have, and I'd rather not mess with the matching.
  5. What, 5? There's no 5 in the picture! That's the idea. I could also mount the boost gauge in the glove box, on the right hand side, pointed toward the driver. That way, I could use it for diagnosis---just open the glove box when working on the car---but not for driving. The advantage here is that the dash would look entirely factory and I wouldn't loose any functionality. The downside, aside from not being able to see the gauge, is that I wouldn't have a cool boost gauge in my cockpit. Sad.
So, I have plenty of options, it seems. But I'm not entirely happy with any of them. Your thoughts?


  1. Were it my car, I'd probably put put the gauges in the two central vent mounts (1B and 1C), perhaps with a foam plug behind them to mitigate overheating. You'll still have your side vents and floor vents, and it requires a minimal amount of modding.

    My second choice would be the A-pillar mounts at 3A and 3B. Yeah, it means some drillwork, but it's not too big a deal (you'll probably drive the car into the ground, right?), and yeah, it looks a little ricey, but as long as you don't put kanji decals on the hood, I think you avoid the worst of it.

    Of course, you could just go whole hog with the ricer thing. Put a huge decal of Vash the Stampede on the hood, some kanji on the sides, some neon-bright fake fire around the fenders, purple lights under the running boards, and an improbably large and utterly useless spoiler on the trunk. It'll be totally kawaii!

  2. Anonymous12:58 PM

    I'd tend to agree with Nick, and go with 1b/c with some heatproof foam as a first choice. Yet one more option to consider would be a swinging mount under the driver's side dash. Reach down and flip it down when you need the info, flip it back up when you need the legroom.

    Also, Nick forgot to include the muffler that looks like your car suffered a prison rape to really complete the kawaii awesome super fun good look. With LEDs.

  3. Anonymous2:38 PM

    I might argue against the vents. We've previously discussed acceptable ranges of "top down" weather conditions and fewer vents means less heat blowing on your face or torso on those beautiful but borderline-freezing days.

    A potential way to make the A-pillar option more acceptable would be to create a mount/wire interface that allows you to remove the gauge when not in use. It seems like you don't think you'll require it for all drives, so being able to take it off and tuck the leads away might make for a decent compromise. The downside is that it would take more crafting and effort on your part so that your A-pillar doesn't look like it is suffering an infection from the Matrix's "machine world."

  4. Aww, Mia wa chiisai to totemo kawaii desu ne?

    Vash the Stampede? Pshaw. I'm going Sailor Moon all the way, baby! I think that, for maximum irony, I'll finish off the ricing out of my vehicle by pasting on giant red vinyl kana spelling out "okuyukashii," which means "modest." That would give me the super number one best car.

    And Nick, running boards? What decade are you living in?

    Seriously though, I was leaning toward the 1B/1C placement, which is part of the reason I listed the vents first. Thanks to both of you for your comments.

  5. Ken,

    It looks like you put up your comment as I was making mine. Curse my obsessive need to proof read!

    I'll probably want to leave the gauges visible all the time, just so I know wha's'up.

    Yes, I've been using vents 1A and 1B to warm my hands on those marginal days. If I go the eyeball-vent route with the gauges, I guess only my sinister hand will get to be comfortable on cold days.

    This reminds me to mention an interesting phenomenon associated with my new stainless-steel shift knob. On chilly days, it's quite cold to the touch when I first get in the car, as you would suspect. As I drive, and the transmission warms up, the knob slowly warms, too, thanks to it's good thermal conductivity and its intimate thermal contact with the shifter. It never gets anywhere near hot, but it is certainly noticeable. It's like a tactile tranny-temp gauge, and it almost makes the car feel like a living thing. Too bad I can't somehow crank it up on cold days, then I wouldn't need the vent in 1B at all.

  6. Anonymous4:20 PM

    I shouldn't be so hasty to assign other people or their ideas to bygone decades. If you follow through with your vent plans surely you'll soon decide that supple leather driving gloves are necessary and desirable... and then can flat hats, silk scarves, and, above all, driving goggles be far behind?

  7. Anonymous4:25 PM


  8. Alright, I rephrase: "...purple lights under the parts of the frame below the doors, to which running boards were, in the distant past, attached..."

    As for the vents, a tonneau cover will confine the heated air and keep you warm when you're not carrying a passenger. Because what you need is another pricey accessory for the car, right?

  9. Ken's suggestion of the old-timey driving gear is right on! Just don't wear a long scarf (

  10. Ken,

    Excellent web find. Consider my order for goggles and gauntlets placed.

    Speaking of gauntlets, let me just say, "Elf needs goggles...badly."


    Actually, I've always thought that tonneau covers were cool, especially on something like an old Porsche Speedster:

    Unfortunately, I'm not sure how practical they are if you aren't heading out for an extended drive; I would guess that the deployment and stowage times for the driver's-seat covering part would be high. Also, the tonneaus made for NB Miatae don't fit the stock Mazdaspeed Miatas. I'd have to relocated the rear speakers somehow. Still, it would be cool...

  11. I just checked the 'Pedia. Note to self: no flowing silk scarves.