Dakota Digital: Additional Vehicle Monitoring Without Adding Gauges

Does your hot rod have a Dakota Digital instrument system? Are you considering installing one? If you are, you can see how easy it is to install a Dakota Digital gauge system by clicking here. The Dakota Digital gauge systems all offer six standard gauge readings (and depending on the vehicle, possibly more). While these are often enough for the average driver, for the enthusiast who desires more vital information about their vehicle, Dakota Digital can help you monitor more vehicle vitals with its expansion modules.

These modules provide up to sixteen additional gauge readings for the instrument system without adding additional gauges to clutter the interior. These modules do not require the installation of pillar mounts, cutting up the instrument cluster, or drilling hole for mounting brackets into the lower dash to fit more gauges. The expansion modules, known as Bus Interface Modules (BIM), are compatible with Dakota Digital’s current RTX, HDX, VHX, VFD3, and RET instrument systems that operate with a black-plastic-housed control box.

The Dakota Digital instrument systems are fully electronic dashes, even though they contain what appears to be analog gauges.

Who Is Dakota Digital?

Dakota Digital designs, develops, and manufactures a wide variety of replacement direct-fit instrument systems in its facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The company’s products fit a range of automotive and motorcycle manufacturers, including Chevrolets from the 1930s to the late-1990s. According to Dakota Digital Product Specialist, Greg Karpe, “We currently cover the most popular models, such as Camaro, Chevelle, Corvette, and of course, pickups, as well as the full-size models. Most applications have three to four different product lines to choose from, and those vary by price, appearance, and features. We have something in our lineup for nearly everyone.”

Bus Interface Module

Karpe stated, “Dakota Digital instrument systems are among the most capable and user-friendly systems on the market, but if a customer would like to expand even further, the BIM series of expansion modules are a good fit.” Karpe continued, “In short, these small devices allow an additional sensor, such as transmission temperature, boost, fuel pressure, and more, to ‘tap in’ to the main system.”

These additional readings are displayed in the message center located below the speedometer and tachometer area of the cluster. The message center configuration and display settings can be adjusted to show the driver the desired data, while the use of a rocker switch allows scrolling through the readings.

How Does A BIM Work?

The connection of a new BIM to an existing instrument system setup is easy and straightforward. Usually, mounting the BIM units under the dash provides the cleanest installed appearance. The under-dash installation also adds a degree of protection for the unit. Each BIM electrically connects to another BIM or the control box via cables. “Daisy chaining,” as Dakota Digital calls it, places each BIM unit in series with the next BIM unit in the circuit. Within milliseconds, the data transmission bounces from BIM to BIM until reaching the control box for the cluster. The control box displays the data on the Dakota Digital instrument system.

Dakota Digital calls the data transfer with the BIM series 'Daisy Chaining.' The installed sensor will send data to its dedicated BIM, which in turn transmits the data to the next BIM in series. This data transfer will continue until the controller receives the data transmission (left). For most of the BIM units, a sensor (or sensors) must be installed into the corresponding component that is being monitored (right).

EFI Compatibility

If you converted your car’s engine from carburetion — or the factory electronic fuel injection — to an aftermarket EFI, Dakota Digital has developed a series of BIM units that offer compatibility with many aftermarket EFI induction systems. To handle the data retrieval, these BIM bridge-modules will interface between the instrument system and many aftermarket EFI controllers to handle data retrieval. Dakota Digital currently offers bridge module support for the AEM, Edelbrock, Fast XFI, Holley, Mega Squirt, and MSD Atomic TBI EFI systems. Each bridge module usually includes a tachometer, engine coolant temperature, intake air temperature, fuel pressure, and air/fuel ratio information.

GPS, Speed, And Compass Information

The addition of the GPS-50-2 GPS Interface BIM unit will bring your ride out of the pre-computer stone ages of automotive architecture and into the 21st century. This BIM unit provides accurate speed information, compass heading, altimeter information, and clock syncing — all executed with automatic calibration. Updating the speed at a rate of 10-times-per-second provides near-perfect precision. For speed control, the add-on 600041 external antenna works with the GPS Interface BIM unit. If the outside air temperature is desired, a SEN-15 sensor sends that information to the GPS BIM unit.

 

The GPS-50-2 GPS Interface BIM unit will provide accurate speed information, compass heading, altimeter information, and clock syncing (left). If speed control is desired, the addition of the 600041 external antenna will work with the under-dash mounted GPS Interface BIM unit (right).

Fluid Temperature 

If fluid temperature information is wanted, the BIM-04-2 temperature module is for you. The BIM unit monitors coolant, engine oil, transmission fluid, and differential fluid temperatures. A generic temperature input provides future fluid temperature monitoring expansion. All the temp sensors have a 100- to 320-degree operating range.

Each of the sensors are ground isolated (module ground). This allows each sensor to be accurate, even on engines with inadequate grounding. For ease of sensor installation, Dakota Digital also offers an inline transmission-/oil-temp sender block.

Tire Pressure Monitor Systems

Tire Pressure Monitor Systems (TPMS) have been incorporated into late-model Chevrolets for over a decade. Now, you can add that technology to your hot rod’s existing instrument system. The TPMS provides real-time pressure readings of all four tires and displays the readings on a Dakota Digital HDX/RTX instrument system. The BIM-22-2 includes the BIM unit and four wireless TPMS valve-stem-mounted sensors that transmit data to a receiver module that attaches to the BIM unit. To install the valve stem, simply dismount the tire, install the TMPS valve stem, and remount the tire. The TPMS is easily programmable with the rotation of the tire — just like factory late-model systems.

The Tire Pressure Monitor Systems (TPMS) technology has been required on late-model vehicles for over a decade. With Dakota Digital's new TPMS monitoring, you can bring your classic ride into the 21st century. The TPMS unit comes with the BIM, a receiver, four valve stems, and the related installation hardware and wiring (left). The TPMS provides real-time pressure readings of all four tires to be displayed on a Dakota Digital HDX/RTX instrument system (right).

Wide Band/Fuel Monitoring

Do you have an interest in knowing the fuel trim of your engine? Dakota Digital’s BIM-13-2 Wide Band Air/Fuel ratio monitor will display the air/fuel ratio or lambda information from nearly any aftermarket wide-band controller, such as Innovate Motorsports, NGK, FAST, and AEM. The BIM unit is scalable, which will allow it to operate with any 0- to 5-volt controller output.

OBDII Compatibility

With a late-model engine swap (1996 and newer), which includes a compatible OBDII Powertrain Control Module (PCM) and data link connector (DLC), the addition of a BIM unit can benefit the instrument system. Dakota Digital has developed an OBDII/CAN BIM with a communication cable and plug that connects to the factory ODBII/DLC port, which is installed in a convenient location under the dash or in the glove compartment during the engine swap. This union allows access to most of the sensor information that is present on the Controller Area Network (CAN). CAN bus is a binary-data transfer topology. When attached to CAN, there is a nearly infinite amount of data available on the message center.

The OBDII/CAN BIM is compatible with any OBDII powertrain installation. The BIM unit attaches to the instrument system controller (the HDX instrument system in this case) (left). The DLC cable is connected to the BIM unit (center). Lastly, the DLC cable/connector is plugged into the OBDII port in the glovebox (right). This setup will provide the controller with almost unlimited data for display.

The BIM units for EFI, fluid temperature, clock, compass, tire pressure monitoring system, wide-band fuel readings, and OBDII BIM deliver pertinent info and allow for a professional installation. Dakota Digital also has additional BIM unit options (pressure and exhaust gas/cylinder head temperatures).

After you have upgraded your hot rod with a Dakota Digital gauge cluster, adding a myriad of functions is easy with a simple plug-and-play upgrade. For information about all Dakota Digital BIM unit options, check out the website so you can access all the data you desire.

Article Sources

About the author

Christopher Holley

Chris Holley has been a freelance writer since 2014. Chris has been a college professor since 1998; he currently instructs the second-year automotive electrical/electronics and HVAC classes at Pennsylvania College of Technology. In addition, he also teaches the chassis dyno classes where he and the students perform dozens of modifications and hundreds of runs per semester on various vehicles. Chris’ passions run deep for the Mopar products. When Chris is not working, he has several Dodges that he either races at the drag strip, cruises to car shows, or tests on a chassis dyno. Chris is a multi-time track champion at the local drag strips in the central Pennsylvania area.
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