• Digatron's DT-53K Engine Monitoring and Data Acquisition System

    The dashboard instruments in your boat are one of the most important guides you have in determining your engine and boat's operating condition. Faulty or inaccurate gauges can not only cost you performance, they can result in engine damage. While standard instruments such as tachometers, speedometers, and temperature gauges have come a long way in the last twenty years, so have the options to the pleasure boater and racer.

    For most applications, standard analog gauges will provide adequate engine monitoring performance. Serious performance boaters and racers will want more accuracy and something relatively new to the arena of performance boating - data acquisition instruments.

    What is data acquisition? Basically, it is the instrument's ability to accurately monitor, record, and store information that is acquired during use. This isn't a simple 'recall' of top speed or maximum RPM - it's a detailed report from multiple sensors that record exhaust gas temperature, rpm, speed, and lap times. This record can be viewed as a graph and printed out via a PC interface for an overall picture of vehicle and engine performance. Graphed performance reports can then be overlaid and compared for a complete picture of engine performance and the effectiveness of modifications and fine tuning. This has clear advantages to the advanced tuner or racer, will be of particular advantage to those who will upgrade to the advanced fuel delivery control that the Brucato Pro Control Unit offers. It should also be noted that Brucato Machine and Tool is now a dealer for Digatron data acquisition systems, and they can offer additional setup and tuning information specifically for high performance boating applications.

    Digatron has been producing digital monitoring systems for over 30 years for a variety of applications including race cars, snowmobiles, ATVs, and boats. These highly adaptable systems can be adapted to almost any application that uses an internal combustion engine, 2-stroke or 4-stroke. Digatron also manufactures custom sensors to suit these varied applications. These units are no secret to outboard drag racers and hardcore performance enthusiasts, however, data logging digital instruments have yet to make a good showing into the mainstream.

    For this two-part series, we'll be looking at the Digatron DT-53K "Max" unit. The 50-series data acquisition systems represent Digatron's most advanced monitoring systems, capable of data logging, timing, and data download capability. Our unit features a "three face" design, with one large and two smaller backlit LCD screens.

    For our application, we'll be using the DT-53K as a digital tachometer and dual EGT (exhaust gas temperature) instrument. With its data logging ability and digital accuracy, this unit will be a perfect marriage when we install and test our Brucato PCU on a Mercury analog EFI system. Before we go any further, let's look at some of the basic features of the Digatron DT-53K:

    • Engine RPM (tachometer) or Jackshaft RPM, Speed (MPH or KPH) and up to four temperatures.
    • Lap timing with an infrared or magnetic sensor.
    • RPM and MPH record 10 times per second. Temperatures record 4 times per second. Times displayed to the 100th of a second.
    • Maximum readings of all functions. Minimum readings of RPM and Speed.
    • Full hour of data logging and detailed playback.
    • Free P.C. Downloadable software. Features: Custom instrument configuration, charts, graphs and log book. USB and serial computer input.
    • Firmware: P.C. Downloadable updates.
    • Automatic power on and off feature.
    • Power obtained from internal instrument batteries or a 12v external power source.
    • Backlight for night viewing.
    • (8) Highly visible red L.E.D. warning/shift lights.
    • Quality lightweight high-impact aluminum casing.
    • Large, bright, easy-to-read displays.
    • Lifetime Warranty.
    • Quickest and most reliable sensors on the market.

    The Digatron DT-53K is housed in a rugged water-resistant aluminum case. It features two mounting studs in the rear panel and a steel mounting plate is included. All function buttons and displays are on the face of the unit, with the exception of the Time Event and Engine Max buttons, which are on the right side of the unit. Keep this in mind if you're planning on flush-mounting the unit. The rear panel also includes coaxial connection points for speed, tachometer, lap timer, and two temperature sensors. Not all connections must be used, and any display can be configured accordingly.

    The DT-50K series of instruments allows the user to program set limits that will activate a series of warning lights on the head unit. Limits such as RPM redline, exhaust gas temperature limit, and so on. Changes can be made either on the unit itself or via the optional USB PC download cable and software.

    Like other Digatron instruments, the DT-53K is powered by two "AAA" batteries, which should provide about 40 hours of continuous use with the backlight on, and about 150 hours of use with the backlight off. To avoid inaccurate readings from low voltage, the unit will signal the user several hours in advance when it's time to change the batteries.

    Digatron offers a variety of sensors for the many applications this unit can be adapted to. Of particular interest is the sparkplug thermocouple temperature sensor, which is capable of extremely accurate head temperature readings, regardless of application. Custom EGT sensors are available at any cable length, or other sensors may be used. Other temperature sensors that are available include oil, water, ambient air, and cylinder head temperature. The cables Digatron provides for the sensors and their extensions are high-quality, robust units that feature a noise suppressing metal braid under a Teflon casing. Other sensor options include jackshaft RPM and speed sensors. The DT-53K can be calibrated to work with a tachometer signal of any outboard engine.

    For Part Two of this evaluation, we'll focus on the installation procedure as well as testing the DT-53K in our tachometer/dual EGT application. Although Digatron does offer mounting systems for the head unit, we will have Diamond Marine perform a custom installation since we will want an integrated look that fits nicely with our dash layout. We'll also focus on the data logging and graphing capabilities of the Digatron system. The real fun begins when our DT-53K will be used with our Brucato PCU - that's where technology will take the guesswork out of fine tuning our fuel curve. Indeed, technology will help us achieve greater performance by pushing harder to the edge - safely.
Frank Mole Transport