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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

 

The Megasquirt mindset

I once saw a Linux fan with a T-shirt that read, "I'd rather spend half an hour going through source code than a whole hour waiting for tech support that isn't." Well, I've taken a class or two in programming, and found I have a marvelous talent for creating inexplicable errors. While there is no excuse for providing aweful tech support, the average owner isn't going to buy a computer with the goal of learning to be a programmer. Not anymore, at least - that may have been true back in the days when computer magazines distributed programs as source code typed out on the paper instead of on a CD-ROM.

Nor do most people buy cars with the goal of learning how to be mechanics.

With Megasquirt, though, I think it's safe to say most people who buy it either are fuel injection gurus or want to become one. The official FAQ includes the comment, "MegaSquirt requires, and develops, a number skills that other aftermarket ECUs don't require. Some would see the as a bonus, others would see it as a detriment." However, you don't really need to be a guru when you start out - I hardly knew much about soldering when I ordered my kit, and couldn't tell a VR sensor from a Hall effect sensor. But between the Megamanual, the Megasquirt Forum, the Megasquirt 'N' Spark page, and the experience from building this kit, I managed to pick things up as I went along.

Now I've noticed there is something of a difference in the way Squirters tend to approach troubleshooting compared to people who have other brands of aftermarket EFI. I've been following along with a guy on Slantsix.org who is trying to troubleshoot an Accel DFI unit (not to mention having to deal with a dead LC-1 controller) and it's really quite different from Megasquirt troubleshooting. If an Accel ECU breaks, you can send it back to the factory for repairs. After a while, it'll come back in the mail, perhaps with some explanation of what broke, but not much in the way of specifics.

But if you break a Megasquirt, there is no warranty covering it. The usual thing to do is to take it apart, bench test it, look for anything burned out, and ask for help on the forum if you're stumped. You can pay to have someone fix the Megasquit, but only as a last resort. It certainly is a lot more work on your part.

While it may take more work, though, there are some real advantages. For one thing, there's no shipping, so if you are a good troubleshooter you may have the Megasquirt up and running again much sooner. But what may be the most important advantage is that it's often possible to know just what failed and why. With all the documentation open to see, you can figure out precisely what circuit blew and often make an educated guess as to why. Not only that, but you can change the Megasquirt itself if the problem was inside the unit. Whereas with the DFI system, Accel didn't even have a pinout of the connections on their website. I couldn't quite tell if the owner had wired his ignition correctly or accidentally fed 40 volts AC from the Mopar distributor into an input meant for 12 volts.

So, is Megasquirt better? The answer is, "It depends on what you want." Buy one expecting it to get instant results may lead to disappointment. But if your goal is to become a fuel injection guru, it's a good way to learn.

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Like the Dart Matt!
 
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