The Mega Experiment: Part III – Got Root?

If you’ve ever had admin access to a server or rooted a phone, getting access to every single mode and operation of your engine feels exactly the same. First you go through some trick BS where you have to remove a battery and USB and networking cables are everywhere. Someone grants you access to the machine or you run a sketchy .bat from some internet shareware site, and next thing you know, you have total and complete control of your hardware. It feels great, but your euphoria quickly turns to panic as you start clicking dialogs and checkboxes. “You are about to change the permissions on sub-folders – are you sure?” “You are about to flash new firmware this may brick your device – are you sure?” “CAUTION! Anti-lag is very hard on your turbo and engine. Use at your own risk.” 😛 Then you start to forget that you dropped a script in /usr/bin that causes issues with a backup, or selected PID air-fuel correction and went off to tune the VE table. Completely the same – so be careful as you just rooted your car.


Getting some sort of base tune is really going to help, but I still had to methodically go through the options with TunerStudio dozens of times. Everything from Project Properties to Advanced Engine / Speed and Gear Sensors needed to be checked over. I got idle working and then I looked over at the 180 degree coolant temps, and got fan control working. Tested VSS and saw all of 4KPH, so had to get that to MPH and figure out the correct settings to get speed working. I’ve been tuning the idle control each day I cold start it, and now I’m starting to dial in the cold enrichment. I worry that some of these settings will need refinement in oh, say, Prescott – where the rally morning temps may be in the upper 30’s. Getting it to start and run from 60F doesn’t seem a challenge.

I was hoping to retain a tachometer and speedometer, but once again the 2003+ Neons are special, and have moved to all CAN-Bus devices. This means there is a proprietary data signal sent on two wires from the NGC PCM that controls every gauge on the dash. Once disconnected I was left with signal indicators, high beam, brake, low fuel, and handful of others. No temp, no speed, no tach – and no way to add that without reverse engineering the cluster. The fuel level signal (as I later found out) is reported, but it’s not normalized by the cluster, so if I jam on the brakes I can get the low fuel light to come on! It scared the shit out of me the first time I saw the fuel gauge dip down way below empty and rise up over a 1/4 of tank on acceleration. I think there may be a circuit I can build – or an aftermarket controller. Any ideas? Hit the comments.

I was considering some nice replacement gauges that I could drive with outputs from the MS3. Then I started adding those up: Tach, speed, fuel, coolant… $500 and we haven’t even looked at fancy AFR gauges yet. So I decided to replace all of that with a $50 4.3″ used android cellphone and msDroid!


This app is stellar! It’s just recently been released on Google Play, and there are still some issues with it defaulting gauges, but you can change settings with it and tune the car from your android device! It connected in seconds to the serial bluetooth and in no time I had all the gauges I needed. It looks awesome on my Nexus 7, but that’s not going to be bouncing around the rally car just yet. 🙂 I’m really looking forward to future development of msDroid as this is already a really powerful application that gives you an experience like Torque (OBDII Android App) but for MegaSquirt.

ms_gauge_clusterI optioned up my 2010 HTC Thunderbolt with $8 worth of a hard-shell case that I riveted to a mount and some matte no-glare screen protectors. 😀 I popped open up my cluster and removed all the offending dummy lights and masked over the stock gauges with flat black vinyl. Leaving literally: Battery, turn signals, high beam, fogs, low fuel, and the sloppy fuel gauge.

Rooted the phone (of course), custom ROM, bypassed activation, installed Tasker, and created 4 scripts to automatically make settings changes and launch applications based on power, wifi, and bluetooth. I also use: CarHomeUltra, GPS Status, full!screen, Secure Settings, and Zooper Widget.

Getting launch control working was a big milestone. It’s one of the features I was looking for with standalone engine management, and even though it’s setup and working on a bone stock 2.0L motor right now – I’m pretty stoked about it. Enabled with a switch on the dash, a bunch of TunerStudio settings, and the clutch switch signal to get it going. Flat shifting is also an option; Car detects you’re shifting gears so it limits the motor while you keep your right foot planted for the shift. It needs a more sensitive clutch switch than the stock “foot completely to the floor” model.


So far the Mega Experiment has been very successful. The stock motor runs great and I’ll be dialing in the settings and tuning over the next few months. The plan is to build a fresh 2.0L “race motor” that can really take advantage of MegaSquirt and swap out the stock engine. I did this simply to limit the variables. Installing engine management that you’ve never used on a motor that you just built seems like a bad combo.

If you’re looking to go to MegaSquirt or standalone – I suggest really taking your time and being patient with your setup and settings. A simple mistake with a ground wire can do bad things to you and your motor. Always read your manual – your mileage may vary. Good luck!