Have you ever heard the phrase “GIGO” also known as “Garbage in Garbage out”? This phrase should be your mantra if you intend to take advantage of the race car data acquisition system you invested in.
For many, an AiM Data Acquisition system is just an overpriced lap timer. It’s not because it is complicated or hard to use. Many times it’s just the fact that when you try to retrieve data, it does not make all that much sense. You know, when you overlay laps the data traces don’t line up, the start finish lines are not in the same place for two different sessions, or some sensors are not giving you a reading that looks correct.
The reason for this is GIGO. The data logger is just a recorder. It can’t think for you and does not know what you want to get out of it. It’s just recording whatever it sees. You just laid down one hell of a fast lap, but the logger only recorded rubbish.
Here are a few easy steps to get you started this season collecting mountains of clean and useful data.
You must start of by calibrating your system, consistently. You should test and calibrate each sensor every single time before heading to the track. Do it in the same place every time. If you are using a system with an internal accelerometer, be sure to calibrate (zero) the sensor on flat ground. When the car is sitting still on flat ground, you should get a reading of 0g.
Other sensors like potentiometers should also be calibrated. Steering angle (SA) and throttle position sensor (TPS) usually use a sting, rotary, or liner potentiometer to record their position. An example of a properly calibrated TPS would display 0% when the throttle is closed and display 100% when the throttle is wide open. It seems simple, but it’s one of the most overlooks items I see on my clients cars.
Be sure to reset the date and time every day too. This will sync the data logger’s clock with the clock on your PC. This is helpful when you are looking for a specific session in your data folder. If you log the wrong date and time, you will have a hard time determining what session it is.
After calibrating the sensors, I also like to check the operation of all of the channels I have installed. For AiM systems, this is very easy to do. Just open the Race Studio 2 software and click on the “Online” button. If your PC is connected to the logger, and the logger is switched on, this opens a screen that shows all of your sensor outputs in real time. Engine RPM, speed, oil pressure, TPS, voltage, and everything else you are logging will be displayed.
If the car is on jack stands, start the engine and put the transmission in gear. Does the engine RPM and speed display correctly? Do a reality check. Does the data being displayed seem to jive with what you are expecting? If the engine is idling and the RPM reads 2700 rpm, you know that can’t be right… or you have yourself one hell of a bad ass car. Is the oil pressure and water temperature rising correctly as the engine warms up? Test the lap timer by waving the timing beacon in front of the receiver on the car and seeing if the lap count goes up with each pass. (Note, be sure to pause between passes with the beacon at least as long as the obscure time you have set up in the configuration.)
If you are using an AiM GPS Module, AiM SmartyCam, or AiM Solo it is good to check that the system is getting a good satellite signal. Also check that you have the GPS file for the track you are going to loaded so you will get proper lap times, start/finish line position, and a correct track map displayed on your video overlays.
Once all of the sensors are tested and calibrated, you are now ready to load the car on the trailer and head to the track. Once you get to the track, you won’t have much free time to tinker with the system, so taking the time now to get it all sorted out will pay dividends when you get home and have tons of great data and video to stare at for days.
If you have a specific question about calibrating your AiM data system, just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help you. If I don’t know the correct answer, I promise to make up a really great one.