New Product Announcement: Catalyst ECU Replacement - Ferrari Life
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post #1 of 53 Old 03-21-2012, 02:08 PM Thread Starter
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New Product Announcement: Catalyst ECU Replacement

I’m very pleased to announce a new product which Aerospace Logic, a Canadian manufacturer of flight instruments, and John (aka cribbj) have jointly developed. This is a single gauge/instrument that:


- Replaces both Catalyst ECU’s (also called Slow Down ECU’s) and their functions

- Displays the exhaust gas temperature leaving the catalysts, both numerically, and with analog bar graphs in three different colors (green for normal, amber for warning, and red for danger)

- Provides 3-4 minutes of rolling historical data/graphing trends of these temperatures


The instrument is packaged in an attractive matte black, anodized aluminum case, which conforms to the normal form factor of cockpit mounted flight instruments. Installation in a modern Ferrari should be straightforward. Aerospace Logic is now sourcing suitable back panels, which will allow it to be mounted in place of the ashtray module in most models.

The current status of the instrument is the prototype phase and has already been field tested in Aerospace Logic’s own aircraft, and the first production unit will be sent to John next week to install and run through field tests in his 550 Maranello. Normal retail availability will follow, and there will be special pricing available for the group buy.

This single instrument will allow owners to eliminate both of the troublesome SDECU’s for less than the cost of replacing them, plus it will give owners realtime displays of the EGT’s leaving the cats, so we can know instantly if/when you have an overheating cat. Best of all, this instrument should eliminate the false “Slow Down” indications we’ve all come to dread seeing in our cars.

Here is the manufacturer’s webpage with more details: Automotive :: Ferrari Catalytic Converter Instrument and ECU Controller - Aerospace Logic Inc.

Disclaimer from cribbj: Aerospace Logic has offered to pay me a small commission on the sale of each of these instruments to recoup my costs. Frankly, I didn’t assist in this development with a motive for profit, I simply recognised a problem with our cars and being an engineer, wanted to solve it and provide a solution to the owner community. Aerospace Logic will handle all the shipping, handling and customer service. Ferrari Life is facilitating in the group buy for the members here.

Details of the actual group buy will follow in subsequent posts/threads.
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post #2 of 53 Old 03-21-2012, 02:17 PM
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post #3 of 53 Old 03-21-2012, 02:32 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wetpet View Post
where does the display mount?
You'll be able to mount it where you wish. On some models, it should fit where the ashtray is.

Checkout the two YouTube videos on the link to their site. You'll see the engineer's hands at times to give you an idea of scale. It's pretty small so making it discreet shouldn't be an issue.
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post #4 of 53 Old 03-21-2012, 02:34 PM Thread Starter
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Dimensions:
2.45” X 2.45” X 0.96”

So a square about as wide as an iPhone is on the short length of an iPhone, about as thick as an iPhone for reference.
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post #5 of 53 Old 03-21-2012, 02:36 PM
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Sweet looking and a great idea. I'm also concerned about gauge location as the 348 dash is already fairly full and mods affect originality. I'm considering a reversible mod in the vicinity of the ash tray for my TPMS faceplate anyway.

Are the temps via contact pyrometers/RTE's, factory installed data source (existing ecu), or completely new tap? New tap for a K thermocouple

What is the sample point?

Does a new bung need to be installed? No...Just a 1/4 hole

F only or C switchable? Yes

Also...the numbers shown are CRAZY high...What was the test mule? Ranges are fully adjustable



EDIT: just saw the videos...answers most of these questions.

Lane

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Last edited by Saint Bastage; 03-21-2012 at 02:55 PM.
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post #6 of 53 Old 03-21-2012, 05:39 PM
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That's a really cool product.
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post #7 of 53 Old 03-21-2012, 07:57 PM
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Sorry for being late to the party - I'm over in the Sahara for another two weeks, so am about 6-9 hours out of phase with most of you in the US. Thanks to Andrew and FLife for making the announcement. I guess a little background history on this wouldn't be a bad idea?

About 6-9 months ago, another 550 Maranello buddy was complaining about these Ferrari "Slowdown ECU's" and how troublesome they were, so I decided to have a look at them, although I hadn't had a moment of trouble with them on my 550.

After doing some testing I discovered these "ECU's" aren't true ECU's at all, but simply signal converters or transducers/transmitters as we call them in the petrochem industry. They take the low level (millivolt) very nonlinear signals produced by thermocouples, and both linearise and "amplify" them up to a 0-5v level. One thing led to another and I sourced some industrial grade transmitters that replaced the SDECU's and were able to replicate their outputs, and did the job "OK", but were large, bulky and expensive. So back to the proverbial drawing board (or nowadays, back to Google )

After a couple more false starts with various transmitter and gauge/instrument manufacturers, I found this Canadian manufacturer of flight instruments, who already had a 4 channel EGT monitor for aircraft applications, so I approached them about modifying their design & spinning off this Catalyst Monitor product for the Ferrari community. They were quite open and interested in the project, so over the course of the next couple months we hammered out a product specification, and I detailed to them what the instrument had to do and the features it had to have. They fabbed up a prototype and we swapped comments back & forth and tested the prototype on simulators and in their aircraft, and they produced 4-5 demo videos for me at various stages of development, and we tweaked the features and operating procedures.

About two weeks ago, we decided the prototype was stable enough (it had passed its field trials with flying colors in the cockpit of their test aircraft), and the specifications and features were satisfactory, so we froze the spec, and decided to go to production with it.

They (Aerospace Logic) then said I'd be getting the first production unit to test in my 550, and on top of that, they wished to pay me a royalty on each of the units that were sold, for the life of the product. Well, I was blown away by their offer, because we had launched into the project without any formal agreements, and I was simply enjoying the experience of helping develop a better solution for our cars than Ferrari gave us. Nevertheless, the prior experience with the transmitters and other false starts had cost me a few $$$$, so I agreed to accept their royalty payment, but only for the first 30 units, as that would bring me back on an even keel, and I would not be "profiting" from these. (I'm one of your typical introverted Woz kind of engineers who likes to design & develop stuff, but not necessarily profit from it)

So that's the history; I'll post up some info on the installation, and answer some questions in a bit.

'99 550, Rosso Corsa / Nero, S/N:114654, Assy: 31836, Engine: 52084

High mileage, low compression, and missing on a few cylinders.....just like my cars.

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post #8 of 53 Old 03-21-2012, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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John,

Looking forward to seeing the install on your car!
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post #9 of 53 Old 03-21-2012, 11:27 PM
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Who should be interested in this product?

This single instrument will replace both Catalyst ECU’s (Ferrari P/N: 173533 or 179278) for the following cars:

F355: All models, and both M2.7 and M5.2 ECU’s
360: All models, including the Challenge & Challenge Stradale
456: All models
550/575
F50
Enzo

Possibly Maserati also, although their P/N for the Catalyst ECU is different than Ferrari's. If someone out there is fortunate enough to own both cars, perhaps you could confirm?

Also, even if you've decatted your car, or your car wasn't originally equipped with these Catalyst ECU's to begin with, you might still be interested, simply to use the instrument as an EGT monitor. It would be a simple matter for Aerospace Logic to do up some new front bezels that say "EGT", instead of "Catalysts". Given these cars' occasional propensity for spontaneous combustion, and Ferrari's insistence to install these protective systems on the cars, it might be a wise idea to keep an eye on your EGT's.


Installation:

I'm anticipating this instrument being installed in place of the ashtray module for most of the above cars, and I'm looking into fabricating backplates which will be wrapped in the same leather/vinyl as the existing top plate of our consoles, so it will blend in well. I'm also looking into carbon fiber backplates for those who have CF already in their interiors, or just want a bit more bling. However, getting the instrument installed in the ashtray location is only the tip of the iceberg. The "real" work will be the cabling.


Cabling:

The instrument will require the two thermocouple cables from the left & right cats to be rerouted to its inputs. Frankly, in lieu of using the old, possibly dodgy thermocouples and cabling, I recommend replacing them with new ones either from Aerospace Logic, or source them yourself elsewhere. Generically, they're type "K" thermocouples, with ungrounded junctions, and have M8x1.0 bulkhead type fittings, and an armored sheath. Make sure you buy the right stuff, and make sure you buy ungrounded junction thermocouples, not the grounded junction type.

For my own installation, I'm anticipating installing a new set of thermocouples and cables, and finding or making a new grommet fitting to pass the cables up to the instrument without going into the engine bay, and back up into the dash. This should save 1.5 to 2.0 meters of cable, which I feel is important with millivolt level signals.

The instrument will also require 12v "ignition" type power, as well as day and night level lighting inputs. Last, and certainly not least, its signal outputs will need to be routed to the two Motronic ECU's.

If all this sounds a bit daunting, it can be, and unless you're a fairly accomplished DIY'er, I'd suggest having a trusted shop do the installation. I will document my installation soon, but it may be a lot more work than some would care to do themselves.

'99 550, Rosso Corsa / Nero, S/N:114654, Assy: 31836, Engine: 52084

High mileage, low compression, and missing on a few cylinders.....just like my cars.

Maranello Skunkworks Team Member

Last edited by cribbj; 03-21-2012 at 11:33 PM.
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post #10 of 53 Old 03-22-2012, 02:05 AM
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Very elegant solution... I was going to just apply a 1.5v signal to the ECU through a voltage regulator but this actually makes sense and seems like a much better choice (even if it is $600 more). Great work and great idea.
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post #11 of 53 Old 03-22-2012, 02:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Markp View Post
Very elegant solution... I was going to just apply a 1.5v signal to the ECU through a voltage regulator but this actually makes sense and seems like a much better choice (even if it is $600 more). Great work and great idea.
Thanks Mark, yes, a 1.5v "fooler" signal injected into the Motronic will certainly work, but I always question myself when I'm bypassing something that an OEM spent extra money to do. As we know ALL OEM's look for ways to cut their production costs, and even $5 saved on the production cost of a car is a significant amount.

I figure this Catalyst ECU system HAD to set Ferrari back at least $50 to $100 at the OEM level, so it would have been a huge savings for them not to do it at all. But they did, so I think they must have had a dam good reason.

BMW used the same Motronic ECU's on their V8 & V12 cars, and they're not known for cutting corners, but they do not have this system. On the other hand Ferrari (who are well known for cutting corners) have it on theirs. Hmmmmm, maybe Maranello knows something we don't?

So while I wouldn't want to bypass this system, I'm certainly not opposed to finding a better and more reliable way to do it, and that's also why I'm suggesting that it might not be a bad idea to have as an EGT monitor, even for those owners who don't have cats.

I know this sounds like a sales pitch from a slick talking salesman promoting his products, but it's really not. Your F355 is well known for developing leanout issues when the exhausts are relieved, and/or when the manifolds fail, and being an ex-tuner yourself, you know very well there are only two reliable ways of catching a lean condition early enough to save some valves and maybe the motor itself, and monitoring EGT's is one of them.

'99 550, Rosso Corsa / Nero, S/N:114654, Assy: 31836, Engine: 52084

High mileage, low compression, and missing on a few cylinders.....just like my cars.

Maranello Skunkworks Team Member

Last edited by cribbj; 03-22-2012 at 03:06 AM.
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post #12 of 53 Old 03-22-2012, 11:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saint Bastage View Post
Sweet looking and a great idea. I'm also concerned about gauge location as the 348 dash is already fairly full and mods affect originality. I'm considering a reversible mod in the vicinity of the ash tray for my TPMS faceplate anyway.

Are the temps via contact pyrometers/RTE's, factory installed data source (existing ecu), or completely new tap? New tap for a K thermocouple

What is the sample point?

Does a new bung need to be installed? No...Just a 1/4 hole

F only or C switchable? Yes

Also...the numbers shown are CRAZY high...What was the test mule? Ranges are fully adjustable



EDIT: just saw the videos...answers most of these questions.
Lane, thanks for the comments. I'll just clarify a few points:

1. If the car already has cats, then it already has the type K thermocouples, and you can either reuse them (not a good idea) or install new ones (recommended). If your car has no cats or OEM Catalyst ECU's, and you want to use this to monitor EGT's and/or rig up your own protective relay, etc. in case the temps are too high, then the world is your oyster and you can make any penetrations you want for the new t'couples.

2. The normal sample point for a car with cats is near the outlet flange of each cat. For catless cars, I'd mount the t'couples as close as possible to the collector flange of your headers.

3. Bung or no bung? If it were me, I'd bang bungs into the exhaust pipes, although there are t'couples on the market that are set up similar to pipe saddles, and will strap onto the exhaust pipes with worm clamps.

4. The temps in the demo are actually pretty close to the Ferrari settings. The OEM Catalyst ECU's have quite a wide window of tolerances for their alarm & trip settings of + 86 degrees F because they're analog devices, and their accuracy drifts with voltage, heat & age. This instrument has no such window - during setup, if you want it to generate the first Slow Down alarm at 1725 degrees, it's going to do it at 1725 degrees every time, not drift around by + 86 degrees.

'99 550, Rosso Corsa / Nero, S/N:114654, Assy: 31836, Engine: 52084

High mileage, low compression, and missing on a few cylinders.....just like my cars.

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post #13 of 53 Old 03-23-2012, 01:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cribbj View Post
I know this sounds like a sales pitch from a slick talking salesman promoting his products, but it's really not. Your F355 is well known for developing leanout issues when the exhausts are relieved, and/or when the manifolds fail, and being an ex-tuner yourself, you know very well there are only two reliable ways of catching a lean condition early enough to save some valves and maybe the motor itself, and monitoring EGT's is one of them.
So here is what doesn't make sense. The Motronic system is a MAF system and as such when the exhausts are properly relieved (e.g. after the O2 sensors), it should NEVER go dangerously lean. The MAF sensor is measuring the amount of air and the TPS is also providing additional load information to the Motronic computer, even in open loop it should NEVER go dangerously lean. I can see how with a vented header how it might go rich under low demand since additional air entering the system before the O2 sensor could fool it into believing that there is a lean condition.

There has been some discussion regarding the possibility that the fuel rails are a potential culprit regarding the dangerously lean conditions that occur, which to me makes much more sense. I suspect that slightly undersized or gummed up injectors are also likely culprits for these dangerously lean engine killing conditions. Especially on low mileage cars like these after 10 plus years. There are so many good reasons to drive your Ferrari, and keeping it healthy is at the top of the list.

I do agree that EGT's a simple way to monitor healthy engine operation, one of the tricks though is knowing what is healthy for your car. On a street car, I would want to see typical under load temps around ~1650 f max. +/- 25 f. Under a car I was racing, probably no more than 1750 f. The hottest car I ever had on my dyno was a Nissan GTP car (NPT-90) from the late 80's and shutdown for that was at 1850 f. and that was an extremely stressed little 3.0 motor putting out a bundle of HP. One thing to remember is that distance from the exhaust port can affect the actual temps significantly.

Last edited by Markp; 03-23-2012 at 02:03 AM.
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post #14 of 53 Old 03-23-2012, 02:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Markp View Post
So here is what doesn't make sense. The Motronic system is a MAF system and as such when the exhausts are properly relieved (e.g. after the O2 sensors), it should NEVER go dangerously lean. The MAF sensor is measuring the amount of air and the TPS is also providing additional load information to the Motronic computer, even in open loop it should NEVER go dangerously lean. I can see how with a vented header how it might go rich under low demand since additional air entering the system before the O2 sensor could fool it into believing that there is a lean condition. .
All good points, except that the lean condition is probably happening at or near WOT when the system is running in open loop from a preprogrammed MAP. Which is why I'd probably agree with your following statement that perhaps it's more a restriction in the fuel system that causes the leanout, however I'll defer to people who know much more about the quirks of the F355 engine than I do. To me, the act of uncorking an exhaust, doesn't automatically equate to the engine running lean, unless something else is going on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Markp View Post
There has been some discussion regarding the possibility that the fuel rails are a potential culprit regarding the dangerously lean conditions that occur, which to me makes much more sense. I suspect that slightly undersized or gummed up injectors are also likely culprits for these dangerously lean engine killing conditions. Especially on low mileage cars like these after 10 plus years. There are so many good reasons to drive your Ferrari, and keeping it healthy is at the top of the list.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Markp View Post
I do agree that EGT's a simple way to monitor healthy engine operation, one of the tricks though is knowing what is healthy for your car. On a street car, I would want to see typical under load temps around ~1650 f max. +/- 25 f. Under a car I was racing, probably no more than 1750 f. The hottest car I ever had on my dyno was a Nissan GTP car (NPT-90) from the late 80's and shutdown for that was at 1850 f. and that was an extremely stressed little 3.0 motor putting out a bundle of HP. One thing to remember is that distance from the exhaust port can affect the actual temps significantly.
Agree completely, and I certainly didn't intend to imply that the temperature settings shown in the demo are correct for EGT monitoring/protection. These are Ferrari's recommended settings for the 550 to protect the cats and the car from damage and/or spontaneous combustion For EGT type leanout protection they should be a LOT lower - as you say, perhaps at least 200 degrees or whatever a knowledgeable owner or tuner for the car feels comfortable with.

'99 550, Rosso Corsa / Nero, S/N:114654, Assy: 31836, Engine: 52084

High mileage, low compression, and missing on a few cylinders.....just like my cars.

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Last edited by cribbj; 03-23-2012 at 02:44 AM.
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post #15 of 53 Old 03-23-2012, 03:50 AM
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Very, very cool cribbj...

I have the SRI gold connector kit on my F355 (2.7 Motronic). I'm not so sure I'd be interested in the whole kit as I no longer get transient warning lights and feel confident that the Motronic brain is getting correct readings/signals.

I would however be curious to know if you could develop a "smaller kit" that only replaces the Cat ECUs as those are still a weak point on my car. In other words, I'd potentially be interested in the "guts" but not the display module and SW that drives it.

Thoughts on offering a product like that?
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post #16 of 53 Old 03-23-2012, 04:44 AM
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So does this unit repalce both cat ECU's in that it intefaces with the Motronic? Would you still get the "Slow Down" light if temps get too hot?
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post #17 of 53 Old 03-23-2012, 05:18 AM
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The 348 is not listed as a recommended use model. Any reason why?

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post #18 of 53 Old 03-23-2012, 10:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandy Eggo View Post
Very, very cool cribbj...

I have the SRI gold connector kit on my F355 (2.7 Motronic). I'm not so sure I'd be interested in the whole kit as I no longer get transient warning lights and feel confident that the Motronic brain is getting correct readings/signals.

I would however be curious to know if you could develop a "smaller kit" that only replaces the Cat ECUs as those are still a weak point on my car. In other words, I'd potentially be interested in the "guts" but not the display module and SW that drives it.

Thoughts on offering a product like that?
Thanks Rick, actually you're the first who has expressed an interest only in a module without display to replace the Cat ECU's. The 'gist I got from most of the owners who participated in earlier discussions is they wanted the protection functions and a display. You can still have "only" the protection functions with this instrument - just don't run power to the lighting circuit, and it won't light up then if you don't want to see it, you can tuck it somewhere up in the dash, or under the seat But seriously, if there's an interest in having only the "guts", I'll approach Aerospace and others to see if they'd be interested in doing it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by voicey View Post
So does this unit repalce both cat ECU's in that it intefaces with the Motronic? Would you still get the "Slow Down" light if temps get too hot?
Yes & yes. This single unit replaces both cat ECU's and it has to be either wired into the harness where the cat ECU's were, or wired into the ECU connectors. I'll be detailing this part of the installation with pics and/or video when I do my unit.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Saint Bastage View Post
The 348 is not listed as a recommended use model. Any reason why?
Lane, only because I wasn't aware your 348 was equipped with these Catalyst ECU's? Or did I misunderstand, and you're interested in it only for EGT monitoring?


Note to all: one of the ways we were able to keep the cost down on this unit plus add the display, the datalogging and the other features, is to use embedded microcontroller technology, so this unit doesn't put out a continuous analog signal like the OEM catalyst ECU's do. This instrument will put out 3 different discrete voltage levels that equate to Normal, Slow Down Alarm, and Slow Down Danger levels. These three different voltage levels are all the Motronic really wants to see anyway - the continous voltage variations between these three levels are meaningless to the Motronic ECU's.

So when the cats are in their "normal" temperature range, this instrument will put out 2.0v and this will keep the Motronic ECU's happy. When a cat's temp goes above the "alarm" setpoint that you have programmed, the instrument will then put out approximately 3.83v, and the Motronic will trigger the flashing "Slow Down" alarm. Then if the cat's temperature goes above the "danger" limit that you've programmed, the instrument will put out 4.096v and the Motronic will trigger the solid "Slow Down" message, and it will kill the power to the injectors on the offending bank.

I've measured and confirmed the "trigger" points of the Motronic inputs in the past, and these values will have the desired effect.

This method of signal generation also improves the accuracy and repeatability of the instrument, in that the millivolt signal of the thermocouples goes directly into an A/D converter, then is displayed, rather than having to be linearised and amplified in the classic manner by analog circuits that are subject to drifting due to temperature, age, voltage instability, etc. The output voltage from the unit comes from a corresponding D/A converter, and everything between these two components is completely digital.

'99 550, Rosso Corsa / Nero, S/N:114654, Assy: 31836, Engine: 52084

High mileage, low compression, and missing on a few cylinders.....just like my cars.

Maranello Skunkworks Team Member
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post #19 of 53 Old 03-23-2012, 10:28 AM
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Quote:
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Lane, only because I wasn't aware your 348 was equipped with these Catalyst ECU's? Or did I misunderstand, and you're interested in it only for EGT monitoring?
.
You lose me when you say "these ECU's". I'm not sure the ones you are talking about are the same as the one's on the 348. I assume so since it's the motronic 2.7 just like early 355's or motronic 2.5 on early 348's (single MAF). Maybe speak with Daniel at Ricambi for confirmation but I'm pretty sure they are identical. Certainly sounds like your system would prevent issue's like what happened to Nightlife when a decomposing cat was sucked into the engine on his 348 causing piston failure.

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post #20 of 53 Old 03-23-2012, 11:16 AM
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Lane, I see the confusion now. When I ran the parts interchangeability search on my 550's Catalyst ECU's part number (179278), the only cars that came up were the ones I mentioned in post #9 earlier.

I just checked Ricambi's site and their excellent diagrams and photos, and it appears your 348 has an earlier system, probably very similar to the later cars, and it uses 2 pieces of Ferrari P/N 142581, at $1000+ a whack. After looking at one of Daniel's photos of your Catalyst ECU, I see it's made by the same vendor as the later ones, so I'm "guessing" it probably has very similar functions and signals going to the Motronic ECU's as the later models. So yes, I'm thinking this new instrument would probably replace yours as well, but the only way to know for sure would be to borrow a 348 Catalyst ECU from an owner and test it. If anyone would be willing to let me test one of their's (with a simulator on a workbench, not in the car), I'd know within 10 minutes if it's the same as the later ones or not.

Or if one of you 348 owners has already substituted a later version ($368) cat ECU for your earlier version ($1000+) and found that it works, this would be very useful to know. They look like they even have the same mating connectors......

'99 550, Rosso Corsa / Nero, S/N:114654, Assy: 31836, Engine: 52084

High mileage, low compression, and missing on a few cylinders.....just like my cars.

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