F30 Digital Gauge Demo and Review -- A New and Exciting Product from p3cars.com

by Mark Jurista on July 17, 2012, 3:32 pm
p3cars digital instrument for the 2012 BMW 3 Series F30

When I first saw the new p3cars.com digital instrument gauge, I thought it was one of the cleanest gauge installs I had seen in a long time. It integrates into the existing air vent to the driver's left and has a very clean and easy to read output screen. Given how great it looked in pictures, we reached out to p3cars.com to get a demo unit to review in the Project 328i.

What exactly is this device and what does it do?

The best way to describe it is to simply watch the video demo that we did after installing the unit into the Project 328i.

Now for the list of what it can do:
  • Live Performance Data - Instant "as it happens" data display of multiple parameters with virtually no lag or delay. Boost/Vac, Coolant Temp, Intake Air Temp, Exhaust Gas Temp, Throttle Plate, Speed, RPM with Shift-light, Battery voltage and more!
  • Diagnostic Data Interpretation & Reset - Read and clear OBD2 diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) to reducing trips to the dealership.
  • Built In Performance Timer - Automatic start and stop 0-60mph (0-100kph) timer for evaluating your car's performance or your driving skill
  • Plug and Play install - Quick plug and play install with zero cutting required. All power and ground connections come directly from the low profile concealed diagnostics port connector.
  • Peak Recall & Run Record - Recall the peak value from any mode, or record and playback 15 seconds of data from the current mode. Temperature peaks recorded in the background.
  • Universal Aux Inputs - Includes additional inputs to optionally connect any 0-5v sensor with universal settings for display ranges and bargraph displays from -999 and 9999 max values.
  • On the Fly Configuration Menu - Lockout/Display off mode, English(PSI, F, MPH) or Metric(BAR, C, KPH) selection, Adjustable boost display resolution, Ambient Calibration for boost sensor and more!

This a good amount of information and customization from a module that can be had for as little as $389.

The Install

The p3cars unit can be ordered two ways -- you can get the gauge and install it into your own vent or you can have them ship a pre-installed replacement vent for an extra $60. The decision is up to you but for a lot of people it is probably worth it for less hassle in the installation. The unit we received had the digital display already integrated into the vent unit so that is what we will be reviewing.

This is an INCREDIBLY easy install and shouldn't take you more than 10-15 minutes to be done with. The video above provided by p3cards on their youtube channel is a great tutorial on the installation and it really is as easy as it looks.

f30 328i digital gauge in the box

The package includes the wiring harness, vehicle specific processing module and either the pre-installed vent unit or the parts necessary to install it into your own vent. The wiring harness includes 3x analog inputs for high precision sensors (universal 0-5v sensor inputs) and also includes MAP sensor input for accurate boost with piggyback tunes.

You start by removing the trim piece on the left side of the vent you will be replacing. There is an easier place to start prying from on the lower section of the trim piece. The trim does not need to be removed as you only need to fit a hand into the space behind the vent.

Reach into the opening with your hand and press firmly on the lower left side of the vent to push it out of the installed area. There are two tabs on the top and two on the bottom holding the unit in place which easily pop out with pressure.

Once you have the unit removed, you will need to remove the vent from the trim piece. This is accomplished by applying pressure to the tabs holding the vent unit in place with the trim unit. There are three tabs on top and another four on the bottom. If you have a small flat head screwdriver it helps to apply pressure to the vent tabs to get the vent free from the trim piece.

If you have the pre-installed vent you can simply reverse the process you just did by inserting the vent tabs into the trim piece and snapping the unit back together. It was easier to insert the tabs on the bottom first and apply pressure to the top with the demo unit.

Now you need to run the cable that connects the vent display through the open hole in the dash so that it can later be connected to the processing module that was shown in the first step. Pull the cable through and snap the trim piece / vent back into place in the dash.

Now you will plug the cable into the processing module for your car and connect the wiring harness to the processing module as well.

The next step is to plug the OBD2 connector into the port that is tucked under the dash on the left side. This is an awkward spot so make sure you have a flashlight handy to help you get the connector plugged in the right way. Now run the wire up towards to removed trim piece and tuck the wire between the panels.

At this point, it is recommended that you start the car and verify that the unit is working. If it works, the p3cars.com instructions now have you tuck all the wires and processing module into the hole behind the vent display area and close up the trim piece to have your display gauge ready to go.

After installing, we actually chose to change the way the wires were run and feed the connector between the OBD2 port and the processing module through a hole under the dash to clean up the wire that was running between the two panels. This requires fishing the unit up through carefully and grabbing it through the trim opening to connect to the processing module. Both options work but it is up to you to decide what one you prefer.

The Review

While I have only had the unit installed in the Bimmerfest.com Project 328i for a little over a day, I have to say that this is a very slick device that has some wow factor. The functionality of the unit combined with the 10 minute install / removal makes this a very useful item for you whether you are using the unit to keep an eye on temperatures / boost levels, improve your performance times (while obeying all traffic laws), or using it when an unexpected check engine light pops up on your dash. If this functionality seems useful to you then I'd highly recommend buying one -- it will certainly be getting a good amount of use in the Project 328i.

Get more information or get one for your F30 now
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8 responses to F30 Digital Gauge Demo and Review -- A New and Exciting Product from p3cars.com

Axel61 commented:
July 18, 2012, 2:53 pm

I love it I just emailed them to see if it is available for Diesels!!
Terry @ BMS commented:
July 19, 2012, 1:45 am

Looks clean! P3 makes some nice gauges. How is the boost pickup connected? With the piggyback installed you'll need an external sensor to pickup the true boost levels. You can use a 5V signal off the MAP sensor for example, or an external sensor connected to a vacuum line on the manifold.
328i4me commented:
July 20, 2012, 8:19 pm

Originally Posted by Terry @ BMS View Post
Looks clean! P3 makes some nice gauges. How is the boost pickup connected? With the piggyback installed you'll need an external sensor to pickup the true boost levels. You can use a 5V signal off the MAP sensor for example, or an external sensor connected to a vacuum line on the manifold.
Im curious as well, because I would like to run this w/ the BMS Stage 1 tune.
raleedy commented:
July 20, 2012, 11:12 pm

We are posting commercials now?
Terry @ BMS commented:
July 22, 2012, 1:45 am

Originally Posted by 328i4me View Post
Im curious as well, because I would like to run this w/ the BMS Stage 1 tune.
With our N55 tunes you intercept the MAP sensor output (wire going in to the sensor itself), which then feeds the gauge your boost signal. So it likely works the same way. The sensor will report true and actual boost so no issues there. Just be sure not to use the output side as the JB transmits a lower than actual signal back to the DME for its processing.
eclampsium commented:
May 6, 2013, 10:26 am

Dumb Question, how does it affects the air vent? still good vent or diminished vent? or noisy vent noted? Or maybe "didn't enven think about those he he...?

I like this things a lot, but my last 2 attempts in my past car with external displays pff boost pressure, rpm, light shifter and head up display all gave me soo much headache that i'm still a bit scary to try again, but, nice to see that it worked ot ok... It's cool to have it if you plan to tune the engine tough...
tim330i commented:
May 6, 2013, 5:06 pm

I haven't noticed any difference, increased noise, etc.

eclampsium commented:
May 6, 2013, 5:27 pm

Originally Posted by tim330i View Post
I haven't noticed any difference, increased noise, etc.

Thanks... Will only watch it for now...