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Installing a Factory Boost Gauge

by Mike Holler

If you have a turbocharged vehicle that didn't come factory with a boost gauge, you can install one of the factory versions from a Shadow or Daytona with relative ease. I'm in the process of installing a turbo engine in my '84 Dodge Charger. Not only didn't it come with a boost gauge, it didn't even come with a turbo. Even the turbocharged Shelby Chargers had no provisions for a factory boost gauge.

Step one is to find a boost gauge and step two is to figure out where to put it. My non-AC Charger has blanks in the panel next to the radio where AC vents would otherwise go.. That seemed like a logical place to put it. It is still visible through the steering wheel where I can see it at a glance. It takes 4 screws to remove this panel. I had a McMaster-Carr vacuum gauge in there already so all I have to do is to enlarge the round hole to a larger rectangular hole and mount it. Simple enough.

With a Dremel, cut out the piece that occupies the space the gauge will reside. The cutting disc on the Dremel tends to melt the plastic, so patience is required. After the piece is cut around the perimeter, work it loose, cutting again where required. After you dislodge the cut piece, break off the melted edges from the cutting disc. Use a file or sand paper to get a relatively flat and smooth surface.

Next make sure the gauge will fit in the dash once mounted. Assuming it does, you can affix the gauge to your hole with a hot glue gun. They are inexpensive and use plastic glue sticks, and are easy to use. After it warms up, apply the hot glue around the perimeter of the gauge to stick it fast. Fill in any gaps just for aesthetics.

The lights on the gauge work off ground and voltage. Most Chryslers since I can remember use an orange wire for the dash lights. By tapping into the dash light wiring, you only get light when you have the lights on, and they work with the dimmer switch. I grounded the lights to the radio, and found a dash light wire in the console.

Find a source of vacuum/boost under the hood. You don't want to source off the brake vacuum booster, as the check valve will always show vacuum on the gauge. I teed mine into one of the manifold vacuum lines. This has to go through the firewall to hook up to the gauge. Some vehicles have plugs in the firewall you can puncture. Next to the steering column is also a good place to find a rubber boot to pierce. The last resort is to drill a hole to run the line.

With your vacuum and light wiring run, put the panel back in place. Start the engine to verify you have found a good source for manifold vacuum/pressure. Blip the throttle a couple of times and watch the needle jump. That's about it, you're finished. Now you can improve your fuel economy by maintaining the highest vacuum possible while driving, and save your engine by keeping the boost at sane levels.

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