Does the world really need another electronic boost controller? Probably not. But when a company as reputable as AEM releases its own brand of boost management, it's difficult to ignore it. It seems as though electronic boost controllers often fit into two categories: those so complex you never really do figure out all the tricks they can do, and those so simple, so basic, you can't help but wonder whether or not you just got taken for a few hundred bucks over a five-dollar circuit board and a few LED's stuffed inside cheap plastic. AEM's TRU-BOOST Gauge-Type Controller is neither.
Sell your boost gauge because the TRU-BOOST Controller isn't just what its name suggests, it's also a digital boost meter - essentially making it two products in one. But you're smarter than that, and we're guessing you aren't about to spend over $345 (suggested retail) because of a built-in gauge - no, AEM's new electronic boost controller is one of the handful of electronic boost controllers we've come across that manages to strike that equilibrium between user-friendliness, effectiveness and price. In other words, the TRU-BOOST Controller is easy to set up and use - without the need for external devices like software and a laptop - it works for even the most demanding, high-boost applications and the price is still competitive.
Installing it: Getting AEM's electronic boost controller in your car and up and running is easy; finding a place to put it is even easier. Since the unit is housed inside an industry standard, 52mm (2 11/416-inch) gauge housing, you'll likely be able to just remove your old boost gauge and swap it for the TRU-BOOST Controller. Like any other boost gauge, the rear of the gauge housing has a pressure reference fitting, which must be tapped into any of the engine's vacuum signal lines that see manifold pressure. Wiring the controller is almost as easy as finding a place to stick it. As you'd expect, the unit requires a 12V ignition power reference and, of course, a ground. The gauge itself and the solenoid share the same wiring harness, so installation time is cut down even further. The remaining wires power up the solenoid, allow for the optional scramble feature, and provide an output signal for a warning light. The supplied boost solenoid and internal pressure sensor are good enough for most applications - up to 29 psi to get specific. Should you need a higher threshold of control, AEM offers an optional 50 psi capable external pressure sensor kit. Like any other boost solenoid, the one supplied by AEM offers configurations for both internal and external wastegates. Be sure and hook up the reference lines accordingly.
Programming it: Like any good electronic boost controller, the TRU-BOOST Controller needs to be configured to work properly. Fortunately, there's a programming function for this. And since the controller only has two buttons, there's little confusion. Depending upon turbine and compressor characteristics, engine values like displacement and compression, and exhaust manifold design, solenoid duty cycle needs to be adjusted accordingly. Some engine combinations might not see any significant boost gains without ramping up duty cycles by at least 30 percent so tune accordingly. As you'd expect, higher duty cycles equal higher boost pressures. Wastegate cracking pressure (spring pressure) can also be adjusted, and should be. This changes the time, in relation to boost pressure, at which the wastegate valve begins to open. Pushing this to a higher value will generally yield more power since the wastegate isn't bypassing exhaust flow from the turbine as early. Be careful though since adjusting the cracking pressure too far will lead to boost spikes.
Using it: As a gauge, there's not much to say about the TRU-BOOST Controller other than it has the ability to read and display vacuum as well as boost pressure in a 24-scalable-LED form. It can even record peak boost pressure values for playback. Of course, the controller raises boost according to duty cycle, but it also features a switch-activated scramble feature. This allows for two duty cycle values to be toggled between based on a ground switch for up to 25 seconds - higher boost values can easily be switched to for situations when vehicle speed and traction increase. The warning function also comes in handy should boost values ever creep past the user-defined, preset level. Just connect the output wire to your warning device of choice and program the controller accordingly.
For those of us interested in things that are simple, the TRU-BOOST Controller is worth looking into. If you want about the closest thing you can find to a manual boost controller - in electronic form - you need to check it out. Without any software or external interface, set up time just doesn't get any quicker. But with 29 psi of boost control, pressure metering capabilities, scrambling and a warning light output, this controller lacks nothing, and really, is anything but simple.