Sensor Overload: RIFE Sensors’ Game-Changing New Technology

New racing products have an inherent level of success when the concept contains not just one innovation, but multiple advantages. So is the case for this fresh approach in racing engine sensor technology.

RIFE Sensors’ new products include advanced pressure sensors for racing applications designed into a modular block arrangement. We spoke to Randy Cotteleer, owner at RIFE Sensors, a sister brand to TBM Brakes, about his pressure sensor technology, the dual application pressure/temperature sensors, and an innovative stand-alone temperature sensor design for air and liquid measurement.

Modular sensor blocks contain the RIFE individual sensors which universally feed into a common wiring juncture using a sealed Deutsch Connector.

The team at TBM has moved into an entirely different product line by introducing an original way to incorporate isolated pressure sensors onto a remote-mount system. Within the complicated world of electronic fuel injection and data recording, RIFE Sensors is stepping up the game when it comes to providing data to those computerized systems.

Sensor Blocks – A Clean Slate Design

In a typical application, each pressure sensor sends data to your engine control unit (ECU) via individual circuits. RIFE Sensors has introduced the approach of grouped sensors integrated into a modular block design, offering multiple advantages.

Cotteleer wanted to not only clean up the relocated sensors but develop a clean design containing highly insulated sensors, all necessary wiring, and one clean Deutsch automotive DT connector to wire between the sensors and ECU.

Our goal, first and foremost, was to develop a remote mounting block that gets the sensors onto the chassis or firewall. So many racers will attest that pressure sensors do not survive the extreme vibration when mounted directly onto a racing engine. – Randy Cotteleer

“What you see is a billet machined block that holds everything together,” Cotteleer expresses. “Inside of each insert is a well-insulated sensor core. This core is isolated from vibration by an o-ring on the top and a rubber gasket on the bottom. That design serves a dual purpose as a gasket and an isolator on the top.”

Each sensor has a molded diaphragm suspended within the sensor housing. He continues, “The sensor floats inside of that shell with a silicone surrounding.”

These single, dual, triple, and quad sensor assemblies can house the RIFE-designed sensors ranging from 1-, 3-, 4-, and 5-Bar scale sensors. Other sensors are available to send data based upon 60-, 100- 150-, 200-, 300-, 1600-pounds per square inch (PSI). And, custom pressure reading applications are available by contacting RIFE directly.

Some inventive racers were attempting to remote locate the sensors using a conglomeration of flexible lines and machined blocks. Those approaches did remove sensors away from damaging engine vibration, but ultimately did not simplify the overall sensor system like the RIFE remote sensor blocks accomplish.

Benefits From The Block At All Sides

“First, you get vibration isolation by getting the sensor off the engine and mounted directly to the engine bay firewall or chassis,” Cotteleer continues. “Secondly, it is isolated from any car vibrations by the insert. Plus, it’s isolated from the insert by the O-rings within the sensor body. So, you have triple isolation on it, which goes a long way toward making it last.”

Another great advantage is that each pressure transducer uses a three-wire system. There is a power wire, ground, and a signal wire. This wiring system offers additional benefits for the overall log assembly.

“Let’s say you have four pressure transducers in a block,” Cotteleer continues. “That typically means 12 wires run to your ECU. We’re able to cut that number to six wires. Since we have everything integrated into a block, we can share power and ground circuits. Connecting to the block, you have one power, one ground, and then the four signal wires.”

The benefits continue as all this wiring is contained within the sealed log assembly, only exiting via a durable Deutsch connector base that is water, fuel, and engine fluid-safe, like the entire assembly. Cotteleer adds, “Everything is sealed up right into your wiring harness, so you can even pressure wash them.

This video produced by Motion Raceworks clearly explains the practical application benefits related to the RIFE sensor blocks and the new highly insulated sensors.

Design Goals Achieved

Cotteleer’s design goals were to look at the layout from as many angles as they could consider. The company wanted to make the assemblies durable with as much functionality as possible, plus feature a clean appearance. Within the manufacturing process, the billet aluminum case is even finished with high quality black anodizing that will not “purple” over time and use.

“The assemblies end up being available at a lower overall cost than sensors of the same quality in a traditional group of individual sensors,” Cotteleer illustrates. “Glenn Payne, from Mad Racing Parts, has done the math for his customers comparing our new unit compared to a block with individual stainless steel sensors mounted. Not only is our four-sensor unit about $175 cheaper, but ours also weighed in at approximately half the weight of a log and individual sensors.”

Not only can you provide the typical 5-volt-style data to your ECU, but racers can also set up the new sensors to supply information to a separate data recorder system if necessary. Cotteleer specifies that RIFE’s sensor design offers accuracy and linearity comparable to what people are using in any other high-end sensors.

The blocks are available to house one to four sensors. The sensors themselves are sealed within an individual sleeve -- that sleeve is sandwiched between O-rings and a back cover sealed with a heavy rubber gasket.

“Each individual RIFE sensor is accurate to one-half percent,” he spells out. “They are 7/100th-percent accurate in linearity and repeatability. Like pretty much all sensors, in very tight measurement down to the finest degree, they’re more repeatable than they are accurate.”

Cotteleer further explains typical sensor accuracy.

“So, let’s say your pressure was perfectly 80 psi, yet your sensor may read within the tolerable variance of 79.5 psi,” he says. “It’s still going to be very repeatable at that same 79.5 reading each time.”

Material Quality

All the standard sensors for a direct fluid pressure application (oil pressure, fuel pressure, torque converter charge, and more) consist exclusively of hard-anodized aluminum, stainless steel, or Viton rubber materials. The “wetted parts,” those which come into contact with the fluids measured, are comprised only of 316 stainless material.

For Methanol and E85 fuel pressure measurement, the Viton rubber seals do need some type of protection, as Cotteleer notes. “The Viton material we use is great for a myriad of components, but does have some issues with methanol and ethanol.”

Each sensor is shown sealed with silicone within the sleeve. The keyed sleeve slides in and out of the block for easy maintenance or sensor swaps. The RIFE sensors are available with -3AN male or 1/8 NPT female connections. Each sensor is clearly marked with its designation where it extends from the block.

“To alleviate any absorption or swelling within our sensors, we have worked with Parker Hannifin Products on an O-ring material specifically made for the alcohol-fuel customers,” he continues. “These o-rings are incredibly expensive as o-rings go, but it’s a kind of thing that we chose to use that will just make them last that much longer.”

The pressure sensors are offered with both -3AN and 1/8 NPT ports to mate to your engine. RIFE also offers “gauge snubbers,” which are intended to suppress the effect of pressure peaks and pulses. These snubbers can provide a better reading accuracy for your data input and lengthen the life of sensors in very extreme applications.

Custom Sensor Groups For Specific Applications

Cotteleer describes some of RIFE’s pre-packaged sensor blocks available for specific applications.

“For example, We have a pro boost set that includes a fuel pressure (100 psi,) 4-bar map, oil pressure (100 psi,) and dome (100 psi) We also offer nitrous, motor-only, and transmission sensor packages.”

“For racers looking into our sensor lineup, we make it easy with some pre-configured kits,” Cotteleer describes. “We have packaged assemblies for boost and nitrous applications that range from two- to four-sensor blocks.

These packaged kits are simply a starting point, since there are over 20-measurable pressure points within the race car that RIFE Sensors can accommodate.

Easy To Update 

To custom create your own group of sensors or swap to a different sensor within your block, it is just a matter of removing the sealed backing plate and sliding the old sensor out from its keyed pocket. With the replacement installed, you finish by exchanging the two wires at the connector board.

In an old application that has individual sensors mounted around your engine bay, updating to a different sensor can be a big undertaking. It may require an entirely different wire connector at the new sensor, plus changes in your harness for a different wiring arrangement.

All of the sensor wiring is contained within RIFE's sealed block. With all sensors sharing a common voltage feed and ground, there is only a simple two-wire connector that is mounted to the equally water-tight Deutsch connection.

Cotteleer refers to his friends at Motions Raceworks who released a well-made video explaining the sensor swap process. They explained the simplicity related to all RIFE sensors sharing the same two-wire hookup.

“Let’s say that you need to change from a 3-bar to a 5-bar MAP sensor,” he says. “The swap is just a matter of physically changing out the sensor. All your power inputs, grounds, and signal outputs remain the same within the block right up to the Deutsch connector terminal. Following the sensor swap, you then just access your ECU and reconfigure that sensor output to the new data calibration.”

New Temperature Sensors

RIFE has also developed a spread of dedicated temperature sensors available for both air and liquid applications. These sensors use either an M5 cable or a direct wiring attachment.

On the air sensor side, the RIFE temp sensors are offered in 1/8- and 1/4-, and 3/8-inch pipe tap, and 1/4-28 O-ring seal. The liquid temperature sensors are available in 1/8- and 1/4-, 3/8-, and 1/2-inch pipe tap, plus two-M12 thread inserts.

Cotteleer notes, “We also have an easy-to-install ambient temperature sensor to track outside air temp, cabin temp, under-hood temp, or any other location desired. The sensor is housed in a Deutsch DTM04-2P socket and is completely sealed for long life.”

Combination Sensors

“It originally started with building it to screw directly into the head of an LS engine,” Cotteleer continues. “It measures coolant pressure and temperature, although it’s a universal sensor. It has that same M12 x 1.5 crush washer interface;  it screws right into the head. For the boosted guys, they want to measure coolant pressure, so these little units have been very popular for us.”

Another leap forward in sensor application is a quality combined coolant pressure and temperature sensor from RIFE Sensors. It is designed for the popular Chevrolet LS engine platform as a single source point on the factory LS head location.

The dual sensor can provide both 100 psi coolant pressure and 300-degrees Fahrenheit coolant temperature data into one M12 or 1/8-NPT orifice.

Quality and Ingenuity Combined

To cure any car problems that occur with current technology, such as the vibration-killing results of mounting a standard pressure sensor directly onto a racing engine, is a big plus for all racers. This benefit spells success for such an innovator as Randy Cotteleer and his team at RIFE and TBM.

Offering the additional assets related to RIFE’s remotely located block designs such as the ease of wiring, simple sensor swapping, and incredible durability against outside contamination is a home-run.

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About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
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