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Voltage on Dash...
Bear with me as this will probably be a long post. Ultimately there are three questions…
I have a 2001 Excursion (7.3) and it's generally running fine. As I was driving about the other day, the "battery idiot light" came on but the voltage meter that's "stock" in the Ford dashboard (along with fuel, oil pressure, & temperature) was showing it's consistent 14V (about 2/3 up between 8 and 18). I thought "it must be an intermittent problem with the idiot light as the meter is certainly indicating I'm getting plenty of voltage". The idiot light goes on & off many times and when I'm ultimately home I put a handheld meter on the batteries. 12.3V when the engine is not running, 12.0V when it is running. My dashboard voltmeter is still reading 14V. Indeed I had a bum alternator and it has been replaced but (question 1) why is my dashboard voltmeter consistently reading 14V, especially when that isn't the case? If I wanted a meter that always read 14V, I'd get out my grease pencil a draw a line on the glass…
Part 2 - (I might be answering my own question but I don't know). I have an after-market chip in the Excursion. I really don't know who made it as I inherited it when I bought the Excursion in 2003. Hence the chip is at least 10 years old. I'm really not trying to bad-mouth the manufacturer as the running of the engine is just fine. Indeed it has a few quirks. If it helps to identify it, there's a four-position dashboard switch, the "Alarm light" flashes for a while whenever I start the engine, and the "guess the MPG display" is wildly optimistic. Now back in the good 'ol days, a voltmeter was an analog instrument that had a coil & magnet and when you hooked it up to a voltage source, it promptly displayed the voltage it sensed. Now-a-days things aren't necessarily that easy and perhaps(?) the computer (and/or "chip") is reading the actual voltage and subsequently sending a signal to the dashboard meter to display. If my circa 2002 vintage chip is always sending a "display 14V signal" to my meter, it'd certainly explain why my dash meter is always indicating 14V. (question 2) Is that how voltage is processed in the 2001 Excursion display ("interpreted through the computer/chip")? (question 2A) Might the aftermarket chip (with it's other idiosyncrasies) also give a constant 14V reading?
Finally - so a lot has changed in chips in the 10+ years that was installed. Maybe it's time for me to upgrade. I'm not necessarily trying to start a long thread (and I'm sure this has been discussed in the past) but as of today (Feb 2013), (question 3) what would be a good aftermarket chip? I'm never pulling any hole-shots with or without a load of elephants. I'll occasionally tow a 6,000lb load (on the highway) so a mild HP boost would be nice. Most often (90% of the time) I'm on the highway so a good "economy" program would be useful (given the current insane price of diesel, especially here in New England). A bypass position would be good "just in case". Finally, I'll presume that whatever is best in chips "now-a-days" will also solve the "flashing Alarm light", the "wildly optimistic MPG", and "have a voltage meter that actually depicts what the voltage is" (<- if that's now controlled by the chip/computer). Suggestions/experiences?
Sorry for the ramble on - I do appreciate your thoughts (thank you)!