Using the Innovate LC-1 Wideband Oxygen Sensor to improve your mileage.


The Innovate LC-1 sensor is pretty expensive for the intended usage so if you drive a lot or your vehicle gets really bad mileage it might be worth it but if you do not do either then this will be of limited use for anything other than bragging rights.

One of the features of the LC-1 is that it can simulate the output of a normal Lambda or Narrowband Oxygen sensor. So if you just wanted to replace your factory sensor with it this would be a simple plug in swap. There would be no real advantage in doing this though as it will not help serve any function other than to be a really expensive oxygen sensor swap.

The thing that makes this a pretty easy mod that can have a measurable impact on your mileage is that the sensor lets you define what lambda should be using a laptop computer to program it. So lets say you install the sensor and use a laptop to look at your AFR (air fuel ratio) and it shows the computer is easily able to maintain 14.5:1 which will give you normal economy. The computer is listening to the Oxygen sensor and adjusting the AFR to keep it as close to that ratio as possible. The LC-1 can trick the computer by saying the car is above or below that number. So you can program the LC-1 to say that 15.0:1 actual AFR is reported to the computer as 14.5:1. This makes the car run a bit leaner and uses less fuel. How much you can push this beyond that number will take some trial and error but it is pretty simple to change the value the LC-1 reports.

I would recommend installing the LC-1 and leaving it at 14.5:1 and take it for a drive to make sure the car's computer has no problems with it and does not show any error codes. Once you are satisfied the car is running properly with the new sensor then adjust the ratio slightly leaner and see how the car responds. Maybe go to 14.8:1 and drive it. Once you are satisfied that the car will behave and work like it should then you can start testing the limits of how lean you can run your engine. It is possible if you drive easy to run the car as lean as 18:1 with no adverse effects. The biggest problem you will have is the car will start to knock if it gets leaner than it really can handle. Listen for this to happen and if you hear it then adjust the LC-1 to be a bit richer. I would recommend filling up the tank and driving a full tank at something like 15:1 and checking your mileage. Then go in small steps to leaner AFR each tank until your mileage starts to level off. Once it levels off go back down to your last setting and run it there.

Just remember that if you have to take the car in for an emissions test that you may have to adjust your numbers to make the car pass. This really depends on the car so there is no way to know if it will pass or not before hand. You could play it safe and set it back to 14.5:1 before the test but then you would not know if it can pass running leaner.

Do not get greedy and keep leaning the car out beyond where it runs well. Even though the increase in mileage will diminish after you go past a certain point leaning the car out it will still get slightly better mileage so you might be tempted to lean it out even more. This can damage your exhaust valves by overheating them badly and will be expensive to repair so don't do this! Also don't blast your radio while you are testing this out or else you will not be able to hear what is happening with your engine. This can improve the mileage of pretty much any fuel injected car but you have to use some common sense and don't try pushing the limits of your car since an extra gallon of gas is way cheaper than a new motor.