CD-5 and CD-7 FAQ | AEM
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CD-5 and CD-7 FAQ

Here is where you will find answers to the most common questions we have had regarding the CD-7 and the new CD-5 displays;


Question: Is this really usable in bright sunlight?

Question: It’s too bright, I think it’s burning my retinas, can I dim this thing down a bit?

Question: What about night time? Can I have different brightness settings for day and night?

Question: Why isn’t it touchscreen?

Question: What do the buttons do?

Question: I want to put the buttons on my steering wheel, how do I do that?

Question: Why are there only 2 programmable LED’s on the sides of the dash? The Brand-X dash has 8!

Question: How do the shift lights work? How do I set them? What color are they?

Question: Why blue for the top values of the shift light? Why not red?

Question: What do you mean by Complete User Customization?

Question: Do I have to choose from one of the supplied templates?

Question: How hard is it to make a new screen from scratch?

Question: What kind of items can I put on a page?

Question: Can I copy a page design someone else created?

Question: How do I get data into the dash?

Question: Can I just plug it into any “CAN” bus?

Question: I have a non-AEM device that has a CAN bus, how do I get the dash to work with it?

Question: What’s a DBC file?

Question: I don’t have a DBC file, but I have a document defining the CAN data, how do I set that up in the dash?

Question: I don’t have a DBC file, I don’t know what’s on the CAN bus and nobody will tell me. What do I do?

Question: How many CAN channels can the dash receive?

Question: I don’t have EFI. Now how do I get data into the dash?

Question: I have some items that use a 1Mb/s CAN bus speed, and some that use 500kb/s speed, can it support this?

Question: Can I transmit things out on the CAN bus?

Question: Can it log?

Question: Can I upgrade a non-logging dash to have logging in the future?

Question: How many channels can I log?

Question: How fast can it log?

Question: What is the difference between the CD-7 and the CD-5?



Is this really usable in bright sunlight?
Yes. The dash was designed to be truly sunlight readable in even the worst conditions.



It’s too bright, I think it’s burning my retinas, can I dim this thing down a bit?
When the dash is on max bright (100%) it will be way too bright in all but the most intense conditions. Both the Display brightness and the LED brightness are independently adjustable via the DashDesign software.



What about night time? Can I have different brightness settings for day and night?
There are “night mode” settings that allow separate brightness settings for both the display and LED’s. This can be triggered by applying +12v to the night mode pin (pin 9) on the rear connector or via a CAN message.



Why isn’t it touchscreen?
The CD-5 and CD-7 are race dashes and capacitive touchscreens don’t work when you are wearing gloves. Only a pressure sensitive touchscreen could be used in this application but those don’t work well even when you’re not wearing gloves, that’s why nothing uses them anymore. The CD-5 & CD-7s are race dashes, not phones. The buttons were designed to be easy to use, even with gloves and arm restraints on.



What do the buttons do?
The left button advances you through the 4 scrollable pages and also returns you tom your previous page if you have entered the Alarm or On-Change page. The right button clears the min/max/average and lap info from stored memory.



I want to put the buttons on my steering wheel, how do I do that?
Connections for both of the buttons are included on the rear connector. Simply grounding one of those inputs is the same as pressing the corresponding button on the face of the display. That way you can remotely mount either or both of the buttons if your setup would work better that way.



Why are there only 2 programmable LED’s on the sides of the dash? The Brand-X dash has 8!
You only need lots of programmable LED’s if your screen is non-programmable. All those LED’s are not a feature, they are an attempt to cover up a lack functionality. A massive flashing box on the screen screaming “LOW OIL PRESSURE” in a 200 point font is far more useful than seeing the 3rd led from the top, on the right side, illuminated no matter how bright it is. Can you even remember what each specific LED represents or do you put a label next to each one? On both the CD-5 and the CD-7 there are only 2 user programmable LED’s (besides the 7 shift lights). The left one is yellow, the right one is red.



How do the shift lights work? How do I set them? What color are they?
There are 7 shift light across the top and colors are fixed (L to R); Green, Green, Yellow, Yellow, Blue, Blue, Blue. These are extremely bright and should not be run at 100% brightness unless you happen to be racing in an open top spaceship low orbiting the sun. Typical open-cockpit bright sunny day values should be set around 60% brightness, closed cockpit sunny day is about 30% and nighttime is about 6-8% brightness. A wizard is used to auto set them in ascending order, left to right. You could also independently trigger them with alarms etc… if you like.



Why blue for the top values of the shift light? Why not red?
A true redline is a land of no return, not just “really fast”. You don’t rev above the red line under normal circumstances so a shift light sequence shouldn’t indicate such. Plus, red needs to mean something, it means something “bad” or “dangerous” is happening right now, and approaching your normal shift point is neither of these things. There is a red LED on the dash (right side, above the button) and it is the only red led on the dash. Set it to display when something truly bad is happening and the driver needs to take immediate notice. Having a dash that flashes red all the time makes the true “red” alarm lose all meaning and can be inadvertently ignored by the driver.



What do you mean by Complete User Customization?
Every CD-5 & CD-7 includes our DashDesign software for free, it does NOT cost extra. The DashDesign software is the same toolkit that AEM used to create every display template that is included with the dash. The end user has literally as much control & authority in creating new layouts as we do.



Do I have to choose from one of the supplied templates?
No. We are supplying templates to give you a head start and to make it work "right out of the box". You can use the one that is preloaded, or choose from one of the many others that are included in the DashDesign installation, or start from a blank sheet and create a completely new design.



How hard is it to make a new screen from scratch?
To do it well takes some planning. That's why we recommend you start with one of the predefined templates and tweak it to your tastes rather than diving in with a whole clean sheet design. You certainly can do that but you should walk before you try to run. When defining a new item on a page you need to drag and drop the graphical element you want to use, resize it to your desired dimensions, locate it on the background, set it's colors, set its fonts and point a channel to it to animate the item. That is just 1 item on 1 page. It is reasonable for a single page to have 50+ items on it once you have the hidden alarmes, text boxes, legends, images etc... In most cases you will be far ahead by starting with a supplied template that has some of the information already on the page then using that as a starting point.



What kind of items can I put on a page?

  • Dial gauges; with user selectable scales/colors/size/location/font
  • Horizontal & Vertical bar graphs; with user configurable size, aspect ratio, scales, colors, location, font, alarm reaction
  • Horizontal & Vertical triangle graphs; with user configurable size, aspect ratio, scales, colors, location, font, alarm reaction
  • Number box; with user configurable size, aspect ratio, colors, location, font, alarm reaction
  • Graphical Gauge; based on an uploaded graphic, applies a moving needle to a user supplied image. Configurable size, aspect ratio, scales, colors, location, font, alarm reaction, sweep details and even allows for multiple needles being driven by different channels on the same gauge face
  • Variable Text box; allows the user to define specific text to display based on a channel value. User configurable text, font, size, aspect ratio, colors, location, alarm reaction
  • Strip Chart; creates a moving strip chart that can display multiple channels on the screen. User configurable channels, colors, scales, update speed, screen time, size, aspect ratio, location
  • X-Y Plot; creates a live X-Y plot on a user supplied background that displays a live marker showing the current operating point mapped by 2 different inputs. User configurable channels, colors, scales, size, marker size, marker shape, location
  • Static Image; allows you to upload and display an image (.png or .bmp) on the screen. It displays 1:1 and in the location you choose. You can also set the Z-Order so it can either be in front of or behind other objects. Useful for screen backgrounds, Logos, etc...
  • Dynamic Image Display; allows the user to define specific images to display on the screen based on a channel value. User configurable images, size, location, alarm reaction. Useful for indicators (MIL, Check Engine, Blinkers, High Temp etc...)
  • Alarm Bar; a user configurable box that changes color when it's associated alarm is activated. Useful as a background behind text to highlight it when something changes. User configurable size, colors, location, and alarm trigger channel
  • Shapes; circles, squares, rectangles, ellipses; used to do whatever you want with. Useful for background elements. User configurable shape, size, aspect ratio, colors, location
  • Tacho; Arc style tacho bar with progressive scaling. Typically used as a full screen Tach. User configurable channel, breakpoints, legend scaling, label font, font size, bar colors (low, med and high), size, aspect ratio, location
  • Tacho; Rectangular style tacho bar with progressive scaling. Typically used as a full screen Tach. User configurable channel, breakpoints, legend scaling, label font, font size, bar colors (low, med and high), size, aspect ratio, location



Can I copy a page design someone else created?
Yes. You can import a complete page from any other setup file you have access to. You can also copy entire pages from one page to another within the same file



How do I get data into the dash?
The CD-5 and CD-7 are CAN dashes and essentially all of the data is received over the CAN bus on the vehicle. While there are a few digital inputs that are used for triggering events on the dash (headlights, left and right buttons, beacon, L & R turn signals). It is primarily designed to be a CAN bus display and logger, not a stand-alone acquisition unit so there are no built in analog inputs. Sensors need to already be on the CAN bus for the dash to display them. Usually they would already be on the bus as part of your ECU. If you want to add more to the bus then you need an expansion module, also known as a junction box. These can be mounted remotely, near the sensors themselves so you don’t have wires running all over your vehicle. AEM makes a low cost 22 channel CAN sensor module with enough capacity to accommodate even a carburetor engine to get everything important on the bus and transmitted to the dash (even fuel level). If you have an AEM product with a CAN bus output, you can get the latest setup (DBC) files here.



Can I just plug it into any “CAN” bus?
Not necessarily. You can plug it into any current AEM ECU (Infinity 7, 5, 3, Series 2, EMS-4 and it will work “right out of the box”. You can also plug it into many other CAN bus enabled devices but you need to know what’s on that particular bus and tell the dash. We have setups for a significant number of 3rd party devices and will be adding more all the time. The CAN setups are loaded in via a “DBC” file.



I have a non-AEM device that has a CAN bus, how do I get the dash to work with it?
Contact the manufacturer for documentation on their CAN data stream. If they provide a DBC file you simply import that file using AEM DashData and you are done. Everything they defined on their stream will be available for use. If they only provide a document detailing their CAN data then you send it to us and we will make the DBC for you. After we confirm the operation we will make the DBC file available for others to use as well. (It doesn’t matter who the manufacturer is, we want our products to work with as many other devices as possible and we publish the CAN specs and make DBC files available for all our products). You can check here to see if what 3rd party setups we have available. Alternately you can manually program the CAN channels yourself in DashData but be warned that defining CAN messages by any method is tedious and time consuming job so…



What’s a DBC file?
The DBC format was originally created by Vector as a method of describing the communication properties of a given CAN network. The file contains the information to fully define messages and the individual signals contained within. It can even provide information regarding which device transmits which signal, and when. The DBC format has become the quasi-standard for the description of CAN communication data.



I don’t have a DBC file, but I have a document defining the CAN data, how do I set that up in the dash?
If you have a document defining the CAN spec of a product that we think would be commonly used by our customers then send it to us and we will make the DBC for you and after we confirm the operation we will make the DBC file available for others to use as well. (It doesn’t matter who the manufacturer is, we want our products to work with as many other devices as possible and we publish the CAN specs and make DBC files available for all our products) If you don’t want to share the document and you have a good understanding of CAN structure, then you can use commonly available CAN tool suites to enter the setup, confirm proper operation and export a DBC file. Or you could manually configure the CAN bus by defining the individual CAN messages and channels in DashDesign. But be warned, the concepts behind custom CAN bus configuration can become very advanced and most anything beyond simple, single message, full byte or word channels possess a steep learning curve. It is definitely desirable to import the information directly from a DBC file. Individual user 1-off CAN bus configuration support is not offered by AEM and the tech line can’t help you, not “wont” help you, but truly “cant” help you. If the device was created by a 3rd party manufacturer, contact them directly to get the DBC file. If it is a device you made yourself then you already know enough to manually configure the CAN bus or write your own DBC.



I don’t have a DBC file, I don’t know what’s on the CAN bus and nobody will tell me. What do I do?
The DBC file is the quasi-standard for the description of the CAN data in a specific bus. The CAN 2.0b bus standard only defines how the data gets from one device to another, not what the actual data contained in the messages consists of (that’s in the DBC). Unfortunately big auto manufacturers have defined their own messages and they don’t release the info. Or a device manufacturer wants to rope you into buying all your parts from them so they actively try to keep other devices from working on “their” network. In cases like that then you need to rely on 3rd party groups to reverse engineer the info.



How many CAN channels can the dash receive?
There is no hard coded limit in the dash itself but there is a real-world limit to the number of channels you can receive over the CAN bus’s themselves. In stress testing we have run as many as 800 unique CAN messages, each with 8 signals (6,400 signals in total) in them without issue. Depending on the bus speed the theoretical upper limit of CAN bus message transfer speed is 3000 and 6000 messages per second. Realistic bus loading is far lower, usually only 10-15% total, and most of those are repeated messages. So 800 unique message ID’s is about 775 more than most people will ever use. As an example, the entirety of the CAN output from the Infinity ECU is contained in just 18 messages.



I don’t have EFI. Now how do I get data into the dash?
To get data onto a CAN bus you need devices other than the dash to do so. ECU’s are only the most common way to do it. The 2nd most common is via specialized CAN expansion modules, also known as junction boxes. These are small devices that are typically remote mounted near the sensors themselves, so you don’t have wires running all over your vehicle. There are any number of expansion modules available, from analog inputs, digital Inputs, output drivers, thermocouple inputs etc… AEM makes a low cost 22 channel CAN sensor module with enough capacity to accommodate even a carburetor engine to get everything important on the bus and transmitted to the dash (even fuel level).



I have some items that use a 1Mb/s CAN bus speed, and some that use 500kb/s speed, can it support this?
Yes. There are 2 independent CAN channels and each can have separate bus speeds. Once the data is in the dash it doesn’t matter which bus it came in on.



Can I transmit things out on the CAN bus?
Yes, But generally only to initialize other devices or prompt other devices to send data. You define a message(s) to send on start up and you can define a message(s) to send when a message is received on a certain message header. These are typically used to tell other devices on the CAN bus to begin transmitting if they start in stand by mode and to tell the device that a message was received and to send another message. You can not send variable data on the bus since the dash doesn’t create any data and everything it possesses came from the CAN bus, all that information is already on the CAN bus so there is nothing of consequence to send. The dash can do lap timing but that is only used for driver display and offline data analysis and is contained in the log file on the logger equipped units.



Can it log?
There are logging and non-logging versions of the dashes available. Besides the logging, all the features are identical. The log files are downloaded and viewed using AEMdata and all the files are time stamped using the real time clock in the dash.



Can I upgrade a non-logging dash to have logging in the future?
It would involve disassembling the dash so if we did it, we would cost you considerably more than just the price difference between the two configurations had the dash been built with the logging from the start. If you think you will use the logging, we recommend buying the logger version to begin with.



How many channels can I log?
You can log as many channels as you receive on either or both of the two CAN bus’s. There is no hard coded limit in the dash itself but there is a real-world limit to the number of channels you can receive over the CAN bus’s themselves.



How fast can it log?
The maximum logging speed can be set up to 1,000 hz per channel. However, since all the data to be logged is gathered via the CAN bus, there is little point in logging data at speeds higher than the data is received. Most data on the CAN bus is only transmitted at between 5 and 50 times a second. Some run at 100 times and second and a large quantity only transmit once a second or slower. It is very uncommon to see CAN data being transmitted faster than 100 times a second unless it is on a dedicated bus but it does happen in some cases. So unless your data is coming through at those very high speeds it make the most sense to use lower rates than that.



What is the difference between the CD-7 and the CD-5?
The functionality of the CD-7 and the CD-5 is essentially identical. They both run the same firmware and use the same layout files. In fact, a CD-7 layout can simply be loaded into a CD-5 and it will work exactly the same. They both share the same electrical specifications, screen resolution and brightness. The only substantial difference is the screen size, 7" diagonal vs 5" diagonal.