What is ECU tuning?
There are many different ways to increase power through ECU tuning. The simplified explanation is that most manufacturers will leave some room in their tune. Sometimes this is because of not wanting to encroach the mechanical limitations of the engine. Other times it is to meet certain emissions requirements or even for “political” reasons. ECU tuning involves modifying the fuel and spark maps of an engine. Many modern engines also have controls for camshaft timing and many other items that can affect power output. RRT has partnered with the premier tuners in the country to deliver to you an increase in horse power and torque.
There are many different methods required to tune a vehicle properly. Older cars used chips. With these, a computer chip is literally loaded with data and physically installed in your engines computer. The next generation of controls can be as simple as a software flash. Your vehicles diagnostic port is connected to a laptop and the software is uploaded to the car. But as vehicles get more complicated, most current vehicles require some type of outboard ECU in addition the factory one to handle the processing needs of the engine. We will try to explain what is involved in these methods and the benefits of them below.
Dyno graphs can be good indicators of a good tune. However, there are many things to look out for when looking at one. Scaling can be adjusted to make the graph appear to ramp up faster than it really does. Also, without A/F number super imposed, it is difficult to tell if the tune is “safe” or not. One thing that is easy to see is the basic curve of the graph. if it is a nice smooth flow then the car will drive smoothly. If the graph shows huge ramp up in power, then the gas pedal can act more like a switch than and adjustment unit and you may find it difficult to drive the vehicle in traffic or other slow conditions. We can help show you the differences and explain where you can make the most benefits.
CHIPS AND FLASHES
We will begin with chip tunes and flash tunes. It is easy to put them together because they are very similar in design. Both involved a tune being created on a computer based on the needs of your car. This ECU tuning software package will typically advance ignition timing and then adjust the engine’s fueling to account for it. This software file is then loaded into the car. The only difference between the two is that the flash tune can be loaded directly into the vehicle while a chip has to be installed into the engine’s ECU. After either one of these is done, they are again similar in that you don’t have to do anything else. Simply drive the car and you will experience the increase in power. Dinan Engineering and VF Engineering both are excellent examples of reliable and safe flash tunes that are available on the market right now.
STAND ALONE FUEL MANAGEMENT
You might have heard the term “Stand Alone Fuel Management System” or just a “Stand Alone”. These system entirely replace your factory computer and most time the entire wire harness. These systems have great capabilities, but are very labor intensive to install and setup. Generally these are only used for highly modified vehicles and full out race cars. A properly setup stand alone system can range anywhere from $4000 -$40,000. RRT is capable of installation and setup of these systems, but it is very rarely needed given the modern capabilities of factory ECU’s.
PIGGYBACKS AND SECONDARY ECU’S
The newest generation of cars have vastly more complicated computer systems. The amount of data that an engine’s ECU processes per second is astounding. On top of that, many manufacturers have encrypted their software making very difficult to modify. We actually heard from one of our customers who was attending an IT security conference that one of the speakers was using a BMW DME as an example for what they should strive for. The number of items that need to be controlled have also increased. Multiple camshafts with variable control, turbos, direct injectors and coil on plug systems all increase the need for computing power.
Many tuners have implemented outboard ECU’s as a solution to modern ECU tuning needs They program their software and adjust the fuel and spark timing of your engine. They do this by installing an interceptor harness that splits some of the signals from your engines sensors and directs them to the new ECU. They information is then processed and directed back into the factory system to the components that need controlling. The base process is the same as a chip or a flash tune, but the data needs to go through many more steps to reach the same goal.
WHOSE TUNE SHOULD YOU PICK?
There are also different methodologies in ECU tuning when creating the new maps to control an engine. There are cars out there that we refer to as “dyno queens”. What this means is that they can put out some very big horsepower numbers but are otherwise undriveable. This is not to say that every high horsepower car can’t be driven. But many tuners only focus on the peak gains and squeezing every last pony out of the engine. But a proper tune will take into consideration mid-range power which is where most of us live while driving about our daily lives. Not too many of us live at redline as one would on the track. By creating a smooth mid-range and power band, the car can be a much smoother and better driving vehicle than with a peak power tune. Of course RRT is known for racing and our race cars get their own special tune. Don’t let someone try to tell you that you should put a race tune in your street car. By getting the proper software for you application RRT will deliver a more satisfying result.