Tuning Advice

Man have I been busy. I’ve been working on the XS GT-R Time Attack car’s dry sump oil system. It’s time to bring the car out again and destroy some egos. It’s almost alive again.

Anyhow, so I’m getting an overwhelming amount of emails/comments/private messages generally asking, “Can you tell me how I can get into the tuning business somehow?” or “What’s the best way to learn about tuning?” or “Do you have any advice on how I can ___________________[fill in blank with desired tuning car job description]?”. These questions are OK. The questions I really don’t care for are, “I want 500whp for under $5000. What’s the best way to do that?” Do I look like 1-800-BUILDUACAR? Fuck no. Sorry, but I’m way too busy to be answering those questions. Besides, you have to be a paying customer. Seriously.

Anyway, in regards to the tuning questions, I decided to write a quick list of things to cover before you go out and buy an AEM EMS or download one of those open source ECU flashing programs and blow your engine. Outside of going to school to become a mechanical engineer and specializing in internal combustion, here’s a quick list of what you should cover before attempting to tune your ECU/engine:

#1 – Understand the 4-cycles of combustion. This will explain what’s going on inside your engine. If you’re going to be controlling your engine via the ECU, what’s most important is that you understand what’s going on inside. Why do people start tweaking their ECU if they have no idea what the fuck they are doing? I probably read 5 books before I opened up my old school Intel 386SX 16mHz piece of shit laptop back in 1991 to even attempt tuning. Hell, I learned how to drive a stick shift car when I was 14 by reading about how automotive clutch systems work (for real). Yes, you can learn valuable information from the internet forums, but you can learn a lot of bullshit too – probably more bullshit that anything with all the photocopier salesmen, oh I mean, self proclaimed engineers (SPEs) out there.

#2 – Read books or papers on how Bosch fuel injection theory works. Bosch invented modern fuel injection and the theory behind it. Sure GM and Ford has their theory, but their cars don’t last more than 5 years. Stick to the Bosch theory of L-Jetronic and D-Jetronic. Denso, the manufacturer of most Japanese fuel injection systems, pays licensing fees to Bosch for every single ECU they sell. No, JDM isn’t the best here either. Basic fuel injection theory will explain to you what does what and why.

#3 – Cruise the internet forums for reliable base maps. I know I said to stay away from forum information, but there are a couple of guys out there who know what they are doing without doing this for a living (they are the real smart ones). By grabbing a good base map, staring at it, comparing it, you can understand and learn why those parameters were adjusted. This is of course after you’ve done #1 and #2.

#4 – Get a good wideband 02 meter. Consumer grade widebands are now more affordable than ever. Sure, they’re a little slower and less accurate than the racing grade stuff, but for a hobbyist they are fine. You can pick one up for $300 these days. Don’t be a fucking tight ass. Cars are not cheap.

#5 – Grab your laptop and connect. Now you can start playing around with maps, parameters, and limiters. Get a feel for the ECU. Hopefully you’ve chosen a good ECU because some are definitely more intuitive than others. Also, hopefully you’ve chosen a stand alone ECU. If you bought a piggyback, go ahead and disconnect it. Immediately after disconnecting it, proceed to throw it in the trash where it will get crushed in a land fill. The world is getting overpopulated and we don’t need to waste anymore space in this world than necessary. Piggybacks are a waste of space. Anyhow, here’s where JDM is best (for Japanese cars at least). The Apex Power FC, if they have an application for your car, is the easiest to tune and work with. I love tuning these things. The base maps are so good that even an idiot can generally get a good tune out of them. Anyhow, watch your A/F ratios and listen carefully for knock. If you’ve done #1, 2, 3, and 4 then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Time to go to sleep. More on this subject later.

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