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EFI Tuning Fundamentals: Tools of the Trade

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Tools of the Trade


00:00 - Engine tuning is a specialised job, and there are a few tools that you're going to need to help you do your job correctly.
00:06 Some of these tools are an essential item and you just can't get by without them, while others, like a dyno, are obviously not something that a home tuner is going to jump in and buy.
00:16 Let's take a look at what you are going to need.
00:19 One of the most frequently used items in my tuner's toolbox is my multimeter or digital voltmeter.
00:24 We can use these for measuring voltage, current, and resistance, and they're an essential item for fault finding and diagnosing EFI sensor and wiring issues.
00:33 A good quality digital voltmeter can be purchased very cheaply and should be considered an essential item.
00:39 Next, we have an LED test light.
00:42 These are a quick and easy way of checking for voltage in a circuit.
00:45 They're simpler and faster to use than a digital voltmeter, but they can't give you the same amount of information.
00:52 For example, the LED test light will show you that a circuit has voltage, but it won't show you how much voltage is present.
00:59 One of the best, most common uses for an LED test light is for checking pulse with modulated outputs, such as ignition and injector drives.
01:07 By jumpering the LED test light across the terminals of an injector plug, the LED will flash every time the ECU pulses the injector.
01:15 This is a very quick and easy way to prove that the ECU is in fact operating that output.
01:21 When you're checking a pulse width modulated output like this, the LED test light will only be useful at low frequencies.
01:28 If the frequency is over about 30 hertz, you won't be able to see the LED flash LED test lights are very cheap and I'd consider them to be another essential item.
01:39 Another cheap tool that you really can't live without is a timing light.
01:43 These use an inductive clamp that fits around an ignition lead, and they flash when a spark occurs.
01:49 We use a timing light to check the ignition timing, and these are essential when we're setting the base timing.
01:55 Timing lights can be purchased very cheaply and are another essential item for your toolbox.
02:00 If you remember back to the module on electronics, I talked about using an oscilloscope to view complex waveforms.
02:06 These can show us how a signal or waveform is changing over time, and this is the perfect way to fault find triggering problems.
02:14 An oscilloscope is one of those tools that you won't use all the time, but when you need it, nothing else can do the job.
02:20 Fortunately these days, a number of the aftermarket standalone ECUs that are popular do actually come with a built in oscilloscope feature specifically for viewing the trigger inputs.
02:31 This is a nice way of doing without the expense of an oscilloscope.
02:35 In terms of the expense, oscilloscopes were originally moderately expensive to purchase, however, with modern PC-based oscilloscopes like those sold by PicoScope, they're now much more affordable, and can save you hours of fault finding if you don't have a built in scope feature on your particular ECU.
02:53 If you do want to take EFI tuning seriously, then this is a tool I'd highly suggest you consider.
02:59 Next, we have one of the tools you just can't get by without.
03:03 A wideband air-fuel ratio meter.
03:06 This is essential for displaying accurate air-fuel ratio information so we can correctly tune the fuel tables.
03:12 When I first started tuning, these units were seriously expensive and still not very accurate.
03:17 We're now lucky enough to have a range of high quality wideband meters available from a number of manufacturers, and they're very reasonably priced.
03:26 There are a lot of features available in these wideband meters, so it pays to know what you should be looking for.
03:31 While some units will give you the option of a single or dual sensor input or the ability to data log the OBD-II data stream for your factory ECU, I find that the most important option is an analog voltage or CAN based output so that the wideband meter can be connected straight to an aftermarket ECU.
03:49 This lets us datalog through the ECU, which is perfect on the road or racetrack.
03:54 While we need a wideband meter to tune the fuel, we also need an audio knock detection system to let us listen for knock while tuning the ignition tables.
04:02 There are systems available from several manufacturers now that offer sophisticated digital signal processing to let you accurately isolate knock via an audio headset.
04:12 If you're looking to tune V6 or V8 engines, I'd recommend that you look for a unit that has dual inputs so that you can run a sensor on each bank for the best results.
04:22 Some of these knock detection units can also provide an output to interface with after market ECUs.
04:28 Depending on the ECU, this can be used for closed loop knock control where the ECU can then automatically retard the ignition timing if knock is detected.
04:36 If you want to tune reliably and safely, a basic knock detector is an essential purchase.
04:42 Since we may also need to do some of our tuning on the road, we're going to need a laptop computer to actually run the software and talk to the ECU.
04:50 Just about any laptop will do this job, and you definitely don't need the latest or most powerful processor.
04:56 In fact, tuning is pretty hard on laptops, and I find they usually only have a lifespan of a couple of years.
05:02 It makes sense, then, to buy a cheaper laptop that you aren't going to be too worried about if it breaks.
05:08 I do recommend buying something though, with a solid state hard drive as these are much less likely to suffer failure due to vibration, and I've lost many gigabytes of data over the years when I've had a conventional hard drive fail.
05:20 If you're tuning some older ECUs, there can be some compatibility problems when running some of the latest versions of Windows.
05:27 Check with your ECU manufacturer before buying a laptop to make sure the system requirements are going to match your needs.
05:34 The last tool we'll use as tuners is the dyno.
05:37 Obviously, these are a very expensive piece of equipment, and they're not something you'd consider if you just want to tune one or two cars.
05:45 There are solutions, though, and many dyno shops are more than happy to rent their dyno out at an hourly rate and let you do the tuning.
05:52 This gives you the benefits of tuning on a dyno at a fraction of the cost.
05:56 Before you decide on a dyno shop, talk to the owner and make sure that they're happy to work the way you want to.
06:02 For example, will they let you drive the vehicle on the dyno? What hourly rate will they charge you? And do you need to bring your own wideband air-fuel ratio meter? It pays to know exactly what to expect before you make a booking.
06:14 When you're choosing a dyno shop, make sure they have a brake dyno, or load-bearing dyno thatt will let you run you car under steady state conditions where the dyno holds the RPM constant.
06:24 Inertia dynos typically have no brakes so they can't hold the car at a constant speed and they're only really useful for tuning under wide open throttle ramp run conditions which unless you're tuning a drag car isn't going to be much use to you.
06:38 Using a quality dyno will let you do your job better and more accurately, giving you the best results from your tuning project.
06:45 So that wraps up the main tools you're likely to use.
06:48 While there are a limitless number of additional tools that can be handy to have, these are the ones that are critical to doing the job right.

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