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EFI Tuning Fundamentals: What You Need to Start Tuning

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What You Need to Start Tuning


00:00 - We've now covered the theory behind engine operation and the EFI system as well as discussing how the engine responds to both fuel and ignition timing.
00:08 Of course, before you start applying any of this theory though, you're going to need a way of making tuning changes to your particular engine.
00:16 Sadly, there isn't a universal piece of software that we can use to make tuning changes to every car and every ECU.
00:23 So let's start this module by talking about your options here.
00:27 If you've got a popular car as far as the performance aftermarket goes and it was produced after about the year 2000, there's a very good chance that you'll be able to reflash the factory ECU.
00:38 This requires some special software and a hardware interface that will let you communicate with your stock ECU via the OBD-II diagnostic port.
00:47 If this option is available for your car, then it's typically the easiest and most cost effective way of making tuning changes.
00:54 In some cases, your total cost here can also be very cheap as many popular models such as Subaru and Mitsubishi are supported with open source tuning packages that are available freely via the internet.
01:07 Your only cost then is a modest amount for the OBD-II interface.
01:12 Other vehicles are supported via commercial software packages which will have a cost involved.
01:17 Manufacturers in this market include HP Tuners, Cobb, Hondata, EcuTech, EFI Live, and SCT, just to name a few.
01:26 Your other option is to replace the factory ECU fitted to your vehicle with an aftermarket standalone ECU.
01:32 These sort of ECUs are available from a wide range of aftermarket manufacturers, such as Haltech, MoTeC, Link, AEM, Syvecs and Life Racing, just to name a few.
01:43 These ECUs are designed to be universal, which means they can be fitted, wired, and configured to run a wide range of engines.
01:51 In the world of standalone engine management, we can break down your options further into two categories: plug-and-play and wire-in.
01:59 For very popular cars that are frequently modified, you may have the option of a plug-and-play ECU that has the same connector on it as your factory unit and is pre wired and pre configured to suit your engine.
02:11 This makes switching to a standalone ECU as easy as unplugging your factory ECU and then plugging in a new, aftermarket standalone ECU.
02:19 If this option is available for your car, then it's typically the cheapest and easiest way of adding a standalone ECU.
02:26 A wire-in ECU on the other hand is a universal product that can be fitted to just about any car and is capable of controlling just about any engine.
02:36 These ECUs, however, will require you to physically wire the ECU to the engine and hence are a little more involved and require a little more skill to get them up and running.
02:45 As cars have become more complex, it's getting harder and harder to replace the factory ECU with a standalone product.
02:51 This is because all of the electronic modules in modern cars talk together and if you remove the factory ECU, some of the information required by the rest of the car's electronics can end up missing.
03:03 This can result in minor problems like perhaps your air conditioning not working through to much more major problems like the automatic gearbox not changing gear and maybe your dash cluster not responding.
03:14 This is one of the reasons why reflashing the factory ECU has become so prevalent in late-model modern cars.
03:21 When comparing tuning an factory ECU to tuning a standalone ECU, the concepts or principles remain exactly the same.
03:29 It's just fuel and ignition timing and the way the engine responds to these parameters is no different.
03:35 There are, however, differences in the way that we make these tuning changes.
03:39 One of the biggest differences is that a standalone aftermarket ECU can be tuned live.
03:44 We've seen this already in some of our demos.
03:47 But what I mean by live tuning is that we can make changes to a map in the ECU and instantly see the results of that change take place on the dyno.
03:55 When we're tuning an factory ECU, on the other hand, we usually won't be able to make changes live like this.
04:02 The technique we use to tune a factory ECU is called reflashing and it involves performing a test on the dyno, making some tuning changes to the maps and then uploading these changes into the ECU.
04:13 The process of uploading the new file or calibration to the ECU can take anything from a few seconds through to several minutes and this is usually done with the engine shut off.
04:23 Following the reflashing process, we then run the car again and confirm that the changes did what we expected.
04:28 On the face of it, reflashing might sound like a time-consuming process, but the reality is that in many instances it can be a lot faster than tuning a standalone ECU, so let's look at why.
04:40 With a standalone ECU we need to tune every parameter in the ECU to suit our particular engine.
04:46 This might include the fuel tables, ignition tables, cold start, idle speed control, and acceleration enrichment just to name a few, and tuning all of those tables and parameters obviously takes time.
04:58 When we're reflashing a factory ECU on the other hand, we're already starting from a well developed factory map that was designed for our particular engine.
05:06 This means that often we can concentrate our tuning efforts on just the wide open throttle running area of operation.
05:12 This makes the process very quick and easy.
05:15 With the advances in some of the reflash packages on the market these days there are often no limitations to what you can achieve.
05:22 This means that you can add a turbo or supercharger to an engine that was originally naturally aspirated or perhaps add motorsport features such as launch control and flat shifting.
05:33 To summarise this module, when it comes to tuning, we have two broad options.
05:36 Reflashing your factory ECU or fitting an aftermarket standalone.
05:40 Standalone ECUs are further broken down into plug and play and wire in variants.
05:45 If reflashing is an option for your vehicle, this will usually be the most cost effective way of making tuning changes.
05:52 Irrespective of the way you're making tuning changes, the engine still responds exactly the same to fuel and ignition.
05:59 Now that we've covered how to actually make the tuning changes to the engine, we'll discuss the other tools you should consider as an engine tuner.

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