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Introduction to Engine Tuning: How to choose a tuning option

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How to choose a tuning option

06.47

00:00 - Choosing the right option for your car when it comes to engine management, is possibly one of the most important decisions you're likely to make.
00:09 The best option will depend on your car as well as what you're wanting to do with it.
00:14 So in this section we'll discuss these aspects to give you the information you need to decide which option is right for you.
00:22 Getting this right will make sure you can achieve the results you're expecting, and will avoid disappointment and potential expense if you need to upgrade your system at a later point in time.
00:35 Let's begin though by covering the various options in a little more detail.
00:40 And we'll start with standalone engine management systems.
00:45 Standalone engine management systems, or after market engine management systems as they're also referred to, are designed to be universal replacement engine management systems that can be used to control the fuel and ignition delivery on almost any engine.
01:03 These products allow the tuner to configure the ECU to suit a wide range of engine types and cylinder counts.
01:11 Once the ECU is configured and able to run the engine, the tuner has complete access to every tuning parameter and tuning changes can be made in real time while the engine is running.
01:25 The features and functions available will depend on particular ECU, but it's not uncommon for standalone ECU's to include a range of functions that go beyond just running the engine.
01:39 For example, motor sport functions such as launch control, traction control, or anti-lag might also be available.
01:48 Data logging is also common to speed up the process of optimising the tuning.
01:53 When we're discussing standalone engine management systems, I'm talking about products available from manufacturers such as AEM, Link, ViPEC, Motec, Haltech, ProEFI and Syvecks just to name a few.
02:11 Even within the category of standalone engine management, we can further break our options down into plug and play and universal wire-in products.
02:22 A plug and play ECU is designed to be a replacement ECU for a particular model of car.
02:30 It will either have the same connector plug as the stock factory ECU or alternatively may have a short adapter harness to adapt between the car wiring and the ECU connectors.
02:44 This type of ECU makes the actual installation really simple.
02:49 As all we need to do is locate and unplug the stock ECU before connecting the plug and play replacement.
02:57 In most instances the new ECU will be able to utilise all the stock engine sensors, and we can start the car and begin tuning right away.
03:06 In fact many of these plug and play ECU's will even come with a base map that will have the car operating pretty close to how it did on the factory ECU and you can then tune from here.
03:20 In some instances however, we may need to change some of the sensors or fit new ones to suit our own tuning requirements.
03:29 Plug and play ECU's are usually a little more expensive than a comparable universal ECU from the same manufacturer.
03:38 But you need to consider that you'll end up saving a lot of money because they don't need to be wired specifically to your engine.
03:46 The downside of this though, is that your relying on the integrity of your factory wiring harness, and particularly in older vehicles, this can have deteriorated, which can end up in frustrating reliability problems down the track.
04:01 Since a plug and play ECU is dedicated to a specific vehicle, you may be a little limited on how flexible the ECU is in regard to expansion to suit new sensors, more injectors, or a different ignition system, for example.
04:19 This will vary from one product to another, but it's something worth considering if your intending to make significant modifications to your engine, and need an engine management solution that can keep up.
04:33 The other option we have is what I refer to as a universal wire-in ECU.
04:39 As the name implies, these ECU's are designed to be capable of running just about any engine and are a little more flexible in how they can be configured, what sensors you can fit, and what outputs they can control.
04:55 Universal wire-in ECU's are available with different input and output configurations and it's important to ensure that the ECU you're considering has enough ignition and injector drives for example, to control the engine that you want to tune.
05:12 Universal wire-in ECU's are often a little cheaper than a dedicated plug and play ECU, however, you do need to also factor in a custom built wiring harness, and often some new sensors before you can actually get the engine up and running on your new ECU.
05:31 Wiring might end up being anywhere from a few hundred dollars through to several thousand, so it's important to know what your getting yourself into.
05:42 So which is the best option for your car? The answer will really depend on your specific application and what your hoping to achieve, and there is no single answer that's correct for everyone.
05:54 My personal advice is that if a plug and play ECU is available for your application, and you're confident with the quality of your factory wiring harness, this will usually be the cheapest and fastest way of adding a programmable ECU to your car.
06:13 If your wiring harness is a little questionable, or if your building a serious competition car, then a universal wire-in ECU will provide more flexibility in terms of how the ECU is installed, as well as what sensors and outputs you want to add to the engine.
06:32 Of course, fitting a standalone ECU to your car isn't the only way to make tuning changes though.