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Practical Reflash Tuning: Required Hardware

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Required Hardware

06.18

00:00 - I've already briefly mentioned what you will need to actually reflash a stock ECU.
00:05 But in this module, we're going to go into this in a little more detail.
00:10 When it comes to reflashing packages, they normally comprise of two parts.
00:15 A software interface for making the tuning changes and logging ECU parameters.
00:20 And a hardware interface that goes between the laptop and the OBD2 port on the car.
00:27 This is normally an OBD2 to USB adapter.
00:31 Of course, for a commercial reflashing package, the developer needs to have a way of making money out of each vehicle you want to tune.
00:39 And this is typically done in one of two ways.
00:43 Either you'll purchase credits for each car you want to tune, or you purchase a special tuning module for each vehicle you want to tune and this module remains with the car.
00:55 As an example HP Tuners, EFILive and EcuTek work on the credit system, while COBB and SCT provide a hardware module for each car you want to tune.
01:07 Normally, the tuning module works out to be the more expensive approach.
01:12 However it does give some advantages to the vehicle owner.
01:15 As often the module can be used to clear fault codes, swap between different maps, or even perform logging functions.
01:25 The other consideration with packages that use a tuning module, is that for commercial tuning workshops, there can be a reasonable investment in stock to ensure you have enough tuning modules on hand, to cover your requirements.
01:39 If you're buying credits on the other hand, this can often be done online, using an automated process, so you can purchase just the credits you need for a job.
01:51 Unfortunately, when it comes to the software used for reflashing the ECU, there is no universal option that can work across every platform.
02:00 And this is a frustration for those of us who will be tuning a wide variety of vehicles.
02:06 It means that, firstly, you'll need to invest in a range of different products, to cover all of your requirements and it also means that you'll need to learn these different software packages.
02:19 If you're running a commercial tuning workshop, then you need to consider carefully, the vehicles that you expect to be popular in your area.
02:27 As providing reflash support for a wide range of vehicles can be incredibly expensive if you're investing in commercial tuning packages.
02:37 Of course, the initial outlay will be recouped over time, but there is little point in investing several thousand dollars to support a vehicle that's not popular in your area.
02:49 It should go without saying that you're also going to need a laptop to perform your tuning with.
02:55 Tuning isn't a particularly intensive process as far as the laptop goes, so you definitely don't need the latest, or most powerful, model on the market.
03:06 Generally, tuning laptops get a pretty hard time and are constantly being subjected to vibration, so they often don't last that long.
03:14 I'm normally pretty happy if I can get more than about two years use out of the laptop.
03:19 So again, it doesn't make much sense to be spending a lot of cash here.
03:24 I'd recommend a PC based laptop and look for one with at least three USB ports, as these can quickly get used up while tuning.
03:34 It's also worth considering a solid state hard drive as these are a little less likely to be damaged by vibration.
03:43 You're also going to need a wideband air/fuel ratio metre to monitor the fuel mixture.
03:50 The options here are quite varied and the correct option will depend on how many cars you're expecting to tune.
03:57 For example, if you're just interested in tuning your own car, then a permanently installed wideband gauge is often the best and cheapest solution.
04:07 For commercial tuning operations, a portable wideband metre is necessary that can quickly be swapped from one car to the next.
04:17 Many late model cars are now equipped with wideband oxygen sensors in the exhaust and in this case we can usually log the air/fuel ratio while the engine is running.
04:28 This begs the question, is a wideband metre really necessary then? Well some of these wideband sensors do read accurately, I've also struck a number of cars where their readings are still hard to trust.
04:42 Particularly as we move further away from the stoichiometric air/fuel ratio.
04:48 I'd at least recommend checking and confirming the reading you're seeing in your logger with a known portable wideband metre to ensure that you can trust the factory sensors reading.
05:00 Lastly, I'd also recommend some audio knock detection equipment, that will let you listen to the engine and let you know if knock is occurring as you're optimising the ignition table.
05:13 Again, this might seem unnecessary as most late model factory ECUs are equipped with onboard knock detection and knock control systems.
05:23 And normally you'll be able log the ECU and see if it is detecting knock.
05:29 While, in theory, this is perfectly acceptable.
05:32 I've tuned a number of factory ECUs where the knock control system was picking up knock that wasn't really happening.
05:40 More dangerous though, I've also seen situations when knock, that I could audibly hear, was being ignored by the factory ECU.
05:50 Since knock can be so damaging to the engine, we want to be 100% sure that we're not encountering knock while tuning.
05:59 I'd suggest at least using audio knock detection equipment initially to validate that the factory knock detection system is effective.