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Tuning as a Career - Advice wanted

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Hey All!

There are some incredibly knowledgeable people on this forum and I would like some advice on EFI Tuning as a potential career.

Key background knowledge - I work in a head office in a job that I do not enjoy, but it pays the mortgage and is stable.

I absolutely love cars and specifically Japanese turbocharged ones, and have been an auto electrician previously for a few years. After taking HPA’s courses available I’ve also mucked around with tuning, having done some road tuning on a personal car along with my brothers Evo. Again very basic but highly enjoyable.

Now the key point, I lucked myself into an R34 GTR when they were somewhat obtainable, and now have the ability to move it for $200k+. Although I never wanted to sell it, I see this as potential capital to invest in a dyno and a shop to get started in.

I’d love some insight and advice from real tuners who do this for a living on my situation.

any advice would be appreciated.

That is a BIG step, and if you're seriously interested, before jumping in boots'n'all, I'd suggest you try and get some hands-on experience with a dyno' or tuning shop, maybe working Saturdays and/or helping out for free.

I'd also strongly recommend you get business and legal advice, especially regarding insurance and general liability, as you WILL make mistakes during the learning and development process.

You will also need to make DAMN SURE you have sufficient financial back-up, as that's the primary reason most businesses fold in the first year, or even in the first five years.

Oh, what sort of catchment do you have? If you're in an area with some quick cars and/or keen enthusiasts and no other dyno' shops, you have a much better chance of making it than if you're in an area with several, well established, 'shops.

Thank you for your input Gord!

Of course, before going all in I would do all due diligence regarding running a business and all the extras that would entail.

It’s definitely difficult to find a shop that’s willing to teach such a specific skill set, I’ve tried in the past but been told to look elsewhere. HPA’s course has thought me everything I know so far!

The sale of the car would be majority of the financial backing. I am also not even considering taking paying customers until I am comfortable and confident enough, instead using the first year to learn the ropes and practice on friends and families cars who are willing to let me.

I am in South East Melbourne. There is definitely some good tuners around here, but at the same time my conversation with some and friends in the scene is almost every tuner is booked out for months to come, which leaves me to believe there is space for another shop.

Have a look around, there is a few places who hire their dyno.

I use Peerless Automotive in Melbourne. Its a AWD rolling road from Dyno Dynamics so would be good to learn on.

You basically call them, tell them when you want to use it, turn up and they just point you at the dyno and say have fun. They will assist with technical issues with dyno, but leave you on your own to do tuning

And if you are looking for some willing tuning candidates, reach out. I'm president of the Victorian WRX Club, and i know for sure that there is a limited number of tuners in Melb, specifically those who will go near a Subaru. And those that will have huge backlogs, and people are often waiting months to get a tune. Most subie's are running factory, Link and quite a lot running Haltech.

you can contact me at president@wrx.com.au or swing by out track day this Sunday at Sandown. Happy to have a chat

Seb, I'm in exactly the same situation like yours - I have decent job that pays the bills very vell but I would love to leave it and start all over with automotive business. It's been my hobby for many years and I've learnt a lot about tuning and engine building. This is what i really like and enjoy of doing. However, the thing that stops me from going all in is realizing that in order to become successful I need to know much more. If you really want to be professional in car tuning you need to know a lot- internal combustion engine working principles, physics, aerodynamic, thermodynamics, transmission, car body basics, computers, programming, electrical stuff and so on- basically the whole lot. Without it that's going to be very hard to gain reputation of professional tuner. It just takes time to get the experience up to that level when you can run the business on your own. So my advice is to take your time and try to be involved in tuning as much as you can until you feel that you are ready to be independent...

Thank you very much Paul, I think I will come down Sunday! I’ll swing you an email and go from there.

Also thanks Shota. I definitely believe that if passionate about something, then the drive to learn and get better will come naturally. Unlike having to clock in and out and reply to very uninspiring emails! Haha. But perhaps the more measured approach is needed here.

Oh, by the way- the great help is reading the books by David Vizard, Greg Banish, Robert Garcia and other from tech books series... It will give you a base to build your knowledge and understanding on.

I made a similar jump around 2.5 years ago, wish I did things differently now of course but I'm happy with where I've got. I did leave my old job kind of out of desperation and I wish I had done that part differently; longer transition period and slower to leap and really make smarter decisions.

I'd advise doing it on the side until your so busy you're forced to choose. Renting a dyno sounds like a great way to get into the industry and start building a reputation before jumping into the deep end of owning your own dyno and shop etc.

If you have the finances to sustain yourself for at least 6 months set aside, that's probably a good enough margin.

I learned a lot in the first year, and man did I have to apply myself. I looked at it as going back to school at night and working an apprenticeship during the day, and that was after doing cars as a hobby for like 15 years. Needed to learn Car stuff and business stuff, fast. Owning my own business is great but not without challenges.

The other thing to consider is that internal combustion engine is going to be bunned in near future. Some European countries already stated that starting from 2030 it's not allowed. I think the trend will be spreading out because of global warming...

There's a ton of awesome info here at HPA on the tuning itself, so you're in the right place to learn a ton about it and really advance your skills whether tuning remains a hobby or becomes a career.

I suggest considering the pros and cons of:

1) Turning a fun hobby into your daily work

2) Starting and running your own business as your sole source of income

Starting a business is exciting and motivating to some and works out great, but can cause great stress, anxiety, and bring some people down. Consider how you think you'll handle that level of financial pressure, and pressure to deliver quality work for customers who are paying their hard earned money for professional services.

Gord gave some great advice about looking into insurance and liability. You'll also want to look into compliance, zoning, noise ordinances, potential issues if a neighbor hates you making noise, book keeping, taxes, licensing, fire inspection requirements, etc. There's a lot to know about starting a small business, so research in depth, and if you know anyone who has started a small business try to get their thoughts and advice. Learn from their mistakes.

Also keep in mind some tuning packages are only sold to approved tuners, and capability, having a dyno may not be enough. Some companies try to avoid having too many competitors in each area by denying new accounts where the market is saturated. If you get a dyno, shop, then try to get the main software you planned to tune with and they say no, that would be unfortunate, so I suggest finding out sooner than later.

These are some of the roles you'd have to fill:

Tune engines using a thoughtful and methodical engineering mindset

Customer service

Sales and Marketing

Accounting and bookkeeping

Shop janitor, handyperson

If you know one or a few of those roles is not a strength for you personally, or you know it's something you're going to hate doing, figure out how you'll overcome that either with additional employees, third party services, or otherwise, because someone will need to do all those things for the business to survive.

Thank you Tyson for your input - sounds like you were in very similar place as I see myself currently.

I have zero doubt in my ability to learn and apply myself - of course there will be many challenges but I think my key take away is perhaps not try build Rome in a day and work on this new venture on the side (as much as I dislike my current workplace) to aid financially and build confidence in the idea as a whole.

Thank you Mike for your input, I really appreciate the advice.

I have spent many months weighing up the hobby vs daily work aspect – I have spent the last 8 years in jobs that I have never enjoyed, hopping from place to place while loving working and learning on personal cars. My brief time as auto electrician although difficult were probably the most satisfied I’ve felt work wise.

I would prefer to potentially wear the novelty off a little but be satisfied and invested in my day work than hate my 9-5 and enjoy cars on weekends. This took me a long time to accept!

As stated in some of my other replies, I don’t really have any doubt on my ability to apply myself and run all aspects of the business – I think the key takeaway I have is I definitely need to do a much deeper dive into the administrative side of running a business along with all the caveats of running a physical shop like insurances taxes all outgoings etc. that’s something I have not factored in asides the rough yearly rent of a factory + cost of a dyno.

I think I’ll not take the big jump as much as I want to – and gain knowledge and expertise in both the skill and business side of what I am trying to achieve before making any large investments.

Seb that sounds brilliant. Best of luck to you as you continue your path.

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