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Clarification on "tune" types

Gadfly

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#1
I have seen a lot of confusion over the past few days about the different types of tuning approaches, and a lot of people getting confused about which is what; So I made a quick list of the major types of tuning approaches an how to identify them.

  • Stand alone EMS- A Stand alone EMS runs the whole engine, or the whole car. It sometimes will replace the factory ECU and wiring loom, or will be wired into the loom in parallel with the factory ECU. This is the best tuning approach, but also the most expensive and most difficult to install (unless an adapter harness / factory loom plugs are offered). They will include tuning software and normally will include features such as launch control, tunable traction control, anti-lag, etc. Examples: AEM EMS, Motec EMS, HKS F-con, Pro-EFI, etc.
  • Piggy back ECU- This is an ecu that sits between the factory ECU, and the engine. It will read factory sensors and alter signal values coming in and out of the factory ECU. Most often they will feed dummy signals to the factory ECU to keep it happy, while directly controlling the engine. True piggy back ECU's will have direct control over fuel, timing, and boost maps at a minimum. They will include the software required to properly tune the engine and provide a near stand alone experience. Examples: MAP-ECU, HKS S-Con/IS, Greddy E-manage, AEM fuel and ignition controller, etc.
  • ECU Tune- This is where the factory ECU maps are modified via a re-flash of the factory ECU. This is the easiest and often the cheapest true tuning option, as it requires nothing more than a map, and a re-flashing device; often tuning software is available; and it is highly recommended that you purchase a unit that allows custom tuning so that a local tuner can dial in your car with you mods. Examples: Cobb Access port, LSI-Edit, Diablo tuner, Super-Chips, etc.
  • Sensor manipulator- This is the worst type of tuning, as it is not really tuning, these devices modify the sensor output of one or more engine sensors to "trick" the ECU; as no maps are modified, timing, fuel and boost maps are not properly tuned, as such you get less than optimal tuning results, and commonly, they can pose a much greater risk to your engine than proper tuning. Beware any sensor device that just plugs into the engine sensor harness, is not tunable, does not include tuning software and logging abilities. Generally.. these devices should be avoided and a real tuning approach should be used. Example: Pross Tuning Uncle Chip, and just about every "tune" that is being offered here.


I hope this helps! Be careful what you do, remember that use of EVERY SINGLE ONE of these devices will void your power-train warranty and that you will be on the hook for any repair bills that result of damaged engines, transmissions, differentials, etc. Also keep in mind that no matter what anyone trying to sell you something tells you, their use is always detectable one way or another. For example, if you install a device that modifies the map sensor output, raise the boost, blow your motor, and then remove your device in an attempt fraudulently get Kia to cover the repair under the limited warranty, They can and will be able to detected the modified MAP sensor readings ad the injector duty cycle will not line up with the reported map readings; and yes, all modern ECU's have at least some logging abilities.
 
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#2
This very helpful, thanks for sharing.
 
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#3
Mods should sticky this guide
 
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#4
Thanks


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
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#6
Nice work, thanks.
 

KiaFan

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#7
Excellent job [MENTION=594]Gadfly[/MENTION], think will be very useful and I've just made it a sticky.
 
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#8
I have seen a lot of confusion over the past few days about the different types of tuning approaches, and a lot of people getting confused about which is what; So I made a quick list of the major types of tuning approaches an how to identify them.
  • Sensor manipulator- This is the worst type of tuning, as it is not really tuning, these devices modify the sensor output of one or more engine sensors to "trick" the ECU; as no maps are modified, timing, fuel and boost maps are not properly tuned, as such you get less than optimal tuning results, and commonly, they can pose a much greater risk to your engine than proper tuning. Beware any sensor device that just plugs into the engine sensor harness, is not tunable, does not include tuning software and logging abilities. Generally.. these devices should be avoided and a real tuning approach should be used. Example: Pross Tuning Uncle Chip, and just about every "tune" that is being offered here.
It's your list, but I'll throw a little bit of fuel on the fire here. I think that saying that a sensor manipulator has greater risks and less than optimal tuning results is a bit rash. Just because there are more things a "tuner" can tune when doing a full ECU tune or those other options you mentioned, doesn't mean he's going to do a better job than the factory did. Sure, he'll likely shoot for different boost targets, A/F ratio targets and timing, etc, but to say that a piggy back isn't going to work is hogwash.

Piggy back units have been employed for a very long time. They are still in use today because they work. Granted, they generally take advantage of the "low hanging fruit" of power available, and there is more that can be done to push the edge of the envelope with a full ECU tune, but these piggy backs give a great bang-for-the-buck improvement. With a sensor manipulator, you can only go so far. At some point, telling the ECU that the boost is lower than desired, and expecting it to increase the boost, is going to trip a limit in the ECU that will set a CEL (check engine light). The point of the piggy backs is to find this limit and stay within it. That's the manufacturers job. When you ask for more boost, the additional airflow then needs more fuel to keep a safe air/fuel ratio. This is compensated for automatically by the stock ECU's fuel trims and monitoring the wideband O2 sensors which are stock in the car. Again, if the box asks for too much boost and the additional fuel required to keep the A/F ratio on track with this additional air flow exceeds the programmed limits of "accepted trim range", you would get a CEL.

There are many checks and balances in place within the stock ECU. The moderate gains available with the piggy backs can be had while staying within the acceptable parameters of the ECU.
 

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