What Are You Putting Into Your Vehicle?
ECUWEST was amongst the first dyno tuning shops in Australia to offer in house custom ECU remapping that could be tested and confirmed with a chassis dyno. These days “ECU Remapping Guys” are literally popping up everywhere. For this post I’ll be referring mostly to the type of scenario below.
I recently went on a family holiday in the North West, after dinner while sitting around the fire chatting with other families, as usual, the boys’ conversations all start to centre around their beloved 4WD’s. One bloke, whilst looking across at my number plate asked me if I had upgraded my truck at all. I raised my eyebrow and said “Yes Mate, I’ve done a little work to it”. He eagerly went on to inform us all that his new VX 200 series had just been “remapped”, I asked him where he had it done. I became curious when he said his next door neighbour did it for him. Through further discussion he went on to say that this remapping guy from next door just pulled a file from his vehicle, and the next day banged a tuned file into his car. The neighbour charged him $1000.00 and had no idea what he had put into this poor blokes car. No post tune test drive was done, no checking air fuel ratio or boost pressure – the “tuner” didn’t even possess a diagnostic scan tool. We’re talking about a $115,000.00 Facelift VX 200 Series here. The poor owner wasn’t educated enough to know that engine calibration is pretty important. It turns out this convenient tuner was a mobile windscreen repairer having no mechanical, performance or engineering knowledge whatsoever.
Not wanting to be a Debbie Downer whilst on holidays, or to stress him out too much, I just said it sounded like a convenient setup. My point I’m trying to stress here is that whoever is flashing or tuning your vehicle, MUST know what they are doing, and must be able to check their work. I’m not saying they need to be a master tuner. On the contrary, a decent tuning workshop that is slaved to a business whose only job is creating, testing and improving tuning files, will often put out a better and safer product than an inexperienced master tuner – which we are seeing more and more as master tools are being pushed onto businesses who don’t know how to use them or tune properly.
Mobile Flash Tuners And The Inherent Risks
Now these are just some general risks you’ll face if you choose to use a mobile tuner or any outfit whose core business is not tuning.
- They will use one calibration for every application, you’ll have no idea if its biased towards economy or towing for example. And any engine modifications you’ve made may not be catered for – but they wont know this because they wont be able to see what is being changed in the calibration.
- They wont be able to check that what they have put into your vehicle is safe. Most mobile guys wont even have a scan tool, let alone a wide band O2 monitor or analogue boost gauge.
- Support for them is usually 24 hours away, so you’ll be waiting a day for any tune revisions – if any are given.
- They wont have back up tools to recover your ECU should it die during the writing phase.
- They may use cloned tuning tools which increases the risk of something going wrong, and there is no support for clone tools.
- No fixed address workshop, no land line or website. But you need support, the guy just blocks your number on his mobile and bans you off his FB page – and you are pretty much left stranded. Support is vital.
- You wont get any indication of power or torque gains, which is the whole reason youre doing this right?
Now with Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF’s) these days you can get away with some nasty rich tuning (for a little while) as the DPF is hiding sloppy tuning work. But your engine will still be running way too hot and under extreme situations such as towing or beach work, it is probable you will experience a pretty catastrophic failure, wreck your holiday and empty your bank out. When tuning on a chassis dyno a Lambda probe measures the left over oxygen in the exhaust mixture, so while you cant see any soot you can still see on the dyno if the mixtures are rich or safe.
You Get What You Pay For – Will This Ever Change
Some clichés will always stand the test of time, and this is one of them.
A decent performance or tuning workshop will never be able to compete on price with a mobile guy or someone out of Gumtree – period.
The costs of operating a proper bricks and mortar business will definitely show in the prices charged for a decent job if you try to compare the two. I’m not even going to start the list of equipment and operating costs involved in running a professional tuning workshop.
But are you really saving money by going for the mobile guy? On a weekly basis we will get customers who bring us their vehicles to tune, or to fix a tune to be more accurate. They have pulled their hair out dealing with a back yard tuner to the point where they just want their car fixed and tuned properly, so they end up paying twice. And these are the guys who get away with a poor tune lightly! – Others maybe looking down the barrel of a new engine.