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Tuning, Whats It All About?
With most car manufacturers building engines with the scope to produce more power than they leave the factory with, this has led in many cases the option to manipulate the software in the Engine Control unit (ECU) to unlock the power left in reserve by the manufacture while still remaining safe for the mechanical Components.
Why Not Have All The Power Available From Factory?
Good question. There's lots of reasons for this. A car developer has lots to consider when designing a modern engine and how it's controlled. They have to factor in things like emissions laws for the supplied countries, long manufactures warranties offered at sale (far better to de-tune an engine and have it last the period of warranty). They tend to single out the worst supplied country for poor quality fuel and lack of keeping to servicing schedules. It's far more economical for them to build and calibrate the car around these factors and supply to all. The good news here is that this give us the scope to alter the parameters to achieve some extra "go" whilst still staying safe for the engine and running gear.
What Are “Stages”?
In our experience, the term stages is a reference to a tuners levels of tunes. We at Centurion tend to use the term Stage 1 to reference unlocking a vehicles hidden power without any engine modifications while still remaining safe for the car and its components.
Stage 2: We would use this term to reference light modifications to aid in achieving extra power over a Stage 1 tune. This would typically involve making modifications to the air intake system and exhaust system. This tends to help with allowing more flow as we essentially look to get more air in and more exhaust out as really all an engine effectively is, is a pump and by helping to increase flow rate and maintain cooler intake temps, we can then ask the ECU for more power safely.
Stage 3: We reference a Stage 3 as the higher end of engine modification. This can sometimes be bigger uprated turbo systems, full exhaust sport systems, bigger injectors and forged engines. This will usually be accompanied by other modifications to the running gear such as uprated clutch, gearbox mods, fuel systems and any anything else that’s likely to fail with the extra demand or become a limiting factor. This project tends to be more for the enthusiast but the ones we’ve been involved with have had some impressive gains and, although hard work, have been really enjoyable at the same time.
So, the term “Stage” is in reference to the individual tuner and how they describe their level of tuning. Some will even reference the levels in a colour code i.e., Red (full power) Blue (a blend of power and eco) and Green (eco) but when making an enquiry into tuning your car, the tuner will always offer their expected gains in BHP, MPG and Torque. These are the numbers everyone is looking for.
How We Go About Getting The Increases.
When we receive a vehicle in our workshop for tuning, we first and foremost check the condition and health of the car. We then set out asking the customer what their requirements are so we can put a map together more aimed at the desires of the customer.
We then carry out a full diagnostic of the vehicle and make sure everything is in good working order, so that we are not likely to encounter any potential problems. We have turned many away due to an existing fault being present but in most cases the customer has gone away, got the fault fixed and returned for their tune.
We then download a copy of the cars ECU. This can be done through the cars OBD port or directly from the ECU.
The engine performance is then increased through targeted changes to the factory-set control parameters of the electronic engine management system. In this way, the boost pressure of the turbocharger or the amount of fuel to be injected into the combustion chamber can be increased. These measures lead to an increase in engine power and torque. There are several other considerations to be made but I'm not here to give all of our secrets away.
The new modified file is then re-flashed back onto the cars ECU and then tested to see if the target changes have taken effect and the engine shows no unusual behaviour or throws up any fault codes. Often, tweaks or full revisions have to be made if the car doesn't like what we asked it to do as no two cars are ever the same. Once we’re happy with the car and the map revisions, we then release it back to the customer.
Dyno Versus None Dyno?
This is a question we get asked a lot, “what's the difference between a dyno tune opposed to a none dyno tune?” Well the answer is quite simple! Firstly is the price. It takes a lot more work and time to test and tune a vehicle on the dyno as opposed to configuring a base tune on a car that’s opted not to be on the dyno. The upside of a dyno tune is that we can control the test conditions far better and with the ability to log the cars PID’s (parameter identification) i.e., we can see the cars fuelling, boost, ignition, temps etc. This helps us to see how the cars behaving before we implement any changes and allows us to quickly identify any potential problems before we ask for any changes to be made. Once we’re happy that the car is at stock level and behaving as expected, we can the start asking for changes in the cars ECU. We then apply these changes, test the car again, log the data and make sure the cars reacting as expected. Where the dyno comes into its own is the way we can replicate real road conditions by applying load, steady state and ramp tests. This really helps in understanding the way that the car is reacting to the changes we have made, which we fine tune as needed. Remember, although we’re ultimately chasing numbers, we also need to make sure we've not compromised the overall drivability of the car, after all what good is a car producing silly high numbers if you literally cannot drive it in everyday traffic.
None dyno. This type of tuning requires a little more guess work. We check the cars running ok and not throwing any curve balls regarding fault codes in the diagnostic or sensors not reading as expected. We then ask the customer questions regarding the way the cars been looked after, fuel they're using, servicing etc. We can then work out a tuning strategy that will hopefully suit the car and the customers' requirements, but there is ultimately a large amount of guess work still involved. We've had many instances where a customer would withhold important information maybe about recent faults or major work recently carried out in the fear that we would turn the vehicle away or pull back on the overall power gains. Overall, when not tuning on the dyno, we always air on the side of caution when configuring a base tune as we quite simply don’t want to break your car. We carry out a road test to make sure the car behaves correctly and we can feel some improvement in power before handing back but without the dyno, we can never be sure of the overall gains we achieved. We just hope that the years' experience we have gained will get us not far from where it needs to be.
So, in conclusion, DYNO Versus NONE DYNO
It's ALWAYS better to tune on the dyno but it really comes down to the individual and a lot of the time, price and requirements will always be the deciding factor for a customer.
Tools, Equipment & Software.
We only use the best and original tools and software for our tuning tasks. Although there are many cheaper versions or clone tools on the market, we carry out lots of research before obtaining tools or software to make sure it meets our high standards and will deliver what we require. We firmly believe that by using the best products available, this leads to quality work and far less problems.
Our Experience In The Tuning World...
As cars and engines have advanced over the years with more and more complicated systems being introduced to help control things like strict emissions laws. The engine control units and the accompanying software are forever changing and as good as we try to be, we quite simply cannot know it all. This is where our years of experience and forging excellent relationships with tuners that are experts in their own fields come in. If there is something a little out of our scope, then we have expert tuners we can call on to help out when needed. We've also come across a lot of bad tuners that try to claim certain things but have quite simply failed to deliver. This is where we’ve done the hard work for you and you can rest assured that when choosing to come to Centurion, we're always aiming for the best possible outcome, regardless of the project or challenge.