What appears to be the one absolute and unsurprising fact in this industry — someone is always out to try to take a bite out of you. Or try to get their friends to come after you so they are not seen as participating. What is surprising (or maybe amusing?) is how they like to come at you at times. It would be a much more entertaining read if they had some understanding about the things they were frantically smashing into their keyboards. Unfortunately — it’s quite clear they have little to no experience in anything but slinging mud. I cannot help but just shake my head and go back to helping my customers paying for my time.
Fortunately, I had the time and opportunity to bring up a few examples — had a 2014 Civic Si on the dyno to tune and it turned out to be a chance to touch base on the results of tuning a stock 9th gen Civic as I still get asked about it a lot.
Oh That VTC Mapping Is Such Shit!
This one really gets me. When someone doesn’t understand why something in a tune was done the way it was — it’s clearly shit. Their first reaction is to grab their pitchforks and torches when it should be to pause and analyse why something was done the way it was. I see this attitude frequently and can only wonder if someone like this would ever take any advice or constructive criticism that could help? If something is truly “shit”, lay out why in intelligent fashion — and no, not just a dyno sheet or 3hp. Or switching gears on the dyno and claiming you made power with your “tune” when all you’ve done is introduce another variable that just made any use of the baseline invalid. We’ve made 6hp on some 9th gens just by letting it sit and cool off . Not even the best troll attempt I’ve seen — but cute, I guess?
A truly good example is a tuned VTC map — particularly the low cam (non-VTEC). Low cam was tuned to determine the best cam advance, and then high cam was tuned to determine the best cam advance. Finally the transition was optimized to provide the best curve possible when going into VTEC during a full throttle pull. Optimal power at 5000 rpm out of VTEC was with 5* VTC — however it was 35* VTC in VTEC at 5000 rpm for optimal power. So what happens when VTEC engages and you have such a large VTC transition? The VTC system is still at 5* and the motor makes less than optimal power until the cam has a chance to move to 35* VTC. As a result the transition was optimized by a very short and quick snap from 8* at 4900 rpm to 32* at 5000 rpm while VTEC is still off — a very smooth transition when at WOT and no loss of power is seen or felt. If you don’t see this difference on the dyno — time to replace your piece of shit roller (hah, I just went there).
What does this look like on the dyno? The graph at the left illustrates this. Solid lines are horsepower and torque with the VTEC “pre-phasing” trick done, dashed lines are without. Pretty obvious torque dip at VTEC, right?
Wait, if this is so good, why are you telling everyone about it? Because this is not a secret. When the K series first came out Hondata pioneered this trick and published it publicly for EVERYONE to use. The irony here is — very few use it, and even less understand why. It’s a better idea to just go on the Internet and make it obvious you’ve done like two Honda K series vehicles and now you’re an expert? More like wet behind the ears.
Hold on, it gets better… you know even *Honda* uses this trick now? Just look closely at the stock Honda 9th gen tune. For the two seconds it takes to see it — it’s not tough. They didn’t use this on the RSX’s or the 8th gens — and their use of it is very subtle on the 9th gen.
I’ll be Mr. Nice Guy — to the right is the stock 9th gen VTC map. Note the values at 5000 rpm at full throttle — they go back up slightly in anticipation of the VTEC crossover (which is 25 at 5000 rpm in VTEC on the stock Honda tune) — the only difference is they didn’t use a 4900 RPM break point as they really don’t care if the car loses 4hp across 500 rpm worth of power from running 7-9 degrees too much VTC (I guess they haven’t met the experts on the internet yet?). Yes, Honda intentionally mapped the motor this way — there is absolutley no reason to bring the VTC back up in an area it naturally wants to taper down to keep making power on the low cam.
Shocking, I know.
I Did Such And Such And Made More Power
Let me repeat.
Tuning is about so much more than making power. I have customers with 150k+ miles on their turbo vehicles. I also have a dyno at the shop readily at my disposal. I know what makes power — in fact I use the dyno not only for tuning customer’s vehicles and builds at the shop, but as an R&D tool and apply what I discover into our eTunes to help deliver reliable cars for customers around the world.
Part of tuning is making decisions and judgement calls that will ultimately determine a setup is reliable long term — or not. In varying conditions year round — that the tune has to take into consideration and adjust for. This is why people go to reputable and experienced tuners, instead of a random guy offering you tunes for $50? Right? Maybe I’m wrong, what do I know?
I’ve posted several comparisons of stock 9th gens. I always answer — yes there are benefits, it will make a bit more power, and the power will be more consistent.
Here is the simple and visual example of this. The engine coolant temps (ECT) where 185-188 degrees F and intake air temps were 59-60 degress F on the stock tune baselines. Yes, I made sure these were consistent to avoid any extra variables when doing the comparison — if you’re paying someone 60 bucks for 3 baseline pulls I can tell you with absolute certainty they are not paying attention and simply don’t care. Yes it does matter — I’ve had customers datalog their baselines and in some situations there’s not even a dyno fan on the car — I’ve seen 20-30 degree difference in ECT (180 and 210…) and even a 30-40 degree swing in air temps between pulls. If someone thinks it “doesn’t matter” — they should not claim to be any kind of EFI tuning specialist.
Anyway… stock pulls. Three pulls with consistent conditions. Left graph is torque, right graph is horsepower. Quite the difference on the top end right? 10-12 HP swing in some spots. Yes, the stock Honda tune is very inconsistent in it’s power delivery — and no it is not the “knock control” as some would make you believe. The simple answer is just this: emissions.
Now four (yes four) pulls with consistent conditions — 185-188 degree ECT and 68-70 degree IAT. A negligible .5-1.2hp swing. Virtually nothing. This is on a dyno that is accurate to .1hp (no, a roller dyno does not nearly have this kind of accuracy — having a wheel/tire on the car can cause a 2-4hp swing).
And as every tuner in the world loves to do and not tell everyone… we overlay the highest “tuned” graph with the lowest “baseline” graph. This behavior should come as no surprise — as a ton of “tuners” make a living off nothing more than the way their dyno reads (big numbers sell tunes and that means you’re the best right? Hm… I’ve got some graphs I can post… no, I probably shouldn’t go there).
And now I’ve run out of thinks to rant about…