13 AFR: Preying on the Blissfully Ignorant By Virtue of “Education”

I will just come right out and say it: when doing performance engine tuning under no situation is it “OK” to run a forced induction engine lean, regardless of the fuel you are using.

I thought I had seen all the hack job work I could imagine in this industry, but the strive for more and more power on Direct Injected vehicles has hit a new low. As the injection window runs out performance “tuners” and companies claiming to be “industry leaders” are resorting to leaning engines out to unacceptable ranges to post “performance figures”.

I’ll say this as well: it’s your car, do whatever you want to it.

However when you take your car to a “professional”, it’s frightening to imagine what they might actually be doing. It’s one thing for a garage level tuner to make questionable decisions, but it’s another for someone claiming to be an “industry leading” tuning solution supplier to do the same thing — and then defend their poor decision making with even sillier excuses and passing it under the guise of “education”.

“Teaching” poor decision making and questionable tuning practices is not industry leading behavior — it’s hack job work. They must think we were all born yesterday. One also begins to question if they even understand what they are actually doing, at all.

Those D/I Limits

With direct injection — you have a much shorter injection window. Once you’re out of fuel, you’re out of fuel. As it stands right now it’s impossible to just “upgrade” the injectors or the D/I fuel pump on most platforms to give the motor the fuel it needs.

As a result we’ve seen various D/I platforms (WRX, Corvette, now Honda) run the motors leaner and leaner. We’ve also seen plenty of motors with failures that could of been avoided — melted pistons, damaged ring lands, scorched cylinder walls. Just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it won’t.

Those AFRs

For the sake of discussion — we will not use AFR units, we will use lambda. In Gasoline units 1.0 lambda is 14.64 AFR, 13.0 afr is 0.89 lambda and 11.5 afr is 0.78 lambda.

When discussing “AFR” and the function of fuel for the sake of the motor — you need to understand it. Under normal situations, a stoichiometric air/fuel mixture (1.0 lambda) is perfectly fine — cruising, idle, low loads. However as load goes up (and boost goes up, etc), the motor begins to create more and more heat — so you add more fuel by “enriching” the mixture (targeting a richer lambda, say 0.78), this provides the extra “charge cooling” the motor needs to prevent detonation and in many cases allows for more ignition timing to allow the engine to make better power.

However, if you chose not to enrich, or not enrich as much, say — 0.88-0.89 lambda (12.8-13.0 AFR in gasoline units) under boost, what happens? The motor gets a little bit of cooling — but under F/I conditions far from optimal. Does it refuse to make power? No. Let’s get this clear: you can absolutely throw a ton of boost at a motor  and never even enrich at all and it will make some power, for a while. How long? Who knows, YMMV.

It will not, however, make optimal power and will run hotter, which will require a reduced timing map. If you do not reduce timing, you can suffer fits of detonation — and yes, some fuels are much better resisting it than others. The amount of cooling a fuel supplies is relative to volume — which is why it’s common to see 0.75-0.78 lambda under boost vs something like 0.85 lambda on a naturally aspirated motor.

The Excuses

The most common excuse for this kind of behavior — is that X or Y OEM does it. Let’s be clear, a lot of OEM’s will run engines quite lean in boost on factory forced induction platforms — for a TIME (IE: BMW, Ford and now Honda). They are generally tuned to enrich, and in many cases, enrich very rich after a short timer has expired under load.

The OEM’s also do not tune with performance in mind — they will reduce ignition timing very aggressively and run boost levels much lower than the turbo is capable of in most cases. They are delivering a reliable vehicle as a PACKAGE while keeping EMISSIONS under control . So there is a lot of give and take. They make that 1.0 lambda under boost for a short time “reliable” by reducing timing very aggressively to keep in-cylinder combustion temperatures down.

I’ve never seen an engine being tuned for performance by the aftermarket with emissions control as their goal — it’s always the search for more and more power.

So to be clear: if you throw 29psi at a motor and run it at 0.89 lambda, it will make some power. I’ve never seen a turbo motor live happy at 0.89 lambda and make best/clean power there — enrich it to 0.78 lambda and watch it come alive.

A great example here is the FK8 Honda Civic Type R. From the factory it comes running 1.0 lambda to about 4000 rpm if you start a dyno pull from down low. We will actually MAKE MORE POWER with lower boost than the stock tune. How is this possible? We enrich it to 0.8 lambda (11.7 gasoline AFR), and with the extra enrichment the motor automatically picks up power — before we even touch the timing map. Mind blowing, right?

The VitR Does Meth

The legal kind, I promise you.

I finished development of the Water/Methanol injection control subsystem for our Honda Civic Type R MoTeC M142 firmware. The control strategy we’ve implemented worked quite well and tuning went quite smooth.

We *only* used “boost juice” during testing — a 50/50 blend of water/methanol and the results were awesome. Yes you can use this subsystem to spray M1 methanol without mixing with water (I know someone’s going to ask). Maybe it’ll even make more power.

Tooning

This was probably the easy part — roll my face on the keyboard, some numbers get plugged into the calibration, and the motor made power resulting in the dyno numbers going up.

How much? We’re safely 25-30whp and 50wtq over our best E35 ethanol blend numbers. Compare to stock, the power curve is amazing. We’re up almost 140whp over stock and 150wtq over stock. A 50% increase in horsepower and almost 55% increase in torque.

Tuning

Ok, now for the “real” tuning. What was our goal? To provide a safe and repeatable system to reduce fuel demand on an already hammered D/I fuel system…. and improve power. We accomplished both, and the extra power might actually be secondary for some people. You can use this subsystem to ease up on the stressed D/I pump on this car and opt for a more conservative tune that provides you with a more reliable car for the type of racing you do — circuit, etc.

 

To the right you can see the graph which lists our D/I pressures and injection available times. We have a slight pressure drop to 19MPa at 3800 rpm — which is not terrible as we have 6ms of injection time left in that area (and factory D/I pressure here isn’t even 19MPa to begin with…). This is done with the methanol portion of the water/meth we were injecting — the methanol is extra fuel and you can even see where it “hits” after engagement in the “Fuel Volume” graph. We’re providing about 15-20% of the fuel volume the motor is using under boost with the methanol system now, which has reduced demand on the factory D/I fuel system.

Now bear in mind — we have this slight drop because we cranked the boost up and went for 430wtq. Remove about 20wtq and you have no pressure drop at all. Or add a second meth nozzle — as we’re currently only using one.

Decisions decisions. Tuning choices all left up to you!

Now the curious will want to know how much boost we were running. The plot to the left shows the boost curve.

Yes 30psi peak — and then it tapers. We can still squeeze a bit more boost out of from 3500 to 4500 rpm to make more torque (probably see 450-460wtq — but I think the stock clutch deserves a break as we already pounded it with 430wtq today). The stock turbo is effectively “maxed out” — we’re seeing a lot of back pressure after 6000 rpm and it’s very visible in the boost plot. Attempting to make more than 25-26psi at 7000 rpm actually drops power due to the high back pressure.

Charge Temps

Probably the worst part of the turbo system on this car is the factory intercooler — trying to push the boost levels we push on our tuned Type R basically destroys the stock intercooler in one dyno pull. On customer cars with our MoTeC solution we’re seeing charge temps skyrocket into the 140 degree Fahrenheit area in a very short pull (with ambient temps around 80 degrees). This is no good for power, reliability and consistency.

PRL’s intercooler helped us a lot, and adding water/meth injection on top of that is just an added bonus!

You can see the temps to the left — Airbox temperature being what’s in the intake (ambient was indeed about 75 at the shop today) and Inlet Air temperature being post intercooler. You can see how cool the intercooler stays. Yes we’re using the stock intake. It has not proven to be a restriction for us yet.

Safety First

There was another goal for this subsystem — I personally do not trust methanol injection systems to be absolutely error proof. I know someone’s going to come in and scream “I’ve never had a problem”. While that may be true, it could literally be just your luck. The unexpected can happen and our methanol subsystem is designed to “take control” and take monitoring the methanol system away from you. How many of us can REALLY watch a red warning LED and lift the moment it illuminates? You’re lying to yourself if you think your foot is faster than a computer.

With safety in mind — we worked on developing a control system that could drop the error margin and add fault detection and safeties into running methanol injection. As such the ECU takes full control — it runs the methanol injection pump, monitors the delivery of meth with a pressure sensor and monitors tank level with the level switch that is installed in the methanol tank. It also monitors for electrical faults — pressure sensor failure, level switch faults and since it’s monitoring for pressure sensor issues — pump faults (if the pump doesn’t come on, no pressure will get built — and the subsystem will failsafe and warn the driver).

We actually got to see this in action on the dyno — you can see in the following graph that the meth system hit a fail safe (dashed graph) and deactivated going to pure “pump gas” (or whatever your normal tune is) so you can continue running the engine without a hiccup (other than the obvious loss in power). I actually lifted when I saw this warning pop up on my laptop as I was tuning the car — and you can see how long it took me to react. Mind you — this was with me *actively* watching for faults as I was tuning the car. Imagine the delay if you have a problem and no failsafe? Sure, the failsafe may not save you from every problem — but it certainly goes a long way in helping avoid issues.

The Subsystem

What does it do? Other than what I’ve already discussed above. Well, here’s a quick overview. The system is totally configurable — you can chose to configure it for how it suits you.

The system has activation parameters — once those are met it “arms”. During “Arm” it will turn on pump injection and “wait” for a maximum amount of time for line pressure to build to verify the system is actively injecting water/meth. If the target line pressure is not met within a fixed amount of time — it will fault and not activate.

Assuming everything is OK with the system, it will then activate and allow you to add additional boost, ignition timing and trim the main system injection fuel volume (as already discussed) based on how much meth you are delivering. The system is fully progressive — you ramp it in as you chose fit.

If anything goes wrong — pressure drops below a set target, or above a set target (clogged nozzle?), it will failsafe. Pump dies? Pressure will drop — failsafe. Pressure sensor dies — failsafe. Low level switch indicates tank is low? Failsafe. Level switch fault? Failsafe.

Anytime there is a failsafe we run on our “normal” tune that doesn’t require the additional fuel. So you can keep on driving the car without skipping a beat.

On top of that you also have the driver notification — we’ve repurposed the “Check Engine Oil Level” prompt on the dash to come on when your tank is low if you so chose. Or you can also chose to have the check engine light illuminate when there is a subsystem fault.

What more could you want? Well if you do — we can probably develop it into this ECU.

 

 

VitR — Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

No the title isn’t a shot at the car — I’m finding it to be a great car and the motor is turning out to be pretty solid. There’s just one thing that’s quite annoying — Honda gimped the potential of the motor with the fuel system. The D/I fuel pump is pegged out very easily once you turn the power up, which in fact leaves you literally scraping the bottom of the barrel to make a clean power curve as you’re riding a very fine line with the fuel system.

This turns out to be even more true once we put on the PRL Motorsports Intercooler on the car and found out it improves cooling efficiency to a point we were making the power we had before while running less boost. Of course we wanted to make more power and run more boost — which proved futile given the limitations we kept hitting in the fuel system.

The car is 100% OEM aside from the PRL Intercooler and we used E35 blend fuel for this test (as we wanted to see how much more we could push the motor).

Intercooler

So what did the results look like? We were able to make a clean power curve and pick up more power before the fuel system maxed out — and make roughly the same top end with less boost.

But that’s not good enough! Let’s make more… and we certainly tried. The motor wants to make power — but takes a slump after 6000 rpm. Why is this?

Well here’s why — in our MoTeC programming we’ve added code that estimates how much injection time you have left before your spark event. You need a certain amount of time left over for a clean mix in the combustion chamber before the fuel is ignited. Do not leave enough time for this to happen the engine doesn’t make power or even worse — misfires. It appears that on this motor we want at least 1.5ms of “Injection Time Remaining” to get a complete mix.

But as fuel demand on the D/I pump goes up it skips a beat and we see a large fuel pressure drop — from a target of 22.5MPa to 16.6MPa (a 6MPa or almost 900psi drop in fuel pressure). As a result of the pressure drop the injector pulse width has to increase and now we’re running out of injection time!

Really Push It

How bad does it get if you REALLY push the D/I fuel system? Well take a look at this. Wow it’s just a roller coaster ride after 5500 rpm — we were making over 390whp and would of made well over 400whp if we had the fuel…

 

You can see how tapped out the D/I fuel system was on this 29psi pull as we dropped 8MPa of fuel pressure.

Injection time remaining was super low… and the motor even misfired at 6600 rpm.

 

 

So Did the Intercooler Help?

Absolutely. Here’s some useful data from actual hard acceleration runs on the stock intercooler and with the PRL intercooler. You should note — we actually used a bit less boost on the stock intercooler runs and the stock intercooler had colder ambient temperatures versus when we ran the PRL intercooler test. However the stock intercooler still heat soaked rapidly. For comparison are runs at WOT from 1st to 3rd gear.

First on the left is the stock intercooler. Note the following — “Airbox Temperature” is the temperature sensor in the intake BEFORE the turbo and the “Inlet Air Temperature” is the temperature sensor in the intake manifold. The sensor in the intake manifold tends to heat soak at idle/low air volume conditions (not much fresh air flowing through the intake manifold).

 

On the right is the run w/ the PRL intercooler. You can note that with the stock intercooler the Inlet temperature never touches the airbox temperature and in fact starts to climb almost immediately after dropping. With the PRL intercooler the aircharge is rapidly cooled and comes down to match the temperature at the airbox — and stays steady all the way through 3rd gear and would *maybe* start to slowly climb in 4th gear.

Clearly the intercooler upgrade is worth it — especially for our road course folks.

Some Fun

After having the car for a while and getting more comfortable with the clutch — I wanted to see if it would hold a bit more torque. I brought in 23-24psi earlier in the powerband, held 24psi through the top end — and made ~390hp and just a hair shy of ~400tq.

Is there more potential there? I believe so — I think we can probably make 450wtq quite easily — if we had reliable fueling. We had a 6MPa pressure drop and the fuel pressure just did not look that great.

 

 

Some Thoughts

Yes — this is E35 fuel (we had made 360whp on 92 previously), but there will be comparable gains from this intercooler on pump gas as well. The E35 actually doesn’t bring up fuel demand *that* much over pump gas (which is E10 to begin with) — it’s about 10% more fuel. So what’s that tell us? Where the hard limit is for fuel volume with this D/I fuel system.

How much can we do on just pump gas? Maybe 400whp before we need to do secondary injection. Maybe less, maybe more. We’ll find out once we have a the PRL downpipe on the VitR!

The other option is to use a race gas that reduces fuel system demand over pump gas….

 

 

The 10th Gen Civic Si Basemaps

It feels like I’ve been bombarded lately with questions on what X basemap on Y device maps for power (“numbers”). I admit I’ve been slacking on getting these results for you guys as my attention has been on taking care of customers and elsewhere (busy busy!).

Turns out I had a lazy Sunday this Labor Day weekend so I rolled the Si into the shop and spent  a few hours testing the various supplied basemaps provided by Hondata and KTuner. It’s a pleasure to be in a somewhat unique position where I can use and support both systems — as such I can fairly readily go between them.

Bias

This needs to be nipped in the bud. Some people seem to confuse “preference” with “bias”, and they simply are not the same. I’ve already seen some keyboard warriors claiming “bias”.

Prefer – like one thing better than another; tend to chose.

Bias – prejudice in favor of or against one thing or another.

The definitions are quite simple, and I can completely understand how one person that favors a product would think someone else is “bias” because they favor another.

Simple fact though: I’m in different. It’s like claiming I’m biased for Skunk2 since we sell and recommend their header on older platforms. Silly — as I tune cars with a plethora of parts. Not any different here — I tune either system for my customers since I support both which leaves the CivicX community with a choice of two systems (refreshing!).

Testing Procedure

The procedure used is fairly simple — flash the ECU with the basemap of choice, put the car in gear, let the dyno load it, and off it goes. The dyno was run the EXACT same way every pull. No trickery or “heat soaking” was employed — all runs were started around 170 ECT and steady state IAT for the current shop/weather conditions. All the basemaps were run as they come — no changes (with Hondata starting at ~.57-.58 knock control and KTuner starting at ~0.59 knock control — which is how my car started at ‘key on’ with both systems). Easy enough test for anyone else to replicate.

I ran the Hondata +9 calibration, then the +6 calibration, then completely stock (reverted to stock, settled knock control at 0.55). Lastly I ran the KTuner 21psi and then the KTuner 23psi calibrations. If anything, this would of favored the Hondata calibrations as they were run first before the car raised the dyno bay area temps a bit — for anyone claiming “bias”.

We are using 92 octane pump gas fuel (no blends — wouldn’t work anyway).

The car has a PRL downpipe on it — that’s the only mod besides the Clutchmasters clutch. Originally the car had dyno’d about 206hp completely stock, in a bit better weather conditions. This time around it made about 210hp stock — so even without a tune it’s safe to say the PRL downpipe made 5-6hp or so. This is really irrelevant to the test at hand as the results are comparable to the baseline (more of an FYI).

Hondata Results

First, the Hondata +9 calibration. This calibration makes about 23psi peak boost. About 257wtq and 210whp. Roughly 30whp and 40-45wtq over stock.

Then the Hondata +6 calibration. This calibration makes about 21psi peak boost. About 214whp and 245wtq. Looks like about 25wtq and 25whp over stock.

What I found peculiar is we actually lost some initial spool and the +6 calibration actually had a better power curve after about 5000 rpm (made 3-4hp more). Power curve above ~5800 rpm really wasn’t any better than stock.

I can hear it now — but but but Hondata says they made 232whp! And once again I have to repeat like a broken record: EVERY DYNO IS DIFFERENT. They are a tuning tool, nothing more. Some read low, some read high. In my test on this car I found their figures to be about 10-11% higher than how my dyno reads — I haven’t touched or altered their supplied tunes in any way. Historically the dyno they use reads 10-15% higher for the Hondas I’ve tuned in that area (I’ve used the dyno they use countless times on trips to SoCal). Remember — you’re not racing your dyno sheet, you’re racing your CAR.

KTuner Results

First, the 21psi calibration. Peak boost is 21psi as noted. Looks like about 214whp and 260wtq. Roughly 40-45wtq over stock and also about 30whp over stock.

Next the 23psi calibration. Peak boost is 23psi as noted. About 214-215whp with 275wtq and a wider power curve to boot. Looks like about 50wtq over stock and 30-35whp over stock.

The only thing that was peculiar is the same issue where the power curve above ~5800 really isn’t any better than stock.

Custom Tuning

It goes without saying that custom tuning is recommended for either system – not only can you dial in the extra settings in the calibration (“tune”) . You also get the assurance that the tune was looked at on YOUR car, YOUR fuel, as YOU drive it and get the support that comes with custom tuning.

Tuning services are available for both systems:

http://vittuned.com/ktuner-etune.html

http://vittuned.com/ultimate-tune.html

As well as combo packages for both:

http://vittuned.com/ktunerflash-etune-combo.html

http://vittuned.com/flashpro-ultimate-tune.html

And I know it’s going to be asked — we use KTuner on our car as it is my God given right to CHOSE what I use on MY car. As it is everyone’s right.

Laying Into the 2017 Honda Civic Si

Well now that I’ve changed out the clutch on our test mule 10th Gen Civic Si I’m able to lay into it and see what this baby turbo with the 1.5L motor can really do. Thank you to ClutchMasters for providing us with a very strong clutch — it held up through all the abuse I just put this car through.

I am currently using KTuner on our test vehicle as this is the only software available to me that provides me with all the necessary control to really work on the innards of this ECU and dig deep into what this motor, turbo and ECU can do. Big thank you to them for providing the software we needed to get some serious testing under way.

Shut Up and Tell Me How She Did Already?

I have to say I am very pleased with the way this car not only drives, but makes power — it’s a VERY broad power curve and this is very noticeable when driving the car. She laid down over 255whp and 320wtq, and you can see the power curve is quite “fat”. This power was still made running quite an aggressive tune — but nowhere near any ECU or software limits.

However — for the sake of longevity I dialed the car back into the ~240-245whp and ~290-300wtq area for myself as I want the car not to just “make power” — which is something people tunnel vision on — but I also want it to be reliable. This car is our test mule and we have some more plans for it.

What About These Limits You Mentioned?

This was actually quite fun — in the ECU we’ve already raised all sorts of “limits” to allow us to make power (no throttle pullback, increasing boost targets, etc). However there’s always *something* lurking when you really push things. Which is exactly what I did — I went all out on the baby turbo to see what she could do, and sure enough, I clipped a very brutal boost “limp mode” type situation in the ECU that you can see killed power quite aggressively after 4500 rpm.

There’s two things we can discuss and analyze from this.

First — clearly the baby turbo can do LOTS of boost in the mid range — which continues to make a LOT of torque. As a result, our peak HP spot goes down in the powerband (and I drew in what a potential curve without the limits would look like given what I already know about the turbos capabilities after 5500 rpm). But as horsepower is just a function of torque — if you make enough torque you can make “more horsepower”. As you can see — we’re in the 270whp area! The side effect of this is you have to run the motor with a LOT more torque as your usable powerband for best acceleration actually goes down.

Which brings us to the second point — do you really want to be laying 340wtq into this motor? I think it’s very cool from a testing perspective to see what we can do — but may not be practical for day to day use or the longevity of the motor.

 

 

 

Project Civic X — Bone Stock on High Octane

Just days after tuning the Civic EX-T bone stock on 87 octane I’ve managed to get the tank low enough for some high octane testing — still completely stock. Wasn’t an easy task running the tank low when it gets 40mpg on the highway!

But here goes… the results are FANTASTIC!

High Octane Vs 87 Octane

This doesn’t take a whole lot of explanation — we picked up as much as 60 ft.lbs. of torque more on the high octane fuel — and almost as much as 40-50whp more through the curve.

How’s this stack up against completely stock? Here you go — something like 80-90 ft.lbs. of torque more over stock.

 

Versus 8th and 9th Gen Si

Since we were having a bit of fun comparing the results of the Civic X vs the previous generation Si — might as well keep going!

Versus a bolt on 8th gen.

 

Versus a bolt on (RBC swap) 9th gen.

 

 

Thoughts?

I could of actually made more power (especially more torque) on the Civic X on the high octane fuel — but I was cut off at the knees by the software currently available to tune these cars. So take these results as “software” limited. It is very early in the life of these cars and once we get more ECU development for the platform a lot more potential will be unlocked.

And keep in mind — this is still BONE STOCK. Time will tell what a few bolt ons will do (especially a downpipe).

DynoJet Fudging Tutorial 101

It’s honestly pretty funny how far internet trolls and wannabes that want to take a bite out of you will go. News flash — I’ve been doing this for years and seen all the lies and dyno fudging one ever needs to see that will last a lifetime. Yet these “people” still seem to think tuning is all about power and racing their dyno sheets (fake at that) online.

But sure, I’ll show you how to make 20hp+ on a DynoJet without ever changing a thing and getting the ability to claim “there was so much wrong”. This is really juvenile internet troll behavior — but hey it’s the weekend, let’s spend a little time burning them down.

Start With a Potato Graph Baseline

baseMake it as hard to read any information as possible. For the sake of this blog post though — I want it legible so I won’t go that far. Not a single thing was tuned in the tune for these pulls. Not one. The tune is exactly the same.

Next add in the retune “baseline” graph –more– noting an amazing 18 increase, wow!

But hey we put in some more work, and more_conditions_screwednow the car is making 278hp, an amazing 26hp gain!!!!! WOW!!!

How is this even possible??

Fudging The DynoJet Broken Down

Let me be clear — anyone can fake any dyno to push whatever agenda they want. They’ve been doing it for years, this isn’t anything new.

So how did I get the numbers to go up without changing the tune (I can certainly claim I did and that in the base “everything was wrong”)?

Note how the curves are very similar — it really is the same tune. Very rarely will the overall curve of a “retuned” vehicle follow the same path if it’s a different tune. So the first thing you should note — the graphs are all individual, they are not overlayed. There is no correction factor listed anywhere on those graphs. So let’s shed some light.

base_conditionsHere is the base dyno making “252 whp”, but now with correction factor and smoothing used. We had an overall correction factor of 0.99 which made the numbers lower.

more_conditionsWhat do we have now? This is the “270whp” graph. We’ve switched to the STD correction factor, which is now an overall 1.01 correction — making the numbers read higher.

But that’s not all that’s changed — we also went from gearchangeusing 3rd gear to 4th gear, which “added” 10hp on it’s own, as seen here on the right. Note the “gear ratio” information — higher number is an earlier gear (3rd in this case vs 4th gear). This is not an unusual phenomena — dynos can and will read a bit different based on the gear you use.

But hey, for internet “facts” sharing — we just gained 18hp by fixing a tune that was “so wrong” — LOL?

It gets better. What if we mess with the dyno more_conditions_screwedweather station? Wow, we have an amazing 278whp now! I can leave the correction factor, gear ratio and all other analytical data off, just share these numbers and now I’m the best “tuner” in the world — I just made 26whp over someone else’s tune, without changing anything (but I can certainly claim I did — who’s going to know, right?)!

more_conditions_screwed_conditionsBut if we actually pull up the run conditions, note correction factor now — 1.04. With a very weird humidity… yup, the graph had someone screwing with the weather station. Here’s a news flash as well — it is relative child’s play to screw a DynoJet run, even AFTER it’s been saved. I can do this (or anyone else scam_examplewith basic computer skills) with any DynoJet run file someone sends me — make their graphs read “higher”.

Finally a 1:1 overlay to show you can even fudge a direct comparison if you want to.

And hey, as far as the Internet is concerned — if I post these graphs and just claim the base tune was wrong, who’s going to know, right?

Well I Know. M’Kay?

In conclusion? If you want to make your tooner friend look good, there’s legitimate ways, and then there’s BS ways. Spreading lies and false hope never helped anyone — you just lose any credibility you could of had as you and whatever friend/tooner/shop you are trying to “back up” is clearly a liar with no integrity. But hey, that’s just the game, right? Sure, but I’m not playing.

 

 

 

Trolls Go Round And Round

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 thatuned_vtct 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 tvtec_diphe 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? Juhonda_vtcst 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

LOL.

Let me repeat.

LOL.

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?

So About That Stock 9th Gen?

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.

Astock_comparisonnyway… 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.

Ncomparisonow 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).

finalAnd 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).

final_bestWhat’s it look like if you overlay the best “tuned” and the best “baseline”? Pretty good gains still.

And now I’ve run out of thinks to rant about…

The Tooner Phenomena

Now I am sure this is going to ruffle some feathers and some might even dust off their pitchforks — so be it. It has to be said — living and breathing cars, modifications and tunes day in and day out you see some outrageous things come your way. I am going to break it down into two simple categories — food for thought and enthusiast beware.

The Expert Tooner

This is the guy that has a shop or works for a shop — they have a dyno and you would think they would know how to use it. In fact, some of them do know how to use it very well, and the break down begins with the fact they understand very little, if nothing at all, about EFI tuning and/or the engine management software they are using. Hell, they might even be working at a shop that has a stellar reputation!

They are able to post up amazing numbers on said dyno, but the vehicle will just run terrible either the moment it leaves, or a couple days later. When the car comes back to them — they cannot figure out the source of the problem and will at times chase mechanical gremlins that do not exist.

One prime example of this is a customer with a 2012-2015 Civic Si — said customer had some work done at his location and the vehicle posted up absurd power figures on pump gas (93 octane) — nearly 500hp. Anyone who has any experience with that platform will raise an eyebrow — maybe it’s possible? Highly unlikely with how knock prone those motors are. But hey, the customer was initially quite happy with the numbers — and then the bad news. After a couple of days the car would be completely gutless, and any attempts to have that behavior remedied kept failing.

He finally got a hold of me and we went over what was going on — turns out he was an existing customer of mine that had a tune for his car whnegative_timingen it just had bolt ons. After reviewing his turbo datalogs, it turns out it was running 17-18psi of boost and -2 to -6 degrees of timing (yes, NEGATIVE). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this does NOT make power. In fact — it makes about a whopping 200 horsepower with all that boost, not anywhere NEAR the claimed dyno figures.

And yet it continues to get worse — part throttle closed loop feedback was disabled, the primary O2 sensor completely disabled, VTEC point untuned, VTC mapping completely untouched. No excuse for any of these items to be the way they were — so where was the break down? Upon inspection of the actual calibration — the tune file was basically nothing more than the calibration for his vehicle with simple bolt on parts. Quite literally the injector scalar (how big the fuel injector is) was adjusted and the fuel map was roughly skewed upwards in boost — nothing else in the calibration was setup anywhere close to how a turbo calibration should be done to get a reliably running vehicle. You read that right — he was running MY N/A tune on his car with a turbo. You can imagine how well that works.

So how did it make power on the dyno? Quite simply — with every flash of the ECU its “learned” parameters were reset and under boost the motor was seeing effectively naturally aspirated ignition timing. Wait, won’t this cause detonation? Absolutely — this platform does not have active knock feedback logic, only having a very slowly learned correction (which works poorly on modified vehicles to begin with) and the motor will definitely make power.

So the sum of his “expert” tune was nothing more than a couple of hits on the dyno with a calibration that was ripped (stolen) off the FlashPro when the vehicle came in for work to be done.

But a couple days later — the ECU goes limp mode to protect the engine. In this case — the owner of the vehicle was very lucky. We dialed the boost back to 11-12psi and tuned the car properly and it hasn’t had a problem ever since.

The Noob Tooner

You know who I am talking about here — they are all over social media and online forums. They will make you promises and whisper sweet nothings via private messaging systems to get your attention and make your wallet a little bit lighter. I have seen examples of them even claiming:

  • Tune just like “so-so” (enter tuner name here) for the same amount of $$$.
  • It’ll be just as good or better than “so-so”.
  • “So-so” is terrible and they’re better.

What skills, experience and accomplishments do they actually have? Well it’s quite simple:

  • They purchased a laptop.
  • Downloaded some free software.
  • And in many cases: stole a base file they are now using as their “source of truth”.

Yup — that’s right: all it takes to claim to be a tuner extraordinaire on the internet is a laptop and the ability to transform drivel that would normally flow through their lips into text via their fingers rapidly clacking away at their laptop keyboard.

Even better — in many cases they’ve even purchased a tune for their own vehicle from an established tuner. This has happened so many times I have lost count — I am more than happy to share examples with the reader privately.

But you bet they will be all over the internet trying to snag their next victim — sometimes advertising their services, sometimes trying to stay under the radar and snag their victims via the amazing stories they like to tell via private message.

And at the end of the day — they have little to no experience (you will see stuff like “I tuned my car”, “I tuned all my friends”) and no accomplishments of any kind. Of course they will claim that they “have to start somewhere”. Anyone sign their vehicle up as R&D when they paid for a tuning service?

Amazingly enough — they will always have someone “vouch” for them and their “skills”.

So What?

This is a vicious cycle — I’ve seen it so much that I just shrug and let our business and our work speak for itself.

But be warned — the tooners of the world will throw timeslips, dyno sheets and vouches at you all day long and in their minds it gives them completely credibility. Sure — going fast and big numbers are fun, but it paints a very poor picture of any experience or ability to tune a car properly to do anything beyond that. When you have a vehicle you need to drive day in and day out, there is a lot more that goes into setting up a tune than dyno numbers and time slips.

The goal is to hopefully share some insight with the reader and maybe prevent another case of Tooner Attacks. Ultimately it is up to every enthusiast to do their own research — and I encourage you all to do so.