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.

 

 

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.

Making Power On The Civic X: Full Disclosure

One of the most fun parts of a new platform is experimentation — not with just the innards of the ECU but testing various fuels. We entered for the foray with the 2017 EX-T turbo 1.5L “base” Civic in December 2016 and started making great power with a completely stock car. What we didn’t disclose publicly are what fuels or fuel blends (more on that!) we were using to make power.

We have D/I experience dating back over 5-6 years and a lot of that carries over to the new Honda platforms. This isn’t something that can be said of the general Honda performance community as D/I for Honda is very fresh (and it’s an exciting change!).

To test the various fuels we needed proper ECU control to do so and to make sure the vehicle drivability maintained perfect — KTuner was able to provide us with rapid development and table access to get this done, and in that time we’ve helped countless customers make not just good power, but also clean, smooth pulling power curves.

So what’s the trick?

It’s really quite simple — ethanol. E85 is all the rage, however it is not needed in large quantities on D/I motors. A couple gallons actually suffice just fine. The optimal blend is actually around 25-30% ethanol content in the fuel to reach an MBT timing map (timing map for best power), after that the benefits of ethanol is actually outweighed by the stress on a limited fuel system on most cars — you get a tad more charge cooling (most of it is already realized in the 25-30% area). What’s that come out to? 2.5 gallons of “E85” mixed with 7 gallons of 91-93 octane works superbly (we actually went so far as doing 2.5 gallons and 7 gallons of 87 octane, which also worked just fine!)

The next step is to be able to bump direct injection pressures a bit — the stock CivicX D/I fuel system runs at about 18MPa of fuel pressure, and you can safely raise up to ~21.5MPa which gives you a significant amount of injector overhead (have to be careful — ~22MPa you start hitting the pressure relief, and it’s not something you want to hammer on).

On the ‘base’ EX-T we were able to make ~245-247whp & 300wtq safely on a COMPLETELY stock car and a stock clutch before it slipped — and we got on the horn with ClutchMasters very early on to have a clutch developed for this platform — which was ready for us as soon as we picked up our 2017 Si first week of June!

Si? Yes yes!

Once we got the Si and a clutch we repeated the same tests — making 255whp on a safe level, and ~275whp on a very aggressive level (33psi! — can’t do this long term because the map sensors max out at 29psi) using the same ethanol blend.

But that’s not all, there are better blends of ethanol. Ignite Red or what we really liked — VP’s C85. Using the same blend ratio of C85 we were able to SAFELY (without pegging the factory map sensors) make another 10-12whp.

The little 1.5T in these cars is very potent — torque levels as high as 350wtq can be attained easily, but caution is advised as who knows how long the rods will handle that kind of torque level in the low end/mid range, especially if you like lugging this motor in high gear.

And before you ask — yes, you can do this on the CVT, but KTuner is highly advised as they are the only ones to offer a fully “unlocked” solution for tuning the CVT as we see fit. We can bring down the torque levels and get the cars another ~20whp easily and safely.

Also — expect to see roughly ~10% higher figures in other locations as we have a fairly conservative reading dyno, historically (stock 8th does 172, 9th does 160-170, on and on).

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).

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…

2012+ Honda Civic Si RBC Intake Manifold Test

Introduction

There has been an ongoing debate about the pro’s and con’s of swapping the 8th gen Civic Si intake manifold onto the 9th gen Civic Si without any real concrete testing. Just butt dyno reviews, bromancing and numbers being thrown around with no context. So basically your average day on an enthusiast discussion board.

We’ll be having none of that here — I requested a 2012+ Civic Si that had a Full Race exhaust and Full Race 3″ catless downpipe, running the stock intake as our “base” to start from. We also got the the PRL SRI for the stock IM & RBC so that testing would stay consistent — and we tested the PRL SRI before installing the RBC IM.

So in short the testing involves:

  • PRL SRI on stock intake manifold.
  • RBC intake manifold w/ PRL SRI (to see difference over stock manifold).
  • ZDX throttle body.

Now the ground rules are simple:

  • The vehicle must be fully retuned after each major modification change on the vehicle.
  • No “snorkel modding” the intake out of the engine bay to artificially reduce intake air temps (reducing air temps will indeed increase HP — the goal of this test isn’t to show you this). The goal is consistent and realistic testing (particularly to demonstrate differences from mod to mod).
  • Two to three pulls are done on the “final” tune to ensure the engine has “settled” and the pulls are consistent between attempts — maintaining this requirement ensures comparisons between the various mods we are testing are consistent.

Long and productive Saturday: eight hours without the car leaving the shop dyno and over 70 dyno pulls later, we had concluded testing.

Now on to the results.


 

Stock tune vs VitTuned

stockintakeThis is how the car came in today. Equipped only with the Full Race 3″ Exhaust and Full Race 3″ catless downpipe.

stock_vs_tuned_stockintake_im

I baselined the car on the stock tune and we got just shy of 180whp (the dyno baselines 162-165whp for a bone stock 2012 Si). Not bad at all for two simple exhaust bolt ons. The stock intake had been retained and this example demonstrated why I recommend keeping the stock intake if you can’t afford FlashPro/Tuning yet — the car actually runs mostly OK with the factory airbox on the vehicle. Obviously doesn’t make “best power” for the mods, but the car drives and performs well day to day.

I proceeded to fully tune the car — and the power went up nicely with a cleaner power curve throughout the rev range, stopping just shy of 190whp — with gains of 11-14whp through the top end over the factory tune.


 

Stock intake vs PRL SRI

prlsri_stockimI proceeded to install the PRL Motorsports short ram intake (SRI) on the vehicle. Fitment was perfect and install of the SRI was a breeze — requiring only a couple of basic tools.prl_sri_vs_stock_intake_stockim

Back to the laptop I went and more tuning commenced. I was pleasantly surprised by the solid low end gains from 1700 rpm til 2500 rpm — as much as 12 ft lbs of torque to the wheels will definitely be something you can feel during normal stop and go driving. Slight loss from 2750 rpm to 3000 rpm though — nothing major. And no real gains until after ~ 5700 rpm, with a maximum of 4.5whp was had from 6750 rpm til 7000 rpm. Not a bad gain for a simple mod — I’ve seen much worse performance from some intakes on this platform (worse than stock intake at times).


 

And now the RBC intake manifold!

prlsri_rbcimOn to what we’ve all been waiting for! I dug back into the engine bay and worked on installing the RBC intake manifold PRL graciously supplied for testing — as well as their adapter for the kit. This install is a bit more involved than the SRI and required a larger variety of tools — and about 2-3 hours of shop time to install.

Once the intake manifold was on, the RBC IM version of PRL’s SRI was bolted up and the coolant system was burped. This step is very important — the coolant system must be properly burped. I’ve had customers send me datalogs with 280 degree Fahrenheit coolant temps after doing work on the car that involved draining the coolant system — which just guarantees a blown head gasket and very costly repair. I recommend using this kit, or something similar, to assist with purging the coolant system of all air: Spill-Free Funnel.

Back to the laptop I went for another session with the Hondata rbc_vs_stockim_prlsri_on_bothFlashPro. And here are the results!

  • Below 2100 rpm there is as much as 12 ft lbs of torque lost when using the RBC intake manifold.
  • From 2100 to 3500 rpm there are minor torque gains (1-6wtq) when using the RBC intake manifold.
  • From 3650 rpm until 5750 rpm there is nothing but bad news when using the RBC intake manifold — as much as 15 ft lbs of torque lost!
  • After 6200 rpm is some good news — we begin to see minor gains, based on “peak” numbers, we only got a 6whp gain using the RBC.
  • At ~7150 rpm there is a 7whp gain.
  • At 7500 rpm there is a 11whp gain.

So what can we gather from this? There is a hefty trade off when using this intake manifold on the 2012+ Civic Si. You are basically sacrificing a lot of mid/low end for a powerband that carries better after 6000 rpm.

So pick your poison: what are you using the car for?

Racing? Then technically speaking this car will be a bit faster when keeping the revs above 6000 rpm.

Daily driven stop and go “fun” car? The torque with the stock IM might benefit you more.

The choice is yours — as with everything in life, we do what we do with our toys for our own pleasure and enjoyment.


 

Wait, let’s make a joke and put a huge TB (ZDX/J37) on the car and see what happens?

zdxtb_on_rbcimNow I really have no idea how TB swaps got so popular on bolt on motors. The simple fact is this — items like throttle bodies, injectors (yes I’m looking at the guys claiming RDX injectors are necessary with an RBC IM swap), etc, are nothing more than SUPPORTING modifications, and ONLY benefit you when the motor has a flow requirement that is now surpassed by the items on the car. To say the stock 9th gen throttle body is a restriction on a bolt on 9th is simply a JOKE. The following comparison demonstrates as much. For the marginal gains (1hp) that is had up top with the TB, as much if not more is lost in the mid/low end.

But so and so put a TB on and it pulls so hard…. sorry, please schedule an appointment to have the butt dyno re-calibrated.

Hopefully this has been an insightful test for us all.


 

What’s all this cost?

  • RBC Bored to 70mm for ZDX and CNC Bored for 9th gen injectors – $420
  • PRL RBC Adapter Kit – $135
  • ZDX TB (when purchased as kit option from PRL) – $220
  • PRL SRI – $200
  • Shop labor (if not installing on your own) — 3-4 hours ($240-$320 here)

 

I’d like to give a big thanks to PRL Motorsports for supplying us with all the goodies for this test.

Thanks Ernesto for supplying the test vehicle — enjoy the mods and the tune!

K Series Mapping: Why so many revisions for a proper map?

A question I get very frequently here at VitTuned. The short answer is very simple: do you want it done right, or do you want it done fast (and lazy)?

For the long and descriptive answer, let’s take a look at an example of a Hondata FlashPro (same idea with Hondata KPro and KTuner maps) map. The heart of the tune is the ignitcammapion, fuel & cam angle mapping, with the proper VTEC point being the final slice of pie.

The following graphic depicts these basics — but the thing to note is there are actually *10* ignition and *10* fuel maps, at various break points. So now at the very heart of the tune are 10 of each of the “big ones” (ignition/fuel) that need to be properly mapped for the vehicle & its modifications.

Now we can begin to understand why so much work — not only do you have to do all the individual mapping, you then have to combine it for a “final” fully tuned map, adding in any further tweaks necessary to smooth out the motor’s operation as well as doing any necessary part throttle tuning whimapsle the power tuning has been going on.

To the right is a screenshot of how many “revisions” a proper all motor map involves — this was a tune done in person on the shop Dynapack dyno. Every log is either a WOT pull or load based part throttle mapping while the vehicle was on the pack. Took about 34 “revisions” (IE, changes to the tune before more logging & testing was done).

This is how I do every tune, every single one. Whether it’s your basic stock K series vehicle or highly modified turbo built motor beast. Do it right, or don’t bother doing it at all.

I’ve seen some claim they tune like I do — short story is they may try to duplicate, but they can never replicate.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper.

The most important thing to note is the fuel mapping — on a setup that breaths very well there can be as much as a 30-40% difference in fueling between the 0 degree cam break point and the 50 degree cam break point. Even if you set up the cam angle map to have a mostly “fixed” cam angle map — guess what? The cam still moves, it’s a simple mechanism that’s powered by oil pressure — not to mention the phasing between the high cam and low cam (VTEC on and VTEC off) maps. Then what happens if the ECU ever limp modes for any reason? It will default to the 0 degree maps in the ECU during fail safe scenarios.

So let’s take for example a map where every single cam break point is the *exact* same, they are identical or very nearly so. Or fuel maps that were put together with no thought — I have yet to see a single K series motor that will demand the exact same fuel at every break point. In three words — it is impossible. As the cam angle moves, the VE (volumetric efficiency) of the motor changes, and as a result the fueling demand drastically changes which is then depicted in a map with properly tuned fueling.

Now what happens in this scenario? The cam will phase, the motor’s fueling demand will change, and you’ll start to experience some drivability concerns — some hesitation there, some weird lag here. What if the ECU limp modes? You’re left with a potentially undriveable (if not unsafe to drive) vehicle.

I’ve heard several excuses for lazy K series mapping — “AEM doesn’t  do it like this” (or insert “Blah blah stand alone doesn’t do it like this”) or “you’re obviously getting your information from someone who’s never seen anything but Hondata”. That is by far some of the worst excuses I’ve seen for laziness on this specific platform. And to break some hearts — I tune over a dozen different engine management systems. Simple fact is — you tune Hondata like Hondata, AEM like AEM, SCT like SCT, HPTuners like HPTuners, etc. Every EMS has it’s intricacies — you learn them all, or in my opinion, don’t bother touching it if you don’t have the motivation to do it right to begin with.

So I’ll leave you with that — you can have fast & lazy, or done right (but takes a bit more work). Ultimately it’s the customer’s money paying for the work & experience they’d like to receive.