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.