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….

 

 

Tuners vs Tooners

It has been a while since I’ve posted a good rant as I have been busy hitting the ground running in 2017. Kevin’s 9th gen Civic Si is alive and laying down some solid power with our MoTeC programming and we’ve done a lot of testing (lots in the background beyond the power/tuning figures I posted) on the new CivicX platform. We also have a project I’m really looking forward to coming into the shop soon — a certain yellow Chevelle we’re converting to fuel injection and building a MoTeC ECU for a twin turbo 76mm setup. More 9th and 8th gen Si’s coming in for MoTeC installs as well…

More on that stuff later as it progresses… on to the rant.

My Tuner Is Legit

You know we’ve all heard this one — but when they tag their tuner, no one’s ever heard of that one.

Not to say that automatically implies the said person isn’t a magician at their trade. But the reality and years in this business has made me a skeptic. I’ve been sent plenty of datalogs to review where the owner thought the car “drove fine” where in reality it was not even remotely close and was improved on significantly. It just exemplifies the ignorance when it comes to what a “properly tuned car” is. And really, the average enthusiast/car owner/racer shouldn’t really have to care or worry about it — it is in fact not their job to set the ECU up properly. They are paying for it to be done right.

Tuning

I feel like a broken record on this one point, as this argument comes up a lot. Tuning isn’t just about power. YOU CAN ALWAYS MAKE MORE POWER. Either with better parts, better fuel, or running the motor harder (the “tune”). In some of those scenarios you’re in a situation where you are going to trade off “more power” for reliability. And a dyno is a tool — it was not invented so we can go around racing the dyno sheets and arguing about “making power”. It’s a tool designed to let the operator run tests and make CONSCIOUS DECISIONS about how they are going to CHOSE to run a motor — and this will vary depending on the venue the car is used in.

The “basics” of tuning an engine, any engine, is mostly the same from platform to platform, car to car. Fuel injection is fuel injection, whether it’s port or direct — there are some differences, obviously, but the concepts of fueling & ignition timing (then throw in cam timing) do not really vary from engine to engine. If you can tune one engine on one platform, you can tune another engine on another platform.

Can’t Be That Hard Then?

So where does the complexity arise? The ECU’s themselves. This is where the platforms start to vary and the actual work, experience & knowledge start to come in to play. The way Honda does things in the ECU is different from how Ford does it which is different from how Subaru does it which is different from how Toyota does it which is different from how Chevy does it, on and on. I work on a large variety of platforms, the ECU’s can be wildly different.

This is where someone that is only familiar with one way of doing something because that is the only platform they work on (or mostly work on and see something else very rarely) will stumble and produce results which are not the best.

Tuners

You can literally spend weeks if not months figuring out how to setup a calibration (the “tune” file) properly to get the ECU to do what you want it to do not only repeatedly, but safely.

So what have we done to figure out what strategies to employee to run the motors with the factory ECU’s? Well — either I work closely with a friend/customer that has a certain platform or we have purchased and own (or have owned) our own cars to test on. This way I have a car readily available to not only test parts on — but to test different strategies on and figure out what the ECU is actually doing with the input in the exposed tables in the software and whether the results are good or bad and something underlying in the ECU needs to be changed.

This is a hefty investment in not just resources — but time. And largely this investment isn’t appreciated or is under appreciated as no one is really aware of what has gone in to get a certain platform to where it is today.

Tooners

I’m going to be very blunt here — there’s a million of these guys. Anyone with a $150 laptop, some free software and a base file or two can pass off as a “tuner”. This doesn’t just apply to the Honda market — I’ve watched it grow and repeat in the Subaru, Ford, Chevy and even some stand alone ECU markets. I’m sure it happens on anything that you can “tune”.

So what actually happens? It’s very simple — on most solutions it’s virtually impossible to protect your work. So after a car has been tuned and is out in the “wild”, either the owner takes it to a dyno day or the car is sold and the next owner takes it to someone… and something as basic as this happens: plug into the ECU/device and click “Download”.

Done, you’ve pulled the calibration (“tune”) off the device or the ECU, and from there on they can claim it is there’s.

You are now a legit tuner and I’m sure the car(s) the calibrations are being recycled on even drive alright.

Who’s going to know it wasn’t your work, right?

Guess what, I know. Anyone that’s developed a calibration from scratch on any platform will know when their work has been ripped off and recycled.

Some are doing it so flagrantly that literally the whole calibration is 99% identical to what was ripped off the device/ECU. Not even changing any notes or comments. They have absolutely no clue what they are looking at but making a buck off someone that is oblivious to what is actually happening is just easy money. Hey it drives fine and the owner of the car is happy, so screw it?

Then there is the other crowd — they are pulling/ripping the maps, and then analyze them to figure out what you did and they duplicate it in their own calibrations. This is known as “R&D” (read & duplicate). They understand the basics, but when it comes to the platform, really have no idea what they are looking for beyond just that — the basics (fuel/timing). As long as they can duplicate it to get the results, they are happy and their customers are oblivious.

In both situations I’ve watched the tooners and their “fans” defend them tooth and nail. In situations where I absolutely know this “map hijacking” is happening. They will, of course, deny it til they are blue in the face. Can’t admit to it, ruins their credibility right? Lol, what credibility?

Really, it is flattering, I guess?

But what stems from this is having to wade through oceans of bullshit.

So How’s This Happen?

Not only is the ease in which maps (“tunes”) can be pulled, but the tactics they use, are really disgusting. I’ve witnessed maps get pulled off cars on dyno days where the car was just there for a baseline and the laptop had no reason to be near the vehicle. A certain customer of mine had his VTEC Killer tune ripped off his laptop via a remote “support” session (lol?). One even had a map ripped from him under pretenses of “making the tune better”, which when comparing the “changed” calibration (99.9% identical to what he had to start with anyway…) was leaning the car out to something ridiculous like 13.88 A/F under WOT — so in reality he actually paid someone $50 to rip the map to use as their own. Yes this actually happened — I was dumbfounded when I was told about the situation (I was down in SoCal on a trip and he swung by to have his car retuned in person for the S/C he was having a friend’s shop install on his car while I was in town).

In fact, the most common ways the maps find their way into the hands of tooners is under pretenses of “making more power”. It’s disgusting and I can only hope people do their research and understand that very little in tuning is about just making power and getting a number.

It really is a vicious cycle — I’ve personally witnessed this happen over the 10 years in the Honda market. As the 8th gen Civics and 9th gen Civics got older more and more tooners were popping up out of the woods offering “tunes”. They were absolutely nowhere to be found when the platform was in it’s infancy and just starting out. And they are still nowhere to be found in any of the circles that are trying to advance the platform in one way or another.

Some of the names I even recognized from customers who had paid me to tune their own personal vehicles — are now proclaimed legit tuners. Gee I wonder where they got their maps?

I’m sure recycling cooking cutter bolt on and light F/I (basic s/c and such) maps is one hell of a market. I’m sure it is a hell of a lot easier and much less of an investment than having to devote countless hours/days/months of your time to actually developing the platform, arguing with the company developing the tuning software to get improvements added and figuring out what’s what.

Oh well, back to the grind I go, I guess.

What About Dat Short Ram Intake Doe?

Back to Honda today…

If there is one question on the interwebs that bugs the crap out of me, it’s definitely “What intake should I buy?”. Really? Come on! In this day and age Google knows that answer. So I’m not going to talk about what intake you SHOULD buy, but what intake you SHOULD NOT buy.

Short Ram Intakes Suck

Now I do realize this is a bit of a generalization as there are some exceptions (namely SRI’s designed to point at fresh air and are directed completely away from any heat sources).

Generally the SRI style intakes commonly found on the 8th and 9th gen platforms all point the filter/inlet at the back of the engine bay. This is just plain dumb. Some people will argue that the intakes do “make power” and the manufacturers claim absurd (and unrealistic) “gains” from this style of intake.

The actual FACT is these style of intakes breath hot air from the back of the engine bay — fresh air rarely, if ever, makes it to the intake and it’s pulling very hot air from an area of the engine bay where the exhaust manifold is emanating a generous amount of heat. Hot air does not make power — in fact it creates a scenario that is unsafe for optimal engine operation and you have to “dial the tune back”, something I’ll address in a bit.

The Snorkel Mod

This is a fun mod — I’ve seen this a lot and some places claim to do this to try and create “conditions similar to the street when the car is moving”. So at the heart of it they know these intakes breath hot air. This is just a cop out to “make numbers” — gotta get a print out to race the dyno sheet online, right? I don’t care about “numbers”, if my dyno generated absolutely no numbers and just a power curve I could still do my job. We sell tunes, not numbers. Let that sink in.

So what do they do? They point the IMG_0953intake out of the engine bay to artificially reduce intake air temps (“IATs”). Sorry to break it for you — this doesn’t mimic actual road driving even remotely. I actually see IATs dramatically increase in “normal” driving conditions — as high as 40-60 degrees over ambient with these style intakes.

So let’s use the tool at our disposal — the dyno — to get empirical data on how the engine is affected by changing the position of this style SRI.

The Test

vs_stockThe car in question is a 2013 Civic Si w/ said SRI, catted Full Race DP, RBC swap and stock exhaust. The change over a completely stock car looks like so. Overall not a bad gain, and as always, the RBC sacrifices mid range over the stock intake manifold.

Now that we have done the “tuning” to extract power, let’s see how intake vs_in_engineplacement affects power. We turn the SRI back into the engine — but leave the hood open, and do a subsequent pull (making sure engine conditions are at steady state — meaning we don’t have a heat soaked car with a high ECT, we make sure we start at the same temps as a high ECT will cost power as well and render our test meaningless). The chart to the left demonstrates this change — all we did was lay the intake back in the engine bay — and we lost on average 10-12whp and 10-14wtq! Really?? What???? WHY IS THIS??

shut_hoodBut it gets better, what happens we if shut the hood? Whoops — looks like we lost another 5-8whp and 5-6wtq just full_vs_shuthoodshutting the hood over our previous pull. The left chart demonstrates how much we lost overall — as much as 20whp! No way, right? Yes way!

Why Does This Happen?

This is actually quite simple — when you tune a car, particularly on the dyno, you are tuning in as close to steady state conditions as possible. You do this so when you make changes in the ECU (“Tune”) you can verify your changes have some sort of impact on the way the motor runs. Whether this is good or bad. You also have to make conscious decisions on how you want to leave the motor running long term — these should be intelligent decisions as they will dictateiat not only long term reliability but how well the motor runs in dynamic conditions which the ECU does have to account for.

So why the power loss? Quite simply, Intake Air Temps went up and the motor got warmer air as conditions changed. The read outs to the right indicate what the intake air temp (IAT) was on each pull. As the IAT went up, we had a respective drop in power. Will this drop in power continue to get worse as IAT climbs further? Absolutely.

In fact, as IAT climbs, the motor will run hotter and less “stable” (to put it in simple terms), which will create situations in which the motor can “knock” or “detonate” — which is an unsafe condition where your combustion event is no longer in a safe and controlled burn and will destroy your motor if left running in this state. The ECU allows us to account for this timing_reductionbehavior — by reducing time and/or adding fuel. An example of this is in the table to the left. Does reducing timing hurt power? Absolutely. Is it necessary? When the motor could potentially see unsafe running conditions — absolutely. You want to protect the motor as much as you want to make power.

Tuning Tool

Now back to those dyno “numbers”. A dyno, any dyno, is a tool. You can take your car to 15 dynos and get 15 completely different “numbers”. You can always “make more power” when you stick a car on the dyno and make changes in steady state conditions — especially if you disable any of the dynamic compensations the ECU will apply to protect the motor. Factor in strap down variances (particularly on roller style dynos) and your numbers will potentially be all over the place from day to day, dyno to dyno, etc.

I use the dyno as the tool it was meant to be. Making power is awesome — fun even, but at the root of it, the correct PARTS will make power, and will potentially make better power in fluid day to day conditions as well. The tools at my disafr.pnposal will let me find where the motor runs best, runs safest, and how it responds to the changes I make.  Tests like finding out what AFR the motor runs best at — and what AFR it actually starts to lose power (from either running too hot, or “choking” on the fuel). Yes the plot to the right is an N/A 9th gen, the AFR it loves to run at might surprise you — it definitely isn’t 13.88.

In Conclusion

It’s easy to hit the plus key on your keyboard and keep on pumping timing into the motor to “make power”. It’s all fun and gains til it melts a piston or throws a rod and the oil pump “failing” gets blamed for the motor going out. We’ll be having none of that here — a lot more to tuning than “making power”, sorry.

 

I’m The Best Tooner In The World!

Because I made X amount of power or I made Y amount more power than Joe Bob Smith!

Now that I have your attention, it’s time to get serious.

This blog has been a bit quiet since I’ve been busying moving into the new shop, getting the new 4WD dyno setup operational and all that MoTeC development (more on that another day… you guys following our FB, YouTube & Instagram have probably seen some of it)!

What I wanted to discuss and address today is a small scope of what “tuning” is and what role “making power” plays into it — with some practical examples.

What is Tuning?

A lot of people bring their car in or buy a tune and want to make more power. I have to break it to you — this is the lowest form of tuning. A trained monkey can run a car on a dyno, smash on their laptop and make the dyno graph go up. None of this is any indication the actual calibration (“tune”) was done properly or any intelligent decisions were made.

That’s the biggest part of it — using the dyno (or datalogs, or street, however you’re doing the tune) as a TOOL to make intelligent decisions about how you are going to leave a motor running long term.

Today’s example is brought to you buy a 2013 Civic Si w/ just a Takeda intake. The vehicle runs quiet enough that you can very easily distinguish any scary situations (knock especially) and isn’t so radical that pushing the motor a bit too much will cause damage from a few test pulls (the Honda community has long been spoiled by very strong motors that take abuse for a long time before going BOOM).

Making Power

Something I’ve iterated to people over and over — parts make power. The tune wraps it all up and an intelligent tune will leave the car running SAFE and reliable for a long time. Can a tune make power? You bet. Will a tune make power? Sure. Will the tune make power SAFELY? Um…

I love having our Dynapack at my disposal — I can make minute changes in the tune and see the difference. So let’s take a look at a practical example of making power safely.

All the fueling and VTC were already tuned up to this point and we’re in the “sweet spot” here. On this initial graph we also found a power curve (for the sake of a concise discussion we’re just sticking to the top end of the power curve) t1_morehat’s what we can call “clean” — dyno says the curve is clean, ECU is reporting no knock, and your senses are telling you all is OK. This is the solid curve in the next two graphs and we’ll call it our “baseline“. So let’s try a minuscule change — 1 degree more ignition timing. Hm.. looks like we found 2-3 more hp (dashed curves). But wait… it also knocked on this pull, not only via the knock detection in the ECU — but your ears hear it too. But it’s making power — sure not a lot, but it’s making power!1_less

Well, let’s go the other direction — let’s try 1 degree less. Interesting — now we’re making 2-3 hp less (as much as 4hp less) than our “baseline”.  So if we factor in the “gains” we saw in the previous test, that means we’re now down about 5-6hp on “max power”. Hm… how about we go back to our “baseline” and 1_less_finalgive it a short cooldown (as the engine got a little heat soaked during tuning — this is normal and expected during a session). We’ll compare this pull to our “1 degree less than baseline” pull which arguably for most people is “safe” (more on that later…). and what do we see now? Well crap, we’re down like 6-8hp in some areas. This is a lot of power N/A, especially for a car with just an intake!!! Right? RIGHT?

Wrong.

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

This is were some intelligence and decision making comes in. Effectively what we’ve found with just those three pulls is the knock limit, actual audible knock and a spot just under the knock limit. We’ve also proven that you can absolutely make power  while knocking, or at the knock limit, and a small cooldown will make a few more HP.

Keep in mind this is all done in a controlled environment — our conditions have not changed during the session. We’re not seeing varying loads or acceleration rates (someone doing a hard pull getting onto the freeway or down the straight on a road course…). We’re definitely not seeing extreme weather swings (super cold to super hot). What makes “best power” and is “clean” on a dyno today, may be beating the motor up tomorrow… what about if it gets to triple digits outside and the intake is pulling charge temps into the 140*F? Does this change how the motor runs? Does this impact how the tune should “adjust” or “adapt” to these conditions? Absolutely — in fact I have yet to see a single ECU that doesn’t let you build in compensations to ensure the engine runs safe in all conditions. Does this affect the power the motor makes? Absolutely, you can see radical swings in power!

So ask yourself, where SHOULD you leave the motor running? Should you leave it right at the knock limit simply because it didn’t knock in the datalog and your ears didn’t hear any (not every car will be quiet enough for you to hear detonation…). Or is a safe point going to be somewhere that might be what we consider “leaving a lot on the table”?

Hell I only showed the difference two degrees makes… and this may not even be the “safe” spot to leave the car at long term. What if it’s 3-4 degrees of timing under absolutely max power? How much are we “leaving on the table”? Is this necessary to ensure the motor is safe for what the owner of the car is going to be doing?

My job as a reputable tuner is to leave the car running safe for years to come — in all the elements and any conditions. So I know what I would do, and I know exactly why I do what I do.

The Dyno Phenomena

This brings up an interesting point — people get blinded so much by peak power figures on a dyno sheet that they forget what tuning is for. A dyno is a tool and not there so you can race your dyno sheet — it’s a tool to get a job done. You can always “make more power” when loading a car on the dyno, any dyno. Only an incompetent tuner will leave a car running on the knock limit. But hey, if they do — a little while later it was just “bad fuel” that got you, right?

There’s a difference between a proper and correct tune — and “making power”. You’re not uncovering Egypt’s secrets by “making power”. So sad, right?

Bro You’re Running Rich!

I love this topic — it’s probably one of the most common online aside from people racing their dyno sheets online and arguing about “bro that’s low you should be making X power”. LOL.

Yes, LOL.

Although there IS a point where it’s too rich — all motors have a “sweet spot” they like to run in as far as fueling under full load (dependingfueling on fuel). Here’s an example that shows the motor run at 12.2 AFR, 12.8 AFR and 13.5 AFR (roughly). Note the torque curves on the left… almost identical. Fuel curves on the right graph. The timing map remained the same on all 3 pulls, as did VTC. Only variable changed was fueling used. On the orange plot (13.5 afr) we had some light ping — which again did not affect power output.

So what fueling would you run?

Toyota Celica GT/GT-S Tuning on the AEM Infinity

For a little change of pace I want to discuss the AEM Infinity retrofit we did on a customer’s Toyota Celica, what really prompted this change and the features of the AEM Infinity we implemented on this platform — as well as a few others that are available.

The Background

We had the customer’s car in the shop for a fair amount of time — installing the Monkey Wrench Racing turbo kit he had purchased with the engine management package. The turbo kit did require quite a bit of customization to fit, but we took care of all that and the car was ready to tune.

I spent a good 3 weeks on the stand alone ECU that was included with this package as I was never quite content with the drivability of the vehicle with the included engine management. I don’t want to name any names, but it is the “accepted go-to” EMS for this platform — with fairly hefty price tag (customer paid something like $1500 for it). Unfortunately it is not a very good EMS and is very dated — it’s comparable to running something like an AEM V1.

Did the car make power? Sure — it’s not hard to make power. However this EMS was plagued with random misfires and quite a bit of time was spent chasing the misfires (hardware, coil dwell, sync, etc) and eventually they became very rare — but not quite gone. When taking the car off the dyno and on the street no misfires were apparent — I’ll get into that more later.

After the car was off the dyno, I put in a week of street tuning for drivability — cold start, cold start driving, warm start, warm start driving, the works. The transient response that was achieved with this EMS was not remotely what I would call “great” — warm or cold. Many would consider it to be “acceptable”, but in my book if the car doesn’t put a smile on my face from the moment I fire it cold and tear off down the street without giving me weird moments of hesitation — it’s simple crap. Why? Because I work with dozens of different EMS and dozens of different platforms — I have a very intimate understanding of what “great” drives like.

And before people start questioning — yes, all the cold start, post start, throttle pump, throttle enrichment, delta tables were tuned, every single parameter that was exposed was tuned to try and improve overall drivability.

Finally we had no choice but to let the customer try the car out and see what he thinks — and we went in not at all happy with the results this EMS let us achieve.

So What Now?

Sure enough, he brought us the car back a week later as agreed to let us fit a much more modern and advanced EMS on the car — an AEM Infinity.

Before I go into the details of this EMS, let’s go into what we expect to be able to do with our EMS and how it compares to what the previous EMS (these are some basic features as this car was run at 10psi on wastegate — no boost control):

comparison

As can be seen, the basic features look quite similar (the AEM Infinity is capable of much more — including traction control and DBW), so why would the Infinity be so much “better”? Let’s look into a few bullet points.

The Misfire Issues

This is the most annoying part of the previous EMS — once we retrofitted the AEM Infinity on the vehicle, we did not experience a single misfire. The AEM was sync’d and tuned without experiencing a single misfire during the tuning session. This leads me to believe the previous EMS was having trigger sync issues and/or problems running the coils/injectors. The coils & injectors themselves were not a problem (and neither were the cam/crank sensor) as they all functioned perfectly on the AEM Infinity.

VVT-i Control

A picture is worth a thousand words. Yes it works with the AEM Infinity — just requires proper install & configuration. Not a “big deal” to get it working. And the feedback/control is completely adjustable.

vvt-i

Closed Loop Fuel Control

This was extremely lacking on the previous EMS — in fact I’ll go so far as to say it was completely junk. When you’re paying $1200 or more for an ECU you would expect a modern EMS to have wideband O2 control already without having to pay extra and depending on a narrowband O2 sensor — which amounts to slow feedback and inaccurate feedback (fueling swinging back and forth, etc).

lambda_fb

As you can see, with the AEM I configured feedback well into boost (in fact the system is so fast and accurate you can run it full time on high boost applications as well).

The previous EMS? It simply didn’t have this ability — and I wouldn’t trust it using an analog input into the ECU. It’s not accurate and the EMS has no control over the O2 sensor directly (since it requires a separate controller) — so if the sensor has a fault the EMS would know. The AEM *does* control the O2 sensor and is very quick to detect a fault (from experience), and you can chose to put the ECU into protect mode if the sensor faults. Fantastic.

Knock Control

Two words: It works. Here’s a short clip from the street tuning session with the AEM while I was out touching up the car (IE: drivability adjustments, finding any spots it may knock with “real” load on the car on the street).

knock_1

This is just a small glimpse at the control — we also have the option to enrich lambda during knock events and individual cylinder knock thresholds.

Datalogging

This was a real source of frustration with the previous EMS — 8 channels of datalogging (and not real time at that — you have to record and then view) is horrible. To use the term “unacceptable” is an understatement — the more data you have to view the better you can tune the EMS and you get a much better picture of what the EMS is doing if you have to do any diagnostics. Not enough data and you can be left chasing your tail — at the very least it takes up much more of your time as you’re stuck with scenarios of “oh I wish I had logged that parameter… but all 8 channels are already used..”.

The AEM lets you record everything. And the “on board” datalogging is expandable by the size of the USB drive you plug into it if you need “on board” datalogging. The fact an EMS company advertises “256K” of onboard datalogging is just laughable — that’s NOTHING and utterly useless (not enough data, or not enough data at meaningful refresh rates).

Drivability

This was the biggest point of annoyance for anyone driving the car previous — the throttle response, transient response and drivability just wasn’t there with the previous EMS. Sure if you had a race car, you put your foot down and it worked fine. However with the new AEM Infinity installed and tuned (which I might add only took two days to fully tune on this vehicle — yes you read that right) the drivability of the vehicle soared to perfection.

No I’m not exaggerating — I could fire the car up cold or hot and stab the throttle immediately without any delay or hesitation. Off I went down the street to do further fine tuning.

The best part? I was able to deliver the car to my customer driving perfectly in every scenario. Awesome.

So What?

I guess what I can say about the faults of the old EMS lie in a couple of points.

  • Old outdated hardware.
  • Poor software — on the EMS and desktop (yes the software does matter).
  • The fuel film model in the EMS was basically non-existent or poorly modeled — this caused our drivability issues/concerns.

Does that EMS look good on paper? Mostly, yes. But looks and practice can be completely different things.

Why is this old EMS so popular? I think this mostly comes down to what select groups have learned and push adamantly on this platform — simply put they are stuck in their ways and either don’t know anything better or don’t want to try anything that could be better. It “works for them”, as I hear a lot.

However if you are looking for something better on this platform that can improve your vehicle — we have better options available that don’t break the bank.

jason_celica_aem copy

The Nissan 370Z — Testing Bolt Ons & Tuning

It’s that time again — got my hands on a 2015 Nissan 370Z and the typical bolt ons we see on this platform for some tuning and parts testing! As always, I tune the car completely stock first to get a good “tuned” baseline, and then retune after every set of mods. This is a very fun platform to tune due to the very flexible VVEL system.

So what we will have on this test is:

  • Bone stock vs Bone stock tuned
  • Stock tuned vs Full Exhaust (Test Pipes + Exhaust) tuned
  • Full Exhaust vs Intake & Full Exhaust tuned

The parts in question are the following:

  • Agency Power dual 2.5″ exhaust
  • G35 test pipes modified to fit compliments of Old Man Dan’s hack and weld skills (certain vendor screwed up and sent me the wrong parts, I was not amused)
  • Stillen V3 long tube intakes

So without further ado, here we go.

Stock vs Stock Tuned

stocktunedIt was pleasant to see there was actually a fair bit of room to improve over the stock mapping on the ECU — especially with the refined ignition control available to us now. One of the nuances I was able to fix was the throttle closer on the top end and the delayed throttle opening on the low end the stock ECU exhibits — this opened up some good torque gains down low and helped smooth the power curve up top.

The VVEL system is also extremely tune-able, and I was able to net extra torque down low with adjustments to this system — however through the rest of the curve Nissan got it mostly right, not surprising since the vehicle is stock.

Stock Tuned vs Full Exhaust Tuned

Not a whole lot to say about these results — clearly the exhaust modificationsexhaust_vs_stock_tuned_wm made power after we bolted them up to the car — but since our starting point was already a “tuned” calibration, very minor changes were necessary to extract peak gains from the parts and the fueling was still dead on since the stock intakes had been retained for this portion of the test. I expect this would not be the case if the car was still running a 100% factory tune on the ECU instead of my tuned calibration.

Full Exhaust Tuned vs Intakes & Full Exhaust Tuned

Depending on the intakes you chose to put on a vehicle tuned via MAF (aka AFM), you can skew the fueling dramatically — fortunately with the Stillen V3 long tube intakes I found that the mass air flow calibration was very close to the stock intakes and only required some minor adjustments to maintain proper fueling throughout the curve. However, even with perfect fueling, these intakes actually LOST power throughout the WHOLE power curve.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Whoa, what? They’re just filters on a stick….”. Indeed I was quite surprised as well.

That’s where the tuning begins — the engine required significant remappinstillen_vs_stock_with_exhaust_wmg of the VVEL system to not only return to the power the stock intakes were making, but also gain power over the stock intakes. After fully retuning the ECU, our results are some minor torque gains down low and through the mid range, and about 10-12hp on the top end.

My personal thoughts? Wow that was a lot of work for minor gains — but it does go to show how a naturally aspirated engine is a finely tuned machine with all the parts working “in harmony” with the ECU mapping to actually make power. Sometimes one small change can have drastic effects.

Some fun

Well, with that out of the way, what do the gains look like over the “stock tuned” setup overall?

intake_exhaust_vs_stock_tuned_wm

And what does it look like over a completely stock vehicle?

overall_vs_stock_wm