By Boosted Autosports
By Boosted Autosports
By Boosted Autosports
By Boosted Autosports
The impressive Mercedes-AMG GTs features the acclaimed 4L V8 Bi-Turbo Powerplant yielding 375kW & 650Nm at the flywheel. But when that isn't enough, Boosted Autosports sorted sort things out for improved bottom end, response and overall power & torque.
By Boosted Autosports
What exactly is software tuning?
Software tuning is one of the more abstract concepts in the automotive world. Unlike hardware, you cannot touch, see or hear a tune modification. You can only feel the changes in performance caused by a software tune.
Engine tuning is an adjustment, modification of the internal combustion engine, or modification to its control unit, otherwise known as its ECU (Engine Control Unit). It is adjusted to yield optimal performance, to increase an engine’s power output, economy, or durability.
Our focus in this article is on the software aspects of tuning not the hardware. There are some quotes from Wikipedia which may help you further understand. Note that Wikipedia article refers to software tuning as “Chip Tuning” and for the purposes of this particular article we will treat the term as interchangeable with “Software Tuning”:
Chip tuning refers to changing or modifying an erasable programmable read only memory chip in an automobile’s or other vehicle’s electronic control unit (ECU) to achieve superior performance, whether it be more power, cleaner emissions, or better Fuel efficiency. Engine manufacturers generally use a conservative electronic control unit map to allow for individual engine variations as well as infrequent servicing and poor-quality fuel. Vehicles with a remapped electronic control unit may be more sensitive to fuel quality and service schedules.
There are also a few paragraphs about how performance is obtained:
Performance gains are realized by adjusting the ignition timing advance. Different timing may result in better performance. However, to cope with advanced timing, one must run high-octane gasoline to avoid pre-ignition detonation or pinging. Manufacturers design for a specific timing and this may limit performance accordingly.
In addition, changing fuel maps to coincide with the stoichiometric ratio for gasoline combustion may also realize performance increase. Most manufacturers tune for optimum emissions (running rich to protect the catalytic converter) and fuel economy purposes which can limit performance.
Cars with a turbo fitted can have the requested and allowable boost levels raised, these applications usually have the most effect if the turbo fitted is a low pressure turbo which leaves the most room for improvement.
While we personally would rephrase some of the lines above, it should give you some insight.
Cars with modifications will generally benefit from Software Tuning:
Another reason to change the electronic control unit map is if there are engine, intake, or exhaust modifications to the car. These “bolt-on” modifications alter the way that the engine flows, often causing the air to fuel ratio to change. Without re-mapping the fuel tables, some of the performance gains from the modifications may not be realized.
Modern motor vehicles are much more intelligent than older models and some of our Software Tuning maps allow us to compensate for changes from “bolt-on” modifications, however, let’s leave that for another article!
Moving on, its time to describe the different software tuning options and help you decide which method suits you best.
Software Tuning Methods
By changing the software on the ECU (Engine Control Unit) we can modify parameters such as the following (among many others):
- Boost Level
- Fuel Pressure
- Air to Fuel Ratio
- Ignition Advance
By doing so we can improve performance, economy and the general drive-ability of a vehicle.
The standard procedure is that a software file is developed for a predefined range of modifications, uploaded to a server and made available for workshops, mechanics and general consumers to be able to upload upgraded software to their vehicle. This can be a very simple and effective way of improving the performance of your vehicle.
There are also some remote methods of loading Flash Tuning software. This can assist in situations where driving into a tuning centre may not be possible.
Specialised Custom Tuning is the most effective means of Software Tuning.
This form of tuning allows for the same sort of changes to be made as Flash Tuning. The added benefit of Custom Tuning is that each file is downloaded directly from the vehicle, modified and uploaded in place of the old software. This means that every single piece of software is customised for that particular vehicle with the modifications at the time. This extra flexibility ensures that the most possible performance can be extracted from the vehicle.
Our full process can be seen below:
If your budget, location and available time allows, Custom Tuning is by far the best option for tuning your vehicle. The dyno is an integral part of the process and we have a full article outlining the reasons why a dyno is a great idea.
Plug & Play Systems
If you are looking for a simple solution with the least amount of fuss and the lowest entry cost, Plug & Play Systems are the way to go.
These systems are able to plug into a few sensors on the motor and modify the signals. This allows for a simple Software Tune to work simultaneously with the factory software. There are some key benefits:
- Usually undetectable by the dealer and thus retain manufacturers factory warranty
- Easy to install, generally without a mechanic
- Simple and reliable power upgrade
- Relatively low cost to purchase
- Can be removed relatively easily
While they have their advantages, there is one drawback, they will not be able to perform as effectively as a Flash or Custom Tune.
That said, if the absolute best power gains are not your top priority and the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, then Plug & Play Systems are the way to go.
An install guide for a BMW 428i is below:
For the average motoring enthusiast, a few sensors on the top of the motor wont be too difficult to find, making the installation process quite straightforward.
Need Some Help?
If you are not sure which option is best for you, why don’t you ask? We have a number of professional technicians who have the experience to help you find the best solution for your particular situation. Ask yourself these questions:
- Have I done significant modifications to my vehicle?
- Am I looking for the most power or just a little more grunt?
- Do I tow often?
- Am I on a budget or do I want the best of the best?
- Am I handy enough to install a Plug & Go System?
If you still aren’t sure, CLICK HERE to contact us for help
By Boosted Autosports
We are firm believers of the importance of testing and data logging when tuning. Our own company offers many tuning solutions and our most premium solution, “Custom Tuning”, includes dyno testing and data logging at the core of the process:
Whether you choose an off the shelf tune, a piggy back option or a full Custom Tune, we suggest you book yourself in at your local dyno and this is why:
1. Knocking, Pinging or Detonation
Have a read of this Wikipedia article for more info. An extract is below:
Knocking (also knock, detonation, spark knock, pinging or pinking) in spark-ignition internal combustion engines occurs when combustion of the air/fuel mixture in the cylinder does not start off correctly in response to ignition by the spark plug, but one or more pockets of air/fuel mixture explode outside the envelope of the normal combustion front.
The fuel-air charge is meant to be ignited by the spark plug only, and at a precise point in the piston’s stroke. Knock occurs when the peak of the combustion process no longer occurs at the optimum moment for the four-stroke cycle. The shock wave creates the characteristic metallic “pinging” sound, and cylinder pressure increases dramatically. Effects of engine knocking range from inconsequential to completely destructive.
The worst thing about “knock” is that for the untrained ear, its almost impossible to detect. Your engine could be ready to blow and you wouldn’t even know it. If you have ever heard the phrase “blew the head off the motor” then you know someone who has experienced serious “knocking” or “detonation”.
A good dyno operator will be able to detect this. By observing the dyno chart, using “knock ears” or by using specialist scan tools, these issues can be detected. Here is an example of a car using an off the shelf flash tune:
The data above shows the knock sensor on the car responding to a detected knock. The larger the number, the more severe the knock, hence the deep red. The owner of the vehicle had no idea that this was going on inside his motor. While the car had plenty of power on the road, it was clear that the software that was loaded was not perfected for his particular setup. On a perfectly running motor with a safe tune, you would expect the data to show 0 and be green all the way through and without the erratic spikes.
2. Fuel Pump Failures
Fuel is the most important ingredient in an engine. Without it, you go nowhere. But did you know that is also protects your motor? In a high performance petrol motor, fuel is used to protect the motor from detonating. If the motor starves for fuel while running high boost, there is a risk of serious engine damage. For some cars, a fuel pump on the way out is almost undetectable without specialist tools. Here is an example of a car with a failing fuel pump:
The number on the left is what the fuel pressure SHOULD be and the number on the right is the ACTUAL fuel pressure. Its around 20% short of delivering full fuel pressure. At this point the client was unable to detect or feel the drop in pressure in any way. Only with specialist logging tools was this able to be detected. The fuel pump on this vehicle failed 2 weeks after the test was performed. Luckily there was no engine damage from the failure. Next time we are sure the client will follow our recommendations and change parts when we advise to do so!
3. Air To Fuel Ratio Issues
The Air to Fuel Ratio is quite simply the mixture of air and fuel in the combustion chamber of a motor. There is plenty of information in this Wikipedia article.
While Modern motors have some pretty large tolerances there are some key points to watch out for here.
- A lean mixture (a higher lambda number)
- An erratic mixture (quickly changing air to fuel ratio)
A lean mixture can lead to detonation which can quickly destroy a motor and an erratic mixture can indicate a more severe problem occurring within the motor. The table below shows the Air to Fuel Ratio from the car in the above section about fuel pump failures:
The number on the right is what the lambda number (air to fuel ratio) should be and the number on the left is the actual value. As you can see it is quite inconsistent. This inconsistency and “leaning out” of the mixture (where is reads 0.87) was what initially tipped us off that there was a problem with this car.
4. Boost Pressure Issues
We don’t think we need to explain this one, however we will just in case. See this Wikipedia article for more info. As you will all be aware, boost is the magical grey dust that sits inside your turbocharger and comes out in a big grey puff of smoke when things go wrong. On a serious note, boost issues can be some of the more difficult issues to diagnose. Sometimes you may not even know you have an issue, especially if you haven’t sat in another identical vehicle to compare.
Here is an example of a car which had an issue with power loss. It felt “sluggish” and “laggy”:
The number on the left is the “wastegate duty cycle”, which is a fancy way of saying “% of max boost”. The higher the number, the more boost the motor is requesting. The number on the right is the actual pressure inside the manifold. At 1600mbar it equates to around 9PSI. This particular car should be doing at least 12PSI under these conditions yet the car is asking for more and its not getting it!
The cause? A faulty diverter valve. The boost was actually leaking after the turbocharger very slightly and the fault wasn’t audible. Without a little bit of problem solving skill and some comprehensive data logs this client would have still been trying to figure out why his car was so sluggish.
5. Seeing Your Power Gain
While this may be more about showing off to your friends and just pure vanity, there is just something special about seeing your car on the dyno and seeing all of the extra power that it pushes out. Nothing is more exhilarating than seeing the power line rise up above the stock power line. It gives you a taste of what you are about to take for a spin when its unloaded from the dyno.
Tuning isn’t cheap, we know this, you know this, everyone knows this. So when you are getting a tune done, its always a good idea to spend that little bit more to get your car tested and confirm your power gain. Remember, you will usually only do this once, so its a good idea to get it done right the first time.
So there you have it, our pick of the Top 5 Reasons Why You Need A Dyno & Data Log On Your Car.
By Boosted Autosports
By Steven Tramoli
This is the process each customer goes through when we tune their vehicle. We work alongside the customer's needs and vehicle goals, keeping education and communication at the forefront.
To find out what we can do for your vehicle, email us by clicking here
View the entire CPI Tuning range here