What is ECU Tuning?
When a manufacturer develops a new car and it's ECU they have to take into consideration all of the conditions it may be subjected to in all the regions of the world in which they intend to sell the model.
This means that instead of optimising the ECU’s program or ‘map’ to deliver the best performance or fuel efficiency, they have to make compromises to the map to take into account differing operating conditions.
These could include sub-standard fuels, extreme temperatures and altitude, differing emission laws and even the possibility that vehicle may not be serviced on a regular basis and in accordance with the manufacturers recommended instructions.
An ECU remap uses a read from the ECU’s processing chip of the vehicles standard map and adjusts various parameters within the map.
These include fuel pressure, boost pressure (on turbocharged applications), ignition advance and throttle pedal control, among others, to release the true performance from the engine theses are then altered in a calibrated fashion.
It is a completely safe process, as it is just allowing the engine to perform as it should have before all the compromises were applied to the original programming.
Every engine has its own unique map. By adjusting this we can fine tune the characteristics of the engine; unleashing more power and in many cases reducing fuel consumption too.
There are also different ways of mapping a vehicle. All petrol cars sold within Europe since 1 Jan 2001, and diesel cars manufactured from 2003, must have On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) systems to monitor engine ECU functions. These systems were introduced in line with European Directive 98/69/EC to monitor and reduce emissions from cars. However, OBD systems have been fitted to many vehicles since the early 1990’s and therefore OBD remapping can be carried out on many vehicles that were manufactured prior to the 2001 legislation.
Remapping through the OBD port is the most efficient and non-intrusive tuning method. It allows us to yield some truly amazing results without even opening the bonnet. Connecting our remapping equipment to the OBD port on a vehicle allows us to connect directly to the ECU and the map located inside.
Remapping a vehicle through its OBD port is not always possible for a number of reasons, the vehicle may not have an OBD port, the port may be faulty or the port may even be ‘tune protected’.
However, there are several other methods available that allow us to access the Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) chip inside the ECU, which contains the all-important map data.
Back Door Module (BDM) tuning is the process of connecting directly to the circuit board of an ECU, using a specially engineered jig to hold the ECU in place while data pins are connected to the circuitry. This method therefore requires the ECU to be removed from the vehicle and tuned in a clean, safe and static free environment.
What benefits will I get from tuning my ECU?
ECU tuning will not only improve the engine power and torque figures, it will also sharpen the throttle response and widen the power-band.
This will make the power delivery a lot more linear, which in turn will make the vehicle feel a lot livelier to drive and the engine more flexible. It will greatly improve driver experience and the interaction with your car.
Frequently, the vehicles power output is restricted by the manufacturer for no other reason than to ensure that the vehicle fits into a class so it isn't competing with the higher priced models. As a driving enthusiast, you do not need or want such restrictions placed upon your vehicle’s ECU and its performance, therefore you can benefit from the hidden power and torque locked away within your engine management system.
The other main benefit of remapping will be a reduction in fuel consumption. With the extra torque, especially at the bottom of the rev range, you will see a fuel saving. This is because it will require less throttle input to maintain motorway speeds, you can drive in a higher gear at a slower speed as well as helping significantly when fully laden, towing or on gradients and even in start stop traffic.