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Is a Standalone ECU Worth It?

Jun 03, 2021
- So far at the Money Pit, we've been putting new feet, new legs, new biceps, new button muscles into the Miata and well, the guy is getting muscular. But, like a lanky teenager with more muscles than coordination, the Miata's brain is still a bit behind. So do we sit here and wait for this to go through puberty and develop some cognitive skills? Or do we try brain surgery? I think we'll try brain surgery. I think I'd be good at that. So today that's exactly what we're going to do. We are going to boot the stock ECU and replace it with a


aftermarket ECU.
is a standalone ecu worth it
Like brain surgery, this could go wrong and leave the Miata dead on the table (the car's engine roars) or it could open us up to making big power. Along the way we'll talk about what this allows us to take control of. We'll also talk about what the downsides are and then at the end of the episode we'll take this back to the dyno and see if we can make more power with just a new tune. I'm Zack and this is Money Pit. Let's do brain surgery. (upbeat music) Many thanks to Jazwares and Micro Machines for sponsoring this week's episode of Money Pit.
is a standalone ecu worth it

More Interesting Facts About,

is a standalone ecu worth it...

Millions of people love to play with cars, but they are too old to have fun. If only they were less big and more micro. - Is very large. - Hey, boy, James, try this. (applause) Now you too can think big and play small with the rebirth of Micro Machines. Playing with cars has never been more fun or easier than playing with these highly detailed, micro, miniature toys. Let your imagination fly with these realistic vehicles and games. Yes, you heard right, micromachines are back, baby. And we couldn't be more excited that Jazwares has asked us to be media partners for the re-release.
is a standalone ecu worth it
My plan has worked, I get paid to play with toys. Hi Joe, you can bet you're very jealous of having to work on a real car, when I play with these little guys. - This one is also quite small. - Micro machines are perfect for all car enthusiasts and collectors. And for me, it's a really fun way to relive my childhood years with my family. I mean, I remember playing with Super Van City. A van with cars that transforms into a real city that you can play with. And guess what man, Super Van City is back and better than ever.
is a standalone ecu worth it
Damn crazy, I missed you. You will never be too old to be a child again. So click the link in the description below, check out all the sets and vehicles Micro Machines releases, and keep an eye out for them in retail stores. Thanks again to Jazwares and Micro Machines for including us, we are very excited about this. Now, back to Zack. (soft beat music) - Look how many he breaks this time. - Hey man, hey man, these things are staying strong. I think I've taken them out at least five times. In reality, we have only had one victim.
Oh, I'm just kidding, I'm just kidding. There she is. Alright, before we continue, I'm going to disconnect the battery because you don't want to mess with electrical components in general, especially important ones like the ECU with the battery connected. This is where all the sensors in the engine bay go and it is definitely the brain of the car. And it's programmed by the engineers who built your car to run efficiently and safely in all conditions. And the other thing is that once you start modifying your car, like we've done, you start putting some spare parts in your engine, you've changed the engine.
And if you don't change the tune, you are not fully utilizing the parts you have installed in your car. So in the case of the Miata, the intake, the manifolds, the exhaust, all of those things that we've installed, don't really factor into the tuning factor. In my opinion, the best option for the Miata is a fully independent vehicle. If you watch the video of the flamethrower on the Miata, we showed my roommate's original ECU and put a new file on it to account for the modifications he had and the result he wanted. It's actually not that easy with this ECU, that's why we're going to be completely independent.
But in many newer cars, you have that option. You don't have to go


, you can keep your OEM ECU but you can take control of it which is really cool. Because, in my opinion, the biggest problem with a standalone ECU is that it will no longer pass smog. And for that reason, I'm definitely not going to throw this away in case we ever need to even out the smog. - Like next year? - Like... - A couple of months? - Yes, like right now (laughs). But the fact is that the original ECU controls a lot of things and the guys who wrote the original tune are really smart.
So putting all this responsibility in our hands is no small matter. We'll have to make sure we do a lot of things right to make this work as well as possible, but I think we can do it. So if you are looking at a standalone ECU, it will give you a lot of power and you will be able to take control of a lot of things. For one thing, you're no longer tied to your stock fuel injectors. If you were to fit new, larger injectors, such as if you were trying to turbocharge a Miata, you would need to be able to tell the ECU about those larger injectors.
What size are they and how much fuel are they releasing. So the mega score gives us that ability. Another thing it gives us control over is spark timing. Which is super important to generate good power and not damage our engine. It is very important to have control over that. The Miata currently uses a mass airflow sensor, but the mega squirt will allow us to move to a velocity density setting. Being able to go into speed density allows us to get rid of our mass airflow sensor, which is important if you're trying to go turbo. And then the ECU actually has a MAP sensor built into an absolute pressure manifold.
And it is responsible for taking the pressure in the manifold at all times. You'll be using our stock math for now, so that's where you get the tantalizing signal from. RPM signal and we will tell you what size the engine is. And with those things, the ECU can calculate how much air is flowing through the engine at any point. And then from that, determine how much fuel to inject into each cylinder, based on the target air-fuel ratios you've set. All we have to do is adjust our volume metric efficiency. That's what velocity density is. Let's talk about that for a minute.
Oh my god, it's hot out here. Okay, let's talk about volumetric efficiency and what it is. Basically it is the percentage of an engine's theoretical displacement that is actually being displaced at any given time. This is a one point eight liter engine. So if your volumetric efficiency was 100%, that means you're actually displacing 1.8 liters of air each revolution of the crankshaft. No engine runs at its maximum metric efficiency all the time. But when this is at full throttle with wide open throttle, hopefully we'll get close to 100% volumetric efficiency. They always said that there is no substitute for displacement.
I'm sure you've heard that, but that's no longer true. And the reason that's not true is because of things like turbos and superchargers. Those things can force air into an engine and make it run at over 100% volumetric efficiency, which is really cool. So with our new ECU, we will be able to fine-tune our volume metric efficiency table. And from there it calculates how much fuel to throw and when and all that. So when adjusting volumetric efficiency or velocity density, the adjustment process is much faster and easier. And it's great, you understand? I think my hands are clean enough for brain surgery, let's dive in.
So this is the plug and play MS3Pro configured for mega squirt, we will use the same connectors from our ECU. Now right click on the box here. So now that we're plugged in, I'll simply connect our vacuum line from the engine bay to the ECU. On the Miata, there's a hole down here that just had a plug. So I have my welding wire and I just stuck it in, put the welding wire in. And now he also comes out through the lower wall and will be our intermediary. I'll use this to pass our vacuum line.
Okay, so we have the vacuum line taped to the end of the welding wire and then we tape it down here. So now I'll run the welding cable through the firewall and hopefully bring the vacuum line with it. I'll take this old plug that was in the firewall and the hole we used. Cut a little X in the middle and we'll run our vacuum line through it, just to protect it, so it doesn't get cut into the firewall. Mega squirt came with this vacuum tee applied, so we're going to connect this vacuum line right here, which goes directly to the intake manifold.
So this vacuum line sees the multiple pressure, whatever it is at all times. So I'm not worried about that coming out. You could add some small zip ties if you wanted. Make sure it's not twisted, make sure there's no resistance to flow anywhere so our ECU gets a nice, accurate reading all the time. Alright, now we have the vacuum line through the firewall, so we're working our way back to the ECU. We're sweeping it under the rug, because we're trying to act like professionals. Tada! Now we can mount our ECU box with some provided screws. Then we'll cut it to size and plug in our reference.
We will also install wideband 02 sensors, so we can monitor our air and fuel ratios. You need broadband. We have one and we are going to install it. (upbeat music) Let's install our air-fuel ratio meter. I have this made by Innovate and it is a pretty good kit. So we'll put it in the Miata so we can keep an eye on our air/fuel ratios, which is very important when you're tuning. Especially when you have a standalone ECU. I'm going to install our meter. I think I'm going to use one of our air conditioning fans since I never use the air conditioning.
And then we'll have to do some wiring. We are going to replace our O2 sensor with this nice Bosch unit that comes with the kit. And this will allow us to keep an eye on our air and fuel ratios. Oh my god, oh my toe. (soft beat music) God, I'm going to break this one day. Well, that's all. Eddie, could you hand me that engine? That's not bad, it looks very good. Maybe a little longer break than I would ideally like, but not bad. Oh my god, how sad, we have to glue that. (soft beat music) So our gauge wiring is wired, it's where it needs to be.
Let's go down and put the old O2 sensor in its place. (soft music) Alright, we have the cable that will go to our broadband controller. We'll run this through the motor, get that too and then we'll have our new sensor that'll go down to the head and connect right here. And then you just have to plug the controller into the car and make the meter work. So now I'm looking for a 12 volt source that will turn on with the ignition on and a good ground. I'm checking this connector that goes to the window switches in the center console.
And what I'm looking for is a good ground and positive ignition, 12 volt ignition switch. So I have my test leads here, one clamped to the chassis ground. And then I have us in a (indistinct) test right here. So we know that if we touch the chassis anywhere, it will create a continuous circuit and make a noise. Anything that makes that noise is crushed. So here we have land. Now we need to find 12 volts. We'll go to our 20 volt range on our meter and now we're just looking for 12 volts. But we want it to turn on with the key, I don't want it to be on now.
Now we are just looking for voltage to appear on our multimeter display and right now it remains at zero. So none of these are currently in fashion, that's great. Let's turn the key on and see what we find. Well bam. Well, right under our floor we have 12 volts and it turns on with the key. So if you turned off the key right now, the power source would be changed. We will then need the controller to communicate with the meter with a cable running between the two. And I think the same thing happens with the ECU. A cable will go from the controller to the ECU.
So let's wire a relay to control the broadband controller. We'll also fuse it with a small five amp fuse. So we are simply adding a small circuit to turn on the broadband controller. It should be nice and easy, I have some spare relays and it's just a matter of doing a bit of wiring, soldering and putting things where they need to be. (upbeat music) So if you need to generate a big voltage from the battery, but you want it to be switched and you don't really want to apply that big voltage to a big giant switch.
What you can do is change a large voltage with a small voltage. Basically I can run this directly from the battery and then directly towhatever you're trying to feed. But instead of having that constant on all the time from the battery, I switch it with the small side of the relay. So in this case, what I'm going to do is use the power directly from the battery, okay? Inside the relay and then outside the relay and inside the broadband controller. But I will take a 12 volt ignition source from the ECU and turn on the small side of the relay.
In order not to interfere with the ECU circuit, it does not generate any additional voltage. All this needs to do is see 12 volts and flip the switch. So we can use that 12 volt ignition source we found earlier, but we'll be using power directly from the battery. So we are not resorting to the ECU circuit. Our stand-alone system is in place and we have all the wiring set up for our OB... God, I can't even remember what things we're doing. OBD two sensors? Alright, we have our new standalone ECU mounted, our wideband O2 sensor controller, now it's time to connect our laptop.
Then we'll load the basemap that Mega Squirt gave us for a 1994 Miata. And then we should be able to get it to power up, hopefully without too much drama. 'Dun-dun-dun' (laughs). This is what is called tuner studio, this is the interface that we will use between the mega squirt and our computer to make some adjustments. But for now, we have to turn this on. This is the first time we are at this. Simply create a new project. Mooneeey Piiiiiit. Configuration settings, broadband. So now I need to figure out how to load our basemap so the ECU understands which car it is on.
And then once we do that, it should be time to boot. (Car engine roar) Figure it out girl, figure it out. (Car engine roars) Well, it's running very rich, which is good, it's safe. Anything like this should default to rich. Because rich, although it is not efficient and you waste gasoline, it is safe. You generally won't damage your engine if you're getting rich. Now I think this is probably just going through some checks and trying to figure out the idol. I'm honestly not sure. I'll let it run for a while and we'll go from there. (Car engine roars) Very good, our idol has softened.
It's a little low now, but that's okay. We need to do some things. I need to calibrate our throttle position sensor, so the ECU knows what voltage is at closed throttle and wide open throttle, so it can determine everything in between. And I also need to check the timing and make sure the ignition timing actually matches the ECU and what's really happening. I can lock the ignition timing to whatever I want, 10 degrees before top dead center. I'll walk it, turn off the timing light, and verify that that's actually what's happening to the engine. And if it's not, I can go in and change through the ECU, our spark timing to make sure it matches.
That's very important, because if you think ignition timing is one thing and it's actually another, you can cause a lot of damage. Therefore, you should check this every time you install a new ECU. Well, I'll do it tomorrow morning. (upbeat music) Once again, we have arrived in Long Beach with my friends from EF1 Motor Sports, or more specifically their tuning division, EF1 tuning. The Miata drove very well on the way here, it drives very well on the bass tune, it's very smooth. So I don't think we have to work too hard to get this thing generating power today.
So let's hit the test bench. (upbeat music) Critical checks prior to the test bench. Make sure you have oil, make sure it's cold, make sure everything is working properly. And I think we're all fine here. - You'd be surprised... - What people bring. - It's (incomprehensible) like, dude, it doesn't contain oil. - Well, you should have put some oil in it, Gibby. I'm going to blame myself for anything that happens here today. Good or bad. Then you are ready for it. - I'm ready for it. - To make this pretty easy to understand, earlier we were talking about volumetric efficiency and how easy it is to adjust it.
And the reason it's easy is because you don't have to set a lot of fuel corrections. Basically, you modify your volumetric efficiency table until your actual air-fuel ratio matches your target air-fuel ratio. And that's when you know your volumetric efficiency tables are correct. So once you do that, it does all the fuel calculations you need and you're ready to go. You simply set your target air/fuel ratio and the ECU achieves it. It's very sweet. - That's assuming the sensors and everything else are calibrated correctly. - Yes, that means that it is an operating system that does not have major defects, but let's hope that we do not have major defects. - We're fine, so we're connected. (car engine roaring) - So, to be safe, this thing has been sitting idle and running pretty well since I installed the basemap.
So right now we're taking some of the fuel out of idle and we'll see how the air-fuel ratio gets closer to stoichiometric. It was doing really well, like 11 to one on Idol, which is too much. So we're checking some of that off now and we're on our way, baby. The only thing we really can't change effectively right now is the cold star. Since the car is already warm, I drove it here. So we'll be close to that, but we're making some guesses. So maybe we'll do some remote adjustment later or you can just come. So yeah, first steady state test and we'll start at 1400 RPM and work our way up. 2000 RPM is 2500 and so on and we develop and tune.
This is our ignition chart and all the numbers in these charts are our specific ignition time for any given load point. What I mean by that is an intersection of our RPM and basically our throttle position or our load on the engine. As you can see down here, we have our RPM, 700, 900, 1200, right now we're idle, so we're at 900 RPM. In that frame, you can see this blue oval moving. That's our indicator of what's really happening right now. So we are at 900 RPM and no load. Because it's off the throttle. Gibby stepped on the accelerator a little.
You will see a lift, as the throttle goes up and the RPM increases you will see a movement. So that's what we're seeing. It's a cross between RPM and load. And then for each of those points, we can enter our ignition timing into this table or our air-fuel ratio or our VE fuel. But these are the types of tables we will see. RPM versus load. That's steady state tuning. We'll put it at 1500 and adjust all these ignition timing points, all these charging points. Then we'll raise it to 2000 and do that whole column. So on until we're done.
Now we can do big sweeps and really try to generate some power. So this is real, what do you say? Yes, this is the half, it's the meeting. (upbeat music) (car engine roaring) Well, we basically work through the rev range in those columns, adjusting the timing and VE and fuel, and things are looking pretty good. So we'll let the car cool for a minute, lower the oil temperature, cool down times, then start it again and then it'll be time to do some sweeps. Some real dynos and see how much power we're making and then make some adjustments from there.
But we are getting closer. (Machine engine roaring) Alright, now we'll do what you would recognize as a normal dyno ride. Let's run this thing at full throttle from low RPM to redline and see how much power it makes. Now that we have our map more or less figured out, it's pretty well figured out. So now we can do a real test on the dyno, see how much power we make and then make some adjustments based on what we see. It's time to do it. (Machine engine roars) Yes, honey, yes. Oh yes, honey. It's a fluid graph, which is exactly what you want.
Soft as a baby's bottom. And I don't know if you noticed, but we made 110 and a half horsepower. That's pretty good. We are standing out above 108, I am happy. (Machine engine roars) Ooh, is that 111? Cute baby, cute. Break this for 112, Gibby. (machine engine roars) (laughs) Hey, that rounds up to 112, I mean, I'll take it. 111.6 shots! Alright, so it comes down to this, where we let it cool a little bit, we'll do another sweep, we'll see how much power we generate, and then however much power we generate, that's how much power we generate. I hope it's 112, but honestly if not, I'm not too worried.
Once we do that, we'll have to make some small adjustments in terms of drivability, and that's it, that's it. To the races. Drive this thing and see how it feels in the real world. (Car engine roars) Hell yeah! Thank my Lord. That was 112, 112.75, yeah. Alright, that's sweet. I mean, that's all I could have hoped for. We are generating power and we have control of the ECU, now we have to finish some small adjustments and that's it, baby. What a successful day! Honestly, the truth is that when it comes to tuning, achieving maximum power is not the most difficult part of tuning.
I think the hardest part is making it manageable and dealing with the different loading conditions and transition between each loading point on these maps. So let's smooth things over. Actually, here's an idea. We have these maps and this is how we adjust them, but we want everything to go well. Then you can take a look at the 3D view and see if it is smooth or not. And we can see that we have some jumps here, some areas that are not so smooth. So let's smooth them out and that should help with the playability and overall feel of the tune.
But we have created the power that we are going to generate. Now is the time to smooth it out. Well, we've done our sweeps, we've increased our power, we hit 112 horsepower, that's incredible. So now the last thing left to do is put the wheels and tires back on it, we'll take it up and down the street and go around the block. Make sure nothing strange happens in the real world, as this is not real. And voila, we're tuned in, baby, we made it. Alright guys, see you guys. Thank you I love you. Make a little circle right here, not a donut.
Just turn the throttle on and off a bit. Yes, this feels great. Honestly, this feels, you know what it was like when it was stock, which is saying something, it's impressive. It is not that difficult to adjust the maximum power, but I think it is quite difficult to adjust the drivability and this is really manageable. So if you're in the South Cal area and need a tune on your standalone device, contact my guy, Gibby, at EF1 Tuning. Other than that, thank you all so much for watching. And as always, don't forget to subscribe to the channel and make sure you have the notification bell activated.
So you know when we will publish new videos. Follow me on Instagram at Zack Jobe and follow Donut at Donut Media. I'll see you next week.

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