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TUNING | How it Works

Feb 27, 2020
- For as long as we have had cars, car owners have tried to make them faster. Most manufacturers have tried to make them more reliable. Cars come from the factory with a lot of things designed to work a certain way. So how do you do it faster? Tuning! Tuning consists of trying to obtain the right combination of variables to achieve maximum engine performance. In the past, it was actually quite similar to


a musical instrument. You tighten some screws and listen. If it sounded good, you did a good job


. And if not, it mostly meant adjusting a carburetor.
tuning how it works
The carburetor is where air and fuel mix before entering the engine. Too much gas and not enough air causes the engine to run rich. Too much air and not enough gas causes the engine to run poorly. Therefore, it will rev too fast or idle or sputter if not tuned correctly. The strangulation, wait a minute. We'll talk about carburetors in a different episode. We are talking about tuning, the degree to which these hatches can open and let air in is determined by a screw. And the chamber where gas and air mix can also be modified in a car.
tuning how it works

More Interesting Facts About,

tuning how it works...

A tune-up meant that a mechanic would make sure the timing belt was adjusted correctly, that the ignition occurred at the proper time, and that the correct air-fuel mixture was entering the engine. We already looked at torque curves before. An engine


better here. We've also talked about cams, lifters, and pushrods. But in the past, if you wanted to change this spike, you had to change some hardware. And essentially, you're moving the beak from maybe here to here. This new setup meant that the engine had to be tuned to run optimally at this point, thanks to the new hardware.
tuning how it works
The same goes for adding a blower. You have to tune the engine to get the correct air and fuel mixture because you are changing another variable than how it was set at the factory. But even when you're making your engine run better, you're tuning it for this sweet spot somewhere in the curve. You couldn't really do much about performance in these red ranges or these. Then something happened in the late '70s and early '80s. Manufacturers were tuning engines to make less horsepower and achieve better fuel economy. And to keep people from modifying their own cars, they put these little caps on top of the carb adjustments.
tuning how it works
And make sure the air-fuel mixture stays efficient. They use E, C, Us. The first ECUs primarily measured oxygen, entering and leaving the engine. They used this signal to control a solenoid that would determine how much the carburetor would open or close and how much fuel would then pass through with air. In practice, they were taking tuning out of the owner's hands. If you wanted a different air-fuel mixture, you had to trick the computer or reprogram it. It was then that tuning as we know it now began to take shape. It also opened the door to computer-controlled variable valve timing and computer-controlled ignition timing.
That? By the way, the ECU is the same as an ECM or an engine control module. In reality, the ECU only controlled the fuel mixture at first. But it started to become more important as fuel injection began to be perfected. Manufacturers later added transmission control modules. Over time, they started putting them together with the ECU on the same chip, which forms a powertrain control module. But forget about all that alphabet soup. Most people now refer to all of this simply as ECU. We now know that the ECU is a small computer that collects information from sensors located around your car.
It is then sent by the wheel speed sensors, engine sensors, O2 sensors, zero flow and temperature sensors. Oh, there are so many sensors. Chill out. The ECU takes it all and makes millions of calculations every second to determine how to control everything from the air/fuel mixture to transmission shifting and engine redline. The ECU also identifies problems while sorting through all that information. As ECUs became more common, engine and emissions equipment became increasingly electronic and complicated, automakers began installing diagnostic ports to make it easier to find out exactly why the check light was on. engine. But there was no industry standard.
So they used whatever type of port they wanted. To find out why the light is on, you may have to connect a few pins to the port or gently stroke the small screw on the ECU. You would then wait for the warning light to issue a code. And then you would look for the fault that code corresponded to. Or maybe you could buy an expensive proprietary scanning tool and/or a computer to make things a little easier for you. But each manufacturer had their own idea of ​​what these ports should be like. And finally, the government mandated that all cars come with a standardized on-board diagnostic system so emissions could be better monitored.
And keep a clean running car. Thus, starting with the 1996 model, all cars are equipped with a universal OBD II port. Why do I talk about OBD? Because an OBD reader can tell you all about the little things that happen inside the engine and that can help you tune your car. We mention all the things that go into tuning a car. Valve timing, ignition timing, air-fuel ratios and more. And now, these things are determined by a computer. Tuning programs the computer to optimize engine performance by changing any or all of these variables. Let's look at that torque curve again.
With old school tuning, you could change the performance of an engine, but you're really just looking for the best performance here. Big cams, open valves, lots of variables, lots of gas. When you're running a carburetor, you're tuning it for this spot. When you tune the dealer, you are tuning it for this location. And everything else was wrong. But now, because many things are controlled electronically and valve timing can be varied, we can change things like ignition and valve timing without changing hardware and upgrade them at different RPMs. So we can't do too much in this part of the corner because it is where the engine


What we can do is modify some valve timing. Intake fuel injection. On on so that it looks a little more like this at the bottom. Move a little further and do a little bit like this on the high end. With the engine controls, we have expanded our maximum performance from approximately a 15 RPM range to a 400 RPM window. That's pretty good. The spark in the cylinder is like a wave. He gained more strength as he went. We want to make sure we are applying the most force to the crank when we get the best mechanical advantage. As engine speed changes, the point where this optimization occurs also changes.
And that's why ignition timing can be so important. In the early days of electronic tuning, people had to figure out what meant what in ECU coding. So they changed half the values ​​in the ECU and saw if it changed the safe fuel. If this was not the case, they changed the other half of the values ​​and the fuel would change. Then they would keep changing half and half and half over and over again until they found the value that affected the fuel. Then they would have to start over to perhaps find the ignition moment. Crazy. Today, all that legwork is already done.
And it's easier to know what to change in your ECU coding to change what you want in engine performance. I mean, not for me. I don't know how I could do that. Other ECU tunes that aim for performance without adding physical modifications would increase the rev limits. Fiddling with launch control settings and deleting unbeatable traction and stability control programs. But don't play with this stuff unless you really know what you're doing. People who know what they're doing are really good at it. I'm talking about things like Beautiful Mind. You should not tune your engine unless you are a professional engine tuner.
If you want to try a car you're not going to try, do it as a hobby. There are people who have been doing this since the early days of ECU. And they are still learning things. Wow, that's a lot to talk about. Want to take a break, click the subscribe button. So how do we know that all the variables were changing? In fact, what's going on under the hood? We return to the OBD. This is a FIXD OBD II reader. But the fix guys are constantly pushing to see how intuitive they can make these interfaces. This transmits live data from your car's ECU to your phone or tablet.
So when the car is running, it can display and record a large amount of data. After applying a new tune with live data from FIXD, you can closely monitor and... All of these things are manageable, recordable and mappable with FIXD. That helps you make sure your new tune is safe for your vehicle. And if you think improvements can be made to the app, you can let the developers know. They are constantly looking for ways to make it better for the people who use it. The Ann OBD II reader can also tell the unit things that are hurting its performance outside the tune.
If one of your sensors is not working properly or is clogged, it will ruin your performance because the ECU does not have an authentic picture of what is happening. You don't use these OBD sensors to tune the car. You need a separate computer for that and a big brain. But an OBD II with a good interface will allow you to know what is happening inside it from the tune. But what about those chips? They are clean, they can consume you 25 or 50 more horsepower without doing anything else. Look, most car companies are tuning their cars at the factory for optimal performance across a wide power band.
They want you to have a car with good performance. Unless you're adding some hardware and like a blower or maybe a NOS injection, there's no way you can make an extra 50 horsepower from the ECU alone. If you have hardware like intake, exhaust or headers, injectors, well, the engine needs to be recalibrated and that's where tuning comes into play. So a chip without hardware? It's bad news. Untuned hardware? You're in trouble, friend. Good tuning companies use cylinder pressure sensors or knock sensors to keep things from exploding. Good tunes are guaranteed and tested over thousands of miles and tracks.
Tuning. Click the subscribe button to never miss an episode of Science Garage. You may have noticed that I mentioned FIXD in this episode. And that's because FIXD brings you this episode. I also think it's a pretty good OBD II reader. Go to and enter donut at checkout to get 10% off your order. Click the link in the description to get your FIXD today. Thanks guys. We couldn't do this without you. Make sure you subscribe. Click on the special yellow button. Follow donut on Twitter and Instagram at donutmedia. Follow me on bidsbarto. Check out our stuff at
Many new and interesting things are coming. Check out this new car show at Magnuson. Check out this episode about superchargers. Don't tell my wife I kissed the subscribe button.

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