TECH-TORQUE! - ECU Remapping and Flash Tuning; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Are you confused? Don’t worry, and don’t be embarrassed. Take a spot in line with thousands of others just like yourself. Read on and we guarantee in the next 5 minutes you will have a far greater understanding of this dark art that seems to be as just full of creative whispers among the elusive forum warrior. This is the truth about Common Rail Diesel ECU Tuning…
Today, it seems everyone is offering “Diesel Tuning” services and claim to be “experts” on the subject matter, offering “More Torque, More Power, Better Economy” and all the usual you’ve heard consistently. Are you confused? Of course, you are! You’ve read this far already. So firstly, to understand the difference, we first must understand what is within a Diesel ECU and General Diesel ECU Tuning as a broader topic;
An ECU (Engine Control Unit) is the equivalent to the brain of the human body, or the central processing unit for those a little more tech-savvy. It controls all the vehicle/machine/vessel’s actions and performance by means of electronic control in relation to feedback from an abundance of sensors once again in relation to operator (driver) input.
Within the ECU, there is a series of “Files” which determine the performance of the vehicle/machine/vessel. Within these Files are a series of “Maps”. Within those Maps are a series of tables containing “Values” or data.
So, you might ask; “It’s as simple as that? A remap is simply changing those values? An ECU Remap is an ECU Remap, how is one different from the next?”
Well there is a big difference, so please allow us to explain a few points we’re very passionate about;
“Flash Tuning” IS NOT really an ECU Remap – despite what you have been educated to believe.
“Flash Tuning IS the act of simply uploading a file to an ECU with no knowing of what data is contained within the file with no means of altering it to suit the specific dynamics of that vehicle/machine/vessel. The flash tuner is not even tuning it, merely loading it.
A true "ECU Remap" is not a File Service Provider’s generic file being loaded to your ECU despite what clever marketing has told you.
There are “Master Tuners” and “Slave Tuners”. Slave tuners are essentially Flash Tuning agents, who are a part of a file service, or dealer network, loading a generic file to your ECU and profit by marketing and selling this service as “ECU Remapping” or “Custom Dyno Tuning”. (It may not be the agent who profits, but largely the file provider)
DISCLAIMER: These are factual points and are not intended to criticize one’s business. They are points outlined purely for consumer education on a semi-technical level.
This being said, it leads us to the question; “What actually is ECU Remapping then?”
At Tune-Tech Industries, we define the act of a TRULY LEGITIMATE ECU REMAP as:
The act of accessing, extracting with hardware, and storing the “STOCK ORIGIONAL FILE” (SOF) with software for re-loading or reversion at any time. This file should then be copied to have a back-up, should it somehow become corrupt, broken or otherwise un-usable. One of those copied SOF files are then modified (generally several times) to achieve a requested outcome for the client, creating a modified file (also known as Mod File.) This is done by altering data values in differing “Map Tables” that alter the operation of the vehicle. This is then tested by differing means of both actual operating and simulated operating conditions. Other factors imperative to tuning then come into play such as the classic term “Air/Fuel Ratio” more commonly referred to as “AFR” by both professionals and those elusive forum ninjas alike.
We could go into more detail here about "Stoichiometric Mixtures" and "Lamba Values", but for intents and purposes, let’s keep this simple and easy to follow for now, saving those for a later article.
So how is an actual ECU Remap different from a Flash Tune or Slave Tune?
Its very different. As we touched on above, a Slave or Flash tuner is not actually a tuner. They simply utilise a module to upload a file acquired from somebody offsite, or even overseas. There is no way for them to physically modify or tune the client’s vehicle. Essentially, it’s guesswork. Would you let your Builder, Bricklayer, Concreter, Carpenter or Electrician guess his work and not test it before you used, renovated it or built it?
So the question we now ask you is “If you knew this was actually what was happening to your vehicle when you booked your “ECU Remap” or “Custom Dyno Tune”, would you still be willing to pay that premium dollar? We’ll keep our thoughts to ourselves there.
On a deeper, slightly more technical level for those who are curious, these “Tuned Files” often contain Maps with simple “Blanket Changes” where the proclaimed “Tuner” simply selects all the values of a Map table and increases that data by a certain percentage value. This being done, and loaded, without proper testing or checking, could take all of 5 minutes. Scary? Dangerous? Detrimental to your vehicle? Once again, we’ll refrain from swaying your opinion. It is important to note, a genuine ECU Remap can take anywhere from 2 hours, to two days depending on;
The experience and expertise pertained by the tuner.
How the vehicle responds to changes made by the tuner.
General mechanical condition of the vehicle.
It is important to note that each vehicle is different. It is in your best interest that the tuning provider asks a great deal of questions in relation to your vehicle’s mileage, service history, daily use, intended purpose and reasons for tuning. A doctor cannot provide correct treatment for a patient without a consultation and asking questions. Your vehicle may not be able to talk, but you can. Remember, in this instance, the tuner is the doctor and you are the patient. If communication is not clear and concise, then your results will not be as intended. We guarantee it.
So how can you tell the difference when searching for a tuner for your vehicle?
We could rave on for another hour here, but lets get straight to the point. Time is valuable so let’s not waste it. Here’s some hot tips when comparing “Diesel Tuners”;
Get educated – don’t go in blind and be lead on a path of future regret. Have some basic knowledge from a reputable source/s. You don’t buy a house or take out a mortgage willy-nilly without having background knowledge. This is the same, just on a smaller scale.
Once you have some knowledge, ask the person you’re inquiring with some serious questions. What are your formal qualifications? What is your trade? What training have you undertaken? Are you even a trades-person? (Yes, there are people within the industry who are not even trade qualified)
Ask that person or organisation what software and/or hardware they will be using to tune your vehicle.
Ask them if you can see it and ask to meet and/or speak with the actual tuner, not just a salesperson in office somewhere reading off a script. If there is hesitation, there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself either a Tuning Network or potentially non-ideal cash-grab situation already.
Don’t be fooled by clever marketing tactics, “Sales” and “Package Deals” offering large discounts obviously allow room for cutting corners somewhere. Let’s be honest, we all hate the National Tiles ad on the radio and the Rugs-Million One Day Sale that seems to have run for the past ten years, and Diesel tuners are the same. There are two key points to remember here; (1) Time is money, and good things take time. (2) Nothing cheaper is better, and nothing better is cheaper.
In the event that there is an issue with your vehicle caused as a result of their tune, is the tuner/organisation you’re inquiring with insured to cover this? It is illegal to use unlicensed providers in construction and electrical industries… why should this be different and potentially leave you out of pocket?
If it seems to good be true, it probably is. Sales pitches with phrases such as “No generic files” or similar are often a sign of guilt from the get-go.
Remember your vehicle is an investment. For most people, the second largest investment in their lives, apart from their mortgage. Take your tuning inquires seriously and be sure to choose a provider who will not cause you financial, logistical and emotional hurt because you didn’t take the time to ask the above questions or simply be sold to by pushy sales techniques or even, forbid, convenience.
When done correctly, an ECU Remap is the most cost effective, beneficial way to optimize a Common Rail Diesel powered vehicle for improved Torque and Power delivery, fuel economy, improved towing ability and extend the vehicle’s service life in the long term. If you do the above correctly and find a genuine provider who can offer you a genuine ECU Remap for your vehicle, you can enjoy if thoroughly for years to come and see return on your investment. Do it wrong, and you likely already know of a horror story somewhere, so we need not waste more time again on a negative view.
We hope this article has given you some clarity on the topic of ECU Remapping in relation to your Common Rail Diesel vehicle, truck, tractor, or even boat! Our aim is to bring to you a monthly Tech Article so be sure to follow our Blog at https://www.tunetechindustries.com/tech-articles and feel free to email us suggestions for topics at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow our Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/tunetechindustries/ to keep up with the latest news and “TechTorque” articles.
Until next month – The Tune-Tech Team