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18 FEB How do I chiptune my car?

Joseph Power

How do I tune my car?

For the budding DIYer chiptuning your car would seem like a good idea right? Better fuel economy the goal? A faster 0 to 100 time? Bragging rights at the local pub or just to be able to say that you’ve mastered modern vehicle electronics? Whatever your motivation let me explode a few myths about how to chip tune your car and then you decide whether you want to do it. Firstly you really should examine the likely end result. If your car is naturally aspirated – ie it doesn’t have a turbocharger or a supercharger (or both) then your unlikely to really get a big increase in power from chiptuning. You certainly will not get an improvement in fuel economy without significant sacrifices in power and responsiveness and if your going for performance increases – your only option is to increase the fuel consumption and adjust timing slightly to utilize it better. In the end – assuming you successfully tune your car – you’ll gain maybe 20 to 30 PS more maximum and increase your fuel consumption by 10% or more. Depending on the weight of your car – your probably only going to notice a slight improvement in responsiveness and that’s honestly about all you will notice. Secondly the risk of it going wrong. Im not going to scare you, because the reality is that with the right research and the right tools it is possible to chiptune your car by yourself and pretty cheaply using some tools available on ebay. Make one mistake though – particularly on checksum calculations and you will brick your ECU and require a professional to help you out. Many of the cheaper cloned tools will successfully tune older autos without a problem but newer ones – you are almost certain to run into issues. Those issues cant be solved without the help of a professional chiptuning organization with the right tools. Thirdly how much time your going to invest in getting smart before attempting it. To do it right you need knowledge and intelligent decision making. You have two paths – you can learn to adjust the file yourself or you can buy a pre-adjusted file. The former option will consume a lot of your time in learning and researching but perhaps you will learn a valuable and tradeable skill in doing so, the latter also presents problems in that you get what you pay for. Being honest here – a free map is probably not going to be as successful as you hope – although it might just work – but please remember the second point.. bad maps equal bad outcomes and at the absolute extreme worst case scenario you could install your new map and then damage your motor to the point of complete failure. You don’t know what your getting when you take free maps so please be careful. So what do I need to actually chip tune my car? You need 3 things: Software, hardware and a good map file service (or the ability to modify and make your own). The hardware is needed to make a physical connection to your car’s computer, which can be achieved in one of three ways. 1st – via OBD which is the easiest but also the one most likely to run you into problems with additional security systems. 2nd – is by pulling the ECU out and programming it on a bench with a hardware device that makes physical connections to it. 3rd is by opening up the ECU on the bench and soldiering or using other connection options to make a hard physical connection to your ECU. Lets discuss in more detail the merits and cons of each option: OBD: You look cool and clever, you walk up to the car plug in your stuff and start programming. It’s a chiptuners dream, no need to open the bonnet, no tools needed, no dirty hands, just coding and programming. With the right device this can happen and it can be really easy, but that device is supported by well researched and proven software and hardware protocols (communications methods) that ensure a successful tune. The merits are that its fast and no assembly is required. The cons are that your communicating not directly with the ECU but via the cars CANBUS system – like an exchange with an often very cranky operator. Upset that operator and your going to be disconnected, or worst, locked out. Speak the wrong language (wrong protocol) and the end result will be system failure where the car just doesn’t start anymore or worse you trigger some nasty little anti-tampering protocol from the immobilizer system that thinks you’re a thief and promptly shuts everything down. OBD can be great but it can be your worst nightmare. Professional chip tuners will opt for OBD only when the protocols are well proven and reliable and the vehicle is known to be chip tuning friendly and not riddled with hidden security systems ready to end the fun. Bench: This is the best method by far – assuming its not a bitch to get the car’s ECU out of the car. If its only going to take about 15 – 30 minutes to get an ECU out its well worth it because theres no longer an operator and angry security guard to negotiate with. With a few minutes of careful wiring and double checking the professional chip tuner can make a direct connection to your cars ECU to reprogram it. Then it is a matter of reinstalling the ECU into the car and confirming all is well. Bench isn’t without its problems though – ECUs are often hidden under plastic parts that get brittle when cold so they tend to break if your not careful during the extraction process. A heat gun is a tuners second best tool or clever planning meaning when the car arrives you take out the ECU immediately whilst everything is still warm. Boot: this is the same as bench however you need to actually open up the ECU and expose the printed circuit board in order to establish a connection. It involves soldering, steady hands and a lot more time. This is sometimes the only option available to a tuner so this is where the importance a damned good file service with proven performance maps becomes a worthwhile investment. Lets assume you’ve pulled an ECU out and had to connect with boot mode. Your free or ebay file may turn out to be rubbish resulting in a bad driving experience at best. You’ve wasted an hour getting the ECU out of the car and exposing the circuit board to the elements, you’ve soldered, connected, read and then written the new file and its garbage. Going to do it again with a new cheap file? How long until you solder the wrong thing or drop your coffee on the ECU? Do you see the risks here? For a novice, time isn’t relevant, but like the professional – risk avoidance is absolutely key. So whilst its entirely possible to do it yourself – its not without risks and its certainly not possible without investment in time and tools. Better to go to a professional chiptuning service, one who has invested such time and money in the correct tools and capabilities than risk complete failure. Finally – do avoid the temptation to buy Chinese cloned knock offs of quality tools. They may seem compelling at first because they really are cheap – like one tenth the price – but they are almost certain to bite you when you are most vulnerable and they come with absolutely zero technical support.

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18 FEB Gearbox optimization and why you should do it after a chiptune

Joseph Power

Gearbox Optimization

When we optimize your engines output we are focusing on torque, horsepower comes as a result of it. Torque is the turning power your engine has and that energy is transmitted to your gearbox and then each drive axle to give you forward motion. It is a critical component of your engines 'drivetrain' but is often overlooked for optimization. Modern automatic and steptronic gearboxes have learning abilities and their own electronic control module - meaning they are smart. But even smart get its wrong when its ill informed. By improving your engines performance your gearbox is receiving higher levels of torque than normal so it stands to reason that reprogramming it to cope with this would make sense. We program your gearbox to expect greater torque levels from a stronger motor. In turn it is then able to adjust shift points under normal driving conditions to optimize that torque and efficiency gain. At high throttle and engine speed applications it is better able to transmit that power to the wheels. This results in faster shifts, smoother operation and depending on your driving style - improved fuel economy. Your car will drive differently after gearbox optimization because your car is different from standard. Certainly if you opted for chiptuning with us your car will be around 20% more powerful and equally as efficient as a standard car so why not go that extra step and optimize the entire system. A vehicle that has been professionally chiptuned with optimized transmission system is like night and day compared to standard machine. Call or email us to find out more. info@fastlane-tuning.ch

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14 JAN Hidden Bandit - Nissan Juke

Joseph Power

Hidden Bandit

Introducing a new segment just for fun, we call it slouching auto - hidden bandit in a play on the classic Chinese movie crouching tiger hidden dragon. We will profile cars that are available, not expensive but when chip tuned turn into beasts that will give more expensive vehicles a good poke in the proverbial backside.. for English speakers these are called sleeper cars and I personally love them :-) The first one to be introduced is a bit of an odd duck that comes in a few variants - the Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Quite frankly its pretty stupid looking and doesn’t seem fast but with chip tuning it can be raised from 218 to 230ps (not much) but the surprise comes in the ability to release an additional 70 Nm of torque raising it from 280 to 350 Nm. With a curb weight of just 1475 kg its light and in combination with all wheel drive the additional torque will transform it into something that’s going to give other cars a bit of a run for their money. Details on tuning the car can be found here: https://www.fastlane-tuning.ch/configurator Now be warned, theres another version out there, one thats so rare your unlikely to come across it because only 23 of them were ever made. The Juke R. It has the same running gear as the 2013 Nissan GT-R but at 250kg less weight it will spank pretty much ANYTHING out there today. At 552 ps before tuning it will eat you alive.. watch out. Oh and if you have one, please bring it to me for tuning, I'll do it at cost just for the fun of the test drive afterwards !!!