SpeedLab Long Tube Vios Race header development

There are over 1,000,000 article on the Internet about header design and which makes the most power, so here’s ours to add to fray.

Only we won’t get into the whole “X design vs Y design” debate, there’s enough of that already to leave you severely confused for days.

What we will focus on is for a specific engine and vehicle, namely a 2014 Toyota Vios with the 1.5L Vvti engine, which we have a lot of background and data on since we were involved with the Philippine Vios Cup from the beginning such that we have Dyno data on all the cars.

First off there is quite a wide spread of power levels for a field of over 10 cars, with stock power ranging from 88-92whp on our Dynapack Dyno, which is to be expected. And as the cars get raced more and more, we see some cars reach as high as 95whp. Mind you these cars are race prepped from the factory and spent their break in period of 1000km being revved the snot out of, which explains the slightly elevated power levels as the kilometers pile on.

Being 2019, the first batch of Vios Cup race cars are now being turned to compete in the GT100 class, and as the name implies, a class of cars that do no exceed over 100hp as measured by a Dyno Dynamics dyno at the race track.

Ask anyone in the tuning world, Australian dynos such as Mainline and Dyno Dynamics really read lower than Dynojet or Dynapack, anywhere from 18-25% lower. Now this doesn’t mean one Dyno is less accurate than the other, thats just the way it is.

Our GT racer made 108whp on Dynapack with the following mods: SpeedLab K&N Cold Air Intake, TRD header, straight pipe and HKS-style muffler, and SpeedLab ECU Remap

Blue line – TRD header, straight pipe exhaust, stock airbox 92whp

Redline – SpeedLab K&N cold air intake, TRD header, straight pipe exhaust, stock airbox 98whp

Green line – SpeedLab ECU Remap/Reflash, SpeedLab K&N cold air intake, TRD header, straight pipe exhaust, stock airbox 108whp

Its a 16whp increase from their previous setup and I was eager to go the races and particularly what it will do on the Dyno Dynamics. And off we went and this car spun the rollers at 86whp. Well that does translate to around 20% less. And while I was there, I did see a B20 equipped Civic being detuned to qualify under the 100whp limit, and this car did a final Dyno of 97whp.

After a day of racing with feedback from the drivers that it felt a lot stronger coming out of the corners, its my job to find another 10hp for them to be competitive.

And so back to shop to see what can be improved. And we came up with two things: Bigger intake for more flow and a real deal long tube race header design for unrestricted exhaust flow.

And here’s the comparison. From top to bottom:

Stock, TRD, SpeedLab Long Tube

Header Theory

The job of headers is the evacuate the exhaust gases quickly and efficiently. Think of the engine as a parking lot with 4 exits. The header is the road that leads from each exit which then merges into one road some distance away. The goal is to have the cars come out the fastest in an orderly even manner. Yes this is a drastic over simplification but that’s what headers do in essence.

Stock Header

Well it’s stock, what can we say? Quite a lot actually. Going by our road analogy, we want the roads to be all the same length so that each car travels the same distance. And the stock headers are obviously not the same length, with the two outer runners being a lot longer than the middle two ones.

TRD Header

The TRD header corrects the unequal length of the stock headers by lengthening the middle two runners, making all 4 pretty much the same length, which improves flow as well as makes the spacing of the exhaust pulses more even.

The biggest short coming, is quite literally that it’s short, because the flange connects to midpipe which houses the catalytic converter, and this is the only flange, with the next one being after the rear wheels. So in order for this to be a bolt on with no welding needed, it had to be the same length as the stock header.

SpeedLab Long Tube Race Header

Going back to our parking lot analogy, it doesn’t take 5th grader to see that the cars will come out faster and merge more efficiently if the roads leading out are longer and are kept separate longer. So why not do this to begin with?

Well this isn’t a bolt on as the catalytic has to be cut off from the midpipe and the flange moved further down. It’s by no means a hard job to do but it’s not a bolt on, and there will always be people who are wary of stuff getting cut up.

The only way to preserve the stock items is to have a whole new midpipe made, which adds to the cost.

But if you’re going to get a whole exhaust system done, then this is definitely the best way to go.

So how good? It’s another 11hp more than the short TRD header, for a total of 119whp. This power level should put us at par with the Civics running the B20s in terms of power.

We also made the the intake tube bigger at 3″ to get more air flow into the engine.

Time for a disclaimer. You can’t install these parts without having the engine tuned, whether with an ECU remap or Unichip. A bigger intake a freer flowing exhaust will cause the engine to lean out and without the proper fuel correction, will actually make your car lose power.

So it’s best to do these things all the same time, unless you’re ok with having 10hp less than stock until you get tuned.

ECU Tuning in Plain English

ECU tuning is a catch all term these days, and as the name says, it’s tuning the ECU (wow no shit Sherlock)

First let’s define the word tuning.

Tuning is not tune up, but tune up is a form of tuning. Confused?

Tuning simply means making adjustments. The first image that comes to most people’s mind is someone adjusting the strings on a guitar

Or a piano being tuned.

And that’s where the word comes from, to adjust the instrument so that it performs optimally, and in the case of musical instruments, produce the correct tune

Tuning cars is principle is the same, making adjustments for peak performance, which is optimum horsepower and torque.

Tune-up is the adjusting the carburetor and the distributor back in the old days, for optimal performance, and this is a form of tuning.

With cars now being computers with wheels, all adjustments are now made with, well, a computer. And all computers are run by software which is a set of instructions that tell the engine what do, how much fuel to give, when to first the sparkplug, when and how much to open the wastegate etc etc

But first you must be able to talk to your cars ECU and be able to make the changes and adjustments you want. For that there are two pieces of software for the job. A flasher and an editor.

First the flasher, this is essential a file uploader and downloader. You plug an OBD to usb cable like this from Tactrix

So that you can download the physical file that resides inside the chip of the ECU. And this is a small file, 1-2mb in size, smaller than an mp3 song.

Different manufacturers have different protocols for how you can download the contents, let’s call them locks. The flashing software is basically a set of keys that allow you to open the different ecus of different cars to be able to get the file, as well as put the file back and lock the door.

But once you have the file, which is almost always binary format, is next to useless as you can just open it with MS word and start editing. You’ll need another software called an editor

This interprets the file which is zeros and ones (hence binary) into something humans can see and understand. All tuning software in the world looks like this, a bunch of tables and excel sheets, with values in the table that you can adjust and change.

The act of changing and adjusting these values is tuning, after which you save the changes and then use the flasher to upload the edited file back into the cars Ecu.

But how do you know what numbers to change and by how much?

Well that’s where having a Dynamometer is essential. A Dyno is basically a very expensive glorified treadmill for the car, it does one thing and one thing only, give you horsepower and torque figures. That’s it. A Dyno doesn’t do any tuning, any adjusting or manipulation. It’s a ruler for the car.

Having a Dyno let’s us, the tuner, see if the adjustments we have made resulted in more, or less, power. Tuning at its very heart is trial and error. This value doesn’t work, maybe we make less, and make this value more until we get the desired result.

As for which excel tables to adjust and what they do, well that’s what you’re paying money for, the knowledge and experience of the person knowing what to adjust and by how much

Why asking for car advice on Facebook is dumb

Facebook has seen an explosion of “car clubs” as it makes it as easy as 3 clicks away to make one. While the aim is to foster camaraderie, friendships, knowledge exchange blah blah, most people in the groups are sore lacking, if not zero in the knowledge department.

On one end, you have simple questions like this “may kalawang as part na Yan, normal na Yan?”

Which gets answered easily enough with a deluge of yes answers.

And asking for pics of your “setup rides” to get inspiration for yours. Hey I do that in Gundam groups also to get inspired for my next build and get ideas. This is where FB gives you very convenient and effective crowdsourced ideas.

But on the other end of the spectrum are the technical questions like the ever popular check engine light

EVERY single group has these and they get a lot of answers. Problem is most of these answers are wrong. There are 999 possible reasons why this can be lighted up and without the proper scan equipment, the guy at the end of keyboard can not possibly say with 100% certainty that it is THIS or THAT problem.

It’s like asking “I’m coughing, what’s wrong with me?” And you’ll get every answer from sore throat to bone cancer.

Ever wonder why we still go to the doctors and no just self diagnose? Because you the the ordinary dude ISN’T An expert and neither are the members in your groups. Of course there will be always a few people who really are but their opinion gets drowned among the many.

You also have the video posts like this jumpy idle with the “anong problema?” Caption

Which like the check engine, ten people will give you ten different answers and it isn’t a democracy where the most numerous answer is the right one. It’s impossible for anyone to say for certain what’s the problem without examining the car, there simply isn’t enough information on the video to make any kind of assumption.

And you have out right ignorance and misinformation like these three idiots who didn’t even bother to know the car they’re advising on.

This is our non-turbo Subaru package, that has Unichip included, because it is the ONLY thing that can tune it.

And you have morons like Ivan Ilagan who is recommending an Ecu reflash citing because it’s safer, which is totally not true, and but stayed silent after being called out that the non-turbo Ecu cannot be reflashed

And Vin Foronda whose recommends Cobb which also doesn’t work for non-turbo variant and only works mostly for US Spec turbo Subarus.

And this Drue Versoza who also doesn’t know that non-Turbo’s cannot be reflashed. The majority of the tuned Subaru’s he’s referring to are Ecu remap, or use openecu or Ecutek, and that’s not in dispute as that it is the better solution. But of course he didn’t bother to look at the pictures posted that clearly shows it’s a non turbo car, or maybe he just doesn’t know the difference and that’s more likely.

So that’s why FB groups are a dumb place to ask hard technical questions. Best ask a reputable shop (like us) directly, and yes they are in it for the money, but they are in the best position to know what is and what isn’t. Hey doctors are in it for the money too aren’t they?

But for all your “which colour car should I get” to “what’s the best air freshener” to “what’s the best floor mat” go ahead and ask away.

Unichip FAQ and in-depth

“What does it do?” This has got to be the #1 question I encounter during car shows whenever people ask about the Unichip. Next up is “How does it work?” Which will be the focus of this article to explain in as simple terms as possible the how and why.

First of let’s start with the name, Unichip. The Uni part stands for Universal, and it is THE ONLY true universal module that works on any car, any brand, gas or diesel. It’s the same Unichip for your car, truck, minivan, roadster, gasoline or diesel powered, 4 cylinder, V6 or rotary. No other chip can make that claim. Which is the best feature of the Unichip. When it comes time to sell your vehicle, simply unplug it and we can transfer it to whatever next vehicle you buy. It’s really an investment that grows with you.

The Chip comes from well, a computer chip. And this is where the confusion sort of sets in. When most people hear the word chip, they automatically think of something like this:

microchip

But in reality, the Unichip circuit board is a lot more complex and contains a multitude of chips and processors, making it more similar to a computer’s mother board than single chip, like the one below:
circuit board

So how does it make power?

All gasoline engines all over the world need 3 things to make power: Air, fuel and spark. Let’s take a typical 2.0L engine. The 2.0L denotes the displacement of the engine, which is the amount of air the engine sucks in every combustion cycle. Unless more air is introduced using a turbo or supercharger, there is nothing that can be done to lessen this amount.

Next is the amount of fuel. This, the Unichip can control. Think back to your high school chemistry class and the term stoichiometric ratio. Simply put, this is the ideal mixture of 14 parts air to 1 part fuel of (14:1) that theoretically ensures complete combustion with all of the fuel being burned away to produce the maximum amount of power.

But of course in the real world, this can never be, so almost all cars tend to run a richer mixture, with more fuel being injected than needed which results in a mixture of 12:1 or even 11:1 on some engines. Why is this? First off, a richer running engine is more forgiving and reliable for human error, mainly the lack of mind and maintenance by most non enthusiasts, who just put fuel and just drive.

So most of the tuning that we do with the Unichip is to actually reduce the amount of the fuel the engine gets. By doing so, the remaining fuel gets more burned completely, giving you more bang inside the engine and since we are taking away fuel, you get better mileage as a result.

The next component that enables combustion is spark. This is what most people tend to think of when the word spark is mentioned:

sparkplug

And they won’t be wrong. But there is a lot more to spark than just the sparkplug. When the spark actually fires in combustion process is also just as important. In almost all diagrams of the 4 stroke engine such as the one below:

4 stroke

Depicts the sparkplug firing when the piston is at the very top (2). In reality, the sparkplug fires way before the piston ever gets to the top. This is done because the air fuel mixture needs time to burn and combust, although it may seem like instantaneous to our eyes. The earlier you can fire the sparkplug in the combustion cycle, the more time the mixture has to burn completely which results in more power. Old school guys will remember this as advancing the distributor timing.

With modern distributorless engines, when the sparkplug fires is controlled by the ECU, which can be controlled by the Unichip. And unlike the old style distributor, which gives a blanket adjustment for the whole rpm range, Unichip can vary the amount of timing for every rpm, say 3 degrees more from 1500-3500 rpm, 2 degrees from 3700-5500rpm, and 1.5 degree from 5600 up to redline.

These two adjustments cover 80% off all engines in existence. So by changing the amount of fuel and when the sparkplug fires, this is how Unichip is able to make more power, more torque and get better fuel economy for your vehicle, and why it’s the best engine programming solution out there.

The Toyota Reflash Conundrum

Reflash is the now prominent term when it comes to tuning, a purely software based solution that doesn’t involve any additional hardware, plugging of devices or wiring in of anything.

How it normally works is that software is used to Read the Ecu contents when the laptop is plugged into the car’s on-board-diagnostic (OBD) port, and then after the changes have been made, Write the contents back.

This method works on almost all cars, except for Toyota, whose ECU only allows a Write, but not Read. That’s where the conundrum lies. How can you edit something when you can’t get to it?

Well turns out we have to buy the base file from the reflash software provider, and they in turn have their ways of getting that base file from dealerships all over the world.

The file were talking about is the Software calibration file below:

Toyota actually doesn’t make the ECU, Denso does and they do it in batches, and each batch will have a different calibration file even if they’re going into the same car model. For example, the Fortuner 3.0L has over 50 different calibration files even though they all go into essentially the same car. And if we open it up, the contents are also the same. Why is it like that? Dunno.

Since most reflash software is made in Europe, it makes sense that the European spec vehicles are the first ones that get made and have the files available. Then it trickles down to the rest of the world.

And if your car came with a locally manufactured ECU, like the ones on our Vios below:

Only way to get a base calibration file is if you have contacts pretty high up inside the dealership.

Eventually like everything electronic, it will get hacked and cracked, just like people are now able to run Family Computer games on an old iPhone3. It’s just a matter of time. And that’s also another conundrum. The whole point of ECU reflash is that it doesn’t void the warranty period, but by the time the calibration file does become available, warranty period is over and you now have a other choices such as Unichip Computer or if you’re rich, full blown stand alone ECU.

So does anyone know anyone in the casa?