How to know if you’re really getting a custom remap tune

Remapping, reflashing, ECU Tuning, custom tuning, they all mean one and the same thing, editing the contents of the ECU to extract more power from the engine.

Poke around Facebook enough and you will come across warnings like

“How do you know you’re getting a custom tune?”

“Do you know what parameters are being changed?”

“Are they just buying a tune of the internet?”

Granted the loudest trumpeter of this is DP CHIP because they are trying to scare people into buying their obsolete product at a ridiculously high price, and can’t compete with the power gains that ECU remapping will give you.

But the points they make are pretty valid. How do you know if you’re getting a custom tune? As opposed to just buying it off the internet? At this point, I want to clarify some terms.

Custom tune – a file that is adjusted specifically for your your car, your modifications.

Live tune – A person with a laptop is doing the adjustments on the spot while the car is on the Dyno.

All live tunes are custom tunes but not all custom tunes are done live. A custom is most often emailed to the end user by a person who has the editing software. The end user must have a reader writer software as well as the obd cable to connect the car to the laptop.

Take note, a custom tune without data like air fuel ratio on a Dyno is next to useless. You simply cannot rely on a car’s internal datalog stream to tune properly. This is what the local Orange Virus guy does, he simplt reads a cars ECU, sends it to the USA, waits for a guy to modify the file and sends it back, he then loads it back to the car. No Dyno, no nothing. While this can be called a custom tune, it is nowhere the correct way to do. You the customer have no idea how much power you’re making, neither can the guy doing the uploading tell you.

If you’re “tuner” doesn’t have this kind of screen on their laptop

Or this

Walk away. He is not doing any tuning whatsoever. Other signs that you’re not getting tuned:

1. Insists on meetup to load the file – instant BS

2. Says there is no need to Dyno – also instant BS, How will you know you actually made power and not just throttle adjustment

3. Tells you to wait for tuned file, and let’s meet back after a few days

4. Does it at his home – same way a real doctor doesn’t treat you at home, neither should a tuner.

5. Uses cloned/pirated software

Alientech’s KESS is the most cloned/pirated read writer in the market. The screen above is the old version software which hasn’t been updated. If your “tuner” has this kind of screen, 99% he’s using cloned hardware and software and there is a chance that the read/write process might hang in the middle, thus turning your ecu into a paper weight.

5. Beer na Lang any bayad – why are you giving away a valuable service for free? Unless you don’t have any investment to start with. Related to item no. 4

ALL TUNERS worth their trade all insist on having the car on the Dyno while tuning, unless there really is no choice, like in the province where there is no Dyno, in which case you rely on their best judgement and experience because they have tuned a lot of cars and can accurately equate the numbers entered in the laptop to power numbers.

Let’s take this Lancer as an example of the correct way of doing things.

Before any modifications have been done, it is best and always recommended to get s baseline Dyno to see what your stock power and torque is. If you don’t know where you’re starting, how will you know what you’ve gained?

Here’s the stock numbers,

Red dotted line – Stock 116whp and 109 ft-lbs of torque

Green line – Initial tune with SpeedLab K&N intake, 133whp and 140 ft-lbs

And this is how live tuning is done, real time adjustments while the car is in the Dyno and made immediately after each Dyno run.

I know for a fact there are some “tuners” offering reflash services for as low as 8k, and obviously this is with no dyno, using fake hardware and software AND no live tuning being done. So yes you get what you pay for, you pay cheap, you get cheap.

And here’s our final Dyno chart with headers installed

Purple line – SpeedLab power package, intake, headers, tuning.

Thin red line – Stock power. As you can see there is easily 35hp gain at 3500rpm. And there is no way to find that out or even get the correct tune if it’s not done on the Dyno.

I actually take time to explain and walk you through the whole reflash process, and I give this same talk 6-7 times a week to different people in the shop, and they leave with a better Understanding of what the process is and what it entails

Camaro Borla Exhaust Custom Fabrication and Install

In a land dominated by Japanese brands, it’s a real treat to see cars like Mustangs and Canaria coming into the shop. And this 2018 example wanted a catback Exhaust done.

Lifting up the car to take a look what we’re up against, I was surprised and delighted to see 4 electronic valves that changed the opening depending on the pedal and speed, activate sound tuning if you will.

We new from the start that these 4 valves have to go back and they must go back, as we have seen other shops just simply disconnect these when they make an exhaust which is kinda stupid as it will throw a check engine light and kill off what is an arguably cool feature. Granted we did have to cut the 4 valves from the stock piping but it’s not something so terrible or permanent that we couldn’t put it back to stock if needed. Of course we got permission from the owner before doing any cutting

We chose to use Borla Pro XS mufflers for that deep sound, and still went with a quad tip setup but using oval tips as these fill up the bumper cutout much better.

This result is a meaner sounding exhaust note when you floor it but remains civilized quiet at idle because we retained the stock exhaust valves to do their job.

If you don’t mind sniffing some smoke, watching the valves open and close is a pretty cool thing

Isn’t it going to explode?

Or in Filipino“Hindi ba sasabog yan?”

There are enough people that we meet that have never driven their car hard and definitely not to redline because “baka sumabog” well I’m here to tell you that no, Hindi yan sasabog. The car is designed to shift at a little or at the redline on your tachometer, it’s designed like that an hindi yan sasabog.

Another question has to do with making power. We’ve posted enough big 50-60-70 and even 100hp gain on vehicles that we get the question, “will this reduce engine reliability?” The short answer is no. And the more persistent will ask “how can it not? You’re stressing the engine beyond it’s designed performance”

This is best answered with bullet points

1. What most people forget or don’t realize that maximum power of the engine is almost always achieved at or near redline. The numbers on the brochure and everywhere on the internet are MAXIMUM power numbers, which is only achieved with your foot to the floor. When you’re stuck in traffic or cruising NLEX at 2500-3000rpm your engine is making a fraction of the maximum, usually 20-30% only

2. When shops like us do modifications, we usually quote peak power and max power gain. Peak power is made at redline for gasoline engines and 3000 or 3500 for diesels, max power might be somewhere else like 2500rpm. All engines are overbuilt from the factory, it’s just the standard way of doing things in manufacturing. You don’t build say hammer to work only a specific number of times and then break. Plus it costs the same to over design something and to design something specific. Manufacturing wise, the cost difference between making a 1” thick hammer and a 1.5” thick hammer is negligible, so better go with the thicker design for the same cost.

3. As for the over stressing the engine with an additional 60hp, once again remember how maximum power is achieved? Full throttle. In the lifespan of your car’s 150,000km, realistically how many kilometers can you drive flat out at full throttle? You’ll be hard pressed to come up with even 500km of upak driving, and that’s 0.0033% of the mileage of your car. So no, you are not stressing the engine out. Or in easier terms to understand, that few times you take viagra to enhance your performance will not cause your dick to fall of or to stop functioning well into your 70s

Turbocharging the Toyota Vios 1.5L

The little car that gets boost and does it very well.

Toyota’s best selling small car, the Vios is big in sales numbers and does an excellent job in A to B chores, Grab duties and an overall very good first car. What’s not so great is in the power department, and it definitely won’t win any stoplight races against say, a 98 Civic SiR. But then again, that’s what turbocharging is for right? So here’s how we do it.

1. Take out the bumper, grill, stock airbox, exhaust manifold, horns, lights etc etc so we have a clean slate to work with

2. “Can I put an intercooler on my non-turbo car?” Has got to be the most asked question and one of the dumbest on the Internet. Most people would want a turbo just to be able to show off the intercooler in front and for this reason, we’re doing this step first because ya know, looks are a priority.

3. Here’s the turbocharger. This is one of our old china made T25 sized turbos which we rebuilt the center cartridge with stronger bearings because this is the weak point of these turbos, it’s either a pass or fail the second the engine starts up, and it’s a pain in the ass to swap out once everything is in place so we take the extra step to make sure this sucker will last.

4. Welded turbo manifold. Unlike most manifolds that you see on the internet with the curvy stainless steel tubing, we chose thick iron pipe for strength and it will never ever crack under heat, even if it isn’t so pretty.

5. Turbo and manifold now married. This is also the reason that if you have performance headers, you have to take it out and sell them because this will sit in its place.

6. It’s a shame that the Vios as a backwards facing exhaust, hence you can’t really see the turbo

7. The intercooler is mounted here behind the bumper support

8. This is the aluminum pipes that leads to the throttle which is in front of the engine.

9. Here’s a closer look at the bracket the holds the intercooler in place.

10. This is the turbo discharge pipe. There are two ways to route this, either above the engine like what he have here, or below, for that more sleeper look, it actually doesn’t matter as it doesn’t affect performance.

11. All our turbo builds use a K&N filter. This is important that no stray dirt particles get sucked into the turbo.

12. “Can I put a blow off valve on my non-turbo car?” Is the second dumbest question on the internet. And like the intercooler, people will actually get a turbo setup just for the sound. On this Vios, the blow off valve is located somewhat in the bottom half as that’s the best location, which has to be at least 1 foot away from the throttle. Sorry, no showing off to your car club friends when you open the engine, but hey you get that passheewwww sound.

13. And here’s the completed turbo installation. The aluminum pipe can be in any color you want but we went with an all black setup, ya know, for that sleeper look.

14. The stock bumper fits perfectly without any cutting needed. The generations after this Vios actually have even more room behind the bumper as they have grown in size.

15. All done and ready to be tuned. For this we use Unichip because well, it’s simply the best solution for the job. Minimal wiring and it has the ability to Reference a variety of input signals for fuel enrichment, such as throttle position, MAF reading or actual boost, so control the additional 5th injector setup.

16. And the numbers are in! Our 1.5L AT Vios makes 77whp and 78 ft-lbs torque in stock form. Turbocharging it got us an additional 60hp and 63 ft-lbs of torque for a total of 138whp and 141 ft-lbs torque, almost double the stock numbers, at 7psi of boost.

Now a lot of people will tell you that turbocharging will shorten the life of your engine. The answer is both yes and no, and it depends. Here’s why.

Every engine on the planet is overbuilt to some extent, that’s just the way things are done, the same way that screwdriver is overbuilt to not twist even Superman twists it. Engines normally can take 50-70% on top of their stock power rating with no problems, and this is what we follow as a rule if thumb. Of course some engines are built better than others. We know for a fact that the 1.5L Vios engine can take much more than the 60hp we added but we won’t risk the same power gain with a Kia engine.

We also don’t accept any turbo install with engines that have high mileage already, meaning over 100,000km and this is the “will shorten your engine life” comes from. Same way you don’t ask grandpa to do a 10km marathon

So it depends on how well you take care of the car and what’s the mileage and condition. Generally 40-60k kilometer mileage is ok for turbocharging, and your car is certainly out of warranty by that time.

Oh and this whole article is applicable up to the 3rd Generation Vios because the engine is exactly the same from 2004 up to 2016 and it’s also exactly the same for the 1.3L engine