Call it what you may, ECU remapping, flashing, recalibrating or programming is well established in the diesel & petrol market in Australia There’s for and against for ECU remapping, a lot of it comes down to who is remapping your vehicle and how?
What is ECU remapping? ECU remapping is using software and hardware to extract the file from the factory ECU, modify/adjust & re write back to the ecu. this should then be tested and repeated until the desired result is achieved. Some ECU’s can be read via the obd2 port, some via service mode using break out wires plugged onto the ECU connector directly, others need to be opened and a series of adapters/soldered wires or pogo sticks used to communicate directly to the internal circuits & lastly some ECU have a singular software for that make and model which is available through data online services & or reading originally that can be used time and time again without the reading process. The process of reading the ori (original file) can be as simple as plug and play or some form of electronic soldering. experience and equipment is required, there are many different manufactures of this hardware & software.
Once the file is extracted there is separate software to make sense of the hexadecimal data & modification of it, there are basic software packages with “drivers” which identify the particular maps (i.e. boost, rail, injection duration) and put them into labelled usable information that can be displayed in spreadsheet style, 3d or 2d modes. There is other software such as WinOLS which provides you with the raw hexadecimal information, if you know what you’re looking for or the structure of the ECU & or addresses of the information, this can be identified and modified, alternatively there are damos files (drivers) to do this for you.
What is the main difference here? level of expertise and control over the file you have, with basic software your only given what the driver provides. There can quite often be maps missing, multiple maps which are not always used by the particular software that ecu had written to it & or incorrect data. Software like WinOLS gives you access to all the data, The damos file is only as good as the creator but if you know what you’re looking for you can make your own custom drivers/maps and really get the results required.
Once we have our maps identified the process starts on modifying, measuring and testing. Meanwhile always checking we have achieved our desired outcome inside the parameters we have set for the vehicle. Our methodology when it comes to dyno tuning is data. That begins with data logging the standard vehicle and recording all the information like boost/fuelling & timing to name a few alongside power/torque & AFT (Air Fuel Ratio). Next the mechanical capacities of the vehicle/engine & supporting ancillaries need to be considered so we can set safe parameters to operate inside of OE. Once this is done, we go about modifying Some of the basic parameters that are, but not limited to: boost, injection duration, timing, rail pressure, various torque and fuel quantity limiters & sensor scaling’s like MAF. For example, if upgrades have been fitted that require re scaling of the sensor.
With experience we quite often were familiar with a particular software and or vehicle and the process has been completed numerous times, we in these instances quite often start with a base map we have developed and are familiar with the cause and effect on this vehicle/ECU & modify from there. Sometimes, (and it’s what I find most enjoyable) is a completely new vehicle/ecu/software, In these instances its out on the road for some data logging then into the dyno cell for one adjustment at a time all the while data logging and comparing the request vs the measured and observing the outcome. Upon finishing the modifications the vehicle is then double checked on dyno and on road under various conditions and throttle positions to confirm the recalibration has been successful and everything is functioning as it should.
Sounds simple? Sometimes it is and sometimes it consumes hours/days & weeks of your life.
The elephant in the dyno cell or lack there off
The main issues with dyno tuning and reliability and safety comes down to the operator, their experience and how they conduct the process. The two main terms given to tuners being “master”, you own the hardware/software to read/write & modify & “slave”, you own the hardware/software with the ability to read and write only, this is sometimes linked to another “master” tuner or company, or sometimes outright on your own.
You may have heard the term car park tuners or the “we will come to you” services. While dyno tuning can be carried out on road with correct safety procedures and good data logging, we find a lot of these people have simple software only to load a file provided by an outsourced company (slave tuning). A lot of the files we come across either have very minimal gains for your money as a lot are not tested properly/data logged therefore a larger margin for error is left in the file safety. Or we find some completely downright dangerous files that contain blanket percentage gains, over fuelling and things like boost requests well outside the parameters the turbo charger can operate at safely (probably by people that have bought some editing software but have no idea).
Unfortunately, the industry also seems to be driven in a way where less is being focused on the end product/results. There are a lot of companies that are slave tuners to larger company’s and the control and adjustment to the tune ends up being less than ideal or a one shoe fits all solution.
Our final comment on ECU remapping is based around the differences we see between vehicles on our dyno even of the same age make model & km’s they’re not always the same. Quiet often similar vehicles get tuned differently to reach the same result or goal. Pre-existing issues are readily identifiable on the initial run or during the process on the dyno that need addressing for the safety and longevity of your vehicle (damaged turbos, failed EGR valves, boost leaks etc) a lot of which are missed in the car park or by the load and go guys she will be right attitude. You’re best to research, tracking down people/companies with the experience, tooling and a firm understanding of the process to best protect your investment.