'Chips' - biggest engine problem by far - discuss

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'Chips' - biggest engine problem by far - discuss

Post by Guy Croft » October 18th, 2006, 2:13 pm

I vote the biggest problem these days by far (outweighing even the mechanics of building an engine, timing it, keeping it in one piece) is:

'chips/ecu/mapping'

and all the associated things that go with it, injectors, harness, throttle bodies, pumps, pressures, maps etc etc.

I cannot believe how corrupted (not 'corrupt', I mean spoiled/upset) the whole aftermarket business of 'tuning' has become in recent years by this. So much time and money wasted. A nonsense and a nightmare, how did it ever build up such unacceptable momentum and become such a mess?


GC
Last edited by Guy Croft on October 19th, 2006, 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

NickRP
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Post by NickRP » October 18th, 2006, 2:57 pm

I think that the reason behind this is basic misunderstanding of what is going on in the engine management system, and what are the tasks it is supposed to do. Risking to be criticized, I will say that rate of change (improvements/time derivative) of the EMS is far higher than for any other part of the car. Who would try to learn hard, when it is going to be changed in few years, anyway? This is how the mess started.

Then it comes to human psychology... People do not have sufficient knowledge, but often want to increase their car peroformance. What would they do? Price and advertized power increase are often the only parameters looked into. And then, it costs say GBP 150 to get a performance chip vs. GBP 800 to get flowed head (guessed numbers, but ratio should be fine)... (let's put aside for a moment the fact that flowed cylinder head would often require custom chip). And chip trader even claims higher MPG! Once the chip is installed, owners do feel the change. Let's face it, human body is a poor measuring device, but human brain is a perfect transducer... it makes that we see situation how we like to see it - and no one will gladly accept that the money he invested was actually wasted.

Just my 5 cents...

Regards,
Nikola

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Post by Julian » October 18th, 2006, 6:23 pm

I think we all agree on this one as pretty much the nastiest topic in the engine tuning world.

Part of the problem is that while there are lots of wrong ways of mapping an engine there is no one right way of doing it. I have dealings with one of the best mapping experts in the UK and he is constantly experimenting and coming up with new tricks. What does seem consistent though is that each installation is different. Any "mass produced" item is always going to be a compromise somewhere but very few people want to pay for the dedicated service needed for best results.

I will use the term "fuelling strategy" to encapsulate the techniques used by various manufacturers and tuners. Most aim for reliability over a broad range of engine conditions. To give an example one of my cars was until recently running the stock map provided by the manufacturer and by fluke my associate discovered that the strategy used was alarmingly wasteful of fuel for no apparent good reason. For the sake of an hours work he tweaked the map (thankfully the system is programmable by default) and made a huge difference to the fuel consumption without upsetting performance. The original strategy was dumping fuel at various points in the map - we can only guess this was to cool the cylinders as no other reason for it can be found. The new strategy runs a leaner profile but apparently generates less heat in the first place and has the convenience of a little more torque too.

A crude fuelling strategy does work and most engine maps I've witnessed for performance or racing seem to fall in this category. Often the car works well on the rolling road used for mapping but soon struggles on the road/track and ultimately the engine doesn't last very long. This is not always the case though, a more "considerate" strategy along these lines might keep the engine alive longer but can cause other problems. You probably wouldn't want to put the car through an emissions test either.

Sadly it takes a high degree of skill to map an engine properly and better still get it right first time. Something else that needs to be considered is the state of the engine and all too often the "tuner" neglects to consider an engine might be newly built and really needs a run-in map prior to generating the real map needed in a few hundred miles of use. This is just as likely to be the fault of the customer who just wants it done once. In the end the tuner is only providing the service that the customer demands rather than the service the customer needs. I am not advocating such a method of business but I can see how it can become the way business is handled.

What it comes down to is that there are a large number of self-professed mapping experts out there of which a fair number are suitably skilled but how many have the skill and can claim to be honest and considerate?

To make matters worse how many people are simply fitting the wrong management components based on advice "from a friend" or anyone simply not qualified to offer such advice (including some of those tuning businesses)?

I've personally experienced a fair number of people who thought they were giving me good expert opinion or expertise in this matter and while their intentions may have been good the proof has ultimately been just how long the engine lasted (in the worst case this was just 6 miles).

As a final statement (before I just start rambling) I would say that the single biggest issue is the mass-market upgrades and components being sold. As I've already stated this is a very individual process and certainly not the domain of a mass-produced solution even if the hardware could be generic to some degree. Car manufacturers spend immense quantities of money creating the maps for their cars - why do so many people think they can do better? I'm not saying you can't do better but do you really expect to pay ‚£100 and witness a miracle upgrade?

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Post by Guy Croft » October 19th, 2006, 9:02 am

Well said Nick, Julian, we three have an accord on this, even if no-one else joins in it makes me feel better.

I am bombarded with phone calls from lost souls about this issue, as soon as I hear 'I'm fitting throttle bodies' I know the caller has lost the plot. Throttle bodies seem to have supplanted even 'slap on a turbo' and 'thinking of fitting a 16v head'.

I'm sick to death of all this 'chip upgrade/remap' nonsense and it's killing off traditional engine 'tuning', it really is.

I like to treat people equally, and be helpful, but this is typical:

'Hello mate, I'm after some advice if you could..? (sic) I've fitted throttle bodies and the garage can't get it to run right..'

There then follows something along the lines of 'pulling hens' teeth' where GC tries painfully to ellicit details of the car, engine type and state of mod/tune, what it's being used for (invariably just a 'road car'), what all the hardware is (incl cam/s), who built it, who supplied the injection system, who mapped it, how long they spent doing it, what the power/torque was..

Of course the caller will inevitably 'not know any of this' (or will prefer not to disclose), and asks if the garage can call me (they never do) and protests that he's spent 'thousands', but none of it where he should have done. This happens every two days.

It's outrageous, really.


GC

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Post by petert » October 19th, 2006, 10:58 am

I don't believe the ECU has advanced, or is advancing, all that fast really. I've been involved ith aftermarket ECU's since 1990. Other than a change to sequential from batch firing about 10-12 yrs ago, injection hasn't really changed. ie fire 15ms of fuel @ 3 Bar once per engine cycle. Sure, ignition has improved, but mostly through the reliabilty of wasted spark/direct fire. You still have to fire at the same point in the cycle.

There was a substantial improvement around '95-96 when processor speed became fast enough to process Motronic input signals at high RPM's. But as an example, you don't really need a Pentium PIV when a 486 will do the job adequately. The speed of modern production engines hasn't increased much past 8000 RPM.

What has changed however, is the software that is used to control the hardware. Lots of little extras have been added to make that tuning experience so much sweeter (sarcasm). The reality is, you can still put a quality 10-15 year old aftermarket ECU on any engine today and make exactly the same hp/torque figures as you would with a new one. (I actually prefer to work in DOS!)

I agree that most tuners probably don't understand the basics of electronic injection and how it relates to what's coming out the exhaust pipe and through the wheels.

Acki

Post by Acki » October 19th, 2006, 11:12 am

I think with a good ecu you can "find" some power.
Racing Uno <-> Punto GT.
40Nm more torque because of the overboost and 21hp more.

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Post by Guy Croft » October 19th, 2006, 11:26 am

Whether ecus have improved or not they all still need mapping up and my big problem with the whole ecu thing is that it needs mapping at all.
Why? Because there are many people around the world getting in real difficulties over ecu calibration and that is bad for the tuning business as a whole.

Scenario 1.
Reputable engine builder sells engine with cam type X and head setup Y etc and maps it on his bench dyno and sells the whole package. That's fine (until next owner rebuilds engine to a slightly different spec) and I could name a number of reputable firms who do that - and very well too.

Scenario 2 - Bad
Owner buys a whole load of tuning parts for an engine with injection as OE fitment doesn't realise the standard ecu won't offer the right fuelling parameters (and that's just the ecu). And maybe it's not 'remappable'.

Scenario 3 - Bad
As above but the engine was not originally fuel injected but he wants it to be so adds to his shopping list a whole series of of injection bits and pieces. Where does he get the ecu to drive it all on that combination?

There are not nearly enough tried and tested, fully optimised 'complete package' kits for fuel injection, that is the real problem. It's just not good enough to sell this kind of stuff and say, that needs 'mapping up', and I try to dissuade potential clients from getting involved in this kind of thing.

And, every time I speak to a FI specialist I say, 'it's about time someone launched a 'self-learning' FI system that programmes itself I'm told, 'oh, yes, they do exist'...

Well - where are they? Bolt on and drive, totally self calibrating. I don't happen to think it's that that difficult to design, in principle.

In my view, this 'mapping' thing is well past its sell by date.
Look, the output at the flywheel is the sum total of the torque developed at every load point, not just the 'chosen few' on a hot engine at full throttle.
The current ecu process is fine (maybe) for production cars where you can spend weeks calibrating but, speaking as a race engine builder with much to gain from having access to something better I would say that the aftermarket systems are far too much at risk of inaccurate or inadequate mapping (attention to load sites), far too expensive and completely inflexible.


GC

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Post by sumplug » October 19th, 2006, 12:46 pm

Here Here.
I think this needs to snowball into a crusade to get back to the "real world" of car tuning. Fitting throttle bodies should not be this massive task of ECU and mapping. Why cannot the Ecu read and self map it self? Seems if you are a computer geek, then mapping can be done with one of the aftermarket items, but lets be real, who is capable of doing it. Not me for one. Cannot see why it cannot be fit and plug in and away you go.
Ecu chipping worries me. Ive come across a number of cars with blown engines. One was a Fiat Coupe 20vt With a chip replacement. The chip was so violent on the boost, it virtually blew the engine apart!! Chip company well known and begins with N. Its not the only Coupe out there with this problem.
Having said that, remapped diesels seem to drive very well, but ive yet to drive a remapped petrol car that drove any better after its remap. There is always a compromise.
Is the self learning ECU the answer to most potential tuning problems?

Andy.

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Post by Julian » October 19th, 2006, 12:54 pm

Guy - I was rather gutted a couple of weeks ago to discover that my secret plans for a self optimising management system have been "duplicated" (I dont mean stolen - just someone else had exactly the same idea) while I've been busy with life and other projects for the last few years. I would post the link here but I can't remember where I found about this but if anyone else knows where the news article was I would like to find it again. The key element was the use of genetic algorithms to provide the optimisation.

How "commercial" the system would be is another matter. Much of the difficulty - as discussed recently here on the site (on the subject of injectors) - is coming up with a suitable feedback system that allows the learning mechanism to experiment without risking damage to the engine. Any self learning system is also likely to need much more computing power than is currently used for management systems.

I have to agree with the three scenarios though. I first came into contact with Wolfdirect Racing because they were the only ones willing to quote for a complete system rather than just an engine - everyone else that I approached regarded the management system as something you just bolt on rather than an integral part of the engine.

I've been through the second scenario in my early days and generally came to the conclusion that smashing my head repeatedly against a brick wall while standing barefoot in a bed of burning coals would be more enjoyable and more likely to give a reliable result.

In defense of the aftermarket systems the biggest distinguishing factor seems to be not how good the management software is, they are all very good (with some possible exceptions). Rather it is how easy to map they are that makes the real difference. I agree that it is all well and good where you have a huge budget (in terms of time and money) to get it right but for anything else the tuner needs to be able to operate very quickly and accurately to make the effort feasible.

Most tuners keep a library of base-maps that allow them to load up a useable starting point instead of building something from scratch every time. This saves an awful lot of time and provides an instant result. You can imagine how pleased a customer is if the engine can be heard starting within a few minutes of commencing work. That is just the start of the work though and a full-on race engine with large inlets and an aggresive cam profile is likely to be much harder to start in the first place.

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Post by petert » October 20th, 2006, 4:11 am

sumplug wrote:Here Here.
Why cannot the Ecu read and self map it self?
Some can. eg the Autronic SMC, so long as you have an analyzer with a linear 0-1V output. 20mins driving and it's done. You have RPM/load points into which you enter the desired AFR.

I haven't many RPM sites in (they're useable selectable), but you get the idea.
Attachments
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Post by Guy Croft » October 20th, 2006, 7:58 am

Peter, hi

I cannot call up Autronic's website, http://www.autronic.com

Apart from that minor problem, if you know the system let's assume: you have a normlaly aspirated engine fitted with 'throttle bodies', throttle position sensor, and the injectors have been correctly selected, fuel pump, regulator installed, crank trigger, other necessary sensors of air temp, coolant temp and so forth, assume all that's missing is the ecu to run the motor.

You have an Autronic ecu in front of you, talk me through what happens next for:

1. Initial cold start
2. Warm-up phase calibration
3. Calibration under load at varying throttle.
4. Anything else you can think of..

Maybe we need other ancillary equipment, say a Lambda sensor or air/fuel ratio sensor. I do not know what you are referring to with 'analyzer with a linear 0-1V output', please explain.

This is an educational forum among other things. Mapping being my 'bete noire', I'd very much like to know how different this Autronic is from anything else, and what electronic gizmos are needed to set it up (on-board laptop, plug-in software, interface etc) particularly in terms of how much the owner can do himself, because as far as I can tell with other systems he cannot do much at all.

GC

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Post by NickRP » October 20th, 2006, 8:11 am

petert wrote:Some can. eg the Autronic SMC, so long as you have an analyzer with a linear 0-1V output. 20mins driving and it's done. You have RPM/load points into which you enter the desired AFR.
I am also thinking of implementing this. Can you give some explanation about how the 20 minutes of driving should look like?

What about ignition map, is there an aftermarket system offering self learning there?

BTW, I disagree with you about the rate of improvement of engine management systems. Today many (I dare to say majority of) cars have throttle by wire with torque control, multiple lambda sensors, some sort of intake tract variable geometry, variable valve timing and many many more. All that being EMS controlled. If that's not huge improvement, I don't know what is.

Regards,
Nikola

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Post by Guy Croft » October 20th, 2006, 8:42 am

I don't want this thread to drift off topic, it's important. But I do want to just make a couple of points.

But I do wish there was more sophistication in the power supply system for cars with so much computer dependence. My wife's Range Rover, to name but one, is virtually fly-by-wire, and goes completely 'haywire' if the battery supply drops below a certain threshold. Something like a backup power supply, volt meter (!) to tell you everything's OK (if you can imagine such a crude thing in a modern car). There's an awful lot riding on the behaviour of the old 'alternator/battery' delivery. Plus if, as an aside, heaven forbid, a fanatic does ever let off an atomic weapon, or there is serious burst of solar flare radiation, we'll all wish we had ignition with contact breakers and carburettors. Are any non-military vehicles shielded at all against radiation? I don't imagine that is a commercial consideration for one minute, but maybe it should be...

GC

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Post by petert » October 20th, 2006, 11:48 am

Lamda sensors (both wide band and narrow band) do not have a linear output. They are very sensitive around lamda 1.0, approx. 0.6V. So to get something a human (or a program) can make sense of, it needs to be converted to a linear output. Have a look at this data page for an M&W Uego, you'll get the idea. It has a 0-5V output.

http://www.mwignitions.com/pdf/UegInf8.pdf

The Autronic SMC (or SM2) can be hooked up like any other ECU with a narrow band sensor to do closed loop mode at light throttle openings. However, you can't autotune from it. You need to buy a an analyzer similar to the M&W Uego, or Autronic's. They aren't cheap, but give fast and accurate AFR's.

So once you've got hardware organised, you enter the RPM and load sites you want. I've only put a few in, but you can put them at any RPM and any % load. Then fill in the table with your desired AFR's. Go for a drive that forces the car into all those load points, a few times, and basically it's all over. The default setting is 2% accuracy.

Ignition timing can only be done correctly on a dyno, watching the torque readout as you make adjustments.

There's similar tables for cold start, injector phasing etc. (Autronic is a full sequential system).

The % load can be either derived from manifold pressure or throttle position, depending on the application. 100% load would be WOT on a naturally aspirated engine. Over 100% for boost on a turbo.

I hope that answers the questions. Best to download the SMC software and have a fiddle. I don't find the Autronic software as intuitive as say Haltech, but it's aimed at the race market, not hot street. Autronic and Motec were designed by the same person, so you'll notice lots of similarities if you're Motec savvy. We're blessed in Australia having the big three, Motec, Autronic and Haltech all local manufacturers.

SteveNZ

Post by SteveNZ » October 21st, 2006, 12:02 am

I dont understand all the confusion. The problems that Guy suggest do not seem to be an issue in this part of the world, Australia and New Zealand. I believe the culture in the UK is quite different from here though.

Carbs, EFI and chips all have their place. But you need to unerstand what that place is. For the record, In NZ, chips are rare. Aftermarket EFI is very common. Carbs are virtually unused except for classics and old V8's.

If you wanted your car with EFI tuned in Auckland, New Zealand. There would be 5-10 tuners, some better than others, ready to help you out. If you wanted your car with carbs tuned you would have far less choice.

The basic going rate is about $500 for a full tune on an entry level system. Tuning a set of carbs can cost just as much.

There would be 10 different ecu's on the market for most cars, price ranges from $900-$2000 and that usually gets you everything you need to run a factory engine. A set of 40DCOE's cost $1000 plus all the fitting parts. I dont see a huge difference in price.

As for self tuning. Why is self tuning EFI so important when a carb will never be able to self tune. Tuning an efi system takes experence just like a carb. Most people are experenced with one or the other.

Self tune functions are far from perfect. They can only ever be as good as their design limits. It is a very difficult function to design.

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