We’ve said before that tuning your car is one of the best things that can be done to get the most bang for your buck regarding mods for your car. There can be a few different ways to achieve your goal for more power. Should you get a flash tune? Maybe a piggyback? It can be a little overwhelming at first, but let us to shed some light on the subject.
What is an ECU Tune?
Every modern car needs some sort of ECU, or engine control unit, to tell the engines multiple moving parts what to do and how to do it. ECU tunes adjust various settings based on various data points to optimize and get more out of how your engine performs. Car manufacturers set these variables to stay within a safe range and to give what they deem the appropriate amount of power to any particular vehicle. Auto Engineers focus on low emissions, smooth drivability, and various fuel types that may possibly be used by the end user. However, tuners have found a way to crack the code and start adjusting these values.
Why should I get a tune?
When you have a new intake, exhaust, or other mods, getting a tune will help you get the most out of the changes. It’s important to make your ECU aware of the additions. Not only does it allow you to get the most out of the new mods, but it ensures your engine is running as smoothly and reliably as possible. Always a good idea to make sure the ECU is aware of changes made. Some engines are also very receptive to tuning, with greater gains than normally seen. We've seen gas mileage get better in some cases as well.
As the name implies, a piggyback tune is a device that gets wired into the factory ECU and works in conjunction with the factory system. There are two schools of thought regarding how this typically works. The first is to intercept signals from the different various sensors before they reach the ECU and then modify those values on the fly to make the ECU behave the way the tune wants. The second method does it after the ECU sees the data from the sensors. The advantage to this route is that the ECU sees all the values as it wants, but on the back end it does not control what is happening after the fact as the piggyback has taken over from that point. The great thing about modern piggyback tuners over back in the day, is that many now actually have built in processors to help make the necessary changes and do the work to be way more effective.
There are tons of advantages to having a piggyback tune. Its pretty much a simple solution, mostly plug and play and there is no coding necessary, they are a great option for brand new cars that may be under warranty or not have a flash tune available yet. Some newer systems, like the piggyback tunes from RaceChip, even allow you to fine tune your tune via an app since some are bluetooth capable. They allow you to choose from 3 distinct performance modes which include the efficient ECO mode for saving fuel on commutes, sport mode for improved mid-range flexibility on open roads, and Race mode for max performance. It also doesn’t flag the system as a flash to the ECU counter, so its virtually invisible when scanned.
ECU Flash Tune
An ECU Flash tune is another tried and true tuning option. This works by taking the stock ECU of your car, and rewriting variables to act how the tuner wants. There are a lot of benefits to this, such as the customization of things like boost pressure, fueling, ignition timing, etc to maximize efficiency. Tunes can also be written to take different fuel types like e85. It’s also nice as its self contained since the stock ECU is already in place, it just rewrites the software. It can also be tuned to your specific engines modifications, though this is a little less common-place.
So there are some different options for an ECU tune, off the shelf vs a fully custom tune. Off the shelf tunes are pretty safe as they’ve been tried and tested by the tuner across many different vehicles. A benefit to this is that there are tons of options to choose from that are popular, especially within the North American VW/Audi community such as Unitronic, 034, Integrated Engineering, and more which you can get through us at UroTuning.com The great part is you know this tune will be pretty rock solid. Now if you have access to someone who can custom tune your car properly, that will ensure you have a bespoke tune that your specific engine can benefit from. If you go this route however, make sure it’s from a reputable tuner and flashed with something reliable like a Cobb Accessport as catastrophic failure can be costly.
So which should I choose?
Now that you know a little more about tuning options, let’s review and think about some things to consider before you proceed. If you want to add a little spice but don’t want to risk your warranty and just want a simple plug and play setup or maybe your ECU isn’t cracked yet, the piggyback tune is perfect. If you want to do more customization, an ECU flash is a great option for you, especially if you go with an off the shelf or know a reputable tuner who can provide a custom tune. The yields can definitely pack a punch. Both options are great starting points.
There you have it, some additional insight on methods to tune your car. Whether you want to just get a little pep in your cars step, or if you want to drop the hammer and go nuts and unleash the hidden potential of your car, there is a little something for everyone. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out as we are always willing to help! Our sales team will help you make the best decision for you.