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Hagerty Employee

ECU and EFI 101: A beginner's guide to performance tuning | Hagerty Media

As he pulled into Toretto's Market & Cafe, Vince was disappointed with his '99 Nissan Maxima's performance after last night's street race. "Talk to me Jesse, this ain't working," he cried. "It's your fuel map!" said the scrawny cat as he climbed out of a modified '95 VW Jetta.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/ecu-and-efi-101-a-beginners-guide-to-performance-...
20 REPLIES 20
Advanced Driver

I’m an aging boomer with little aptitude for the subject, but own a forced induction EFI (MAP system) car that I run a programmable stand-alone on. You might have to be old for the analogy, but I’ve found trying to decipher this subject can make it seem like I’m listening to a “Flintstones” phone conversation. So I lean heavily on the trusted pros.
I enjoyed the read and looking forward to “ECU and EFI 201. And  Phillip...take $10 out of Hagerty petty cash for your trouble. 😉

Intermediate Driver

Re: Instead of tearing apart a fuel-filled carburetor or having to futz with distributor weights, you could just “chip it” and quickly pick up some performance". Well, I for one much prefer doing the former.
Advanced Driver

Good to know @gpsuya , but you missed the point of the article. On most any car built within the last 35 years or so,  you don’t have a carburetor OR a distributor. So your preference is irrelevant. 

Intermediate Driver

@JimR  Actually I didn't miss the point of the article at all. My thing is I'd rather buy an older car & play with it.

New Driver

So, grew up on dual carbs, dual points. Still prefer but... I have played with my 2013 Sonic RS. Suspension, brakes, and making the "pump" more efficient. Have spent lots of time with the calibration. It's fun and therapy. Plus, as an A-B, it has dropped ~three seconds in 1/4 mile time. Very traction limited. Lots of grim time. This year run some track days on road courses to see how the chassis works.
New Driver

I'm with gpsuya. Yes, you could argue modern tuning is more complicated than adjusting a carburetor, but there was much more to tuning back in the day than a simple carburetor adjustment. Today it sounds like all you have to do is read a screen, punch in a few buttons, and then head off for your next tattoo or piercing. No offense meant if computers, tattoos, or piercings are your thing. For me, there is some soul satisfying pleasure in figuring out cam specs, cam timing, compression ratio, ignition timing, and adjusting the old stuff. I own five cars and three motorcycles and it's about half and half as far as electronics vs. old school goes on those rides. I love 'em all.
Intermediate Driver

Something missed here is the learning curve. Back when carburetors and points were common if you wanted to go faster you were either going to have to learn or spend to do so, probably both. This kept new drivers in slower cars and as their knowledge and skill with tools increased so did their driving skill. Now a 16 year old can go on the internet and add a bucket full of horsepower to a car before the lamination on their drivers license is cold. While I agree with the right to repair, I also believe it needs to be tempered with explaining to the drivers of tomorrow that it is not something to be taken lightly.
New Driver

I grew up tuning 60's and 70's Chevy's doing tune ups every 3,000 - 3,500 miles. Later, I had a 1981 Mazda RX-7 with the double timing and a tree-like distributor rotor. The only plus to that ritual was that everything was accessible. I do miss doing the fine tuning with everything being EFI and controlled by the ECU.
Intermediate Driver

Having had to deal with GM dealership service managers who didn't have a clue about fixing my new 83 Trans Am check engine light problem, I tried to educate myself on electronic engine management. Back then there was nothing aftermarket available for a resource. No code readers except for the dealers & finally I started seeing more & more information. With a paperclip I got the codes myself by shorting out two connections on the OBD 1 plug. The final straw was when I took the car back to the dealer in Louisville, KY, where I bought it & said fix it. I was off for two weeks on a business trip & when I returned to pick up my car, they handed me a bill for "cleaning the carburetor" which was not covered under warrantee. I paid it & on the way home the check engine light came on again. Emission equipment is guaranteed for 50,000 miles but they found a way to get rid of me & make some money to boot W/O fixing the problem. I didn't want to circumvent the emission controls but at this point it was using a lot of gas & it was running real rich. At a junkyard I got a carburetor & distributor from a 79 Z28 Camaro. Installed them in one afternoon & I was up & running. Better fuel economy & running much stronger & no more dealers. Sometimes there's a reason for dealers to go out of business.