It's In The Map
Maps are the blueprints your vehicle runs off of and can be divided into two categories, real time and base. Both real and base maps are at the core of your vehicle's electronic engine management. A base map is comprised of a list of set numbers, tables, and parameters that your engine uses to default to and build off of. Real-time maps are constantly adjusting parameters as the vehicle encounters factors such as elevation, load, acceleration, and temperature. While programmer companies remain tight-lipped about their exact tuning calibrations and methods, we have learned that many choose to create modified real-time maps to layer with a custom or standard base map. What does all this really mean? It's still all a little bit of black magic to us as well, but there is an easier way of looking at it. Think of a performance tune as installing the newest version of your favorite Internet browser onto your home computer. The new browser is designed to work faster, smarter, and overall better, without damaging your computer or removing any features that you already enjoy.
Data logging is a tuning service feature that allows you to individually review and monitor readings from your engine. It also allows you to track and compare performance data. This gives you the ability to compare performance numbers before and after engine upgrades such as an intake and exhaust system. While there are many levels of data logging, the most basic and highly informative are available on many of the latest handheld programmers.
We've tested many programmers over the years on various diesel, gas, and high-boosted engines. While performance results have varied, the utility of the programmer has been invaluable. The ability to clear and read DTCs (diagnostic trouble codes) earns most programmers their keep right out of the box. And with options like tire size, gear ratio, and idle control all part of these new operating systems, programmers have also become a must-have for anyone with a lifted late-model 4x4.
When most people think of computer tuning they often think of laptops. In a certain way this association is accurate because most handheld programmers are in essence mini laptops with simplified operating systems. Do PC-based systems still have the upper hand? Yes, but only when in the hands of an experienced professional. Most PC-based tuning software is designed to work in conjunction with a vehicle dyno. A well-trained dyno tech can create a custom tune specifically for your vehicle. While a dyno session is not cheap, for those with high-performance engines and aftermarket turbo- and supercharger kits it's a sound way to ensure that your vehicle is getting the most performance safely.
So what if the only onboard diagnostics system you have is your buddy in the passenger seat? Well, there is still hope! Professional Products has developed the Powerjection III fuel injection conversion, which combines modern technology with old-school engines. Part of what makes the system so unique is its built-in computer, which is fixed to the side of the throttle body. Provided with the kit are software and a special USB plug that allow you to finely tune the injection system. Though it's not exactly plug-and-play, it's very straightforward and comes with step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow.
If your ride is pre-1996 and equipped with an OBD-I computer port, then there are tuning options for you as well, namely the plug-in style chips that simply piggyback on your vehicle's onboard computer. While not as advanced as the OBD-II programmers, plug-in chips are still a valuable way to increase the performance of your ride.
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