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Aftermarket EMS FAQ (read first!)
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linuxman51 Offline
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Post: #1
Lightbulb Aftermarket EMS FAQ (read first!)
Over the years I've noticed a lot of the same types of questions being asked (and no doubt, on some level they will continue to be asked), so in an effort to reduce headaches and confusion, let's put together a FAQ for people new to aftermarket engine management, or chip tuning, or piggy back systems.

Other Options
Why is this first? Generally speaking, because people are either not aware of, or just generally unfamiliar with, alternatives. And EMS is tossed around in the same general way that cams and turbos are tossed around.

Chip tuning

This has gathered steam recently, and is certainly a very viable alternative at *least* to the 300hp mark. Is it perfect? Nah-but nothing is. It is cost effective and probably the least likely to leave your car inoperable for great lengths of time

Check here for more info: http://www.jetronic.info/wiki/tiki-index.php



1. Why an aftermarket EMS?

This is no light question, and is often overlooked by people new on the 'scene'. Why do you feel the need to make the jump? What are you trying to do with your vehicle that cannot be accomplished with the stock ECU(s)? I think there's a bit of a misnomer that EMS's are a lot like "chips", in that you just hook it up and it works, and you can make 10,000 hp's. The reality here is that it is anything BUT simple, even if you have a wealth of information available to you, ESPECIALLY if you've never tuned a car before (not a tune-up, tuned). This is not something to be treated as a checkbox on a mod list.

2. What are your goals?

This goes hand in hand with #1 (as will most things). What is it, *exactly*, that you're trying to do? Are you missing a specific feature that a factory system cannot provide? Have you exceeded the limits of the factory system? Simply bolting on a giant turbo doesn't mean you must run megasquirt (or VEMS, or whatever), esp with the recent strides made in chip tuning for LH equipped cars. If you're simply needing a stationary rev limiter, for instance, there are many ways to achieve this without ditching the stock system.

3. Who will be tuning the car/installing the system?

If you plan on taking the car somewhere to get it tuned after you (or someone else) installs the system, you should ask them first what they are good at/prefer to tune. Depending on where you go, getting a car tuned can range from $50 to $200 an hour, and if you bring a megasquirted car to an AEM shop (for instance), it's going to take additional time for them to familiarize themselves with the software and nuances of the different system. Now, it should be said that any competent tuner *should* be able to use anything; however in the real world, tracking down software (if you didn't provide a laptop already pre-configured), versions, etc takes time that you will probably be billed for, so this is no small consideration. Saving $200 up front on a cheaper system could cost you a lot more than that down the road if you're not the person tuning it.

By the same token, you should download and at least look at the tuning software for whichever system you plan to use, if for no other reason than to ensure that it will work on your computer.

4. Which System should I buy?

Playing off of #3 a bit, since that could answer this question for you. But thought needs to go in here. Do not listen exclusively to market hype for any particular product.. by and large, *most* available systems will work fairly well on a basic level, so you need to decide before you start shopping things out, what features you want to have, what features you *must* have , and also how much you want to spent. Obviously, if money were no object, we'd all be running top of the line motec systems, but that's rarely the case. Once you have your budget and features requirements in hand, talk to your tuner if you're going that route, or start looking at the systems that meet the requirements and cost. Then, if possible, you should try and track down someone local who has the system and see if they'll talk to you about it/let you look at it/see how their car performs. You can also call tuners/shops, and ask them what systems they've used, what they like and why, and occasionally that can lead to a price break if they're a dealer for whatever system you're looking at.


Truths about EMS's
These are some things I've noticed/seen over the years:
1) It is never as easy as everyone says it is (wiring it up, tuning it, etc)

2) It is never as cheap as everyone says it is (unless you're buying a literal drop in, all inclusive system, and even then it might not be)

3) It will take you more than a day to figure out the basics

4) It will take you more than a month to figure out all of the nuances

5) It isn't often the ECU's fault when something isn't working correctly (this one is hard to swallow)

6) Marketing hype is just that. BrandX advertising a massive 128x128 fuel table vs BrandY's 48x48. This is just hype. The reality is, either Brand X's firmware/processor is lacking in ability to accurately interpolate between points, or the marketing department is driving the development department. The end result is that it takes 10 times longer to tune Brand X's system.

7) Don't judge a system by a single user. We could call this the "megasquirt" rule, but it really applies across the board. So the person who has the system you want, their car runs like shit. It happens. As often as not it was either the result of a sorry tooner (Be it the owner or the shop they took it to), poor choice in mods, an incomplete tune, or whatever. Focus more on things like 'how hard was it to get working' and then add 50% more time.

8) Don't buy just because of additional features you'll never use. Most people don't end up using anywhere near all the features of a given system, and depending on what/how the additional features are implemented it could create other headaches down the road.





This is just a start, other suggestions observations by others will be added as time goes.
09-21-2011 10:36 AM
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gsellstr Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Aftermarket EMS FAQ (read first!)
Nicely done Kenny!

One comment about chips. Just because they work with xxx's car and the same mods as yours doesn't mean they will work with your car. BTDT, went MS because of it and other issues.

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09-21-2011 02:52 PM
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badvlvo Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Aftermarket EMS FAQ (read first!)
This thread is now STUCK, nice work Kenny.

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09-21-2011 03:49 PM
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scottyd Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Aftermarket EMS FAQ (read first!)
(09-21-2011 10:36 AM)linuxman51 Wrote:  6) Marketing hype is just that. BrandX advertising a massive 128x128 fuel table vs BrandY's 48x48. This is just hype. The reality is, either Brand X's firmware/processor is lacking in ability to accurately interpolate between points, or the marketing department is driving the development department. The end result is that it takes 10 times longer to tune Brand X's system.

Not that this has happened to anybody you know.

Very well written though.

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09-21-2011 05:52 PM
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blackv Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Aftermarket EMS FAQ (read first!)
HEY THANKS! U SAVED ME SOME CHEESE, PUSH THE FACTORY ECU TO THE LIMIT
09-21-2011 06:48 PM
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Gross Polluter Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Aftermarket EMS FAQ (read first!)
Something I'll add in this thread that seems to be a HUGE issue on not only this forum, but on TB and even MSextra forums as well: RTFM!

The instruction manual for ANY aftermarket EMS is an invaluable resource for common questions such as pinouts, wiring, function explanations, and user interface navigation. I've seen some people make the excuse that they never received a manual when they bought their ECU second hand. Thankfully, these manuals can be obtained online.

MSExtra manuals- These are the only manuals anyone should use with their Megasquirt ECU as it's currently the only updated documentation. Any other resource such as the B&G forums and Megamanual should not be used as most of the information found within those resources is now obsolete.

MoTeC
AEM EMS-The instruction manuals are included with the software
Haltech
Electromotive
Link
hYdra EMS
ViPEC

If you can't find the information you're looking for in the manual then the forum for your EMS is another fantastic resource. Odds are, someone else has already had the same question as you and those questions have been asked on the forum specific to that engine management. How's that saying go? SEARCH, NEWB!

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from asking questions, I'm trying to encourage people asking the RIGHT questions. It's unlikely you're going to get any sort of useful help when you ask questions that you could have answered yourself if you had read the manual.

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10-18-2011 04:33 AM
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cjsafski Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Aftermarket EMS FAQ (read first!)
For those taking the MS route or probably any route and are still in college, I recommend taking a basic electronics course. It's not absolutely necessary but it may clear up some of the mysticism involved with electronics. All the info on basic electronics is online if you search around. This way your not wiring hots to ground like the headlight switch was on my car when I bought it lol.

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10-18-2011 10:41 AM
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