Since you bought your car or truck, have you ever thought of tuning its ECM diesel components? Sure, a standard ECM still offers better fuel economy and engine performance, but that's not enough in this day and age.
According to statistics, tuning ECM diesel components can save trucking companies up to 228 million liters of fuel per year. Putting this in dollar figures, this amounts to 200 million dollars per year.
How is this possible?
By simply limiting the highway speeds and engine speeds of your engine. All these functions can be done via ECM tuning. And what more can ECM tuning do for your engine? A lot more.
Read on to learn everything about ECM diesel engine tuning and why you should do it.
First, let's handle the basics.
The ECM is the brain behind your car's engine. It is simply a computer that monitors how your car's diesel engine is performing and tunes it to the most efficient parameters.
This component operates a lot like your household computer. The ECM diesel components are made up of a couple of sensors which measure data such as air flow mass rate, oxygen concentration, and engine temperature. This data is then fed as input to the system.
The input is then processed by an onboard computer which adjusts several components of the engine and the car itself, so as to ensure the vehicle's performance is at its peak.
This hardware, which consists of a basic circuit board with an electronic chip, processes its data based on the software programmed into it. In most cases, this program is installed into the ECM by the vehicle/ECM manufacturer.
The ECM primarily ensures that your car is running at peak values of fuel efficiency and power output while maintaining emissions at the bare minimum.
For instance, when you step on the throttle, the throttle position sensor sends its data to the ECM chip. The software running the chip analyzes this data against data on the air flow mass rate and fuel pressure. The ECM diesel chip then decides which air-fuel ratio would fit those running conditions.
But the ECM is not just concerned about your car's engine.
The Traction Control System in most modern vehicles is also monitored by the ECM diesel components. The ECM gets data from sensors put on the wheels and depending on which wheel has insufficient grip, the chip inside the ECM instructs the engine to reduce power flow to that wheel.
The end result is that your car tends to handle better. Additionally, it also saves fuel by reducing the amount of wheel slip. This makes it more fun and reliable to drive.
On the safety side, modern ECM also manages your car's Electronic Stability Control and Anti-Lock Brake System.
Why are these two system's important?
The Electron Stability Control (ESC) ensures that your car stays on the road, in the case that you lose control of it.
The array of sensors that monitor the car's stability send data to the ECM and if the chip predicts that you will lose control of the car, it sends data to the car engine to say, cut power supply to the wheels.
The Anti-Lock Brake System, on the other hand, prevents wheel lock when you apply emergency brakes. This action prevents you from losing control of your car and skidding off the road.
The importance of the ECM in diesel engines has become so huge, that by 2016 the market was worth 33.5 billion dollars.
The other components of the vehicle monitored by the ECM, apart from the ones aforementioned, work satisfactorily for most drivers. However, when it comes to the engine, a lot can be changed.
This is done through ECM diesel tuning. Alternatively, this process is also known as chipping/remapping.
So what is it?
ECM diesel tuning is a process where the software running your ECM is finely tuned to new parameters. The end goal of this process is to generate more engine power, improve fuel efficiency and drop the emission values even further.
ECM tuning is done on stock ECM diesel components that came with your truck or vehicle when you bought it. This is done in two different ways.
One way is that the ECM's software gets completely flushed with a new one-size-fits-all software. What this means is that the software that gets fed into the ECM chip will optimize your engine's performance, but it has not been custom built for your car's engine.
The other way chipping can be done is by running your engine several times on the dynamometer. Instead of loading in a one-size-fits-all software, the ECM diesel chip is finely-tuned to fit the exact parameters of your engine. This is done across the rev range.
The latter procedure yields better improvements in power and fuel economy, but it is more expensive.
ECM tuning primarily yields three results. These are more power, better fuel efficiency, and reduced exhaust emissions. And on top of these, there are more advantages you can yield.
Read on get in-depth.
Tuning your ECM diesel components can amp up your car or truck's power output to the tune of 30 horsepower to 70 horsepower.
The best thing about this amp up in power is that it needs no significant change in hardware at all. The ECM diesel chip is simply tuned to take in more air from your engine's air intake or turbo boost. The air-fuel ratio is then fine-tuned to a more stoic ratio.
The air-fuel ratio can either be rich, lean or stoic. A rich ratio has more fuel than air while on the other hand, a lean ratio has more air than fuel. Stoic ratios have the right proportion of air and fuel and produce the most power when burned in the engine.
How is better fuel efficiency achieved in ECM diesel tuning?
One way is by adjusting the air-fuel ratio. Since a stoic ratio means optimum power being produced by the engine, tuning the ECM chip to produce such ratios increases the efficiency of the engine.
This is because, a larger chunk of a gallon of gas contributes to propelling your car or truck forward, thus providing higher fuel economy values.
Another way is by managing engine and car speed. The ECM can be tuned to limit the car to a given maximum engine and car speed. Such alterations in trucks can improve fuel economy drastically.
Matter of fact, increasing your cruising speed from 55mph to 75mph can drop fuel efficiency by 20%. The ECM can be programmed to ensure engine speeds never surpass this limit.
This is an after-effect of better fuel economy. Since the combustion of fuel and air in the diesel engine is more complete, the number of greenhouse gases produced drastically reduces.
The advantage of reduced exhaust emissions can be viewed from two standpoints. The environmental and legal ones.
From the environmental standpoint, reduced exhaust emissions translate to a reduced carbon footprint for you and your trucking company. This reduces the chances of global warming and gives your company a better environmental rating.
But from a legal standpoint, several states and countries have enacted stringent emission rules on trucks and vehicles operating within their jurisdiction. ECM diesel tuning can ensure you are operating your truck within legal pollution levels.
A better engine response can be largely attributed to the increased engine torque due to ECM diesel tuning. Increasing the engine torque means that the car is able to accelerate faster.
This increase in responsive performance not only makes the truck easier to drive, but also it becomes sturdier in pulling cargo uphill.
ECM tuning is a very delicate process that should be done by professionals. Nonetheless, there are some side-effects that are inevitable once this procedure has been done. Find them below.
If you tune your ECM diesel components after receiving a factory update from the manufacturer, chances are these updates may be uninstalled by the re-flash.
On the other hand, once tuning has been done, the ECM chip may no longer receive factory updates. This behavior varies from one ECM to the other, depending on the manufacturer.
In the severe case where your engine misbehaves immediately after an ECM diesel tuning, it can be hard to tell whether the misbehavior is due to the new software or the engine actually has a hiccup.
What this means is that it is near impossible to reinstall the original software. It is thus important that a qualified technician handles the process.
If you chip your ECM then sell your engine/vehicle, the money you used for the process can hardly recoup. This is because the re-flash file is irremovable.
In practice, any engine with an ECM can be up for tuning. This covers both the spectrum of diesel and petrol engines. However, the big difference comes in how the engines suck their air in.
Naturally aspirated engines do not yield much of a boost from tuning. This is because they suck in air from the surroundings unassisted. Thus, only little adjustments are possible in the air intake.
On the other hand, turbo boosted diesel engines benefit the most from ECM tuning. This is because more adjustments can be made to the air intake and fuel-air ratio to boost either performance or fuel economy.
It beats logic that you would have to go such a long way to change the manufacturer's ECM setup of your engine. However, as you will learn from reading below, most engines are never at their optimum setup.
Let us view this first from the business setup.
Most car companies manufacture a series of car models that run on the same engine platform. The more the engine's performance, the more premium the car is.
However, the small differences in horsepower between the lower end and higher end vehicles normally lie on the ECM programming. The higher-end vehicles are usually tuned to more optimum parameters that contribute to the increased performance.
But from the reliability point of view, manufacturers offer stock ECM software that improves vehicle reliability over performance. This means that your vehicle can work with almost any grade of fuel, and needs fewer trips to the service station.
This setup is ideal for the real world as it cuts across all markets with different grades of fuel.
Chipping does not affect much of the functionality of the ECM. The same diagnosis for a stock ECM is applicable to a chipped ECM.
The check engine light can illuminate when there's a problem with the ECM or one of its sensors. Most of the times, it's the ECM sensors that tend to fail.
However, the check engine light may be triggered for no apparent reason at times. It is important that whenever this light flashes, the ECM is checked for Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs). These are logged to show which ECM components are malfunctioning.
If your engine suddenly stalls, or it refuses to start, then there might be a problem with the ECM. Still, a scan should be done to ascertain the exact root of the problem.
This is a telltale sign of a faulty ECM, especially after it has been chipped. This is because peak performance should be expected.
A reduction in engine performance can be an indication of a poor fuel to air ratio, or reduced air mass flow rate. All these functions are regulated by the ECM.
ECM diesel tuning is definitely the way to go to improve your vehicle or truck's engine performance. Once you have decided to tune your ECM, make sure you get in touch with a professional service provider who will give you value for money.
If you still have questions that you need answered, please reach out to us.
Posted On: 27/04/2018