5 Things to Know Before Car Performance Tuning | Effective Tuning

5 Things to Know Before Car Performance Tuning | Effective Tuning

When it comes to tuning a car, there are several ways to go about the process. When it comes to the performance of your vehicle, you can modify just about anything. However, before you take your car into a shop, it’s important to have a clear concept of what you’re getting into and how to prepare. Here are five basic things you should know before getting your car tuned.

Set a clear tuning goal

Tuners can adjust your vehicle for speed, fuel efficiency and drivability by adjusting things like ignition timing, air-fuel ratios, spark plug gaps and engine chips. Essentially, your vehicle’s performance is in the hands of the tuner – and they need to know what it is you want to be done.

Performance tuning doesn’t just get your vehicle as close to perfect as possible – it goes above and beyond to dramatically improve various aspects of your drive. Communicate what you want to your tuner.

Are you getting your vehicle tuned for speed? Do you want an entirely upgraded fuel system with a nitrous tank put in? Do you want an ultra-smooth ride? These questions should form the reason behind why you want your car tuned. Determine the primary and secondary goals, then make sure you tell your tuner.

Invest in a tune-up

Before performance tuning your car, it’s critical that your car is in the best shape possible. A good tune-up will ensure that your vehicle is running at optimum efficiency before any performance tuning takes place. You should always take your car to the tuner when it’s running at its best, not when it needs help to run optimally.

When you take your car for a tune-up, tell the technician to run checks on all the critical parts of your vehicle, including the fuel injectors, carburettors and engine. If your engine is shot, no amount of performance tuning will make it run well. Invest in performance tuning only when your car is fit enough to be tuned.

Know your tuner

Anyone who has tuned their vehicle should know this rule by heart, but if you’re just starting out and thinking about tuning your car, this is a deal-breaker. Depending on where you live, there will be auto shops that professionally tune cars as well as guys living down the street who will offer to do it for you. Be incredibly careful where you tread when it comes to choosing a tuner.

All modern car engines are controlled by electronic control units (ECUs). Think of these as computers inside your vehicle that tell your car how to run. When you want to seriously tune your vehicle, a tuner can remap the ECU chip, mod the original settings and tailor the new settings to your specific engine. The result? You get a serious upgrade in terms of fuel economy and engine performance – if you have a tuner who knows what they’re doing.

If you try to save a few bucks and hire Joe down the street who worked on his cousin’s car once, well, you could end up having your engine blow up, instead.

Understand what you’re getting into

Tuning your car often turns into a serious process and is more time and money-intensive than originally expected. When you increase your vehicle’s power, there will be significantly more strain placed on the internal parts. This means that in addition to ECU remapping, you might also be looking at modifying engine parts, retooling your brakes, upgrading your suspension and even changing tires.

A lot of people looking to mod their cars don’t really care about this next tip, but be advised that you’ll have to report all changes to your insurance company. Mods nearly always result in an increase in your insurance premium.

If you’re on the fence about the whole process, share what you want to do and get a clear picture of the total monetary outlay from both your potential tuner and your insurance company.

Know the pros and cons of tuning

As great as tuning your car may be, it’s critical to understand the pros and cons of making significant changes to your vehicle. The pros are easy to see – you’ll improve horsepower and torque, enjoy faster acceleration, and get to play around with things like increased throttle response and intelligent shifting. However, there are some downsides that you should consider before you get into the process.

Most tuning will ensure your engine runs optimally, and to do that your engine will likely use more fuel. That means fewer miles per gallon. If mileage is something you don’t want to compromise, you might want to rethink getting a tune. You should also expect increased wear and stress on your engine, requiring you to purchase aftermarket mod parts or drive it with an understanding that your engine won’t last that long. Though not all tuning will wear out your engine, some tuning can and it’s important to have that conversation with your tuner.

Finally, if your car is under warranty, tuning it will give the car company reason to dismiss any claims you make during the warranty period. Tuning won’t void your vehicle’s warranty outright, but no claims will have to be paid out since the company can blame issues on your tune. 

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By Christine Evans

Christine Evans is the Director of Product Marketing & Content Strategy at Fictiv, an on-demand manufacturing company. Over the past six years, Christine has grown Fictiv’s popular Hardware Guide and Digital Manufacturing Resource Center, with over 2,000 teardowns, DFM guides, and mechanical design articles to help democratize access to manufacturing and hardware design knowledge.