What is ECU Tuning, and is It Worth It?
One of the most overstated and misunderstood concepts in the aftermarket is the need or desire to “get a tune”. If you watch movies or TV shows covering cars and trucks, tuning is often mentioned. But what does “getting tuned” mean, and what benefits does it offer? Is it worth your money, or just another fad? We’re going to dive into the world of aftermarket tuning capabilities and highlight why you may or may not want to explore the option.
What Is Getting a Tune All About?
Fuel injection has been around for decades, and controlling how the fuel, air, and ignition interact is the job of the ECU / ECM (engine control unit or engine control module). Early versions of the ECU had rudimentary settings that weren’t easily changed and required computer chips to be removed and replaced to make adjustments. Those are the days of the “chipped” ECUs and thankfully that technology has evolved into the laptop and handheld revolution we enjoy today. Your current ECUs come standard from the manufacturer with a calibration (or tune) that has settings for fuel input and combustion ignition timing based on the oxygen (or simply air) going into the engine. Those settings for fuel input and ignition timing change based on the RPM or speed of the engine, the density of air (i.e. the amount of oxygen) going into the engine, and the amount of oxygen detected in the exhaust gasses leaving the engine after combustion. These settings are calibrated for a balance between horsepower, noise level, exhaust gas emissions, and fuel mileage. The process of ECU tuning adjusts the base settings to further optimize the air, fuel, and ignition settings.
What Are the Benefits of ECU Tuning?
ECU tuning is often associated with adding aftermarket parts such as a new high-flow cold air intake or a higher-flowing exhaust. More airflow into the engine means you may need to adjust the amount of fuel added for proper combustion. Less restriction in the exhaust can also indicate similar changes are required. While those simple changes can be made, tuning the ECU can offer more benefits such as:
    • Adjusting closed loop fuel maps, ignition timing, ECM controlled turbo response, and target boost pressure
    • Clearing error codes when changing parts
    • Smoothing twitchy or sluggish throttle control into a gradual throttle response
    • The throttle response can also be increased from mild to very aggressive
    • The factory rev limiter can be increased
    • Addition of an adjustable standing launch limiter (launch control)
    • The "rev hang" can be adjusted to be softened or removed completely
    • On-the-fly boost map switching can be made active between maps
    • Addition of a “valet” mode to reduce horsepower for other drivers

If you notice a theme with the listed changes, it’s not all about maximizing horsepower output. It’s more about increasing horsepower, but also increasing the usability of that newfound power. Most newer turbocharger applications (i.e. response and boost pressure) are controlled electronically, which requires adjustment through the ECM. The manufacturer ECU may have some limitations on features, and adding many new options may require an aftermarket ECU to accomplish your long-term goals.

Is Getting an ECU Tune Worth Your Time and Money?
It’s always hard to answer the question if something is worth your time and hard-earned money. Everyone wants more power, especially more usable power, but there isn’t a resounding yes for all situations. Another question that should be asked is if any changes of parts or ECU tuning will void any part of a warranty if you still have a warranty on your vehicle. It may be a better option to enjoy what you have rather than affect your warranty. And lastly, does your local area have inspections or emissions requirements that you should be aware of before modifying your vehicle? They may not be a reason to avoid modifications, but it may add a level of difficulty if you need to remove or replace items before an inspection period. If there are no restrictions, then it may be time to find a reputable shop or store that can answer your questions and help you purchase the ECU tuning that best fits your wants and needs.
Two Step Performance offers two KTuner packages that offer many options for more usable horsepower and additional features. The KTunerFlash V1.2 tuning package comes with a single KTuner hardware unit paired with a single user license for the KTuner Software. It includes our famous TSP Stage 1 map for Si or Non-Si Honda models. This unit allows datalogging and reflashing right over your factory OBD2 port and can be returned to the manufacturer settings in the future. It has Bluetooth connectivity for peripherals and the TunerView Android app, plus it can be used to diagnose any Honda/Acura CAN vehicle, even when already locked to a vehicle. The KTuner V2.0 tuning package utilizes the V1.2 package and adds a 5" Touch Screen Display with real-time data display with multiple layouts. It has an easy to navigate menu system for settings, stores multiple tunes, including the factory tune. On-Board datalogging can be done without the need for a laptop, and 5 Programmable LEDs (RGB) can be used for shift lights, warnings, etc.
If either of these sound interesting, check the list of supported vehicles for platform specific information. For TSP Tune, please verify that your ECU is supported via our TSP Tune Compatibility List prior to purchase.
Two Step Performance was founded in 2017, preceded by a lifelong passion of modifying and driving turbocharged imports. We began with a small assortment of handpicked brands that we personally used and believed in. As the company and the community around us has grown, we have continued to add carefully selected product lines to our catalog. In addition to offering brands that you already know and trust, one of our favorite things to do is to identify innovative new products and emerging brands and add them to our catalog as well. We only sell products that we believe in. We also take great pride in offering the best experience to our customers every step of the way. If we can help answer questions on your next build, give us a shout on our contact page.

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