When it comes to getting every last ounce of power from your engine combination, a custom tune is the only way to go. Of course, not everyone has access to the equipment or a qualified calibrator—until now.
Thanks to the marvels of technology, many Mustang fans can now receive a custom tune no matter how far they live from a qualified calibrator. We know what you’re thinking, so lets get this straight—we’re not talking “canned” tunes here, but rather remote tunes, where you data-log a dyno run or drag strip pass, and they get the info to your tuner so he (or she) can make the changes to fine-tune your power curve.
What’s the difference? We asked renowned Mustang tuner Shaun Perry of AED.
“A canned tune is a generalized tune for a given combo, like a file for most Coyotes equipped with a cold-air intake; but a remote tune is a custom program specific to your car that’s created remotely,” Perry explained. “Thanks to datalogging technology, I no longer have to be near the car I’m tuning, instead I just need the appropriate SCT software and datalogging equipment along with a little help from the owner,” he added.
While canned tunes will always have their place due to affordability and the fact that considerable gains over the stock programming can be found, canned files usually leave performance on the table.
“Most generalized tunes are on the conservative side regarding the ignition timing, air/fuel ratio, cam timing, and shift points (with an auto), because everyone’s circumstances are different. It’s better to leave a larger safety margin because of the wide scope,” Perry said.
Since a canned file is designed for most cars, the tuner must account for things like varying grades of gasoline, different geographical locations, varied weather conditions, and the build tolerances between cars. Some states use E10, while others have 100-percent gasoline, and the atmospheric conditions in Colorado are vastly different than in Death Valley, California. If one tune is designed for “all Coyotes with a CAI” it needs to accommodate a wide range of scenarios, thus the reason for dialing back the parameters in the name of safety.
For many, a canned tune is sufficient, but for those wanting every last ounce of power from their setup, a remote tune brings the power of a custom dyno tune to your doorstep.
A Tuning Revolution
Now that remote tuning has become popular, we decided to take a look at this new phenomenon. Stories of considerable power increases and massive improvements at the track, all from a tuner several states away, were swelling through the Interwebs. It all sounded too good to be true, so we headed to AED in Cameron Park, California, for the full scoop.
It just so happened that Alan Kennaley was planning to have AED tune his shiny new ’13 GT automatic about the same time. With a little coercing, we managed to convince Alan to not only baseline dyno the car, but also take it to the track where we’d run it stock and with the AED tune. But that’s not all, Perry agreed to conduct the tuning process as if Alan was several states away. In this case, the dyno and track times were only to verify the results of the tune so everyone knows what they’re getting with a remote tune. The results were nothing short of amazing, but before we hit you with the numbers, lets take a closer look at remote tuning.
“The Copperhead and Coyote/Road Runner program brought with it a lot of new capabilities, like variable valve timing, independent cylinder control, proper knock retard, wideband oxygen sensors, and plenty of other high-tech capabilities that have let tuners unlock the inherent potential,” Perry said.
Who would have thought the Coyotes were so technology rich they'd have the ability to dial back their own power?
With greater capabilities also comes greater power potential, and aftermarket tuning companies like SCT Performance were able to take full advantage of the newfound processing power in the Ford ECUs.
“Since the Coyotes come with factory widebands, I can have customers datalog their cars with an SCT X-Cal and send me the files; once I’ve seen the logs, I can make the appropriate changes and then have the owner upload the new custom tune directly into their car—no dyno needed unless the owner wants to,” Perry explained.
For those wanting a remote dyno tune, simply find a local dyno that is willing to remotely work with tuners like AED. The local shop will make the appropriate dyno pulls and logs, and send them to AED for review.
How It’s Done
Without going into an engineering dictation on the inner workings of EFI tuning, we’ll at least cover the basics of what AED does to achieve such killer results without actually setting a finger on the car he’s tuning.
“Using the latest version of SCT Live Link Gen2, I have customers fully warm up their engines and then log things like rpm, spark, MAF load, throttle position, IATs, fuel trims, and many other parameters to get an accurate snapshot of what the motor is doing,” Perry said.
With the motor up to operating temperature and the Live Link logging, Perry asks that customers record part-throttle acceleration in Third gear from 1,100 rpm to roughly 5,000 rpm immediately followed by a few minutes of idling. With the first logs done, a wide-open throttle (WOT) pull from 2,000 rpm to redline in Fifth gear for manual transmission cars and Fourth gear for automatic cars comes next. This is best achieved on a dyno. For those logging at the track, the same WOT pulls can be achieved in Third gear.
Upon completion, the logs are sent to Perry for review, and if no problems are found, he can then proceed with the custom tuning. But only after he receives the ECU calibration code, X3 serial number, rear gear ratio, and a full list of mods. Once the tune is complete, Shaun will email the tune to the customer, who then uploads it into the ECU. In some cases, Perry will request another round of datalogs to ensure perfection.
Coyote Tuning Secrets
Although Perry didn’t let us in on all of the pro secrets, he did shine some light on his methodology behind tuning the new five-oh motors.
“The Coyote is an amazing motor, and with its increased capabilities comes the ability to achieve efficient power, with cam timing to build cylinder pressure rather than tons of ignition timing like the old days,” he explained.
To verify the gains from a tune on a box-stock ’13 GT automatic, we hit AED’s dyno for a f
He went on to to say most stock tunes are lean at low-rpm/throttle positions for emissions purposes and rich at WOT/high-rpm scenarios, where extra fuel leaves lots of wiggle room. This means there is plenty of power to be found in a tune that achieves a more consistent air/fuel ratio and ramps up the ignition- and cam timing, as well as extents things like the rev limiter and shift points on auto cars.
“I bump the rev limit to 7,500 on the Coyote motors and to 8,000-plus on the Road Runner motors for more drive in each gear. I also extend the shift points to 7,250 rpm in the first three gears of the automatic cars to keep them in the powerband,” he explained.