What they do, who their designed for, how they could be improved.
Tuning boxes have become the mainstream, go-to modification for people looking to modify their cars without having any mechanical knowledge whatsoever.
Tuning boxes have been available for turbo diesel engines for years while more recently turbo petrol engines are being catered for.
What are the plus points of tuning boxes
-No knowledge required. Even someone with zero mechanical knowledge should be able to get up and running.
-Plug and play. They don’t alter the factory software and short of the main dealer going into the the datalogs its very hard to imagine them knowing that a tuning box has been fitted. Theoretically, a tuning box shouldn’t effect the warranty if the user removes it before going for service.
-Fit-and-forget. Tuning boxes and generally advertised as a mainstream product which is suitable for anyone, assuming the settings are not changed generally the user can expect not to have to do anything with the product after fitting.
For the mainstream audience it is hard to be too critical about tuning boxes.
But in the interests of completeness I’ll name a few areas where the average buyer should be wary.
-Power claims. Generally speaking tuning boxes do not have their power increase figures independently tested so there is a lot of pressure to claim the biggest number possible.
Two solutions to this.
Ignore the power claims of the tuning box manufacturers completely.
Or only believe the claims from companies whose products have been independently tested eg TUV certification.
DTE is the one company we know of who submit their product for independent testing.
It is not a surprise to see that the figures from DTE and usually much lower than the numbers from companies whose products are not independently tested.
-No extra engine wear. In our opinion many tuning box companies sell their product as something which has no effect on engine wear or stress.
This is not correct.
Any product which increases the power of a engine will increase stress and reduce engine life, tuning boxes are no different to any power adder in this respect.
While the average user will probably not be around to see the reduced service life of the engine or gearbox, it doesn’t mean that the extra wear has not happened.
What would be some nice features for more experienced users?
-No map. We have no idea what the tuning box is doing to give the increased power. It would be nice to know what has been changed.
For example, common rail diesel.
We know the tuning box has increased fuel pressure but we have no idea where the fuel pressure has been increased or by how much.
Granted if you go for a remap your tuner is not going to disclose the map details to you but nevertheless it would be nice to know what has been changed.
-Adjustment. Some tuning boxes give us the option to change the “map” but again we have no idea what is changing between the different settings. It would be nice to have the option of not only seeing the map but also customising it.
-Modifications. Tuning boxes are designed for cars which are standard ie not modified. When an engine is modified (intercooler, intake) it is possible the tuning box is more likely to trigger a check engine light.
-Personlisation. We haven’t seen a tuning box which can be customised by the user to suit their driving style and engine modifications without using maps pre-installed by the manufacturer. It would be nice to have complete control.
-Designed for road cars. Ie for cars which are not driven flat out for long periods.
I said earlier that tuning boxes are generally targeted towards the mainstream as a fit-and-forget product.
However extreme usage like track days can cause the tuning box to bump into the safety limits of the car’s ECU and trigger check engine lights. The user could reduce the box settings if they are going on track or simply remove the product before going on track.
It would be nice if this process was automated and did not rely on either the car’s ECU as a safety net or the user remembering to change the settings or removing the unit from the car.
Tuning boxes are a worthwhile product for people looking to increase the power of their car without making any permanent changes.
However for advanced users ie users who want to customise their tune the list of available products is small to non existent.
For this reason MoviChip will be releasing a tuning box solution to address the shortcomings of the mainstream products