Tuning your truck is one of the best bang for your buck from a dollar to horsepower perspective. Most truck owners can afford to purchase tuning devices and they are relatively easy to install. That means tuners are dealing with majority of the truck owner population as their client base and with that comes all levels of mechanical knowledge.
We put together a list of 11 things all tuners want you to know.
#1. PCMs don’t just lose a tune.
Once you’ve flashed your PCM, you have to flash it again to change the calibrations. It’s not going to leak out, run away, or decide it’s just not going to work. Your truck having a dead battery isn’t going to make you lose a tune nor is your tune going to be removed because you turned the radio station.
#2. Your tuner shouldn’t be the first person you blame.
While we understand that things break and issues happen, your tuner should not be the first person you blame. Tuning is limited to flashing the ECM and TCM and isn’t always the culprit. The first step to diagnosing a true tuning issue is to return the truck to stock or load another file. If the issue remains (especially when returned to stock) then the issue is most likely NOT tuning related.
#3. Tuning CANNOT fix mechanical issues.
Yes, tuning can modify a lot of things and can resolve a lot of issues, especially those related to driveability but it cannot fix mechanical issues such as a bad fuel system, dirty air filter, boost leaks or other mechanical deficiencies.
#4. Tuners need as much information from you as possible.
A tuner is only as good as the information you provide. If you call your tuner and tell them you have oversized injectors but aren’t sure what size they actually are, then you shouldn’t expect them to write the perfect tune the first time. Providing your tuner with the most information possible will save you and him hours of time and emailed conversations. Tune revisions are a huge time-suck and eat up the time a tuner can be spending developing and testing as well as supporting other customers.
#5. Some trucks can only be optimally tuned live- in person.
Your heavily modified F350 with 300hp injectors and a triple turbo setup needs live-tuned. Even the world’s best tuner will create a better file if he’s there with the truck rather than 500 miles away behind a computer screen relying on email and your ass dyno.
#6. Not all tuning platforms are created equally.
All tuning platforms have their purpose, even if it’s in that garbage. Every tuner has their own preferences on which platform is better and which one has the least issues, etc. Many platforms are more user friendly on the technician side while others have the best tech support. Find a reputable tuner and trust their opinion and knowledge.
#7. Tuning does not affect every system in your truck.
It’s not uncommon for a tuner to receive hate mail from a customer complaining that their ABS light is on “ever since you tuned my truck” or asking if they “can tune the truck to make the seatbelt dinger stop”. Some of the complaints tuners hear are outright hilarious. Tuning your vehicle only affects the ECM & TCM. It does not affect every module on the vehicle. For instance, the body control module (BCM) that controls safety features, door locks, lights, etc is NOT affected by a tune.
#8. We do not write smoke tunes!
Reputable tuners do not write smoke tunes. They tune for max performance and efficiency for the mechanical components of a vehicle. If a tuner says they will write you a smoke tune, run. If you want a smoke tune, don’t ask a reputable tuner.
#9. We can’t promise you fuel economy.
Fuel economy is relative. It’s relative to your driving habits, your position in the throttle, how much you idle, your location in comparison to sea level, etc. etc. Yes, there are tunes that get better fuel efficiency than others but to expect a specific gain in fuel economy is very naive.
#10. Tuners need data.
If you’re having a mechanical issue and your truck has a code, write that code down so you have it when you contact your tuner. As stated above, a tuner is only as good as the information you prove. It will save you and him time if you can tell them the exact driving conditions, speed, code, etc. Additionally, if you have data logging capabilities, utilize them and send the file to your tuner. The more information you can provide, the more timely and detailed solution you will receive.
#11. Tunes are VIN specific & you cannot modify them.
Your tune is wrote and locked to your VIN. You cannot share the file with your friend, load it to another one of your trucks, or sell it on Craigslist. Reputable tuners will also lock the tunes. This means you cannot open the file and modify it. All modifications have to be done by said tuner. This is to protect the intellectual property of the person who created the file. Do not ask them to unlock it for you. That is rude and they will laugh (possibly even to your face).
As tuners, we are here to support and grow the aftermarket. Part of growing includes providing as much knowledge to the consumers. We hope this information has provided you with some guidance when issues arise as well as some laughs. If you’re looking to purchase a tune soon, here’s a tip you can use right away. Gather as much information about your vehicle as possible including air, fuel, tire size and the vehicle’s VIN. This will eliminate the need to delay your purchase. Another tip is to provide an email that you check frequently so the time from the tune being emailed to installed isn’t postponed.
As a consumer what are some of the things you think the TUNER needs to know?
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