Every good tuner will know the importance of data logging, yet not all will do their best to base their tuning projects on thorough data logs. It is possible to tune a car without data logging; that is true, but that would be like saying it is possible to translate a paper to a language you don’t know very well. It can be done up to a point, but it will include a lot of guessing and will not be perfect. And as the paper gets more complicated, knowing the language well increases. In the tuning world, the ‘more complicated’ comes with higher tuning stages, so precise data logging becomes paramount for a sound stage 3 tuning project.
With this mindset, we have always tried to get data logs for our tuning projects. After a few decades of doing this, we have a remarkable database of tuning files based on precise data logs. We also have a lot of experience with fixing ECU files developed by other tuners through the proper use of information gathered from data logging.
Moreover, a good data log is very important, even for the files we develop from scratch. It gives us the information necessary to develop a tuning file that makes the absolute most of any engine and stock or aftermarket part without ever going past any safety level.
In short, good data logging lets us develop a tuning file that provides the most power without risking anything, as it removes any need for (un)educated guesses. That alone should be enough to tell you how important data logging is, but there is more.
This is why we decided to make this blog post. Educating our customers on this matter will complete our job a lot easier and provide our customers with the best service for the car owners who put their trust in their hands.
What Is Data Logging in Tuning
In short, data logging allows us to see what the ECU was reading from all the systems throughout a particular RPM range. This progressive nature of an exemplary data log is essential. For example, if you have just the information about your maximum boost or ignition correction, it will be next to useless.
The reason for this is that this kind of information is, of course, important, but it gets its real value only in context. And that context includes other information from the same data log. So, for example, it will tell us when a specific ignition correction occurred, why it is so, and if and how it can be changed to improve performance without questioning safety and reliability.
Data logging is a precise set of information within a specific context that lets a tuner see all the essential aspects necessary to create an efficient and reliable ECU tune. Such precise information and the surrounding context allow good tuners to get close to the limits of components without ever crossing them, so a good data log is the best way to get the most power safely.
Considering all this, it is no wonder data logging is a must for custom projects such as Stage 3 upgrades and race car builds. We also prefer it for any tuning, so, as we have said, most of our tuning files are based on data logs.
What Makes Data Logging So Important
Data logging provides us with information about the critical parameters within an ECU. There are so many aspects of engine operation that are interconnected, and that affect all the other aspects. Changing one parameter does not bring one result but also affects several other parameters. It can be limited by them, which means the change will not yield the desired result, or it can affect them directly, creating a problem in a different place.
Some of the most important channels to log include the following:
- Engine speed – rpm
- Pedal position
- Engine load (psi)
- Throttle body position
- Vehicle speed
- Intake manifold pressure
- Boost pressure request
- Boost pressure actual
- Wastegate duty cycle
- Lambda request
- Lambda actual
- Injection in milligrams
- Injector pulse width
- Rail pressure
- Mass airflow
- Intake air temperature
- Oil temperature
- Water temperature
- Exhaust gas temperature
- Ignition per cylinder
- Ignition adaption (advancement/retarding)
- Knock voltage
- Cam phasing
- and more…
Just reading the list above should tell you why knowing this information for any given conditions can give the best results for those particular conditions, be they the best performance or the best fuel efficiency, for example.
But it is not just about efficiency. This information lets us prevent or fix any issues that may arise, regardless of if they limit performance or hamper reliability. For example, data logging during a drag run let us know exactly what was going on at any point, which can help us fine-tune the software and make the engine the best and safest. Moreover, comparing the actual results from two runs can show you exactly where the differences lie and how you can make your car as fast as possible at any point of the run.
Data logging also lets you track changes in knock, various pressures and temperatures, and more, so you can ensure the engine is completely safe at any point.
These few examples should be enough to tell you why data logging is essential for pretty much any tune, let alone Stage 3 tuning projects that introduce a lot of custom work and specific hardware changes that can make a huge difference in every aspect of engine operation. With a good data log, you can observe all those changes and the differences they make and adjust the tune to the best and safest levels possible.
A Few Examples of Engine Parameters Important for Data Logging
While we have already given the above list, which shows some of the most commonly observed values, let us explain a few more.
It shows the ratio between the amount of air and fuel that is burned inside the cylinders. There is a perfect ratio for each kind of fuel, but numerous other variables may affect the most desired balance for certain driving conditions. Aside from ensuring the best performance, the air/fuel ratio is also very important for keeping the engine temperatures under dangerous levels.
While there are significant differences between different fuel types, air/fuel ratio is essential for all of them, and detailed information about air and fuel ratio to RPM, throttle position, speed, and many other aspects help us make the best use of the engine potential in a completely safe way.
This is especially important for turbo engines. This pressure must follow the intake manifold pressure to preserve the desired air-to-fuel ratio. If this is not the case, the engine will not operate as it should. Also, irregularities in the fuel pressure can show issues with some hardware parts, such as the fuel pump.
Engine Oil Pressure
Engine oil pressure is very important for preventing damage to the engine. If the pressure is too low, the damage is almost inevitable. Now imagine the level of damage on stage 3 upgrades with aftermarket turbos, for example, or in racing conditions when engines are put under strain, even when things are perfect. Low oil pressure is hazardous for the engine in these conditions.
Another safety-related information is that an oil temperature that is too high can cause serious damage. It also has much to do with the parts you are using, as different materials react differently to higher temperatures. In any case, high temperatures are not desirable for any of them. The materials are selected to give a reliable performance for the standard operating temperature. If it is higher, this will be a problem, especially in racing conditions.
Engine Knock Sensor
This sensor lets the ECU know when detonation happens. In this case, the ECU will adjust engine operation to prevent detonation and keep the engine safe. In most cases, it will retard ignition timing to save the engine, limiting performance. However, you cannot ignore the knock sensor’s information, as detonations can destroy engines quickly.
Nowadays, we can control knock within each engine separately. A good data log provides us with the exact information about when and where it occurs, and we can detune it in those specific conditions, keeping the top state of tune in all others. This is an excellent example of keeping performance as close to the top level as possible while ensuring safety.
While most tuners who do not develop tuning files based on data logging will not inevitably destroy your engine, they will reduce the chance by limiting performance. Without data logging, they cannot know how far they can go in specific conditions, so they cannot use the full engine potential.
Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT)
EGT is very important as it shows you at which temperature the combustion occurs. In addition, as each cylinder is monitored separately, we can make all of them work evenly, which is, once again, very important for operation and reliability.
As exhaust gas temperatures are measured with every exhaust stroke for each cylinder, monitoring this aspect can help precisely pinpoint very specific conditions.
For example, if we detect an intense increase in pressure within the cylinders combined with a drop in exhaust gas temperature, we have just seen detonation.
Exhaust Back Pressure
Exhaust back pressure is significant for several reasons. First, on stock cars, it shows the condition of several parts, including the turbocharger, wastegate, and the engine itself. It is also an excellent way to determine if the exhaust needs an upgrade to keep up with other hardware upgrades within the system, although a good tuner should know this even without this information.
How to Perform Data Logging
The described aspects are just a few of the many in a data log. If you want to know how you can perform data logging on the road or on a dyno, which channels are necessary to log, and how the data is presented, you can find more information on our page dedicated to data logging.
If you want to learn about some of the best tools used for data logging and how special tuning projects are managed (a big part of which is data logging), you can find the information here.
Of course, if you need our help with any step, you can contact us directly via WhatsApp or Skype or through our special ticket support system, where you will find one of our engineers directly answering your questions.