Tuning tools are by no means new things on the market. They are used to access OEM ECUs, gather information from them and enter altered content that results in power or economy gains. This is why ECU tuning tools have been around for about as long as software-controlled engines. However, as all of you probably know, software develops incredibly quickly, so things in the tuning industry need to follow at the same pace. Despite the fact that several different companies have emerged as respectable tuning tools manufacturers over the years, just a handful of them have been able to keep pace with the developments coming from manufacturers of vehicle ECUs. This is why today we have a few clearly distinctive tuning tools developers which have stood the test of time producing efficient and up-to-date tuning tools that enable tuners to access even the latest ECUs. These are Alientech, Dimsport, Flashtec and the youngest of the lot, Magic Motor Sport.
How to Choose the Best Tuning Tools
There is a reason why they cost up to about 2,000 EUR per piece. They need to have enough processing abilities to access the latest ECU tricore technology and to be constantly updated, which is definitely something you will not get with cracked, or cloned tuning tools that are manufactured by some usually Chinese companies. They can only give you some of the functionality of the tuning tool they cloned and no updates whatsoever. If you want to have a respected tuning business, you should most definitely acquire good tuning tools that will help you feel safe with what you are doing, but also provide insight into the latest models. Moreover, their quality, reliability and updates will easily make them cheaper in the long run.
Bootmode Tools & OBD Flasher
There are two ways of accessing the ECU in order to reprogram it. The first one is through the OBD port that is usually used for diagnostics. The second one is via a port that is on the circuit board (BDM or JTAG), which is used for bootmode, or debugging mode tuning.
This automatically means that there are two different types of tuning tools available for accessing the two ports. The first ones are called OBD flashers (such as the Kess by Alientech) and the second ones are bootmode tools (Alientech’s Ktag, for example).
However, reading information in these two ways does not provide the same results. Modern ECUs have three data carriers – two EPROMs and a processor. Even though vast majority of maps are in the EPROMs, some ECUs have valuable information in the processor as well.
This is where the two ways of accessing ECUs start to differ significantly. While the OBDs only read maps on the EPROMs, thus sometimes missing some of the info, the bootmode access allows for the complete backup of the ECU, reaching all of its nuances.
Master vs Slave
Most of the mentioned manufacturers offer tools on two levels – master and slave. The master tool allows you to get a readout from the ECU and to edit it, so it is the only good way to develop good tuning files yourself, which is, in turn, the only way to become a tuning files supplier.
However, master tools are far more expensive than slave tools. What you get with slave tools is the ability to use files which you have received from tuning files developers. Even though this may seem far less that what the master tools give, it is actually more than enough for most tuners. Developing files takes lots of expertise, experience and, most importantly, constant education about current trends and technical developments and changes in the industry. Moreover, aside from the tools, you will also need testing equipment and a dynamometer, the choice of which is a whole new and pretty expensive matter.
This is why slave tools should be enough for vast majority of tuners who can source tuning files from respectable tuning companies with an additional perk of aiding marketing efforts by connecting oneself with a high-end tuner.