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Old 10-16-2007, 03:46 AM   #1
Broxma
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Default The please read first Stock ECU Reflash Thread

Disclaimer - I am not a tuner. I am a guy with alot of time, and I tune, but I am not a tuner. I'm just a guy who has seen a dozen or so questions in various places on these forums asking for the absolute basics of Stock ECU Tuning, and I decided to make a post answering some of those questions. Feel free to direct them here. There are a few people who believe what I say about tuning, but none of them would call me a tuner either.

Onto the show....

So you want to tune your ECU. In my opinion, this is one of the best and cheapest mods you can do to the Subaru line of vehicles. It can also be one of the most costly if performed improperly, so for those with weak constitution or an overwhelming desire to not learn, you may want to consider other forms of tuning that do not require any real knowledge or skill. Many tuning methods are available from various companies expressly setup for the more "Plug and Play" User. They are generally more expensive but also have track record and support, where as going it alone, usually means, alone.

The first things we need to know are the basics.

All forms of tuning do the same thing. Some may do it better than other but the principal is the same. Create or adjust tables and data to achieve better performance from your vehicle.

If you own a WRX/STI or other Subaru vehicle, you have an ECU, located under the passenger floorboard, which contains values for boost, timing, fuel, etc. These values are stored in ROM inside the ECU and can be modified and adjusted. The factory values are designed for the lowest common denominator, i.e. granny, pumping 87 octane because she hasn't spent a spare nickel since the depression, and she never gets into boost and cruises at 35 no matter what.

For those of us who feel that performance matters and who take precaution and care of our vehicles, we have the ability to modify the stock map to suit our needs. This could be in the form of a "Stage 1" map, which is basically a slightly tweaked stock map for mostly stock cars, to an all out "Stage 4" map for cars running huge turbos and 1000 CC injectors.

Generally speaking, the physical modifications to the car will dictate the "Stage" of map you run. For the most part, the physical modifications are not up for debate. If it says you need a full Catless TBE, gutted Up-pipe, with an aftermarket Electronic Boost Controller(Prodrive, Perrin, GM), then that's it, those are the requirements. Running a map built for that setup without those parts could result in disaster. However, running the same map with those modifications and more is usually ok. Your just not properly tuned anymore and are losing power.

General rules of thumb in the community concerning Stages appears to be...

Stage 1 - Stock or CBE, possibly a panel filter
Stage 2 - Full TBE, Panel filter or aftermarket intake, possibly catless, possibly gutted or aftermarket up-pipe
Stage 3 - Same as Stage 2 with a larger turbo, larger injectors, possible FMIC/larger TMIC, various odds and ends
Stage 4 - How much your wallet can afford. Rotated kits, Engine internals, etc.

Generally, most people are safe self tuning to Stage 2. After Stage 2, the tuning gets much more critical as fuel and boost change drastically.

The Four Tools of the trade....

First thing a new tuner needs is a laptop. You could use a PC but it is going to have to be located on top of or inside the car so let's say, you need a laptop.

Second, we need a way to connect to the ECU. We do this with a cable connected to the 16 Pin OBDII port under the steering wheel. Not every cable will work and the general consensus is to use a cable sold by Tactrix.
http://www.tactrix.com/
This cable will work with USDM WRX and STI models and other worldwide models as well. The cable connects to the OBDII port on the car and a USB port on the computer. Some cars also need a "Flash Block" which can also be purchased from Tactrix, namely 02-05 WRX's. STI's do not need a flash block. The flash block connects to a plug under the steering wheel and allows the software to flash the ECU. There is also a green, single wire connector which must be connected to perform this function.

Third we need software. There are a few options here but the most common ones to use are ECUFlash and Enginuity. They are available for download at http://www.enginuity.org/Enginuity/Download and http://www.openecu.org/index.php?title=Main_Page.

ECUFlash is software that allows a tuner to retrieve a copy of the stock ECU Rom and save it so it can be modified. Enginuity is software that allows a tuner to open and view a ROM (.Hex) and modify the values.

These are the minimum physical requirements which need to be met in order to retrieve, modify and reflash your stock ECU. The thing left out of my list, and something that simply cannot be explained in this simple post is #4...

#4 - Knowledge.

Unfortunately, the art of modifying the ECU image to suit your physical modifications cannot be adequately explained here. In addition, there are other forums that already do this. The learning curve is steep. The first time you open a ECU image, you see a few things that make sense, but for the most part, it's a mess of tables and colors. Many of the tables correlate to other tables and work in conjunction with them, and altering one and not altering the other can lead to negative results.

To begin your adventure in learning about Stock ECU reflashes, I will suggest some serious seat time. Not in your car, but in your chair, as you read your way to understanding ECU Tuning. Many of the forums require you to join them to view or download the material so make a username and stick with it, so people know who you are across the various boards.

http://www.openecu.org/index.php?title=Main_Page - Download section has links to ECUFlash, Enginuity, ECUExplorer and various other applications.
http://www.enginuity.org/ - Download Enginuity and Definition files for Enginuity from here. Also has a good FAQ and other helpful information.
http://www.xpttuning.com/osecuroms/index.php - Home of the famous "XPT Staged Maps" Also has open source maps and homebrew maps. Forum topics are technical tuning related.
http://www.scoobypedia.co.uk/ - A general but thorough overview of tuning concepts in the FAQ sections, plus a plethora of other Suby related information.

The Good and the Bad....

The good of course is increased performance. The ECU in stock form is not really meant to be the be all, end all of performance. It is the baseline that Subaru devised to deal with a large group of drivers, some of whom take good care of their vehicle, some, not so much. Modifying the ECU makes sense much as in the way that no one uses Windows 98 anymore. The hardware in most computers has increased in performance and now the operating system has to be upgraded to better utilize the physical upgrades. Bolt on modification of various parts does have the net result of increasing performance, but it is not until the system at the heart of those parts is upgraded, that the physical modifications are truly put to good use.

The bad side has many facets, not the least of which is the steep learning curve. For most people with just a small amount of spare time, open source reflashing will not be the way to go. Another major drawback is the "Make or Break" aspect of self tuning your car. Your map will only be as good as the knowledge of the person who made it, be it your own map, another homebrew, or a purchased tuner map. ECU modification can lead to drastic, detrimental changes to the mechanical parts of your vehicle and the 100.00 or so dollars you spent, could theoretically end up costing your thousands down the road. Consideration should be made before tuning or running any map your not confident in, and when problems do pop up, and they will, the knowledge to correct them is mandatory.

Not So Standard Disclaimer - Modification of your stock ECU ROM image is almost certainly going to void your warranty. While proper tuning can be beneficial and rewarding, it may also shorten the life or flat out destroy your vehicle. Open Source tuning should only be performed by person's with the knowledge and skills to safely tune the vehicle. If at any time your tuner or yourself says the phrase,"I guess we'll see...", disconnect the cable and stop.

/Brox

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Old 10-16-2007, 03:49 AM   #2
Broxma
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Gonna reserve this spot.

/Brox
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Old 10-16-2007, 04:43 AM   #3
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good post Broxma
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Old 10-16-2007, 10:21 AM   #4
06rexwagon
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About time someone put the info in one post. Thanks
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Old 10-16-2007, 11:55 PM   #5
absolutexmack
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thanks man...helped a lot
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Old 10-19-2007, 05:38 PM   #6
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great post!
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Old 10-19-2007, 06:46 PM   #7
Broxma
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I try.

I actually spent about 90 minutes chatting with another tuner last night and really expanded my own personal knowledge of Open Source tuning. Proving the theory that if you want to learn how to do something, start by talking to someone who has already done it.

/Brox
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Old 10-23-2007, 01:46 PM   #8
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this is excellent thank you sir! Now to find more to read up on...
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Old 10-25-2007, 09:06 PM   #9
RGD9664
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great post, thx it was a great read (do not try this at home) lol i'm not
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Old 10-27-2007, 02:55 PM   #10
bpang1
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Awesome post man...there's a guy near me that is offering to do it and this is just the info I was looking for!
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