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Old 04-06-2005, 09:23 AM   #1
MR. STi
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Default careers in tuning?

just curious to see what this field is like. how would you begin to get into this if you wanted to do it for a living? is it somethin one should go to school for, or is it something you just pick up with experience, etc?
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Old 04-06-2005, 09:38 AM   #2
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Experience mostly, or a mechanical engineering degree.
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Old 04-06-2005, 10:46 AM   #3
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I think the biggest thing to realize ahead of time is that it is not what it seems to be. I'm a pretty observant guy (I like to think so at least) and the biggest misconception I think people have about it is that you spend the majority of your time actually tuning interesting cars, when the reality as I've seen it is that you spend very little time actually tuning interesting cars, much less time than you think spent actually tuning at all, and leading a far less glamorous life than a lot of people seem to have a picture of in their heads.

It takes a special breed of person to tune for a living and still have any interest whatsoever in continuing it 2 years down the road.

Here and there, you will get a gem of a car that is a pleasure to tune from start to finish and it will be rewarding and fun. The time in between those gems is spent making a paycheck by tuning "another frigging stage 2 car with a boost leak and poor plugs" that you could do half asleep and make enough safe power to keep the customer happy.

Like I said, this is what I see. It is the unspoken ugly side that bright-eyed excited "want to be a tuner" folks typically aren't aware of.

In my personal opinion again, I also think that too many tuners try to do WAY too much as a sole person, stretch themselves VERY thin, and don't really approach tuning as a business (the latter being a choice, not a good/bad thing). You end up with these lone "hitmen" who typically either end up burning out, moving onto a new make of car to liven their job back up, etc.

Or, you end up as a business/shop that starts as yourself and another person who takes care of a lot of things you don't want to deal with anymore, all while mentoring that person to bring them up to speed as another tuner your company can use for income... and you hire a replacement when he/she moves up to that level, because neither of you are going to want to deal with "those things" anymore -- tiring front-line customer support questions you've answered 10 times already since Monday morning, keeping a website up to date with new information, tips, forum responses, shipping things... and 20 other chores that come with the job day-in-day-out.

Case 1 - Many people who post here
Case 2 - PDX Tuning, Vishnu Tuning

Which one is a better path for you is a matter of preference. I tend to think the "Case 1" folks get a rude awakening 3-6 months in and find themselves overwhelmed, frustrated, and no longer having a positive mindset after a year or so, but it all depends on how analytical, structured, and regimented about how you approach it -- set goals and rules, and live by them.

In the end, I think you have to have a very positive attitude, a clear understanding of what reality in the field will be like, a passion for new challenges, and a curious desire for upcoming technology and the interesting challenges it will bring to you.

Enough rambling. Go for it -- just be realistic and get a good idea ahead of time what you are in for. Asking this question was a great step.
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Old 04-06-2005, 10:55 AM   #4
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efi101 has some classes
their website

www.efi101.com
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Old 04-06-2005, 11:04 AM   #5
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Having done this as a side gig for over 2 years now, let me tell you.. it's long hours. As I work a normal 8-5, my schedules at nights sometimes have me booking hours with the hard core back to back to back.. and this is all street tuning. There's times where I've STOPPED on the tollway at 2AM to tweak a boost controller, or save a map... With no sight of a headlight in front or behind as far as the eye can see.

Getting home at 4AM, waking up at 6AM, just to do it again the next night.

As I have a normal 8-5, the money is nice.... DAMN NICE.... I've strived to not fail, to never dissapoint, to build that reputation that is so important in any service related industry. Why? Because I've always thought it, have the full backing of the wife, friends, and club members. But have never had the guts to put our home, our livelyhood, and my wife and son at risk if I failed.

If I was single and living at home, I'd have done it a long time ago. But not at this point. Common sense tells me that eventually, no matter how great your reputation, all the cars will be tuned, people will be happy, and money will slow down. Which means you need something else. Problem is... what is that something else?

So many shops in my area, whatever I chose to sell would have to be distinct. When I find that, maybe I'll consider it. Maybe I'll find someone who doesn't want to do tuning, but has another vision, and is just looking for that partner to supplement an idea, as I am.

It's very fulfilling making people happy, hearing praise, etc. But it's stressful, it really is.

Jorge (RiftsWRX)
www.ProjectWRX.com
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Old 04-06-2005, 11:50 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jblaine
I think the biggest thing to realize ahead of time is that it is not what it seems to be. I'm a pretty observant guy (I like to think so at least) and the biggest misconception I think people have about it is that you spend the majority of your time actually tuning interesting cars, when the reality as I've seen it is that you spend very little time actually tuning interesting cars, much less time than you think spent actually tuning at all, and leading a far less glamorous life than a lot of people seem to have a picture of in their heads.

It takes a special breed of person to tune for a living and still have any interest whatsoever in continuing it 2 years down the road.

Here and there, you will get a gem of a car that is a pleasure to tune from start to finish and it will be rewarding and fun. The time in between those gems is spent making a paycheck by tuning "another frigging stage 2 car with a boost leak and poor plugs" that you could do half asleep and make enough safe power to keep the customer happy.

Like I said, this is what I see. It is the unspoken ugly side that bright-eyed excited "want to be a tuner" folks typically aren't aware of.

In my personal opinion again, I also think that too many tuners try to do WAY too much as a sole person, stretch themselves VERY thin, and don't really approach tuning as a business (the latter being a choice, not a good/bad thing). You end up with these lone "hitmen" who typically either end up burning out, moving onto a new make of car to liven their job back up, etc.

Or, you end up as a business/shop that starts as yourself and another person who takes care of a lot of things you don't want to deal with anymore, all while mentoring that person to bring them up to speed as another tuner your company can use for income... and you hire a replacement when he/she moves up to that level, because neither of you are going to want to deal with "those things" anymore -- tiring front-line customer support questions you've answered 10 times already since Monday morning, keeping a website up to date with new information, tips, forum responses, shipping things... and 20 other chores that come with the job day-in-day-out.

Case 1 - Many people who post here
Case 2 - PDX Tuning, Vishnu Tuning

Which one is a better path for you is a matter of preference. I tend to think the "Case 1" folks get a rude awakening 3-6 months in and find themselves overwhelmed, frustrated, and no longer having a positive mindset after a year or so, but it all depends on how analytical, structured, and regimented about how you approach it -- set goals and rules, and live by them.

In the end, I think you have to have a very positive attitude, a clear understanding of what reality in the field will be like, a passion for new challenges, and a curious desire for upcoming technology and the interesting challenges it will bring to you.

Enough rambling. Go for it -- just be realistic and get a good idea ahead of time what you are in for. Asking this question was a great step.
good post.
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Old 04-06-2005, 12:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by happasaiyan
good post.

ditto that. thank you very much....very insightful.

i've been considering doing something on cars for a living....

im an accountant with a CPA firm right now. the moneys great, but i hate the job....very boring stuff. confucious said you'll never work another day in your life if you love what you do.

well, i love cars, and would love to do something with them for a living, but i'm confused as to WHAT exactly. i dont wanna work at a dealership working on geo's and taurus's all day, and i dont wanna work at some hole in the wall garage where the monkeys working there barely speak english.

i would like to work on intersting cars......somehow.

tuning is all i can think of right now as a possibility. i'm not the artsy type, so body work and painting are out.

i dunno.....
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Old 04-06-2005, 01:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbiker97
mechanical engineering degree.
IMO this is of very little relevance.
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Old 04-06-2005, 01:19 PM   #9
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Most "tuners" around here (e.g. AZScoobie, RiftsWRX, DynoFlash, etc.) are self-proclaimed and couldn't pass the final exam of a college-level "Internal Combustion Engine Fundamentals" course if their lives depended on it. Some of them can't even provide a correct definition of a simple concept like volumetric efficiency, but that hasn't stopped them from hanging out their shingles.

Here's an analogy that Mr. STi might appreciate as an accountant. Most Subaru tuners around here operate at the same level of understanding as do the clerks, bookkeepers and secretaries who offer tax return preparation services on the side every year.

You don't need to be certified or pass a test to be a tuner. Just do it!
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Old 04-06-2005, 01:25 PM   #10
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Go read some more patents, Jon. The people you mention have successfully tuned hundreds of cars, in the REAL WORLD with very good results, both short and long-term.
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Old 04-06-2005, 01:25 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon [in CT]
Most "tuners" around here (e.g. AZScoobie, RiftsWRX, DynoFlash, etc.) are self-proclaimed and couldn't pass the final exam of a college-level "Internal Combustion Engine Fundamentals" course if their lives depended on it. Some of them can't even provide a correct definition of a simple concept like volumetric efficiency, but that hasn't stopped them from hanging out their shingles.

Here's an analogy that Mr. STi might appreciate as an accountant. Most Subaru tuners around here operate at the same level of understanding as do the clerks, bookkeepers and secretaries who offer tax return preparation services on the side every year.

You don't need to be certified or pass a test to be a tuner. Just do it!
I can take that at face value and not be offended, as you're entirely entitled to your opinion. But there's one thing you have always failed at doing to bring weight to your criticism of others.

Quote:
Just do it!
I step up and do it, accept the risk, and appear to have done a good job of it. So have my peers. Which is why I accept their criticism with respect, and laugh at yours.

:smooch:

EDIT: P.S. I enjoyed kinematics much more then thermodynamics.

Jorge (RiftsWRX)
www.ProjectWRX.com
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Old 04-06-2005, 01:33 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RiftsWRX
I step up and do it, accept the risk, and appear to have done a good job of it. So have my peers.
You and your tuning "peers" are very much like those clerks and secretaries I mentioned, who've likely prepared 100s of tax returns "successfully."

Exactly what "risk" do you take when you "tune" someone's car? Are you willing to buy a new engine, if necessary? Do you carry insurance to cover your "risk?"
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Old 04-06-2005, 01:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon [in CT]
You and your tuning "peers" are very much like those clerks and secretaries I mentioned, who've likely prepared 100s of tax returns "successfully.""
Jon, I'm confused as to your point. Do you think that these "clerks and secretaries" are not capable of providing the service they offer? I prepare my own taxes every year, that must be REALLY bad.

To extend your analogy

Tunes own car - prepares own taxes
Clark, Jorge, Nathan, etc. - clerk or secretary w/ experience but no training
Professional Race Engineer - Tax attorney

Is that how you see it? IMO there's absolutely nothing wrong with the mid level. Risks are lower than the completely uninformed tuning their own motor and rewards are not as high as someone who tunes Formula 1 motors. I think the risk - reward ratio is about right.
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Old 04-06-2005, 01:53 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D_REX
IMO this is of very little relevance.
Not true. All the people that I know that do ECU calibration for the big 3 have M.E. degrees. There are different level of tuners out there. A good understanding of why stuff works the way it does helps alot to make the most of what you have.
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Old 04-06-2005, 01:57 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon [in CT]
You and your tuning "peers" are very much like those clerks and secretaries I mentioned, who've likely prepared 100s of tax returns "successfully."

Exactly what "risk" do you take when you "tune" someone's car? Are you willing to buy a new engine, if necessary? Do you carry insurance to cover your "risk?"
I don't carry insurance, but I have always accepted the risk in doing this, and have been prepared to do what's right if I screw up. But again, coming from Mr. Armchair everything. I take it as tribute that you'd so boldly lump me in your thoughts.



Thx!

It's sooooo amusing how you need "formal" training to be adept at something. Let me tell ya... I went to a semester of college and quit for two reasons. A: I got sick of taking 3 steps back in CS with every class, and B: I wasn't allowed to take any more advance placement tests.

CS curriculum has most likely moved out of it's antiquated regiment today, but back in the early 90's I had no reason to waste my time learning stuff that to this day I have never used, or will ever use... but have succeeded just fine by what I've self taught myself since a keyboard was put in front of me.

Because some people can diversify and adapt to a complex topic, much less excel at it, and you can't, is hardly a reason to use this medium as a means to vent your self-esteem issues.

Oh Jonny... there are a great many things I can do... well.. in my short 29 years that would really leave you at odds if you find this difficult to believe. From flying to cooking, racing to music, tuning to theater. Diversity is the spice of life, and there are a great many things I'll be immersing my appetite for knowledge into, before I die.

Cheers!

Jorge (RiftsWRX)
www.ProjectWRX.com
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Old 04-06-2005, 01:58 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbiker97
Not true. All the people that I know that do ECU calibration for the big 3 have M.E. degrees. There are different level of tuners out there. A good understanding of why stuff works the way it does helps alot to make the most of what you have.
Agreed!

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Old 04-06-2005, 02:01 PM   #17
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What insurance would you need? Even a real shop will not replace the motor if it blows up 99% of the time. Gotta pay to play.
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Old 04-06-2005, 02:10 PM   #18
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Jon: If everybody thought like you we'd still be looking for someone with a qualified degree to make a fire.

I have seen many people with certifications and degrees that were absolutely useless in the field. On the flipside of the coin, I have worked with very experienced and qualified people that didn't have a single degree to back it up.

Maybe we should dig through history a little and see how many major achievements have been made by individuals that were "unqualified". It's easy to sit back and critisize people. It takes a heck of a lot more guts to get off your duff and take a chance.
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Old 04-06-2005, 02:27 PM   #19
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I'm a bit peeved at the rest of the world, so I won't comment too much on ME degrees and such. I'll just say that rote has replaced understanding in the world. But only Theoretical physicists will understand. (Read: Feynman)

If you want to be good at tuning, just read ... a LOT. Forget a career though unless you can think broadly enough to tune more than just Subarus.

Adrian~
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Old 04-06-2005, 02:54 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbiker97
Not true. All the people that I know that do ECU calibration for the big 3 have M.E. degrees. There are different level of tuners out there. A good understanding of why stuff works the way it does helps alot to make the most of what you have.
Point taken.
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Old 04-06-2005, 03:17 PM   #21
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I'm not 100% sure, but I'd be willing to guess that all the money my local tuners have made may not even be enough to have paid for all the mods they've done to their cars. Modding costs a LOT of money, and unless you're EcuTEK (The COMPANY), I don't think there's a ton of money to be made in tuning just Subarus and Evos.
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Old 04-06-2005, 03:23 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Akirasoft
What insurance would you need? Even a real shop will not replace the motor if it blows up 99% of the time. Gotta pay to play.
I believe it's called liability insurance. Suppose some "real shop" promised me my car would be handled by a professional who then proceeded to blow up my engine. If I find out that professional is actually a college dropout with no formal education or training and isn't even an ASE-certified automotive technician, then I'll see them in court and I bet I'll win.
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Old 04-06-2005, 03:34 PM   #23
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You're right, Jon. Formal education and certification is absolutely what makes a competent and qualified tuner.

It has sucked for me utterly trouncing every degreed/certified peer in my field working at any company I've worked for now, for 12 years.

I sure wish I'd had a cranky, outdated, outmoded, textbook dinosaur like you to tell me different in 1993 so I could have failed instead.

You really are the epitome of the academia-over-all ignorant jackass example.
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Old 04-06-2005, 03:51 PM   #24
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alot of whats been said seems like what i've seen in my accounting job, and everywhere else in the world.....for the most part.

formal education can open doors, and it can possibly give a BASIC knowledge in a field, but theres really no substitute for experience.

i work with a lady who never got a bachelors degree at all, but she has more techinical knowlege than most managers with advanced degrees simply cause she has 30+ years experience.

experience looks like the thing to have in tuning. a degree/certifications may get you in the door, and deliver a basic knowledge, but experience and skill will set you apart.

just what i've percieved.

thanks for all the input, its really shed some light on this for me.
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Old 04-06-2005, 03:58 PM   #25
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I'm suggesting that if MR. STi were interested in a career involving engine tuning, then he should consider a formal education, especially if he has any aspirations of a shot at the "big leagues." If he'd be content with a job where he spends his days figuratively twiddling dials which control processes he doesn't understand, then that's a different story.
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