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Engine Tuning - Standalone ECU Vs Piggy Back ECU - Engine Management

 
automotivejtm-#001
Administrator
Posts: 1076
Joined: 08/06
Posted: 08/29/06 06:13 AM

Standalone ecu vs a piggy back computer
(I think it is physically possible to write a 500 page book on this so I will try to be brief and cut out as much of the fat as possible – stick to the essentials… hopefully)

So your car is boosted from the factory, or your car has been equipped with aftermarket boost or you have an n/a car and are planning on boosting whatever the case, you are interested in buying an aftermarket computer but you are a little confused, its o.k we have all been there, most of us still are (including me – the blind leading the blind in this article ? ) So which ecu is best for you?  This umbrella question encompasses a whole host of other questions all of which I will try to address.

First we should understand how and what engine parameters your ecu takes in to determine the tune of your car.  There are three main parameters (maps) when tuning your car:
1.) Fuel  (A/F Ratio)
2.) Cam angle  *note*
3.) Ignition timing

*note*  When I talk about cam angle, I will be referring to today’s newer cars with variable cam timing…

O.K. so your car uses these three parameters to build a “map” or tune for your vehicle.  

Next let’s explain what a standalone ecu and piggy back ecu are and what they can and can’t do.

Stand Alone ECU
There are many different types of stand alone ecu’s that all encompass their own unique features, to many to talk about, so I will try to stick to the roots of the equipment.  
A stand alone ecu is an ecu that is separate from your cars stock ecu (in most cases, Hondata would be an exception).  A standalone ecu lets you build new ignition cam angle and ignition maps for your car, starting from scratch.  This is the main difference between a piggy back and standalone and also the most important so I think I’ll leave it at that.  




Piggy back ECU and or A/F Controller

Again, like the standalone ecu, there are many different types of piggy backs with their own unique functions.  A piggy back ecu or a/f controller takes signals from your sensors and modifies them to trick your ecu into reading a different value.  


Ok.  So which ecu is for you.  Once having a fairly in depth idea (more then the knowledge base that this article provided) of how your ecu builds maps and how a piggy back and standalone ecu work the answer should become quite obvious.  

If you have a n/a car and you are planning on boosting it, there really is only one reasonable choice.  A stand alone ecu.  This is because a naturally aspirated cars ecu is programmed for a na engine.  The main concern is your ignition timing.  An na tuned car (i.e your stock car) will have ignition maps that are way to advanced for a boosted application causing detonation, which is detrimental to your engine.  
Well doesn’t a a/f controller and piggy back computer control ignition timing?
Yes but not effectively.  An a/f controller takes readings from your maf/map sensor and alters them trick your ecu into reading a different signal.  And since all your maps are tied in together, your maf/map sensor signal also will move where your ecu reads its ignition timing on the map.  your maf/map is not only used to maintain air/fuel, but its also used by the ecu to determine load, and load is used for determining timing advance, this has the side effect of fooling the ecu into advancing timing beyond what is safe.  These readings will also effect where your cam angle is, which more then likely will not be at the optimal angle for your boosted application.

Newer piggy backs like the e-manage ultimate can control your ignition timing separately from your airflow readings, but there are still catches.  You are able to change ignition timing maps but the e-manage simply changes the output signal the ecu sends to the coils.  The problem is the ignition timing numbers are not always consistent with the changes you make to the load sensor, whether its your map, or maf sensor. So you are guessing the timing numbers. The stock ecu also has multiple maps it can run for different conditions so you are not always consistent with the tune.  

A stand alone ecu lets you build, from scratch, completely new ignition timing maps and fuel maps and cam angle maps. Optimal for your boosted application so you can run a safer tune that will make more power.

A car that has come from the factory already has optimal ignition timing maps and there for really only needs a a/f controller or a piggy back that can compensate in a relatively small window range. Unless you plan on drastically changing your stock boosted air flow characteristics, a piggy back will suit you just fine.  

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thepariah25
New User
Posts: 43
Joined: 07/07
Posted: 07/14/07 05:43 AM

no one seems to want to repsond on this site, even though its pretty nice set up on here, you have some good information here. people should respond to it, i went with the Hondata, its the best option for me to load a base map for a turbo GSR from hondata's logger, just so i can start it and drive to dyno, lol. then start from their base map to adjust fuel maps and ignition maps. its the only way i feel is safe, you go cheap on engine/ecu management on a turbo car you WILL pay the price. maybe get away with it on NA car but still not a great idea.

what kind of boost controller do you run? you have the Greddy turbo RSX right?  
I LOVE BOOSTED DA's-----

Straightlinespecialties.com for top-quality affordable manifolds!

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automotivejtm-#001
Administrator
Posts: 1076
Joined: 08/06
Posted: 07/16/07 04:57 PM

I was running a greddy profec b but not anymore, my car is stock Frown  

Thanks for the reply mang.  I know people are reading, just not to many responding, sometimes it does get a little lonely.  

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hawaiiancb74
New User
Posts: 40
Joined: 07/07
Posted: 07/18/07 06:16 AM

good info .. i would add tho that if you own a N/A car and plan to build it N/A you might as well buy the standalone also .. as for in my case hondata gives me so many more ways for me to keep building more power without boost.. and the air fuel is fun and all but real tuning is where the power is at.. i think ide be lost with out kpro to help make these expensive N/A parts worth it.  
Im Asian, I drive a N/A RSX*S, Im not good at math...(I know Im Asian I dont get it), but I know its costing me a lot of money.

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automotivejtm-#001
Administrator
Posts: 1076
Joined: 08/06
Posted: 07/18/07 11:51 AM

Thats a good point, I think I was one of the original k-pro owners. I love(d) it.  It all depends on how drastically you are changing the air flow characteristics of your car.  If all your adding is an exhaust and an intake, there is hardly any power to be had from a custom tune on kpro.  A generic reflash would be the way to go.  But if you  do plan on building step by step and changing your air flow charecteristics a bunch over x amount of time, a standalone is def the way to go since it gives you that flexibility of retuning - whenever.  

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hawaiiancb74
New User
Posts: 40
Joined: 07/07
Posted: 07/18/07 09:19 PM

well i have seen the results of a rsx with out exhaust and a cai on our dynos with kpro.. he did 190 which is good and his powerband was modified to make the car respond better.. ill see if i can get the chart sometime soon. same tunner got 220 out of a jdm build on the gt spec rsx that were runing .  
Im Asian, I drive a N/A RSX*S, Im not good at math...(I know Im Asian I dont get it), but I know its costing me a lot of money.

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boostedrsxs
Guru
Posts: 880
Joined: 08/06
Posted: 07/19/07 11:23 AM

Thats about right, with a cai exhaust and Reflash #4 and intake manifold gasket, I made 196 at the wheels.  

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hawaiiancb74
New User
Posts: 40
Joined: 07/07
Posted: 07/19/07 09:56 PM

here ya go
Powergraph  
Im Asian, I drive a N/A RSX*S, Im not good at math...(I know Im Asian I dont get it), but I know its costing me a lot of money.

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automotivejtm-#001
Administrator
Posts: 1076
Joined: 08/06
Posted: 07/20/07 09:38 AM

nice.  thanks  

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Curtman
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Posts: 32
Joined: 01/08
Posted: 02/12/08 02:50 PM

I got a 99 civic with a N/A D16 Vtec. I got CAI headers and all the way back. I want a Skunk2 intake manifold and cam-shaft and a larger throttle body. Should I get a Hondata ECU or would the Venom Power Programer piggyback work best?  
- I love Mugen!

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chrism8302
New User
Posts: 37
Joined: 02/08
Posted: 02/12/08 09:55 PM

i'm gettin an 04' cavalier and don't know what kind of ECU gm runs on so will it be better to get a stand alone ECU or leave it alone?  

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DuckSauce
New User
Posts: 1
Joined: 03/08
Posted: 03/12/08 08:01 AM

Thanks a bunch for the thread!  I was really confused about the differences. I have to start looking for a standalone now.  Can anyone recommend several brands and also inform me on which, if any I should stay away from  due to software problems  or just to difficult to tune?  Im running a fully built B18b (working on slapping on a turbo)  in a 96 hatchback.  

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sandcar
New User
Posts: 2
Joined: 08/08
Posted: 08/26/08 08:14 PM

I have a 02 honda odyssey 3.5L T4 turbo 9lbs boost in mysand car runs real lean 0n c12 race gas looking for good stand alone, help! I have also found the ecu that is in the car now is from a 99 acura TL 3.2 is that bad.  

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SoulAssassin
New User
Posts: 4
Joined: 09/08
Posted: 09/24/08 11:20 AM

That engine tuning guide really helped me out i always wondered what was the difference, now i have a pretty old car i got my hands on recenty... it's a 1987 toyota starlet ep71 (i kno u guys probably never heard of it...) it's mostly what we use here in the caribbean to "go fast" it has a 1.3 turbo charged 4 cyclinder engine... uses a c7 stock turbo, 115bhp stock. now i'm thinkin' about puttin' in on the track which ecu u guys think wud be better to use?  
Schumikkonen

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s12rapido3
Addict
Posts: 2733
Joined: 07/08
Posted: 09/24/08 02:48 PM

You have to be from the Island of P.R. Those are some of the rides I talk about from time to time. As far as the ECU goes, you need to see what fits the use you plan on having. Stand alones are completely programmable as well as the Piggy back models are. You wouold have to choose which is easier for the wallet and see how it would work for you. I would suggest a piggy back ECU. Only because of price and ease of install.  
How you drive is your buisness. Remember that you're not the only one on the road!
Educate, don't hate.

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