Choosing a shop for a custom tune.

With the amount of “tuner” shops that have been popping up all over the country in the last five years you often have to wonder if they are actually trained properly or are they simply jumping on the band wagon of being the next great “tuner” because the they have a race car and won a trophy or two? This question pops up more often than not. Everyone has heard the horror stories of a person buying a brand new vehicle, taking it to the local high performance shop for a “custom tune” and instead of the shop handing a set of keys to a car making more horsepower they are handed a copy of a waiver they signed saying the shop is not liable for any dyno tuning done and a crucial piece of an engine called a piston skirt!

Here are a few things to consider before handing over the keys to your pride and joy that you will be paying on for the next five years… All tuners are NOT the same! Just because they have financed a dyno and were able to call up and order tuning software and that they advertise they are tuners does not mean they actually have the years of training needed to be able to properly adjust the hundreds of tables needed to make your specific setup run correctly. If I can offer one MAJOR piece of advice to you, that would be to do your homework! Ask questions and I don’t mean on a forum where there are hundreds of haters who don’t want you making more power them; or they claim to be the “know it all” based off of exaggerated theories, but for some reason they have no training and work at Mcdonald’s for a living! I mean no disrespect to anyone working at Mcdonald’s because especially with the economy the way it is we all have to do what we have to do to make ends meet, but there are way too many magazine readers on the forums that think if they do three mods to their car and they each advertise a 5hp gain that without even being on a dyno with before and after runs they are making 15 more hp! At some point people need to think more clearly and realize that magazines are written on a 10th grade level so that readers are not lost on articles that are “too technical” and are mainly based off of advertising dollars. Forums are not the place for doing All of your homework. I say All because the internet can definitely be an asset, just be sure that what your reading makes sense. Sorry for that little tangent but being a shop owner you get to see all types of people over the years.

Now let’s get down to the basics and get these questions answered because it really is simple…

1. Does the shop have a history of tuning vehicles similar to yours? ie: GM/Ford/Nissan etc

2. How long has the shop been tuning and the second part to this question is that answer geared towards carburetor or EFI tuning? Too many shops have been known for tuning carbureted applications and see the demand for EFI tuning and think they can handle it but truly do not have the expertise to do so.

3. Where did they get their training and what is their level of training? ie: SCT will sell software to anyone but you have to go through their training to get to a calibrator level otherwise you only have 1/3 of the tables to adjust and drive by wire…forget that unless you have been through their advanced courses!

4. What type of dyno are they tuning on? Years ago when all cars were carbureted and they didn’t have computers with spark tables based from load, an inertia type dyno was ok for tuning…it got the car close enough and the final “dialing in” came at the racetrack. It is very simple folks…if you have a fuel injected car and want it tuned properly get it tuned on a dyno that is a “loaded” dyno. This is the only way a car can be properly loaded so the higher spark levels can be attained for tuning, if not, this is where the stories come from when a car was just dyno tuned and the graphs looked great but then when the car was driven on the street  it tossed a connecting rod out the side of the block.

5. Ask questions about how they tune…how long does it take and what are the costs involved for your specific setup. A tuner may be good with naturally aspirated cars but not have the knowledge for a supercharged or turbo application. This also holds true to tuners that may be good with a 500hp blown application but no experience with a 1000hp application and believe it or not there are differences.

6. One final thing….Run like hell from any shop that wants to put your car on a dyno….do three pulls and hand you back a custom tuned street car!!!!!!!!!!!! 3 pulls are wide open throttle, air fuel checks and if you have a blown application most of the time it is too late before you know your car was “a little lean” and guess what...you just became a statistic! And we all know that street cars are driven 100% of the time at wide open throttle right?!

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