Flash Tuning Frequently Asked Questions

There are so many questions related to Flash tuning, it’s almost crazy.

Listed here are the most common questions I have been asked in the past, and my answers. I hope they help you.

Flash tuning involves altering the file stored within the ECU. This is done by reading the code stored on the ECU, altering it, and writing it back on.

In a very simplistic way, it is the same as updating your iPhone with new firmware.

Many parameters can be altered; it is dependent on the car. For example, with the Mazda CX7 range, some of the base parameters altered include boost, fueling, load and spark advance. These parameters are stored in maps. The best way to describe a map is to compare it to a really big spreadsheet.

Traction control is rarely altered, unless required.

Flash tunes are the result of a large amount of work. Many hours are spent accessing and decompiling the memory on an ECU. Particularly the newer more modern units. Once this process is finished, the resulting information needs to analysed and arranged in such a fashion, one can confidently understand where all the various parameters controlling the motor are located. This is a very lengthy process. It can take months. In some cases, it can takes years for all the tables to be properly defined.

Finally, large amounts of time and effort are then spent in testing various changes in order to optimise the final product.

One of the reasons we check and modify the file from your car is to retain the chassis number and hardware info possibly embedded within the data. This means that when the ECU is scanned, it will return correct information for your car. This helps make it basically undetectable, and why it is important to be car specific!

However, if they hook up to the OBD diagnostic port and log boost parameters and find an abnormally high boost, they’ll be asking you questions!!

There is no way to be 100% sure they will not find out you have modified the ECU. Same can be said for most forms of modification.

This seems to be a major concern for some. Simple answer is yes, you will loose the tune and return to factory settings.

Car updates are done normally when the Manufacturer decides an issue can be solved. Do not believe that every time you put your car in for a service, the ECU/PCM will be reflashed with new factory firmware, this is not usually the case. Please remember the car is yours, and you have the ability to say no to any updates. This will prevent the new tune being lost.

Personally, I believe the best policy is to restore the car to stock before any service.

And then after the service, you can always flash your file back..!!

No. You will not loose the flashed file.

When you reconnect the battery the same file will still be stored on your ECU. However, depending on how long the battery was disconnected, you may well loose “learned” parameters. These include parameters that are set up as the car operates.

Don’t worry about this, as they will over time restore as part of normal operation.

There is normally no need to have a custom tune for mods like Catback exhaust, TMIC or CAI’s. The ECU will deal with these mods happily. This applies to mods installed before and after a flash tune. The ECU will relearn any parameters it needs to for proper operation. Experience shows that adding mods normally enhances the tune, as it does can a stock tune.

This is not to say, that a tune can’t be developed to include such modifications. With VersaTune, the Online Tune Database does in fact have tunes for basic modifications.

A custom tune is advised for major work such as heads, cams, turbos, full exhaust and modifications that may radically alter sensor data fed to the ECU/PCM.

Often people ask, and endlessly discuss on forums, why the cost appears high considering that all we do is plug a laptop into your car – after all, this is all they see happening. Before we even get to the point of programming your car, much has already occurred. In some cases, many months of development has taken place to finalise a product. In the case of the Mazda CX7 range, almost 6 months of time was invested in testing and R&D.

Consider too, this development is done using expensive test equipment, dynos, software, dataloggers and computers. Another point many are not aware of is the price of the actual equipment we use to interface to your car. Professional grade (not eBay KWP2000 tool ) cost many thousands of dollars. It is not unusual for a Slave tool to cost over $4000AUD, and a Master over $9000AUD. Software to edit these files range from $3000AUD to $9000AUD. So you can appreciate costs are very high in this business. Each file sold therefore has an inherent cost.

This is why we now suggest you consider the option to flash tune your car with the software we recommend. It’s not expensive, and is very safe. Base tunes are easily available and simple to load. And if you do not feel confident, you can ask your local Shop to to use your software and build a custom tune for your car.

In most cases, no.

Flash tunes are designed to be safe across a model range. Much time, money and testing is invested into creating a flash tune. You can be sure it is suitable. If you have an extreme set of modifications, we would advise dynotuning.

There is always a caveat here. A flash tune implies that you are wanting to push the car beyond what the factory has determined. Therefore no one can really be sure what will happen in the future.

If you drive it nice and behave, the odds are the car will be fine. But if you drive hard all the time, expect that there may will be a failure.

Despite what you think, most customers are not interested in dyno charts. They just want the car to run better. In fact, many do not even consider dyno charts when electing to invest in flash tuning.

Flashtuning is not a new art. It has been around for many years, and is established technology. Be aware that different cars with the same tune will have varied results when tested on different dynos. And this variation can be very large. There are too many factors that affect the final figures, both for the better and for the worse. These include setup, ambient temperature, calibration, operator, brand of equipment etc. This large variation makes it difficult to give absolute results. Therefore, advertised figures are the result of inhouse development and testing. {Please contact us for a further explanation.} If you are happy to perform a dyno test and provide us with charts, we will post them for others to view.

The issue of exactly what parameters are altered, and to what value, is often beaten to death on car forums. People and companies are sometimes accused of withholding information, being dishonest, lying and even incompetent. All of which are furthest from the truth.

Exact specifications are not often released as often this is proprietary information. Especially when in a developmental phase. It is commercially sensitive information. So from this perspective almost no Tuner will give you exact specifications. Only ballpark. This is a common occurrence, and not unusual. We all wish to protect the information, knowledge and files we have all worked very hard to develop. Just like any other company trying to protect its proprietary knowledge and information.

As with all modding, there is always that chance. The risk is no more or less than any high performance modification.

And it also depends on how radically you drive. It is also extremely important your car is in perfect running order before tuning. High performance tuning will not fix problems, it will more than likely exaggerate them.

Our advice will always be, to simply be smart about the way you drive. Respect the fact the car has been modified..!!

First off, be careful! 

The car will have a lot more power and torque. It may surprise you, so it is important to take things easy at first until you understand the changes. The car will change over a few days as the ECU sets itself, and may become more powerful.

You may also notice Traction Control Systems react differently, so be aware! Depending on the car, it may take a period of time for the ECU to settle. You may experience some hesitation at various points while the ECU learns the fueling. This is typical, and not unusual. Results will vary from car to car. This is normal. The state of each car, and the dyno used, will always create variation in the final figures.