If you’re reading this, chances are, you’re a fan of late-model high-performance. We get it, we’re of the same mindset. The big three keep building cars that keep getting better. In case you haven’t noticed, we are definitely proponents of factory hot rods. However, unlike current muscle’s classic counterparts, tuning for more power and efficiency can’t be done with a screwdriver and a vacuum gauge.
It used to be easy to “tune” a car. You rebuild and adjust the carburetor, change the points gap, or adjust the dwell of a distributor, and you maybe find a couple of unrealized horsepower. Thanks to companies like SCT Performance, improving an engine’s “tune” in a late-model hot rod is as easy as plugging a hand-held tuning adjuster into your car and uploading a better tune.
In the Beginning
When hand-held devices first hit the market, enthusiasts were limited to a pre-loaded tune that made pre-designated changes to ignition, fuel, and other parameters. There wasn’t much leeway available for changes. Then, tuning shops started offering other, more advanced “tunes” via email. For a fee, you could contact the tuning shop of your choice, pay a nominal fee, and they would email you an even better tune to install into your hand-held device, and ultimately, your car. Now, there is yet another option, and it literally has its head in the Cloud.
The latest change to the way the OEMs communicate updates and programs to our late-model car’s computers is through Cloud-based communication. To make it easy to understand, your car actually connects to the Internet and receives manufacturer-approved adjustments, programming, and updates, which are sent wirelessly to your car’s control systems.
Check Out The BDX
If you’re looking for a hand-held programmer that allows you access to your car’s computer for various reasons, the BDX is a great choice. It can serve as a code-reader to help diagnose various maladies, show real-time data, and even offers data-logging. This allows the user to go back and look at the information as time permits. Users can also record the vehicle’s performance and play it back later with SCT’s free LiveLink software.
Not only is this a great diagnostics tool, but the BDX programmer covers many engines and manufacturers with car-specific tunes designed to optimize the vehicle’s performance. The user-adjustable features in the BDX allow enthusiasts to adjust spark timing, fuel injector sizing, fan control, maximum engine RPM, and vehicle speed. Adjustments for modifications such as tire size, throttle body upgrades, and throttle sensitivity are available within the menus. It even allows for modification of the vehicle’s transmission shift points and firmness.
BDX can store up to 20 tune files, so you can easily store various files for economy, daily-driving, or performance. Custom tuning is available from one of SCT’s custom-tune dealers.
What Cloud-based tuning offers enthusiasts is the ability to update their vehicle wherever they are — as long as they can get a Wi-Fi connection. Have you ever needed to make a tuning change on the weekend and could not find a tuning shop? With this option, you can get what you need, even if shops are closed or unavailable.
Computer Not Required
Since this technology does require connecting to the Cloud, we asked if a laptop was required. “No, a laptop is not needed to download from the Cloud,” says Jill Hepp, marketing director at SCT. “If utilizing Cloud tuning, the end-user does not need a computer at all. Users can connect the SCT device directly to Wi-Fi, download the files they need to the device, and then proceed to flash their vehicle. If users prefer, they may use a PC running SCT’s Device Updater software instead of performing the updates using the device’s built-in Wi-Fi.”
Now that we understand what this Cloud-based tuning is, how does it actually work? When the device is plugged into the vehicle’s OBDII port, usually located under the dash, it will power on with several menus options. The screen will prompt the user to follow simple instructions and the device will read the vehicle’s info to identify what type of vehicle and engine is present so it can load the proper files. After confirming the vehicle, a menu will display possible options available to modify, which can be opened and modified with a few clicks on the device. Parameters such as tire size, axle ratio, RPM limit, and others are readily adjustable. These are known as preloaded tunes.
Custom tuning requires you have a custom tuning dealer that has sent your tune to the Cloud, secured with a serial number they gave you. Next, connect your tuner to the OBDII port and make sure it is connected to Wi-Fi. Then, just follow the prompts on the hand-held device.
After choosing the options above, one final screen will display all your options and ask you to confirm your changes. From there, the device will save your stock file and then load the new file to your vehicle. Once complete, you can unplug the device and drive your vehicle or, if you prefer, you can leave it plugged in for data logging and other functions.
All custom tunes generated by SCT custom tuners are locked to a particular device serial number. When the device connects to the SCT Cloud, it will retrieve custom tunes that are meant for that device only. As great as this tune-gathering technology is, there are some things to keep in mind. Currently, connectivity is limited to the vehicle coverage that is found on the BDX and GTX devices. While the X4 is not yet supported for Cloud connection, it is part of SCT’s product plan for the future.
GTX Tuner And Monitor
The GTX Performance Tuner and Monitor has a 5-inch touchscreen to create an easy reading display. The screen shows real-time data, and it is configurable to show what’s important to you. Data-logging includes all available parameters, which can then be chosen and viewed as needed at a later time.
GTX’s magnetic mounting system allows the device to be stowed away when not in use. Not only is it conveniently stowed, but GTX provides street-tested, dyno-proven tune files developed by SCT to unlock your vehicle’s true potential. Enthusiasts can select from multiple SCT tuning levels or load up to 20 custom tune files from one of the company’s authorized custom-tune suppliers.
It also doubles as a diagnostic tool to read and clear diagnostic trouble codes, saving a trip to the dealership. You can even customize your GTX by adding additional sensors, using the integrated FireWire input.
As previously mentioned, Cloud-based tuning offers enthusiasts is the ability to update the “tune” in their vehicle wherever they are while using a Wi-Fi connection. A major benefit is, no more waiting for a shop or individual tuner to email you a custom tune for your hot rod. Simply find the tune you need in the Cloud and download it. The actual tune retrieval can be handled by anyone, anywhere, and that’s a great benefit to all enthusiasts.