COBB Tuning is an American aftermarket tuning company that specializes in European and Japanese brands. These include BMW, Porsche, Volkswagen, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Mazda, and Nissan. For good measure, COBB also offers a wide selection of Ford products and services. They are an expert manufacturer with an in-house engineering team, allowing them to bring products to market quickly and efficiently.
If you’ve ever tried to find the best COBB dealer near where you live, or if you’ve checked out the COBB dealer locator or list of authorized dealers on their website, you may have been blown away by the staggering number of authorized and unauthorized dealers and distributors all over the country. The list of authorized dealers includes hundreds of shops across the country, while the locator will list all shops within your search area and provide full contact info.
So, how should you go about finding the best COBB dealer for you? In the ocean of information that is the internet, figuring out where to start can be a challenge. This article will go over COBB’s history and look one of their defining products—the COBB Accessport. We’ll then discuss how to find a dealer in your location that offers the services you need for your specific make and model.
A Bit of History
COBB Tuning was founded in 1999 by Trey Cobb, who had previously worked with Rotary Performance, a Mazda RX7 specialists. Trey began with little working capital, no outside investments, and initially operating out of his dad’s tire shop in Texas. Trey began by focusing on the Subaru aftermarket and quickly gained a reputation as one of the premier Subaru tuners in the country. It didn’t take COBB long to branch out to other brands.
Trey Cobb in his shop. Source: Flickr. You can also follow him on Twitter at @treycobb.
In 2002, COBB relocated to a purpose-built facility in Salt Lake City, UT. They’ve since returned to their home state of Texas and are currently headquartered in Austin.
In 2014, Trey sold the company and, since 2015, he has been running a pretty hip coffee shop in Austin. As for the company that bears his name, COBB has become a major influence in all kinds of aftermarket areas for the platforms and makes they support. This includes, among other things, air intake systems, exhaust systems, intercooler upgrades, Turbo upgrades, drivetrain accessories and upgrades, and suspension accessories and upgrades. They also do all kinds of different accessories and are the perfect people to add a touch of personalization to your vehicle.
Check out COBB U to learn more about COBB and their specific tuning services.
The Legendary COBB Accessport
Released in 2004, the COBB Accessport was the first handheld ECU programming device for Subaru. It remains to this day the most popular and successful. It allowed tuners to “re-flash” the car’s ECU and carry multiple engine-management functions in a single, pocket-sized device.
Some of the original Accessports from COBB. They sport a very mid-2000s aesthetic that may remind you of your first cell phone. Source: Dsport.
The purpose of the Accessport is to reprogram the factory settings of your ECU and, according to COBB’s website, “unlock free power hidden within your ECU.”
First, some explanation. The engine control unit or ECU is essentially the main computer in your car. It is responsible for fuel economy, emissions, protecting drivetrain components, and monitoring the car’s sensors. Manufacturers build a car with a ‘general audience’ in mind. This means that the ECU is programmed with ‘conservative’ settings that do not favor one driving environment over another.
However, if you primarily drive in mountains, in deserts, or in extremely hot or cold climates, you may wish to retune your ECU to suit that particular environment. Correctly tuning the ECU can optimize your vehicle for its particular environment, resulting in improved fuel efficiency, smoother handling, and greater horsepower.
The Accessport allows you to re-flash your car’s computer, recalibrate its parameters, and optimize its performance. It plugs into your OBDII Port and changes parameters such as ignition timing, fueling curves, and boost curves. It is meant to work with COBB’s Accesstuner software, which you can download after completing a brief training regimen.
The Accessport is unique among ECU programmers in that it can do two kinds of re-flashes.
First, it can install a “base map”—basically your car’s hard-drive memory. Parameters set in the base map will remain until you change or remove them, even if you reset the ECU or power down the whole system. This makes re-flashing the base map a permanent reprogramming, as the only way to undo these changes would be to re-flash your ECU with another base map.
Second, the Accessport can re-flash with a “real-time map.” This is not saved to the ECU hard drive, but rather affects your car’s random-access memory (RAM). In this case, the re-flash will be lost if the ECU is reset. This kind of re-flashing is great for temporary changes like
The latest COBB Accessport and version of Accesstuner, complete with a full-color, high-resolution screen. Source: COBB Tuning.
The latest Accessport V3 is in-cabin mountable and possesses a large, full color, high-resolution screen. It lets you monitor up to six parameters in real time and, compared to older models, wields more processing power, memory, and storage.
How to Find the Best Authorized COBB Dealer Near Me
The COBB Dealer Searcher
To find a COBB dealer near you, begin by entering your home address into the COBB website’s dealer searcher. You can narrow your search results by specifying the dealer type, capabilities, and type of vehicle you are interested in. For example, you might live in Kansas City MO, drive a Subaru, and search for an authorized COBB protuner that specializes in e-tuning. The website will display a large map that you can zoom in on and see each shop’s location and rating.
Gold, Silver, Platinum Rankings
COBB’s searcher gives priority to their “Platinum”, “Gold”, and “Silver” dealers and protuners. A Gold-certified dealer, for example, is one that works with any platform for which COBB makes an Accessport. This includes Subaru, Mitsubishi Evo, Nissan GT-R, Porsche, Mazda, Turbo Ford, etc.
COBB Gold-certified dealers are chose based on service, customer feedback, and purchasing power.
According to Chan Le, a representative from the COBB support team, the Gold, Silver, and other tiers “are based on a combination of the volume of COBB orders and how long they may have been an Authorized Dealer/Protuner.” Other factors include a business’s purchasing power, customer feedback, and annual shop visits from COBB representatives.
COBB has a strict policy against favoring one shop over another. As Chan put it, “there is no one dealer that is better than another, they are all equal.” Chan also told us about the elusive “Platinum” COBB ranking, which refers to “former COBB Tuning satellite shops that we’ve owned but then sold to the shop managers so we can [concentrate] all of our efforts into our current R&D Facility.” He cited Surgeline in Portland OR and AntSpec of Fountain Valley CA as two notable Platinum members. “Those shops,” Chan added, “do get a little more credit as they’ve had some history with COBB Tuning.
Sources: COBB Tuning; interview conducted with COBB representative Chan Le (05/28/2020).
Finding a Good, Local COBB Tuning Dealer
So, what’s the best way to find a good, highly rated COBB dealer near you? How do you balance the value of a Gold- or Silver-certified dealer with the convenience of a local shop?
First, do your homework. COBB’s searcher will list Platinum dealers by distance, followed by Gold dealers by distance, and so on, ending with a list of non-rated shops in your area. This helps consumers choose whether to stay local or make the trek to a certified dealer.
Sift through the search results on the COBB website and find a few dealers that are close you your location. Then cold call or email each one and check whether they actually work on your model of car and provide the services you need. If possible, personally visit the shops, check out how they run their businesses, and see if they are a good fit for you. This kind of in-person research is essential.
The next step is to consult the public. You may think of Yelp as that place where people post mean reviews of local restaurants. However, Yelp compiles customer reviews for all kinds of businesses, including auto shops. Just google “[name of the dealer] yelp” and it’ll pop right up.
Now, you may be skeptical that a single review (whether positive or negative) can say anything meaningful about a technical topic like auto tuning. And you’d be right. One customer review is meaningless. But what about ten? What about fifty? A strong overall score based on a large sample size of customer reviews is the best indication of a business’s quality and reliability. Did you ever watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? If you did, you’d know that “Ask the Audience” was by far the most reliable lifeline for answering a question correctly.
The average review score on Yelp is about 3.8. However, because Yelp rounds to the nearest half-star increment for each business, this displays as a 4-star overall score on a business’s Yelp page.
The breakdown of average ratings on Yelp. Source: Rising Star Reviews.
So, if you’re looking for above-average quality and service, look for a tuning shop with a 4.5-star average or higher. The rest of this article will review some of the highest scoring COBB dealers and help you find one in your area.
Of course, Yelp is not the only source for customer reviews. You can also check out the ratings boards at dealrater.com and cars.com. The point is to find a certified COBB dealer near you with a strong record of positive reviews. How you choose to do that is up to you.
Sources: Rising Star Reviews.
In the Northwest: Surgeline
Surgeline is known as one of the top import performance and prep shops in the Pacific Northwest. It also happens to be one of COBB’s Platinum dealers and sports a fantastic Yelp score of 4.5 stars.
Bobby Wintrode, the General Manager at Surgeline, told us a bit about the company’s history. Formerly owned by COBB, Surgeline went private in 2016 but still retaining about 90% of their staff from the COBB days. They carry 13 Accessport accessories and 32 pieces of Accessport hardware at time of this writing. According to Bobby, “we offer for sale the entire COBB catalog of parts, and stock a majority of them in house for same day pickup, and also offer items from other manufacturers as well.”
“As a company we have chosen to continue operating as we did when owned by Cobb,” Bobby added, “and still only support vehicles that are currently supported by the Cobb AP. We offer products from pretty much all manufacturers but still prefer the Cobb brand.”
Bobby highlighted the custom tune and single flat rate for tuning sessions as “extra” services Surgeline offers. Their tuning sessions “consist of 5 maps and not just a single boost tune.”
Surgeline does modification, tuning, maintenance, and repair for all the makes COBB traditionally services: Subaru, Nissan, Ford, BMW, etc.
Sources: Surgeline; interview conducted with Bobby Wintrode (05/29/2020).
In the Southwest: AntSpec
Fountain Valley, CA
AntSpec, formerly known as COBB SoCal, is another COBB Platinum member that also an authorized dealer for Perrin Performance, Rays, AEM, Motul, and many other top-quality brands. Their in-house calibrator and ASE-certified technicians will guide you through the entire process of your build from installation to maintenance and repairs.
If the reviews are any indication, AntSpec also has some of the best customer service you’ll ever find.
In the Northeast: ONEighty
ONEighty (or “one-eighty custom”) is an auto shop in New York City with a wide range of COBB products. They specialize in vinyl wrapping, wheel powder coating, custom headlight work, carbon fiber, and installation of aftermarket parts.
ONEighty’s skills with headlights and meticulous attention to detail are nothing short of legendary in the tri-state area.
They work with Audi, BMW, Infiniti, and Nissan.
In the Midwest: Six Star Motorsports
Six Star Motorsports is a Subaru specialist founded in 2010. They handle everything about Subaru from start to finish, from maintenance to fully built motors. They work with general maintenance services such as filters, fluids, and tires, as well as NASA/SCCA spec builds with multi-link conversions, roll cages, and custom fuel systems.
SS also offers a number of maintenance packages such as their “Fender Rolling and Wide-body adaptation service” or their full “Emission Services, Brake Systems, Air Conditioning and Alignments” package.
If you’re looking to install an Accessport in your Subaru, SS can do Stock Turbo, Single Fuel, or Maf-based (with or without an inspection) and offer a secondary map or flex add-on for $200.
Sources: Six Star Motorsports.