Have you ever thought about getting a tune up for your vehicle? If so, you may wish to consider dyno tuning. Dyno tuning is one of the best and most popular ways to optimize your vehicle’s performance and tune it to exactly the specifications that work for you. If you want to skip straight to our recommendations; then navigate to our top dyno tuning shops list or to our affiliate partner Vivid Racing’s Tuning page. The fastest and most cost-effective way to tune your vehicle can be to skip the shop altogether using a ECU tuning box kit. Here you can check out their industry best tuning chips and ECU box kits for almost every make/model.
Dyno tuning, basically, puts your car on a giant treadmill. This device, called a dynamometer, simulates various road conditions while allowing technicians to measure every dimension of your vehicle’s performance: power, torque, etc. An ECU device is used to modify the parameters of your vehicle’s engine control unit according to exact specifications. In this way, you can recalibrate your engine for maximum vehicle performance.
A dynamometer is perfectly safe and only ever replicates real conditions your car might experience on the road. If a car has any kind of mechanical failure during a dyno tuning, the root cause is an inherent issue with the car itself, not the dynamometer.
Why Choose Dyno Tuning?
Dyno tuning can enhance your vehicle and increase its efficiency and performance. It is performed with different engine loads and under different road conditions based on the type of vehicle and the environment in which you expect to drive it. When done right, it allows for a smoother and more cost-effective driving experience.
There’s some serious dyno tuning going on here. Source: SP Engineering.
Dyno tuning allows you to measure engine output, horsepower, torque, and your engine’s air-to-fuel ratio. It also returns the vehicle to stock fuel economy. It can rectify common problems such as low gas mileage, surging, pinging, trouble starting your vehicle, or insufficient power output of the engine.
Motorcyclists are not left out of the dyno tuning fun. Source: Drag Bike News.
This means that a dyno-tuned engine can work less hard but achieve the same results as an untuned engine. All this reduces wear and tear on your vehicle, extends the overall life of your engine, and can save you some costly repairs in the future.
How Does It Work?
First, a technician interviews you and checks if there are any specific problems to look for during the dyno tuning. These might include low power, poor gas mileage, or trouble starting or surging. They then check engine compression for potential issues, conduct a visual inspection, and eliminate any immediately visible problems such as faulty wires or a dirty carburetor.
The next step is to identify the correct heat range for your car based on your typical driving habits and conditions. The technicians then conduct a test on the distributor, under actual operation conditions, in order to gauge its mechanical soundness and reliability. This allows technicians to modify the centrifugal advance rate and ensure that your vehicle has optimum gas mileage before the driving test begins.
Then, finally, your vehicle gets up on the dynamometer. Some shops let you drive your car during this process, while others have a technician at the wheel. They test your vehicle under different conditions, carefully varying the speed and load conditions while monitoring performance and adjusting the circuits at all times. When it’s all over, you’ll receive a detailed overview of all the tune-up specifications.
Source: Elite Roads.
What Kind Do I Want?
There are a lot of tuning options out there. The one you want depends on what kind of driving you expect to do.
If you’re planning on racing, you would aim for strong off/on throttle transitions or low-end torque, depending on what kind of track you’ll be racing on. If you’re a daily driver who just needs to get from point A to point B, you’ll want to focus on gas mileage, part throttle, and cruising specifications. If, on the other hand, you just want to squeeze out as much horsepower as possible from your engine, a dyno tuning can accomplish that (through a method lovingly referred to as “kill mode”). Just know that, if you go for this last option, your car will almost certainly be banned from regular road driving.
The lesson here is: give the tuning technicians as many details as possible regarding what kind of driving you’ll be doing and in what conditions. The more they know, the better they’ll be able to calibrate your vehicle to your exact needs. They’ll also be able to determine whether you need higher octane gasoline or other additional parts to suit your newly tuned vehicle.
Also, be advised that “power” and “safety” are, at the end of the day, inversely related. If you want to maximize the HP and torque of your engine, you’re going to sacrifice some safety standards. There’s only so much power an engine can handle safely. Be sure to consult your technicians on this issue.
Source: Dynotech Tuning.
Finding the Best Dyno Tuning Near Me
If you’re looking to avoid going into a shop or at least want to explore the easiest way to tune on your own, while saving a bunch of money; then check out our partners over at Vivid Racing below. Use their simple plug and tune VR ECU box kits along with other tuning products for the fastest, most cost-effective tuning (that’s also social distancing friendly) check out the image link below.
In the Tri-State Area: Prime Motoring
Prime Motoring will do custom dyno tuning for a variety of makes and models. They’ll calibrate your vehicle for maximum reliability and drivability.
The Prime shop utilizes a Mustang AWD-150 SE dynamometer. The advantage of this particular dynamometer lies in its ability to precisely replicate ideal road-load conditions, specifically by distributing torque to the vehicle’s tires in a way that simulates 4-wheel drive on a regular road.
A custom WRX getting a tune up in the Prime shop.
Your vehicle can thus be tested and tuned under optimal operational conditions. The AWD-150 uses a linked drive system that synchronizes the back and front rollers of the dynamometer to replicate a dry, stable, and level road.
We spoke to Naven Budhu, a customer service rep at Prime Motoring. He told us how Prime “focuses on customer cars and making them run the correct way based on what they have done to their cars. From 200whp to 1200whp, every car gets the same expertise as we spend our free time trying to push the boundaries of the Subaru platform.”
“It’s pretty obvious that our bread and butter is the Subaru WRX/STi platform,” Naven added, “and we’ve done quite a bit to help with the program. Six years ago, we started the ‘1000+ HP Subaru’ craze and managed to set some records that are only being touched today!” He continued:
Our strengths really are making sure that each customer’s car is set-up the correct way and they get an ECU calibration that’s proven to be done right. It’s more than just power contrary to popular beliefs. I have numerous people saying our dyno either reads high or that we are “aggressive”. That’s not the case at all! We back up our dyno results with track results that puts above our competition.
Prime will also perform a Pre-Dyno Inspection or PDI. This includes a boost pressure test, vacuum leak test, as well as a visual inspection to check proper function of all components. Issues found during inspection are dealt with immediately so as not to taint the results of the dyno tune. For only $85, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars by avoiding an issue during the dyno tuning session.
The Mustang Dynamometer in action.
According to Naven, “a pre-dyno inspection is always recommended before tuning the car. If a car is not physically in the correct shape to get tuned, then it will NOT go on the dyno whatsoever! Always treat your car with respect rather than a racecar. If you treat it like a racecar, you should be ready to spend money fixing it like a racecar.”
Sources: Prime Motoring; phone interview conducted with sales representatives from Prime (07/22/2020).
In the Northeast: Dynotech Tuning
Dynotech Tuning, located just outside of Boston, was established in 2010 and provide full-service tuning (as well as automotive maintenance, part installation, and all that good stuff). You can get ProEFI ECU tuners, the AEM Infinity 508, FuelTech and Haltech Elite, as well as a wide variety of HP Tuners. See their list of ECU tuning products here. Their dyno tuning services start at $600. For $800, you can rent their dyno tuning shop for a full day.
Getting a dyno tune at Dynotech. Source: Dynotech. Also, Dynotech.
They calibrate a wide range of vehicles such as BMW, Porsche, Mitsubishi, Dodge, Jeep, Nissan, and more. Check out this page for a full list of vehicles and tuners they utilize. Finally, Dynotech includes on their website this very helpful “What kind of tune do you want??” guide to walk you through the process and figure out which tuning will bring out the most potential in your vehicle.
For example, if your vehicle still has its stock factory engine, a dyno tune is probably not worth your money. “Stock engine dyno tuning probably won’t bring out that much horsepower and torque” to a stock engine, a tuning expert from Dynotech told us. “Without [previous] modifications, the gains are not going to be substantial.”
He added that, “if you wanted a bigger flowing exhaust system or intake and pull more power out of the engine, there might be a little more power or torque, but its not going to be substantial where you’re going to feel it.” However, if your engine has been seriously modified, dyno tuning has the potential to drastically increase power output, torque, fuel efficiency, and other key parameters.
Source: Dynotech Tuning; phone interview conducted with tuning specialist at Dynotech (07/22/2020).
In the Midwest: Late Model Throttle
Late Model Throttle is an auto tuning shop in Wisconsin that offers a number of interesting dyno tuning options. You can get their “Aftermarket Forced Induction” tuning, which means no aftermarket camshafts or cylinder heads are used in the process. This package includes other external bolt-ons such as headers, exhaust, injectors, and so forth.
You might also choose their “OEM Forced Induction Stock and Bolt on Calibration” or “Naturally aspirated with Internal Modification” tuning packages. Click here for a full list of their services and prices.
Getting a tune up at Late Model Throttle. Source: Late Model Throttle.
Their tuning add-ons include:
- Flex Fuel Tuning / Second E85 Map
- Base Transmission Tuning
- Advanced Transmission Tuning- 5spd+, High Stall, High HP, etc.
- Forced Induction / Custom OS tuning
Source: Late Model Throttle.
On the West Coast: PREracing
Established in 1998, Performance Race Engineering LLC (that’s PREracing to you) is all about forced induction systems. The PREracing headquarters features a service shop, showroom, AWD dyno with full tuning capabilities, and a fully stocked warehouse.
On the dynamometer in the PREracing shop. Source: Preracing Youtube.
PREracing has some of the best ‘dyno tuning’ services on the West Coast. This means that your vehicle is placed on a dynamometer that simulates the experience of driving on a real road.
They offer COBB ProTune, SCT Custom Tuning, EFILive Tuning, or whatever tuning tools best suit your particular vehicle. They operate the dynamometer while you drive your own car. They will also do an SCT custom tuning, but you have to supply your own flash tool.
They also incorporate HP Tuning, EFILive tuners, Diablosport custom tunes, etc. Click here for more details.