What you should look for in a tuner, and what you should look to avoid!
ECU Remapping is a multimillion dollar business. Naturally this brings out some bad vendors, allow us to explain.
What is a Tuning Organization?
Being an ECU tuning expert on 1 car brand is hard enough, most "Tuning Companies" are a part of a larger tuning organization as they cannot specialize in all brands. What "tuning organizations" do is find tuners and find dealers. We were approached by a tuning organization as they wanted us to be "Dealer" mainly to take our tuning information on the 1.6T/2.0T/3.3TT, and provide it to their dealers. They offered us tunes for all brands, this is what they do for a living.
Most are dealers, but there are ways to tell if they are a "dealer" or "tuner". Tuning Companies basically use tuning organizations as file service, the organization can tune ALL brands of cars because of their tuning network which they make. The tuning organization supplies the tuned files and all the dealer does is read and write the file. Usually these "Tuners" cannot do custom tuning, require multi visits to tune, and just can't tune these cars as good as people like us which all we do is Hyundai Kia tuning. Cannot do special features, and other special tuning requests. These "Dealers" also charge for pops, because they need to pay for it, most features which for us is a few keystrokes, these dealers must pay for. You must remember, we only tune Hyundai Kia, meaning all we datalog is Hyundai Kia. We have data on different products let alone our own tune... This gives us an edge.
These tuning companies own flash tools and that is about it. They own basic tuning software (so if the customer asks to see their map they can show them something hoping the customer is misinformated), and what they do is download your ECU file, upload it to their tuning organization, and they give them a tuned file, flash it to your ECU and charge you a large bill.
Why do we bring this up?
We have had many people buy "tunes" from "tuning companies" or even were fooled by the shop with a dyno (looks can be deceiving) and end up with a tune full of issues. They come to us to fix it, and we pull the ECU file, look at the mapping, and we scratch our head's.... What they are doing is not tuning.
How does real tuning work?
Real tuning takes time and effort. Unfortunately for our cars we don't have guides like other manufacturers do, so what most tuners do is use the power of EVC and buy training files. What these files do is help tuners aid which maps need to be adjusted and which to not touch. Training files are not perfect, for example DCT tuning. DCT tuning we bought 4 training files from other tuners, unfortunately none of them actually did anything on our files. So how did we come up with a DCT tune? We compared DCT files from around the world, from different Hyundai's and Kia's which use the same DCT, but files are different. This helped us find maps needed for tuning. 100s of hours of work comparing files, we came up with a mappack for the DCT which works. However we did have a long R&D trial and error period of time which in our opinion is normal. This why we have test cars and sponsored cars, to test this on.
What do you look for in a tuning company or Vendor?
Firstly WinOLS5, if your tuner is not using a registered version of WinOLS5? They are not a tuner. Simple. They are map editors, and they can only edit whatever maps are given to them. This is the difference, tuning and map editing. Most people will never know the difference, however if they are not using WinOLS? This is a redflag. WinOLS allows development which other tuning software does not. Those tuning organizations we mentioned? They use WinOLS, always. WinOLS5 is extremely expensive software which is extremely difficult to use, this is why most tuning dealers do not use it, it doesn't generate any maps even though it's the most expensive software, it requires Mappacks which then provide the tuner with maps.
Again we only bring this up because we have had to "retune" more than a handful of customers in the last 30 days. Some could not rev over 4,000 RPM, some didn't have any more power than stock.
Ask your tuner to show you your map, then ask what software they use. Then go home and research that software! YouTube is your friend!! But to blankenly allow somebody who you "trust" to tune your car who is not a tuner? Is not the smartest thing, and this why we are making this blog post.
Don't be fooled by fancy terminology, terms which you do not understand, WinOLS5 is the only software to allow full view of all maps, yet we have tuners and vendors in Canada telling the community there is other software that can. Again, YouTube is your friend, as a friend of ours says "YouTube University" while this is actually incorrect, there is a lot of very good information on YouTube regardling tuning.
If you have to pay for extra features? Most likely it's a file service tuner, "pops" and "pops and bangs", "VMAX" (Speed Limiter removal in tuner terms) is always an extra cost, these are literally keystrokes, why would anyone charge for this service when it is so easy to do? (Because they are paying for it)
We own Hyundai's and Kia's, cars that are very difficult to tune. If you think that anyone can do it you are mistaken, in our opinion there's only 2-3 places in North America which can tune our car's properly.
Ask yourself why nobody has in the US come to a Canadian tuner for special projects before us? We tune big turbo cars, stuffed turbo cars, our services are in demand around the world, we helped tuners figure out the 7K shift on files overseas, when was the last time you saw this from another Canadian tuner?