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. Tuning organizations provide files from another country to a set tuner.
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, naturally a $75 dollar tuning origination comes to mind, as these people are the only ones careless enough to provide this type of work.
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. Damos Files from manufactures helps us make mappacks for our cars, however development time is needed.
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. So not only do you need to afford the software, you need to know how to use it. We train others on WinOLS, how to get the most out of it. This is the most complex tuning software money can buy, but also the best.
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 blanketly 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 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 regarding 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. Hyundai and Kia's have absolutely no commercial tuning support, the VT1 is the only Hyundai to ever receive commercial tuning support from HP Tuners, and even that is not perfect (to the point where HP Tuners does not want to support anymore Hyundai/Kia's)
What is commercial tuning support?
Manufacturers of the car produce what tuners call damos files. These damos files are basically a guide to the ECU. These files get leaked from the manufacturer to tuners, and big companies get these files, make flash tunes. Basically these files allow the tuner to make a great tune. However without it? It's all development and testing. Hyundai has no available damos files to tuners like other manufacturers do, the latest damos files for the 1.6T are from 2014. The lastest damos file for the 2.0T? 2014. We as tuners need to find these maps and allow editing of them, so how do we do it? Years of experience, even though the VT1 ECU was a Bosch and the Elantra Sport ECU is a Kefico ECU, we were still able to use the damos file from 2014, using what is called map addresses, and powerful software like WinOLS5, we are able to make tunable maps for the Kefico ECU, this is why we bring up WinOLS5 so much, it is needed to tuned the Kefico ECU due to lack of tuning support. We found the maps in the Kefico ECU. However nobody has a Kefico damos file, at least nobody tuning them. Everyone who tunes them uses older Hyundai damos files and makes their own like we did. For the N series cars the latest file is from 2014, this is a massive issue as N series cars did not exist back then, and N series cars have many drive modes which make tuning much more difficult. (All 2.0T Tuning is done from development and work with other tuners, we work with the best of the best on 2.0T tuning, and this is why we have powered cars into the 350WHP Range already!)
Commercial tuning support leads to file services which provide decent files to their customers. (the person you think is a tuner)
Why N75 Motorsports?
N75 Motorsports is the only Canadian tuner to own a 1.6T for tune development, and a 2.0T for tune development. Owning a test car allows us try things we would never think of trying on a customers car. This results in ECU maps that become extremely advanced. For example our 1.6T pop/showtune, both those tunes use custom made maps by us. We had to figure out what these maps were before we modded them and sent them to a customer. This why our showtune is only 8 months old. Our new 2.0T test car will have a larger turbo, this will give us an advantage over any tuner in Canada, not only do we have the tools, but the vehicle to test on. If you want an untested map, you won't get it from us. All our maps are tested with either our own car, or our test/development cars.
We also have many test cars which are active in the racing community, and have quick/high WHP cars. For example, our DCT test cars consist of 1 Elantra Sport with a stuffed turbo, running our tune and our DCT tune. We also have a VT2 DCT test car that runs 13.4 in the 1/4 mile, The worlds fastest Kia Forte GT? You guessed it, N75 Motorsports tuned. Lastly we had our own FBO Elantra GT N Line DCT development car. We don't just start tuning ECU'S/TCU'S. We develop a tune, test it, and once everything is complete, we offer it to the public. N75 Motorsports had never remapped any ECU/TCU and that person to be the first. We have test cars for this reason. We now own a VT2 and VN. 1.6T and 2.0T, these two cars allow us to try things we would never think of on customer cars. For example our N Mode Pop tune. We developed this tune with our development car, if we modify the wrong map? It is possible it does not end well, and this is not something we risk on customers cars.
Also remember we are mainly a tuning company. Selling parts just goes with tunes, we personally hate selling parts, however people want a tested setup. Through selling parts we figure out what we believe is the best for our platform at the best price. We have compared many products against others. We suggest the ones we think are best and try to get you the best price on those parts.
Lastly the tools we use. We do not use $250 dollar flashing software which our competitors do. We use the latest and newest tools at all times, minus remote tuning. Why is this important? Because these competitors will never be able to offer the same level of remapping we can. For example DCT Tuning, the 1.6T DCT does NOT have any tuning support for file editing, however our VF2 Flasher has the support built in, this means we can offer tunes through this tool, due to us using the latest and best available tools.
We work with some of the smartest tuners we know, even our competitors in the US? We work them believe it or not. We try to work with as many KDM tuners as possible, to avoid the need of a tuning organization. Nearly everyone who we seem is doing an amazing job in the community? We do our best to work with, naturally some refuse, but most are like us and see the value in good relationships with other tuners.
Best tools mean OBD flash, we don't need to rip your ECU apart just to flash it. We do this as we call ourselves KDM specialist, what type of specialist would we be without the special tools?
Consider this when buying a ECU tune. No one else in Canada even can offer a DCT tune let alone development it. They simply do not have the tools. This is what boggles our minds. We are the new vendor in Canada, yet somehow we have tools the tuners who have been tuning KDM for 10 years do not. Avoiding profit margin loss as little as possible is the only thing we can think of.