Category Archives: Tuning Blog

Why Drive by Wire is Cool

Strap in kid’s, this ones gonna be a long one.

Something I’ve played with for a few years, specifically in the late VZ/VE E38/E67 ecu’s is the ability to edit the Pedal to Throttle mapping correlation.

With the arrival of drive by wire, the accelerator pedal was now physically disconnected from the throttle body, so it was now possible for vehicle manufactures to alter the response & power of the vehicle independent of the drivers “demand” (foot), Which is why DBW cars originally copped a bad wrap because people noticed the lack/loss of “feel” from the pedal in regards to throttle response.

So, why did manufactures go to it? With the integration of more safety orientated or performance enhancements like ABS, traction & launch control it was now possible to alter the pedal response to either restrict throttle opening or give more for the same pedal movement, you can start to understand why they did it.

Also when you think about it at the most basic of levels and like everything in life it always comes down to the Dollars, specifically WARRANTIES. If you can reduce the potential for abuse on the drive line, you stand to save a fortune as a manufacturer on potential faults/repairs.

Anyway, on to the cool stuff. What I’m about to show is a couple of examples of power limiting rather then power adding. The reason for this “limiting” is because the setups are both Supercharged V8’s, so there is sometimes a need to limit the amount of boost the blower creates, i.e over-driven blower.

Vehicle 1

The first car was a VE E3 Clubsport with a stock LS3 Auto, bar a cat-back exhaust with over 140k km’s on it at the time the Harrop FDFI2300 supercharger went on, with further mods to happen at a later stage, I wanted to allow the owner to get used to the power (his dad & my preference). So no valve spring or fuel system upgrades as yet.

After the blower first went on I started by doing some small load testing at various rpm’s to see what the maximum boost was, I expected it would be well over 10psi since the blower originally came off my own Cam’d 6lt ve ute making that.

Since it still had stock headers & cats it made north of that at around 12.5 even with a larger blower pulley fitted to reduce the boost, which is why I moved on to do some testing with restricting the throttle opening. This is done pretty easily in Efilive by adjusting the pedal to throttle mapping.

Factory Pedal Calibration

What you can see above is the factory calibration & how below the 2500rpm row, the values are lower, I can only assume to smooth any large pedal movements at low rpm. The numbers themselves do not correlate to a 1:1 rate to the throttle blade opening.

In the next 2 pictures you can see that at 2600rpm the Accelerator Pedal is at 100% however the Throttle blade opening is only at 69%. This is achieved by modifying the throttle response map.

Low RPM Throttle Opening
Modified Pedal Calibration

As expected with the 6 rib drive setup on this car, as the rpm’s started to climb the boost started to drop off. Luckily because the blower was capable of generating more boost then needed, I could tailor the boost curve how i wanted by simply manipulating the throttle mapping, which is why from 4500rpm I start to allow more throttle opening to maintain boost pressure.

High RPM Throttle Opening

The end result was a 130whp gain for on a complete stock LS3 motor/exhaust combo.

Vehicle 2

The second car is my own VE Ute which got upgraded to the Harrop FDFI2650 with the LSA drive belt setup, this is a more aggressive combination setup with full exhaust, flex-fuel & bigger motor with a Fore Innovations Twin 450 pump setup. All though it does have an aftermarket converter & trans cooler it still has a stock 6l80e.

It had previously ran 10.5 over the 1/4 with a touch over 600whp on pump fuel in 2015, for now I’ve just been filling it up with E85 because it’s not driven on a daily basis.

Since the ute has the same Operating system as the Clubsport it had the same base throttle map configuration. So below power runs were done after severely restricted throttle opening until 6500rpm to get a baseline.

Initial Pedal Map Testing

Further playing in the Pedal response map I eventually got to my desired boost to pedal correlation. While also limiting the response at lower throttle movements to make the car easier to drive, since with the larger 102mm throttle it can be very touchy for traction if your not careful.

Modified Pedal Mapping

Throttle limiting in action
APP = Accelerator Pedal vs ETCTP = Throttle Opening %

Power Run log

Couple more tweaks to Pedal Map with the end result being a nice linear power graph

Final result of pedal mapping

VT-VZ 6 Speed Auto (6L80e) Conversions

So those that know me, know I’m a big fan of the 6L80/90e transmissions, especially since the 4l60e is plain garbage when it comes to taking any power & so something I’ve been working on for the last few months & during the “COVID 19” lock down is installing the 6 Speed Auto (6L80E) gearbox’s from the VE commodore into the early VT-VZ chassis for a couple of mates.

Having already converted my own VY ute to VZ/VE ecu/transmission last year I knew they physically fit in the tunnel just fine & perform exceptionally well.

However the TCM (brains of the gearbox) expects to receive & send data to the ecu for it to work. Luckily a company in the US who does a lot of OEM integration work have a controller which allows you to run the gearbox with ANY engine combo, including Carb or Diesel motor’s (providing you feed it an rpm & tps or pedal signal) as it act’s as a “middle man” to transmit the required information to the transmission.

PCS Controller – TCM-2650 & Wiring Harness

Imagine that! a gearbox that when tuned correctly will take 500whp+ with ease & still have 2 over-drives & can be picked up for as little as $250 (probably start increasing now..) Wreckers, your welcome :-p

Anyway, the first car to receive a gearbox upgrade was a VZ Clubsport that was originally manual, however had been converted to a th400 for drag/roll racing due to being turbo’d, but due to the 3.46 diff the car was no longer enjoyable to drive on the freeway or long trips due to high cruising rpm’s.

Installation is straight forward, requiring a custom steel bracket cutout to suit the original gearbox rubber mounts, new 8.8 bolts/washer & hybrid VE/VX tailshaft.

Custom Transmission Bracket

For the Tail shaft the front half requires a slip yoke just like the VE/VF since the gearbox & diff side are fixed points.

Final Drive Engineering built the tail shafts

Being a VZ, it was really easy to integrate tap-shift buttons on the steering wheel as there is already a factory steering wheel option with them (VZ SV6), so with the simple addition of 2 additional wires into the clock spring harness below the steering wheel & plugging into the relevant 12v and signal wire to the TCM they worked straight away (besides programming changes in the gearbox).

VZ Steering Wheel with Tap Shift

So now you can drive the car in “D” mode for full auto or pull back to “3” and have manual shift control all the while doing a tad under 2000rpm @ 100kph in 6th gear.

For now this car is running a factory 2010 (0CPA) gearbox & converter for it’s new engine run in & tuning, but will eventually get a new All Fast converter to help spool up.

The second car to get an upgrade was a friends Auto VX SS with just an exhaust & OTR with 180k km’s in change & already running a 3.46 diff ratio.

Now your probably thinking why spend so much on a car you can pick up for $2000? (Pre Covid Tax)

Well this car is a Dad & Son venture to go drag racing again & knowing that the 4L60 is the weakest link for durability & it would cost similar money to make strong enough to be reliable, I raised the question of why not go with the 6L instead, with the bonus of having better gear ratios & thus not requiring a further diff ratio change.

To start with they decided to go with a Yank 4000 rpm converter straight off the bat, knowing that they would eventually be doing a head/cam upgrade in the future.

This car is setup similar to the VZ in regards to tap shift mode, however for the moment manual gear selection is done via a small switch until a VZ steering wheel can be acquired & installed. Stock Shifters are still in use for both cars, so there is no visual difference between inside the car.

Power wise the stock LS1 motor is making a consistent 312whp for now & using a 2008 year (8CVA) gearbox, while the VZ is making a tad under 600whp on low boost & pump fuel.

Safety & Tuning Options

Just like factory, the cars will not start unless in Park or Neutral, this is done via the programming of PWM output’s on the PCS Controller. VZ requires 12v to start, LS1 is a Ground, A relay is required for reverse lights however.

PCS Configured PWM Output’s

To get as much longevity out of the gearbox (especially on high hp combo’s) it’s a good idea to do some form of torque management for shifts, on the VZ this is accomplished via a relay to “switch” the inlet air temp to a configured temperature to an area of the tune it would never normally get to & this is setup to pull a bunch of timing (which can be varied based on rpm), which is what the PWM9 above is configured for, initially set to 1 second for testing it has since been adjusted, remember it still takes time for the physical relay to turn on/off.

Spark Cut for shifts

The LS1 ecu however can have the Operating system code changed out to Efilive’s Custom OS 5 which has Boost & Nitrous support, so when an input is triggered it can retard timing at different rpm levels, though the same method deployed in the VZ is a universal solution.

LS1 Timing Retard vs RPM

Tuning of the gearbox is done just like normal via either Efilive or Hp Tuners for adjusting shift speeds/pressures etc, However the PCS controller does come into play as it can adjust the reported “engine torque output” sent to the transmission, for a normal sub 400whp engine combo the standard calibration is perfectly fine to use. Just ensure the TPS & engine calibration is correct.

There are 2 different versions of software for the adjusting the PCS controller & while the later version is the best to use to make changes, it’s seriously lacking in functionality with the live monitoring component broken.

Luckily the older software version will pull a smaller calibration area out & allow adjustment of pretty much all the same things & has a functioning monitor so you can calibrate/confirm your TPS settings & check inputs are working.

PCS Monitor Mode

Word of warning: There a lot of options in the software & most will have no effect on the 6L80 as it’s a “universal” controller for multiple transmissions, so don’t go uploading firmware that is not intended to run a 6l80e, also some of the available outputs like PWM 2&3 are what are configured to send the TPS & Torque information, so don’t re-define for other outputs.

I also found that the wire used as the speedo out, does not work with GM computers & needs to be moved to pin 17 on the controller labelled as the Zero Crossing Point. I Set the PPM to 2000 or 4000 & then adjusted the ecu settings as needed to get ecu & dash clusters lining up correctly. A Tech2 may be required to adjust cluster PPK values.

Ideally you need the use of a dyno so you can confirm the speed the transmission is reporting based on your tyre/diff ratio as it uses this to perform the shifts, the speed is then sent to the PCS controller over can-bus which then relays that out the speedo wire.

Cost wise:

PCS Controller/Harness = $900 usd
Tailshaft = $5-600 if providing both halves (original rear, with ve front)
Gearbox = Whatever you can low ball for a decent working one
*Converter optional*
Trans Cooler Adapter = $45 from memory
Trans Cooler & lines = $300? sky’s the limit, depends if you already have one or starting from scratch

Labour/Time to work out the wiring & programming shit? = Priceless (I probably spent a good week breaking/working things out)

The VX was done in 2 days, 1 day to swap trans, run lines for trans cooler.

2nd day to do wiring & work out speedo settings, this excludes driving/testing shift and converter lock up speeds etc.

Performance?

Well the VZ is always fighting for traction until 5th gear with it’s RE03’s & the VX goes surprisingly well for it’s power output & the current 17″ cheap street tyres.

Shift testing

That’s it for now, I hope this post inspires you to get rid of your “4L shitty” or worse gearbox.

Dave

Dyno Dynamics PDA Upgrade

So after many years of putting up with the lack luster battery life that comes with the HP Ipaq unit that controls my dyno, I thought I should finally do something about it.

Having previously worked for a logistics company that did a lot of scanning of freight with Motorola devices, I did a quick search on ebay & found a bunch of MC75 units available for a reasonable price, so I took a gamble & ordered 1.

A week later the unit turns up, sadly no charging cable or dock came with it, so another week of waiting for that to turn up before i could play with it.

Once the dock arrived & the unit was charged, I loaded up the original command module application via it’s micro-sd slot & updated the applications parameter file with my EDM bluetooth address, fired up the app & success…

Well sort of, at first i had no control of the dyno with my existing config file, so i tried a different PDA model that i knew the app supported & presto! I had full control just like normal, However the Motorola display having twice the resolution of the original HP unit at 480×640 vs 240×320 made it “box” the app into the top left corner of the screen like the simulator picture shows.

I noticed that the text in some of the screens was much larger, so that told me it was auto-sizing some of the text fields correctly at least. So not wanting to accept this limitation, I wondered if it would be possible to edit the original application code.

So after spending a few hours looking for & testing some Visual Basic & Dot Net de-compilers I eventually settled on a program called dnSpy.

It can break down the original exe program & present all the instructions & pages that the application uses & then recompile the app back into a executable again after making changes.

OK then, this could actually be possible.
What i found was the program seems to be broken down into a few area’s:
Orange Box = Comm’s & system related instruction data
Yellow Box = Event related data for each page
Red Box = Page layouts, set’s page size & picture box sizes

Since the app was created as a Microsoft form design, the interface starts by setting a background picture, then overlays additional picturebox’s (buttons) on top, they were easy to modify to the new locations I needed by just doubling the X & Y locations & picture size. I then compiled the program & loaded it to a windows mobile emulator to test the change.

Success! this got the buttons in the right location, but the button images and background were still half the size they needed to be, so at first I tried extracting all the built-in pictures & simple doubled the image sizes by 200%, this worked at first for a while during testing until I got the main executable to around 7mb in size & the application would then crash the emulator, this effectively wasted 5 days of me playing with it after work.

So more research was needed & what I found was that this was due to the way the images are loaded into memory on the device, so i had to find another way.

Again a little more googling & the answer was relatively straight forward. I just needed to set the picturebox image to stretch with the following line for each image.
this.pictureBox.SizeMode = PictureBoxSizeMode.StretchImage

The End result
I even customized the boot splash screen with the addition of my own logo & version change

But wait there’s more! rather then having to rely on using the original Dyno Dynamics supplied cab install file & then copying my version over the top, I went & created a new cab installer package with my own updated file.

VF SS UTE Maf Tune

A friend from the country (Moora) came for a drive to the big smoke this weekend for a maf tune on his ute after having already fitted extractors, exhaust and then getting the dreaded check engine light from the now out of factory spec exhaust gases.

With the car strapped to the dyno,  the car made a best of 302.9hp from the 3 factory tune dyno pulls with the car riding the low octane spark map the entire time.

Then it was time to fit the new OTR & infill panels & adjust the tune to suit.

The car seemed a little low on power compared to previous 6lt motors I’ve tuned, so the question was asked, “what fuel is in this?”

“Just plain unleaded”

ha, right, that would explain it then.

Regardless of the lower octane fuel, we still made a nice healthy 48whp gain as can be seen by the dyno sheet.

How's the consistency for back to back runs!
How’s the consistency for back to back runs!

Once the car is filled up with some 98 octane fuel the car will start to learn towards the higher octane spark map and pick up some more hp.

2016 RG Colorado Tune

After test driving my own tuned 2017 Model Colorado with some towing duties, my Dad decided he needed to upgrade from his ZD30 Patrol too, So he went out & purchased a run out 2016 Model before Christmas & so I spent some time on Christmas eve on the dyno.

With just under 100km’s on the clock it was loaded onto the dyno for a couple of baseline pulls before flashing in my new calibration. Power is slightly lower compared to mine but that’s probably due to some slight hardware changes between the years. (mentioned futher below)

So what sold my dad on the Colorado over his existing Patrol? well he simply put a caravan on the back of my car and drove the same hill with a decent grade and noted the speed & throttle difference.

The patrol needed 3rd gear and was maxed out at 65kph with the pedal on the floor. The Colorado? well it did it in 4th gear(auto) & he was having to back off at 85kph so as not to break the speed limit. A pretty convincing test for him.

The main hardware difference between the new 17 model is a 2.75~3″ exhaust stock compared to 2.25~2.5″ for the 16. However the 17 model get’s a DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) after the catalytic converter (which is easily removed and tuned around).

Along with the new engine ecu calibration, I also have a new transmission calibration better suited to towing also loaded in.

VE Ute hits the Strip

Should have updated this one a few weeks ago, so I’ll just do the one big update to bring you up to date on how the car is going.

After the initial re-tune after purchase I took the car down to the motorplex on the 20″ street tyres, best et for the night was an 11.029 @ 205.54kph. Most of the launches were done with 2nd gear to prevent wheel spin, so 60 foot times were nothing to write home about.

ve-ute-street-times

A week or 2 after racing the car on the street tyres, I put on my Racestar drag rims/slicks and took it out for another night of racing.

Ute in Drag Mode

With the slicks on, the car ran 10 second passes consistently. Except the car was badly hesitant off the line on the launches which i knew was because of fluid rushing to the back of the transmission pan.

In the end i got about 5 runs all up with the best being a 10.713 @ 208kph. In the below video you can hear the hesitation just before the 1st shift into 2nd gear.

The following week I took the ute back down, this time with an additional 2 litres of fluid in the transmission and my 4 piston brembo’s on the front of the car (mainly to help with holding the car on the line when stalling up and because stock ve brakes are shit).

This dropped the car’s et by .200 of a second and made it do consistant 1.5 – 60″ footers and run a new pb of 10.57 seconds.
ve-ute-10.57

So that’s it for the 1st big update, the car is now back on it’s 20’s until I upgrade the injectors, add Flex-fuel sensor for running E85 & increasing the boost.

06/07/2016 No More updates on this car, I’ve now sold it as I have another project I want to finish off.

Lazy Tuners

So as mentioned before, I got myself a ve ssv ute loaded with plenty of mods, unfortunately during the previous ownership someone drilled a large 6mm hole in the throttle blade.
tb-hole
Now if your wondering why they did this it’s pretty simple. It was done as a quick fix, laziness or they just didn’t know how to tune the Electronic Throttle & idle control system properly for this camshaft.

The main reason why you would drill a hole in the blade of any car is it effectively allows more air straight into the manifold when the factory bypass won’t flow enough air, or the blade is movement limited.

Now that’s okay to do on the cable operated throttle bodies & even on some very large camshafts you will have no choice but to drill a hole even on a ETC controlled motor, BUT in this case for this particular engine combo it was not required at all. As you often end up creating more problems then you attempt to solve such as; exaggerated lumpy idles, cruise control effect when you back off the throttle, hanging idles when coming down through the revs or to a stop.

To give you an example, below is a screenshot log of my car in-gear with the original idle tune and 6mm hole throttle body from above. (Click to enlarge)
holed-tb

As can be seen in the log there are 2 things that stand out:
1) Large swing in timing & idle rpm
2) High manifold vacuum which leads to poor braking

This is because the ecu is commanding a set idle speed and is than constantly over-shooting then under-shooting it. To fix this the ecu can do 2 things, adjust the timing (reacts quicker) or adjust the tb position (slower reacting) to meet the requested idle speed.

I won’t go into the technical details on how this is fixed, because to most people it wont mean anything but needless to say once a throttle blade with no hole and the idle parameters are setup correctly, the idle ends up being a lot smoother without the excessively noticeable camshaft lope and more vacuum for braking. The results would be the same even with a hole, but only if your tuner has calibrated the relevant tables to compensate for the additional airflow.
stock-tb

9 Second Streeter

I purchased myself a new toy the other week, a 2009.5 Special Edition SSV Ute with the ambition to run at least one or two 9 second passes down the 1/4 mile with the stock 6L80e automatic trans.

Luckily for me it had already had a good load of money spent on it by the previous owner so the mods list is below:

Harrop FDFI 2300 supercharger & OTR
Comp Cam’d- unknown specs around 228/237 ?
Pedders Coil Overs
Pacemaker 1 7/8 into twin 3″ custom exhaust -nice and quiet when cruising
3.27 diff ratio with trutrak
Mod Plated
TCE 3200 converter (already replaced as it had burnt out the lockup material, more on this later)
trans cooler
20″ rims

VESSVUTE1vessvute2

Stay tuned for more