How Diesel tuning systems work
Traditionally the diesel engine was both slow and noisy, suitable only for tractors, trucks and ships, but the trend in recent years has been for high performance diesels to take a large proportion of the car market away from the petrol engine car. Part of this change was the evolution of the high performance turbo diesel, and the popularity of these vehicles has been further improved by a healthy market for performance parts available to the Diesel performance tuning enthusiast.
One popular option has been the remapping of the fuel injection and ignition system using a variety of techniques to get the best performance out an engine without resorting to the cost of physically tuning the engine of the car. A factor behind this appears to be the deliberate de-tuning of many cars by the manufacturers, supposedly for reasons of economy, but some say more cynically to leave a niche in the market for higher performance petrol models.Here we take a quick look at how the remapping system works, and the general effects on a typical diesel engine.
A modern diesel engine’s functioning is almost completely controlled by the electronic system that manages the fuel injection. These systems have a number of sensors which are controlled by the vehicle's ECU. These signals are processed many thousands of times each second to keep the vehicle running at its optimum efficiency, and also to keep the engine’s emissions at acceptable levels.
The idea behind a diesel tuning box is to intercept the signal between the ECU and the injection system, and basically allows it to inject a more optimal amount of fuel into the cylinders thus producing more torque and power. Because of this the engine runs more efficiently. Fuel economy is also improved because you would have to use less throttle to achieve the same performance level, and because the engine is tuned to burn its fuel more efficiently.
To understand how the tuning box works it is important to understand the workings of a diesel engine.
In a diesel engine it is only air that is drawn into the compression cylinder. This is then compressed and reaches a very high temperature. When the piston is nearing the top of its stroke fuel is injected into the combustion chamber and ignites due to the high temperature of the air. This creates the power to drive the piston down, turning the crankshaft and wheels.
Often there is unused air left in the cylinder after the combustion completes: sometimes as much as 50% of what was drawn in to the engine. Simply speaking when the correct amount of extra fuel is injected into the chamber more torque and power and is created.
The "common rail” is the central container which delivers the individual injectors with the fuel. The three essential components of a fuel injection system: Pressure, injection and generation are separated, and fuel can be stored at high pressure in the ‘common rail’ container. This allows high injection pressure even at slow speeds and provides a fine atomisation of the fuel, which gives a cleaner combustion. The supply of fuel is not related to the engine speed as it is controlled independently at every point along the way improving efficiency.
So in the modern common rail system engine there is greater opportunity to control fuel injection at the pre-injection stage. The main he vehicle’s engine control unit (ECU) is the brain of the system, which opens each injector electronically, these signals are processed many thousands of times in one second to maintain that the vehicle is running at its optimum efficiency and keeping the emissions and economy at acceptable levels. The ECU contains a "map” which tells the fuel injection system, for every engine speed and setting, how much fuel to inject into the engine.
When the box is plugged into your vehicle it will analyse the ECU signals and alter them. This allows changes in injector opening times which increase or decrease the fuel rate to exactly the right amount, thus producing more torque and power.
Using latest digital diesel tuning technology an electronic control unit can give a driving performance so individual that it as though the original control unit software has been completely changed. Four to eight ignition maps are placed in the memory for the first time that then go into action according to your required driving performance. This means the optimal matching of all control parameters at every level of performance.
A further novelty is the ability of the systems to adapt to the individual characteristics of your vehicle.
Over a short running-in period, the memory function detects the individual data for the differing fuel injection cycles. The information gained in this way provides the basis for the optimisation. The tolerances are then balanced and an optimal result is achieved with every vehicle without having to make any time consuming adjustments by hand.
An enhanced ignition map leads to raised levels of efficiency, which in turn leads to reduced fuel consumption. The increase in torque facilitates a driving performance that requires fewer revs per minute and less accelerator pressure to achieve a given acceleration, therefore significantly lowering levels of fuel consumption. Thus efficient diesel tuning can be seen to improve both the performance and the economy of a modern diesel engine.