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Dyno tuning: find out how you can spend your money wisely

7 July 2015


Dyno tuning is the most important stage to complete your engine build. Every dollar you have spent up until this point on engine modifications has the potential to either be wasted, or become money well spent

Photo: Jacky Tse

Getting your car prepared for a dyno tune can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in potential damage caused by increasing your power levels. Most of the time, the days or weeks before your scheduled time on the dyno approaches are utter chaos. And during this chaos, simple things can get overlooked. Because of this, we’ve compiled a checklist of things that several tuners around the country recommend you do before your tune. It may seem like a daunting list, but it’s essential these things are all ticked off. 

NZ Performance Car magazine dyno checklist:

• Install a fresh set of spark plugs, gapped to what your tuner recommends for your application. Use recommended heat range
• Ensure your engine has fresh oil, along with a new oil filter
• Bring along a one-litre bottle of engine oil of the correct grade if top-ups are required during the tune
• If your vehicle has over 80,000kms, change the fuel filter (possibly a high-flow unit if required)
• Ensure you have a full tank of the fuel you plan on running for the tune. Use the fuel your tuner recommends for your application
• If you have an airflow meter, ensure the air filter you’re using is clean and not over-oiled
• Make sure there is adequate tread on your tyres, and ensure the drive wheels have similar tread depth
• Do not turn up with semi, or full, slick tyres if your vehicle is getting tuned on a rolling road. The slicks heat up and melt, sometimes sticking to the dyno. Road tyres are required
• Check the tyre pressures — ensure the pressures are identical, or near on
• Pressure test your intake system. If you’re wanting to run high levels of boost, we recommend using T-bolt hose clamps wherever possible
• Check all of the boost/vacuum lines for leaks. This can have a serious effect on power levels. Cable tie or correctly clamp all vacuum hoses and boost lines
• Make sure your vehicle isn’t leaking any fluids, as most tuners will charge you a clean-up fee. It also means there is something wrong with your vehicle, which could potentially affect the tune
• Make sure your clutch is in good condition. With an increase in power levels comes more load on the driveline. A slipping clutch will set you back hugely
• If you’re heading to a dyno tuner with a Dynapack dyno, they will be removing your wheels. Ensure you have your lock nut key
• Ensure your boost control is correctly plumbed in and wired
• Ensure your turbo/supercharger is correctly installed. Ensure oil supply lines are tight
• Ensure you have a suitable port for an oxygen sensor, as wide-band sensors might be installed here for the tune
• Ensure the cooling system is in good working order. If your fans aren’t automatic, please make sure you tell the dyno tuner
• Provide the tuner with a written summary or list of modifications and engine specifications, as this will be an easy reference and help decide a safe level of tune
• Check that your ECU is not password locked, as this will prevent a big disappointment on the day
• Ensure that the vehicle has a current WOF and rego if you want the tune confirmed on the road after the dyno. Some tuners will only drive a 100 per cent legal vehicle

Dobsons Dyno Tune 
06 754 8336

With 27 years of tuning experience, Ross Honnor is one of the most experienced in the country. Ross has tuned anything from plane engines to full-on race cars — all of which are at the top of their respective disciplines. Dobsons has grown internationally, with Ross having tuned vehicles in Asia, Oman, England, and the United Arab Emirates. To keep up with the fast-changing tuning technology, Ross has adapted to the remote tuning world, where he can tune a car in another country from the comfort of his own dyno room. Every third week of every month, Ross packs his dyno gear up and takes it to his Hampton Downs Raceway base at the Rattla Motorsport workshop, so a percentage of his customers don’t have to travel too far, and can test on track if need be. Ross also tunes Daynom Templeman’s 2JZ-GTE–powered Mazda RX-7 drift car [pictured above] — one of the highest-powered drift cars in New Zealand.

E&H Motors 
09 238 8987

E&H Motors are the leaders in domestic motorsport tuning and preparation. Through experience gained over many years of research and development on their own cars, they now prepare some of the most competitive race cars in New Zealand. They have the experience and knowledge to push the boundaries needed to remain competitive. Some tuning examples include Ben Hunt’s Subaru WRX Group N rally car (the current leader in the New Zealand Rally Championship); Ian Davidson’s E36 M3 six-cylinder, and Rob Berggren’s E46 M3 V8, both taking their respective season wins in the BMW Driver Series open B and open A classes; and their own shop Time Attack car, which won the final round of the Prowear NZ Superlap Series, and placed third overall in Pro Open. E&H don’t just look after motorsport tuning — they also apply their knowledge to performance street cars, tune most aftermarket ECUs, as well as reflashing factory ECUs from Mitsubishi, Subaru, Holden, and Ford.

EFI & Turbo
027 333 9519

It doesn’t matter whether you have a hydroplane, sprint car, circuit car, or drift car — EFI & Turbo wire and tune them all. With the largest range of hub adaptors in New Zealand, they’ve tuned basically everything possible with an engine — even SR20–powered boats on a special trailer rig. Owner and head tuner, Darryl Turk, likes to head out on track — or on water — with his clients to fine-tune the engines for their intended use, and get the best understanding of the customers’ requirements. Darryl is also a talented turbocharger expert, so can recommend a range of products to suit your application and budget.

Rapid Performance
03 683 1309

Rapid Performance are Haltech Authorized dealers and Nistune tuning experts. Regardless of the extent of your modifications, Rapid have the ability to cater to your budget, and won’t sell you anything you don’t need. Have a Nissan? Then, chances are they can tune it with an aftermarket daughterboard/chip using Nistune, instead of installing an aftermarket ECU which may not be needed. If an aftermarket ECU is decided upon, Rapid take care of everything from the wire-in, to the final tune. 

WRC Developments
06 843 8430

WRC Developments are an automotive performance engineering company based in Napier. They specialize in all aspects of motorsport and high performance vehicles, including servicing and repair; engine, transmission, and suspension building; engine tuning; and chassis geometry set-up. The primary focus is on engine tuning, as agents for Link and EcuTek. Tuning and reflashing factory vehicles is something WRC Developments have been doing since the ’90s, working alongside manufacturers such as Mitsubishi and Subaru. They also carry out race and rally preparation work.

Revolution Dyno Centre
09 818 4738

Revolution Dyno Centre is one of the most unique dyno centres in New Zealand. Owner, Darren Van Nes, likes to call it an ‘Enthusiasts’ Dyno Centre’ — what this means is that if you know how to tune your vehicle, he will allow you to help out with the tuning process and learn as you go. Getting accurate fuelling is important on a dyno, and with Road Simulation Technology such as theirs, Darren’s dyno gets roller inertia correct by inputting vehicle weight and aerodynamics, giving you 100 per cent fuelling accuracy. There are only two dyno manufacturers in the world with this technology. If you’re a drag racer or enthusiast, Revolution Dyno Centre has the only indoor drag strip in New Zealand. The dyno can give you your 60-foot, 330-foot, and 1000-foot times, trap speed, quarter mile time, and horsepower and torque in each gear. As well as cars, he can also tune motorbikes.

Steve Hildred Motors
06 758 8914

Steve Hildred, owner of New Plymouth–based Steve Hildred Motors, isn’t just a dyno tuner and engine builder — he’s a competitive race-car driver, competing in the Enzed Central Muscle Car series in their shop–built Holden Monaro, which has proven to be extremely fast and reliable. With an in-house two-wheel-drive dyno, and bench dyno for tuning engines only, the experienced team have the combined knowledge to get your old-school carburettor and new-school ECU running on song. Steve Hildred Motors are an expert in tuning, re-chipping, and re-flashing Honda, Nissan, GM, and Holden engines to get the most power out of your current setup.

RE Sinclair
03 389 2126 

Christchurch-based tuning company RE Sinclair are leaders in rotary tuning, but that’s only the half of it. Although they are experts when it comes to rebuilding, upgrading, and tuning your rotary, RE Sinclair can tune almost anything else you’ve built. Making use of their four-wheel-drive–capable Dyno Dynamics dyno, RE Sinclair can tune your GT-R, Subaru WRX, Mitsubishi Evo, Holden, and even your rally or superstock car. ECU flashing of modern vehicles such as Holdens, Nissans, and Mitsubishis can also be done in-house by the experienced team.