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Engine Tuning


Engine Tuning

Engine tuning is the adjustment, modification or design of internal combustion engines (ICUs) to yield optimal performance, to increase an engine's power output, economy, or durability.

It has a long history, almost as long as the development of the automobile in general, originating with the development of early racing cars, and later, with the post-war hot-rod movement. Tuning can describe a wide variety of adjustments and modifications, from the routine adjustment of the carburetor and ignition system to significant engine overhauls. At the other end of the scale, performance tuning of an engine can involve revisiting some of the design decisions taken at quite an early stage in the development of the engine.

Setting the idle speed, fuel/air mixture, carburetor balance, spark plug and distributor point gaps, and ignition timing were regular maintenance items for all older engines and the final but essential steps in setting up a racing engine. On modern engines, equipped with electronic ignition and fuel injection, some or all of these tasks are automated, although they still require periodic calibration.

Engine tune-up

A tune-up usually refers to the routine servicing of the engine to meet the manufacturer's specifications. Tune-ups are needed periodically as according to the manufacturer's recommendations to ensure an automobile runs as expected. Modern automobiles now typically require only a small number of tune-ups over the course of an approximate 250,000-kilometre (160,000 mi) or a 10-year lifespan.

Tune-ups may include the following:

  • Re-fastening of cylinder head bolts
  • Adjustment of the carburetor idle speed and the air-fuel mixture
  • Inspection and possible replacement of ignition system components like spark plugs, contact breaker points, distributor cap and distributor rotor
  • Replacement of the air filter and other filters
  • Inspection of emission controls
  • Valvetrain adjustment

In early days, mechanics finished tuning up a performance car such as a Ferrari and would take it around a track several times to burn out any built-up carbon; this is known as an Italian tuneup.

Chip tuning

Performance tuning

Performance tuning focuses on tuning an engine for motorsport, although many such automobiles never compete but rather are built for show or leisure driving. In this context, the power output,torque, and responsiveness of the engine are of premium importance, but reliability and fuel efficiency are also relevant. In races, the engine must be strong enough to withstand the additional stress placed upon it, and so is often far stronger than any mass-produced design on which it may be based, and also that the automobile must carry sufficient fuel. In particular, the transmission,driveshaft and any other load-transmitting powertrain components may need to be modified in order to withstand the load from the increased power.

In almost all cases, people are interested in increasing the power output of an engine. Many well tried and tested techniques have been devised to achieve this, but all essentially operate to increase the rate (and to a lesser extent efficiency) of combustion in a given engine. This is achieved by putting more air/fuel mixture into the engine, increasing compression ratio (requires higher octane gas) burning it more rapidly, and getting rid of the waste products more rapidly - this increases volumetric efficiency. In order to check the amount of the air/fuel mixture, air fuel ratio metersare often used. The weight of this fuel will affect the overall performance of the automobile, so fuel economy is a competitive advantage. This also means that the performance tuning of an engine should take place in the context of the development of the overall automobile.