Thursday, August 7, 2008

Vector Motorsports Tune

I had ordered the Vector Motorsports ECM & TCM tune a while ago and out of the options of reprogramming your existing ECM or getting a new spare one I chose the reprogramming method since I did not have an extra $300 laying around. For the reprogramming they would have to send out special programming cables that they only have a handful off so it was going to take a while before it was my turn. Also for the TCM to be reprogrammed it would require the cables anyway so it seemed to make the most sense to go this route. After roughly 1-2 weeks it finally showed up.

I meant to take pictures, but really there wasn't that much to see. In the box tightly wrapped in 2 bubble wrap envelopes was:

  • a USB Cable
  • The Programming Cable (Usb to a little blackBox which then had what looked like a serial port or db15 plug - didn't care enough to pay attention - to a ODBII connector)
  • Sheet of instructions
  • USB Flash Drive with Software & Drivers

Upon close examination of the provided software & cable it turned out it's basically the programming back-end from LS2EDIT by Carputing and the cable looked the same too.

I was slightly disappointed in this since I had heard a lot about how Vector supposedly used very powerful custom software and I had heard a lot of bad things about LS2Edit. (and it LOOKS like a crappy piece of VB Software too - but hey i'm a software dev so i'm a little more critical than the average user ;) ).

The main issues people have with a vector tune seems to be the 'locking' this program does where no other tuning software has access to the ECM afterwards. This can be a GOOD thing if you're worried about the dealership for instance overwriting your tune. But if you wanted to switch to a different piece of software because you found a local tuner or some other reason then you're basically screwed and will have to somehow get the dealership to reflash you back to stock. And i'm sure they'd love to hear from you WHY they need to do that and it wouldn't surprise me if they were to make a note of it for 'warranty purposes' if you know what I mean... I'm not that worried about it since I won't have to retune until either headers/cam etc and that will be a while and even then i'll stick with vector since they are the ones with the most experience tuning G8's.

As far as the process goes the instructions were pretty clear.

1. Install the software from the USB Flash Drive on your computer. Obviously since you need to be next to your car a laptop is almost crucial (unless you have a desktop in your garage ;) )
2. In the Start Menu then select 'Install Drivers'. This installs the drivers to talk to the cable.
3. Connect the USB cable to your computer - it will now detect the cable as a new USB Port and some other messages will pop up.
4. Connect the OBDII Cable to the port in the car which is under the drivers side dash behind the hood-release. I had to get on all fours to see it hiding back there ;)
5. Turn the ignition key to 'run' and leave it there (don't start). Have the ignition on for at least 10 seconds and make sure anything extra (radio, A/C) is off. Also they recommend the door is closed so I simply opened the window and had the cable go in through there.
6. Start the ECM Reader, Select "Read ECM", It will ask you for a filename to save your ECM data as with the extension of 'LS2' which should be your lastname + order number (e.g. Smith1234.LS2) then Click Action->Connect.
7. Once done I cycled the ignition and did the same with the TCM programmer program except that this saves out a 'TCM' file for your transmission.
Both Files downloaded somewhat slow where it felt like a good 5-10 minutes each.

I emailed both files to Vector as an attachment in an email, once again mentioning my fullname & order number at about 5pm PST. Next morning when I checked my email the modified tune was already there. (They renamed the new files with the term 'MOD' e.g. 'Smith1234MOD.LS2' and 'Smith1234MOD.TCM')

The process for programming is much the same as reading the original files but you just have to pick the file to program. Same connection, same items turned off, through the window. Fired up the ECM Programmer, Selected 'Program ECM' and navigated to & selected the new LS2 File. At first my screen sat at 0% trying to talk to the interface. They warn you to not shut down the program or disconnect the cable, but after 20 minutes of sitting there I took the chance and canceled the programmer. I reconnected & re-started the sequence and this time it worked. I noticed that programming took a lot less time than reading the original files even though on disk they are the same size (2mb each). I guesstimate it took anywhere from 2-5 minutes to upload the new files.

While both Reading and Programming all kinds of lights flash on the Dash like "ABS Failure" "Brake Failure" "Contact Dealer" etc and you'll hear several beeps & 'dings'. This is normal so don't worry :)

Started up the car and everything looked OK. Driven about 40 miles in 'Normal' Mode only so far and it definitely has more pull and quicker shifts. Noticed the redline has increased and overall it's definitely a better car to drive than stock. I've yet to try the sports mode or the manual modes but I will probably later today. I did notice also an increase of about 3-4mpg already so that's fantastic.

Update September: Ok really - this tune still brings a grin to my face everytime I Drive. Shifts are a lot quicker & crisper now. When I gun it from a dead stop, traction control will kick in on a 1 to 2 shift and when I turn it of i'm actually chirping the tires when it shifts (sometimes even with it on!)... ohhhhhhhhh yeaaaaaaaaaah :D

1 comment:

  1. Great step by step instructions. Thank you