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Remote Tuning: How It Works
By Adam Riley
A One on One With Ken Bjonne of Palm Beach Dyno
These days the automotive tuning industry is reaching new levels, making tuning more productive and efficient for vehicle owners. In the past one would have to either drive or trailer their vehicle to the local shop, then back and forth for changes, but with remote tuning, DIY’ers have an alternative that can create impressive results.
Here we take a few minutes to chat with Ken Bjonne, owner of Palm Beach Dyno. Ken’s personal background is in tuning Ford Mustangs, but has an extensive background in the tuning industry and has worked with some of the largest tuning companies in the market place.
AR: Ken, thanks for taking the time to chat. If you don’t mind, tell us a bit about your background and how you’ve gotten to where you are now.
Ken: My racing background comes from participating in the NMRA (National Mustang Racing Associating) racing series. During that time, I never missed a race and through that series learned how to tune cars for the track.
In 2003 a friend and I launched Modular Depot, an online tuning store that was one first of five SCT tuner dealers nationwide. Eventually, we opened up a brick and mortar and I ran that business for a couple of years.
AR: So how did you get from there to Palm Beach Dyno?
Ken: After a couple of years with MD, I was recruited by Diablo Sport. They came to me to come work for them increase market share, so I worked for them for about two years and then moved on to work for Lund Racing. It wasn’t util 2016, when I decided to go back out on my own and open Palm Beach Dyno.
AR: Over that time period, what have you seen as being some of the largest changes in the tuning scene?
Ken: The most important thing is that the customers being very educated with social medias. These days, having tuners engage with the customers to increase their knowledge has helped everyone progress further. Especially when addressing topics such as data logging . . . which we chat about in a bit.
Another key thing is the introduction of the injector technology by Injector Dynamics. Because back in the day, companies were just making standard sizes, and you had to work very hard as a tuner to get accurate fuel ratios with various software. Having introduced dynamically tuned injectors that are flowed matched to the exact tuning software that’s being used ... it's basically has allowed everybody in the tuner industry to step up their game.
And of course -- remote tuning.
AR: So who could be a candidate for remote tuning?
Ken: For our business, 2011 and newer vehicles because they have all of the needed sensors to do a proper wide band tune. Anything older than that is a case-by-case basis.
But overall, whether you have basic bolt-on’s or power adders such as turbochargers or supercharger, it’s pretty open. The only time when it’s more complicated if a person has a one-off build, with radically custom upgrades.
AR: How does the remote tuning process actually work?
Ken: It’s pretty simple. First the customer will just place an order on our site and list all of the mods from start to finish. I then create a software based tune that’s configured to specifications of the car. I then email them the tune that that is downloaded to a the desktop software (SCT Device Updater). From there it gets transferred to the handheld tuner (SCT Handheld) with a USB cable and from that point, the hand held is plugged into the vehicle to be uploaded to the ECM.
AR: That doesn’t sound too bad . . . but what about if a person is not “schooled” in using a tuner?
Ken: It’s not bad at all. When working with a customer, I completely send a thorough guide of how to do everything, and of course I offer full support to make sure the tune is loaded correctly, and also remote tuning assistance to dial the vehicle in even further.
NXT: So once the tune is uploaded to the car, then what?
Ken: That’s when customer will start data logging to make sure everything is “OK.” And there are few options to help a customer make sure the tune is working correctly and “dial” it in through remote tuning.
First, if the car modifications are very “cookie cutter,” the customer can go drive out on the street right out of the gate and begin logging data during drive time.
But if the modifications are more radical, I recommend they start with idle logs, then throttle logs, then finally driving logs.
Overall, when the data is logged onto the tool, data that can be emailed back to us for further changes, of which we send right back, hence the remote tuning.
NXT: That’s pretty cool! Almost like having your own personal on-site tuner.
Ken: Yeah, it comes in very nice and it’s really the best way to dial in a car. In our case, I can work with a customer while they are at the track and make progress to dial it in right then, instead of the back and forth of what could possibly take up a month. Which in reality could be a big difference instead of just going to a dyno.
NXT: With dyno tuning, in a previous conversation you mentioned there’s a difference between a calibrator and tuner. What’s the difference?
Ken: A lot of dyno shops are classified as calibrators. Which means to tune your car and calibrate it for dyno machine numbers. In that case, it doesn’t matter how fast your car actually is -- or how it performs on the street.
Where as being a tuner, such as us, we tailor your tune to how the car performs on the street and work with you one-on-one to get the real world results.
This is because power management is the key. You could have nine-hundred foot pounds of torque on a dyno machine, but then struggle to get down the track. Being a tuner, I’m going to help you manage that power throughout the run.
NXT: What’s the fastest car you’ve remote tuned?
Ken: As on right now, it’s Anthony Ballard from North Carolina. We helped him dial in his 2014 Mustang to run an 8.26 in the quarter mile. Along with Joe Holt, who we helped tune his car to make an 8.53 pass in the quarter mile. Currently it’s the fastest S550 Mustang, automatic car in the scene.
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