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Saleen Powerflash Computer: Electronic Engine Tuning
Saleen Brings Factory-Backed Tuning To Your Mustang's Kick Panel
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Electronic tuning is hugely popular these days. From stone stock to knuckle- dragging street apes, getting the fuel and spark optimized is vital to making max power. While various ways of electronically tuning a Mustang exist, by far the most popular has been replaceable chips that piggyback onto the computer's service port.
Saleen has come up with a new way of handling the job, however. Instead of adding on to the computer code by conditioning the signals the computer receives and sends, Saleen has worked with Ford Motor Company to gain the capability to rewrite the computer's parameters directly. This is done by hooking the Electronic Engine Control--the engine's management computer--to a work station and reflashing many of the parameters in the computer. So, instead of working as an in-line addition to EEC V, the reflashed computer is simply a more aggressive form of EEC V.
Such an approach offers one large benefit--being able to accurately and precisely control the engine from idle to WOT (wide-open throttle). Secondly, some chips are not emissions exempt and thus are not street legal. Saleen decided to keep its computer coding within emission limits and has obtained CARB E.O. numbers on all 150 or so calibrations at its disposal.
Saleen has also entered its new Powerflash computer service at a competi-tive price. At $199, the new programming is less expensive than conventional chips. On the downside, adding a Saleen Powerflash computer is less convenient than a chip. To add a chip, you order one and when it arrives, you install it in the computer's service port and that's it. Or even better, you might have a chip burned as part of a dyno-tuning session, which is essentially instant gratification.
To Powerflash your computer, you order the service, then stand by to receive an instruction sheet, shipping box, and envelope. The simple instructions show you how to remove the computer from behind the passenger kick panel--almost a no-brainer--and run you through the simple questionnaire and return shipping paperwork. Then you ship off your computer to Saleen in the provided packaging. Saleen turns the computer around in 24 hours (in truth, usually the same day), so normally you have your computer back in three days.
That's three days you're riding the bus, but there is an important reason Saleen doesn't simply ship out replacement computers with a core charge--PATS. This is Ford's sophisticated Passive Anti-Theft System, which is heavily encrypted by Ford to individual cars. The PATS encryption in your computer is unique to your Ford, and it can't be deciphered, replicated, or rewritten without some special hardware and 40-plus minutes of computer time at a dealer. So, Saleen sticks with the original computer and avoids any compatibility issues.
Powerflash is aimed at stock and standard bolt-on--type cars looking for an affordable, mild boost in performance. The emissions legality strategy means Saleen is not supporting supercharging, nitrous, or cammed, ported, and high-compression engines. This would be more of a custom tuning proposition and is best done on a chassis dyno with a chip burner on-hand. If desired, Powerflash will work with a chip in the service port, but that will void the Saleen warranty, and it seems redundant unless the last erg of naturally aspirated performance was desired on a blower car, for example.
Finally, while Saleen hadn't worked out the details at press time, it will cost-effectively support Powerflash customers who want an upgrade at a later date. So adding a few bolt-ons a bit down the road won't relegate the Powerflash to garage-shelf status. And yes, the parameters in the Powerflash computer are near what new Saleen owners enjoy in their hot rods, but not identical.
The power and ease of electronics never ceases to amaze. Certainly swapping out a Mustang computer is easy enough. If you have the two sockets in hand, the entire job takes less than three minutes.