Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
June 1, 2004

Horse Sense: The vendors contacted for this guide all have technical assistance via phone or Web access, along with extensive dealer support throughout the country. If you don't understand how Ford's EEC IV or EEC V works, or how to tune or replace it with the product you bought, seek help directly from the company or contact one of its dealers to schedule time to tune your project. The last thing you want to do is hurt that expensive engine you just finished building by accidentally adding 50 degrees of timing.

Whether you have an '03 Cobra with a pulley and a cold-air kit, or a banging '86 GT with a screaming, stroked EFI 351 Windsor under the hood, chances are your car needs some tuning. In this day and age of micro this and flash-memory that, it's often easier to tune hexadecimal code than it is to jet a Holley carburetor, with the right equipment, that is.

Speaking of equipment, there's a slew of products that will help you tune your Mustang. From basic plug-in chips (that come preprogrammed or can be custom tuned) to complete stand-alone, tunable fuel-injection systems that take the place of the stock electronics, there's an option for you. All the products discussed here offer control over fuel and timing curves. Where they differ is in how they offer this control and in what other features are available. So, what does your Mustang need? First you need to break down the categories of the available systems.

For basic tuning needs, there are off-the-shelf applications from companies such as Hypertech and Superchips. These chips are designed for certain upgrades or engine packages, helping them to perform at their best by adjusting the fuel and spark maps, as well as other PCM functions. The chips are usually preprogrammed, making it easy for the weekend wrench to install, and they provide a nice performance boost and better driveability. The chips are installed into the Electronic Engine Control's service port, also known as the J3 port at the rear of the EEC processor.

Next are custom chip-tuning products. These install similarly to a standard chip (read: driveway easy) but feature a custom-burned tune for your application. Typically, after completing a questionnaire, the chip is made to those specifications and shipped to you for installation. Such chips are capable of being reprogrammed if you make performance changes, and they often can be programmed with more than one tune for options such as nitrous, race fuel, and so on.

Best of all, if you work through the chip company's tuning network, you can have the chip programmed and dyno tested in your vehicle on the tuner's dyno for the best effect. These chips are installed in the same manner, through the EEC's service port. Probably the only negative thing about performance chips is-unless you have the chip burner and software to make changes yourself-you have to send the chip back for reprogramming or take your Mustang to one of the chip maker's authorized tuners.

Taking the performance ability of a custom chip and adding the ability to make instant tuning changes is the work of a different breed of product, now available from several companies. This product, a handheld programming device, works through the OBD-II port on EEC V vehicles. Simply plug in the device and you have the option of tuning your Mustang in several ways. Some products allow more freedom than others, but all offer handheld tuning without the expense of a chip burner and its software.

If you have a laptop computer, some companies can put custom chip tuning in your hands. The tuning devices connect to the PCM directly in a "piggyback" manner, and have a data cable that is connected to a computer or handheld LCD screen for tuning. The benefit here is that with a laptop you can see more of what's going on while tuning large maps across the entire rpm range. On the other side of the coin are the LCD displays that offer in-car tuning without the laptop. If you don't own a laptop, many of these products allow removal and programming at a desktop computer as well.

Moving up the ladder in cost and complexity are the final two electronic tuning options-PCM replacements and stand-alone EFI systems. As their names imply, these two options replace either the Ford PCM with an aftermarket control device or replace the Ford PCM and complete EFI wiring, respectively. Replacing the Ford EEC with an aftermarket computer removes all limitations of the stock processor. And, if you're building a race car, a street rod, or a kit car, the stand-alone systems with their harness and sensor packages make for an easy EFI conversion on cars that never had EFI in the first place.

The following companies all offer products that will help your Mustang perform at its best. Read up on each product, decide how you want your Ford's electrons manipulated, and make the call. More power is just a few electrons away.

AEM's Plug & Play Engine Management System ($1,500 est.) is a PCM replacement product. All the Ford wiring, sensors, and outputs stay in place on your Mustang. The EMS simply plugs into the factory harness to allow custom tuning via laptop software. The EMS software can log and modify 434 functions, allowing you to run mass air or speed density, or even a distributorless ignition. Besides such regular goodies as two-step timing control, datalogging, and boost retard, the EMS features 16 additional programmable outputs that are great for electric fan controllers, nitrous solenoids, shift lights, and so on. In addition, the outputs can be triggered by many available parameters, including rpm, water temperature, boost, vehicle speed, and more.

The Programmable Management System (EEC IV $858, EEC V $1,077) from Anderson Ford Motorsport has long been a favorite of racers and owners of high-zoot street cars alike. The PMS' piggyback design allows you to intercept the factory commands, tweak them via an LCD handheld programmer, and send the new commands directly to the engine. With no laptop or additional sensors to buy, or software to install, the PMS is a popular option, having the ability to control fuel, timing, rev limiters, and more. For boosted applications, the PMS can "see" up to 30 pounds of boost and control fuel and spark accordingly. It also features two programmable control outputs (via rpm or throttle angle) and manages nitrous-oxide systems via a tunable table. The latest model, shown here, handles Ford's EEC V controls and features a new handheld controller design with more screen real estate and even more features, such as the ability to control OE cooling fans and correct speedometers for gear changes.

The guys from DiabloSport have been hard at work on their new Predator handheld tuning product. The Predator ($419) is DiabloSport's new baby, and they are some proud parents. And why shouldn't they be? The Predator not only allows quick tuning changes via a few button presses, but it also allows fine-tuning adjustments of the timing and fuel tables, the speed limiter, and the rev limiter, as well as speedometer calibration and even the ability to permanently shut off the OE Ford Traction Control and rear O2 sensors. In addition, the Predator can be used as a diagnostic tool to read and erase all trouble codes, including the new "P" codes. It can also act as a datalogger, capable of 90 samples a second, for up to 30 minutes! The data capture can be read on the Predator's screen or exported to a PC.

Of course, DiabloSport didn't just show up on the map yesterday with its Predator. The company has been in business for many years making custom computer chips for the performance aftermarket. Its most popular version, the Delta Chip (so named for its three-programs-in-one design), allows users to switch between different programs. For example, you could have a 93-octane program and a nitrous-use program (the third program is always the stock PCM without a chip-it's like turning off the chip). The Delta Chip ($349; shown here) uses an external switch to control the three programs and has an option for a security key that will disable the car as well. The chip can be preprogrammed and then shipped to you for installation, or you can visit a DiabloSport dealer for custom tuning.

Electromotive's TEC3 is a complete, stand-alone, engine-management system that replaces your EEC IV or EEC V system. The TEC3 (starts at $1,800) allows custom tuning via its WinTEC software and more precise ignition control with a 60-tooth crank trigger wheel and multiple-coil charging scheme. The system comes complete with the ECU, a harness, and software. Options include injectors, sensors, and more. While the TEC3 is aimed at the upper-high end of the market, it is one of the few systems with a built-in, direct-fire, high-resolution, crank-triggered distributorless ignition with multiple coils. This means there's no ignition "box" to buy, no distributor to get in the way, and the variables of timing-chain slack, distributor-gear wear, and cap and rotor alignment become moot points. Normal tuning parameters-timing, rev limit, outputs, and so on-can be seen and adjusted when using the WinTEC software.

The FAST system ($1,799 to $2,500) is another complete stand-alone unit that replaces the stock EEC in favor of the FAST tunable PCM, harness, and C-Com tuning software. The unit is available in bank-to-bank and sequential systems, which are both speed-density based. The system includes controls for idle-air control, the fuel pump, the electric fans, nitrous oxide (one stage), and knock retard. There's also custom tuning via C-Com software of many outputs, including timing curves, enrichment tables, and fuel maps, along with con-tinuous datalogging at 20 frames per second. The new C-Com software even allows remote tuning via the Internet. Just hook your laptop to the ECU, connect to the Internet, and a tuner with C-Com software on his end will tune your ride instantly. Options include a wideband O2 sensor, two stages of nitrous control, and individual cylinder fuel and spark control. The speed-density algorithm handles big injectors. Shock resistant, with a waterproof housing, the ECU can be mounted just about anywhere.

Hypertech has been in the electron manipulation game from the beginning. There are Hypertech Power Module computer chips ($169-$299) for most any Mustang on the road. The Power Module attaches to the J3 service port of the Ford EEC and "disconnects" the stock chip, substituting its own dyno-tuned parameters in its place. Depending upon the application, the Power Module can adjust the cooling fan on/off settings, the top-speed limiter, and the transmission-shift firmness, besides the standard air/fuel adjustments made to the PCM. One of Hypertech's popular options is the Dual Tuning Power Module, which offers two programs in one-a performance program for everyday driving and a nitrous program (activated by tapping into the nitrous solenoid power wire) that adjusts timing and other parameters to safely apply the nitrous to the engine. The Hypertech Power Modules come with fixed settings and cannot be flashed-or burned-by a tuner.

For those looking for something more for their EEC V-equipped Mustangs, Hypertech also has a line of Power Programmers ($359) that are handheld and connect to the OBD-II service port under the dash. These programmers feature performance tunes with which you can flash your EEC V in a matter of minutes by easily pushing a few buttons. Many Power Programmers feature options to correct speedometer error due to gear swaps, as well as to raise the top speed and rev limiters, and to adjust the factory cooling fan controls. The Power Programmer for the '03 Cobra includes three separate tunes for the various popular pulley swaps. Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) can also be read and cleared with the Power Programmer.

The ACCEL DFI Gen VII system (starts at $1,600) has proven popular with many racers. The Gen VII is a complete stand-alone system that takes the place of the Ford EEC, wiring, and sensors. The Gen VII's robust feature list includes shift-light output, torque converter lockup controls, A/C bypass controls, three-stage nitrous control, two rev limiters (one fuel-based, the other ignition-based), software-selectable fuel-injection modes (choose from bank-to-bank, sequential, and so on with a few key strokes), individual cylinder fuel trim (to correct for mismatched injectors or intake flow concerns), internal altitude and pressure sensing, wideband O2 capability, and much more. The Gen VII has a water-resistant housing for easy mounting and comes with a complete harness, all sensors, a Calmap cable, and Calmap software.

Also available from ACCEL is the company's new Plug-N-Play preprogrammed DFI system for crate motors and a complete small-block Ford engine-management system. The Plug-N-Play kit comes complete and ready to connect to your new Ford crate motor. No laptop is needed as the system is preprogrammed for the crate engine, although it can be upgraded or tuned if you make changes to your crate engine down the road. The small-block Ford engine-management system includes a high-flow intake, a billet throttle body, high-flow fuel rails, an adjustable fuel regulator, the Gen VII spark fuel kit, and more. Simply bolt the intake to your long-block and wire it up.

Pro-M Racing, known for years as the wizard of the mass air meter, has come out with its own line of custom tunable performance chips and tuning software, called PCM Editor. While the software and chip programs are aimed squarely at shops and serious tuners, Pro-M offers the ability of mail-order performance chips. Tell the Pro-M people what you have and they will make up a chip and ship it right out. It's great for folks in the middle of nowhere who can't get to a Pro-M dealer. Or, if you like, Pro-M will sell you a single-user copy of its PCM Editor ($699), which comes with one chip holder, four chips, a chip burner, and software. Since we covered the PCM Editor software in the February '04 issue ("Micro Management," p. 96), we'll just give you the highlights here.

The PCM Editor software is a package of tuning options for the well-versed Ford tuner. It features the ability to input the nine-point flow data from a Pro-M flowchart (which comes with all Pro-M meters) and interpolate that into the standard 30-point data system that the Ford PCM uses. Of course, PCM Editor doesn't offer only mass air meter calculations. It also easily manipulates all the standard tuning parameters tuners love to fiddle with, such as air/fuel ratio, transmission controls, injector slope, wide-open throttle correction, and air-charge temp correction factors.

Pro-M also recently released its electronic Nitrous Controller that uses stock Ford sensors instead of micro-switches or window switches to engage the nitrous system. Using the mass air signal, as well as rpm and throttle position, the system is foolproof. Capable of controlling dry systems up to 200 hp, the Pro-M Nitrous Controller is laptop-tunable and works on Ford vehicles up to the '04 model year.

Another piggyback unit that has a strong cult following is the TwEECer ($380). Found through retailers including Dallas Mustang, Performance Specialties, and BRG Racing, the TwEECer features four customizable calibration locations allowing you to tune your Mustang for different conditions (race gas, nitrous, highway driving, and so on) and easily switch between them. Besides the usual fuel and spark mapping, the TwEECer offers real-time datalogging and display (TwEECer RT; $550), along with playback capabilities. The TwEECer uses a graphical interface software called CalCon for user interaction, via a USB connection and a laptop computer for quick adjustments right in the car. You can even disable the TwEECer and revert to the stock calibration without removing the device from the car. Software and firmware upgrades are available as released from the company's Web site. Future plans call for DTC reading and the ability to clear Keep Alive Memory without opening the hood and having to disconnect the battery.

Superchips is another company that has deep roots in the electronic tuning of the Ford EEC. While it has offered mail-order computer chips ($265) for years, its most recent addition has been the creation of the Superchips Custom Tuning division. At SCT, the staff has been hard at work on some great new products. Their tuning software, SCT Advantage, allows dealers to custom-tune chips quickly with a great degree of accuracy. In addition, SCT has thousands of "tunes" from its dealers and its own testing. Got a 347 with an E303 and a small shot of juice? There's a program for it-trust me. One of the latest additions to this line of chip hardware is the new USB-based chip burner. Requiring no power (it gets its power from the USB port), you can have the laptop and USB burner right at your side at the racetrack and burn a four-bank chip in less than 30 seconds! Just have a meaty laptop with Win98SE or higher and a USB port, and you're ready to rock.

For the handheld crowd, SCT has just finalized and released its Max Microtuner ($419) for EEC V applications. The Microtuner comes with several tuning options to allow more aggressive shift points, fuel and timing control, and different fuel-octane ratings. For factory supercharged applications, the Microtuner includes additional programs for different aftermarket pulley sizes. The Microtuner also reads and displays DTCs to see what problems you might be having.

From our friends in the Great White North comes the SDS Programmable Injection System. Western Motorsports, working with Simple Digital Systems, built the system so it can be configured one of two ways-as a PCM replacement ($1,149, 4.6 model; $1,095, 5.0/5.8 model) or as a complete stand-alone system ($1,249). If you already have an EEC IV or EEC V Mustang (5.0 or modular), simply remove the PCM, plug in the SDS box, run a few wires, and you'll be up and running in no time. If you're building a car from scratch (such as a race car, street rod, or kit car), and don't have any fuel-injection components, you can purchase the optional stand-alone harness and sensor packages to make the SDS a complete system.

Most interesting of all, whether as a replacement or as a stand-alone, the SDS does not require a laptop and software to control it. Instead, it uses a handheld LCD controller for programming, sensor diagnostics, and real-time "gauge" mode display. Tuning is easily handled by the controller with simple up/down buttons. The speed density-based system can control fuel enrichment, timing retard, boost limit, rev limit, and so on for superchargers or turbos-up to 30 pounds of boost. The stand-alone system comes with the SDS control unit, programmer, injector drivers, lean/rich controller, map sensor, and complete wiring harness with installation and tuning manual. Just add a few Ford sensors (if you don't already have them) and a basic ignition box (the SDS controls igni-tion retard and rev limit), and you're all set.

The EEC-Tuner is a piggyback tuning device designed for the capable tuner who is comfortable with computer code and willing to make changes to his EEC programming. The EEC-Tuner ($389) works only with certain PCM calibrations on '84-'97 models and allows changing such parameters as injector size, fuel strategy, ignition timing, idle rpm, rev-limit, and so on. There's also a version for '96-'97 model years with a graphical-user interface, called GUI EEC-Tuner, that is codeveloped with a third party. Check out the Web site www.eectuner.com/guieectuner for more information.