Justin Fivella
January 15, 2014

When it comes to getting every last ounce of power from your engine combination, a custom tune is the only way to go. Of course, not everyone has access to the equipment or a qualified calibrator—until now.

Thanks to the marvels of technology, many Mustang fans can now receive a custom tune no matter how far they live from a qualified calibrator. We know what you’re thinking, so lets get this straight—we’re not talking “canned” tunes here, but rather remote tunes, where you data-log a dyno run or drag strip pass, and they get the info to your tuner so he (or she) can make the changes to fine-tune your power curve.

What’s the difference? We asked renowned Mustang tuner Shaun Perry of AED.

“A canned tune is a generalized tune for a given combo, like a file for most Coyotes equipped with a cold-air intake; but a remote tune is a custom program specific to your car that’s created remotely,” Perry explained. “Thanks to datalogging technology, I no longer have to be near the car I’m tuning, instead I just need the appropriate SCT software and datalogging equipment along with a little help from the owner,” he added.

While canned tunes will always have their place due to affordability and the fact that considerable gains over the stock programming can be found, canned files usually leave performance on the table.

Although tuning extraordinaire never actually sees the cars he remote tunes, we decided to make Shaun Perry of AED put his money where his mouth was, and test his remote tune on the dyno and at the track.

“Most generalized tunes are on the conservative side regarding the ignition timing, air/fuel ratio, cam timing, and shift points (with an auto), because everyone’s circumstances are different. It’s better to leave a larger safety margin because of the wide scope,” Perry said.

Since a canned file is designed for most cars, the tuner must account for things like varying grades of gasoline, different geographical locations, varied weather conditions, and the build tolerances between cars. Some states use E10, while others have 100-percent gasoline, and the atmospheric conditions in Colorado are vastly different than in Death Valley, California. If one tune is designed for “all Coyotes with a CAI” it needs to accommodate a wide range of scenarios, thus the reason for dialing back the parameters in the name of safety.

For many, a canned tune is sufficient, but for those wanting every last ounce of power from their setup, a remote tune brings the power of a custom dyno tune to your doorstep.

A Tuning Revolution

Now that remote tuning has become popular, we decided to take a look at this new phenomenon. Stories of considerable power increases and massive improvements at the track, all from a tuner several states away, were swelling through the Interwebs. It all sounded too good to be true, so we headed to AED in Cameron Park, California, for the full scoop.

It just so happened that Alan Kennaley was planning to have AED tune his shiny new ’13 GT automatic about the same time. With a little coercing, we managed to convince Alan to not only baseline dyno the car, but also take it to the track where we’d run it stock and with the AED tune. But that’s not all, Perry agreed to conduct the tuning process as if Alan was several states away. In this case, the dyno and track times were only to verify the results of the tune so everyone knows what they’re getting with a remote tune. The results were nothing short of amazing, but before we hit you with the numbers, lets take a closer look at remote tuning.

“The Copperhead and Coyote/Road Runner program brought with it a lot of new capabilities, like variable valve timing, independent cylinder control, proper knock retard, wideband oxygen sensors, and plenty of other high-tech capabilities that have let tuners unlock the inherent potential,” Perry said.

Who would have thought the Coyotes were so technology rich they'd have the ability to dial back their own power?

With greater capabilities also comes greater power potential, and aftermarket tuning companies like SCT Performance were able to take full advantage of the newfound processing power in the Ford ECUs.

“Since the Coyotes come with factory widebands, I can have customers datalog their cars with an SCT X-Cal and send me the files; once I’ve seen the logs, I can make the appropriate changes and then have the owner upload the new custom tune directly into their car—no dyno needed unless the owner wants to,” Perry explained.

For those wanting a remote dyno tune, simply find a local dyno that is willing to remotely work with tuners like AED. The local shop will make the appropriate dyno pulls and logs, and send them to AED for review.

How It’s Done

Without going into an engineering dictation on the inner workings of EFI tuning, we’ll at least cover the basics of what AED does to achieve such killer results without actually setting a finger on the car he’s tuning.

With an SCT Live Link Gen2, Coyote owners can datalog their cars and send the files to a qualified tuner anywhere in the world. The tuner can then create a custom tune specific to the car, which the owner receives via e-mail and uploads into their car. Here, Alan Kennaley, owner of the ’13 GT test mule, is pulling the appropriate logs.

“Using the latest version of SCT Live Link Gen2, I have customers fully warm up their engines and then log things like rpm, spark, MAF load, throttle position, IATs, fuel trims, and many other parameters to get an accurate snapshot of what the motor is doing,” Perry said.

With the motor up to operating temperature and the Live Link logging, Perry asks that customers record part-throttle acceleration in Third gear from 1,100 rpm to roughly 5,000 rpm immediately followed by a few minutes of idling. With the first logs done, a wide-open throttle (WOT) pull from 2,000 rpm to redline in Fifth gear for manual transmission cars and Fourth gear for automatic cars comes next. This is best achieved on a dyno. For those logging at the track, the same WOT pulls can be achieved in Third gear.

Upon completion, the logs are sent to Perry for review, and if no problems are found, he can then proceed with the custom tuning. But only after he receives the ECU calibration code, X3 serial number, rear gear ratio, and a full list of mods. Once the tune is complete, Shaun will email the tune to the customer, who then uploads it into the ECU. In some cases, Perry will request another round of datalogs to ensure perfection.

Here’s a glimpse of a datalog of a part-throttle pull. AED explained that the logs showed a difference between the two cylinder banks that was traced back to an exhaust leak. Ah, the marvels of technology.
Here’s a wide-open throttle log of a Coyote engine that a customer would send to Shaun for review.

Coyote Tuning Secrets

Although Perry didn’t let us in on all of the pro secrets, he did shine some light on his methodology behind tuning the new five-oh motors.

“The Coyote is an amazing motor, and with its increased capabilities comes the ability to achieve efficient power, with cam timing to build cylinder pressure rather than tons of ignition timing like the old days,” he explained.

Take a look at what qualified tuners like Shaun Perry from AED see when tuning a Coyote with the SCT software. All those numbers mean something to him, and they’re actually the VE tables from Alan’s 2013 GT.

He went on to to say most stock tunes are lean at low-rpm/throttle positions for emissions purposes and rich at WOT/high-rpm scenarios, where extra fuel leaves lots of wiggle room. This means there is plenty of power to be found in a tune that achieves a more consistent air/fuel ratio and ramps up the ignition- and cam timing, as well as extents things like the rev limiter and shift points on auto cars.

“I bump the rev limit to 7,500 on the Coyote motors and to 8,000-plus on the Road Runner motors for more drive in each gear. I also extend the shift points to 7,250 rpm in the first three gears of the automatic cars to keep them in the powerband,” he explained.

Dyno Numbers vs. Track Times

After the ECU Tuning, the plot only thickened when comparing the dyno numbers against the track gains—it didn’t add up. With Alan’s ’13 GT strapped down tight, we hit the dyno in box-stock form to the tune of 366 hp and 362 lb-ft at the tires.

After conducting the remote tuning rituals, Alan uploaded the AED tune into the GT and again hit the rollers. This time, the Coyote spun higher and pulled harder, with new marks of 378 hp and 375 lb-ft for peak-to-peak gains of 12 hp and 13 lb-ft at the wheels. Remember folks, this is a box-stock car, even down to the paper filter and all.

While the dyno gains weren’t anything to sneeze at, AED assured us the track results would prove far more impressive. So a trip to the infamous Sacramento Raceway in Sacramento, California, was in order. That’s right—on the same day of the dyno, we hit the strip for back-to-back results. Needless to say, we couldn’t believe our eyes.

The baseline numbers registered at 366 hp and 362 lb-ft at the tires, and the AED tune boosted the figures to 378 hp and 375 lb-ft for gains of 12 hp and 13 lb-ft on the stone-stock Coyote.

With AED hot-shoe and co-owner Drew Wallace behind the wheel, the box-stock GT pulled to the line and left without drama. On the big end, the boards read 12.80 at 110 mph—not too shabby. We made several additional runs within a tenth of each other to assure ourselves it was all she had.

A few minutes later, the AED tune was uploaded and it was time to make some tracks. The car didn’t leave any harder, but by the 60-foot mark, you could really see the Coyote come on the power as it ripped off 7,250-rpm shifts on a way to a best pass of 12.14 at 113 mph. We couldn’t believe our eyes. How could a tune that only added 12 hp and 13 lb-ft knock off 0.6 and add 3 mph in the quarter? Thankfully Perry was there with the answer.

“The dyno gains aren’t that important. It’s the fact that these cars have a dyno mode that only unlocks full power when the front wheels aren’t spinning, but get them on the road and they have all kinds of nannies—like torque management and piston protection—that kills serious power,” Shaun explained. In other words, your Coyote might make a solid dyno number, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually making that much on the street or the track.

Such concessions to civility (and warranty claims) are to be expected from a factory vehicle, and is more proof that we’ve truly entered a new era of Mustang tuning. Just a few years ago, dyno gains were directly correlated to track gains, but not anymore. Who would have thought the Coyotes were so technology rich they’d have the ability to dial back their own power?

Perhaps we should thank the Ford engineers—after all, what makes the new Coyotes so powerful they can self-regulate also gives experienced tuners the ability to gain massive amounts of power. Welcome to the Coyote era, where the capabilities are nearly endless. It’s good to be a Ford fan.

A trip to Sacramento Raceway proved that dyno numbers aren’t everything, since the electronic nannies in the stock tune were hampering the track results. Our baseline times were 12.80 at 110 mph, but fell to a best of 12.14 at 113 mph for gains of 0.6 and 3 mph with just a tune—now those are impressive results.

Remote Tuning 101

Here’s the checklist Shaun Perry of AED sends to all Coyote owners before conducting a remote tune:

  • Using the latest version of SCT Live Link Gen2, log the following on a fully warmed engine: rpm, spark, spark V2, MAF lb/min, MAF frequency, load as a fraction, actual throttle angle, intake air temp, long-term fuel trims, short-term fuel trims, Lambse B1/B2, and measured air/fuel.

  • I want two logs:
  1. 1. Part throttle in Third, very slow acceleration from 1,100 to 5,000 rpm, followed immediately by a few minutes of idle.
  2. 2. WOT from 2,000 rpm to redline (preferably on a chassis dyno) in Fifth gear for manuals and Fourth gear for automatics when on the dyno. If at the track, use Third gear.

  • Doing the idle log after a part-throttle pull ensures the O2 sensors are up to proper operating temps for accurate data at idle. This is especially important for long-tube applications.
  • If the logs look normal, we can proceed with tuning once you send the following: ECU calibration code, X-Cal serial number, rearend gear ratio, and a full list of modifications.