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New Year - New Engine Management!

Since I picked up my Talon in the summer of 2005, I've been running the same engine management and using the same (troublesome) datalogging tool. I've made a bunch of upgrades to the engine, suspension, interior and have even recently bolted on a brand spanking new Forced Performance turbocharger. All of these improvements have made the car much more fun, reliable and powerful. Speaking of power, my best 1/8 mile mph (with the stock 210k mile engine and a 20g turbo) was 89mph, which was recently improved to 103mph, all on the same old piggyback ECU stuff. Hard to believe, but true. So why all of the improvements and upgrades to everything over the years but the engine management - which is arguably the most important aspect to building power? Well...it's complicated. :-)

Ok, it's not really that complicated, I just needed some motivation, some good old peer pressure, and a beer or ten. Let's do this! Leeeeroy Jeeennkins!

The first order of business was to remove the HKS VPC, Apexi Super-AFC, Keydiver EPROM Chip and Palmlogger datalogger cable. Ok, so that's four different components that I was using simply to control the fuel, rpm limit and grab some datalogs. Sheesh!

Removing all of this stuff wasn't easy. First off, it had been in the car since 2005 and everything was very well secured with about forty-eleven zipties. Second, I now know why people with long, flowing mullets cry when they get them cut off. Even though something can be horribly obsolete and out of style, over time you get attached to it - it becomes part of you. In my case, this alphabet soup of engine management had become second nature to me. I was quite attached because I had been using it on various 4G63 powered cars of mine since 1999! Well, it's a new year and the perfect time to cut off that crusty old mullet and get a new hairstyle that suits me better.

So here's all that mess pulled out of the car. Amazing, isn't it?! After laying all of this stuff out on my garage floor, I was shocked and a little embarassed to share this with y'all. Well, there it is. Hard to believe you can make 500+hp on a 2.0L engine with that stuff, but somehow it happened. So what could possibly replace this rats nest of wires and doo-dads?

This! The innovative, powerful and easy to use ECMLink!
In case you're not familiar with this tool, it provides all of the tuning capability that you could ever want for your '90-'99 DSM or '92-'95 Lancer EVO 1-3, combined with a robust and fast datalogging tool. Ain't technology great? Not only does it replace that giant pile of outdated stuff I pulled out of my car without breaking a sweat, it adds a truckload of new functionality. There are literally too many cool features to list here, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • Enhanced Datalogging. This is a biggie for me. My old Palmlogger was passable, but I went through three old crappy Palm Pilots and for some weird reason, the thing would always stop datalogging at the worst times. Oh, like in the staging lanes at Bristol Dragway, for example. I'll spend some more time on the datalogging features later on.

  • Total control over fuel and timing! This is huge. No more trying to trick the computer with add-ons. Out of the box, the software compensates for your injectors and choice of MAF Sensor. From there you can make simple, rpm-based fuel and timing adjustments or you can use the "direct access" feature to manipulate all the fuel and timing tables as well as various airflow tables. This is brilliant. No super-steep learning cuvre here - start by making simple rpm-based adjustments and then over time improve your tune by modifying the finer points in the actual tables.

  • Native USB cable. This one is great, as I can now use my modern laptop to tune/datalog. Serial Ports are wack. This is a nice, sturdy cable too. Just plug it in the diagnostic port and your done.

  • Drop in flash. I love innovative solutions like this one! So the guys over at ECMTuning needed to add modern capabilities to the old/outdated Mitsubishi ECU. How the heck do you do that? Add the flash storage device on top of the EPROM chip! So now you have persistent storage of your settings/changes to the ECU, and direct reflash access to all the factory code & table areas as well! Just incredible.

  • So much more goodness. Launch control, rev limit control, no lift to shift, ability to accept additional inputs, ECU output control for nitrous or alcohol injection activation, control over your dash warning lights, antilag, knock sensor control, the list goes on and on.

  • Bang for the buck! Last but not least, this kit offers excellent value for everything you get. Great hardware, powerful software with an easy to use interface, flexibility to support the most basic or most advanced tuning needs, and a large knowledge base/user community. What more could you ask for?

  • So to recap a bit before we move on to the install, here's the flexibility I had before the upgrade:
    Four knobs. Well, one actually - besides "gain" the others are set and then forgotten about. The "gain" knob just sorta richens or leans everything out. This thing really kicked ass in 1993. In 2011, it makes a better drink coaster than an engine management system.

    Oh don't forget my Super-AFC. Here's a little jewel from page two of the owner's manual: "Discontinue use of this product immediately if there is smoke or a burning odor. Failure to do so may result in engine or vehicle fire." I love this menu flowchart that comes with it too. This is only half of it!

    Alright, let's get back on the install! While I was yanking out all of the old wiring, I also removed the ECU. I was ahead of the curve on this one, as I had my EPROM ECU socketed by the ECMTuning folks a few years back. If you're reading this and don't have an EPROM ECU, the folks at ECMTuning can get a good one for you! Speaking of DSM ECUs, it's almost as if Mitsubishi wanted folks to explore the innards of this thing. Four screws and you're in!

    Here's the ECMLink EPROM chip/flash storage plugged in and ready to go to work.

    Next up I installed the wire the clutch cut wire. This will give you features like no lift to shift and launch control. This is simple and took about 10 minutes. Be sure to solder your connections and use the included heat shring tubing to ensure years of trouble-free operation.

    Then I installed the ECMLink data transfer/datalogger cable and routed it under the dash. If you've used a datalogger cable in the past (I had an old PalmLogger cable previously) it's great to just plug this in and be done. No more routing a little seperate wire into the fuse box.

    The HKS VPC converts your car to speed density and eliminates the stock mass airflow sensor. While it was nice to get rid of the giant, low-airflow capacity 1G DSM mass airflow can back in the day, the part-throttle drivability with speed density while using the VPC suffers. Now, with the high-flowing Lancer Evolution mass airflow sensor that I'm using, I'll be able to get the drivability back without sacrificing any power. And if I do ever outflow the MAF sensor, ECMLink can compensate by using the "MAF Clamp" function. From the ECMTuning website: "MAF Clamp is basically a switch over to pseudo speed density just before the point where you might not trust the real MAF signal. You run on a nice, smooth factory MAF most of the time with a switch over to speed density only when necessary. Pretty cool stuff!

    I picked up the barely used Lancer Evolution MAF sensor off of the EvoM forums. They can usually be had for $70-100 and are easy to find. I got mine with a nice air filter adapter (not shown here). I also picked up a used MAF pigtail from the local junkyard, that I spliced into my existing DSM harness. I already had 3" couplings on the car, so the Evo Maf slid right on.

    So after the EPROM chip, clutch cut wiring, data transfer/datalogger cable and Evo MAF sensor were installed, I grabbed my laptop and installed the software. This couldn't have gone any easier and within a couple minutes I was connected! Per the instructions, I confirmed that the software had the correct MAF/injector default, which it did.

    I had read the excellent ECMLink Wiki prior to installing the software, so I was already pretty familiar with the interface and the basic configuration. After changing a few things and saving them to the ECU (cool!), I decided to try and fire it up. I wasn't sure what to expect (after years of crappy idling and "carburetor like" behavior with the VPC when it was cold. To my utter delight, she fired up and settled down to a nice 1100 rpm cold idle immediately! How great is that! What's more, I pulled out onto the street and it drove as smooth as silk! This is all with no fine tuning whatsoever. I was kicking myself for not doing this years ago!

    Here's my Dell laptop running ECMLink, with one of my initial datalogs displayed. The datalogging tool is such a massive upgrade compared to what I had before, it's just crazy.

    Thanks for reading and stay tuned for future updates (after the dang snow melts) as I get my tune nailed down. For more info on ECMLink and how you can get your hands on it, check out their website at www.ECMTuning.com.