One of the most overlooked modifications in the Honda community is the engine management system (EMS). In a world full of auction sites showcasing Mugen chips and Spoon ECUs, which, by the way, are merely freeware hacks into the factory engine control unit (ECU) with questionable VTEC crossovers and improper fuel and ignition maps. Even scarier than that are the numerous free software programs out there with promises of cheap and reliable performance they ALL fail to deliver.
Here at Bisimoto Engineering, we’ve had thousands of Honda and Acura owners visit our facility with dynamometer requests ranging from the simple power pull baseline to the heavily involved tune. Of those vehicles, guess how many of them arrived with a chip and performed even marginally well? None! Sad, but true. Imagine this scenario: you invest heavily in the best ported head from the likes of Port Flow and forged pistons from Arias and Bisimoto-spec H-beam rods in your Golden Eagle sleeved block. Next, you top it off with the best billet camshafts and valvetrain from a reputable supplier (hint, hint), then save up for a Bisimoto V2 header or a billet turbo manifold from Turbonetics. Your setup is ready to go after meticulously building it yourself, or having it done at a reputable facility, and dropping it in with a set of Hasport billet mounts. Armed with a Rywire mil-spec harness, you are ready to get your pride and joy running.
However, you’re not sure what EMS option to use in order to have your project orchestrated in powerful and reliable harmony so you look to the forums for advice. A few online gurus advise you to go with the newest Brand X or Y tune freeware software and you go for it. After all the money you’ve spent, you figure why not cut a few corners and save a little money. After you have a hard time finding a reputable tuner that would even consider using this software to get you going, you settle for the infamous street tuner who rides shotgun in your pride and joy while trying to key away on a laptop on a deserted backroad, hopefully armed with at least a wideband. After this obviously dangerous excursion, the car runs OK, but idles funny and has a few flat spots while driving. Two weeks later the software glitches and your setup, your hard work, and your hard-earned dollars are reduced to a smothering heap of fail! You hope that you have only blown a gasket as the car idles worse than before and bellows smoke. To your chagrin, you melted a piston in the number three cylinder, and your project is now non-existent.
This is a story far more common than most would like to admit. Freeware is, well, free. There’s absolutely no incentive for the renegade developer or his team to improve the software. You truly get what you pay for, and it should come as no surprise that freeware systems frequently glitch and wreak havoc on stock, mild, and even wild setups. Dubious and deceitful dyno facilities will also take advantage of unsuspecting enthusiasts and use such software just to make a quick buck. We are even aware of reports of unscrupulous characters switching good EMS units for socketed freeware versions.
The engine management system is the most important investment in your project. These vital engine management components control every facet of your engine: the injectors, ignition, VTEC control, startup, idle, safety measures (like knock sensing, O2 feedback, boost control, etc.,), rev limits, and additional features like launch control. Plug-and-play systems from AEM and Hondata are popular and reliable options for Honda and Acura enthusiasts. Hondata systems rely on factory ECUs as their basis for performance, and require the installation of modules into OBD-I factory ECUs, and K-series OBD-II stock systems. The Hondata Flashpro allows for unique tuning options for the newer drive-by- wire K-series and R-series systems via the OBD-II port.
The AEM EMS system is absolutely superb. In addition to using all new chips, housings, and circuitry, the unit exists in plug-and-play configurations for Honda and Acura OBD-I and OBD-II systems. From the recently added J-series plug-and-play modules, AEM systems encompass the SOHC D- and F-series, to the high revving F20C/F22C S2000, H-series, B-series, and K-series powerplants. The AEM EMS Series 2 offers amazing and easy to use software with the Tuner Version 2.5, and wonderful features like traction control, smooth boost-per-speed functions (I love this on my 724-whp Civic wagon), user configurable knock control to ward off damaging detonation, 1 megabyte of data logging memory, and a crowd favorite: the ability to convert your old and archaic distributor system to the hip, accurate, and powerful, coil-on-plug (C.O.P.) system. Huge camshafts? No problem. The AEM Tuner software has a dedicated protocol for idle control, including the ability to adjust for aging idle control valves. For the savvy do-it-yourselfer, the new EMS-4 is a godsend, offering amazing installation flexibility for any four-cylinder engine. Favorite AEM series 2 options for the many tuners and enthusiasts alike include lockable tuning maps, full anti-lag control, staged injection control, fully configurable closed-loop O2 and EGT feedback, injector phasing (Yes, you can properly time injector pulse width activation in relation to valve opening events for improved power and economy.), and full control of coil dwell for the ultimate in spark energy. Icing on the cake, valet mode! Anyone with an AEM EMS series 2 can activate a speed governor, hence with the flick of a switch, you set up your vehicle to not exceed, say, 30 mph no matter what gear the driver is in!
Bottom line, protect your investment with a proper engine management system. Freeware is free for a reason, and will bless you with many plagued events. Use what the pros and successful teams do, as current Hondata and AEM systems are extremely cost effective. Really tight on cash? Save up, as it will be worth your while when all is said and done. A good EMS is truly the brains of your operation.
About the Author
Bisi Ezerioha is the founder and owner of Bisimoto Engineering in Ontario, CA. He holds Associate’s degrees in Natural and Applied Sciences, a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering, and a M.Sc. in Engineering Management. He also currently holds multiple racing world records, is an avid motorsports designer, inventor, and engine tuner.
1916 S. Lynx Place
Ontario, CA 91745