For many people who are used to the limited wiring harness and the hands-on approach to working on their car, the idea of having an electronically controlled transmission might seem like a stretch. First, there’s the fear of having to tune things on a lap top. Then there’s the fact that you have to know what you’re doing. But some things are a lot easier than you might think.
On the contrary, controlling an overdrive transmission electronically doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge. That’s because the EZ-TCU transmission controller from TCI Automotive is a user-friendly controller that puts the controls right in your hand. If you can hook up a few wires, route them in the car and down to the transmission, then you can do this installation – piece of cake! This article will show the setup and advance features, assuming the installation has been completed.
EZ-TCU Setup Wizard Is Simple
We installed the EZ-TCU when we upgraded Project Track Attack recently. We had installed a 4L60E overdrive transmission and needed a better way to control how our transmission operates. After the initial wiring and ECM installation, it was simply a matter of turning the ignition on and plugging the included handheld into the ECM and a 12-volt (cigarette lighter) source. The initial setup consists of simple questions about your vehicle, and the rest is already programmed into the EZ-TCU ECM.
As we showed in our installation article, the Setup Wizard walks you through a New Tune, which will erase any existing tune, but will not erase the default settings. The initial selections are the engine, transmission type, the tire diameter – which can be selected by the tire size, the PPM (Pulses Per Mile), and the rear axle ratio. The tire size and gearing are important to set up the speedometer seen in the Live Data selection, and are completely independent from the speedometer output wire used during installation.
However, all values are a percentage of what we recommend, as you can’t go too far one way or the other and fear hurting the transmission. -Will Vance, TCI Automotive
We noticed with some settings, the numbers didn’t start at the same point as others, this is a failsafe for the controller. TCI Automotive’s Will Vance told us, “Some scales are set to take you to a negative reading to help reduce shift strategy. However, all values are a percentage of what we recommend, as you can’t go too far one way or the other and fear hurting the transmission.”
Vance suggested running through the setup wizard with the values at the default settings, and driving the car before you make any adjustments. With the settings spelled out clearly, you will know what you’re adjusting, and you can make those adjustments based on your preferences. If you want a softer shift at low speeds, adjust the value lower. For a firmer shift at higher speeds, adjust the value higher.
The default settings are there for an average control of how the transmission functions, and since the settings won’t allow you to go too far in either direction, you can’t hurt the transmission with your adjustments. Then there are a couple of features that should only be used by those with some experience, and we’ll discuss those below.
Harness Options On The EZ-TCU
To fine tune the settings, you can enter advanced settings and change how your transmission performs under light and heavy throttle individually. If you prefer a smoother transition through the gears at low throttle, you can adjust the shift points and firmness to a lower setting. Then for a firmer, more positive shift at higher rpms you can increase the setting. These are all broken out in a simple display that makes it easier to understand.
As seen in the video above, there are a couple of other settings that can be made to the EZ-TCU with added wires that allow you to change the characteristics of the transmission. This includes locking up the torque converter full time with the gray TCC wire, and a purple wire for Performance. Both can be activated when connected through a switch to a solid ground location.
But Vance warns that these are not for those who lack experience and should only be used by people who are more familiar with how the transmission and torque converter lockup function. The gray wire will force the converter into lockup full time, but it must be switched off when lower speeds are reached, and definitely when the vehicle comes to a stop.
Leaving it switched on would make the transmission more of a direct drive, and and can cause lugging and shudder when coming to a stop. Vance said it shouldn’t hurt anything leaving it on, but it won’t let the transmission downshift properly so the user should be mindful about it.
The purple wire is for performance and should be used with caution as well. Vance said, “This wire essentially gives a 25 percent line pressure increase across the board. Think of it as a GM-style tow/haul button.” He stated that using this option will allow the transmission to hold gear longer and shift firmer.
The purple wire won’t require making changes to the initial settings. But Vance stated, “If the user wants a softer shift at low speed, they will need to remember that this wire will override initial settings, so it should be switched off.”
The orange speedometer output wire is not to be confused with the speedometer setting on the live data screen. The screen will show your speed based on tire diameter and gear ratio, whereas the orange wire will be based on the PPM settings from the sender to your electronic speedometer. Many speedometers are programmable, and can be adjusted through the manufacturer’s instructions.
There are even more options with the EZ-TCU wire harness that we will cover at a later date, but these are the main components that the average user will need to be aware of. As always, for more information and applications, visit the TCI Automotive website to see even more available components, including paddle shifters for those who want to step it up a notch.