Tuning your vehicle is always an exciting time because it means that your project is close to being done. However, This process can be a pain. You will need to find a reputable tuner that has a proven track record and is willing to stand by their work. It’s not always easy to find someone in your area and if you do it may be months before they can get your car in the shop. But, there is a way around all of this hassle, and the solution is remote tuning.
We contacted Casey Rance, Owner of Mail Order Tuner.com out of Temple, Texas to get more information about remote tuning and what’s involved. Casey has been professionally tuning street cars and racecars since 2007. In 2017, he became responsible for the support of Texas Speed & Performance, which includes tuning its record-setting race program. Casey has developed a mail-order tune for nearly every combination possible over the years and continues to push the limits as new vehicles are introduced.
Twelve years ago, Casey was working on his personal 2001 Silverado with a 5.3-Liter Whipple supercharger; as you can imagine, it escalated quickly into a built 408 cubic-inch setup, and tuning was the next step. At the time he was relying on someone else for tuning but wanted to get involved and learn for himself. Fast forward 12 years and he is now one of the leading LS tuners in the world.
We reached out to Casey to ask him a few questions about mail-order tuning including some of the advantages, disadvantages, and common problems that are associated with this service.
Photo Credit: Chris Graves
LSX Mag: What tuning products do you prefer for tuning the LS/ LT platforms, and what are some of the pros and cons?
Casey Rance: We use HP Tuners, which gives us access to the most innovative software available. We have full control of modifying a vehicle to our clients’ specific preferences, including the engine and transmission controls. HP also gives us the ability for remote tuning and tech support. As far as cons go, there is always a risk when modifying factory settings in an ECM if not done by a professional.
LSX Mag: What information do you need for a successful tune?
Casey Rance: We need to know everything about a vehicle. We’ve developed a 3-page form you can find on our website, MailOrderTuner.com. This form will go into the details we need before doing a tune. With that said, even if the owner doesn’t have all of the answers, we can definitely still tune the vehicle. Without having exact specs, it’s hard to get a mail-order tune exact or sometimes even very close. For these cases, we offer Tuning Bundles that include your own HP Tuners cable, credits, and an email tune. This bundle allows for quick changes made remotely to fine-tune the setup.
LSX Mag: How has mail order tuning helped the aftermarket?
Casey Rance: Many people live in a remote location and are forced to take their car hours away for tuning. This causes many shops and tuners to stay backed up for weeks, making the wait times very long for the customer. Mail order tuning gives the customer the ability to get their tune very close to dialed-in before a dyno appointment. The turn around for our service is 48 hours. Remote tuning prices are one of the cheaper options for the aftermarket that almost anyone can afford.
Engine and transmission swaps are also becoming very popular, and it’s next to impossible to get these combinations to start and run properly without a tune. Mail order tuning is a fantastic way to address these issues with the vehicle without having to leave the garage. In a lot of cases, the car never has to visit a shop.
LSX Mag: What are some common problems you experience with customer vehicles that can be avoided?
Casey Rance: Fuel injectors and the fuel system can be a little tricky. Most commonly, people don’t check fuel pressure. They purchase “corvette filters” which is a fuel filter used on C5 Corvettes that regulates the fuel pressure. The problem is that they can range in fuel pressure from 45 to 85 pounds depending on the brand. We need to know what the fuel pressure is before we start tuning the vehicle.
Another common problem area is the Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor. People buy a card-style Mass Air Flow (LS7-style) and put it on everything like it’s universal. However, they are not. Aspects like MAF placement and tubing diameter play a significant role as, well. The average customer doesn’t realize this until we educate them a little on the subject.
Starting an engine while not completely assembled or ready for a startup is another big problem. Examples include no full exhaust installed, missing air intake, missing the MAF, no transmission attached, etc.
People also take for granted proper gear ratio/tire size calibration. Everybody assumes it’s “stock”, but even from GM, it wasn’t calibrated correctly. Be sure to include the exact tire size and gear ratio on your vehicle on the Mail Order Tuner form.
LSX Mag: Are newer vehicles harder to tune than older?
Casey Rance: With age comes problems. The 1998 Camaros and Firebirds are now over 20 years old, so dealing with maintenance issues and general wear and tear is a common issue. These problems, combined with trying to troubleshoot a vehicle that is not on our property, are the most challenging aspects of this business model. With newer vehicles, torque-based tuning is more complicated due to increased technology. There are many more parameters that have to be looked at and modified.
LSX Mag: What can enthusiasts expect from a tune, and does this process only help modified vehicles?
Casey Rance: People can expect an increase in throttle response, increase in fuel mileage, trucks often gain towing power, so basically they can expect better running and performing vehicles. The horsepower and torque increase will depend on the modifications. A stock vehicle might gain 20 horsepower, while a car with cam and headers should gain a good deal more.
Anyone can benefit from a mail order tune no matter if it is stock or modified. Speed limiters, shift firmness, skip shift, fan settings, and even correct tire size calibration is essential to a transmission working correctly, especially on the later models. Even on stock vehicles, we look to gain 2-3 mpg. Deleting the Displacement On Demand (DOD) system has proven to take care of oil consumption problems, as well.
[Editor’s Note: custom tuning a car driven on a public street violates federal law under the Clean Air Act (CAA). While LSX Magazine and Power Automedia do not advocate breaking the law, we chose not to omit this information because we felt burning less gasoline and oil were in the spirit of what the CAA is trying to accomplish.]
LSX Mag: What’s the difference between a mail order, “street” tune, and dyno tune?
Casey Rance: There are a couple of options for a mail order tune: you can mail us your ECM for a bench tune, or if you have a cable from HP Tuners, we can provide an email tune. These tunes are based on our customer’s input, dyno experience, and an accumulation of skills built from years of datalogging and track experience.
A “street” tune is almost the same as an email tune — the most significant difference is we can datalog the car while driving it for added support.
A dyno tune is once again similar, but a dyno is involved. A dyno is a great tool, but it is just that: it’s not necessary, but it will often offer a lot of information that you would not otherwise know initially.
For example, we know every single Texas Speed & Performance (TSP) LS3 Stage 4 camshaft will make 485 rear wheel horsepower on the first pull. Whenever you have a situation where that exact combination only makes 460 horsepower, we have exposed a problem. Now we know for sure that there is a mechanical issue that needs to be fixed. Since I’ve had a dyno for the last six years, I have a general idea of the power that each vehicle is likely to put out just through the intuition I’ve acquired from performing so many trials.
LSX Mag: What does a customer need to know when selecting someone to tune their car?
Casey Rance: In my opinion, choosing someone who has experience with their specific combination or goals is the most important thing. I have tuned so many different combinations over the years that it is hard to find something that trips me up. It’s also imperative to find someone available to answer questions, take calls, or provide support. Customer service is critical to us.
LSX Mag: How good is the factory GM ECU’s for performance tuning and at what point do you recommend going aftermarket?
Casey Rance: Factory computers are great for “street” cars until you need to start logging precise data or need more computer options. At this point, we would suggest looking at other options. Another good measure is the level of horsepower. If the vehicle is making more than 1,000 horsepower, an aftermarket unit is advised.
LSX Mag: What does the customer need for remote tuning?
Casey Rance: They will need a few things like access to reliable WiFi or internet connection, an HP Tuners cable, HP Tuners credits, and a laptop with the Windows operating system. These components allow us to remote into the software and look at live data and make changes on the spot.
Remote Tuning Our 2000 Turbo Silverado
While we had Casey on the phone, we thought it would be an excellent time to get a remote tune on our 2000 Silverado. Recently, we added some boost with a system from Trick Turbo and have not had a chance to get the truck tuned. We went ahead and filled out the form on Mailordertuners.com and hit the submit button. The form is immediately sent to Casey, so he has all of the information he needs to perform a successful tune.
Using an HP Tuners MVPI 2 with the PRO Feature, we were able to monitor and datalog our AEM wideband without much effort. This unit is super-simple to set up, and you can find all kinds of videos online to let you know what capabilities this unit offers.
While sitting in the garage with the truck, Casey remoted into our laptop using Anydesk.com after we gave him access. He did a quick check to make sure all of the sensors were functioning correctly. A few minutes later we received an email from Mailordertuners.com which we uploaded into the truck.
We fired the truck up and let it get to temperature, still monitoring everything through HP Tuners. After we looked for fuel leaks and made sure the fans were in working order, we drove the truck around for a few miles on a closed course. The log was sent back to Casey so he could see the engine diagnostics. Instructions were given to drive the Chevy at 1/2 to 3/4 throttle while keeping an eye on the O2 sensors. They looked perfect, so we went to 100-percent throttle for a quick pull as instructed.
For round two, we immediately went back home and changed the tires on the truck because it was starting to make some power. Casey took another look at the log and we were once again ready to blast off. Unfortunately, we overestimated our wastegate spring and soon maxed out our boost capabilities. With no way of turning the boost up without a new spring, we were done for the day. We do have a spring on order so we can soon put the Mickey Thompson tires to work and Casey, as well, once again.
Remote tuning has seriously changed the tuning game and for the better. Because of companies like HP Tuners and Mailordertuner.com, we no longer need to drop the vehicle off at a designated location. In fact, we now have access to tuners all over the country and even the world at a moments notice. If you have never had a remote or mail order tune, we recommend it. On high-horsepower applications, it does make sense to get in line and have your vehicle dyno-tuned. If it’s just a mild setup making 300 to 700 horsepower, a remote tune will hit the mark while saving you some time and energy.