Transitioning to tuning older pre-OBD vehicles


A substantial portion of the folks that contact us these days aren’t totally new to tuning.  The vast majority have worked with other tools before.  HP Tuners, EFI Live, Diablosport, SCT, Sniper, Cobb are some common names I hear.  I’m going to lump all of these tools together (even though they’re very different) and collectively call them “new car tools.”  I’m going to lump TunerPro, Binary Editor and EEC Editor together (even though they’re very different and Moates doesn’t actually make any of them) into another group and call them “our tools.”  This article is going to make huge, sweeping, blatant generalizations about the differences between “our tools” and “new car tools” in an attempt to help someone who has used “new car tools” better adjust to using “our tools.”

Automation: There is NONE

The first and most important difference between “new car tools” and “our tools” is the level of automation that happens.  “New car tools” are comparatively automatic: they’re designed so that you can plug in (usually to the diagnostic port), press a few buttons and have a tune in front of you to start modifying or logging.  You don’t need to know what type of ECM you’re working with.  You don’t need to know which operating system or software is installed on it.   All of these important identifying tasks happen in the background behind the scenes before a shiny list of parameters is ever presented to you. Using “new car tools,” you can be largely oblivious to what the editor you are using is doing behind the scenes.  You also have little control over how these background tasks are performed because they happen behind the scenes with little to no input from you.

This does not happen with “our tools.”  All of “our tools” are flexible applications that support multiple types of ECUs, just like “new tools.” Except there is NO AUTOMATION to speak of.  In order for you to be able to do anything useful, you need to MANUALLY configure the application to do what you want instead of having things automatically unfold in front of your eyes.  Understand that many of the same things happen in both cases but you have to be the director when using “our tools.”  To illustrate this, we’re going to dissect the process of loading a file to tune in different tools and see how they do much of the same thing in totally different ways.

Loading a Tune File with “New Tools”


“File…  Open tuning file” looks innocent enough.  Pick your file then click “Open”



EFI Live automatically configures itself after opening a file

EFI Live automatically detects the operating system, VIN, transmission type and more!  It automatically loads a template or definition to let you make changes to this file.  It automatically lists whether some of the important calibration controls such as Flex Fuel, Active Fuel Management, etc. are enabled.

From the moment it is done loading the file you point it to, you’re instantly ready to go. (fine print: assuming it is compatible with the file you have shoved at it.)

Loading a Tune File with “Our Tools”


“File… Open Bin…” looks a lot like EFI Live did.

Things start off looking pretty similar…


After opening a BIN (Tune file), TunerPro displays more or less a blank slate.

The similarities pretty much stop there.



You have to manually load an XDF



Choose which XDF



With an XDF Loaded, you can edit defined parameters

The steps of loading and selecting and XDF which must be performed manually in TunerPro in order to be able to edit parameters without using the hex editor.  Datalogging is not much different: you must manually configure TunerPro to log what you want it to log.


Acquisition… Load Definition File…


Select an ADX that matches the platform you are working with


Observe the list of defined parameters in the ADX

Even after loading the right BIN, XDF and ADX files, you’re still not done!  TunerPro can operate in several different modes depending on which type of hardware you have and how you’re trying to use it.  Don’t forget to go into the Preferences and set things to suit the hardware you’re trying to use,


You will need to suit the preferences to suit the hardware you have

Why So Different?

The first thing that should stand out to you is how incredibly ‘simple’ it was to load a tune with “new car tools” compared to the many steps involved with loading a tune in “our tools.”  There are equal numbers of steps in both cases – but many of them happen automatically behind the scenes with “new tools.”  In the examples of using “our tools,” the bin file (that ends up on the chip) along with an associated definition file (XDF, ADX, “Strategy file”) have to be loaded manually.  This gives you both more control over how the process happens and more chances to screw things up.