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Old 01.05.2020, 12:32
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Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

Little story I'd like to share.

Lately I've been hobbying around on my "new" 2007 Ford S-Max, which doesn't have Daytime Running Lights standard, but it can be activated by a special interface called FORScan. There are several third party programs that allow ECU tweaking, akin to the engine "tuning" all the kids are raving about these days, as they spend daddy's money pimping their VW to sound like a Maserati that just inhaled a helium balloon.

Well, I get that. I like to tinker. Except I'm the daddy now and I'm pimping a 7 seater minivan MPV. So anyway, I'm currently digging into the computer modules to activate DRLs, among other things. You'd be amazed at what you can easily change to turn your base model grocery getter into a top of the line XL Titanium SS Ghia edition.

I've been casually studying OBD systems for a few years. My original goal was to add cruise control to an old Ford Focus, but I discovered so much more in those little black boxes that control every aspect of lighting, mirrors, key programming, audio, tire size and pressure monitoring, remote this and that, etc etc. The ability to change all this seemingly hard wired stuff with a simple USB dongle connected to a cheap Windows laptop meant that my next car would be a Ford, and the next after that.

I used to be a Volvo guy, from a Volvo family back as far as I can remember. We always had other cars too, but the Volvos outlasted them all. The first car I bought myself was a 1970 164 with dual four barrel Bosch carbs. I learned to work on cars by tearing into that incredibly simple, built-like-a-tractor motor. They were easy to work on, held their value and the parts were always readily available.

But then Volvo had a really rough period. Lots of problems with electrical systems and design stagnation. They got a boost when Ford bought in, injecting money and innovation, and expanding the shared platform approach that had worked so well with Ford going back to the 1980s with their small truck venture with Mazda.

So after our '96 Volvo 850 died in 2015, I started searching for a used V50, one of the best designed and best selling cars on the road. Discouraged by the relatively high prices, I discovered the collaboration they had with Ford, sharing the Focus platform nearly 1:1 with the V50. I picked up a Focus wagon, a white fleet car that had all Autobahn kilometers and detailed service records. That became our family car for the next five years until the kids got too big. Great little car.

Now that the kids are bigger, they want to bring more stuff on holiday and we want to be able to fit their friends and cousins in the car with them, we got a seven passenger S-Max. Not the most exciting minivan car, but it has the same engine and computer system as the Focus, so I already know my way around the ECU and it's various modules. I've already activated DRLs, global lock/unlock, auto-retracting side mirrors, disabled the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (legal on pre-2014 cars), added an additional key, corrected the speedometer and figured out how to do a DPF regeneration when I get up the guts to rev the engine to 5k rpms. Nerd alert! I also did some cool stuff like adding a Sony head unit with CarPlay, installing a rear camera, and fixing little things like broken handbrake cable, a couple dents and torn driver seat. But the nerdy computer stuff is the most interesting because you don't normally think about how those things can be tweaked and customized years later.

Anybody else into hobbying on this kind of stuff? I have a feeling we're few and far between in der Schweiz.
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  #2  
Old 01.05.2020, 12:45
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

Next thing you know you'll be hacking it to add a special mode for the MFK - see VW for prior art


Good post, by the way - it appeals to my "because it was there" receptors.
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Old 01.05.2020, 14:19
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

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Next thing you know you'll be hacking it to add a special mode for the MFK - see VW for prior art
Haha, hadn't thought of that!
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Old 01.05.2020, 15:35
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

I think the internet would refer to what you're doing as "coding" rather than "tuning".

Coding is more about tweaking the many small computers around the car, than the ECU (which is for the engine).

They're all accessible through OBD as they're all on the CANBUS, and depending on the platform it might be easier to do the one or the other.

On BMWs you can code features to the car with Android/iOS apps and a wireless OBD adapter, and for certain series (most models since 2015 onwards probably) you can also tune quite easily.

Coding can really make a difference in a car - especially if the hardware is there and all you need is a simple change in the software. Many people have factory CarPlay in their BMW without ever paying for it

Some people have gone as far as making it a business, offering coding to cars remotely.

It's a brave new world...
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Old 02.05.2020, 16:52
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

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I think the internet would refer to what you're doing as "coding" rather than "tuning".
The German world doesn't make a distinction. It's all tuning to them. That's why I put it in quotes.

Are you doing much of this yourself, or just savvy on the lingo?
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Old 03.05.2020, 08:06
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

Impressive OP. How did you get started? Can you recommend a good read or how to website? What hardware does one need aside from a laptop?
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Old 06.05.2020, 20:44
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

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Impressive OP. How did you get started? Can you recommend a good read or how to website? What hardware does one need aside from a laptop?
I got started trying to read the OBDii fault codes on my old Focus with a cheap wireless ELM interface, and then upgrading to a better one that could read more specific codes and also reset them for troubleshooting purposes. That got me interested in what else I could do. When I wanted to add cruise control to my car I realized I would need to dive in and study.

If you're interested, it's worth doing a bit of research. There are a few different software platforms for Ford and Mazda in addition to FORScan (ELMconfig, FoCCCus, and the official Ford garage software). FORScan seemed to me to be the best balance of ease and capability. You can get a license for $10 that pretty much covers everything you can do on the car, albeit with different levels of obscurity depending on the resources available from Ford.

In addition to a Windows laptop you just need a modified ELM module with an added switch that allows it to read the special Ford canbus interface (MS-CAN). There are wireless versions but the USB version is more reliable and affordable. I got this one from Amazon http://bbflyobd.com/products/list/593856.html for EUR20. Works perfectly.

After downloading FORScan (forscan.org) and applying for the trial extended license, you can use the demo mode to figure out how everything works and then poke around the forums to get details and ask questions, etc. The documentation is pretty spotty, but it's not too hard to get started. The most important thing to learn is being careful to backup before changing anything and make sure you know what you're changing. The nomenclature can be fairly vague at times.

I'd be happy to answer any questions you have if you decide to try it.
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Old 11.05.2020, 11:37
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

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The German world doesn't make a distinction. It's all tuning to them. That's why I put it in quotes.

Are you doing much of this yourself, or just savvy on the lingo?

I've done lots of research for my BMW, but since it's the European version it already has 99% of the stuff I need/like so never ended up actually doing something.
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Old 11.05.2020, 14:25
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

I change cams/pistons, modify cam timing, change ignition curves, modify gear ratios, dual-plug the heads, set the squish, up the CR, etc.

THAT's tuning.

Tom
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Old 11.05.2020, 15:10
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

I do a bit of coding myself, have / had cables for my 4 last cars (Fiat, Renault, Skoda, Audi) -> I used to read error codes (and replace faulty parts myself) and change / optimize it a bit...

It's quite rewarding when you achieve something by flipping a few bits
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Old 14.05.2020, 20:52
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

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I change cams/pistons, modify cam timing, change ignition curves, modify gear ratios, dual-plug the heads, set the squish, up the CR, etc.

THAT's tuning.

Tom
And before those days you'd be setting points and advancing your timing, changing out the jets and installing a ram jet air intake. These days all the tuning takes place in a little black box.
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Old 14.05.2020, 21:51
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

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And before those days you'd be setting points and advancing your timing, changing out the jets and installing a ram jet air intake. These days all the tuning takes place in a little black box.
How do change the jetting via a liitle black box on carbs?

How do you set the squish?

How do you modify the valve timing?

Tom
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Old 15.05.2020, 11:51
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

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How do change the jetting via a liitle black box on carbs?

How do you set the squish?

How do you modify the valve timing?

Tom
Haha on a new car? You don't.
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Old 15.05.2020, 12:26
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

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Haha on a new car? You don't.
I do.

Tom
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Old 15.05.2020, 12:28
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Re: Ford, FORScan and "tuning"

In modern cars You change the fuel and ignitions maps, so in effect you do.

You also used to turn a screw on the wastegate, but now you set a different target/limit on the ECU.


Thankfully, suspension is all manual work still
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