What it takes to be an engine tuner - Weekend

What it takes to be an engine tuner

Jerome NeriAtty. Jerome G. Neri
The Scrutineer

SUCK, squish, bang and blow. The four words that describe how an internal combustion engine works. Air and fuel is sucked in, then squished by the piston and spark is introduced that makes an implosion that is thereafter blown out of the exhaust. This is the very basic principle that one must understand before he can start on tuning engines or call himself a tuner.

Before I started in the business of making engines faster, I also was a customer of speed shops. I was a student then and therefore on a very limited budget. Of course I’d go around different tuning shops and look for the best option for my car. What annoyed me the most was a big number of these tuners cannot give me a logical answer to why they were doing a certain adjustment to my engine. I wanted to know the reason a certain adjustment would result in better performance. The answers that I would get at that time was “an expert from Manila told me” or “basta, just trust me” or “because that is the setting needed.” It does not give the scientific answer and makes you doubt as to whether this tuner knows what he is doing.

I finally found a shop where I was comfortable with, Supreme Motors. This was 1987. One of it’s owners, Mr. X, yes that is his name, was a genius and had answers to all my curious queries. He carried with him a small notebook with a lot of mathematical formulas for carburetion, displacement, cam profiles and many more. So here was a guy who understood exactly how an engine works and how to make it go faster properly. He was a perfectionist, such that his 18RG-powered Macho Machine was fast and reliable. We became friends, and this is where I first learned about tuning.

SNUBER. The driverless car called Snuber is test driven during a demonstration at Seoul National University’s campus in South Korea. Seoul National University professor Seo Seung-woo said a self-driving car developed by his team will start roaming Seoul streets early next year thanks to a revised law that took effect earlier this month. His team has been testing automated driving inside the university’s campus with a Hyundai Genesis sedan outfitted with sensors and cameras. The vehicle drove more than 10,000 kilometers without incident in the past two years but could not leave the campus because of regulations. (AP PHOTO)
SNUBER. The driverless car called Snuber is test driven during a demonstration at Seoul National University’s campus in South Korea. Seoul National University professor Seo Seung-woo said a self-driving car developed by his team will start roaming Seoul streets early next year thanks to a revised law that took effect earlier this month. His team has been testing automated driving inside the university’s campus with a Hyundai Genesis sedan outfitted with sensors and cameras. The vehicle drove more than 10,000 kilometers without incident in the past two years but could not leave the campus because of regulations. (AP PHOTO)

In those days, the people who wanted to modify their cars wanted the biggest of everything. The biggest carburetors, the wildest camshafts, biggest valves and port job. That supposedly was the ticket to horsepower. My friend, Mr. X, disagreed. As a young kid then, I had doubts. Why should I opt for a carburetor that is not the biggest? Well, Mr. X explained the goal is to put as much air into the engine. Since the engine sucks the air, the volume would depend upon the velocity of the air and the size of the orifice. The smaller the orifice, the faster the velocity and vice versa. What is important is the correct sized orifice, so that the velocity of the air will be just right to flow the most through the engine.

By 1990, we had legal drag races. This would be the proving ground of the tuners at that time. Our team at Supreme Motors did not look to have the quickest cars. A lot of people then judged it by looking at the carburetors we were using and all of us in our team were using Weber 45s, while the other teams were using the bigger Weber 48s. Come raceday, the cars of the Supreme Motors Team were all very competitive and became the team to be reckoned with. We were the only team that was a mainstay in the finals in all the races. So, we had a few over-all championships and a few runners-up.

It was at this time when I learned my current trade of tuning cars. Airflow and compression is the holy grail of engine performance. It is altering the engine to flow as much air as possible and ignited to the biggest implosion possible without any detonation during the entire combustion cycle. It is this basic knowledge and complete understanding that makes a person a tuner of cars. From the basic understanding, one can then branch out to the other details of what makes an engine fast, and because of basic knowledge, every other detail and parameter will co-relate to the basic knowledge, and a big picture forms in your head. To tune a car properly a complete understanding is necessary.

I cringe at the thought of people who claim to be tuners, just because they get very loose and summarized information from the internet in some forum by an author whose credentials are completely unknown. So before you get your car altered for better performance, ask the tuner questions as to the reason behind his tuning solution. If he says because so and so said so, stay away, as this means he does not know what he is doing.

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