ON A technicality, new laws coming into force in Australia on July 1 could delay the implementation of so-called “locked-down” Electronic Control Units (ECUs), but changes to US regulations will be difficult to circumvent and will likely have repercussions effect.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been pushing for the implementation of information sharing legislation that requires manufacturers and dealers to freely share vehicle information within the industry. ‘automobile industry. However, a crackdown is underway in the United States on tuneable ECUs by forcing software vendors to remove online information associated with performance tuning.
Aftermarket engine modifications, where vehicle powertrains are “upgraded” by an engineer/tuner to deliver more performance, are big business in Australia, the US and, indeed, the world over. A dollar figure on the value of the aftermarket/performance industry here is hard to pin down – suffice it to say it could easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions.
“Tuning” can involve everything from a less restrictive air filter and sports exhaust, to a complete engine build with forced induction, modified internals and a new ECU.
Australian states and territories have enforceable limits on the modifications that can be made to a road-registered vehicle. However, their enforcement is sometimes lax and often relies on police action through vehicle defection. A certificate of conformity from an engineer is required to put a defective or modified vehicle back into circulation.
At this point, minimal application is applied to aftermarket vehicle ECU calibration in Australia.
Since Australia tends to follow the United States when it comes to vehicle design and emissions laws, changes to ECU calibration rules in that country can seriously limit performance modifications. here.
As reported on the US Road and Track website in August of last year, the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) began enforcing a new policy focused on ECU tuning.
“Under these new rules, any vehicle with an ECU that is not California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved will fail the state’s biannual smog check,” the publication reported.
“Smog testing includes a visual inspection of emission control equipment and an exhaust pipe test. They apply to all gasoline passenger vehicles from 1976 and all diesel passenger vehicles from 1998 or later. Testing is not mandatory on vehicles less than eight years old.
The Road & Track report said, “Cars and trucks equipped with On-Board Diagnostics II (OBDII) from 1996 or newer will be checked to ensure they are running factory software or a CARB-approved ECU tuning. . If a car uses software that does not fall into these categories, it will fail the smog check and cannot be registered or renewed until the computer equipment is brought into compliance.
“Compliance testing involves plugging in the car’s ECU and checking the code to determine if anything is out of place.”
Every aftermarket computing device in the United States, whether a standalone ECU or an in-line (piggyback) tuner, must carry an Executive Order (EO) number indicating that it has been approved by CARB.
Road & Track reports that car enthusiasts in California and elsewhere in the United States were unhappy with the new limitations and wondered how they might affect tuned and modified vehicles.
It didn’t take long to find out. In April this year, Cobb Tuning, one of the largest US suppliers of tuning software and components for enthusiasts, restricted access to specific engine charts and emissions-related systems through its Accesstuner software. .
Cobb Tuning customers no longer have the ability to modify anything related to a vehicle’s “emission-related design elements” through the brand’s Accesstuner software.
According to Road & Track, this means that tuners can no longer modify or remove components such as O2 (oxygen) sensors, exhaust gas temperature sensors, EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) systems or diagnostic codes.
The change also limits the ability to modify the minimum and maximum values in an ECU’s diagnostic OBD test tables.
The Road & Track article goes on to say, “Basically, any changes that the EPA might consider a ‘scrap piece’ have been hidden from all end users. Cobb confirmed that they will not offer support to a customer whose music does not meet legal parameters.
The company has drawn heavy criticism in the United States for its decision, which also relates to flex-fuel tuning programs, but has come under legislative pressure to comply.
The Environmental Protection Agency in the United States has become more active in pursuing the automotive aftermarket lately.
Until recently, the application of the Clean Air Act (legislative in the 1970s) had not really affected the automotive aftermarket in the United States. However, more and more lawsuits are now being filed against aftermarket companies that break the law.
From an Australian perspective we are in a different position as already mentioned… From 1 July access to files such as online tuning tables and the like is guaranteed by the ACCC… to motor traders with an ABN.
However, in-service modifications would be permitted, provided they are within the limits of the ADR (Australian Design Regulation).