So what is a piggy-back ECU?
A piggy-back ECU is a type of aftermarket ECU that works alongside the OEM ECU to control the engine. This type of ECU is used by those who are modifying their vehicle but may not be ready to go full standalone ECU. An example of a piggy-back ECU is the Digital ECU Tuner 3 (DET3) system, which we will be discussing during this blog.
How does a Digital ECU Tuner 3 ECU work?
The Digital ECU Tuner 3 piggy-back ECU is wired into the existing vehicles ECU harness and changes the signals from the OEM ECU going to the outputs. Such as fuel injectors and boost controller. This allows the DET3 piggy-back ECU to have full control over the engine parameters as a standalone ECU system would. The difference is it maintains the OEM ECU’s ability to self diagnose issues and maintain communications with all the other modules on the vehicles CAN network.
Who is the DET3 ECU ideal for?
The DET3 piggy-back ECU is a best of both worlds situation because it combines a standalone ECU’s ability to have full control over the engines outputs. While remaining very cost-effective and is far less invasive than a fully standalone system. These systems are typically around £200 to buy as supposed to Emerald/Link/Motec engine management systems which can run into the thousands of pounds.
When you also compare the installation fee, downtime without the vehicle, and the end result. It is sometimes hard to not consider the DET3 ECU as an ideal option for anyone wanting a low-cost entry into the world of aftermarket tuning that doesn’t want to spend the value of the vehicle just on the engine management system.
One factor worth mentioning, however, is that these systems do still require actual custom tuning and setup, not some guy in a van with a flashing tool. This means there is additional mapping cost on top of the DET3 unit cost. This is because the vehicle has to be taken to a reputable dyno to have a competent Calibration Engineer tune the vehicle.
This can be an issue if you do not live near a reputable tuning company with a dyno or without a competent Calibration Engineer/Tuner. For additional help please read our how to choose a tuner guide at the end of the page.
However even with this cost factored in, the cost against the flexibility of these systems against even some higher stage re-flashing. These systems start to become more and more attractive let alone when compared to a fully standalone system.
For example, if someone wanted to fit different injectors, fuel pump, turbocharger or camshafts. It would only take an hour or two dyno time to adjust. As supposed to pay for a modified stage 3-4 file from an outside file supplier. This will often be several hundreds of pounds a pop.
Other useful information
For help finding a reputable tuning company click here: https://www.gotboost.co.uk/remapping/
For more information on the tuning industry in South Wales, click here: https://www.gotboost.co.uk/remapping-in-south-wales/