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    • Steve Dinan takes shots at BMW piggyback tunes calling them poorly calibrated - Piggyback versus flash tuning

      Steve Dinan is a well respected name in BMW tuning. His products are well engineered, well tested, and backed up with his warranty. They also are overpriced and regularly from a pure performance perspective beaten by offerings from other tuners. There is a 'Dinan' tax so to speak on the parts and he seems to aim for the more casual BMW enthusiast rather than the hardcore market. There is nothing wrong with that and Dinan also has shown they are capable of building motors that power Grand-Am teams to victory in Motorsport so higher level skill is certainly there than what is displayed by the street car offerings. However, he also is given full control of those ECU's through BMW Motorsport.


      Dinan sells flash tunes. It is in his best interest to put piggybacks down and make them appear cheap or inferior. However, he is right that flash tuning allows a greater degree of accuracy and it is more difficult. Full control of a BMW DME through flashing is harder to achieve than using a piggyback to alter the signals the ECU sees.

      There are merits to both approaches including negatives to both approaches. BimmerBoost features vendors that sell products based on both tuning approaches. Steve Dinan does not mention any tuners using both approaches simultaneously omitting a vital area that should be included in his argument. He also does not mention any of the plusses to a piggyback that his flash tunes can not match such as changing boost maps on the fly or meth injection flow safeties. Some tuners are readily combining both approaches to get the best of both worlds so to speak.

      Steve says the ECU is 'lied to' by piggybacks. Saying it is lying rather than modifying the signal is excessively negative terminology that is not really appropriate from a professional. He also states when the boost is raised from 9 psi to 14 psi in his example the car is using fuel for 9 psi instead of 14 psi and timing for 9 psi instead of 14 psi. The ECU then is forced to compensate.

      The factory DME's are capable of adjusting fuel and timing on the fly with the piggybacks. This seems like an odd scare tactic from Dinan considering the amount of miles BimmerBoost members have successfully logged with piggyback tunes. Additionally, even without a piggyback tune the stock DME in modern BMW's is constantly adjusting timing and boost. What does he thinks happens when the cars go into high elevation?

      His points about the transmission slipping and the stability control not working are comments that are really reaching. BimmerBoost has yet to see a piggyback user lose their stability control or have the trans slip for any reason other than too much torque thanks to the tune.

      Steve is right that he has a large computer science department at Dinan. He hires some very talented students from top engineering schools to work for him paying them large salaries. He has some very powerful computers working 24/7 at cracking BMW DME's. However, even he does not have control of all the functions of the factory DME in modern BMW's so slighting piggybacks for not having full control either seems unfair. Why not let the DME do the functions it does best and alter only those that need to be altered? A piggyback does that and his flash tunes also do that. They just go about it in different ways.

      Dinan says they can do things others can not. BimmerBoost has yet to see Dinan do anything on par with other tuners in the street BMW scene. His offerings are consistently outperformed for less money. Yes, he cracked the N63 V8 quickly but since then so have others either thanks to help from someone inside BMW or by getting their hands on the codes in whatever manner they did. What is it Dinan can do that anyone else can't exactly? Where are their projects that blow everyone else away? What performance records do any of their street cars actually hold?

      Watch the video and come to your own conclusion.


      This article was originally published in forum thread: Steve Dinan takes shots at BMW piggyback tunes calling them poorly calibrated - Piggyback versus flash tuning started by Sticky View original post
      Comments 95 Comments
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by BuraQ Click here to enlarge
        It would be futile for me to engage into this with you as you will try to defend / justify your client's product.
        People here offer flash and piggyback tunes, what difference does it make to me? I'm asking you to explain your statement. If you can't, just say so.

        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by BuraQ Click here to enlarge
        Comon man....are you seriously asking me this question ?
        Yes.
      1. lulz_m3's Avatar
        lulz_m3 -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        Dinan badges are expensive.
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        Why exactly is it more common on piggybacks?

        I don't know what you mean by the DCT slipping due to driver mod.
        The DME reports engine load to the trans controller, trans controller uses this info for plate pressure etc. with a piggyback, the DME reports stock load values because that is what it sees. Depending on the actual engine load, it could be producing enough torque to overcome the friction because the Trans controller is not increasing pressure (because it believes it is only attempting to hold stock torque levels)
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by lulz_m3 Click here to enlarge
        The DME reports engine load to the trans controller, trans controller uses this info for plate pressure etc. with a piggyback, the DME reports stock load values because that is what it sees. Depending on the actual engine load, it could be producing enough torque to overcome the friction because the Trans controller is not increasing pressure (because it believes it is only attempting to hold stock torque levels)
        So isn't this where a backend flash would come in for the DCT specifically to raise the line pressure and clamping force?
      1. lulz_m3's Avatar
        lulz_m3 -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        So isn't this where a backend flash would come in for the DCT specifically to raise the line pressure and clamping force?
        Two ways to address it.
        1. Back end flash with raised load request values so the DME sees closer to actual engine load.
        2. Modify some other DME parameters that influence load/trans line pressure Click here to enlarge
      1. benzy89's Avatar
        benzy89 -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        Why exactly is it more common on piggybacks?

        I don't know what you mean by the DCT slipping due to driver mod.
        Short version, strict piggy back cars aren't communicating the proper (much higher) TQ values to the trans.

        Best way to address this car is run a flash map (which will communicate the proper TQ values to the trans), whether it's the only tune or stacked and just using the piggy as a boost/meth controller.
      1. M5 253's Avatar
        M5 253 -
        The complaints about dinan being a poor "bang for buck" are getting old. Everyone knows this. I agree, sticky, that steve should have used different words, etc. in his vid. I believe the dinan tax comes from the warranty and a g-power-esk, well-sorted kit. You're paying for the peace of mind that it's a "total package" that works. Its market is business men who want performance but want a peace of mind.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by benzy89 Click here to enlarge
        Short version, strict piggy back cars aren't communicating the proper (much higher) TQ values to the trans.

        Best way to address this car is run a flash map (which will communicate the proper TQ values to the trans), whether it's the only tune or stacked and just using the piggy as a boost/meth controller.
        Use the piggy as a meth controller or don't regardless each has pluses and minuses. Furthermore, not every trans is affected and not at every power level.

        DCT's are a separate ballgame and it's not like Dinan has the automatic trans figured out anyway which is probably convenient because he isn't making enough torque with any of his products to need to.
      1. BlackJetE90OC's Avatar
        BlackJetE90OC -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        There is nothing wrong with that and Dinan also has shown they are capable of building motors that power Grand-Am teams to victory in Motorsport so higher level skill is certainly there than what is displayed by the street car offerings.
        Ganassi dropped Dinan this year for his Daytona Prototypes, big hit for Steve. Ganassi has switched to Ford power, 3.5L twin turbo V6 Ecoboost.

        Dinan had trouble building a reliable S65 based engine for the series, switching from the very successful 5.0L. The 4.5L was quick when it stayed together, I think Chip had enough of the reliability concerns and pulled the plug. Although Steve is saying Chip just got a better deal from Ford.

        Steve Dinan is continuing his motorsports engine programs. Continuing development on the old 5.0L and the newer 4.5L (that is now actually 4.7L). Also working on the N20 for the ST class and new M3 TT6 motor for GS.

        They also have plans of P2 effort with the P65.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by BlackJetE90OC Click here to enlarge
        Ganassi dropped Dinan this year for his Daytona Prototypes, big hit for Steve. Ganassi has switched to Ford power, 3.5L twin turbo V6 Ecoboost.
        I didn't know that! That's huge.

        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by BlackJetE90OC Click here to enlarge
        Dinan had trouble building a reliable S65 based engine for the series, switching from the very successful 5.0L. The 4.5L was quick when it stayed together, I think Chip had enough of the reliability concerns and pulled the plug. Although Steve is saying Chip just got a better deal from Ford.
        The S65's won in their debut. I didn't follow the reliability of the Dinan motors, what happened?

        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by BlackJetE90OC Click here to enlarge
        Steve Dinan is continuing his motorsports engine programs. Continuing development on the old 5.0L and the newer 4.5L (that is now actually 4.7L). Also working on the N20 for the ST class and new M3 TT6 motor for GS.

        They also have plans of P2 effort with the P65.
        Very good post and information.

        They took it to 4.7 too, interesting. Guess because they are rpm limited they wanted more torque.
      1. Terry@BMS's Avatar
        Terry@BMS -
        This is the same presentation Steve has been making for years. I watched it at Bimmerfest maybe five years ago. There are some truths to what he is saying but the devil is always in the details and he glanced over the various application specific details that allow piggybacks to provide the same or improved reliability compared to their flash tunes.
      1. Flinchy's Avatar
        Flinchy -
        how does a flash tune require more skill than a piggy?

        Places like dinan are at least sometimes GIVEN control of the ECU by BMW... teh piggy's are custom electrical engineered for the engine, and require FAR more effort to design

        the hardest part about the DME tuning, is getting access in the first place...
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Flinchy Click here to enlarge
        how does a flash tune require more skill than a piggy?
        Because the tuner needs to really know what the hell they are doing and re-writing the BMW DME's code is harder than relying on the factory DME programming to do the work.

        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Flinchy Click here to enlarge
        Places like dinan are at least sometimes GIVEN control of the ECU by BMW...
        For Motorsport, yea, for street cars, no.

        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Flinchy Click here to enlarge
        the only hard part about the DME tuning, is getting access in the first place...
        If that was true where are the N63 turbo upgrades? Where are the S63 part retrofits?
      1. Flinchy's Avatar
        Flinchy -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        Because the tuner needs to really know what the hell they are doing and re-writing the BMW DME's code is harder than relying on the factory DME programming to do the work.



        For Motorsport, yea, for street cars, no.



        If that was true where are the N63 turbo upgrades? Where are the S63 part retrofits?

        The exact same can be said about piggy's.. if the builder doesn't know what to do/the limits, you have a blown/bad running motor.

        if you have to manually hex edit, then yeah that's very difficult, but similar to a lot of modern motors.

        and fair enough if not for street cars lol

        and what do you mean?.. the N63 doesn't have DME access, hence no turbo upgrades?? :/
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Flinchy Click here to enlarge
        The exact same can be said about piggy's.. if the builder doesn't know what to do/the limits, you have a blown/bad running motor.
        To a degree as you're influencing factory programming, not changing it. Factory DME tuning requires far more skill. It isn't even close honestly.

        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Flinchy Click here to enlarge
        and what do you mean?.. the N63 doesn't have DME access, hence no turbo upgrades?? :/
        Programming the ECU and full control are two different things. We are just getting to the point now where the S54 can have a factory DME tuned turbo. It takes someone with major skill to pull that off. Plugging in a piggy won't accomplish it.
      1. Flinchy's Avatar
        Flinchy -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by APC Australia Click here to enlarge
        $30k for a Stroked BMW engine would be reasonable here in Australia lol. I build evo engines that are $35k and 2000hp 2JZ drag engines that are around $80k. You guys have it too good there hahaha
        You could probably build a stroked S54 for <$20-$25k? haha

        $8200 for a 3.4 or 3.5 stroker from VAC.. another $10k in work and misc parts?.. sounds good to me Click here to enlarge

        2000hp for $80k is also pretty cheap imo, and probably similar to over in the states... things like titan motors cost the same no matter where you get them.. that is to say, $$$$$$ haha... 2j's have such a huge following over there though, however the base cars cost way more.... and same for said built evo.. 2.4 stroker or something? those things are stout and make insane power, regularly see 800-900whp out of them, i think $35k for that is also a bargain haha.

        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Terry@BMS Click here to enlarge
        This is the same presentation Steve has been making for years. I watched it at Bimmerfest maybe five years ago. There are some truths to what he is saying but the devil is always in the details and he glanced over the various application specific details that allow piggybacks to provide the same or improved reliability compared to their flash tunes.
        Yeah i find it strange that instead of taking the high road and going for a better product.. he takes the low road and largely baselessly attacks the competition.. because he's losing.


        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sered Click here to enlarge
        I'll bet money right now that given full DME control, that there's quite a few tuners out there that would blow away Dinan. Hell, the N54 world they already can using the Cobb and that's still not full control.

        Dinan's products are overrated and overpriced. The only thing that it tells me is someone was dumb enough to pay big money for mediocre gains.
        Well the n54 is pretty decently controlled at least? not as full as it could be i guess, yeah, but they're constantly finding/trying to find new tables that are useful at least haha
      1. Flinchy's Avatar
        Flinchy -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        To a degree as you're influencing factory programming, not changing it. Factory DME tuning requires far more skill. It isn't even close honestly.



        Programming the ECU and full control are two different things. We are just getting to the point now where the S54 can have a factory DME tuned turbo. It takes someone with major skill to pull that off. Plugging in a piggy won't accomplish it.
        I can't agree with that, but fair enough.. again with the proviso that manual hex editing is definitely in it's own league of skill... but comparing say JB4 vs cobb tuning, you can't say the JB4 is a simple piece of gear to develop?

        Well, yeah that's true.. even the piggies for the *63 motors aren't fully developed though
      1. IMHOWTFFTW's Avatar
        IMHOWTFFTW -
        Hate piggy back, just tricking you sh!t. Flash or nothing here.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Flinchy Click here to enlarge
        but comparing say JB4 vs cobb tuning, you can't say the JB4 is a simple piece of gear to develop?
        IMO the JB4 is far more simple than flash tuning through Cobb.

        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Flinchy Click here to enlarge
        Well, yeah that's true.. even the piggies for the *63 motors aren't fully developed though
        They can only be developed to a degree. When you want to get serious you have to flash. N54, N63, whatever. Pluses and minuses.
      1. Flinchy's Avatar
        Flinchy -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        IMO the JB4 is far more simple than flash tuning through Cobb.



        They can only be developed to a degree. When you want to get serious you have to flash. N54, N63, whatever. Pluses and minuses.
        to the end user, yes... not necessarily development wise.

        That's true, flashing helps piggy's' progress too.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Flinchy Click here to enlarge
        to the end user, yes... not necessarily development wise.
        It is tougher development wise. You don't even need to know how to flash an ECU to get a piggyback working. Many people who sell them just source the piggybacks and adapt them to the application.

        I'm not saying guys who develop piggybacks can't tune just that a piggyback is an easier approach.