Ever wonder whether you should be tuning on the street or on the dyno? We get asked this question by both tuners and guys who want their car tuned. There is a simple answer. However, it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both methods to be able to fully explain which is better.
- It’s the most environmentally accurate way to tune. Dynos can’t replicate all the environments you’ll find on the street. (Although load-bearing dynos are your best bet in duplicating street and track conditions.)
- There’s no searching, reserving or traveling to dyno shops. Or spending money on dyno time.
- It’s the least expensive option.
- Traffic. You try tuning in rush-hour...
- Mechanical issues with the vehicle can strand the tuner.
- It’s tough to monitor the laptop while driving
- It’s illegal and unsafe to perform wide open throttle tests
Street tuning is probably the most ‘convenient’ way to tune since you can turn on the car and immediately start tweaking tables. However, there are a few negatives to contend with. The arguably most frustrating of which is the safety and legality of performing wide open throttle tests. Our solution? Take it to a strip and track test it.
- It’s a safer, more controlled environment
- It’s easier to repeat the test
- Dynos can measure power output and improvement
- Tuners can typically charge more for a tune
- Upfront costs are much higher
- Renting one is not always an option depending on location and availability
- If you buy one, you also have to have somewhere to store it
- You can’t accurately tune for quirks that don’t appear on the dyno but do in strange drive situations.
Dyno tuning is definitely the more consistent way to tune, but one of the major drawbacks here is that the best dyno tune in the world is not worth the time if the car can’t make it around the corner from the shop because the tuner could not replicate a condition the vehicle actually encounters on the street, such as a hard right turn with power steering dragging the idle down causing a stall.
After reviewing the pros and cons of both street and dyno tuning, our simple answer is that we recommend tuning using both methods. The strengths of one compensate for the drawbacks of the other, so using both styles provides a more well-rounded tune.
While we hope that these pros and cons can help you determine when and where to use street tuning or dyno tuning, we have a few other pieces of advice we have learned over the years. For example, if you are going to rent a dyno make sure that you have fully completed the startup, idle, and part-throttle tuning before showing up. There is nothing a shop owner hates more than a car that shows up on a trailer for a dyno tune and can't even run well enough to get off the trailer and drive onto the dyno. These tips minimize the amount of time you spend on the dyno which saves you money and keeps the dyno owner happy. Also keep in mind that if you are going to do any type of tuning, street OR dyno, make sure that every car has a signed waiver. No, this doesn't give you warrant to go breaking cars, but the customer must know that any type of street or dyno tuning can put the vehicle to the test of its mechanical limits. If there is anything wrong mechanically, it will typically rear its ugly head while you are tuning. So just make sure you cover yourself from mechanical failure that occurs due to pre-existing issues. Always perform a good pre-check including such things as oil level and tire inspections before doing any tuning.
We hope you feel a little more confident in your knowledge of street and dyno tuning. If you’re looking to purchase a dyno to step up your tuning, make sure to read our Complete Dyno Buying Guide. Or if you’re looking to learn how to use your dyno, make sure to check back soon for our dyno training guides.