Garage visit to Clive Atthowe Tuning

Top Technician 2007 winner invites us into his world of tunes and remaps

Published:  18 December, 2014

By Clive Atthowe

It is no surprise then that Clive specialises in vehicle diagnostics, especially within the VAG group, as well as modifications - thirty percent of his work is now remapping & tuning, with a lot of old injection systems coming in and work referred to Clive Atthowe Tuning from local dealerships. Clive has been involved in tuning since the 1980s, evolving from hardware modifications into electronic reprogramming and 'flashing' ECUs. This is not the kind of thing that is taught in apprenticeships and colleges now, it is a dying skill that can only be handed down from technicians who have lived through the changes in systems over the years. With this in mind, it is inspiring to see 22 year-old apprentice Dale in the workshop, who initially did block training at a local college but has learnt so much more working alongside Clive.

Back in the days of carburettors, tuning involved mainly hardware changes to get more air and fuel into the cylinder which was quite an expensive operation for not a great result. Fuel injection was a game changer, providing a lot more scope to change settings in the engine management system and as turbos become more popular in everyday vehicles, there is a new era dawning of raised turbo boost and getting some fantastic gains for not a great deal of work. Clive explains: "You do still get hardware mods - fuel systems and induction are still quite prominent, coupled with hybrid and modified turbochargers. Your initial outlay for a remap for around £500 would give you 30bhp to 50bhp on a 2-litre modern Golf Mark 5, just from software".

You can spend much more than this of course once you start upgrading the hardware, but you won't get much more gain for your buck - real value for money is in that initial remap.

Clive Atthowe Tuning is a main dealer for Revo Technik who manufacture hardware mods for the cooling, braking and fuel system, including air filter and intake kits, exhausts and also software mods.

The Revo product is good on the petrol side, you can adjust the ignition timing, improve throttle response - there's quite a lot of adjustability in their maps. A lot of Japanese cars are brought here, the Impreza, Mitsubishi Evo, Mazda 3 MPS... we write our own maps and have done for a number of years. We also use EcuTek software, which gives us the ability to access the full map from the engine ECU, make changes to the map and put it back into the car and test it." Gone are the days of having to physically remove the ECU and solder a new chip into it. Nowadays, at the heart of an ECU usually lies an EEPROM - an Electronically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory chip. 'Flashing' this chip involves electronically erasing the read-only program and replacing it with new, updated information.

Clive's workshop houses one of the few four-wheel drive rolling roads in the country housed in a bespoke air-flowed and soundproofed cell and is used to road test and tune two and four-wheel drive vehicles up to 1,500bhp, providing accurate bhp and torque results.

The team are able to test cars as if they were driving on the road, monitoring the fuelling with wideband lambda readers, ignition systems with sophisticated scopes, knock detection with formula knock detection along with turbo boost and much more, including compensation for air temperature and barometric pressure.

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