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Getting started with tuning? BA MKII XR6 Turbo - BTR trans


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Hey, sorry in advance as there is quite a lot to read and answer here.

I've been considering purchasing a licence for PCMTEC, possibly Workshop edition for full access to the PCM if the single vehicle version ends up being released as Roland discussed here https://forum.pcmtec.com/topic/1210-update-on-when-we-can-access-20/?do=findComment&comment=7455.

I am located in Perth, WA and own a Ford Falcon BA MKII XR6 Turbo, which already appears to have been tuned to just over 240rwkw, given as there is a dyno sheet in the glovebox from when I purchased the vehicle. I would like to ask some questions and learn some information from this forum as I know practically zero about tuning and want to learn how to tune so I can do most of the work to my car and not have to drive it back and forward to a tuner 24/7 every time I would do a modification that requires a retune.

Am fully aware that the Falcon PCM is extremely complicated and so will be a huge learning curve for me. On top of that I have no experience with tuning.

Hopefully next year my bank account will be happier and allow me to go ahead with some modifications that I want to DIY instead of paying tons of $$ in labour + tuning to do so.

So yeah currently have: 

  • BA turbo engine, spaghetti rods that I want to change out for a BF green top with the usual supporting mods - a good set of valve springs + retainers, head studs, billet oil pump gears and backing plate (possibly port the pump too), MLS head gasket, maybe timing chain and tensioner and flex plate with ARP bolts.
  • GT3576 from FG, wanting to eventually go with a Pulsar GTX3584RS GEN 3 (rated to 1000hp at the crank) or G42-1200/1450 on a twin-scroll manifold, as from what I've heard having a larger turbo will increase lag but can push power towards the top end of the rev range, my intent is to save the factory egas bottom end to possibly ~400rwkw on 98 to mid 500-600rwkws on E85 which has already been done by a handful of people. External gate will be ran off the turbine housing for better boost control as I've heard there are mixed results running a wastegate from the exhaust manifold.
  • BTR/ION 4 speed auto transmission with a big PWR trans cooler behind the front grille, I intend to push the BTR to the absolute limits even if this includes rebuilding it with better parts from E series/AU BTR trans, possibly aftermarket parts as well + a high stall converter. Have heard these can hold over 400-500rwkw if tuned and built correctly with torque reduction on gear changes etc. If staying with a BTR is not feasible at high power I will do a ZF or TR6060 conversion.
  • Factory BA turbo PCM, from what I've been told these are crap compared to the BF and FG PCMs. If it is possible I would like to know if I can swap a BF turbo PCM into my BA and run the BTR from it?

I am aware I will need to buy a good quality cable such as a genuine Tactrix Openport 2.0 cable for a few hundred bucks. Also aware I may need knock detection equipment such as knock ears. Though not sure if it is necessary as the Barra has 1 knock sensor already on the BA motor and 2 on BF and later engines - am I able to trust these? Will probably be datalogging and tuning on the streets to get most of the tuning done followed by a trip to a dyno to pretty much perfect it.

Planned work:

  • Above, egas engine with supporting mods; larger turbo + exy gate off rear housing; keeping/building BTR until I absolutely need to change trans; changing PCM for BF or FG if possible.
  • I'm intending to do a multi-tune (cruising/parents/missus tune, low boost, high boost, wanker tune) with flex fuel 98/E85 using Pirotta's flex fuel kit with wideband O2 sensor - I'm lucky to have two United stations with E85 near me but I plan to keep my car as a daily driver so need 98 octane still. Will set up a wanker tune for ghost cams, crackle on decel, and other wank factor stuff. Might have anti lag/two step on high boost tune.
  • Supporting mods such as fuel system, probably going to DIY a surge tank set up with a Walbro 460 or 535/540 LPH pump feeding a surge tank with a couple of more pumps + rising rate fuel pressure regulator allowing plenty of fuel to be fed to the motor with 1250cc or 1650cc injectors. Not wanting to muck around with the risk of possibly leaning out the engine enough to go kaboom.
  • 4 inch exhaust with a high flow 100 or 200 cell cat for plenty of flow and minimal back pressure.
  • Powertune digital dash + CAN extender, maybe run some other gauges off the CAN bus too. Oil pressure, voltage, temps, boost, not to mention wideband sensor to read AFR as above etc.
  • Upgraded brakes, already have PBR fronts but won't trust these with anywhere above 400rwkw.
  • If I'm going above 500-550rwkw I will be installing a stronger two-piece tailshaft and CVs, possibly upgrade the M86 diff to truetrac and run a IMS twin bush diff hat. Am awaiting on Superpro diff bushes to arrive and install as my current bushes are flogged out. Might also replace the centre tailshaft bearing as it has a bit of play.
  • Also wanting to know if I can lockout 4th gear in the BTR on high load/torque as I've been told 4th is weak. Want to be able to then change to 4th while cruising in low load scenarios to have better fuel economy than if I were to disable 4th completely.

So I'm wondering if everything planned is feasible and also if I can DIY it all myself or simply leave it to the big boys in town?

Will probably add to this thread and also answer or ask more questions if needed.


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One option is to purchase one car workshop 

Then find a tuner who is willing to tune your car and leave the tune unlocked. Some may even be willing to show you the ropes, obviously it would cost more as you'd be paying hourly rates but the advice may be invaluable. This all comes down to the tuner and your relationship with them. 

There is a lot of risk for the workshop by doing this, as if you tinker with it after the fact and something breaks, the last thing they want is you pointing the finger at them. So be respectful if they don't have time or do not want to participate. 

Alternatively if you have the time and money to learn it's a great adventure, you need to be IT and mechanically savvy with a lot of time up your sleeve to succeed. You'll also be spending easily double once you buy the required diagnostic equipment however you will have the opportunity to make the car drive as good as factory whilst learning a huge amount. 

Have a think about what you goal is and how important being money and time efficient is. 

If you want a good result quickly and "cheaply" (cheap vs doing it yourself 5x and breaking things as you go) finding a workshop to do an off the shelf package for you is the best way. Don't supply your own parts, use what they have tried and proven to work as a package over years or R&D. They will have a base tune which will save them a huge amount of time and get you a better result.

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  • 2 weeks later...

many moons ago Darkhorse tuned a car for me and left the tune unlocked so i could still play with it after, this was many years ago and im not sure if hes still comfortable doing this - but he is the first/only person I recommend you talk to in Perth. When i spoke to all the shops, he was the only one willing to let me keep the pcm unlocked.

you will need workshop edition or the onecar thing to do multitunes however.

if you know practically nothing i would recommend doing some courses first, HPA do youtube and a online courses and i may be mistaken but i thought roland had plans for a courses?

while your doing this you can do your mechanical stuff, put the second motor together or hoever your plans go.

Ba turbo ecu is fine, you might need to change it to the Bf ecu to use the 2nd o2 for the flex fuel sensor. i wouldn't bother upgrading based on PCM speed alone, as they all have same basic features just with better hardware along the variations. 

with pcmtech you can edit the shift patterns so you can effectively lockout 4th gear yes.




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