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How To Get a Car Dyno Tune

Car on Dynamometer Test - Car Dyno Testing for Horsepower ECU Chip Tuning

A lot of drivers are looking to get the biggest upgrade at the lowest cost. When you start considering performance-changing modifications, you need to consider a car dyno tune as well.

The best way to get a car dyno tune is to find a shop near you with a lot of positive reviews. You can also ask around at your local track day and see which shop your fellow drivers are using. Call a few places, get some quotes, and make a reservation for one shop. Before going there, be sure to check the health of your tires, replace your belts, hoses, filters, and oil, and top off your car’s fluids.

In this expert guide, I’ll explain how to get a car dyno tune. I’ll also go over what this tune does, why it’s so great, some preparations to make ahead of time, and rough pricing.

What Is a Dyno Tune?

A dyno, short for a dynamometer, is a tool that roughly measures the performance of your car. Very simply, the tool measures force and time. From there, it takes the numbers and calculates your car’s operational horsepower, and shows you how your car’s power is applied to the road while you’re driving.

The test is done by driving your car onto the dyno — which is just a few rollers on a platform. Your car can then drive at full speed and the rollers will keep you in place while recording data.

A dyno tune is where you use a dynamometer to improve the performance of your vehicle. This can be done in a few different ways.

At its simplest, a dyno tune might entail doing some runs on the dyno before and after making mechanical mods to your vehicle. This gives you a tangible result of your upgrades.

In more complicated dyno tunes, adjustments can be made in real-time. Most shops will connect to the computer in your car and push through some changes to further increase your vehicle’s performance.

This is especially useful for cars with turbochargers. During a dyno tune, you can change pressures, timing, and different rates to get the most out of your car.

In either scenario, the dyno tune is used to get physical numbers that tell you about the performance of your car. You’ll see them presented alongside a chart that shows how your car applies power over time.

View of a laptop on the driver side seat hooked up to the car via OBDII for Car ECU chip tuning to get more horsepower during the dyno test

The Purpose of a Dyno Tune

There are a few reasons why you might get a dyno tune. Here are the most common ones:

Maximize Your Power

At the end of the day, a car dyno tune is there to maximize your car’s power. If you want to get the most for your money, you’ll want a dyno tune.

It can be done on any vehicle, from a Camry or Civic all the way up to a hypercar.

Even though the manufacturer says that your car should have 200 horsepower, you don’t actually know until you run it through a dyno.

Optimize Your Track Times

For anyone who spends time on a track, it’s crucial that you put your car through a dyno tune. Lap times might be separated by fractions of a second, so every bit of torque matters.

People who regularly do quarter miles or laps around their local track will go through a ton of different dyno tunes during their life. During their tune, they might change different variables and see how their final times change.

For track cars, dyno tunes can overwrite a lot of the hardwiring in your car. The onboard computer is there to limit your performance to make your vehicle safer to drive on the road and more predictable. By lifting these restrictions, then your car should be more impressive on the track.

Get the Most Out of Your Car

I have a lot of friends who dyno-tune their daily drivers. Why? They told me that they want to get the most out of their cars. Their mentality is that they paid a certain amount of money for their car, so they want to have the best possible performance and the most fun driving it.

There’s also something satisfying about optimizing the performance of a car, regardless of what kind it is.

Extend the Life of Your Engine

An engine works smarter and more efficiently after a good dyno tune. This results in less stress seen in the engine bay, and a longer-lasting engine.

In a way, a dyno tune is a lot like greasing the moving parts of a machine. It makes everything smoother and leads to fewer disasters in the future.

Get Better Gas Mileage

A dyno tune can make your car accelerate faster and hit corners faster, or it can boost your gas mileage by going in the other direction. While it’s rare, it’s possible to use a car dyno tune to maximize your car’s gas mileage.

That means fewer stops at the gas station and more money in your pocket.

Mazda 3 2016 Dyno HP Test on the Dynamometer
2016 Mazda 3 2.0L Grand Touring with 40k Miles – Dyno Test

How to Get a Car Dyno Tune

The unfortunate news is that a dyno tune isn’t something that you can DIY. The equipment used is so expensive that it wouldn’t make sense to have your own. The good news is that dyno tunes are really simple to get, as long as there’s a local shop.

Find the Shop

The most important part of getting a car dyno tune is starting with the right shop. This type of specialty equipment isn’t going to be at your local dealership or auto mechanic. Instead, you’ll find car dynos at performance shops, tuning garages, and certain mod shops.

Doing a quick Google search in your area for “Dyno tune near me” is a good place to start.

You’ll just need to look through the reviews and see what people have to say about the shop. It’s worth driving the extra mile to go to a better dyno-tune shop because an under-qualified shop can make things worse with a bad tune.

Give Them a Call

Once you find a shop, you should give them a call. You can talk to their techs to find out what kind of dyno tune they do, and what sort of preparations you should make ahead of time.

While you’re talking to them, try to get a sense of how knowledgeable and trustworthy they are. If they’re shifty about their pricing and they’re trying to rush you through the process, you might want to hang up and try a different shop.

I would suggest calling at least three different dyno shops before settling on one. Have a conversation with all three, find out the pricing, and get a sense of how honest they are.

From there, you can set up an appointment with the shop. This will reserve your car for a certain time slot, so you’ll get a dedicated team on your car. Remember, you won’t be able to do this dyno tune on your own, so it’s important that they have the right people to help.

Explain Why You Want a Tune

It’s a good idea to tell the tech what is driving your desire to get a dyno tune. As I mentioned earlier, there are a few different reasons to get a dyno tune, and those reasons might warrant different approaches.

If you don’t like your car’s current performance, or you want to maximize the life of your engine, then let the tech know.

Show Up for the Tune

Really, the last step is to show up for the tune and go through all the steps with their techs. Some shops might want to do the tune privately, and there’s nothing wrong with that (as long as they’re trustworthy).

Personally, I like staying in the area while they run my car on the dyno. For one, it’s cool to see the process and learn how it works. On top of that, I can make sure nothing happens to my car while it’s on the dyno.

Ask Around at the Track

If you want to cut out the research time, you could always ask your fellow car and racing enthusiasts. If you already go to a track or car meets, then it’s easy enough to ask around.

If you’re at a track, I’m willing to bet that almost everyone there went through a dyno tune at least once. You can ask around and get a few opinions about the best dyno tune spot to go to in the area.

1967 Mercury Cougar at the racetrack getting strapped down for a dyno test at a car show in Quebec, Canada 2014

The Correct Preparation for a Dyno Tune

A dyno tune gives a snapshot of your car’s performance. If you want the dyno to give the full story, then you should go through a few preparations ahead of time. These preparations will make sure your car is in the best working order, so the dyno tune is more accurate and the results are even better.

Honestly, these preparations are something that will help your car even if you’re not getting a dyno tune, so it’s worth doing. Plus, most of the items are relatively easy to do.

Change Your Oil

Having fresh oil for a dyno tune will help your engine perform better. If the oil is old and degrading, then moving parts won’t be as lubricated. This adds a small amount of friction which, believe it or not, will hurt your dyno numbers.

Check Your Tire Health

The tires on your car can dramatically change the results of your dyno tune. Old, balding, and damaged tires will result in less grip. Tire grip is a major factor that helps your engine apply energy to the road, so you’ll want to optimize the grip before heading into the test.

How can you check your tire health? Start by checking the pressure. Use a tire pressure gauge to check each of the four tires. Check the door jamb of your driver’s door for a sticker. That sticker will tell you how much pressure should be in all four tires.

Make sure you adjust the pressure in all four to get the exact pressure that you see on the sticker.

From there, look at the tread depth in each tire and look for any damage. If there are cracks, bulges, or any punctures, then you should replace your tires before going to the dyno.

A dyno car tune will put a big strain on your car and stress your tires. Any amount of damage can lead to a tire blowout during the test, thanks to these stresses.

Replace the Spark Plugs

If you have old or damaged spark plugs, your car might start feeling sluggish — that’s the last thing you want during a dyno tune.

You might want to consider changing all of your spark plugs just to bring your car up to perfect health before hitting the dyno.

Person replacing spark plug with a socket wrench ready to install the replacement on the car engine

Top Off Your Fluids

Another thing that can slow you down is a lack of fluids. I already addressed oil, but make sure you’re also checking your transmission fluid and coolant. While you’re at it, it might help to top off your power steering fluid and brake fluid.

Replace Old Belts and Hoses

Since your car will be under a lot of stress during the dyno tune, you will want to replace your old belts and hoses. Fatigued hoses are known to burst during these tests, and old belts can snap.

In either case, testing will stop until the parts are replaced or repaired. Most of the time, that means that you’ll have to pay for a repair and then schedule another day to come back to finish the dyno tune.

Make Sure Your Filters are New

A clogged filter will restrict how much airflow there is through your car’s different systems. Without enough air, your engine won’t perform at its peak and the dyno tune results will be misleading.

Make sure you replace all of your filters right before the test. Luckily, filters are inexpensive and relatively easy to replace on your own. An hour of your time can lead to much more reliable dyno-tune results.

Rough Pricing for a Dyno Tune

If you’re looking for exact pricing for a dyno tune, the best idea is to call shops near you and get a direct quote. However, I can give you some rough figures just so you have a baseline.

The pricing will typically be broken down into a number of sections. Broadly, there will be a series of quotes for just the dyno, and another series just for the tune.

The dyno portion is a lot less expensive. You’ll essentially pay to reserve the dyno for a certain period of time. It ranges from an hour to a full day, with a few steps along the way.

In general, expect to pay about $200 for an hour, and closer to $1,000 for a full day.

The actual tune depends heavily on your vehicle. On the low end, a standard tune is around $600. For more expensive cars, custom tunes, or rare vehicles, you can expect to pay over $1,000 for the tune.

That means that a full dyno tune can range anywhere from $800 to a few thousand dollars.

Conclusion

By this point, you know everything you need to know about getting a car dyno tune. I covered what they are, how they work, why they’re so great, and how to get one for yourself. Remember to make the correct preparations before showing up for your appointment.

If you have other car questions, you can either drop a comment below or explore the rest of my site. I also have a list of car products that might make your life a little easier.

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References:

The Engine Block

Universal Technical Institute

What Is Dyno Tuning?

Edge Auto Sport

How to Prepare for a Dyno Tune

Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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