How Tampa Tuning Tames America’s Fastest Builds

A few minutes of time can unlock the true potential of your car. If you are on the look for a tuner to trust, here is what it takes.
My Car 7 photos
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When I was young and dumb, I ordered a wild combination of parts for my 2002 Camaro SS. Changes to the intake, heads, and exhaust made the factory tune waste a ton of fuel. I could tell it was rich by smell and the sight of black sparkplugs. Younger me didn’t care about being precise, so I drilled the idle air bleed to keep it from stalling. I should've done this years ago, but its perfect for our #TuningMonth

In hindsight, this was a recipe for a sluggish and stumbling ride. That’s when Tampa Tuning changed my perceptions of what the factory computer was capable of. It all starts at a bridge to Mexico. Once safely out of reach of the police, the inspection begins. Phil Aprea is a retired FBI agent who has a knack for programming. With the aid of proprietary software and a USB cable, he can read and modify every input and output of late-model cars. Like my drilled idle-air bleed, each tune begins with a drivability assessment.

This means you driving your car in traffic, running errands, and on the highway, while his laptop records every parameter. Before any changes can be made, a Bosch wideband O2 sensor is shoved up your exhaust.

As the driver, it is your job to provoke the gas pedal to paint a picture of your car’s performance. The result is easily seen as a 2D graph of throttle position vs exhaust sensors. Because the Tampa Tuning test route has every possible form of traffic, several runs are recorded to yield the best results.

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After a few minutes of wizardry, polynomials are combined with intuition to yield a new map for your system to follow. Taking inputs from the Mass Airflow and manifold pressure sensors yields a tune that is safe in all-weather, without the annoyances of the Check Engine Light. Disabling this annoying light is done through giving your car the inputs it would like to see, regardless of the car’s mods. In my case, I had removed the Exhaust Gas Recirculation, Fuel Vapor Cannister, catalytic converter injection fans, and increased the line pressure inside my transmission.

An OBD scan tool yielded 15 check engine codes, so each one required a few lines of programming to be silent. GM programs their transmissions for comfort, with sloppy shifts in every circumstance. Locating the “Desired Time To Shift” table, replacing 0.5 seconds with 0 had me spinning through each shift, even at part-throttle.

Going a step further than tuning for power, he has unlocked E85 tables hidden within every late-model car/truck. Florida is blessed to have 93 octane premium, but its $4/gallon. On the other hand, E85 has stayed around $2.20. Realizing the performance potential of moonshine, Tampa Tuning offers complete flex-fuel integration. This allows for much more agression in your ignition timing to make fat low-end torque. The clean exhaust smell will also keep your significant other happy.

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The final aspects involve a bit of customization. Although he can smooth your wacky idle, some customers choose to push the envelope of civility. The “Chop Chop” idle will make your car sound like a pro-stock dragster at low rpm.

When you are off the gas, fuel can be dumped in while dropping spark for half the cylinders. This creates the famous pops, crackles, and machine-gun fire from your pipes while braking. Finishing touches involve turning your cooling fans on earlier, and cutting the A/C compressor when you get frisky with the gas pedal.

After a few hours, all you need to do is throw in a new set of spark plugs and enjoy a car running at its best. I gained 29 horsepower to reach 410 at the rear wheels, and I am not going broke at the gas station. If you can’t make it to Tampa, Phil can tune your PCM remotely based on thousands of tunes from satisfied customers. Tuning Month is your ticket to smiles-per-gallon, so stay with us for more great information.

Editor's note: This article was not sponsored or supported by a third-party.


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