When your average enthusiast thinks of an aftermarket standalone engine management system, the first thing that usually comes to mind is complicated wiring diagrams and a plethora of unterminated leads, with no idea where to even start, and an engine calibration still waiting to be completed after that. Well, the good news is that with time has come improvements, and the Brazilian engine management manufacturer FuelTech and their FT line of ECU’s are at the forefront of this industry.
You might remember our previous FuelTech coverage taking a closer look at the time-based functions of the company’s FT500 and FT600 ECU for drag racers. Now that we’re well acquainted with the race-specific features of these units, this time around Luis de Leon—Technical Director for FuelTech—gives us a closer look at the features that your average street-driven project can take advantage of. Ditch that restrictive factory ECU of yours and use it as a paperweight.
FuelTech’s FT500 ECU [center], wideband O2 meter [right], and electronic controllers [left].
FuelTech’s Advantage In Moderate Powered Street Cars
When most gearheads think of an aftermarket ECU they see a box that electronically controls the basic life support of the engine (fuel, air, ignition), and is setup with a laptop using complicated calibration software. FuelTech is taking a different approach.
The FuelTech ECU lineup, which includes the FT500 LITE, FT500, and our newest FT600, is really more of a full vehicle controller than strictly just an engine management system. - Luis de Leon, FuelTech
“The FuelTech ECU lineup, which includes the FT500 LITE, FT500, and our newest FT600, is really more of a full vehicle controller than strictly just an engine management system,” says de Leon. “Not only is our system capable of tackling all of the complexities related to modern engine management, at a level that most other aftermarket and factory ECUs can’t, but users can also control forced induction and nitrous systems directly from the unit. This completely eliminates the need for additional external controllers crowding the limited space in your vehicle’s cabin or engine bay.”
“In addition to engine and power adder management, our FT-series also acts as an integrated data logger capable of recording every aspect of what’s going on inside the engine and even under the chassis,” explains de Leon. “And if you opted for our FT500 or FT600 unit, the system has a built-in, customizable dash cluster, allowing users to replicate any gauge in the style they want. It really simplifies the entire modern electronic engine performance side of the coin.”
FT500 being used as a full dashboard replacement.
De Leon was really excited to detail some of the FT500 and FT600 tools that will make your life easier when driving your modified streetcar.
“The rev limiter can be setup to reference engine temperature which is an important aspect for street cars. This can be used to protect the engine from damage during cold starts by allowing the ECU to maintain your desired rev limit until the engine is at the desired operating temperature,” says de Leon. “The FT500 and FT600 also have the ability to control auxiliary fuel tanks. For example, if you run E85 or E100 in your project car, you can still use standard pump gasoline in your auxiliary tank to improve cold starts during winter.”
FT500 setup in conjunction with FuelTech’s 8A/2A “Peak and Hold” fuel injector driver.
“Another popular feature among street cars in the FT series is the push-button engine start. With this you could ditch the factory ignition and key and instead just use a digital button on the dashboard to crank the engine,” states de Leon. “If you enjoy taking your project out to your local strip on the weekend, you can also take advantage of the electronic throttle body control. This presents the user with multiple different preset behaviors and limits; and for the more daily-driver oriented, you could even setup one as a ‘valet’ tune, with a drastically reduced throttle body opening range and low RPM limiter to protect your investment.”
…our team specifically designed the PowerFT system in a way that anyone with a minimal understanding of engine theory can use to its full potential. - Luis de Leon, FuelTech
Keeping It User Friendly
FuelTech’s approach from the start was creating a feature-rich system capable of everything from ignition timing and fuel delivery, to time-based multipliers, gear-based boost control and data logging, while still maintaining a user-friendly interface.
“Remember when I mentioned that both the FT500 and the FT600 feature built-in dashboards? Guess what? They are not just dashes, and not just an ECU-they are really a complete, all-in-one interface,” exclaims de Leon. “You can setup, tune, and alternate between up to five different calibrations stored on the unit’s internal memory; on the fly, without a laptop!”
“While our more entry level FT500 LITE system can only be adjusted via laptop—using the FTManager software—both the FT500 and FT600 units can also be manipulated using a laptop, but it’s never necessary.” explains de Leon. “Every feature found in FTManager when using a laptop can also be found right at your fingertips, directly on the FT500 and FT600 dash. We have always focused on making our products easy to use and with a very appealing user interface. Some companies will just cram as many features as possible into a system without any structure, but our team specifically designed the PowerFT system in a way that anyone with a minimal understanding of engine theory can use to its full potential.”
The Battle Between WHP And MPG
FT500 mounted front and center, being utilized as a full dashboard on a streetcar cruising down the highway.
A common struggle for many enthusiasts using their daily driver for double duty is optimizing horsepower, fuel economy and drivability-three things that often sit a juxtaposition to one another. You want every last bit of reliable power out of the car for a race on the weekend, but also need to drive it home that night, and then start it up on Monday morning and head out on your morning commute to work. An important factor in improving fuel efficiency in streetcars is the ability to use closed loop fueling.
FT500 setup in a professional dragcar. Another advantage to the FT500 and FT600 ECU series is its versatility and unlimited mounting locations.
“Our closed loop control is not just a description in the manual or a marketing ploy, this system really works. We have been receiving feedback from numerous customers praising the system because it improved their general street drivability, or saved their engines when the fuel pressure dropped, or because they missed something in the tune,” states de Leon.
“FuelTech’s closed loop system is extremely efficient and responsive. It can be set up to reference your vehicle’s TPS [throttle position sensor], turbocharger or supercharger boost pressure, a nitrous kit or even just based on elapsed time for the strip. It doesn’t matter the what fuel type you’re using, you set the requested fuel target and the unit will make it happen.”
“These units can handle up to 14 individual O2 sensors for a V12 engine, while a V8 can use up to 10 sensors, and a four-cylinder can use a maximum of five sensors. With that, it’s easy to see that the user can run these oxygen sensors individually per cylinder, and then utilize one per side of the engine or one extra for the whole engine if running a single exit exhaust,” explains de Leon. “But remember, that’s just the maximum allowed. You really only need a single sensor to activate closed loop fuel control.”
FT500 being used in a Lamborghini as supplementary gauges to display auxiliary data in the center dash.
“And even when adding more than one sensor, you can still choose to rely on just a single sensor to operate closed loop and simply log the others for reference, or select which specific ones you want the unit to reference for closed loop control. In the near future, we will be updating our software to allow fuel adjustments to be made based on each individual sensor and cylinder.”
A sensor for each cylinder and extras for further downstream, with the ability to delegate how many and which specific wideband the ECU will reference to dictate closed loop fueling corrections is quite the feat and is a great tool for any street driven horsepower monster.
The Manifold absolute pressure (MAP) versus RPM fuel calibration table, as seen from the FT Manager desktop software.
Creature Comforts And Neat Tricks
De Leon could go on for days listing all of the ways a street driven project car can take advantage of the FT500 and FT600 ECU, including a built-in coolant fan controller; boost controller based on vehicle speed or specific gear; air conditioning control; gear-based fuel delivery and ignition timing; up to five separate tunes stored in the internal memory; and even password-based anti-theft protection, requiring a unique password to be able to drive off with your prized possession.
As you may have noticed from some of the photos, FuelTech also offers a wide variety of other products beyond these engine management systems, such as electronic controllers (fuel injector and spark), digital meters, sensors, harnesses, and plug-and-play adapters. To find the right combination of parts for your specific build, be sure to check out the company’s product page for more info!