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Alpha-N in 2020 - some questions for a newcomer

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  • 4DAFUN
    replied
    Well... after reading all these posts, I feel compelled to offer my own experience, however minimal value some people may assign it. Back in 2011, I had my S14 rebuilt into a 2.5L by Metric Mechanic, who at the time fitted 12.5:1 pistons in their “Rally” engine. (Today it’s down to 11:1) Anyway, my TB’s were ported out and port-matched to the head by MM, along with the manifold block gaskets, which today are, damn it, NLA! Anyway, I then got a CF airbox /Alpha AN setup from Markus in Germany. I had all the required relocation of brake reservoir, power steering, dipstick, hoses, etc., done that was necessary for a CF airbox. However, the MAXX AN unit stayed in it’s box, and remains there today on a shelf in my garage, never used and never installed to this day.
    Enter from stage Left... Dan Miller at the 2012 E30 Picnic, who put a bug in my ear to instead use his MAF and WAR chip at the time instead of the MAAX AN. So I did... after some serious head scratching to modify his MAF to mate with a CF airbox and actually work, even finding the right air filter for it. In the end, it’s a rather simple modification to the MAF... by cutting off it’s 4-bolt flange, and sourcing a couple of silicon reducers from 4.5” to 4” and a couple of band clamps, and a K&N cone filter whose wide mouth sits in the snorkel t the lower band clamp and extends down past the oil cooler. I was lucky in that Dan Miller himself came down to Portlan from BC and Seattle, just to tune my car and the WAR chip, twice, using a Mustang dyno. Once dialed in... it ran flawlessly for 5 years, passing DEQ smog every time. Until... the 2016 E30 Picnic in Tacoma, WA. Enter stage Left... Dan Miller, “Hey, Eric, nice to see you again! You know, you should really upgrade your MAF to my new Miller version of Alpha-N!” Me... “Oh, really? Your MAF is still working great!” (I’m thinking don’t fix what ain’t broken) Anyway... he proceeded with the sales pitch and of course I fell for it. $700 later, and a whopping 10 minute install by Dan Miller himself in his Seattle shop, and him actually tuning it himself, I now have been running his version of Alpha-N since 2016. It sails through Oregon DEQ smog testing, yet now i will have to pony up for a new CAT, as mine has now decintegrated after 15 years, most likely from scraping on speed bumps. I’m looking at the VSR1 version now, and maybe an Eisenmann Race muffler, but that has nothing to do with the CF airbox question. I’m not knowledgeable enough in either the MAAX AN or the Miller MAF+ WAR chip / Miller AN + WAR chip options to explain how and why they work, or the pros and cons of one over the other. All I can offer is my experience of modifying a MAF to fit and work very well with a CF airbox, along with the later Miller AN. Both work well.., both were tuned by Dan Miller himself. Perhaps that alone is my unfair advantage with the Miller setups. Living in the Pacific Northwest has its own advantages I guess. If however, anyone wants pics of how to modify a MAF to fit a CF airbox... send me a PM. I would post them here, but am not sure just how to from my iPhone photo library.
    Just my 2-cents worth of food for thought...
    Eric Adams a.k.a. as “4DAFUN”
    Gladstone, Oregon
    Owner of my Zinno ‘89 E30 M3 for 24 years.

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  • dudley123
    replied
    Interesting thread and very informative as I'm a newcomer going down the 2.5 rebuild route, looking for tuning options. These all seem archaic for being 2020 and no PnP harnesses for a standalone unless you buy VAC's milspec monster.

    in my research I've found SSSQuid? I've not seen much mentioned in here but what about just running a simple chip reflash instead of going MAF, etc? https://sssquid.com/v3/

    no affiliation whatsoever but I was originally going to run the Miller or Maxx setup with the 2.5 but after hearing the tuning stories, difficulty and just not really running right. I'm thinking a simple chip burned for the mods, keeps the AFM and you have stock like drivability and all OEM components.

    Am I missing something?

    Chris

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  • Konig
    replied
    Thanks everyone, really great discussion here. I appreciate all of the input.

    Leave a comment:


  • 1990m3
    replied
    The Miller War chip has a rough reputation for being a cumbersome and difficult to use setup since you can't make adjustments on the fly. You have to data log, update map, upload new map, shut off car and restart, etc. MAXX you can make changes on the fly and the effect is immediate. I have never used Miller but I've read a lot about it.

    Konig -- there is only one way to go with this as far as I can say. Reelizmpro said the same thing, it's been the go to system for nearly 15 years for a reason, it's easy and functional and frankly, it just works.

    Leave a comment:


  • mwagner10702
    replied
    Konig - you might want to PM 4DAFUN (Eric Adams) and talk to him about his setup. I don't know him personally, but have met him at several C&C events (nice guy!). He has a 2.5L S14 with a carbon airbox and (I believe) Miller's AN setup. In conversations with him he indicated his system is very strong and reliable. Eric is located in Portland, OR.

    Leave a comment:


  • JimK
    replied
    Both AlphaN and speed density systems are "predictive" load sensing. Based on certain parameters, the map predicts the fuel needed with trimming by the O2 feedback loop. AlphaN uses engine rpm and throttle position. Speed Density uses manifold pressure and engine rpm. The tunner fiddles with the fuel map until the trimming is very small. If the air/exhaust gas path so the air flow changes or gas scavenging changes from when those load methods were tune, both need re-tuning.
    Whereas a MAF load system uses actual measured air mas flow and rpm. If the air/exhaust gas path changes so that air flow changes at any rpm, the system does not need to be re-tuned.
    Additionally there is much less setup on MAF load sensed system. The startup and warmup settings are about the only ones needed. Where the characteristic curve is correct for the MAF the fuel map is all 1.000.
    The MAF is the only one that I have traveled from near sea level to over 11000 ft elev and not have fueling issues.

    Leave a comment:


  • HANDBLT
    replied
    Originally posted by Konig View Post
    I am surprised to receive so many responses discouraging me from going down this route. This thread is my attempt to build my knowledge and understanding of the system, even the expert at something was once a novice... I will have it installed and set up by someone I trust. I am an engineer by trade, sadly not in a relevant space, but I'd like to know what's being installed, how it works, and then if there is a need I can dabble myself.

    I'm still trying to sort out answers from my first post:
    • How does the A-N piggyback interact with ECU chips? I have an iigomotiv 91 octane for a stock 2.3L. With A-N feeding the ECU information but all else the same, does this chip work as-is or is a change required?
    • Markus offers a "plug and play wideband setup" for the Maxx A-N, link here, I'm not sure I understand it. Are all of these pieces (and $500) required to use a wide-band sensor, or is it just offering some convenience or something?
    • It seems like a skilled operator can map Alpha-N to be reliable, but I'm still a bit confused about how the motor "understands" load differences, whether it's under full throttle going uphill in high gear versus going full throttle on a flat road in second gear. I believe the intake air temperatures sensor and baro sensor feed into the ECU and can help with changing weather conditions, but I do not understand the "load understanding" story.
    This one, I assume the fact that no one has done it yet is an answer in itself, but I think it is interesting for the sake of discussion:
    • Has anyone made a MAF work with a carbon box, perhaps further 'upstream' in the intake where resonances and plenum bounce-back do not impact it?
    I'm still trying to sort out answers from my first post:
    • How does the A-N piggyback interact with ECU chips? I have an iigomotiv 91 octane for a stock 2.3L. With A-N feeding the ECU information but all else the same, does this chip work as-is or is a change required?
      • the only thing the 'A-N' does is take the 0-5v AFM signal and replace it with the 0-5v TPS signal. They mapped the AFM signal at all loads and RPM's to create the 'look up map' that corresponds with TPS/RPM at these loads. If you put it on a dyne or use the 'hold the brake for steady state RPM' on the road you can map the TPS corrections pretty damn good, just do a little at a time and let the brakes cool. turn on closed loop WBO2 after doing that and rock on.
    • Markus offers a "plug and play wideband setup" for the Maxx A-N, link here, I'm not sure I understand it. Are all of these pieces (and $500) required to use a wide-band sensor, or is it just offering some convenience or something?
      • its not that hard to wire in the signal from a WBO2 controller, the problem is getting the ground reference the same so that the MAXX sees the same as the WBO2 controller. this seems to have been most of the complaints of the integration of the two
    • It seems like a skilled operator can map Alpha-N to be reliable, but I'm still a bit confused about how the motor "understands" load differences, whether it's under full throttle going uphill in high gear versus going full throttle on a flat road in second gear. I believe the intake air temperatures sensor and baro sensor feed into the ECU and can help with changing weather conditions, but I do not understand the "load understanding" story.
      • see answer above

    T

    Leave a comment:


  • Konig
    replied
    I am surprised to receive so many responses discouraging me from going down this route. This thread is my attempt to build my knowledge and understanding of the system, even the expert at something was once a novice... I will have it installed and set up by someone I trust. I am an engineer by trade, sadly not in a relevant space, but I'd like to know what's being installed, how it works, and then if there is a need I can dabble myself.

    I'm still trying to sort out answers from my first post:
    • How does the A-N piggyback interact with ECU chips? I have an iigomotiv 91 octane for a stock 2.3L. With A-N feeding the ECU information but all else the same, does this chip work as-is or is a change required?
    • Markus offers a "plug and play wideband setup" for the Maxx A-N, link here, I'm not sure I understand it. Are all of these pieces (and $500) required to use a wide-band sensor, or is it just offering some convenience or something?
    • It seems like a skilled operator can map Alpha-N to be reliable, but I'm still a bit confused about how the motor "understands" load differences, whether it's under full throttle going uphill in high gear versus going full throttle on a flat road in second gear. I believe the intake air temperatures sensor and baro sensor feed into the ECU and can help with changing weather conditions, but I do not understand the "load understanding" story.
    This one, I assume the fact that no one has done it yet is an answer in itself, but I think it is interesting for the sake of discussion:
    • Has anyone made a MAF work with a carbon box, perhaps further 'upstream' in the intake where resonances and plenum bounce-back do not impact it?

    Leave a comment:


  • Reelizmpro
    replied
    Originally posted by 1990m3 View Post

    Frankly, I couldn't disagree more. Once it was setup on my car (by me) I literally didn't touch it for 10 years. MAXX was trouble free and user friendly and never skipped a beat. I calibrated the wideband O2 sensor annually and changed it twice while it was on my street car. I then moved MAXX to my track car and reverted the street car to a stock AFM system and have had no troubles yet again. Problem free and easy to maintain. It takes more time to learn the system up front but once you have it set up and the closed loop system dialed in, the whole system works very well
    I've had Maxx since the first group buy and upgraded to WB closed loop later on. Other than the sensor failing on me, it's been solid, that's why Maxx AN has been the go to system for many of us over the years. I'm not arguing that it isn't reliable, just that one should know what they are getting into having zero experience.

    Leave a comment:


  • Mick
    replied
    Originally posted by 1990m3 View Post

    Frankly, I couldn't disagree more. Once it was setup on my car (by me) I literally didn't touch it for 10 years. MAXX was trouble free and user friendly and never skipped a beat. I calibrated the wideband O2 sensor annually and changed it twice while it was on my street car. I then moved MAXX to my track car and reverted the street car to a stock AFM system and have had no troubles yet again. Problem free and easy to maintain. It takes more time to learn the system up front but once you have it set up and the closed loop system dialed in, the whole system works very well
    I don't disagree with Reelizmpro in that the install isn't exactly straightforward. But I do agree that once it's set up there's little to do to maintain it. I've had it in my track car for 15 years and in that time the only thing I've had to do is re-tune it after I upgraded the unit for closed loop.

    Leave a comment:


  • 1990m3
    replied
    Originally posted by Reelizmpro View Post
    If you are asking for opinions, I would say not to do it. That ship has sailed many moons ago. The point is to maximize engine potential, particularly, those that are heavily modified. I don't say this to trash the method or any particular system. Each option above has it's pros and cons. It's just that I don't think you want to open this can of worms for just induction sound. There's more to it than bolting on a box and switching computers. You will have to learn how to diagnose, tune and keep it in tune, get a wideband, wire in a true TP Sensor, fabricate an air filter, rotate the dipstick, remote locate the brake fluid reservior with 2002 res, move the power steering reservior and finally deal with smog. Alpha N without closed loop means you are flying blind and can damage your engine. Even with closed loop, I've had Bosch wideband sensors fail and had to limp home. I now keep an extra sensor and socket in the car. The risk is high, cost is high and the gains will be minimal on your stock engine which is getting more expensive to replace by the day. There are many good things about it like many have touched on but I feel compelled to discuss the downsides.
    Frankly, I couldn't disagree more. Once it was setup on my car (by me) I literally didn't touch it for 10 years. MAXX was trouble free and user friendly and never skipped a beat. I calibrated the wideband O2 sensor annually and changed it twice while it was on my street car. I then moved MAXX to my track car and reverted the street car to a stock AFM system and have had no troubles yet again. Problem free and easy to maintain. It takes more time to learn the system up front but once you have it set up and the closed loop system dialed in, the whole system works very well

    Leave a comment:


  • JimK
    replied
    Originally posted by Reelizmpro View Post
    If you are asking for opinions, I would say not to do it. That ship has sailed many moons ago. The point is to maximize engine potential, particularly, those that are heavily modified. I don't say this to trash the method or any particular system. Each option above has it's pros and cons. It's just that I don't think you want to open this can of worms for just induction sound. There's more to it than bolting on a box and switching computers. You will have to learn how to diagnose, tune and keep it in tune, get a wideband, wire in a true TP Sensor, fabricate an air filter, rotate the dipstick, remote locate the brake fluid reservior with 2002 res, move the power steering reservior and finally deal with smog. Alpha N without closed loop means you are flying blind and can damage your engine. Even with closed loop, I've had Bosch wideband sensors fail and had to limp home. I now keep an extra sensor and socket in the car. The risk is high, cost is high and the gains will be minimal on your stock engine which is getting more expensive to replace by the day. There are many good things about it like many have touched on but I feel compelled to discuss the downsides.
    +1, it's not plug n play.

    Leave a comment:


  • JCGus
    replied
    Interesting feedback - I think insight like this is always ultra-useful and not often shared. Real world usability really is the main thing.

    Carbon airboxes sound pretty cool though...

    Leave a comment:


  • Reelizmpro
    replied
    If you are asking for opinions, I would say not to do it. That ship has sailed many moons ago. The point is to maximize engine potential, particularly, those that are heavily modified. I don't say this to trash the method or any particular system. Each option above has it's pros and cons. It's just that I don't think you want to open this can of worms for just induction sound. There's more to it than bolting on a box and switching computers. You will have to learn how to diagnose, tune and keep it in tune, get a wideband, wire in a true TP Sensor, fabricate an air filter, rotate the dipstick, remote locate the brake fluid reservior with 2002 res, move the power steering reservior and finally deal with smog. Alpha N without closed loop means you are flying blind and can damage your engine. Even with closed loop, I've had Bosch wideband sensors fail and had to limp home. I now keep an extra sensor and socket in the car. The risk is high, cost is high and the gains will be minimal on your stock engine which is getting more expensive to replace by the day. There are many good things about it like many have touched on but I feel compelled to discuss the downsides.
    Last edited by Reelizmpro; 05-15-2020, 07:20 AM.

    Leave a comment:


  • JimK
    replied
    i am using a Haltech Elite and a MAF. Minimum model for a S14 is an Elite 1000. After using other ECUs (on other engines), this and the MAF is by far the easiest to tune. The ignition advance map is on you though, as it is with other systems. Am also using a knock sensor tuned for the engine (needed to tune the knock sensor settings on a dyno, doable on the road, but not advisable).

    Leave a comment:

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