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Alpha-N in 2020 - some questions for a newcomer

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  • #46
    Originally posted by SNWMBL View Post
    Did you end up going with Alpha N in the end Konig ? If so, how did you find tuning and living with it since? From the outside it looks like a simple method of ditching the AFM. Surprised so many have trouble tuning, especially with closed loop wideband! Understandable if you have never tuned anything yourself but if a "pro" tuner cant figure that out I certainly wouldnt trust them with anything else!
    Yes, I did. Take a peek at my tracking thread in my signature for more complete posts and information.

    I had the system installed and tuned by Josh, aka JibbaJabba here on the forum, through his shop in Sacramento. We worked together on the wiring plan to make the system plug-and-play so that the A-N piggyback can be bypassed when SMOG time comes around.

    I am happy to report that I love the response and sound of the car - completely transformative in my opinion - and I successfully ran the SMOG gauntlet three months ago without any hiccups (except for user error). Being completely honest I feel the age of the A-N system - in my limited understanding the tuning 'resolution' is simply not comparable to modern ECUs, so part-throttle and corner cases are not quite as smooth as the factory ECU. That said, there is no issue with cold or hot starting, the AFM looks good, and it's smiles and good induction noise every time I go out.
    1989 Lachs
    1988 Lachs - sold
    1988 DS - sold
    Car blog
    Bay Area M3 FB group

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    • #47
      Ive read through your thread 3 times! Epic car! Great job documenting work on it and putting miles on the clock.

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      • #48
        Does the alpha n improve response when blipping the throttle? I find the throttle doesn't like quick stabs when downshifting and I'm thinking that's just a characteristic of the afm not picking up the airflow instantaneously. It's almost like you have to roll into the throttle and give it a split second for the revs to catch up before I can stab at it and have it respond instantly.

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        • #49
          Originally posted by SNWMBL View Post
          Does the alpha n improve response when blipping the throttle? I find the throttle doesn't like quick stabs when downshifting and I'm thinking that's just a characteristic of the afm not picking up the airflow instantaneously. It's almost like you have to roll into the throttle and give it a split second for the revs to catch up before I can stab at it and have it respond instantly.
          Absolutely, so long as its tuned properly. When I installed Maxx A/N the car was transformed. It was as if the car had been broken and the A/N fixed it.

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          • #50
            20220402_131652

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            • #51
              It's worse under load but you can see it's rev delay in the vid. Almost wants to bog down before it revs up! Is this a characteristic only Alpha N (and carbon airbox) will solve??

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              • #52
                Not sure if that video link worked? Here's another link.. https://flic.kr/p/2nc1f5F

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                • #53
                  That looks pretty typical to me, the AFM is slow to detect quick throttle movements. I would check and make sure that you don't have any intake leaks to be sure something like that isn't making it worse.

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                  • #54
                    Originally posted by Konig View Post
                    Being completely honest I feel the age of the A-N system - in my limited understanding the tuning 'resolution' is simply not comparable to modern ECUs, so part-throttle and corner cases are not quite as smooth as the factory ECU. That said, there is no issue with cold or hot starting, the AFM looks good, and it's smiles and good induction noise every time I go out.
                    No slight to your tuner but the system not the problem.
                    If you are having any drivability issues or "resolution" issues, thats tuning. A huge part of the tuning process is all the part throttle work. The WOT portion takes 15 minutes. The real tuning chops are all the stuff in the middle.A tuner can spend hours working through the middle of the curve. A well tuned car using A-N strategy is fully functional and wonderful to drive into the corner, off the corner, pedal the car and roll into the throttle.
                    If there is a problems its either electrical in the install, mechanical in the engine or most likley the tuning. Its not the system.
                    jimmy p.
                    87 E30 M3 Prodrive British Touring Car
                    88 E30 M3 Zinnoberot - Street
                    88 E30 M3 Lachsilber - Race (#98 SCCA SPU)
                    92 E30 M Technic Cabrio - S14 POWERED!
                    98 318Ti M44, Base - Morea Green
                    04 Ford F350 - V10

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                    • #55
                      Checked for leaks. Nothing. I think I've nailed it down to the brake booster which explains why I get this heel toe downshifting. I could hear it occasionally affecting revs while i mimicked heel toe while stationary. The check valve itself looks original and it's pretty loose in terms of being able to spin it around while fitted. Diaphragm doesn't feel faulty so I'll replace the check valve and see how that goes.

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                      • #56
                        Originally posted by Konig View Post
                        Hello group

                        I am preparing to take the leap to that wonderful carbon airbox life. I have been reading and digging and searching old threads, but the information is spread broadly and is often too in-depth for an amateur like me. I want to get some feedback and check my understanding of the different engine management options in conjunction with a carbon airbox and eliminated AFM.

                        Context: my car is a stock, recently-refreshed 2.3L US motor. My goal is increased throttle response and induction sound, more power is welcome but not really expected. Unfortunately a big constraint is that I'm in California and need to be able to pass an emissions inspection every 2 years. Therefore, revert-ability is a big factor.

                        What I think I understand:
                        • Maxx A-N
                          • piggyback controller that uses throttle position (alpha) and engine RPM (n) to generate, from an internal table, a 'spoof' number for the AFM that it sends to the ECU
                          • used on the race cars back in the day and used on street/track M3s throughout the years
                          • crude compared to modern options but apparently robust if set up properly
                          • can be tuned and adjusted on the fly with real-time feedback
                          • can use closed-loop wide-band feedback and self-tune (to what extent...?)
                          • some ECU connector pins need to be modified for installation
                          • [unsure] only allows control of fuel?
                          • [question] how does this interact with ECU chips? I have an iigomotiv 91 octane for a stock 2.3L. I guess if MAXX is spoofing an AFM value you still need an ECU chip configured for the setup, how would I achieve that? Does anyone make chips anymore...?
                          • [question] 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? Markus tried to help me understand but there may be a language gap
                        • Miller A-N
                          • uses throttle position and RPM measurements to replace the AFM, but not as a piggyback. WAR chip helps ECU take these new inputs 'raw' and run the car off of them (instead of getting spoofed AFM values), solving what Miller claims as some sort of lag in processing time with Maxx arrangement
                          • newer product
                          • cannot be tuned and adjusted on the fly with real-time feedback (WAR chip can carry 4 tunes on board), no datalogging
                          • does/can not use closed-loop wide-band feedback
                          • completely plug and play harness
                          • [unsure] allows control of fuel and ignition?
                          • [unsure] can be tuned using their software, or done remotely by Miller
                        • Miller MAF and WAR chip
                          • replaces the AFM with a MAF to get rid of the 'garden gate' intake restriction, use WAR chip to process information from MAF and run the car
                          • same tuning/feedback/harness details as Miller A-N above
                          • [unsure] from what I read, MAF does not jive with a carbon airbox due to some pressure waves that can come back up the intake and confuse the MAF sensor. Results in poor part-throttle performance. Therefore not really an option for me since I am going carbon box.
                        • Full standalone ECU
                          • VAC outlines their argument for their particular ECU over A-N
                          • I have to imagine a modern ECU gives the best, fullest motor control with the latest modern tech, flexibility with tuners
                          • Highest cost option, I imagine has the most setup time?
                          • Seems like it would not be compatible with my needs to go back to stock for SMOG every couple years

                        This is the high-level understanding I have managed so far. I don't have any insight into the specifics of the different engine management options - which ones control what parameters, have good safety controls and engine protection features, outputs if I wanted an AFM sensor or something, how hard each one is to tune, where I can have them tuned/serviced in the future. From what I hear A-N is "set it and forget it" with a good initial tune, especially in the stable California climate, but I am thinking ahead to what I would do if I had an issue develop a few months after a successful initial install.

                        From my understanding so far, it feels like a hybrid Miller MAF/WAR with a carbon airbox would be the perfect combination of plug/play and what I want, but I guess the MAF just doesn't jive with the airbox. If I lived in a different state a standalone would probably be a front-runner option. The fact that the Miller A-N does not have wide-band feedback and cannot be tuned on the fly seem like big drawbacks. So I think I am back to the "vanilla" Maxx A-N option. The main tripping points for me on that are the issues of (1) engine chip to run the car, and (2) re-wiring required to the factory ECU harness that will complicate the SMOG hardware swap.

                        Many questions here obviously, if it's not already apparent I've never done any type of engine control / ECU stuff. I am going to have installation and setup done by a shop, but I like to understand what I'm doing to my car, even if I'm not turning the wrenches.

                        Other questions that come to mind:
                        • 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?
                        • 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 goin 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.
                        Huge wall of text, if you made it through I'd appreciate your thoughts and input. If I have my facts wrong, or have missed important distinctions, please weigh in.
                        Don't know what happened since this but any system you get, provide a knock sensing. The stock ignition advance map Is tuned for the stock afm.
                        power is nothing without drift

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