Solomon has always loved STI’s ever since he was a kid; he dreamed about looking in his rearview mirror and seeing that giant wing attached to his car while he was driving. He also always wished to be able to attend Boxerfest, a very popular Subaru car show all around the United States. A little down the road, as a new adult who has saved up a lot of money, he was finally able to buy one of his own. Solomon was messaging back-and-forth with a guy named Carlos on Facebook after seeing his listing for a white 2011 Subaru STI. They finally decided a time and place to meet up and the deal was made. He looked at the car briefly, took it for a short ride, and signed the title over in pure excitement. Solomon bought the car for exactly ten grand, which was an amazing price for the actual value of the car, and he was so excited to take it home, show everyone, and finally attend Boxerfest.
Three days later, after showing it off and taking people for rides, Solomon started hearing a very loud knocking sound when the car was turned on. He knew exactly what it was; rod-knock. He had blown his motor. His year motor, a 2011, was known for being the least reliable, however he couldn’t figure out how it happened. He wasn’t beating on the car at all, in fact he was treating it with such delicacy and respect the issue was nearly impossible. He knew immediately it was Carlos’s fault and that he should’ve never trusted the guy. Solomon felt incredibly stupid, knowing he should’ve looked at it more in-depth before throwing ten thousand dollars at the guy. He took it to his mechanic, who determined there was no saving this motor as there were way too many issues and instances of tampering, so Solomon would have to replace it. There went another five thousand dollars down the drain.
After replacing the motor, Solomon realized he had minimal time, maybe a few weeks at most, to prepare for Boxerfest. That may sound like a lot of time, but in order to correctly improve and build his car he had to spend a lot of money on different mods and devices which would need to be earned through working. He took up as many extra shifts and hours as he could and bought his first device, a COBB Accessport.
COBB Accessports plug into the car and connect to the ECU to monitor all of the different things going on with the engine and such. It can monitor and show things such as air-fuel ratio, battery voltage, how much boost the car is producing, etc. The other amazing thing about an Accessport and one of the main reasons Solomon got one is that it is also a code reader. Anytime there is something majorly wrong with the car or the engine that would not produce a light on the dashboard, it will come up as a code on the COBB. For example, if Solomon had a misfire in cylinder 3, it would pop up as some sort of notification on the device and tell him immediately. Or if he did have a check engine light on the dashboard, the Accessport would tell him why. It seemed expensive to him at first, but in the end the $760 for the device was definitely worth it.
Once he got comfortable with the Accessport, Solomon moved onto the next step of the process, which was tuning. He was arguably much more excited for this step as it increases horsepower, which means a faster car. However, he was much more careful this time as the thought of him blowing another motor continued to linger in his brain. He spent hours researching online for good Subaru tuners, as they have way different engines than most cars. He finally found a very trusted one located all the way in New Jersey, about two and a half hours from his location in Pennsylvania, but with all of the good reviews and Boxerfest now just a few days away, he decided it was worth the long drive.
Tuning a car consists of altering the information within the car’s ECU to essentially change whatever the driver or owner wants to change about the car. It can also be called ECU tuning, electronic engine tuning, and engine remapping. It is a very personal process as you get to build a relationship with your tuner and tell them all the specifics you want changed about your car. Some examples include increasing the capacity of the engine to hold more boost, which in turn drastically increases horsepower and torque, sometimes drivers may want the opposite done so that their car builds less boost in order to obtain more reliability, and another example is reducing fuel consumption for better gas mileage. In Solomon’s case, he wanted to build more boost to achieve a higher horsepower and a faster car.
Solomon completed the long drive to New Jersey and finally met up with his tuner. He was way too excited for this moment to come. The tuner, whose name was Aaron, started off by plugging his computer into the OBD2 port, or On Board Diagnostics port, to connect his computer to the ECU of Solomon’s car. This pulled up all of the diagnostics Solomon’s car already had pre-tune on the program Aaron had on his computer to show what they were working with in the engine and what they could change. It showed that the STI was only able to hold 15 psi, which is another way of saying pounds of boost. Solomon was aiming for 18-20 psi, so Aaron remapped the car’s internal capacity to be able to hold up to 24 psi, which Solomon wouldn’t even be able to push anyways due to the small size of his turbo.
Post-tune, Solomon and Aaron were just chatting about how Solomon had to find a place to get his car dynoed to read the actual horsepower of his car, and then Aaron told him he had one at the shop if he wanted to get it done right then and there. Solomon was so excited! That was the last step of the process before making it to Boxerfest. He immediately agreed and they drove the car over to the other part of the shop to get to the dyno.
A dyno machine, short for dynamometer, is the only machine created to show the specific amount of horsepower a car is producing by measuring the force of the engine. The car was first driven up onto the machine and very tightly and securely strapped in so that it doesn’t move or fly off while the wheels are being spun. This was especially important when it came to Solomon’s car because Subaru vehicles are all-wheel drive, so all 4 wheels were spinning with force. Once the computer and everything was hooked up to the machine and car, a professional got inside the car and started accelerating until they hit the floor; the car did not move anywhere due to how secure it is, but the wheels were spinning with an insane amount of force as the worker was literally “flooring” it. They tested the force at all RPMs to get a more accurate reading, and they did the test a few times to come up with an average. If computers weren’t involved in this process, it would take a heavy amount of math to figure out all of the numbers, but thankfully the computer does all of this and even graphs the tests out to show when max speed was reached. At the end of the whole process, it was determined that Solomon’s car was 290 horsepower. He was extremely excited because he was reaching for 300 and that was close enough.
Finally, a few days later, it was finally time for Boxerfest! It was about a two-hour drive from his home, but that was nothing compared to the distance some Subaru owners drive to attend. Solomon didn’t have the prettiest or coolest car there, but at least he had a running one and that’s all that counts. The build will take time, as he plans on doing a bunch of cosmetic mods next such as wrapping it a new color and buying new wheels. But he was ecstatic just to be able to attend an event he’s been dreaming about his whole life. Solomon definitely learned a lot throughout this entire journey with his car, and spent way too much money, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. One thing he definitely knows is that his next tune will improve gas mileage, because 15 miles per gallon on all of these long drives was killing his pockets even more.
“How Does a Dyno Test Work?” European Car Repair in Dallas & Plano | European Auto Shop-Autoscope, 2 July 2020, www.autoscopecarcare.com/performance/how-does-a-dyno-test-work/.
This was the best source I found to better explain the dyno process to me. It was short and simple but extremely helpful to me when writing this story. It explains the process in a step-by-step manner and leaves out all of the unnecessary details I kept coming across with other sources I tried to use.
“How Does ECU Tuning Work? – Safe Engine Remapping | Did You Know Cars.” Didyouknowcars.com, 22 Aug. 2019, didyouknowcars.com/how-does-ecu-tuning-work-safe-engine-remapping/. Accessed 22 Oct. 2021.
This source was extremely informational when explaining how tuning a car works and even gets into all of the specifics about the process. I already had prior knowledge of car tuning but this ended up teaching me even more. The source goes in-depth into what tuning is, what it does to the car, and how it is done, but it also keeps it very simple.
Uplinger, Solomon. Process of Building the Subaru. 22 Oct. 2021.
During this “interview”, I talked to my boyfriend Solomon about how many steps it took to finally get his car running right and all of the details behind those steps. This was the basis behind most of my story as it is a very true story and everything within it has happened. He gave me a lot of information and insight when it came to the Accessport as he is very good with those and helped me with the data aspect of the story.