Home Product ReviewsEngine and Drivetrain [Product Review] HPTuners VCM Suite

[Product Review] HPTuners VCM Suite

by Hib Halverson
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HPTuners VCM Suite

I started testing HPTuners VCM Suite several years ago, and, after tuning, or “calibrating” as it’s more proper to say, a 2004 Corvette and three other GM vehicles, a 2007 HHR, a 2001 Camaro and a 1999 Blazer, “HPT” is one of my new best friends.

VCM Suite is a pair of applications which run on a Windows PC, “PCM Editor” and “PCM Scanner”. The first creates calibrations and the second is what you use to log data during the road or dyno testing you do to develop your tune or calibration. HPT VCM Suite includes a hardware interface which connects between the car’s data link connector (DLC) and your PC. The “MPVI” comes in two versions standard and “Pro”. The MVPI Pro differs from the base interface in that it can integrate 0-5v signals from auxiliary sensors, such as EGT, wide band O2, fuel pressure and others, into VCM Scanner. You’ll get real-time data from those sensors along with the standard scan tool data. The MPVI Pro also has “black box data data logging” for select vehicles of up to 1hr 30-min. You can scan a vehicle without a laptop by pressing the interface’s record button. Later you transfer the log contents from the interface to your computer. The version of HPT I tested had the MPVI Pro because we, also, used a wide-band oxygen sensor from Innovate Motorsports for our tuning and needed to get its data into VCM Scanner.

I like HPT because: 1) it’s relatively easy to use and 2) it supports, not just 1997 – 2014 Corvettes – yep, HPTuners has just announced C7 support – but a wide range of ECMs in GM cars and trucks. It’s nearest competitor, EFILive is also pretty easy to use but does not support as wide a range of GM platforms as does HPT. Now that might not be a big deal if all you have to tune is a Corvette, but I own Corvettes, a Camaro, an HHR and a Blazer. HPT allowed me to do modified calibrations for all of them.

One of the few complaints I had with PCM Editor is that, with the Camaro, which has a V6, it doesn’t fully support calibrating a 3800 Series II V6. I could do basic changes but there were some tables, such as idle spark calibration which modified the main spark table but access to which was not supported. This is comparatively modest problem because HPT’s main competitor, EFILive, has no support V6es in fourth-generation Camaros at all. The other feature of HPTuners which can cause some confusion is the system of “credits” by which you license the software. HPT’s initial purchase price includes enough credits to tune up to four vehicles. If you want to tune more than that, you buy additional credits at $49.99 each. Most vehicles require two credits to tune but some take more.

Payments to purchase credits are not refundable and I found out the hard way about the sometimes unforgiving HPTuners’ credit system. My mistake cost me a hundred bucks, so buyer beware. Read credit info carefully before buying. Know that if you download a file from the HPTuners “repository” and want to actually use it, you must license both the file and the car from which the calibration came to be able to pre-program a vehicle. Unless you fully understand HPTuners’ credit system before you buy, you can download a file from the repository, license it, then loose your nonrefundable purchase price because it’s not practical to license the vehicle from which that calibration file originally came.

The HPTuners suite runs on PCs having either the Windows XP or Windows 7, 8 and 10 operating systems. Actually, it, also, runs under Vista but does anyone still use Vista?

As for ECM tuning specific to Corvettes, if your car is 1997-2014, it’s hard to beat HPTuners. The Corvette on which I’ve done the most tuning work so far is my C5 Z06.

The LS6 in my 2004, is modified with a Halltech Systems Killer Bee 2 air filter assembly, a Fluidyne radiator, an SLP 170° thermostat, a Katech manually-adjusting belt tensioner, RC Fuel Injection 310-cc/min injectors, a set of Crane Quick Lift 1.8:1 rocker arms, Crane dual valve springs, MSD coils, MSD Super Conductor plug wires, Denso IT-22 Spark Plugs and a CORSA X-Pipe in the exhaust. Before I put the Halltech Killer Bee and the RC Fuel Injection injectors on the engine, I used HPTuners to slightly modify the existing calibration which was from a hand-held aftermarket tuning device. Most of the work I did was to the engine’s part throttle tuning along with adjustments to cooling fan strategy, raising the rev limiter to 6800-rpm and a few other minor changes. The installation of the Killer Bee 2, since it replaced the stock MAF sensor with the later Hitachi MAF sensor used on many C6es, required a significant recalibration of the ECM’s MAF tables. The RC Fuel Injection injectors demanded a change in the ECM’s fuel delivery. We also recalibrated the main volumetric efficiency table, though, in the end, we found to testing using VCM Scanner, that the Crane rockers did not affect the main VE as much as we thought it would do. Further detail on the calibration of the LS6 is best saved for a different article on how to use HPTuners. Suffice to say that, once I did some research to better understand exactly what to change when calibrating the ECM in a modified 97-14 Corvette, I found that when it came to picking the tool to use to do it, the best choice was HPTuners VCM Suite.

Bottom line on HPTuners?

It’s really good software. Using it to recalibrate the ECM in my Z06 resulted in improved fuel economy, lower emissions, nicer drivability and better performance. Not only that, the work I did on my Blazer, my Wife’s HHR and my Camaro also made those vehicles better to drive. This was especially true with the V6 Camaro which is significantly modified. In spite of a 35% increase in power on the motor and a 60% increase using nitrous oxide, the engine runs almost as smooth as a stocker, still gets great fuel mileage and passes an emissions test with flying colors. My next calibration project is a ’12 Z06, and when I get ready to start that, the first thing I’ll do is buy more HPT credits.

HPTuners is available, in four different configurations, from Zip Products. It also is stocked by Summit Racing, in six different versions. Zip has the best advertised price, however, Summit occasionally runs a “free shipping” promotion and, when that’s in force; the Summit version is slightly cheaper. For more infomation see the HPTuners web site, or contact Zip Products

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