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 TurboXS UTEC - User Tunable Engine Computer

    Click an image to enlarge.
A modern car's engine control unit (ECU) handles so many variables and there are so many modifications now available that using an engine management system (EMS) makes more sense than ever. There are many systems with different strengths and weaknesses. On the simpler side is the AccessPort. You can download performance maps for your specific modifications and upload them through the On Board Diagnostics (OBDII) port that all modern cars have. On the complex side is the Hydra which is for professionals and gives you very fine levels of control.

The system I chose is the TurboXS UTEC that falls in the middle. It is called a piggyback unit, but is becoming more and more like a stand-alone ECU. It allows you to download maps created for your modifications or edit the maps yourself. It extremely flexible and constantly being improved. Soon it will even interface with the Drive-By-Wire (DBW) system. All maps and software upgrades are free and there is a large on-line support community as well.  And the most power on a stock STi engine (that I know of) was achieved with a UTEC: 509 WHEEL HP and 497 FT-LBS of Torque.

But first I want to reinforce the warnings provided by TurboXS:
If you buy a UTEC, read the manual that it comes with. Read every page. Understand what you are doing before you do anything. Then check their website for any updates and re-read it all. I am not providing a link to the manual. It is your responsibility to get the latest one and read it.

My personal favorite message from TurboXS:

Also read Ginge's unofficial tuning guide. Even though it is for the WRX, it is a handy reference. His WRX had 189 wheel HP after a set of Stage 4 parts, and after UTEC tuning, that went up to 270. You can get the guide at www.pdxtuning.com or from www.wrxhackers.com. It does NOT replace the UTEC manual!

I am not responsible for anything that happens to your car as a result of using the UTEC.

Here is my UTEC. I purchased it bundled with the remote switch. Here is a list of the items you should receive.

A. The UTEC unit
B. 9V adapter - for running the UTEC outside of your car.
C. J bracket for kickplate - offsets the factory bolt location so you can mount the kickplate after installation
D. Accessory/Spare Solenoid connector - this will not be used since I am using the remote switch connector which has it's own accessory connector
E. Automatic Boost Control (ABC) bracket - the ABC is optional for the STi
F. Kickplate Standoff bolts - offsets the factory bolt locations so you can mount the kickplate after installation
G. Ground wire - used to ground the UTEC to the car
H. J bracket bolt - for mounting the kickplate
I. ECU Standoff bolts - offsets the ECU screws so you can mount the UTEC to the ECU
J. Zip ties - for use when mounting the ABC or whatever else you need them for.

K. ABC Y piece - to split the tube to the ABC
L. Allen key - for mounting the ABC
M. ABC - the controller
N. Manual - read this!
O. I'm not really sure...
P. Serial cable - to hook up your laptop
Q. Remote switch - lets you change maps whenever you want.

Once you have all the parts accounted for, disconnect the battery.


Tools needed:
Screw drivers
Socket/Crescent wrenches - 10mm

The ECU is located in the passenger foot well. Start by moving the carpet. You'll need to undo a plastic screw on the left side.

And two more screws on the right side.   

Wiggle the carpet out from the sides and pull it down to expose the kickplate.

Remove the three bolts holding the kickplate down here.

Then remove the fourth bolt at the top of the kickplate and remove the kickplate.   

This will expose the ECU. Remove the plastic cover and discard. Remove the two bolts holding it down.   

Remove the four wire harnesses on the right. Do not pull on the wires. Instead, press the tabs in and use a screw driver to pry the harnesses out.

After that, rotate the ECU so you can release the tab holding the wires to the ECU (see yellow arrow)

Remove the ECU and you will see the X-bracket that was holding it.   

Take the ECU and remove the four screws holding the metal cover down. Leave the metal cover in place and replace the four screws with the ECU standoff screws provided.


Place the UTEC on top of the ECU with the wire harnesses on the same side. Use two of the screws removed from the ECU to attach the harness side of the UTEC to the standoff screws.

On the other side of the UTEC, the instructions mentioned using some other "captive screws" but mine were apparently missing. Here is what the installation is supposed to look like.

Thanks to DataDatum for this picture.

Since my UTEC was missing the extra screws, I had to remove two of the standoff screws and use zip-ties instead.   

Remove the wire harnesses from the UTEC. As with the ECU, do not pull on the wires, but use a screw driver to press the tab in and lever the harnesses out.

Connect the harnesses from the UTEC to the matching ECU ports.

Bring the ECU/UTEC back to the car.

Note the external power source if you want to run off a 9V battery (A)

Attach the spade end of the ground wire into the grounding point of the UTEC and tighten the screws above to secure it (B).

Attach the serial cable (C).

Note the map selector switch (D). If using the remote switch, make sure this is set to 0, otherwise set it to the map you wish to use.

If you plan to use the remote switch or the accessory connector, attach it here (E).

Attach the round end of the ground wire to one of the screws for the X-bracket.   

Attach the J-bracket to the top bolt that held the kickplate on using the original nut. Orient it so that the new hole provided is higher than the original.

Attack the three kickplate offset screws to the original kickplate mounting points


Place the ECU/UTEC back into it's original position and bolt it to the X-bracket, making sure that the cables and wires are not stuck or tangled.   

If you are planning to tune and are not using the remote switch, don't re-attach the kick plate in case you need access to the map selector switch.

Otherwise, tie up any loose wires (like the ground wire and accessory wires) and re-attach the kickplate and replace the carpet

There will be a lump in the carpet because of the offset ECU/UTEC, but after putting down your floor mats, most people won't notice. Besides, what are you doing driving ballast, er, passengers, around in your STi anyway?

Next is the switch installation. If you aren't using the remote switch, you can skip the next few steps.

The easiest place to mount the switch is the empty spot next to the DCCD control (on 2004 models) on the center console. It will NOT fit in the empty spots by the I/C spray on the driver's side dash, they are too big.

To access the empty spot on the center console, remove the console holding the DCCD control by pulling up on the front of the console section.

Then, using a screwdriver, pry up the back of the console section.

Pull the parking brake up. It will be easier if it is pulled higher. Pull the whole console section up and off the parking brake so it is free. You will notice that there are two wire harnesses, one for the DCCD switch and one for the DCCD mode selector.

Pop out the blank button from the back.

Route the switch under the side of the console and pull it through so that it follows the existing wire harnesses.   

I found that the easiest way to get the switch into the blank spot was to remove the actual switch from the plastic button housing it is in. To do this, use a small screw driver to press in the clips that hold it in place and push the switch through the housing.

Now, push the switch, followed by the housing through the blank hole. Re-assemble the switch/housing then fit it into the blank spot.

To make sure the wires aren't flopping around, zip tie the wires to the existing harnesses.

Replace the console by fitting it back over the parking brake then pushing the clips back into place.

Here is what the switch looks like when it's done.   

You'll also need to run the serial cable. I tucked mine under the side of the console, but instead of running it into the console, I just dropped it down to the side of the seat so I can reach for it when I need to.

I am, however, considering cutting a hole into the armrest to hide the switch and/or cable in there.

Run HyperTerminal on your Windows laptop (usually in Accessories > Communications) and set it up according to the UTEC Manual.

Connect the serial cable to your laptop and set the map selector switch to 0 (stock).

Re-attach the car battery and turn the ignition to ON (don't start it yet). Make sure you can connect to the UTEC and it behaves as explained in the UTEC Manual.

If all is good, start the engine. Since it is in stock mode it should not have any problems. If there are problems or the car feels funny, call TurboXS! Otherwise, take it for a spin and make sure it's working properly.

Then check out map 1 (TurboXS tuned stock car). You can change maps while the engine is on and idling though it may run rough while it switches. Also check out map 6 (valet mode with limited boost and timing) and map 7 (security, the car cannot be started).

Total Time: 90 minutes
Difficulty: Easy.
Verdict: I think the valet and security modes alone are worthwhile. Otherwise, I can't really tell a difference on a stock car, but knowing that I will be able to tune the car no matter what mods I get in the future is really nice.

Coming Soon: Tuning the UTEC    

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