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Old 19th December 2016, 13:09   #1
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Default Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

For those who haven't heard of this, the idea of the Italian tune up is to run your engine under full throttle and full load for an extended period. The claim is that it burns out deposits in the combustion chamber, the injectors and the exhaust system. The name comes from Ferrari, whose mechanics took customer cars out onto the racetrack for a few hot laps at the end of which, the cars reportedly performed better.

Call me a cynic but this sounds like a great excuse for a Ferrari mechanic to have some fun with a customer car (mixed in with a liberal dose of confirmation bias). Is there a genuine problem of carbon deposit build up in cars whose engines are always driven in a low stress manner? More specifically, is it a problem in modern engines that have combustion down to a near exact science? Some fuels with additives also claim to remove the same carbon deposits, albeit through a chemical treatment instead of burning them.

Would love to hear others' views on this. Of course, it's even better if you have more than just anecdotal evidence

Last edited by McLaren Rulez : 19th December 2016 at 13:18.
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Old 19th December 2016, 13:29   #2
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

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Originally Posted by McLaren Rulez View Post
For those who haven't heard of this, the idea of the Italian tune up is to run your engine under full throttle and full load for an extended period. The claim is that it burns out deposits in the combustion chamber, the injectors and the exhaust system. The name comes from Ferrari, whose mechanics took customer cars out onto the racetrack for a few hot laps at the end of which, the cars reportedly performed better.

Call me a cynic but this sounds like a great excuse for a Ferrari mechanic to have some fun with a customer car (mixed in with a liberal dose of confirmation bias). Is there a genuine problem of carbon deposit build up in cars whose engines are always driven in a low stress manner? More specifically, is it a problem in modern engines that have combustion down to a near exact science? Some fuels with additives also claim to remove the same carbon deposits, albeit through a chemical treatment instead of burning them.

Would love to hear others' views on this. Of course, it's even better if you have more than just anecdotal evidence
It does work, I am a sedate driver with my highway speeds varying between 80-100Kmph. After a few thousand Kms, I can feel my car feeling lethargic to throttle inputs.
At every 3K Kms I drive for around 50Kms on wide empty roads aggressively. After such drives, I can feel my car responding quickly to throttle inputs.
I have been doing this all my current and previous cars. Zen, Baleno, City, Safari and now Ecosport.
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Old 19th December 2016, 13:44   #3
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

A milder version is mentioned in my Figo Diesel Manual. Drive 3 K rpms at least once a week for a period of time. Low gear and no A/C. It really works for the Figo and I can feel it responding better. Basically only works if the engine is hot and it runs on load and 3 r rpms (at for the Figo Diesel). Practice this religiously for the last 3 years. You just have to ensure the cooling system and engine oil is up to the mark as well as free roads before you try this.
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Old 19th December 2016, 13:45   #4
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

Anecdotal evidence says it does:
https://www.reddit.com/r/cars/commen..._does_it_work/

My previous car - Ford Figo Petrol - literally begged for an Italian tune-up after about 2-3K kms of bumper-to-bumper commuting. I could feel the car getting slightly more sluggish and less responsive, less "sprightly". A nice long (500km) highway run with lots of wide-open-throttle driving and some redlining would result in a very responsive and and smoother car.

Haven't seen the same behaviour in my S-Cross though. Maybe the Italian tune-up is only applicable to normally aspirated petrol engines?
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Old 19th December 2016, 16:58   #5
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

In case of my wagon R K10, it becomes lethargic with slow responses if it doesn't hit open roads for around 3-4 months or so. But if sees highway runs within that time, the response changes for good and feels lively.
So I guess, there could be some logic in Italian Tune Up. My Swift regularly sees highway runs, so can't comment if this logic affects it or not.

But I am yet to observe such thing on Innova and didn't see any change in behavior in grand i10 diesel too.

Last edited by aaggoswami : 19th December 2016 at 17:00.
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Old 19th December 2016, 17:16   #6
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

A typical drive in the fiesta sees gearshifts at 4-5k. Would a italian tune up be amiss here? I dont think so.

Last edited by mayankk : 19th December 2016 at 17:37.
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Old 19th December 2016, 17:36   #7
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

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Originally Posted by mayankk View Post
A typical drive in the fiesta wees gearshifts at 4-5k. Would a italian tune up be amiss here? I dont think so.
Italian tune-ups are for cars without a default 'Italian' driving mode, operated through the nut behind the wheel.
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Old 19th December 2016, 18:26   #8
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

This is an interesting topic with multiple answers.

In older cars where the air-fuel mixture was controlled by a carburetor, continuous low rpm running would indeed result in build up of carbon on various parts of the engine - more specifically - on top of pistons, around the valves, just outside the exhaust port. Copious amounts of carbon buildup was a real problem since it would result in engine knocking (due to higher compression ratio as a result of carbon build up on top of piston) and sluggish response due to improper air flow around valves and exhaust restriction (the rough surface of carbon build up further hampering air flow). Its obvious that a proper Italian tune up would do wonders for the car since the higher density petrol mix would clean inlet ports and high temperature would burn off carbon. I personally totally observed this in our old carburetted Omni !!

For engines like the Rotary Engine an Italian tune up is almost mandatory if you are interested in keeping your engine and your apex seals fine and dandy.

However for modern engines with ECU controlled fuel injection the combustion mixtures are so finely controlled you can literally see water coming out of the exhaust on so many petrol vehicles. Plus with anti-knock sensors retarding ignition timing, ECUs can go leaner and leaner to promote fuel economy and reduce emissions. Then how can carbon build up inside at all in the first place??

Fact is that modern ECUs learn to respond to required output vs driver input over time. A high demand driver input re-trains the ECU to change air-fuel mixtures accordingly so that the engine produces the required output. Not only are the air-fuel mixtures changed but also parameters such as throttle response and ignition timing. This is why the "Italian tune up" feels to have worked in modern engines as well.

This is also why for some cars it works and for some it does not - as it depends on type of ECU as well as individual driver.

Now all of this was for modern petrols - I have zero idea what works for diesel.
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Old 19th December 2016, 19:47   #9
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

Wondering if anyone did something like measuring FE or a dyno test before and after the Italian action.

Somehow, I have a feeling there is a certain amount of confirmation bias behind this one but the weight of anecdotal evidence is fairly substantial too.
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Old 19th December 2016, 20:02   #10
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

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Originally Posted by McLaren Rulez View Post
Wondering if anyone did something like measuring FE or a dyno test before and after the Italian action.

Somehow, I have a feeling there is a certain amount of confirmation bias behind this one but the weight of anecdotal evidence is fairly substantial too.
My 1.8 TSi has done 48000km in 7 years. Being a direct injection petrol engine, it's supposed to be prone to carbon build up on the valves (unlike port injection where the fuel is sprayed on the valves and in turn cleans them). TSI engines have been reported to need valve cleaning or "Italian tuneup". I frequently do the later (isn't that's what one buys TSi for anyway?). Time will tell...but one thing is sure - after a spirited long highway drive, the car feels even peppier and smoother in the city :-)
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Old 19th December 2016, 22:02   #11
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

There was a world of difference in how my Civic revved, from the time I bought it (7,000 km with a sedate driver) and after 5,000 km of redlining. My City Vtec was a lot more revv-happy than any other Vtec I'd driven. Would say the same for the C220 diesel.

So, yes, the Italian tuneup does make a difference. Seeing the redline once in a while makes a big difference to how the engine feels & behaves.

Of course, you must take the necessary precautions (low revs when she's cold, properly timed oil changes, the right engine oil, clean filters, pure fuel etc.) before enjoying the engine.

Last edited by GTO : 19th December 2016 at 22:04.
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Old 19th December 2016, 22:08   #12
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

From my experience, yes, Italian tuneup does make a difference in my Punto MJD. I have noticed a very markable enhancement in performance and rev happy smoother engine after a long drive on highways.

I have noticed this from Day1 I bought the car seven years ago. Initially, i used to think it is related to the quality of fuel. Then I realized it is just that the long drive on highways that has made the difference compared to the city bumper to bumper traffic
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Old 19th December 2016, 22:09   #13
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

I agree with the "Italian tuneup." But, it used to work better, that is, a starker difference after a highway run on my old Safari than on my Honda City.

The Safari would be smooth and responsive after a highway run. Maybe I dont push the City hard enough
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Old 19th December 2016, 22:41   #14
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

Quote:
Originally Posted by McLaren Rulez View Post
Would love to hear others' views on this. Of course, it's even better if you have more than just anecdotal evidence
The modern cars with ECM could have an adaptive strategy which changes the throttle response based on driving conditions. So, it is more difficult to test this theory on modern cars.

A double blind test is what we require but who has the time and energy to debunk or validate it. Throttle response is quite subjective too, it is easy to fool your brain, take PedalTune for example. An easy mod job to improve the perceived drivability/response.
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Old 19th December 2016, 23:05   #15
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Default re: Italian tune-up: Does it really work?

The only way to find out is to do it. And then wait another 20k and do it again so that you can find a sufficient difference.
Quote:
Originally Posted by McLaren Rulez View Post
Call me a cynic but this sounds like a great excuse for a Ferrari mechanic to have some fun with a customer car
Must be the same guys who wrote the Owner's Manual of a TDCi Ford Figo.

ps: read this manual.
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