What if there was a way to get more out of your C5 or C6 Corvette, without ever opening the hood? Who wouldn’t want that – to be able to extract extra performance and tune the car without ever getting your hands dirty? That’s exactly what’s possible with SCT’s SF3 Power Flash handheld tuner. By adjusting the information stored in your Corvette’s Powertrain Control Module (the engine’s brain), the SF3 can increase horsepower and torque, improve throttle response, and do a whole lot more. Best of all, it’s easy and safe to use – if you can follow instructions on-screen and have a working button-pushing finger, you can reprogram your PCM in minutes. Best of all, returning the programming to stock is just as easy, should you ever want or need to.
SCT SF3 Power Flash Features:
Increases Horsepower & Torque
Stores 3 Custom Tunes
Huge Backlit LCD Display
High Speed Datalogging / Monitoring
Reads/Clears DTC Trouble Codes
User Adjustable Vehicle Parameters
Easy Restoration Back to Stock
Dual Analog Inputs
Installs Quickly & Easily
USB Interface Cable Included
To find out what the SF3 could do, we got our hands on one for Project Y2k, our in-house 2000 C5 Corvette. Before we started throwing parts at the car, we wanted to see what could be done with nothing more than flash tuning.
The SF3 comes from SCT pre-loaded with performance tunes for your car, but also allows user adjustment of multiple parameters for those tunes to give you a little more flexibility to get the most out of your particular Corvette.
In addition to flash tuning, the SF3 also serves as a diagnostic device, with the ability to view and record PCM data either on the built-in LCD screen or through a connected laptop. It’s also an OBD-II scan tool that can read and clear diagnostic trouble codes, and it has the ability to store three custom tunes from an authorized SCT dealer, should you care to go the extra mile and get a professional tune for your Corvette.
Going back to stock is easy too, since that’s where everything starts – follow along as we tune Project Y2k with SCT.
SCT: Easy as 1-2-3
Actually, the place to start is the instruction manual, which says on the very first page in bold print, “Before attempting to program your vehicle, you must first plug the device into a Windows-based PC or laptop and update the device.” When you do so, using the included USB cable, the SF3 takes you through a series of prompts to accomplish two things – make sure that the device’s firmware and tunes are as up to date as possible.
That same USB interface can be used to load custom tunes or connect a computer for datalogging, but for our purposes once we’d ensured we had the latest and greatest files uploaded to our SF3, we were done with the computer and ready to start tuning. In the car, things begin by locating the OBD-II port under the dashboard and plugging the tuner in.
The government does a lot of pointless things, but requiring all late-model cars to conform to the OBD-II standard wasn't one of them. The SF3 plugs right in to the factory connector under the dash.
Saving for a Rainy Day
When plugged in, the first thing the SF3 wants to do is get acquainted with your Corvette. It checks to make sure it’s compatible, then reads and stores your car’s stock tune. This means that should you want or need to return the car’s programming to factory-fresh, you can do so, as easily as loading the performance tune in the first place. Putting the car back to stock also unlocks the SF3 for use in another compatible vehicle – While only one can be performance tuned at a time, SCT allows you to tune up to 5 different vehicles with the same SF3.
The SF3's first get-acquainted task is storing your stock tune for use later should you wish to return the car to its original state.
Tune It Up
With the stock tune safely tucked away, it’s time for the performance tune.
With the stock tune safely tucked away, it’s time for the performance tune. The SF3 lets you select several different options before actually uploading the tune, like settings for 93 octane or race fuel, modifying the speed and RPM limits placed on the stock PCM, turning on the cooling fans sooner, and adjusting idle speed. You can also advance or retard spark timing in several RPM ranges, add or subtract fuel at wide open throttle, and adjust the PCM (and therefore the speedometer and odometer) for different axle ratios.
Automatic transmission cars also get the option to adjust both shift points and shift firmness, which has a dramatic effect on how the car drives. Though Project Y2k is a stick, we can tell you from experience with other cars that once you’ve driven an automatic set for more aggressive shifts, you’ll forever after notice just how lazy most factory automatics are in their shift programming.
A good flash tuning device is one modification that will pay dividends with every other change you make to your Corvette, from bone stock to adding common bolt-ons like an intake system and aftermarket exhaust.
The beauty of the SCT SF3 is that it’s a speed part that makes all your other speed parts work better. SCT claims increases of up to 10 horsepower and 12 pound-feet of torque on the average, factory-stock LS1 Corvette, and once you start adding things like a high-flow intake or aftermarket exhaust, which let your car breath better, the stock PCM programming may become the bottleneck preventing your car from achieving its true potential. With the SF3 and a little bit of time, you can adjust for these changes to get the full value out of the expensive hardware in which you’ve invested both time and money.
As we found out from our experience with the SCT SF3 handheld tuner, there’s really no safer, faster, cleaner way to upgrade a late-model Corvette. With the diagnostic features, on-line updates, and the ability to load custom tunes from a professional shop, it’s a tool that has amazing potential for future growth should you decide to take your car to the next level with major upgrades under the hood.