When SCT released their Livewire TS tuner just a few short weeks ago, we brought you a quick sneak-peek with promises to delve further into the unit’s capabilities  – that day is now here and we’ve got a full review on all of the unit’s capabilities, features, and options. We’ll take you through each of its functions, features, and benefits, and when we’re done you’ll be able to make an educated decision on whether the Livewire TS is for you.

Who and What is SCT?

SCT was founded in 2003 as a provider of custom tuning solutions for the automotive aftermarket, but the people behind the company had been previously involved in all facets of the automotive industry. The core SCT team came from different areas of the automotive industry including performance shops, drag racing teams, OEM vehicle calibrations, performance parts manufacturing, and aftermarket tuning. By assembling such a team, SCT was able to hit the ground running and immediately had a hit on their hands with the XCalibrator handheld programming device. Over the years they have added more products to their line, all of which are focused on bringing the aftermarket consumer the best tuning solutions for their money.

Left, The Livewire TS has a four-inch touchscreen and plenty of real estate for displaying its information. Right, the Livewire TS can hold up to ten custom tunes in addition to the pre-loaded options from SCT.

 How Does Custom Tuning Work?

In 1996, On Board Diagnostics-II was required in all vehicles sold in the United States. Why is this such a big deal? For a number of reasons, chief among them that OBD-II standardized the specifications for engine self-diagnostics and reporting to a degree not seen previously. The standardized communications port provides real-time data streams of your engine and vehicle’s performance. The other advantage to the OBD-II port is that it allows the ability for aftermarket tuning solutions to be uploaded to the vehicle.

Why is this important? Because when a vehicle is manufactured, the engine calibration is one that has to be proven out to work over many different climates and weather scenarios. As a consequence of this standardized engine calibration, power and performance are often left on the table in the interest of customer satisfaction. SCT provides the hardware and the software that’s required to unlock that hidden power from your OBD-II-equipped ride. By using either the built-in tuning capabilities of the Livewire TS or the custom tune file written by your favorite local tuner, you can upload the new tune into your car and start enjoying the increased power and torque that SCT is famous for providing.

Left, The sensors can be programmed to display a warning indicator at whatever applicable value you set. Right, You can see where the warning indicator in action, according to where we set ours to turn on at 197 degrees in the left-side photo.

What’s the deal with the Livewire TS?

The form factor of this device is just like SCT’s discontinued TSX – a nice bright 4-inch touchscreen that isn’t intrusive in the passenger compartment. Although there are many options for tuning on the market, some of the unique features of the Livewire TS can’t be had on any other tuners. According to SCT’s Tim Roi, “The Livewire TS is very different from the TSX. Even though both look similar, the internal parts of the Livewire TS are much more advanced and it uses a much more powerful processor.”

The Livewire TS also features a completely new user interface, uses swipe technology for navigating the menus and offers a larger selection of virtual gauges for monitoring / data logging.

  • Color 4″ Touch Screen Display
  • Rear View Camera Input
  • Automatic On / Off / Sleep Mode
  • Holds up to 10 Custom Tunes
  • Reads & Clears DTC Codes
  • Built-In Performance Calculator
  • High Speed Data Logging & Monitoring
  • User Adjustable Tune Options
  • User Selectable Graphics & Gauge Layouts
  • Available for both Gas & Diesel Vehicles
  • User Adjustable Warning / Alerts
  • Windshield Mount Included

The layout and configuration of the unit can be changed to suit your tastes.

The 4-inch color touchscreen display is just the right size to show off the user-selected parameters onscreen. In addition, the touchscreen is designed with a built-in ambient light sensor, which adjusts the brightness for the external conditions – this means that you’ll never have to fool with it. And SCT has seen fit to set up the Livewire TS so that it automatically goes to sleep after a predetermined time period, saving wear and tear on your vehicle’s battery when it’s parked in the garage.

The ability to read and clear Diagnostic Trouble Codes is another handy built-in feature for those of you who fix your own hot-rods. There are even different user-selectable themes, colors, and gauge layouts so that you can customize your Livewire TS to your personal taste. 

In the past, with most of the handheld-style tuners on the market, you needed to plug in a laptop through a USB cable in order to do any kind of datalogging. This was a bit of a chore as there were cables running all over the place and you realistically needed a second person to monitor the laptop while driving. No more, as the Livewire TS offers on-screen high-speed monitoring and recording of all critical engine parameters. There are easy-to-program system alerts and gauge warnings that can be turned on as well. There is even an input on the OBD-II cable to accept most aftermarket rear-view cameras, meaning that you only need one screen in the car instead of multiples. 

In addition, the unit has an awesome built-in performance calculator.  It measures:

  • 0-60MPH Performance Test with Estimated HP & TQ
  • ET / MPH Performance Test with 1/8th & 1/4 mile
  • Top Speed Performance Test
  • Braking Performance Test with 60-0MPH ET

The Livewire TS uses the factory sensors to provide its data. As you can see they're pretty accurate.

The Livewire TS is also a custom-tuning powerhouse. It comes with the pre-loaded tune files from SCT for your vehicle, but can hold up to ten custom tunes within the unit. This means that you can build a separate tune for gasoline, for E-85, different automatic transmission tuning, methanol injection, whatever suits your combination and what you are trying to do.

The built-in tune files also allow you to adjust for common aftermarket performance modifications like cold-air kits, gears, and exhaust systems. Two part numbers mean that you can use the Livewire TS in a Ford (PN 5015) or a GM (PN 5416) 1996-current gasoline-powered vehicle. According to Roi, “All of SCT’s Pre-loaded tune files are dyno / street tested to ensure the best possible horsepower & torque increase without having your vehicle custom tuned. Of course, custom tuning will get you every last bit of performance out of the vehicle, our pre-loaded tunes are perfect for lightly modified vehicles with common bolt-ons like cold air kits and headers.”

Pre-Loaded Tune File Adjustable Options

  • Fuel Injectors – Allows you to adjust for different sized fuel injectors.
  • CMCV Delete Plates – Allows you to disable the CMCV (Charge Motion Control Valve) in your vehicle’s PCM to prevent a Check Engine light and other issues associated with removing the CMCV plates in your vehicle.
  • Speed Limiter – Allows you to remove, increase or decrease the vehicle’s speed limiter.
  • Idle Speed – Allows you to increase or decrease the vehicle’s idle speed
  • Traction Control – Allows you to disable the vehicle’s traction control without using the button in the vehicle.
  • Spark Modification by RPM – Allows you to add or remove timing by RPM Range. (0-2000)(2000-4000)(4000-8000)
  • WOT Fuel – Allows you to add or remove fuel at Wide Open Throttle.
  • Shift Firmness Control – Allows you to change the transmissions shift pressure. Controls how firm the shifts will feel. * Vehicles with Automatic Transmissions ONLY
  • Axle Ratio – Allow you to set the axle ratio (gear ratio) to correct shift patterns and the speedometer on your vehicle.
  • Tire Size – Allows you to set the tire size to correct shift patterns and the speedometer on your vehicle.
  • Aftermarket Intake – Allows an aftermarket intake to be run on the vehicle without a Check Engine Light. For intake kits that require tuning, this will provide a selection of available intake kits.
  • Stores Stock Tune – Stores a true copy of your vehicle’s stock file before programming. Used for warranty repairs and unlocking the programmer.
  • Fan Control – Lowers the Temperature at which the Fan turns on.

Left, there are many options that can be adjusted in the Livewire TS. There are many aftermarket modifications already programmed into the options menu. Right, You can even turn the rear oxygen sensor monitors on and off on your own. This is a task that used to have to be completed with a trip to your custom tuner.

Custom Tune File Adjustable Options

  • Idle Speed – Allows you to Increase or Decrease the vehicles idle speed.
  • Rev / RPM Limiter in Drive – Allows you to Remove, Increase or Decrease the vehicles Rev / RPM limiter in Drive
  • Rev / RPM Limiter Neutral – Allows you to Remove, Increase or Decrease the vehicles Rev / RPM limiter in Neutral
  • Speed Limiter – Allows you to Remove, Increase or Decrease the vehicles speed limiter.
  • Fan Control – Lowers the Temperature at which the Fan turns on.
  • WOT Fuel – Allows you to Add or Remove Fuel at Wide Open Throttle.
  • Axle Ratio – Allow you to set the axle ratio (gear ratio) to correct shift patterns and the speedometer on your vehicle.
  • Tire Size – Allows you to set the tire size to correct shift patterns and the speedometer on your vehicle.
  • WOT Shift Points by Gear – Allows you to Increase or Decrease the Wide Open Throttle Shift points of each gear individually.
  • Shift Firmness Control – Allows you to change the transmissions shift pressure. Controls how firm the shifts will feel. * Vehicles with Automatic Transmissions ONLY

For a complete application guide, click here.

Left, the virtual tester built into the Livewire TS can measure 0-60, quarter-mile ET and MPH, and more. Right, Our test Mustang didn't complete the testing anywhere near its capabilities, but in our defense we were on a public road.

One of the advantages to using a tuner like the Livewire TS is that the factory programming is retained within the unit for future restoration. The Livewire TS Flash device backs up your factory PCM program during installation should you ever need to return your vehicle to the stock program. This feature helps with troubleshooting, or if the vehicle should ever need to be put back to the stock PCM program.  Flashing the vehicle back to stock will leave no footprint or trace in the vehicle’s PCM – it’s like the tuner was never installed.

Factory gauges leave a lot to be desired – the sensors can read a much finer resolution than the gauges show. The Livewire TS will interpret the signals from the PCM and display more accurate measurements in real-time on the virtual gauge display. User-adjustable tuning of many parameters will get the job done unless you’re into the modification level where custom tunes are required. Even once custom tuning is introduced into the equation the Livewire TS continues to shine as it provides the ability to tweak some settings that were previously untouchable once the tuner loaded the tune into the vehicle. Its abilities are much greater than a typical handheld tuner and reflect just how advanced our vehicle programming and monitoring capabilities are today. The Livewire TS will have a street price somewhere around $599, check it out if you’re in the market – we’re glad we did!