Ford To Limit or Prevent any Tuners From Altering the Ford Bronco’s ECU

Much like the Jeep Wrangler, the 2021 Ford Bronco is designed with customization in mind. The company is even offering more than 200 accessories for the Bronco when it hits showrooms, but powertrain upgrades might not be possible via aftermarket means. According to Ford, the ECU is very complicated, and, essentially, nobody should be playing around with ECU calibration. That means aftermarket companies might find the new Bronco to be untunable.

Ford Could Block Tuners from Altering the New Bronco

Tuners Beware: Ford Has Digital Walls to Prevent People from Altering the Bronco's Computer Exterior Wallpaper quality High Resolution
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You might not realize it, but tuning isn’t just about adding on new performance parts – a lot of it actually comes via special calibration of a car’s engine control unit.

In some cases, tuners can deliver impressive horsepower gains without making any physical alterations at all – just by adjusting a turbo engine’s boost pressure, fuel delivery, engine timing, and the like. However, with the modernized computer control systems in cars – and how they are all interlinked – this is slowing becoming a thing of the past. In fact, physical upgrades also depend on ECU calibration, too. Think about this – if you bolt on a larger turbo (or add a turbo to a naturally aspirated engine), then you’ll naturally push more air into the engine. The engine’s control module, thus, needs to be updated to supply enough fuel to make the right air-to-fuel mixture of optimal performance.

Tuners Beware: Ford Has Digital Walls to Prevent People from Altering the Bronco's Computer Exterior Wallpaper quality High Resolution
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And, this is where the Ford Bronco might end up being untunable at all. In a report published by Muscle Cars and Trucks, The Bronco’s Program Manager, Jeff Seaman, explains why the Bronco is untunable at the moment.

“We have to walk carefully there because a lot of the systems interface with each other and the aftermarket doesn’t always think about those interfaces”

To prevent any random ECU changes made by anyone outside of the Ford family, the company has employed a number of cybersecurity and encryption measures. These, clearly, make it harder to manipulate the ECU and will make the life of tuning companies very hard. It’s the same story we heard about the C8 Corvette, which also suffers from a lack of tunability.

Tuners Beware: Ford Has Digital Walls to Prevent People from Altering the Bronco's Computer Exterior Wallpaper quality High Resolution
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That said, Ford isn’t necessarily ruling out tuning altogether, as it is working with SEMA, which does authorize certain third parties to make calibration updates. But that’s a special situation and what that means for aftermarket companies remains to be seen.

“There’s a SEMA agreement where we authorize third parties to make engine calibrations and updates. I think this is definitely an opportunity to explore as we go forward. We’ve got the OTA architecture in place for the Bronco, but how that works with third-party developers vs. doing it in house and internal updates is still something to see how it will work.”
Tuners Beware: Ford Has Digital Walls to Prevent People from Altering the Bronco's Computer Exterior Wallpaper quality High Resolution
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So, the big takeaway is that a handful of tuning companies may eventually be able to make some calibrations, but there’s a good chance that they will be working very close with Ford – so much so that Ford may have to approve any calibration made before it happens. Either way, it’s going to be quite sometime before any real tuning program worth writing home about is available for the 2021 Ford Bronco.

Source: Muscle Cars & Trucks

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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