California is cracking down on ECU tuning. What's the best move for the future?

coolusername

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2012 Jetta Sportwagen TDI
So basically, last year the fun folks over at the California Air Resources Board released a new edict: your car will fail smog if the ECU has a tune on it. Has to be stock, or a special exempt tune (just found out about it when I was planning on a Malone tune). Now while right now you can just flash back to stock (and then back to the tune) and not worry about it, what's going to happen long term if I have a tuned car and they figure out how to detect my ECU has been tampered with at all? I mean, it's possible. Because that's where CARB has been heading for the past few years, they don't seem to like car modification. The problem is, with these cars an ECU swap is a pain. I've read that I need to change the ECU, instrument cluster, and the key/barrel all at once. Is this true for my 2012 Jetta Sportwagen? I'd like to set myself up with an untouched trinity of these components, in case CARB cracks down on even once-modified vehicles. Does anyone have any tips/advice on the matter? Will changing these three components in a set work even on the newer TDIs? What's the best way for me to set myself up to be able to pass smog in the future even as rules tighten?


(I still wanna tune the car though)
 

DivineChaos

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So basically, last year the fun folks over at the California Air Resources Board released a new edict: your car will fail smog if the ECU has a tune on it. Has to be stock, or a special exempt tune (just found out about it when I was planning on a Malone tune). Now while right now you can just flash back to stock (and then back to the tune) and not worry about it, what's going to happen long term if I have a tuned car and they figure out how to detect my ECU has been tampered with at all? I mean, it's possible. Because that's where CARB has been heading for the past few years, they don't seem to like car modification. The problem is, with these cars an ECU swap is a pain. I've read that I need to change the ECU, instrument cluster, and the key/barrel all at once. Is this true for my 2012 Jetta Sportwagen? I'd like to set myself up with an untouched trinity of these components, in case CARB cracks down on even once-modified vehicles. Does anyone have any tips/advice on the matter? Will changing these three components in a set work even on the newer TDIs? What's the best way for me to set myself up to be able to pass smog in the future even as rules tighten?


(I still wanna tune the car though)
Tuned ecu with immo delete. Then swap ecus. It's only hard to pull it the first time.
 

Mongler98

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Migrate / MOVE out of the state.... or just pleeb your way to a prius

Discussions of illegal activities are strictly forbidden here.
 

Abacus

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Migrate / MOVE out of the state.... or just pleeb your way to a prius

Discussions of illegal activities are strictly forbidden here.
That's funny coming from someone with your posting background. And he's talking about California, so it's not illegal everywhere. Is it still illegal when they change laws making it so? Time to dig out the old philosophy books...

That being said, we do see lots of people moving from Cali to Arizona due to their laws when people have had enough. I am not an advocate of it and believe in making your own place better or just accepting it.

DivineChaos has the right solution for your question.
 

Lightflyer1

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Until the details of the new regulations and how they determine if you have a tune or not, your question can't really be answered. Safe bet until then is to stay OEM. Post back when those are known. Otherwise you are just guessing with your car and may end up in a real tough spot to get out of.
 

x1800MODMY360x

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Even if the ECU is tunned back to stock, how can they not pass it. So if you tuned it and move it back to stock, all you have to say that you bought the car that way.
 

turbodieseldyke

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Free Mustache Rides
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98 jetta
That being said, we do see lots of people moving from Cali to Arizona due to their laws when people have had enough. I am not an advocate of it and believe in making your own place better or just accepting it.
That type of migration leads to all the other places getting screwed up. The new people don't mind their new home getting worse, as long as it's not as bad as the last place they came from.

To be fair to the kalif refugees, they're outvoted 2-to-1. There's no socially acceptable way to fix it.
 

Mongler98

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So if I immobilizer delete, I can swap ECUs all day without issues? Interesting, thank you.
Yea I guess. It's a felony each time you alter your emissions componants. But sure.
I dont understand people who justify breaking laws of you think you wont get caught.
 

coolusername

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Yea I guess. It's a felony each time you alter your emissions componants. But sure.
I dont understand people who justify breaking laws of you think you wont get caught.
I'm not a lawyer, but Section 203(a)(3)(B) of the Clean Air Act talks about "[components] where a principal effect of the part or component is to bypass, defeat, or render inoperative any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine"

I'm not going to bypass, defeat, or render inoperative the EGR system, DPF, or anything emissions related. Altering my ECU to remove the immobilizer function is not the same as bypassing, defeating, or rendering inoperative critical emissions equipment. I plan to keep all of my emissions equipment on my vehicle intact, by the way. Nowhere I can find does it talk about altering my ECU being a crime.

Source: https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/documents/tamperinganddefeatdevices-enfalert.pdf
 

Mongler98

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You are operating a non approved tune that alters the fuel and emissions standard set forth by the regulated body that built the car.
If you want legal advise I suggest contacting a lawyer.
 

Lightflyer1

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It could be argued that any change in the computer software different than the original software defeats or renders the emissions system inoperative from its original certified configuration. You are in California so I would expect this kind of reasoning as they don't really like diesels there anyway and have stricter emissions requirements than anyone else.

That's funny coming from someone with your posting background. And he's talking about California, so it's not illegal everywhere. Is it still illegal when they change laws making it so? Time to dig out the old philosophy books...

That being said, we do see lots of people moving from Cali to Arizona due to their laws when people have had enough. I am not an advocate of it and believe in making your own place better or just accepting it.

DivineChaos has the right solution for your question.
It is illegal everywhere in the US. It is a federal law and not state by state as you seem to suggest here. While rarely enforced, it is still against the law everywhere in the US.
 

Abacus

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It could be argued that any change in the computer software different than the original software defeats or renders the emissions system inoperative from its original certified configuration. You are in California so I would expect this kind of reasoning as they don't really like diesels there anyway and have stricter emissions requirements than anyone else.

It is illegal everywhere in the US. It is a federal law and not state by state as you seem to suggest here. While rarely enforced, it is still against the law everywhere in the US.
Your own post admits California has different rules for emissions, which was entirely my point. What may be illegal in California is not illegal everywhere since California does not (thankfully) dictate emissions laws for the entire US. Thank you for supporting my post.
 

Lightflyer1

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It is illegal everywhere to tamper with emissions equipment due to federal law. Whether the tune does that or not is the question to be answered. Could be yes and could be no. Probably why California is making anything but the OEM tune illegal.
 

Mongler98

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It's a federal law handled by each state. The states with CARB are the ones you do not mess with.
 

Abacus

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It is illegal everywhere to tamper with emissions equipment due to federal law. Whether the tune does that or not is the question to be answered. Could be yes and could be no. Probably why California is making anything but the OEM tune illegal.
Since he posted:
coolusername said:
I'm not going to bypass, defeat, or render inoperative the EGR system, DPF, or anything emissions related. Altering my ECU to remove the immobilizer function is not the same as bypassing, defeating, or rendering inoperative critical emissions equipment. I plan to keep all of my emissions equipment on my vehicle intact, by the way. Nowhere I can find does it talk about altering my ECU being a crime.
I think that question has been answered.
 

Lightflyer1

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Not really. As I said it is open to interpretation depending on how you look at a tune. Even though no physical items are changed. Changing the parameters of a tune that throws things out of wack compared to the OEM tune could also be considered tampering, by both California and the Federal government. The Federal government has been cracking down on tuners in the US lately.
 

Mongler98

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98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
It's not like the feds whent after VW for lieing about tunning for emissions.... NOT

Discussion of illegal activities are prohibited here. It no one seems to care.

you should watch John Stossles "illegal everything."

"Show me the man and I'll show you the felony"!
 

burpod

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basically touching anything in your car must be illegal then unless you're a licensed mechanic..... :rolleyes: good grief. is there a full investigation over every traffic accident to ensure that the vehicle has been maintained to a tee by a licensed professional and the accident wasn't in fact the fault of the owner doing a crappy brake job or using a non-oem master cylinder or whatever? gimme a break
 

Lightflyer1

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Not every accident but I would tend to believe at least some are investigated for those things. Depends a lot on what happens and how bad the accident was. Attorneys are involved, so they just might do that to strengthen their case or weaken the other.
 

Mongler98

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basically touching anything in your car must be illegal then unless you're a licensed mechanic..... :rolleyes: good grief. is there a full investigation over every traffic accident to ensure that the vehicle has been maintained to a tee by a licensed professional and the accident wasn't in fact the fault of the owner doing a crappy brake job or using a non-oem master cylinder or whatever? gimme a break
Right to repair.... does not cover over anything related to environmental agency's and the legislation they demand of us.
Dont understand your illogical reason to say that.
 

Abacus

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Not really. As I said it is open to interpretation depending on how you look at a tune. Even though no physical items are changed. Changing the parameters of a tune that throws things out of wack compared to the OEM tune could also be considered tampering, by both California and the Federal government. The Federal government has been cracking down on tuners in the US lately.
Yes, really. It is not open to interpretation on how you look at a tune, if no emissions items are changed, then the “tune” is legal as per the federal rules. But I know of no individuals that are hauled into federal court over their tunes, nor do I really care since it’s so minuscule as to be irrelevant.

As to CARB, they are irrelevant to me since I will never live in that state nor do I even care to visit. And yes, directly because of CARB and the other plethora of ridiculous laws they enforce and ignore at the same time.

I just find it ironic that Mongler of all people is decrying modifications given his past advice and his own admissions.
 

Mongler98

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Yes, really. It is not open to interpretation on how you look at a tune, if no emissions items are changed, then the “tune” is legal as per the federal rules. But I know of no individuals that are hauled into federal court over their tunes, nor do I really care since it’s so minuscule as to be irrelevant.

As to CARB, they are irrelevant to me since I will never live in that state nor do I even care to visit. And yes, directly because of CARB and the other plethora of ridiculous laws they enforce and ignore at the same time.

I just find it ironic that Mongler of all people is decrying modifications given his past advice and his own admissions.
100% accurate. its never held in federal court, its usually blocked right at emissions or a fix it ticket or impound.
that was back int he day and most of the stuff i did was autocross off road. crucify me of my past but it does not change my current position. i also find myself hilariously ironic.

if you change the fuel map... EGR perameters.... regen, whatever... anything to do with emissions in any way... its a violation of the law. unless its a fix done BY or ordered by the manufacturer that has the obligation by the feds to correct emissions issues.
 

burpod

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could drive around all day at 3000 rpm and egr will never be on ;) it's also not a crime to drive excessively, when you could easily drive less, combine trips, going on fewer frivolous errands and excursions like running out to the store or somewhere whenever you feel the urge you need something *right now* when you could easily do without. there are countless people who constantly driving here and there to do this that and the other, almost all things that could easily wait until you're going out to do something that's actually necessary, i know plenty of people who are constantly running to the the grocery store etc instead of spending a couple extra minutes to plan so you only need to go to the grocery once a week at most. autocross off-roading is a pretty substantial pollution creator for essentially "fun" vs driving your ever-so-slightly more "polluting" modified tdi commuting to work. bunch of BS. if i had a boat, i could spend all the time i wanted boating around polluting and it wouldn't be against any law i'm aware of....but if i did that i'd also have a street legal prius that didn't pollute at all lol
 

compu_85

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If a fuel map is an emissions device, then so is your accelerator pedal.
Not totally - because the go pedal only selects a position on the map.

This is why it's easier for some cars to pass an emissions test with an automatic than a manual transmission, because the computer can control more of what happens when you push the go pedal.

-J
 

TDeanI

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It is only illegal to modify or remove working emissions equipment on a road driven car. For an off road car, it is perfectly legal. The act of removing emissions equipment itself is not illegal. If you modify your emissions equipment to drive on the road, that is illegal. The RPM Act was approved and removed that it was Federally illegal to make race cars out of former street cars.

It is the act of driving on the road after removing emissions equipment, which makes it illegal.

You could have two ECUs, one being for off road and the other for street driving. Swapping between these is not illegal as long as you have the stock ECU and all required components, while on the street.

Just don't forget to switch back to your street ECU after off road driving.

Of course removing working emissions equipment on a car is not illegal. Junkyards and auto dismantlers and mechanics do this all the time.

Even the dreaded catalytic converter thieves are not breaking Federal Laws, its the poor Prius owner that drives the car to the mechanics shop without cats, who is the real Federal criminal here.
 

turbobrick240

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I'm pretty sure the cat thieves are breaking federal law. Vandalism and theft is illegal on the federal level. It's just a matter of jurisdiction. Who are these folks off roading TDIs anyhow? Jeeps I can see. Jettas, not so much. Maybe the occasional demolition derby, lol. There is actually a process to get aftermarket tunes EPA/CARB approved- it's just costly and probably lots of paperwork, so the smaller outfits don't bother.
 

Mongler98

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98 Jetta TDI AHU 1.9L (944 TDI swap in progress) I moved so now i got nothing but an AHU in a garage on a pallet.
I'm pretty sure the cat thieves are breaking federal law. Vandalism and theft is illegal on the federal level. It's just a matter of jurisdiction. Who are these folks off roading TDIs anyhow? Jeeps I can see. Jettas, not so much. Maybe the occasional demolition derby, lol. There is actually a process to get aftermarket tunes EPA/CARB approved- it's just costly and probably lots of paperwork, so the smaller outfits don't bother.
wait.. a thief is breaking the law.. i thought it was allowed and just a way for people to pay for food and medicine....
GTFOH
 
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