How to evaluate different tunes? Kerma, Malone?

Flybuzz

Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2021
Location
Virginia
TDI
Golf Sportwagen SE TDI 2015
Good morning everyone.

I'm a new member. Not completely new to working with the cars. Have had Miata for the past 12 years and still have it. Now, added Sportwagen TDI 2015 after a trip to Europe where the 1.6T diesel Juke impressed me beyond capability to describe it. After buying a VW with 2.0L turbo engine I noticed that it is not nearly as powerful of agile as 1.6TD Juke that I drove in Portugal. I presume it is a matter of how these diesel engines are tuned.
But I'm new to diesels and turbos.

Have read most of the applicable in FAQ.

My 2015 TDI was bought in 2019, so all the emission software patches were installed by dealer. No other modifications.
I am planning to use it as daily driving, tow bike racks with 3 bikes (+1 on the roof) every weekend and once or twice a year tow a utility trailer with some stuff for my backyard. Maybe adding a trailer with a light bassboat later. In case if this information is relevant to what I'm about to ask.

I found two tuning companies, KermaTDI and Malone and read from their website about the tuning they offer. Deciding part is difficult to me because I canot understand how different these tunes are.

The factors that drive me towards Kerma is that they claim pretty hefty increase in performance, increase in fuel economy on a highway and free retunes. The factors that drive me away are not significant, but only if I add a word "today". I am not planning to replace the stock turbo, knowing that there will be very little gain in performance. My biggest concern is that at some point in the future, the stock turbo will need to be replaced due to wear and I do not wat to find myself in the situation that my replacement options are only those that KermaTDI carries in their stock at that moment. For example, I might prefer Borg Warner turbine, but they would only carry Garrett at that moment. If I buy what I want, Kerma will charge me another fee for retune, while they would not charge If I bought Garett from them. This is just my understanding, after talking to their rep on the phone last week. The way the conversation went with the rep also did not sway my towards Kerma. I do not like getting a sales pitch when asked a particular technical question.

The factors that I like about Malone are: they seemed to be chose more often (sorry if I draw a wrong conclusion), their power increase numbers are not contested anywhere on this forum, while being numerically smaller than Kerma's numbers (not the same with Kerma). They are not making me marry a particular turbo brand. What I don't like is that their initial total expense will be higher (due to me needing to get the Flashzilla device, not a big deal), the fact that they do not specifically place accent on reducing fuel consumption on the freeway.

Can you please point to me where I am making the mistakes in my assumptions and what am I seeing wrong? Right now, while my turbo is working fine, I'm leaning towards Kerma, just because they are saying more clearly what I want to hear. I would appreciate a good advice here.
 

Lightflyer1

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Sep 13, 2005
Location
Round Rock, Texas
TDI
2015 Beetle tdi dsg
Best thing is to try and find someone/people around you who have one and drive it. Barring that you have done the research it sounds like and you will just have to pick one and go with it. Not much more to it than that. There are other tunes out there as well if you want to make it even harder to decide.
 

Nero Morg

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 19, 2017
Location
OR
TDI
2014 A6 TDI, 2001 Jetta TDI, 2014 Passat TDI
Malone tunes are more conservative. Kerma tunes push the hardware more to the limits. You could also look into Rocketchip. I know lots of members swear by them.
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
You've touched on an interesting question. If you ask people here what tune you should buy, they'll most likely will tell you to buy what they bought because (a) they probably are only familiar with what they bought, and (b) they just made a financial commitment to the product, and most likely aren't going to say they don't like it.

Back in the day people would dyno their TDIs at get togethers so you could see some relative data regarding what tunes did. That hasn't happened in a while. My first tune was an Upsolute (no longer in exists in the US), in 2003. I thought it was fine until I went to a dyno day and saw how my car performed on the dyno compared to other tunes. At that time the one that looked way better was the Rocketchip tune. I switched to Jeff (Rocketchip) and haven't looked back.

I've driven cars with other tunes, even had a Kerma tune for one of my older TDIs at one point. I prefer Rocketchip, but he doesn't have a loader: You'll have to send your ECU to him or go visit him. He's in Western PA (near reading) so not that far from you. I have his Stage 2 tune on my 2015 GSW and it transformed the car. I, too, felt it was sluggish before the tune, expecially on launch and pulling in higher gears. The tune fixed that.

And just so you know, tunes can be adjusted to just about any hardware you put on the car, and buying from one tuner doesn't obligate you to buy parts from that same supplier, or limit you to certain hardware.

Finally, you should keep in mind that if your Sportwagen is still covered under the emissions warranty, the tune may void it. Even if you re-flash the ECU to stock before taking it in they may discover it was tuned. Not certain, but it's a risk.
 

lemoncurd

Veteran Member
Joined
May 24, 2019
Location
Vancouver, WA | Willimantic, CT
TDI
MK6 Jetta SloWagon TDI (Golf Varient)
Personally, Malone all the way.
If you want to keep emissions stay with Kerma.
If you have any inkling you might delete in the future go with Malone, Malone also tunes for vehicles that are still equiped with factory emissions!
 

Moggy1

Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2021
Location
Belgium
TDI
Passat B8 BiTDI
My understanding is that most stage 1 tune-s (reprogram ECU) are comparable.
Most tuning companies seem to buy from only some very few available hardware sellers to write the software (in the EEPROM?).
Often these -few- hardware sellers can provide standard tuning example for the different engines they cover (group of electrical connections).

As I understand for a stage 1 tune, very few chip tuners really go into several runs on a dyno and specifically adjusting detailed software in the ECU. It just takes too much effort/time. So they use "standard" parameters.
This might be different for stage 2/3/... tuning, I don't know that.

But in short, my understanding is that all these stage 1 tune's are basically the same.
please correct me if i'm wrong :cautious: !
 

Nero Morg

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 19, 2017
Location
OR
TDI
2014 A6 TDI, 2001 Jetta TDI, 2014 Passat TDI
If you want to keep emissions stay with Kerma.
I don't think that's quite accurate. I have a Malone tune, and I still have all my emissions up to snuff. But I second going with Malone, but that's a biased opinion.
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
Tunes are not all alike. There are many differences, even with Stage 1 tunes. Some may be noticeable to the user, some not.
 

Flybuzz

Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2021
Location
Virginia
TDI
Golf Sportwagen SE TDI 2015
Thank you all guys for your responses.
Rocketchip needs their site updated. I'll give them a call tomorrow, will prob. be quicker.

Another question after reading this:
Malone tunes are more conservative. Kerma tunes push the hardware more to the limits.
...in terms of towing within car towing rating, would I be better off with more conservative or "to the limits"?
"To the limits" sounds more like "shortened service life to the components and other less expected problems" to me and makes me not want to have it ))). Could there be any benefits of pushing the components performance to the maximum other than extra 2-3hp and 5-10 ft/lb that I might not even feel?
I agree that all the Stage 1 tunes may and should feel almost identical as the tuners are driven to get the best selling product and it is hard to sell something that is let's say 15% slower by feel to the uneducated customer than a competitor's product without providing some advantage in another area. The same time, the ways they are achieving the result could be quite different, maybe even fundamentally different. So, I tried to look up any failure reports for all those tuners - Malone, Kerma, Rocketchip and other than a few complaints, there are no scary trends.

And the last thing that I forgot to ask initially. If I go with Malone, do I want that fuel pump add-on to the tuning? Kerma does not mention anything about the fuel pump tune at all.

And just so you know, tunes can be adjusted to just about any hardware you put on the car, and buying from one tuner doesn't obligate you to buy parts from that same supplier, or limit you to certain hardware.
This is true. What Kerma is saying they will make me pay for that re-tune another $650 in today's prices if I decide to buy something they do not offer in their inventory. I hope I did not misunderstand it. That is the only reason I did not want to jump into their deal. That and the "pushing to the limits" thing that made me think again.
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
Calling RC is the best way to go. Jeff is a one man operation, he may be harder to reach than others, but the results are worth it, in my experience.
 

Bob S.

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Aug 17, 2006
Location
Central MD.
TDI
A B4V, some ALHs & BRMs
From the outside looking in, and from my experience, there are several good tuners. My suggestion is to select your tuner and TDI trusted guru, based upon your location and their ability to work easily work together. It appears you are in VA. You have 2 excellent choices:. 1. RocketChip (several local & regional gurus know and recommend him. 2. Mountain Valley Motors in the Harrison burg area. They know and repair TDIs and are a Malone dealer.

As IBW points out, you may place your emissions warranty in jeopardy. Also, as the EPA is cracking down, some tuners are exiting the field for register motor vehicles.
 

JD_2012GolfTDI

Well-known member
Joined
May 5, 2019
Location
CA
TDI
2012 Golf Kerma tuned
Happy with Kerma: I wanted to keep emissions intact and do a simple tune upgrade that I can revert back to stock as needed. I also got the DSG software upgrade to match the tune. I don't have plans for future engine performance upgrades. Brakes and suspension are next. My before/after measured results: Boost PSI: 21/25 40-70 roll-ons: 6.4 sec/5.2 sec 0-60: 8.2/7.1 MPG: 11% increase 32.79/36.48 (manually calculated at pump). Just passed CA SMOG yesterday! ;)
 

Flybuzz

Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2021
Location
Virginia
TDI
Golf Sportwagen SE TDI 2015
You have 2 excellent choices:. 1. RocketChip (several local & regional gurus know and recommend him. 2. Mountain Valley Motors in the Harrison burg area. They know and repair TDIs and are a Malone dealer.
Bob, I see your choices do not include: 3. DIY Malone through a Flashzilla device, 4. DIY KermaTDI tune with their device.
Is there a reason for that?
Generally, is there an advantage of doing the tune at the mechanic's shop vs doing it yourself? Provided that there is such option, like in case with Malone, or Kerma, not possible w. RC, I inderstand.
 
Last edited:

Nuje

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Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Location
Island near Vancouver
TDI
2015 Sportwagen; Golf GLS 2002 (swap from 2L gas); 2016 A3 e-tron
You don't necessarily need to buy a Flashzilla device from Malone; from what I recall (@Owain@malonetuning can correct me if I'm wrong), you can rent one for $50. Pay the full price / deposit, they send it to you; when they get it back, they refund you the full price minus $50 (for a week; price goes up the longer you keep it).
 

Bob S.

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Aug 17, 2006
Location
Central MD.
TDI
A B4V, some ALHs & BRMs
I think the answer depends upon your mechanical & problem solving abilities with these cars. I have witnessed a tuner attempt to get a car properly set up only to find underlying hardware/engine issues. If you are able to competently wrench & problem solve, you should be fine going the remote tune route. If you do not wrench, or will be relying on a Guru, or other mechanic, for service work, future mods, etc., my preference is a route where there is knowledge & familiarity between the wrenched & tuner. That probably becomes more important upon the tune & modification level increases.
 

Flybuzz

Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2021
Location
Virginia
TDI
Golf Sportwagen SE TDI 2015
I think I will go with Malone, did not get much luck with connecting with the Rocketchip. Will probable do it from home. Both of the dealers are 2 hrs away from me.
I guess my last question about Malone is how do I know if I need that fuel pump tune?
And just to confirm, while I acknowledge that the VW warranty on the emissions equipment is be void after the tune, am I expected to fail the emissions or mechanical inspection with the tune? Will I need to restore back to stock prior to go to the inspection to be able to pass it? Sorry, I know it was asked here on the forum probably many different times.
 

Owain@malonetuning

Associate Vendor , w/Business number
Joined
Jul 1, 2016
Location
Vancouver
TDI
335d, 05 jetta wagon, 84 jetta td
unfortunately no rental tools for the newer commonrails, the rental is based on the older V2 powergate. Given that way more people go in for dealer updates, do further mods, or need to revert to stock for servicing, it's typically better to own the tool with a newer car.

As long as your vehicle is mechanically stock and all of the components are operating properly it'll be legal for road use.
 

MAXRPM

Veteran Member
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May 7, 2008
Location
US
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00 Jetta and 99.5 Golf, 2015 Passat TDI,BMW 2
I've been there and never looked back, RC all the way, all my car have been RCd and im still loving it,
 

mamajor

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May 2, 2021
Location
Tampa
TDI
2012 Golf TDI, prior 2013 Toureg DPF delete Rawtek, Malone tuned, 2011 JettaTDI Rawtek DPF delete Malone tuned
I had a 2011 Jetta with Rawtek turbo back exhaust and Malone and loved it. I NEVER got less than 40mpg and power was great. I had a 2013 Toureg with Malone/Rawtek and it was good. I now have a 2012 Golf with KermaTDI tune, and it is very different. I have a Turbo on order and will update once it is installed.

Tone of the exhaust goes to Malone/Rawtek
Kick you back in the seat goes to KermaTDI
Fuel efficiency goes to Malone/Rawtek
Rolling Coal goes to Malone/Rawtek
Cost-wise, KermaTDI is hard to beat!
 

Flybuzz

Member
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Apr 26, 2021
Location
Virginia
TDI
Golf Sportwagen SE TDI 2015
Mamajor, thanks for sharing your experience.
A question about custom tune. I am reading here that a custom tune is pretty much what should be done and it requires engine logging. This is from the malone's site. I'm a little confused here. Their DIY installation through flashzilla v3 lists only a tune that is standard for the vehicle make/model/year. Does that mean that I have to send the engine logging files prior to the process of getting the tune?
 

mamajor

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May 2, 2021
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Tampa
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2012 Golf TDI, prior 2013 Toureg DPF delete Rawtek, Malone tuned, 2011 JettaTDI Rawtek DPF delete Malone tuned
You need to attach the Flashzilla to your vehicle and download the current software and then send that to Malone to be modified. They will send you a standard tune. You install that to your vehicle and start there. I found that the stand tune was fine for my usage. BUT if you are unhappy with the way that your vehicle drives, they have you download the logs and try to determine what needs to be modified. I have tuned a Jetta and Touareg and both were fine with the tune out of the box. I have only spoken with 1 person who was having to send logs in, and he was experiencing an engine shutter as he passed 120mph that he was unable to live with...LOL. I don't know if he was BSing me or he was serious!
My experience with Malone is that they were really fast with getting me back my tunes. I had to wait 24 hours for the Kerma tune, which is not a deal-breaker.
 

Lightflyer1

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Location
Round Rock, Texas
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2015 Beetle tdi dsg
Standard car equals a standard tune for the most part. Start changing parts (turbos, injectors, fuel pump, emissions delete and such) then custom tuning needed. Special issues and seeking total max performance will also require tweaks. Most are okay with the standard tune on their stock cars.
 

tjg

Veteran Member
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Feb 8, 2019
Location
Ft. Hood, TX
TDI
'13 TDI A3, '14 TDI Sportwagen
Mamajor, thanks for sharing your experience.
A question about custom tune. I am reading here that a custom tune is pretty much what should be done and it requires engine logging. This is from the malone's site. I'm a little confused here. Their DIY installation through flashzilla v3 lists only a tune that is standard for the vehicle make/model/year. Does that mean that I have to send the engine logging files prior to the process of getting the tune?
Things out of the ordinary, like a CP3 fuel pump are generally the floor for sending in logs and getting a re-tune. everything up to and including a CR170 turbo upgrade are generally pretty safe not needing to do so.
 

740GLE

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NH
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2015 Passat SEL, 2017 Alltrack SE; BB 2010 Sedan Man; 2012 Passat,
Also on stock emissions hardware, peak numbers mean nothing if EGTs get pegged on both software.

When I was looking at tunes, it was having the option for future deletes being on the table that sold me, independent of the name or numbers from a single dyno run attached to the tune.

I'd much rather have the option than be left a slave to failed VW emissions parts.
 

Flybuzz

Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2021
Location
Virginia
TDI
Golf Sportwagen SE TDI 2015
Understood.
Well, FedEx just sent me a notification that the TuneZilla has just been delivered!
Going home and will likely do the tune tonight! Can't wait!
Anything I should do before the tune? I was thinking of running a dyno to share before and after numbers, but with my schedule it's difficult. I can still do it, if anyone thinks it's forum post worthy.
I logged the fuel just one time to compare the fuel mileage before and after. Will record another one before the tune. So far I got 35.97 mpg, which included one long highway trip and some local roads. VW statistics for the long range says 38.7 mpg, a bit optimistic, considering that I don't usually do 4-hr long trips.
That is about it.
What else did I forget to do before the tuning?
Oh, and yes, my question about fuel pump tune. Do I need that optional $100 fuel pump tune?
 

GolfRRRR

Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2019
Location
GH, MI
TDI
2015 Passat TDi
Understood.
Well, FedEx just sent me a notification that the TuneZilla has just been delivered!
Going home and will likely do the tune tonight! Can't wait!
Anything I should do before the tune? I was thinking of running a dyno to share before and after numbers, but with my schedule it's difficult. I can still do it, if anyone thinks it's forum post worthy.
I logged the fuel just one time to compare the fuel mileage before and after. Will record another one before the tune. So far I got 35.97 mpg, which included one long highway trip and some local roads. VW statistics for the long range says 38.7 mpg, a bit optimistic, considering that I don't usually do 4-hr long trips.
That is about it.
What else did I forget to do before the tuning?
Oh, and yes, my question about fuel pump tune. Do I need that optional $100 fuel pump tune?
So, did you do the tune? Thoughts?
 

Flybuzz

Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2021
Location
Virginia
TDI
Golf Sportwagen SE TDI 2015
I went with Malone.
Initially wanted to add Polar device and collect as much data prior to the tune as possible. But ended up buying pre-2015 version and had to return it back. Decided to not wait longer :)
Installation was straightforward.
Power. It's not like "kick in your rear" as some people describe it (more commonly referring to KermaTDI tune which this one is not), but definitely awoke the car. I'm a Miata guy and used to having a torque available across wide range of RPM. I like the way the power is presenting itself after the tune.
Sound. It is a bit raspier sound during the acceleration similar to driving the car before it is fully warmed up. My understanding this is expected with the different angle of ignition. Doesn't bother me.
Fuel economy - still calculating. Seems to stay the same or got slightly better.
Overall, I'm happy so far.
 

DivineChaos

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Jul 27, 2019
Location
Minnesota
TDI
mk6 jetta sportwagen tdi
I went with Malone.
Initially wanted to add Polar device and collect as much data prior to the tune as possible. But ended up buying pre-2015 version and had to return it back. Decided to not wait longer :)
Installation was straightforward.
Power. It's not like "kick in your rear" as some people describe it (more commonly referring to KermaTDI tune which this one is not), but definitely awoke the car. I'm a Miata guy and used to having a torque available across wide range of RPM. I like the way the power is presenting itself after the tune.
Sound. It is a bit raspier sound during the acceleration similar to driving the car before it is fully warmed up. My understanding this is expected with the different angle of ignition. Doesn't bother me.
Fuel economy - still calculating. Seems to stay the same or got slightly better.
Overall, I'm happy so far.
Yeah. I've got stage 2 delete. I really want a custom stage 3 and the bigger turbo now. But it's spendy. It really woke the car up.
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
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'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
I'm a Miata guy and used to having a torque available across wide range of RPM.
This made me smile. I owned an NA Miata for a while and I'd say that it helped me get used to having NO torque available. I quickly learned that the Miata made no power under 5000 RPM. And not a lot above that.
 

Flybuzz

Member
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Apr 26, 2021
Location
Virginia
TDI
Golf Sportwagen SE TDI 2015
This made me smile. I owned an NA Miata for a while and I'd say that it helped me get used to having NO torque available. I quickly learned that the Miata made no power under 5000 RPM. And not a lot above that.
I guess "torque across wide range of the RPM" and "no torque" could be the same thing depends on what you consider a torque. I look at it in its simplest meaning, no thrill implied :). Add a turbo to Miata and you ruin a perfect car that could cut 90 degree turns one after another one with just variating the pressure on a gas pedal. I miss those days.
Totally opposite to what I wanted from my wagon. More power for little money, fuel economy and that's about it. It's the street car and I don't intend to push its limits any more.
When/if the turbo dies and purchasing new one will become a necessity, things will be different of course. 😀
 
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