If the engine had a heart, it would be the EMS or Engine Management System. An essential component in all modern automobiles on the road today, the EMS controls the amount of fuel consumed by the engine, adjusts ignition timing, and other critical engine tasks.
One of the more common brands that pop up when it comes to EMS units is the AEM engine management system. AEM offers several models of programmable EMS units as well as individual EMS components. Each EMS is said to harness AEM's engine control technology utilized in racing vehicles, allowing for total engine control and modifications. We managed to get several units of the AEM EMS and put them to the test.
- Plugs directly into factory harness
- Can be used with all factory sensors
- Includes startup calibrations
- Includes AEMTuner software
- Can be tuned via USB communication port or serial port
- Compatible with Windows 7, XP, and Vista
- Works with all AEM gauges
- Limited AEM warranty
- Plug-and-play installation. Simply plug in the EMS into the harness and it's good to go. No rewiring necessary.
- Comprehensive control options. Whether it is electronic boost, traction, soft-cut rev limiters, or even wet/dry nitrous control, you can tune it using this EMS. We certainly had a fun time tweaking our cars using this unit.
- The system is 100% unlocked and accessible. Unlike other aftermarket EMS units that lock certain functions in exchange for paid "upgrades", the AEM's EMS has its features fully accessible right from the box. This alone makes it a great plus in our book.
- User-friendly interface. The EMS is context sensitive, making tuning process a smooth one. What's more, each unit is compatible with recent Window OS, so you don't need a fancy computer to program it as well.
- Enhanced security. The maps can be password-protected in order to prevent usage or sharing.
- May run into problems during cold weather. Low temperatures have been known to mess up engine management systems, and AEM's EMS unit is not immune to this. We did some temperature testing, and we noticed some discrepancies in the EMS programming once the thermostat dropped into winter conditions.
- Has a bit of a learning curve to master. The interface may be user-friendly, but only so if you have had prior experience programming car computers. The options can be mind-boggling for first-time tuners.
The bottom line
With a lot of options under its belt, the AEM engine management system certainly is a heavyweight in the industry. It's definitely a must have for any serious tuner.