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My Automotive FAQ - My Experience with Haltech and their E6K EMS

Notice.  This information is from my first-hand experience with the Haltech E6K engine management system.  If you have had a similar problem with these parts, contact Haltech directly.  There is nothing I can do to help you other than to provide this information to you.

Final Update.  Brice of Alamo Autosports sent me a check for $1600 to cover the cost of the E6K and the towing both ways to and from his shop in Arlington.  He's simply a great guy.  I cannot speak highly enough about Brice and his business ethics. 

The beginning of my experience.   I dreaded writing this story, and I dislike the airing of dirt, but in the interest of protecting others from the hazards I have experienced with my Haltech E6K, I feel it's now time for the world of automotive enthusiasts to know what's up with me and my defunct Haltech E6K.  Without a doubt, the #1 major setback and problem area I've faced with the build-up of The Shuttle has been the Haltech E6K.  From day one, the E6K I purchased has been problematic, from a serial port that functions intermittently, to bugs in the firmware, to general erratic operation.  And, now, after remaining dormant in The Shuttle for three months awaiting a rebuilt transmission, I find that it's now completely dead.  While I do believe Haltech makes good products, I do feel that I have obtained a proverbial "lemon".

Haltech may not appreciate what I have written here.  But they would be very hard pressed to find any inaccuracy in this write-up.  Sure, it doesn't paint a rosy picture of them.  But then, at this point, I don't have a rosy perception of them.   While I have not intentionally excluded any information that would otherwise misled readers,  I have omitted language which is personal or otherwise inflammatory in nature and does not pertain to resolution of my issues.   Furthermore, in addition to containing the accurate truth behind the saga of my E6K, I'm not deliberately trying to be deceitful towards Haltech.  I'm not relying on the definition of the word "is".  I simply want Haltech to (a) hear me and hear me good, (b) know that many folks interested in purchasing an EMS are anxious to see how well an E6K works on my car, (c) understand that at some point, they must assume responsibility for their products, (d) work with me towards a win-win solution, and respond favorably to What I Want.

Please know that I whole-heartedly disliked writing this article.  Like myself, I hope you reserve judgment until Haltech has played their hand.  I don't plan to let grass grow under this issue.  If Haltech fails to deliver a win-win solution by noon CST, Friday, September 8th, the ball will return to my court and I'll make my next move down at the courthouse.

The Players The Purchase The Installation The Diagnosis
The Current Issue What I Want Other Comments The Ending
My Final Verdict

The Players Top

The players are:

1. Me, purchaser of the Haltech E6K.
2. Alamo Autosports (Chris Cross and Brice Yingling)
Haltech USA - Representatives in the USA for Haltech of Australia.  Haltech USA is represented by Thomas Dietz and Dell Barnett.
Haltech - Manufactures of the E6K engine management system located in Australia.  Herein, I refer to Haltech simply as "Haltech HQ", as representative of Haltech's headquarters and to distinguish between Haltech USA and Haltech HQ. 
Representing Haltech HQ is Justin Kerns and Adam Neish, and the owner, Bill Mitchell.

Purchase Top

On the strong recommendation of Brice, I bought the Haltech E6K from Alamo Autosports on November 30, 1999.  In the two years prior to making this purchase, I've worked with Brice and his team at Alamo Autosports and can confidently state that neither Brice nor anyone of Alamo's employees had ever led me astray.  In fact, they are all a very smart group of guys.  You can read more of my thoughts about Alamo here.

The unit I bought carried the s/n 0005.  And if that's not scary enough, a month after I received the unit, I was notified by Alamo that Haltech had recalled the E6K for some unknown, undisclosed reasons.  Apparently, Haltech only told their distributors that all E6Ks had to be returned to Haltech USA's office in Dallas for repair.  Ok, great.  At least they recalled the unit before I installed it.  So I shipped it to Alamo who delivered and picked it up from Haltech USA's office, and returned it to me within a week.  

Installation Top

The unit was installed in March 2000 by me.  At this time, I also installed four 720 cc/min low-impedance fuel injectors along with a custom fuel rail.  The electrical aspect of installation are quiet simple.  Five wires to the fuel injectors, three wires to the distributor, two wires to each of the air and water temperature sending units, a wire to the fuel pump, three wires to the throttle position sensor (TPS), three wires to the MAP sensor, the ignition wire to the Toyota ignitor, a wire to constant +12 vdc, a wire to a switched +12 vdc source, and a ground.  I know it sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but we're not talking rocket science.  We are talking wires, solder and a soldering iron, and loads of heat-shrink tubing.

Due to the brevity and inaccuracies in Haltech's documentation, I emailed Haltech HQ for assistance several times.  First, I needed help understanding my options for connecting the E6K to the ignition system and the distributor.  Secondly, I needed clarification on several wires in the E6K harness which were not of the color noted in the manual.  In both cases, Justin came through quickly with the information I needed.  Justin also helped clarify the wiring necessary to advance the firing of the fuel injectors by 90 degrees, since the software does not offer this offset adjustment.  However, whereas communicating with Haltech HQ was quick and hassle-free, Haltech USA would prove otherwise.

Painful Experience #1.  Once the E6K was installed, I connected my laptop only to find that I could not communicate with the unit.  What?  A new unit that's DOA?  Well, I did what most people would do, I rechecked the serial cable connections on both the E6K and the laptop.  In the process of doing so, I noticed the Haltech software indicated a live connection for a few seconds, then go dead again.  Whenever the Haltech software cannot communicate with the E6K, it places a "RECONNECT HALTECH" message on the screen.  With this on-screen indicator, I determined that the serial port would function depending upon the placement of the wires in the wiring loom where it connects to the E6K.  Oh brother.  A temporary short/open situation.  So I ended up opening the E6K's wiring loom and large 50-some-odd connector to ohm-out the wiring for the serial port.  All wiring tested OK for good continuity, and with the open connector, the serial ports was almost always reliable.  I figured, "Ok, if I can just bundle-up and tape these wires back together while taining a functional serial port, I'll be set."   So that's what I did.  I could not make the serial port function 100% of the time, but pretty close to it.  And when it failed to function, a little jiggling with the connector where it plugs into the E6K is generally all that was needed to regain a functional serial port.

Painful Experience #2.  During installation of the E6K, I wanted to retain the use of the factory Toyota idle speed controller (ISC) which is mounted to the bottom-side of the throttle-body so that the E6K could tain a consistent idle.  So, I email Haltech HQ and enquired about this issue.  Justin quickly informed me that I needed to fabricate a simple circuit to allow the E6K to function with the Toyota ISC.  Great!  Justin further informed me that Haltech supplied an electrical component that I needed in this circuit, and that I should contact Alamo or Haltech USA for the component.  With this info, I called Alamo who had not a clue what I was talking about so they referred me to contact Dell at Haltech USA.  So, I called Haltech USA to speak with Dell.  After a few phone calls, I finally connected with Dell.  I explained to him that I wanted to use the factory ISC and that Justin of Haltech HQ had emailed me a circuit diagram and told me to contact Haltech USA for the component I needed for the circuit.  I could not believe what I heard over the next ten minutes.  During this time, Dell proceeded to tell me that "we don't do that over here.  Only those people overseas with foreign cars do that (as in make use of the ISC)".  He told me of countless racers that don't use the ISC on their race car and that it was dumb and stupid to believe I needed to retain the use of the ISC on my car.  It was as if my want to use the ISC had somehow insulted him personally.  At that point, he was not aware that I was, in fact, working with one of those "foreign cars" as he put it.  Suffice to say, I was taken aback by this conversation.  So, I email Justin with Dell's comments.  I also told Alamo of this "discussion".  It was a few days later when I received a phone call from Alamo indicating that Haltech USA had sent over not one but two of the components I needed, and at no charge.  I recall thinking, "hmmm..   Ok...."   I figured that there might be some element of truth in Dell's comments about not needing the ISC with the Haltech E6K, so I resolved to continue the installation without building the circuit or connecting the Haltech to the ISC with the thought that I will build the circuit and implement the ISC if needed.  This was certainly good information from Dell about the ISC, but the delivery leaves something to be desired.  Given the brief time that the E6K was somewhat operational, I doubt the ISC will be needed.  Only time will tell for certain.

Running on two cylinders.  Once I was able to start the engine, the E6K did not perform as advertised.  For a then unknown reason, the fuel injectors for cylinder 1 and 2 were not receiving a signal to fire from the E6K.   After many calls to both Haltech USA and Haltech HQ, it was determined that the E6K was unable to properly implement sequential firing of the fuel injectors.  Haltech USA recommended switching to batch firing, but I explained that one of the reasons Brice touted the E6K so much was the fact that it could fire the injectors in sequential mode.  So, after more phone calls and emails to Haltech HQ, Haltech admitted there was a bug in the firmware and they emailed me a patch which was to cure the flaw.  The patch entailed two files, a DOS executable, FIRMUPD1.EXE, and a binary file, E6KSEQU.BIN, which is the patch.  So, I uploaded the patch.  After that point, the Haltech would no longer fire neither the spark plugs or the fuel injectors.  In other words, the engine no longer ran at all, much less on two cylinders.  Take one step forward and three steps backward.

Diagnosis Top

For the next six to eight weeks, I reviewed every possible aspect of this installation up one side and down the other.  I called Alamo countless times to discuss various theories and both phoned and emailed both Haltech USA and Haltech HQ for assistance.  It made absolutely no sense to either myself or Alamo that the car ran (albeit, on two cylinders) prior to installing the patch to cure the sequential fuel injection firmware bug.   During this time, both Haltech USA and Haltech HQ sent me one "try this" after another.  You know, the usual, "it is plugged in?"   "is it on?"  "is it receiving +12 vdc power?"  The basics.  Ok, I understand they don't know me from the man in the moon, and they needed to cover these questions to say they did.  But, once they ran out of suggestions, they basically stopped responding to my calls and emails.  I don't know what they were thinking. 

During this six to eight week period, I pulled my hair out trying to determine the root cause for why the E6K had stopped functioning.  Clearly, it was no longer firing neither the spark plugs nor fuel injectors.  So, in discussion with both Haltech USA and Haltech HQ, the general consensus was that the E6K was not receiving a signal from the distributor.  As a result, I focused on the distributor wiring, and the software settings of the E6K relating to the distributor.  As I had done with all other E6K wiring, I checked the wiring to the distributor to make sure that each wire ohmed-out for good continuity.  While I found no faulty wiring or cold solder joints with my ohmmeter, anyone who's chased electrical problems knows that just because a wire ohms-out, does not mean the wire is good.

During review of the software settings, I compared the settings in the file Justin had originally sent me via email during my initial install.  When he sent me the file, he said that the file contained the configuration from an E6K that was recently fitted in a Toyota GT-Four in Australia.  Ok, fine, cool.  I always appreciate helpful tidbits of info from folks and a map from another GT-Four would be a good starting point.  however, upon closer inspection, I noticed that  both the home and trigger inputs were set to Hall-Effect and not Reluctor.   This gave me the sneaky suspicion that something was not right.  I asked Justin about this, to which he said that the file was not truly a file from an actually running GT-Four, but something that he mocked together on the workbench that he though would be close to what the aforementioned GT-Four needed.  

So after many weeks of getting nowhere fast, I shipped the defunct E6K to Haltech USA.  Dell said he checked out the unit on his work bench and said that it functioned well.  Come to find out, Haltech USA does not have any sort of testing jig on a workbench upon which to validate the operation of the EMSs.   Dell explained to me that he had "tested" this unit on another car, and since it worked on another car, it was a good unit.  I questioned Dell about how testing on a domestic V8 with hall-effect senders in the distributor could possibly verify correct operation of both (a) sequential injection on a 4 cyl and (b) the E6K internal reluctor adapter?  I don't recall Dell answering my questions.

Ever heard of a $300 tow?  After checking everything another 47 times  --- the wiring, the manual, the wiring, the manual again, the various emails I had received from Haltech HQ---  I finally threw-up my hands in frustration and sent a final email to Haltech HQ about having Dell from Haltech USA review the installation and determine what was keeping the E6K from operating.  At that point, I secured a ride aboard a flatbed wrecker, at my expense for $300, to take the car to Alamo Autosports facility in Arlington.  Once at Alamo's shop, Dell could easily and quickly diagnose the problem.  If it was something I had performed or wired incorrectly, I'd eat crow, as they say, and chalk this up to a $300 learning experience.  Unfortunately, this was not to be the case.

Once the car arrived at Alamo, Chris Cross looked over the install and could find no reason why the engine should not run.  Chris is a seasoned Haltech installer and tuner.  He knows the Haltech E6S and E6K like the back of his hand.  So, when he said that I has installed it correctly, I felt confident that I had, in fact, installed it correctly.

Haltech to the rescue, kind of.  Finally, Dell arrives at Alamo's shop late Friday night, May 19, 2000, and quickly diagnosed the problem.  The action he took was to install a pair of MSD 8209 ignition stabilizers between the distributor and the E6K.  He said that it was common for Haltech ECUs to not read reluctor pick-ups very well, so these MSD 8209 converted the distributor's reluctor outputs to hall-effect outputs, which the Haltech ECUs can reliably read and process.   With the MSD 8209s and the E6K configured to look for hall-effect signals from the distributor, the engine instantly came to life.  

Net-Net.   After all the emails and phone calls during the previous six to eight weeks I was trying to get the car going with the E6K in my garage, with Haltech telling me that I was dumb and didn't know what I was doing, the problem was with the Haltech E6K itself and not the installation.  And it took me spending $300 for a tow to Dallas in order to prove that to Haltech.  After the dust settled, Haltech offered to reimburse me for the $300 tow charge, but I have yet to receive any remuneration.  Heck, the E6K unit they installed in The Shuttle while in Dallas was not even the E6K that I purchased.  It had a higher serial number.  

That makes one recall for an unknown issue, a bug in the operation of sequential mode, and faulty reluctor adapters.  The recall is no biggie.  Even software bugs and components that don't work are no biggie ... as long as the company admits "yes, we have a problem and we're working on it."   This hiding behind a wall of denial is what irritates me to no end.  Instead, Haltech admits to the problem only after I have proven it to them.   After we got the car running, Dell and me went to dinner where he shared an issue or two with me regarding the operation of Haltech USA and Haltech HQ.  I'm not going to go into the details, but what he told me was very disconcerting and does not exude faith and confidence in Haltech as an organization.  I do hope that they correct the issue Dell shared with me so that Haltech can grow to the next level.   

Other Comments Top

Even a Haltech employee, Thomas, in the Haltech USA office in Dallas, Texas, admits that he experienced flaky, unexplained operation from the E6K in his vehicle.  On September 5th, he told me in a telephone conversation that he frequently has to disconnect and reconnect the battery in his car in order to get his E6K back to operating.  To him, this is something that he dislikes doing, but he sees no other choice other than to remove the E6K from his car.  As a Haltech employee, I doubt he wants to do this.

Dell, another Haltech USA employee mentioned previously, told me back in May 2000 after I had had my car towed to Dallas that Haltech HQ in Australia does not communicate well with him about problems with the products.  So, he is left to his own devices to perform his job of helping Haltech customers.  That is how he explains the use of the MSD 8209 Ignition Stabilizers as a way to get the Haltech products working.  He said he has recommended the use of these MSD parts to many tuners other than Alamo.

What I Want Top

The time for making the E6K work properly in the shuttle is over.  I want a refund.  

However, before getting to this point, I would have accepted the following from Haltech:

1. a new (not refurbished or rebuilt) E6K unit - Adam mentioned to me that they've sold over 1600 E6Ks so I want a unit with a serial number of at least 1600.
2. a new wiring harness - so hopefully the intermittent serial port will function properly all the time.
3. an agreement in writing that the one-year warranty of the E6K will start when I give the "ok" that it's installed and working as it should.
4. reimbursement of $370.91 - itemized: $300 for towing charge to haul car to Dallas in Mary 2000; $10.91 for UPS shipping of product to Haltech USA on September 6, 2000; and $60 to have the car towed home from Toyolex (they decided that since their transmission repair was complete, I needed to take the car home.)   I'd like to received reimbursement of another couple hundred dollars in expenses, but I know I would not be able to provide receipts for (a) the hotel costs incurred while I had to stay over-night in Dallas, (b) and gas for the drive to Dallas in my other car, (c) UPS shipping costs when I had to return the unit to Dallas for the recall shortly after purchasing it, and (d) the numerous phone calls to Australia.

The Current Issue Top

The current issue is the E6K is completely dead.  But there is light at the end of the tunnel.  That light is a fast approaching EMS from another company, Autronic!

September 19 - I called Haltech HQ and was notified that the owner, Bill, has delegated the processing of my refund to Thomas Dietz in the Haltech USA office.  So, a phone call to him is in order for tomorrow morning.  Thrilling.

September 12 - The order has been placed for the Autronic SMC system, along with a Bosch wide-band O2 sensor and the Autronic Exhaust Gas Analyzer Model A.   The parts should arrive within a week.  The installation party is set for the weekend of Sept 30 & Oct 1.  Let me know via email if you want to come join the fun!  "Too Cool" Tyler already has his ticket!

September 11 - I scanned in the invoices for the E6K, wrote the attached letter to Haltech, and emailed it to both Haltech AU and Haltech USA.  

That means.....  the switch is on, from the Haltech E6K to an Autronic SMC, the identical unit Dennis Heath has on his GT4.

September 10 - Sunday evening in the US is Monday morning in Sydney, Australia, so I called them to inform them of my decision to return the E6K and request a refund.  While Adam Neish was disappointed but very understanding.

Words simply cannot express the extreme disappointment I feel regarding the E6K.  I'm both excited and generally PO'd at the same time, excited to have made the decision to pursue a product from a company that *wants* my business, and PO'd at Haltech as a result of the many, many, many, you have no idea how many hours I have put into the E6K, learning about the unit, how it operates, how the s/w functions, wiring the car for it.  Heck, I was pretty psyched about the E6K even though it was operable in the shuttle for a whopping week and a half since I purchased it on Nov. 30, 1999.  Thankfully, most of the wiring I fabricated for the Haltech E6K is readily usable with the Autronic.

I wish to express a big heartfelt thanks to Dennis for his tireless responses to my more than annoying and persistent questioning... he probably thinks it was more of an interrogation. ;-)  While I could have gone with a Motec, I was very impressed with Dennis' web page explaining how he installed his SMC, and his answers to my questions about his experiences with his SMC unit, and Autronic as a company.  With Dennis' words of wisdom., and the responses from Ray Hall himself to my questions regarding features, possible configurations (can you say "direct fire with four coils"?  pant pant!), and other explanations regarding the SM2's various options, I feel a switch from the Haltech E6K to the Autronic is the right thing to do.

September 7 - The Shuttle was towed home today from ToyoLex.  Since I could not give ToyoLex any idea when Haltech would provide a new E6K, they suggested that I tow the car home to free-up a service bay (they keep my car inside at night.)  As of 5:45 pm, I had not heard from Haltech USA, so I called them and spoke to Dell.  He said that he received the unit yesterday and has been "too busy" to look at it.  I reviewed the symptoms with him, and he said that he was "hoping" to look at it this evening before leaving for the day.  I gave him my phone number and asked him to call me when he knew something.  I don't know how long I will let Haltech string me along.  At some point, I'll forego a replacement E6K, request a refund, and switch to something else.  Can you say, "Hello Autronic / MoTeC"??   More than likely, that's the route I'll go.  

September 6 - I received an email from Adam indicating that Bill Mitchell (the owner of Haltech) was not interested in discussing the problem with me (not in so many words), and that he had turned the issue over the Thomas and Dell at Haltech USA.  Personally, I would think that the owner of a company would like to hear from not-so-happy customers, especially a customer that's help identify bugs in a new product.  To me, this doesn't sound like a customer-oriented company, nor a company with a focus on customer service.  The prevailing attitude of the person at the top of a company typically filters down through the ranks to permeate throughout all layer of the company.  This certainly appears to be the case with respect to the folks at Haltech USA.

According to the UPS package tracking web site, the E6K arrived at Haltech USA at 11:02 am today, however, I have yet to hear from them.  Given the elevated aspect of this issue, I would tend to believe they would want to expedite a speedy resolution but this appears not to be the case.

September 5 - At about 3pm CST, I received a phone call from Thomas of Haltech USA.  He was calling to request that I ship the unit to him.  Ok, it's shipped, UPS tracking number "1Z 773 E63 03 1030 703 2". 

At about 8pm CST, I called Haltech HQ in Australia and spoke with Adam.  He told me that he had received and forwarded my email to Bill Mitchell, the owner of Haltech.  I told Adam that I did not want to deal with the Haltech USA folks, since they were unfashionably rude and inhospitable to me when I was attempting to get Dell to look at my car in Dallas back in May.  And that was the reason I wanted to deal directly with Haltech HQ and would like to discuss the matter with the owner, Bill, himself.  Adam's parting comments was that he'd see if Bill would call me back before the end of the day (day in Australia or night here in the CST).   Unfortunately, Bill never called.  In fact, no one ever did.  

September 1 -  With the engine and trans installed in The Shuttle, I find the E6K completely dead.  By dead, I mean that it fails to fire the sparkplugs and fuel injectors, and I can get no life on the serial cable.  I brought the E6K to my house, connected it to my +12 vdc power supply and tested it with two different computers.  No luck.  Even with two different computers and two different serial cables, the unit is completely dead.  So I sent a somewhat terse email to Haltech USA and Haltech HQ informing them of the issue and asking for another unit.  I heard nothing from Haltech until September 5.

The Ending Top

Yes, I know this sounds like a bunch of whining.  To this, all I can say is be thankful you are not in my shoes.  How would you feel?   Would you throw away the defective E6K and switch to a Motec, Autronic, Accel, SpeedPro, or any of the countless other EMSs that are on the market?  Like me, you're probably want to get the E6K working, especially since the car is already wired for it.  And also like me, you'd likely be pretty tired of the BS and attitudes from the Haltech USA people. 

I don't know how this will end, but the ball is in Haltech's court.  All I've asked for is a new E6K (not a repaired or refurbished unit), a new harness, and a warranty to start when I give the "ok" that it's working properly.  That's all.   Thus far, Haltech has made no efforts to satisfy my above request.

Like they say, it's not over till the fat lady sings.  I believe Haltech is probably a very good, upstanding, reputable company, with all the growing pains of a global, growing company in a fiercely competitive industry.  I also feel that I got sold what we here in the states call a "lemon".  It's time for Haltech to do the right thing. 

My Final Verdict Top

September 6 - At this point, it's not looking favorable for the Haltech guys, or my E6K for that matter.  I send the E6K to Haltech Dallas but I have yet to hear from them as to the status.  Pending hearing anything else from either Haltech USA or Haltech HQ, I plan to switch to a different brand of EMS and subsequently file a lawsuit for false advertising and deceptive trade practices in order to secure a full refund, along with the $300 towing charge.

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