What are Performance Chips
Racing or performance chips, What are they?
Chips are EPROM memory chips, which contain a program for running the engine computer. Performance chips are the same chips, but with changes made in parts of that program to somehow produce more power out of an engine. Please note that physical or electrical capabilities of a chip, like access time, voltage etc., though very important, don’t make a performance chip to give more power to the engine. What makes the extra power or performance are the mentioned modifications made to the program.
When we talk about “tuning”, the term originally refers to the carburetor engines. Tuning, mostly was about re-gaping the spark plugs, verifying or replacing the contact points of the ignition coil primary circuit, cleaning or calibrating the carburetor needles and so on. On modern cars, where the carburetor was replaced by an electronic fuel injection system commanded by an ECM or engine computer, the tuning is done in the engine computer by means of reprogramming its calibrations to take performance to the maximum. One last “tuning” concept is hitting the internet lately and it is about painting and remodeling your car’s appearance through a computer design program, but that has nothing to do with real tuning.
When we talk about tuning through a performance chip, the chip will be an exact copy of the factory engine management program (software), except for some areas that will be modified to optimize the performance of a given engine or to accommodate mechanical modifications like cold air intake, better exhaust, a boost system like Turbo or Supercharger or even the use of nitrous oxide to mention a few examples. There are also change done to the chip for things not oriented to performance, like correcting the speedometer when installing larger diameter rims.
A performance chip can be made even for engines in stock conditions for some sort of a fine tuning. Engine computers come from factory with generic programs developed and tested on a prototype vehicle and used in a complete line of assembly of vehicles without further testing. The thing is that every engine is different. Even if we compare two same model engines, we will be able to measure slight variations on one engine from the other. This will be more accurate the more the engine is used, because two engines will not wear the same way, nor at the same rate.
Also, about stock engines, you may be able to obtain a little more power than usual with a performance chip even if no modifications are done to the engine. This is true because dealers sell brand new cars with less engine power than they are capable of, because of several reasons. The main reasons are emission standards and economy, but also durability of an engine (warranty). Emission standards are enforced by the government and it is a most, as the vehicle will not even hit the market if it is found not to be emissions compliant.Changes made on a chip
As mentioned earlier, an exact copy of the stock software is made and then some modifications are done, depending on the purpose and needs.
The modified areas include “Fuel Maps”, “Ignition Maps”, “Air Flow Maps (MAF)”, RPM limiters (Revlimiter), Vehicle Speed Limiters (Speed Governor), the EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation), Variable valve timing (VVT-i, VTEC, MiVEC, Vanos, etc.) and some sensors like “Knock Sensors”, “Oxygen Sensors”, “Barometric Pressure Sensors” and “Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP) Sensors”.
The person who is trained and successfully makes all these changes to the car computer program is called a “Tuner”. The job is called either “Chiptuning”, “Tuning” or “Chipping”. A tuner must know what he or she is doing in order to “squeeze” the most power out of an engine without putting the engine at more than moderate risk.Protected Chips
Since the experimentation and development of good and effective performance chips take a lot of time, effort and knowledge, and the means to do it are often very expensive and exclusive, performance chips are often protected to avoid illegal or unauthorized copies.
This illegal and immoral activity is being continuously done by people who want to do a few bucks out of other’s hard work and investments. This, not only is unethical, but hurts the market. Imagine of a group of people investing thousands of dollars developing a product and cutting costs the most they can, so the product can be sold at a competitive price. Now imagine the same product, being copied (stolen) by another people who haven’t invested a penny on the project, selling it at a small fraction of the price just to attract most of the buyers. The market value for that product will quickly fall and sales will not collect enough capital to support more development or even keep the Company operative.
To avoid the above situation, many chip developers have had to invest even in another product, which of course, will raise even more the product’s final price. That other product is the “anti-copy” socket in combination with an encrypted chip to successfully protect the chip contents.No-chip car computers
Many modern engine computers don’t provide a factory or stock chip to be replaced, neither a spot where to install one. Also, most OBD-II cars (1996 and up), use different systems on their ECM and tuning is possible only by the diagnostic port or by replacing a soldered chip which is different in architecture, needing special tools for the job.