Performance Chip Work

Purpose of the Factory Chip

Modern car engines are controlled by a computer. These computers have a “chip” that tells the computer when and adjust your car’s timing, its fuel-to-air ratio, turbo boost and other things. Since automobile manufacturers must be competitive in fuel consumption, and comply with emissions and other regulations, they often reduce many of these settings.

Purpose of the Performance Chip

Performance chips, sometimes called superchips, are aftermarket chips that adjust these parameters, often increasing engine power and torque. Some performance chip makers claim their chips will increase gasoline engine power by up to 35 horsepower and beyond, and even more in a diesel engine.

How Performance Chips Operate

The factory chip in an automobile contains something referred to a lookup table. The lookup table contains data that tell the engine respond under various circumstances. For instance, if you are driving down the highway going 50 miles per hour and you quickly press the gas petal all the way to the floor, the computer will detect this and ask the chip what to do. The chip will refer to its lookup table and tell the computer how much gas to send to your engine, how and when to shift your car into a lower gear (in the case of an automatic), adjust the timing and how much turbo boost to provide, if your car is equipped with a turbo charger. In a factory chip, all of these parameters are dictated by the car manufacturer for its own purposes. When you put a performance chip in, this changes the lookup table and adjusts the parameters to give you the most performance without regard to fuel economy, emissions and other performance-reducing constraints.

Installation and Cost

Performance chips, or superchips, are very easy to install; usually you remove a cover under the dashboard and simply pull the factory chip out and replace it with the performance chip. These chips are specifically programmed for the model, make and engine type of each car and are readily obtained over the Internet. Major manufacturers are Unitronic, REVO, GIAC and APR, and the chips usually cost around $600. For the cost conscious, there are some chips costing less than $300. If you are considering installing a performance chip in your car, thoroughly research the available chips and make a well-informed selection because all chips are not equal.

Things to Consider

While performance chips can increase performance, there are downsides. Installing a performance chip in your car will void your warranty. Also, you should expect a reduction in fuel economy and an increase in emissions. If your state tests for emissions, installing a performance chip could increase your car emissions enough that it causes you to fail state emissions testing. Also, performance chips can sometimes increase the cost of your car insurance coverage. Additionally, if the new chip is not programmed properly, you could experience reduced engine life. However, the upsides are often significantly increased power and torque and increased engine response.