- Chip tuning in the engine
- What is chip tuning
- Factory settings for engine operation
- Why chip a car?
- What motors can be chip
- How do cars chip?
- Pros of chip tuning
- Cons of chip tuning
- Should I chip the engine
- How much does chip tuning cost?
- What happens to the dealer's warranty
The concept of a "chip for a car" appeared after car manufacturers transferred control over key car systems to an ECU (ECU) - an electronic engine control unit. It is an on-board computer that regulates the fuel supply, air supply, ignition timing and other characteristics.
Of course, the "craftsmen" figured out how to make their own software for the ECU, which corrects the engine parameters. What is it for and what are the consequences of such an intervention? You will find answers to these questions in this overview.
Chip tuning is a replacement for the ECU program, in order to adjust the baseline indicators of the engine. Actually, due to this, the promised improvement in performance is achieved.
If earlier specialists had to mechanically re-solder a factory chip for a car on their own, now it is a matter of "little blood". You just need to change the firmware using special software and a laptop by connecting them to the OBD II connector.
According to specialized experts, tuning the chip allows you to remove some of the restrictions imposed by the factory software, for a noticeable improvement in engine performance.
Factory settings for engine operation
At the stage of creation internal combustion engines the effect of different settings on the efficiency and service life of the power unit is analyzed. Modern cars are equipped with sophisticated electronic devices that prevent the engine from running to its limit.
Dozens of engineers with many years of experience are working on the development of such schemes. As a result, cars come off the assembly line with settings that meet state standards and have optimal characteristics.
The electronic control unit regulates the amount of gasoline and air, controls the spark supply time and other parameters that affect the efficiency of the internal combustion engine. These settings are programmed at the factory and determined to be optimal.
Determining the boundaries of the engine's operation, manufacturers start from whether the car will comply with environmental standards or not. If they do not comply, then such machines will not receive certification and will not be released for sale. Or the manufacturer will need to pay additional taxes for the manufacture of such vehicles. In accordance with these requirements, the firmware of the control unit is programmed with certain restrictions that affect the maximum power output of the unit.
This is just one reason for the default motor settings. Here are a few more:
- Marketing move. The car market requires models with different power ratings. It is much cheaper for a manufacturer to set limits on an ECU than to create a new motor. Thanks to this, the client buys a car with a "modernized" engine and happily pays a little more for such changes.
- The power reserve is necessary to reduce the incidence of customer calls for warranty repairs.
- The ability to upgrade the model range. To incentivize customers to buy restyled models, in addition to design changes, manufacturers "expand" the capabilities of power units, completing with improved air filters, intercoolers, more powerful fuel pumps or modified catalysts. Such changes are made without the need for a new engine.
For obvious reasons, many drivers are in no hurry to upgrade their cars in this way, fearing the consequences. To determine whether the "game is worth the candle", consider all the pros and cons. So, the advantages of chipping the "brains" of the car:
- Saving. Chip tuning will cost the driver much less than mechanical changes in the engine design or the intake-exhaust system.
- Improved performance. Companies that are engaged in reconfiguring the engine control unit promise their customers various benefits: increased engine power, reduced fuel consumption and reduced noise.
- Customization flexibility. Of several firmware options, the vehicle owner is offered to choose the most optimal one for his specific needs.
- Process reversibility. If we talk about mechanical modernization, then, in this case, a specialist cuts the combustion chambers, increasing their volume. Chip tuning against this background looks safer, as it allows you to roll back to the factory settings at any time.
These are the advantages that you will certainly be told in a specialized service center. However, it is worth remembering the associated risks. We will consider them a little later.
What motors can be chip
Almost all engines that run under the control of an ECU, both gasoline and diesel, are chipped. Considering the difference in the principle of fuel supply and its ignition, the tuning procedure will also be different.
- Gasoline engine. Chip tuning for such a unit will cost less than for a diesel analogue. The main procedure includes reprogramming the controller software. The main task of this type of modernization is to increase the thrust of the internal combustion engine at medium and high speeds, and at low speeds - to leave it unchanged as much as possible. This tuning will increase the dynamics of the car when overtaking.
- Diesel engine. Chipping such an internal combustion engine is a more laborious and expensive process. In addition to reprogramming, it is required to install a different fuel pump (should produce more pressure) and injectors that could withstand the increased head. In addition to the increase in power, such motors are chip-based to increase torque at low revs. This modernization is often done by owners of full-fledged SUVs in order to improve the characteristics of the car for offroad races.
More "recoil" from chip tuning is felt on turbocharged engine modifications. If there is an aspirated engine under the hood, then the effect of the modernization will be noticeable on volumetric internal combustion engine... For small-displacement modifications without turbocharging, software chipping will not be enough (an increase of only up to 10 hp), therefore, additional equipment is required.
Motors with a small volume, depending on the installation of non-standard equipment, can be chip with different firmware levels:
- The first level (stage-1) is sufficient for the factory settings of the engine operation, but with the installation of an improved exhaust and an intercooler, the car receives a power increase of up to 50% from the factory settings.
- The second level is used for flashing the "brains" of the car, in which the catalyst has been removed, an intercooler and a more efficient intake system are installed. The increase in power with these settings is from 30 to 70 percent.
- The third level is stitched onto the car's ECU, in which the previous modifications were made and a productive turbine was installed. An addition of 70-100% is observed to the standard power.
Such data are indicated by many car tuning workshops. However, to achieve real performance without interfering with the design of the motor, this increase cannot be achieved.
How do cars chip?
There are two options for chip tuning: replacing the software in the controller or by connecting additional equipment. Common external devices include:
- Booster accelerator (Pedal Booster). Installed in the electronic pedal circuit (if the car has such a system). The principle of operation is that the signal coming from the accelerator is processed in the device and is increased. In fact, the characteristics of the motor do not change. Rather, the pedal sensitivity changes at the very beginning, but when the signal from the gas pedal reaches the maximum that the auxiliary device can produce, the engine response does not change. Auto becomes sharper with minimal pressure, but at the end there is no response at all.
- ChipBox or "trick". Also called PowerBox or TuningBox. It is a small electronic unit that connects to the sensor connector. Its purpose is to change the signal going to the ECU. For example, on a diesel engine, the fuel rail sensor signals the required pressure of 100 bar. The chipbox changes the signal (20 percent less), as a result of which the ECU determines that the pressure in the rail is 20 bar less, therefore, it signals the pump to increase the head by 20%. As a result, the pressure is not 100, but 120 bar. The controller does not see the "substitution", so it does not give an error. However, an error may occur due to a mismatch in other parameters, for example, during "standard" operation, fuel consumption has increased or the lambda probe signals a rich mixture. For gasoline engines with a turbine, such "tricks" are placed on the turbocharger sensor. The device underestimates the performance of the system, from which the turbine "accelerates" to the limit. This tuning causes the motor to run at an unsafe level, which can lead to damage.
- Additional controller (PiggyBack). A control unit that connects between the car's wiring and the ECU. It is used extremely rarely and only in the case of major modifications that a standard control unit could not cope with.
- StandAlone. Another alternative control unit, which is installed instead of the standard one. It is used only for sports tuning and requires an understanding of the little things in the operation of the motor, as well as other systems with fine settings.
Modernization of the standard ECU without interfering with its software is impossible. Here's how the procedure goes.
Stages of tuning work
Outwardly, the work looks like this:
- the computer is connected to the service connector of the control unit;
- old firmware is removed;
- new software is being uploaded.
In fact, the procedure can be performed in different ways, depending on the model of the control unit, its protection and the equipment that the master uses. Most often, the computer is connected via the OBD diagnostic connector. In some cases, the ECU is removed and connected to the computer through the connectors to which the car's wiring is connected. There are also controllers that are stitched only after parsing (the wires are connected to the contacts on the board itself).
It is not recommended to perform this type of upgrade yourself. It is better to entrust this to professionals who have the skills and knowledge of the intricacies of this procedure. If there is a desire to exercise, then this must be done on the control unit that is planned to be replaced.
Chip tuning equipment
Special equipment is required to complete the upgrade procedure. If it is not possible to connect the car to a service computer, then any laptop with a program for flashing the control unit and a service connector (for connecting to the "brains" of the car) is suitable.
First, the program for changing the parameters of the ECU must be installed on the computer. Then the old controller firmware is removed through the service connector and a new one is installed instead.
It is extremely important to use the correct software when performing this procedure, otherwise irreparable damage will be done to the power unit (or sensors). In some cases, this does not come to this, because the wrong firmware degrades the efficiency of the engine, and the motorist looks for another service to find out the reasons.
There are three categories of programs used for engine chip tuning.
- "Custom". A "draft" version is installed and modified for the parameters of a particular car, based on the test results. Due to the scrupulous selection of parameters, such firmware is effective only if it is installed by professionals who really understand the intricacies of system settings for the power unit.
- "Canned food". A ready-made file, or template, for specific car brands. Such firmwares are created based on user feedback and are stored in the database of the tuning company. When the owner of the same car applies for chipping, the required program is already available. The modernization process in this case is accelerated.
- Certified programs from manufacturers. Understanding the limits of operation of a particular engine, automakers offer their programs for chip tuning that will not harm the engine. It should be noted that not every brand provides this service. Also, not all manufacturers have their own tuning ateliers. Such programs will cost more than third-party counterparts, but they are more reliable.
Example of certified software: for Audi – ABT; для Mercedes - Brabus and AMG; for BMW - Alpine and the like. You can often find a "budget" version of such programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. In this case, how lucky. Someone suits, and someone after such modernization takes the car for repair.
Pros of chip tuning
So, does what they promise in the service centers specializing in engine chips correspond to reality?
By changing the default settings, the car can be made more economical. Of course, almost no one uses this option, because it affects the dynamics of the car downward. Reducing fuel consumption can be achieved in other waysthat do not require large waste.
Mostly chip tuning is used to increase engine power. If the procedure is performed by experienced professionals and using competent software, then the dynamics of the vehicle really increases. Without the installation of additional equipment and intervention in the design of the unit, the power of the internal combustion engine cannot be increased by 30-40%. And more productive equipment will make it possible to make a frisky car at the start and a dynamic car when overtaking from an ordinary car.
Despite the pros that are advertised by those involved in the modernization of cars, this procedure has many disadvantages.
When deciding on chip tuning, think about the fact that manufacturers have a huge scientific and technical base for designing car systems and a whole staff of highly qualified specialists is working on this task. Any adjustments in the ECU are thoroughly tested, and only if they pass, the changes are allowed in mass production. But, even with all this in mind, a defect may be found in the car and it is recalled. Companies that are engaged in engine chip tuning are physically unable to provide a solution for each car model separately and are forced to make do with programs with averaged parameters. Of course, you cannot be sure that the software offered to you has been tested before. In most cases, it is simply unprofitable for such service centers.
Please note that an incorrect chip can cause damage not only to the ECU, but also to the engine itself. Some, to calm the driver, simply turn off the error notification function, and the owner drives like this, unaware of the problem, until the car stalls. What costs it is fraught, probably, every car owner guesses. By the way, you shouldn't count on warranty repair either.
In addition, motor chipping may have other disadvantages:
- valves burn out (due to an overly enriched mixture);
- overheating of the motor;
- the catalyst will melt;
- engine detonation;
- the increased torque spoils the gearbox, which is designed for lower loads.
Not all of these problems will necessarily appear as a kit. It all depends on the car model and the quality of the parts experiencing strong overloads.
Should I chip the engine
Determining this issue, each car owner should be aware of what the increase in engine power of his car is fraught with, and is he ready to take such risks. There will be much more problems if you perform tuning yourself, experimenting with firmware, or when performing the procedure in questionable workshops.
Competent chipping will be performed by specialists in branded ateliers, but you will have to spend a decent amount for such a service. Whether it is worth spending money to strengthen the motor by 15-20 horses is up to every car owner. It is worth remembering: in addition to paying for the modernization of a car, it will have to be serviced and repaired more often, and this is also a waste.
Chip prices vary within a fairly wide range. If you entrust the job to a garage master, you can get off with a hundred dollars. Specialized services that approach the process in a more systematic and thoughtful way can request more than one thousand dollars. For this money, they will conduct preliminary diagnostics and subsequent tests of the car, preventing breakdowns and increased engine wear.
It is also worth noting that some official dealers also offer car chips. However, it is too superficial, and consists in adjusting only a few ECU parameters and does not provide the driver with tangible results. But the cost of such a service will be very high.
Note that you can also chip a car yourself by downloading the appropriate software from the Internet. Although it will be free, it is very dangerous for the engine, since the reliability of such software is in question.
What happens to the dealer's warranty
When the factory software is flashed, this is revealed in rare cases. During routine maintenance, the dealer does not scan the software for tampering. The main attention is paid to the technical part - changing oils and filters, checking the main car systems. In some steps, the ECU errors are reset.
If the dealer notices that non-standard software has been installed, then it is changed to the factory one. Changing software settings is not a reason for denial of service. What's more, some car dealers offer updated firmware themselves.
If there is a concern that the official representative may refuse to service the warranty car, then you can go for a little trick. Before going to the service center, some motorists install back the factory software.
There are several myths about chip tuning:
- Myth-1 - some people believe that chipping means installing another chip in the control unit. In fact, the program that controls the operation of the motor and other related systems is changing. No physical changes are made;
- Myth-2 - after reflashing, fuel consumption becomes higher. In reality, everything depends on the software. Some programs actually increase the "gluttony" of the engine, but at the same time its power increases by increasing the permissible speed and other parameters. Most of the programs optimize the operation of the internal combustion engine so that, on the contrary, it consumes less fuel;
- Myth-3 - the installed non-standard firmware “flies” and the factory settings are returned. In fact, if the control unit has been flashed, then the factory firmware by itself never returns, since it is completely erased before installing the new software. The principle is similar to recording a computer flash drive - if information was once recorded, it does not go anywhere without assistance;
- Myth-4 - after chip tuning, you can drive on fuel with a lower octane number. The octane number is directly related to the compression ratio of the internal combustion engine. Each engine has its own compression ratio, therefore, the fuel is selected precisely for this parameter. The firmware never changes the compression ratio. The higher it is, the higher the octane number should be. SJ changes only after intervention in the design of the motor;
- Myth-5 - an increase in power in an atmospheric engine up to 30 percent. In reality, without changing the physical parameters of the internal combustion engine without turbocharging, the power increases by a maximum of 10 percent. But this also fits into the concept of "up to thirty%".
It should be understood that chipping a car is associated with a number of risks that the driver consciously assumes. If you decide to take this step, then it is better to contact specialized and renowned service centers. Of course, they also have nothing to do with manufacturing plants, but at least they have more extensive experience. Also, large companies have equipment for testing a car before and after chipping, which significantly reduces the risk of negative consequences.
Pay attention to the cost of services. Remember, car chipping "brains" cannot be cheap. A low price tag indicates a low qualification of a specialist who is only "getting his hands on".