How does chiptuning work?
Every car is different and unique, so not every car can be tuned in the same way.
Based on the vehicle data, your chiptuner immediately knows which of the following chiptuning options is best suitable to send you on the road safely. And with with a lot of extra power or course.
Engine management chiptuning
If there is an electronically controlled injection and ignition, also called engine management (ECU), chiptuning is possible. The management system is the location where all the information from the engine comes in.
There are sensors in various places in the engine, that send information to the ECU. Chiptuning will interfene the standard data that is send to the ECU. With specialized software the amount of fuel that may be injected and at what time will be altered. This will result in a faster en more powerful car.
The latest ECUs must be expanded to bypass the anti-chiptuning protection (TPROT) and directly address the chips.
OBD tuning is one of the easiest ways of chiptuning, because nothing needs to be disassembled. OBD stands for On-Board Diagnostics. This is the diagnostic plug that is used by car mechanics to check for faults in the car.
The OBD connector is usually located somewhere in or under the dashboard. Also, with OBD tuning you or your chiptuner can easily change the tuning software back to the standard software. Some chiptuner brands even provide or sell a portable chiptuning device, with which you can load or override the tuning software yourself. The iSoftloader by Rica Engineering for example. By plugging in the OBD connector, it is possible to read and reprogram the software on the ECU. This is called ‘flashing’. The original software is first read, then adapted and reprogrammed into the memory of the ECU. This proces will take about an hour.
Due to the power gain, if you keep the same driving style as before, you could possibly save up to 5 to 10% fuel. But we can’t blame you if you want to use the extra power to step in that gaspedal, however this cancels out the fuel-saving effect.
With responsible tuning, the lifespan of an engine is not shortened. but only if the chiptuner has a lot of expertise and knows exactly what the differences are per engine power. For example, 90 hp and 110 hp TDI engines respectively look the same in terms of computer technology, but can differ in turbo, oil cooler, oil pump, intercool etc. Engine manufacturers do build in a considerable (mechanical) safety margin.
With modern ECU’s sometimes it isn’t possible to tune through the OBD port. These ECU’s are protected by the manufacturer against unwanted actions, such as chiptuning and are not yet “cracked”.
In that case the chiptuner will possibly remove the ECU and connected directly to the computer via the BDM port (Background Debugging Mode) that is located on the ECU itself.
In some cases a special connection has to be soldered to read the software. After the adjustment, the software is written to the ECU through this port. Understandably, this way of chiptuning takes a lot more work, precision and expertise and therefor is more error prone.
Another possibility to adjust the engine power is to weaken the values that the sensors send to the ECU, so that the ECU itself corrects these values. This method is also called power box tuning, tuning box, piggy-back tuning, bypass module, etc.
This power box weakens the actual sensor value. For example the turbo pressure is 1.0 bar, however the ECU “thinks” that the turbo pressure is let’s say 20% less or 0.8 bar. Because the ECU “knows” by means of a calculation that a turbo pressure of 1.0 bar is required at this point, the ECU will immediately adjust these values and increase the boost pressure to 1.0 bar. In reality, the turbo pressure is 1.25 bar, or 25% higher.
The same process can be applied to the injection pressure of, for example, a common rail engine. By presenting the injection pressure sensor with a lower value than the ECU had already calculated, the actual injection pressure is increased. The effect that occurs here is that the same injection quantity is burned in a shorter time. Therefore the combustion is shorter. As a result, the engine efficiency increases (read: more power), but so does the combustion temperature. A producer of this type of product will have to measure and process this in its power box, because too high temperatures can lead to higher emissions of nitrogen oxides.
Powerbox tuning has become more popular since 2010, because brands such as Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Seat, Koda and Mercedes can “see” whether a car is chip-tuned. After discovering this, a car is excluded from the manufacturer’s warranty. If a power box is removed, it leaves no traces, nor can the brand dealer read that a tuning was present. The consumer can also transfer a power box to a new vehicle to be purchased, which is impossible with chiptuning.
The accelerator tuning optimizes the response time of modern vehicles with an electronic throttle. By adjusting the accelerator pedal, the vehicle reacts much faster to incoming signals. Improved throttle response allows the driver to accelerate and overtake faster. No more lags in acceleration.
What do i choose?
Fortunately, you don’t have to make this choice. Your chiptuner of choice will decide which way of chiptuning best suits your vehicle, based upon the make/type of your vehicle and your engine. In most cases this will go through the ECU or OBD.