The tuning chip in the context of car tuning (ECU remap) is a modification of engine control software located in the central control unit (ECU, i.e. the computer,) of the engine. In the terminology of electronics a "chip" means an integrated circuit. Modification of the contents of the external program memory is the most frequent operation in engine controlling computers. The memory is usually located in an integrated circuit called Eprom or Flash memory. The contents of the micro-controller memory is sometimes modified too. In general, the philosophy behind the modification is not important for the results achieved – the most important is the careful development of the program, as well as its versatile modifications, rather than the method of feeding it into the ECU.
With respect to the results of the tuning, chips could be classified into two basic categories:
- tuning chips for cars with turbochargers or other type of forced induction,
- tuning chips for normally aspirated cars, i.e. without any forced induction.
Usually, a naturally aspirated (N/A) car might be tuned by approx. up to 8% of their power and 8-10% of the torque. Torque increase (at least highest torque gain) will be in most cases higher, than power gain. This is caused by common limitation of naturally aspirated engines – diameter of throttle body and thus – gain is higher for lower revs. Such modification is done by a modification of some fundamental parameters: fuel pressure, time of the beginning of dosage, ignition advance angle and the calibration map of the lambda probe. Some cars may improve significantly, whereas the modification of others is not possible at all. From the user's point of view it is sensible to combine mechanical and electronic modifications. If the modifications are well matched (e.g. a sports camshaft and a suitable tuning chip) the power gain can exceed 15% of the power and torque. Fuel consumption does not change or it decreases a little (as a result of the fact that a part of the power increase comes from the ignition advance, so it does not require more fuel).
Cars equipped with a turbocharger (both the diesel and petrol ones) can be tuned by 20% to 30%. In this case, apart from the parameters mentioned above, pressure characteristics of the turbine is modified (of course in turbo diesels the fuel injection angle is adjusted – not the ignition anticipation angle). The fuel consumption decreases by approx. 5% for turbo diesels and increases by approx. 10% for turbo petrol engines. Decrease of fuel consumption is caused by increasing overall efficiency of engine, usually by advancing ignition/injection angle and/or running with higher (but system-acceptable) fuel pressures.
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