Performance Chips VS Flash Tuners – What’s the Difference and Which do I Need?

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DiabloSport Trinity T2 Tuner

We’ve got a saying around here that there’s more than one way to spin a tire. OK, I lied. I’m trying to make that a saying (it’ll stick any day now). But the point is that there is more than one way to get a job done, and there are pros and cons to everything. If you’re in the market for some sort of tune, you’ve probably seen a lot of terms thrown around and used interchangeably: Tuners, chips, programmers, in-line chips/tuners, flash tuners, modules, etc.

So what’s the deal here? Are these all the same thing? Which one is better for what application? What does it all mean?!?! Generally they accomplish pretty much the same goal, but the way they accomplish this and there are some pros and cons to each.

TL;DR

Flash Tuners/Programmers: Reprograms your engine’s computer with more aggressive mappings, and generally have multiple mappings available on the unit or to download.

In-line Modules/Chips: Sits in-line with the ECU to intercept the signals and modify them to make more power. These can be returned to stock just by removing the chip, and leave no footprint.

Want to go further in-depth on these and other related solutions? Read on below:

DiabloSport Tuning Instagram: cj_projectf150

Performance Tuners:

These are definitely more popular in the market these days, and probably have the most flexibility. Often times modern programmers come with displays you can mount to your dash or windshield that act as performance monitors and diagnostic displays. These can often be configured to act entire digital dashboards customizable with what gauges you want, along with in-depth trip computers, data logging, and various acceleration and lap timers.

Many of these tuners also have the ability to adjust automatic transmission shift points, have multiple mappings for different performance and economy levels, to accommodate different mods, and can even be updated over WiFi for updated firmware and tunes. Pretty wild, huh?

Bully Dog GT Platinum TunerBecause of all these added features, they are often more expensive, but we do also offer more stripped down programmers that literally just serve one function; to get you more power. Depending on what you drive, you have tons of choice.

In-line Modules/Chips:

One of the main advantages of in-line modules is just the simplicity of installing them, as well as the ability to remove them just as easily and leave no trace that the car was ever modified. Most of these chips do not have all the frills and added features that some of the programmers do, and are really just purpose built for power.

However, there are outliers, RaceChip offers smartphone connectivity with their Android/iPhone app to be able to adjust settings on the fly. Edge has a few solutions that incorporate dash mounted control panels that offer the same features that I talked about in the above section. Best of both worlds right there!

Throttle Controllers:

These throttle mapping tuners are gaining popularity quick, and with more and more manufacturers switching to electronic throttle control, these are only going to become more prevalent.

Hypertech React Throttle Optimizer Jeep JK JLBasically these give you control over your throttle mapping, essentially allowing you to replicate what some manufacturers build in as sport or towing modes, except with more adjustability. Many of these even let you dial back the throttle more than stock for fuel economy or for wet/icy conditions.

Giving options and more control back to the driver is never a bad thing in my book.

RaceChip BMW M2 GTS Black Tuner

12 COMMENTS

  1. Are these legal in the US (compliant with EPA emissions regulations). Do they increase emissions? The hint that some “leave no trace” seems to indicate that users have something to hide. Some companies were recently fined for selling tuners, so a discussion on the legality of these devices is warranted. Sellers of the devices, and possibly users, could also be fined, so it would be good to know how the devices comply with any applicable regulations.

    • Hey Brian,

      All the tuners we sell are US federal emissions legal, but not all are 50-state CARB certified. The “leave no trace” systems are more of an aid for maintaining your factory warranty than being an emissions concern.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  2. What is the best
    For my 2004 Dodge Dakota SLT 4.7 Crew Cab. 90+K miles.
    Only upgrades, K&N cold air intake and Dynomax 2 to 1 exhaust.

    • Hi Jude,

      I would recommend a set of headers to open up that 4.7 next. After that a wider diameter throttle body would be my next choice.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  3. I have a 2015 Chevy Camero SS i am looking for the best way to bump it up to get the best performance from it. What would you start with and mabe the next few steps. My wife and I both love this car but don’t challenge her if you’re not ready cause she is. Thanks

    • Hey Neal,

      I would say a catback exhaust and headers would be the best place to start. If you want a big bump in power, a supercharger would be the best choice for a bolt-on solution. Unfortunately without a whole lot of mods, a tuner isn’t going to do much for you.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  4. I have a 2020 Chevy Silverado with the 2.7 turbocharged 4 banger , I love this engine, but I would like a little more power, I’m having a hard time of finding anything for it any suggestions

    • Hey Scott,

      The best gains you can get from a turbo without major modification would be from a software tune. Since these are brand new, it doesn’t look like there are any available on the market yet, but I think you best bet would be to wait for those.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  5. What mods do you recommend for a 2020 dodge ram 1500 quad? I have kn cold intake n a throttle control right now. Second question i just purchased a tuner does that help with throttle control? Should I return my throttle control?

    • Hey Claudio,

      Are you not happy with the throttle controller? I like to think of them as kind as adding an aftermarket sport or towing mode to make your throttle more responsive, as well as some have the ability to dampen the throttle similar to a winter or ice mode that some cars have.

      For more performance, I would start looking into an exhaust system and headers. What engine do you have? I can provide more specific recommendations once I know that. I would recommend looking into a tuner if you have a diesel, otherwise for the NA gas engines, other parts would be more of an improvement.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

    • Hey Daniel.

      Depending on the tuner, some will allow you to add your own custom maps instead of the stock one that is included on the chip. If you mean to stack a tune with a performance chip, that isn’t practical or feasible, since they’d both be trying to modify the same things.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

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