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.
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:
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?
Because 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.
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!
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.
Basically 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.