The Pros & Cons of Performance Chips

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Diablosport Trinity T2

Alright, so before we run off to performance land, let me make something clear. Performance chips and OBD Tuners aren’t designed to give your sweet ride any superpowers. It won’t turn from Bruce to Jolly Green. For that, you’ll need a Stage 3 upgrade. But 27 HP and 23 LB-FT with a Diablo Tuner aren’t hateful numbers from a 6.4-liter Dodge Challenger.

But let’s not jump the light. What does “chipping” your car do? Are there any adverse side effects? How well do OBD performance tuners work? Are they as good as tuning your ECU the old-fashioned way?

We’ll answer these questions and give you an idea of what to expect and some products to start with.

What Does a Performance Chip Do?

Racechip inline tuners with companion app

A performance chip is installed between the car’s engine and its computer. The computer, in this case, refers to the oxygen sensor, fuel injectors, intake valves, throttle valve, ignition system, and any other part that can be manipulated by electromagnetic interference.

The purpose of the performance chip is to enhance the vehicle’s performance with electronic devices instead of using purely mechanical processes. In essence, these chips trick the car into thinking that it has a bigger and more powerful engine than what the original manufacturer had intended. As a result, they can increase perceived performance percentage through better throttle response, possibly better fuel economy, and slightly higher torque and horsepower.

There are also some specialized tuners with a more specific goal in mind. For example, the Range Active Fuel Management Disable Device overrides the cylinder deactivation feature found on many of today’s V6 and V8 engines, keeping all cylinders active at all times to increase throttle response and power across the board. And the Hypertech Speedometer Calibrator does just what the name implies, restoring your speedo’s accuracy after gear swaps and tire size changes.

What are OBD2 Performance Tuners?

Bully Dog GT Gauge Tuner

OBD-II Performance tuners are devices that plug into your car’s computer through the OBD (onboard diagnostics) port under the steering wheel. Most cars made after 1995 have an OBD-II port, but some older models may not. You can find more information on what works for you model, here.

OBD-II tuners generally work by flashing new code onto your ECU (engine control unit, also known as the computer for short). This makes changes to your car’s fuel mapping, so it burns more efficiently or delivers a better throttle response. Many modern engines use drive-by-wire technology, where the throttle is controlled electronically rather than mechanically.

You had to rip out the ECU and send it off to a performance tuner in the past. But now, tuners like Banks Pedal Monster will let you hook up your smartphone, and through an app, PedalMonster will work to make the improvements. After that, the direction is up to you. It even shows real-time effects through the mobile app. The plug-and-play module easily connects to your OBD-II, letting you have selectable power modes or customize throttle to your liking.

Do Performance Chips Have Drawbacks?

There are a few drawbacks to using performance chips. Be careful what you buy and avoid second-hand or too cheap to be true products. The good news is that you’ll find top brands you can trust with AutoAnything. And you can always check with the reviews for the latest info from certified users.

For example, Jet Performance offers an in-line module customized and programmed to your car and gains HP and torque. With its Stage 1 or Stage 2 models, you can choose what’s correct for your current tune.

Should you worry about messing things up? For most of today’s tuners and chips, you have fail-safe features that will shut down your engine before you do any damage to the car – not that you would try or anything crazy. 

And, if you live in California, recent regulations have worked to frustrate the use of chips, performance tuners, or any modifications to the ECU. As a result, ECU-tuned cars will now automatically flunk California smog testing. But get this. In a fantastic turn of fair play, the DMV and California Air Resources Board says you’re free to flash the ECU back to stock before the inspection. And then they’re okay if you return it to the tune after the test. It’s a head-shaker, but there it is – just a little bit of trouble for performance. 

Do Performance Chips Work?

2015 mustang GT h&R suspension

Performance chips have been proven to work, and many professional racing teams have been using them for years, making it a safe option to enhance the performance of their vehicles. Of course, the changes will be more noticeable on some vehicles than others, so as the ads say, your mileage may vary. But you’ll have options to customize to your needs and, in most cases, see the results on the manufacturer’s apps as you’re driving.

So, answer is yes, however it’s important to understand what a performance chip is actually doing. These devices aren’t changing your car in the way that a turbocharger or superchargers would. They are simply changing how the computer running your e ngine instructs it to do things. The engine won’t be getting more power out of the car but will shift the mapping on where the power you have is being applied. 

For instance, a chip will raise your rev limiter from 6900 rpom to 7200-7500 and will tighten up your top end power and also help your engine to use more torque at a lower rpm range. This doesn’t increase your power at all but allows you to use more of what you already have available. And it will increase the quickness of your car as it accelerates from a stop. The stoplight grand prix will be more fun.

How Do I Select the Right Chip and OBD Tuner?

Hypertech React Throttle Optimizer

So you just bought that beautiful Mustang GT or maybe you have a Subaru STi or EVO X and you’re interested in the pump it up” factor and safety and keeping the warranty that OBD-II compliant and ECU chips offer.

The problem you find is there are so many brand available that it can be tough to choose between them. One of the biggest influences on your decision should be how technologically advanced the product is. You can be confident that we have the most advanced OBD performance tuner or chips available. 

So, get in touch with us because  AutoAnything is committed to helping you find the best tuner for your car, truck, van, or SUV. 

Check out the high-performance tuners we offer for diesel and gas applications by clicking the button below.

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27 COMMENTS

  1. What would you recommend for a 2016 Highlander XLE V6 AWD 3.5L DOHC w/dual WT-i 6sp auto trans and 40,000 miles? I’m the 2nd owner as it was leased for three years with all maintenance done routinely and no documented issue. I would like to increase efficiency as well as performance if at all possible. I would ultimately lean performance if there are comprable products.

    Thank you

    • Hey Scott,

      Hmm, that’s a tough one for sure. Just did some research around the market and on Toyota forums to see what people are doing with theirs, and I wasn’t able to find a whole lot. A few guys reported that opening up the exhaust a bit helped, and a few did a drop-in K&N filter, but I wouldn’t expect a noticeable improvement from that. As for exhaust, I can’t find anyone who makes a full kit for these, so you would need to buy a performance muffler and then take it to a shop to have it welded in, and possible have them route a custom exhaust for you then with bigger diameter piping. I couldn’t find anyone reputable with a tuner or programmer that works on these either.

      One small upside is that this engine is also used across a ton of other platforms like the Camry and even Lotus Evora, so there are a few things that fit the engine specifically, but who knows if it will fit your specific configuration. This HPS short ram fits tha Camry with the same engine, and probably has the best chance of fitting yours, but short rams aren’t as ideal as an external air collecting cold air intake. According to the reviews on that page, people are reporting some mileage gains.

      https://www.autoanything.com/air-intakes/hps-performance-short-ram-air-intakes

      My advice for you would be to search around the toyota forums a bit and see what you can find, but it’s not looking great, unfortunately. Unless Camry/Evora headers bolt up, which would be pretty awesome, but I wouldn’t count on that.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

      • What brand would you recommend for a 2000 Silverado 5.3 that’s been well taken care of an has great compression still an rebuilt transmission with new transfer case an new rears as well!? Have cold air intake an……. 150,000. Just crossed it of list an had shock mount bust so tore it completely down painted poweder coated clippers An wheels. Just want a little more kick an response if possible. Read some ignoramus response on chips an said all they do is divert the computer code as if the motor was cold but the ECM just has to work harder to correct the computer. 😂😂. Would love to have some educated info from you guys an be glad to order….

        • Hey Adam,

          Anything from DiabloSport or Hypertech would be a good start, but I wouldn’t expect huge gains without more modifications. One thing you might be able to do in order to get back a little throttle response, is to see if there is any slack in your throttle cable and either adjust or replace it. With the truck off you can have someone push on the pedal while you watch the throttle body to see how much travel is in the pedal before the throttle body moves, and then how much travel there is in the throttle body valve with the throttle pressed all the way to the floor. You can’t actually adjust the cable itself, but you can take up some slack with a ziptie on the ball end at the pedal. Just be careful that you don’t take up so much slack that your idle is affected.

          Cheers!
          Garrett

    • Hey Joey,

      Being a naturally aspirated engine, you won’t get much from a tune without other modifications. I would start with the usual route of exhaust, intake, headers, and go from there for your SC400.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  2. I would like to add more power to my 2013 Ford escape ex Ecoboost. What would be the best chip with out going broke?

    • Hey D’Andre,

      SCT has a performance tuner for only $400 that works for both the 1.6 and 2.0 Ecoboost engines, that would be your best bet. Those EB motors respond very well to tunes, enjoy!

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  3. i just bought a 08 1500 silverado . it has a 8 inch lift and 37s. so it eats up a lot of gas. it has a 5.3 in it. i have talked to people about ways to improve on gas and most of them told me to get a performance chip. i do not know anything about them tho and don´t know what i would need.
    Thanks for the help

    • Hey Kaeland,

      Being a naturally aspirated engine, a tune isn’t going to do a whole lot for you, unfortunately. Have you re-geared your differentials to compensate for the 37″ tires? That would make the biggest difference in getting back some of your mileage as well as power.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  4. What would be most compatible for adding power to my 2017 Ford Fusion Titanium. 2.0 4 cylinder, roughly 85k miles all stock.

    • Hey Drew,

      The best bang for your buck would be a tuner. That 2.0 Ecoboost is very tuneable and you can get quite a bit just from that. Racechip makes a great in-line tuner for these.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

    • Hey Bret,

      Eh, I’d stay away from those cheap ebay tuners. At best they are a glorified blinking LED to stick under your dash. Unfortunately as far as tuners go, unless you have the CTS-V, there isn’t much out there for you. You’d be better off with physical mods instead, such as an intake and exhaust.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

    • Hey Steven,

      I did some reading on Porsche forums on what people are running. Seems like everyone is pretty happy with Cobb and RaceChip, but as with any turbo car, a custom tune from a reputable shop will give you the best gains. As for the difference between Cobb and RaceChip, the power figures are similar, so it comes down to your preference on flash tune VS in-line chip. Being a 2018, I assume your 982 is still under warranty, so the RaceChip might be preferable since it does not flash the ECU and can be removed with no trace if something comes up and you need to bring it in for warranty work. On the other hand, Cobb offers multiple tunes and can be flashed quickly and easily to give you more options, and mappings can be swapped on the fly (such as economy or power modes).

      Either way you go, it looks like you’ll pick up a pretty decent amount of power. That’s the beauty of modern turbos! If you have any more specific questions on this, feel free to shoot me an email at gdavis@autoanything.com

      Cheers,
      Garrett

  5. Hello, recently purchased a performance chip for a 2004 Ford escape v6, which the car got sold. Would the chip work in a 2000 Toyota Camry 4 cylinder? Thanks

    • Hey Dan,

      Not sure what brand tuner you had, but I doubt it would work on the Camry as well. I can look it up for you if you can find the brand and specific model.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  6. 2021 Ram 1500 HEMI
    What chip do you recommend ?
    Should I also adjust the cable for slack ?
    I’d like a better sound also. Any suggestions on Mufflers ?
    Thanks Garrett you’re the best my brother.

    • Hey Jeff,

      Congrats on the new truck! I recommend checking out the Edge Pulsar in-line tuner. This will install plug and play in-line with your stock wiring, and is entirely removable to revert the truck back to stock if you need to take your truck in for warranty work. Currently we only show this as fitting the 2020 Ram, but I checked with Edge, and this part number works for the 2021 as well (we just need to update our data): https://www.autoanything.com/performance-chips/edge-pulsar-in-line-module.

      As for a new muffler, it really depends on how loud you’re looking to go. I like the Flowmaster HP-2 series, they offer an aggressive sound but aren’t so loud that people would hear you coming from blocks away. If you’re looking for loud and aggressive, I would check out the 40 series. If you need any more specific recommendations, shoot me an email at gdavis@autoanything.com

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  7. Hello, I have a 2003 ford crown vic LX 4.6 V8 with dual exhaust I’m planning on putting in a CAI and putting a bolt on front facing hood scoop to help it breathe a little better, it sounds like the Bully Dog GT chip is the way to go for a little extra oomf, is this correct and would I need to do anything else to prevent any excessive engine wear? Thanks.

    • Hey Dylan,

      I would recommend doing headers before the tuner. That will open you up for more flow and a tuner down the line would be able to take bigger advantage of that. As for excessive engine wear, just keep up on your oil changes and watch your engine temps!

      Cheers,
      Garrett

  8. I agree that sustainability is an important thing to consider when it comes to performance tuning. I’d like to know more about that because I recently bought a used car. I would like to make sure that its engine is in the right state before I start driving it more liberally.

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