Unichip Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What is the Unichip?
  2. How is the Unichip different from other aftermarket chips?
  3. Why should I install a Unichip in my car?
  4. How difficult is tuning with the Unichip?
  5. How does the Unichip increase engine power?
  6. What is the difference between a Custom Map and a Standard Map?
  7. How much extra power can I expect from the Unichip?
  8. How will Unichip affect my car's fuel economy?
  9. What are the engine management advantages of Unichip?
  10. Is the original factory engine control unit modified by installing the Unichip?
  11. Why don't the factory ECUs make all the power available from the engine?
  12. Does the Unichip only control timing and fuel?
  13. Do I need to reprogram the Unichip if I modify my engine components?
  14. How can I have my Unichip re-programmed?
  15. Is the Unichip suitable for all Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) cars?
  16. Who can install the Unichip?
  17. What is Plug-n-Play or PnP?
  18. Is a PnP kit available for my vehicle?
  19. What kind of fuel efficiency percentages can I expect?
  20. How will the Unichip affect the life of my car?
  21. Where is the Unichip physically installed?
  22. How long does the Unichip installation take?
  23. What does real-time tuning mean?
  24. How long does real-time tuning a Custom Map Unichip take?
  25. Are Dynamometers safe for my car?
  26. Why can't I re-tune the Unichip from my laptop?
  27. Does the Unichip need to be serviced?
  28. Will I need to use high-octane fuel with the Unichip?
  29. Does the Unichip void my warranty?
  30. Can the Unichip be removed?
  31. What is the Unichip warranty?


What is the Unichip?

The Unichip is a fully programmable engine management system which channels over 53,000 optimized fuel and ignition parameters through a vehicle's standard Engine Control Unit (ECU) to deliver maximum power, optimized drivability, and improved fuel economy. Unichip is a Piggyback ECU, which works in harmony with the standard ECU and is compatible with OBD1 and OBD2 vehicles.

How is the Unichip different from other aftermarket chips?

The Unichip is not a simple replacement chip. Unlike other performance "chips," the Unichip is not a pre-programmed "one size fits all" chip. Providing full fuel and timing control, the Unichip can modify anything that the car's original ECU controlled.

The Unichip also allows qualified tuners to make changes, on the dyno, in real-time, creating a custom map just for your car. The Unichip is also re-programmable in your car via a Unichip technician's laptop.

If you use the conventional "chip" tuning route offered by other performance chip companies, a new "chip" is required for each new modification. This chip would be roughly based on a similar type car, and not custom map for your individual car's requirements.

Why should I install a Unichip in my car?

The most obvious reason is for power gains across the entire RPM range. In addition, your engine will be smoother, more responsive, and get maximum fuel efficiency. If you have a modified engine, the Unichip will provide the full performance potential of your modifications. Standard engine management systems are not programmed to optimize for exhaust headers, cat back exhaust systems, high flow air cleaners, performance cam shafts, or larger turbochargers and intercoolers, etc and therefore do not provide maximum power when those components are modified.

How difficult is tuning with the Unichip?

Tuning the Unichip to your engine is much easier and faster compared with standalone ECU systems where cold start, acceleration enrichment, etc must be programmed from scratch. With the Unichip, the engine can be tuned just where it needs to be tuned. Consult your closest dealer for more information on having the Unichip custom tuned to your engine.

How does the Unichip increase engine power?

By creating the perfect map for any car, the Unichip eliminates individual vehicle tolerances and ensures maximum power production. Engines require optimum ignition timing and air/fuel ratios at all RPM and load conditions. Unichip gives experienced dynamometer technicians access to and the ability to adjust and optimize both the ignition and fuel system. Unichip has 256 RPM sites between 500 RPM redline and 208 load sites between zero throttle position and wide-open throttle position. This equates to 53,248 possible adjustments for fuel and a further 53,248 adjustments for ignition timing. On modified vehicles, the Unichip allows the tuner to tune the injection and fuel maps so the full performance potential of the "performance" parts are realized.

What is the difference between a Custom Map and a Standard Map?

A Standard Map is a map created on a dynamometer, using a development vehicle, for a specific vehicle type with a particular set of modifications - for example, a '95 Civic 1.6 VTEC with a high flow intake, throttle body, and a car-back exhaust. Standard Maps typically produce slightly less power than a Custom Map (1-2%) designed for an individual car, but cost less and eliminate the requirement to run on a dyno. Standard Maps still produce far more power than stock ECU maps, especially on modified vehicles.

A Custom Map is a map created on a dyno for a specific vehicle with its specific modifications and tolerances. Custom Maps make 100% of the power available from that vehicle, but require that vehicle to be run on a dyno and tuned by a qualified technician. Custom Maps offers slightly more power than Standard Maps, but with a higher total cost because of the tuning time.

How much extra power can I expect from the Unichip?

Completely stock gas vehicles gain 5-9% with a correctly tuned Unichip Map. Turbocharged cars, or vehicles with after-market engine performance modifications, can easily realize gains of 20-25% or more.

How will Unichip affect my car's fuel economy?

A correctly tuned Unichip can improve fuel economy under partial throttle conditions; you want power at full throttle and fuel economy at partial throttle. The Unichip's precise maps make correctly adjusting the air/fuel ratio and timing at all throttle positions a simple matter. This ability, in turn, produces both optimum fuel economy for cruising at partial throttle and maximum horsepower at full throttle.

What are the engine management advantages of Unichip?

Unlike most other engine management systems, the Unichip never interferes with the OE ECU's programming. We do not alter the cold start sensor, knock sensors, water temperature sensors, air temperature sensors or oxygen sensors, temperature or pressure altitude correction tables, or anything else the manufacturer spent literally years developing. We leave all of that data unaltered because it provides us a major advantage. We work in harmony with the factory ECU to enhance and unleash the best possible performance result without compromising engine drivability under any driving or environmental conditions.

Is the original factory engine control unit modified by installing the Unichip?

Not at all. The Unichip is a supplementary computer, which is programmed to contain the optimum fuel and ignition adjustments for each individual engine. The factory engine management control unit is not altered in any way. The Unichip is simply installed by connecting to the vehicle's electrical system.

Why don't the factory ECUs make all the power available from the engine?

Manufactures spend many years and millions of dollars developing ECUs, but they make compromises to allow tolerances in different climates, fuel quality, engine service, and production quality. These tolerances require the ECU map to be extremely conservative, resulting in loss of power and fuel efficiency.

Does the Unichip only control timing and fuel?

No, the Unichip can also control:

  • Variable cam timing switch-over points
  • Electronic boost control
  • Water injection
  • Override speed limiter
  • Drive additional injectors
  • Raise your rev limiter
  • Control progressive nitrous control with retarded timing
  • Provide launch control on turbo-charged applications
  • Remove the alternator load under prescribed conditions
  • Replace mechanical ignition system with mapped ignition
  • Optimize timing and fuel map settings

Do I need to reprogram the Unichip if I modify my engine components?

Yes and No. Some changes may not require retuning. Believe it or not, some "high performance" parts do not provide any added performance. However, if you purchase a component that does provide improved performance, the Unichip needs to be reprogrammed to correctly account for the new conditions.

How can I have my Unichip re-programmed?

Unless you modify components of your engine, you shouldn't need to re-program your Unichip. If you have modified a component or components, then contact Unichip of North America for reprogramming or to find a qualified tuner for a custom "real-time" dyno tune.

Is the Unichip suitable for all Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) cars?

Most EFI cars, whether normally aspirated, turbocharged, supercharged, with 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, or 12 cylinders respond brilliantly to the Unichip enhancement.

Who can install the Unichip?

If a PnP harness is available for your vehicle, you can install it yourself or have an authorized Unichip dealer install the Unichip. To install the Unichip without a PnP harness, a Unichip Dealer is required to install and create a custom map for your vehicle. Unichip dealers have dynamometers and real-time tuning specialists trained to create custom maps for your vehicle.

What is Plug-n-Play or PnP?

PnP describes the process of installation, simply plugging in a device and then using it. For the Unichip, it describes the ease of installation. Simply plug in a pre-fabricated wiring harness between the stock ECU and the stock wiring harness. The Unichip PnP harnesses use OEM connectors and clips for a perfect fit, every time.

Is a PnP kit available for my vehicle?

The PnP vehicle list grows daily. If your vehicle does not have any dyno data available for it, fill out the Coming Soon Application Form for a notice when a Unichip is available.

What kind of fuel efficiency percentages can I expect?

Most stock gasoline powered vehicles get the best possible fuel economy as is because the federal government monitors vehicles so tightly. Installing many aftermarket ECU products may reduce mileage because their simplistic modifications add fuel over a wide area of the map. With the Unichip, our dense maps allow us to add fuel only where required, so we you will not lose mileage by installing the Unichip. Modified vehicles, on the other hand, can see increased mileage because the modifications cause the stock ECU maps to operate incorrectly; the Unichip can correct these errors and restore mileage.

How will the Unichip affect the life of my car?

For the vast majority of applications, adding the Unichip has no effect on vehicle life. On highly modified vehicles, the Unichip may actually improve engine longevity by ensuring the correct air/fuel ratio exists in the engine after the modifications have been made. On those same sort of highly modified vehicles, the added power made possible by those modifications may cause problems elsewhere in the vehicle (drive shaft, transmission, connecting rods, etc) and vehicle owners are responsible for ensuring all components are able to handle the added power.

Where is the Unichip physically installed?

The Unichip ECU is usually attached with Velcro to the factory ECU. The Unichip ECU is marginally larger than 1 Altoids tin. Dimensions are approximately 5" x 3.25" x .875".

How long does the Unichip installation take?

If a PnP harness is available for your vehicle, installation can be under 15 minutes depending on the location of your vehicle's factory ECU. OEM ECUs are usually located under the dash, rear seats, or in the engine compartment. Once you find your ECU, installing the Unichip is as easy as disconnecting and reconnecting the clips on the OEM ECU.

If a PnP harness is not available for your car, installation requires a qualified technician. Although the process only takes an hour, an incorrect installation by anyone other than a Unichip technician can cause damage to your ECU and the Unichip.

What does real-time tuning mean?

Real-time tuning describes the process whereby adjustments are made to the ignition timing and air/fuel ratios while stabilized on a dynamometer at a specific set of conditions. Real time tuning ensures the ideal corrections are made at each specific point in the map. Other ECU products typically make changes while idling on the dyno; they then do a "pull" and evaluate the change after returning to idle. The then make another change and repeat the process until the get the "big" number they want. While other products produce a "correct" tune at the spot corresponding to maximum power, the Unichip produces a perfect tune at all points the result is maximum power across the entire rpm band, not just at a single point.

How long does real-time tuning a Custom Map Unichip take?

This depends on the engine configuration and whether the engine is standard or has been modified, normally aspirated or turbocharged, and whether it is two or four-wheel-drive. For example, a stock normally aspirated two-wheel-drive vehicle can typically be tuned in under an hour. A more sophisticated vehicle such as a 996 Twin Turbo Porsche may take longer due to the extra mapping of turbocharger pressure.

Are Dynamometers safe for my car?

Yes, dynamometers do not create any greater load on the engine that you experience in normal driving conditions. Very efficient cooling fans are utilized to ensure safe engine temperature control.

Why can't I re-tune the Unichip from my laptop?

Conceptually, tuning an engine isn't too tough. Set the air-fuel ratio to the correct value and set the timing right and the car is tuned. In execution, tuning is much more difficult.

Assuming you have the correct equipment to adequately monitor air/fuel ratio and detonation (which cost several thousand bucks all by themselves), consider trying to tune while you're driving down the road. The Unichip contains over 53,000 points defined by rpm and throttle position that you have to tune. To do so, you have to stabilize the car at each point so you can set the air-fuel ratio and timing pretty easy at idle throttle and idle rpm - start the car, keep your foot off of the gas, and set the values. It's also pretty easy at redline and full throttle - mash the throttle to the floor, hold it there, and let the engine accelerate to redline and set the values while it's there.

What about 85% throttle and 4200 rpm, and 95% throttle and 2500 rpm, or for that matter 60% throttle and 5350 rpm How do you exactly define the required throttle position, hold the engine precisely at the desired rpm, and then set the timing and fuel? Only a quality loading Dynamometer can provide the accuracy required to tune the Unichip for your engine. It just can't be adequately done on the road even if you have some of the correct equipment.

Why should you care about tuning accuracy? You should care because ECU modification and engine control is about more than a "big number." It's about a broad smooth curve producing maximum power at every point between idle and redline. It's about no hesitations, stumbles, or misses when you stomp on the gas. It's about not blowing up your engine because the tuning values "felt good." It's about not living with a check engine light and not having to pull in to the gas station every 50 miles. Performance is about precision, and nothing delivers precision like the Unichip. To use that precision, tuning must be performed by a Unichip tuning technician on a Unichip dynamometer.

Does the Unichip need to be serviced?

There is no need to readjust the Unichip unless the engine is modified. The Unichip will not lose its memory if the battery is disconnected. It is nearly impossible for the Unichip data to change after the Unichip ECU has been programmed, causing the engine to be detuned. If the engine begins to run poorly, the problem is something else.

Will I need to use high-octane fuel with the Unichip?

Your engine should always be tuned using the fuel you intend to use. If, for example, you like to race your car on the weekends, two ignition maps can be entered into the Unichip. The first would be for daily driving utilizing low-octane fuel. The second map would be for racing, utilizing high-octane fuel. Switching between the two maps can be accomplished with a simple toggle switch.

Does the Unichip void my warranty?

Conditions that void or may void a vehicle's warranty are specified in a law called the Moss-Magnusson Act which stipulates dealers cannot void warranties because vehicles have aftermarket parts. If the dealer can prove a particular aftermarket the part caused a particular failure, they can disallow the claim for that issue only. For example, if your engine fails, the dealer can't refuse to fix it because the car has aftermarket wheels. However, if the ECU has been modified they may have a case and may deny the claim.

All ECU modifications can void a manufacturer's warrantee if the modification caused a failure, regardless of what aftermarket ECU manufacturers may claim. If the dealer finds it in the car, and the warranty claim is engine related, the dealer may have a case and may attempt to not honor the claim under warranty. The dealer still has to prove the modification caused the failure.

Can the Unichip be removed?

Removing the Unichip is a simple procedure. Once the Unichip is removed, the factory ECU is returned to standard operation, and there is no trace, either electronic or mechanical, that the Unichip was ever installed.

What is the Unichip warranty?

A 12-month unlimited mileage warranty applies to all Unichip hardware. Contact Unichip for more information.