Take advantage of this resource guide to find advice, hints and tips on picking the right performance chip for your vehicle
Take advantage of this resource guide to find advice, hints and tips on picking the right performance chip for your vehicle
At this very moment, lurking under your hood is an engine whose power potential far outstrips its current performance. What's holding back the reigns on your horsepower and torque? The answer isn't clogged fuel injectors or spent sparkplugs; it's the pre-programmed limitations of your onboard computer system.
All modern automobiles have built-in computers, which control such critical functions as ignition timing, air/fuel ratio and even automatic transmission shifting. Your auto manufacturer pre-programs the computers with an average driver in mind, someone who may not maintain their vehicle properly or uses only the lower fuel grades. Consequently, drivers who demand high performance, whether it be a quick jump off the line or wicked towing capacity, are locked out from their vehicle's fullest potential.
There's good news for those of us wanting extra horsepower and torque, though. Your onboard computer can easily be reprogrammed to unlock your vehicle's full potential. When you plug a high-tech performance chip into your vehicle, you'll get:
Your vehicle is stronger, faster and fiercer than you might imagine, and a performance chip is the key to throwing open the floodgates to full-throttle power.
Whether you want a performance chip that you can just plug in and forget about, or one that you can constantly tinker with to find your perfect settings, AutoAnything has the right electrical gear for you. We have three different styles of performance chips to choose from, each with their own unique characteristics and capabilities. However, for all their differences, the one thing they have in common is the power to propel your vehicle's performance to unbelievable heights. Here's the lowdown on the 3 types of performance chips:
A control module plugs directly into your under-the-hood electrical system, standing right in between the data from your various sensors and the computer. The module intercepts the data before it has a chance to reach the onboard computer. Then, it analyses the information, determines the proper adjustments to the air/fuel ratio, ignition timing and other key functions, and then sends commands to the onboard computer. A control module delivers accurate, immediate tuning for your engine because it is always plugged in and constantly reading and interpreting data from your sensors.
Each control module is custom-programmed to maximize the output and efficiency of your vehicle's specific year, make and model, taking into consideration engine size, transmission type and even your stock tire size. What's more, many control modules come in different power levels, or stages. For example, Bully Dog offers six different power levels for the driver to select from so that you can choose the perfect amount of power for your unique driving habits.
Many of the control modules for diesel rigs, such as DiabloSport or Banks Diesel tuners, have optional in-cab performance monitors that display up-to-the-second readings of such critical engine information as turbo boost, engine gas temperature and RPMs. Some even display your 0-60 acceleration and quarter mile time, and give you on-the-fly control of different settings. For the best results, you will want to use a higher grade fuel with more octane, like 91 or higher.
Installing a control module is simple and should not take more than 15 minutes. They have a built-in, heat-shielded wiring harness that plugs directly into your onboard computer, so there's absolutely no soldering, splicing or drilling required. After all the wires are connected, you never have to worry about adjusting the module ever again, unless you would like to return to your factory settings.
Like control modules, power programmers reconfigure your vehicle's onboard computer to perform at peak levels. But, they work a little differently. Rather than being permanently installed into your electrical system, power programmers are plug-n-play devices.
Before hitting the road, you connect the power programmer to your OBD-II Port, which is handily located right under your dashboard. You will then answer a number of questions about your vehicle, any modifications you have made, and what level of power you want. Based on how you respond to the questions, the power programmer then uploads a new set of operating instructions to your vehicle's computer. The new operating program only has to be uploaded once, so you can pack away your power programmer or experiment with some of the other settings and modes. Best of all, the whole process only takes about 10 minutes, and the only tools you'll need are your own two hands.
The advantage of power programmers is that you have greater control over the tuning of your system. For example, Edge Performance Products let you recalibrate your onboard computer to any changes in tire size, speed rating or even your rear-end gear ratio. These changes dramatically affect your vehicle's performance, but your computer doesn't know to recalculate unless you use a power programmer to communicate with it. Moreover, many of our power programmers from top name brands like Hypertech and Superchips let you tune your engine for regular octane usage instead of the usual 91 or higher fuel grade.
Like control modules, power programmers are made by a number of notable manufacturers, such as Superchips, Hypertech, Edge Products, Diablo Sport, SCT, Jet Performance, Quadzilla, BD Diesel and Edelbrock.
If you want total control of your vehicle's computer system, don't just reprogram it—replace it. An engine management system (EMS) is a complete substitution for your stock onboard computer, giving you virtually unlimited command over just about ever aspect of your vehicle's control system.
Engine management systems are designed to customize your car, truck or SUV to your exact specifications. For those who know about the inner workings of your entire drive train, only an EMS gives you full control of every minute detail, from your air/fuel ratio and fuel injector control, to idle speed and nitrous (wet or dry) management.
You mount the EMS inside your engine compartment. Once it's secured, you simply unplug the wires from your old computer and plug them into the new one. Those wires sync your EMS with all of your vehicle's sensors, so it has an immediate connection to all the data from every critical part on your automobile. It uses the readings from your sensors to run your engine at its peek level. You can even plug your laptop into the EMS to view performance information and manipulate settings.
EMS systems are a highly specialized accessory, and AEM is your source for this high-tech gear.
Installing a control module or power programmer onto your vehicle should not void your factory warranty. Your rights are protected by the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act. This important law states that a manufacturer cannot void your warranty merely because you install aftermarket parts, unless they can prove that the part itself caused the damage. In other words, if you install a performance exhaust system or a high-flow air filter, and then your automatic windows stop working, they are legally bound to service your windows. The same is true for control modules and power programmers. They do not void your warranty, unless the dealer can prove that the part itself caused the damage.
Keep in mind, though, that installing an engine management system (EMS) will invalidate your manufacturer's warranty.
Sure, a control module, power programmer or EMS unleashes huge gains in horsepower, torque and efficiency. But you might be scratching your head wondering how it actually works. For most performance parts, their purpose is obvious-more power. You can visualize and hear a hotrod exhaust system hard at work, and you can hold the pipes and headers right in your hands. A performance chip, on the other hand, exists in the invisible world of electrical pulses and binary codes buzzing around in your vehicle's computer system. Most performance chips work to compliment other modifications you may have bolted to your auto: the Edge Trail Jammer is a great example as you get a performance chip, a new throttle body, and a cold air intake as part of the upgrade package for maximum performance.
While you cannot see or touch the programs that your performance chip is running, you will definitely feel the response surging through your vehicle. That's because your control module, power programmer or EMS is sending signals to all the unseen, internal components of your power train. Here's a brief explanation of all the different systems that your performance chip controls.
Your engine generates power through a process called combustion, which is basically a controlled explosion inside your cylinders. Besides a spark to ignite the fire, the two essential ingredients in combustion are oxygen and fuel. This ratio of air to fuel is controlled by the vehicle's onboard computer, but the factory settings are not tuned to the optimal level. A performance chip mixes your oxygen and fuel into a potent cocktail, so you get fierce performance across the RPM range, as well as decreased detonation problems.
What do comedy and combustion have in common? For both, timing is everything. If a punch line is delivered too early or too late, the laugh is lost. Similarly, if your spark plugs do not ignite at just the right second, precious horsepower is lost. Finding the correct ignition timing is critical for boosting your engine's power output and efficiency. A control module or power programmer sets your ignition timing to its optimal levels, improving your onboard computer's controls.
If you have made the switch from your stock tire size to a larger, better-gripping set of rubbers, your onboard computer must be reprogrammed to account for the changes in speedometer and odometer readings, as well as shift points. If you have pushed the performance of your vehicle even further by modifying your rear end's gear ratio, you also need to relay that information to your computer, so it can properly adjust for the changes. All of the power programmers and some of the control modules give you the power to make these recalibrations.
You might think that horsepower alone determines your vehicle's top speed, but the true governing factor in maximum momentum is tires. As counter intuitive as it may seem, your vehicle is only as fast as the tires it's riding on. That's because different tires are crafted to handle different top speeds, and your vehicle's onboard computer is pre-programmed to limit how fast it will go based on the stock tires. However, if you have upgraded to a set of performance slicks, your vehicle's computer does not have telepathic powers to sense the change. With all of the power programmers and a few of the control modules, you can quickly re-tune your onboard computer to raise or lower the speed limiter for your new tires.
While movies are given ratings based on the levels of violence, nudity and foul language, your tires are rated based on their maximum safe speed. Not all tires are built for extreme performance, and there is an easy, uniform system for determining how fast you drive. If you look at the string of numbers and letters embossed into your tire's sidewall, you will notice that the very last character is a letter. This letter indicates your tire's speed rating. Here's how they decode:
|Q||Up to 100mph|
|H||Up to 130mph|
|R||Up to 106mph|
|V||Up to 149mph|
|S||Up to 112mph|
|W||Up to 168mph|
|T||Up to 118mph|
|Y||Up to 186mph|
|U||Up to 124mph|
|Z||149mph and over|
Aside from being powered by million dollar motors built by NASA trained engineers, Formula One racecars accelerate so rapidly because their RPM range does not red line until around 19,000 instead of the usual 7,000 for stock automobiles. When your vehicle uses the full RPM range, rather than just quickly up-shifting once it hits 3,500, it draws more horsepower and accelerates faster. You lose power during shifting because your transmission has to disengage from the motor before it can switch gears. However, performance chips safely push the limits of your rev limiter, extending your power range and keeping you right in the horsepower sweet spots.