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Q: What Do Tuning Chips Do?

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What do tuning chips do?

Before cars had computers to control and run the engines, there were mechanical ignition systems and vacuum hoses going to carburetors and other mechanical devices like transmission control, timing advance control, idle control, and many other devices that can be controlled by vacuum of the engine. Now in cars made since the 1980’s, the engines and other systems like the transmissions are computer controlled.

The computer controls of an engine can get inputs from an engine like rpm speed, camshaft and crankshaft position, turbocharger boost pressure, intake air flow and temperature, altitude, throttle position, brakes, steering, accessories, vehicle speed, misfires, spark knock, exhaust sensors and other components used for inputs to the computer so the computer can use these inputs with programming and then controlling outputs to the engine and other systems for the engine and transmission to work as designed.

The computer takes the inputs and sends output commands to various components to operate the engine and transmission, like ignition spark timing and fuel injection to give the engine the needed fuel and spark at the correct time and amounts so the engine will run well in most driving situations. There is a computer code in the computer written by software engineers to try to come up with every known drive situation a driver may encounter. The cross between giving the best fuel mileage with the best driveability is what the engineers strive to do. Meanwhile, they also have to meet emission levels in all these situations depending on which fuel is used, like regular or hi-test for gas engines or diesel for diesel engines.

The use of tuning chips, or tuners as they are sometimes called, has become popular to try and get more power and fuel mileage and change transmission shifting, tire sizes, gear ratios and other controls depending on the tuner you purchase. The tuner is designed to store the original code from the vehicle’s computer and replace it with the new code from inside the tuner. The tuner will have options for the user to select to get the changes the user wants to change on their vehicle. Depending on the brand and model of tuner you select, you will have different options and will work differently between different types and models of tuners. Some tuners may change the engine timing parameters and computer inputs to try and give you better mileage. Other brands may only change a temperature input or airflow input by altering the normal input to the computer. You may also be able to change from high fuel mileage to high performance, but have to use premium fuel.

The tuning chips come in two different types. One actually has a chip that has to be installed into your engine computer and the other reprograms your computer through your OBD connector. Either way, they alter and change the computer programming from the original programming your computer had. However, some tuners are not approved for use in some states, including California, or even approved for road use, meaning the program will not meet emission standards to be used on the highways and can only be used off-road.

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