Automobile manufacturers must compete in a marketplace where fuel consumption, horsepower and torque are big factors, but they must also comply with emissions and other regulations. To meet these demands modern cars are controlled by computers. The computer, known as an ECU (Engine Control Unit), controls all engine settings like the air/fuel mixture, ignition timing and idle speed. Before ECUs, these were mechanically set and dynamically controlled by mechanical means. Although most automobile manufacturers try to achieve a balance between performance and emissions when the ECU is programmed, in reality more power can be obtained when certain engine control parameters are changed.
A quick and easy way to do this and upgrade your vehicle’s performance is with a “superchip”, also known as an aftermarket performance chip. Aftermarket performance chips are made to adjust parameters to increase engine power and torque. For example, the ECU determines the quantity of fuel to inject into your engine based on input from a number of sensors. If the throttle position sensor is showing that you’re pressing down more on the gas pedal, and the mass airflow sensor shows that more air is flowing into the engine, the ECU will then inject more fuel into your engine. The superchip gives a “boost” to your vehicle’s performance by enabling you to adjust the settings for the ECU, and allow more fuel to be injected than the factory settings provided.
Generally superchips cost $300-$700, and some chips claim to boost engine output by up to 30hp. The downside to a superchip is that you’re generally going to give up gas mileage for horsepower and torque. Installation is very easy on most superchips; typically they plug right in to your ECU, which is usually located underneath the driver’s side of the dashboard panel. The effects of the superchip can be easily reversed just by plugging it into the ECU and choosing the reset option, which will cause the ECU to revert to the factory settings. Overall, upgrading your ECU settings with a superchip is a fairly simple and low cost alternative for the everyday auto enthusiast.
by Michael Grayen on