Chip Tuning

Chip Tuning or Not? That is the Question…

Chip tuning is as old as the electronic control unit (ECU). It probably started out with a couple of people who wondered whether they could enhance the performance of their computerised vehicles. And naturally their attempts amounted to success – if the popularity of chip tuning is anything to go by. But despite its popularity, should you or shouldn’t you get your vehicle’s chip tuned?

Chip tuning involves the modification of your vehicle’s performance settings. These settings are controlled by the electronic control unit, referred to as the “ECU” in geek speak, which can be found in most computerised cars today. They control everything from engine performance to traction, airbags and vehicle diagnostics. But whether you should or shouldn’t get your vehicle’s chip tuned is another matter entirely.



Vehicle manufacturers will advise against chip tuning for the simple reason that vehicles were released onto the market with their chips optimally programmed. Not only does a vehicle’s chip contain the correct settings for that specific make and model – one model’s settings can be significantly different from another model – but also for the country a specific vehicle is sold.

Europe, for instance, has different emissions regulations and fuel grades to the U.S. The default settings are also tailored according to that vehicle’s physical and mechanical specifications. Changing the settings will change the speed at which engine parts wear down.

It’s a sacrifice many are willing to make, because for them it’s all about getting that extra little bit of power. Chip tuning can increase power output by about 20% in normal engines, and 40% in turbo petrol engines. It also increases the agility of the vehicle by enhancing the engine’s response to acceleration and its torque curve. Who wouldn’t want a car capable of roaring along the open roads, which handles well and can take the stresses of rough driving? If that’s your cup of tea, then yes, you should get your vehicle’s chip tuned.

chip tuningIt’s important, however, to remember that any vehicle has a finite amount of power to offer. If you increase one aspect of your vehicle’s performance with x%, then that x% has to come from somewhere else. And when it really comes down to it, you should also take the money factor into account: vehicles that have had their chips tuned require more frequent maintenance and servicing.

So should you invest in chip tuning? If your only concern is getting from A to B, or if you want to save as much as you can on maintenance and service, then maybe not.

But if you can carry the cost (of the tuning and subsequent maintenance) and if custom performance of your vehicle is important, then yes. If you’re in an area where your engine is subject to low grade fuels and chip tuning will better your performance, yes again.

Lastly, if you own a vehicle designed for various terrains which you’ll be taking all over Southern Africa or to other countries, the answer is yes again.

Chip tuning enhances performance, and is ideal for individuals who want to push their vehicles to its physical limits.


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