Do Performance Chips Work? (Improve Gas Mileage, Etc.)

As early as the ’70s, vehicles released in Europe and North America already had an onboard computer that controls vital engine functions – from gearing and ignition timing to air-fuel ratios. Although these built-in computers were responsible for the car’s overall health, they were calibrated for vehicle stability more than optimum performance. Performance chips, which are used to correct factory-set limitations, became popular in 1996.

Because this practice continues to be widely spread, it brings many of us to question, “Do performance chips work?” The answer is yes. The answer is yes. Performance chips can significantly improve vehicle performance and torque output. However, getting maximum performance from your chip depends on several factors and you need to choose the right chip for the vehicle.

The performance of a chip is affected by factors such as vehicle make and models, fuel quality, lubrication, after-market parts, and other factors. It is important to understand the impact of these factors on the performance of a chip in order to decide if it is beneficial or not to have one installed in your vehicle.

For more information about performance chips in general, you can continue reading this guide.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Parked on Grass

What is a Performance Chip?

Before finding out the answers to the questions, “Do performance chips work?” and “Do OBD2 performance chips work?” we must first establish what it is. By definition, a performance chip is a computer enhancement that alternates a vehicle’s original operating parameters to improve its overall responsiveness.

What is the function of performance chips? They recalibrate your car’s factory programming (meant for basic, everyday driving) for performance.

Performance chips go by lots of names – among these are the terms super chip, module, in-line tunerAnd programmers – These are just a few examples. Although these names are often interchangeable, each type has its own unique construction. Some generate more power and torque while others let you adjust settings depending on the road conditions.

This information will provide some insight into the various types of computer enhancements available and how they compare with performance chips.

Tuners (a.k.a. Computer/Power Programmers, Flash Programmers

They function in the same manner as a performance chips, but tuners have three key differences. They connect to your car via the OBDII port, not underneath the hood. Tuners do not need to be permanently attached under your car’s bonnet. Tuners are only required to be plugged in for a minimum of 10 minutes, which is not the case with super chips. Regular updates are required for tunes. This can easily be done via Wi-Fi with a desktop or laptop.

Thirdly, they allow the input of a broader scope of variables to help customize your vehicle’s factory settings, including your driving style and any modifications (for instance, rear-end and speed rating tweaks) made on your car. After taking all these details into consideration, the tunes send you onboard computer commands that are tailored to your requirements.

Multiple mappings are available for more advanced tuners (flash tuners) and can be downloaded from the component. In particular, a flash tuner reprograms your wheeler’s onboard computer more aggressively and is one of the most flexible computer enhancement units available to consumers. It usually comes with an integrated monitor that displays performance figures, gauges and diagnostics. You can mount it on your windshield or dashboard.

Throttle Controllers

This tuner is specifically designed to map throttle and is targeted at vehicles equipped with Electronic Throttle Control (ETC). This allows you to replicate useful driving modes that are only available in certain vehicle makes. If you’re using your wheeler on slick roads, you can adjust your throttle to go further back than stock.

Engine Management Systems

Compared to a performance chip, an Engine Management System or EMS is an entire performance-enhancing package that enables complete control of your vehicle’s tuning. Apart from being purpose-built to increase power, torque, and speed, EMSs handle so much more from idle speed to fuel injection – the reason high-performance/heavy-load car owners prefer it. Its downside? Contrary to performance chips, this system can be more costly and may prove difficult to install.

Performance Chips (also known as. Modules, Inline Chips

Finally, there are performance chips. A hands-free means to upgrading performance, performance chips plug into your car’s electrical system under the bonnet/hood in under 15 minutes. They are a mediator, filtering data from different sensors and determining the adjustments that the vehicle needs based on this data. This module then transmits the adjustments to the onboard computer, which makes the necessary adjustments in order to optimize performance.

To work seamlessly with factory components, program the chip specifically to your vehicle’s make, model, and year. It is very easy to install the performance chip once you have done this. Should you decide to go back to factory settings, all you have to do is unplug the chip from under the hood – no need to worry about leaving a footprint of any vehicle modification.

Are Performance Chips really worth it?

Like any other performance-enhancing component, a performance chip’s effectiveness depends on the make and model of your vehicle and the maker of the chip. The price is not the only factor that affects quality. Although cheaper online options may seem appealing, they could prove to be harmful for your car. Chips made by well-respected companies (usually between $200 and $500) can boost your vehicle’s power delivery.

A performance chip may not be beneficial for all models and makes. Examples include the pre-2010 Mitsubishi Eclipse, Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee and Subaru Forester. Horsepower gains will be negligible. If the modules are not compatible with four-wheelers properly, emissions problems could arise.

Certain performance chips are more efficient when used in conjunction with turbos or superchargers. The fuel-injected machine’s performance and fuel economy will be affected by a high-quality chip. Others even have remedial effects – as observed with performance chips correcting a vehicle set to run rich from the factory. However, there are some trade-offs – for instance, the need to switch to a higher-octane fuel for optimal results.

However, your choice in fuel does not mean that you are done. This computer enhancement will allow you to get the most from your fuel choice. You can also upgrade to an aftermarket filter and replace stock plugs and wires. Premium engine oil has a number of benefits, including increased engine life and a significant improvement in fuel consumption and power output.

If you make these other improvements alongside getting a performance chip for your vehicle, you are guaranteed to reap the rewards in gas mileage, throttle responsiveness, and torque/horsepower – among other things. In the following section, we will discuss in detail the benefits associated with a performance chip/module.

The benefits of using a Performance Chip

Driving in Mountainous Countryside

Chips enhance a vehicle’s overall function. It may perform this whole-heartedly or just for certain performance aspects depending on the vehicle type.

Boost Fuel Economy

Full-feature performance chips have what engineers call a “driving coach” that aids in boosting fuel economy or MPG via remapping the ECU/ECM original parameters, leading to operational efficiency. This feature guides your vehicle’s control unit or module, making your car fuel-efficient regardless if you have your foot on the gas pedal or not. As a result, you make the most out of every drop of fuel in your tank – not to mention pile up on savings, especially if you do frequent long-distance drives.

Increase Torque and Power Output

Performance chips are used by car owners for their ability to increase horsepower and torque. This computer enhancement usually produces positive results. However, the effects can vary between diesel-fed and gasoline-fed vehicles. Diesel engines offer a higher power boost of up to 200 hp. While gas engines offer a maximum 40-hp increase, diesel engines can produce up to 200 hp.

These results can be overwhelming, regardless of how you look at it. But it is essential to know that performance chips should only be purchased if there is an actual need. If your vehicle’s application is not carrying heavy loads or machinery, purchasing a performance chip may be counter-intuitive – not to mention a waste of money.

Also, there is a difference between turbocharged and naturally-aspirated engines. It is important to take care when choosing a turbocharged engine. Performance chips can make turbos more powerful and deliver more torque than those without superchargers. Similar to the above, the arrangement of the cylinders can affect torque and horsepower gains. A performance chip will have little or no effect on a 4-cylinder SOHC motor, but it will be beneficial on a V8 DOHC power plant.

Monitor overall engine functionality

Although performance chips are widely regarded as being purpose-built for power and fuel efficiency, they can also prevent engine damage. Yes, built-in warning indicators let a driver know if anything is wrong with the engine’s internal processes. However, these indicators are not sufficient to stop an engine from causing an undesirable outcome. Chips can do something about it.

For example, performance chips immediately lower a vehicle’s horsepower if it senses this as the cause for engine overheating. The driver can also see what’s going on, and it provides valuable insight for repair or troubleshooting (if necessary). Many vehicle owners find this very helpful in keeping track of root causes for problems with their engines that might otherwise go unnoticed or overlooked.

Accelerate and Speed Up

You can think of a performance chip like a standard control module, but with steroids. Unlike your car’s built-in module, an aftermarket chip alters your engine’s factory-set operating conditions for twice the optimal performance warranted by the task at hand. The chip can adjust the engine to increase the valve lift to improve acceleration and top-end speed at high revs. This can be used to decrease the engine’s lift for hauling and towing.

No Limitation on Rev/RPM

Performance chips reprogram a vehicle’s rev/speed limiters, lifting off restrictions to the engine’s entire RPM range and unleashing its power potential. Transmissions can upshift at higher revs to provide better bottom-end power and faster acceleration. This is often done by in-training racers to enjoy a restricted driving experience.

Regulate Air-fuel Ratio

Old-time vehicle owners often say that performance chips can only do so much to open up your vehicle’s air intake. While this statement is true, the fact remains that chips still help fine-tune your engine’s air-fuel mixture. Because more energy is being drawn from your cylinders, you get a more powerful and controlled combustion. The best part? You can increase power output without affecting the factory-set air fuel ratio.

Upgrades to the rear-end

You can’t avoid changing out your stock tires. It is common to have separate tires for winter and summer, especially if you live near changing seasons. You will need to modify your rear gear ratio and upgrade your rims to accommodate larger tires. Consequently, these changes alter gauge readings and shift points – something that your onboard computer does not automatically pick up.

This is where performance chips come in. Your car should be notified that you have made rear-end improvements to maintain a tuned performance. Performance chips do just that – they relay that message to your vehicle every time you make such modifications without fail. You can program your wheeler to accept the modifications and ensure different engine components run smoothly by simply pressing a few buttons.

If you only changed stock rubber to same-size ones, you can expect your performance chip to reduce your vehicle’s need for energy and fuel – provided your car has the right set of tires pressurized to spec. It all depends on what type of tire you use and your driving habits. Tires specifically built for use on dunes, deep snow, and mud would always require more energy to move forward compared to all-season ones – regardless if cold-tire pressure is accurate. The performance chip cannot reduce rolling resistance by airing tires down when they are riding on dirt and rocky terrain.

Things to consider before you buy

Rubber Tire Tread Sprinkled With Water Droplets

To receive these benefits, you will need to take additional steps such as:

  • Remap your car’s ECU with the help of a professional.
  • Stick to the manufacturer-recommended fuel type and motor oil for your wheeler, as using other variants may be detrimental to the operational efficiency of your engine.
  • For FI vehicles, give the fuel injectors a good ultrasonic bath.
  • Make sure your tires are at the right pressure.
  • If your vehicle is primarily used for hauling, or mudding, you should consider larger tires or wider ones. Be prepared to make a sacrifice in fuel costs.
  • Use the highest gear you can to avoid putting unnecessary stress on your engine.
  • Avoid prolonged, unnecessary idling.
  • You can replace the air filter with an aftermarket filter assembly. This should be paired with a high performance exhaust.
  • When using your air conditioner, be sensible.
  • Optional: A tonneau cover can be used to reduce aerodynamic drag. This will also increase fuel economy by as much as 10%

** This list is non-exhaustive

Potential Drawbacks

A performance chip does not provide all the benefits described in this article. Most vehicle owners underestimate the importance of this modification. Computer enhancements can be a scam, but that is not to say they aren’t effective. It would be foolish to ignore the potential problems of installing an engine chip into your car. These include excessive EGTs and a greater likelihood of engine failure prematurely, intermittent power loss, and a Check Engine Light that goes off unceremoniously.

Installing a performance chip can cause more serious problems than just minor ones. It often leads to more significant trade-offs that need careful consideration. Before you buy an engine chip to power your wheeler, think about the following:

  • There is a good chance that the chip will cause your state to reject emissions tests because it disables factory-set emission controls and unnecessarily triggers your CEL indicators.
  • You can’t open the ECU boxes of your vehicle while under warranty.
  • While advanced performance chips help increase power at wide-open throttle and high-rev conditions, they usually guarantee power loss in other riding conditions and heavily take away from your car’s drivability.
  • Chips designed to increase power will have a lower fuel efficiency or MPG.

If you can’t resist getting your vehicle a performance chips, I recommend waiting until you have completed all the modifications before buying one. This is particularly important for those involved in a large-scale build. You will ensure your engine chip calculates optimal performance if you finish all mods before the engine chip takes into consideration any modifications.

Best Performance Chips in 2021

After we’ve covered the pros and cons of performance chips it would be logical to discuss the top picks from different online sources as well as automotive publications.

Créme de la Créme:

Extra Mentions

These items may not work with all vehicles. Some items are not suitable for cars that do not have AFM (Active Fuel Management), and others cannot be tuned or customized. Before you buy any of these products, make sure to do thorough research. Don’t fall for cheap deals that appear too good to pass up.

Conclusion – Do Performance Chips Work?

Are performance chips really worth it? Absolutely. No wonder they are commonplace with most owners – they have an easy-to-install plug-and-play mechanism and are reasonably priced. In no way do they drastically improve your vehicle’s deficiencies. They can be combined with some TLC, the right aftermarket modifications, and they will make a significant improvement in your vehicle’s overall performance.

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