Chipping Your Ride
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Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted thought or
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Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.
OK, so maybe you
have put on the geek glasses, donned a pocket protector and over-clocked
your PC, but what have you done for your sports car or 4WD computer
lately? Conversion kits are now available that, with a little soldering
finesse, can override your car's factory computer (engine control unit,
or ECU) to crank maximum horsepower out of your engine. To accommodate
emissions laws, lifetime wear guarantees/expectations of its moving
parts, fuel mileage goals and model-to-model variations, the ECU is
typically "mapped" for output power performance way below maximum.
The process is called "chipping" because at first it was possible to
simply replace a preprogrammed instruction chip in a socket. After 1996,
law required the IC to be soldered to the PCB to prevent chipping. As
with any other prohibited activity, enterprising geniuses figured out
how to override the system using various bolt-on/solder-on daughter
boards. Of course, your warranty is voided if the mod is discovered,
but many kits install in a way that makes them removable without much
of a trace, and some include external switches that permit switching
between turbo and stock modes while in the garage for inspection or
tune-up. An example done for Popular Science magazine increased a 1999
VW Passat's 1.8L engine from 150 hp to 205 hp. Of course, with gas prices
going the way they are, you might want to look for a kit to tame your
300 hp babe machine down to about 150 hp at the flip of a switch, instead.