Be care­ful with per­for­mance chips

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS - JIM KERR

QUES­TION: I’ve seen the ads for per­for­mance/mileage-en­hanc­ing chips and can’t help won­der­ing: If they’re such magic why are the ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers not us­ing the tech­nol­ogy? They would surely want to squeeze the most out a gal­lon of gas, wouldn’t they? I have a 2011 Chevy 2500 van with the small V-8 and am think­ing about buy­ing a unit.

AN­SWER: The auto man­u­fac­tur­ers with the best fuel econ­omy have an ad­van­tage in sales, so you can be as­sured they’re try­ing to get the best they can at a rea­son­able cost of pro­duc­tion. It’s pos­si­ble to get even bet­ter fuel econ­omy, but it would make the cost of a ve­hi­cle so high that no one would buy it.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers also have to meet many reg­u­la­tions with new ve­hi­cles, one of them be­ing emis­sions stan­dards. Sim­ply put, if the ve­hi­cle doesn’t meet emis­sion stan­dards, it can’t be sold. The per­for­mance chips you have been look­ing at are built for the af­ter­mar­ket and don’t have to meet emis­sions stan­dards. In fact, many of them will state that they are for “off-road use only”, so they don’t have to meet the stan­dards and can tune the en­gine for bet­ter fuel econ­omy even though emis­sions may be higher.

Typ­i­cally, per­for­mance chips mod­ify the ig­ni­tion tim­ing curve to give more spark ad­vance and change the amount of fuel de­liv­ery un­der load and cruise to give bet­ter fuel econ­omy and per­for­mance. Some of these chips will also turn off some of the emis­sion de­vices, al­though that doesn’t re­ally in­crease per­for­mance and may mod­ify trans­mis­sion shift feel and rpm points for a crisper shift.

I know sev­eral ve­hi­cle own­ers who have used per­for­mance chips with good re- sults, but be aware that us­ing one of these af­ter­mar­ket chips or pro­grams will void any pow­er­train war­ranty you have on the ve­hi­cle.

Jim Kerr is a me­chanic, in­struc­tor of au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy, free­lance jour­nal­ist and mem­ber of the Au­to­mo­bile Jour­nal­ists’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada.

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