The Importance of Microchips in Motoring

In modern cars the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) manages the engine to ensure it runs efficiently and cleanly, but it also looks after many of the vehicle’s other features too.

More and more of the devices we use on an everyday basis are controlled by microchips and our cars are no exception. Gone are the days when the engine was controlled by a mechanical distributor and carburettor. In modern cars the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) manages the engine to ensure it runs efficiently and cleanly, but it also looks after many of the vehicle’s other features too.

The advantage of this to the manufacturer is that it makes it easy to have consistency across all models. It also ensures that cars remain in-tune for longer so service intervals can be extended without compromising performance or efficiency. However, there are advantages for the end user too because electronic control makes it easy for a specialist to adjust the settings to improve economy or performance through chip tuning.

How is it Done?

It its early days in the 1980s and 90s when electronic control was just starting to take hold in the car market, retuning would often involve replacing the entire ECU chip with a new version. This gave rise to the term ‘chipped’ coming into common use to refer to cars that had been modified in this way. Since then ECU modules have become more complex and have taken on many more functions including safety features like anti-lock brakes so these days it’s more common to use a computer to reprogram or remap the existing chip rather than swap it completely. Many cars now have management ports that allow these changes to be made via a simple plug-in connection.

Manufacturers tend to tune their vehicles for reliability but in doing so they don’t necessarily optimise all aspects of the engine. They tend to allow for vehicles running on low grades of fuel for example whereas premium fuels allow better performance from the same engine. By changing settings for items like the ignition timing and the fuel/air ratio, it is possible to make significant improvements and optimise the performance to the fuel. Engines which have a turbo are particularly suitable for performance enhancements because it’s possible to change the boost level. This applies equally to diesels as it does to petrol vehicles.

Modern cars with engine management ports make it possible to change the configuration pretty much whenever you want to. This is great if you have a performance car that you want to use for track days as you can use different mapping for the road and the race track.

What Can Reprogramming Do For Me?

Although it’s most often associated with increasing performance, chip tuning has other uses too. It can for example, make a car more drivable in day-to-day conditions. It does this by improving throttle response and offering more torque at low revs for improved pulling power – that’s the pulling power of the engine, not your ability to attract the opposite sex!

Retuning can improve economy too, thus saving on fuel costs and reducing emissions to make your car friendlier to the environment. This is something that isn’t just restricted to individuals either as fleets can benefit from fuel savings whilst also reducing the business cost of running vehicles.

A good specialist will help you achieve the best from your vehicle whether your priority is performance or economy. What’s more they’ll do it without damaging the ECU and without over stressing other components, so the reliability of your car will be maintained. They should also retain the ability to return the ECU to its original settings should you need to.

Benn is a blogger who understands that microchips are vital in vehicles to maximise certain elements such as performance or fuel economy. There are many experts who specialise in chip tuning who can help you to get the most from your vehicle.

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