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Chip tuning refers to changing or modifying an EPROM chip in a car's or other vehicle's electronic control unit (ECU) to achieve better performance, whether it be more power, cleaner emissions, or better fuel economy.

Modern ECUs can be tuned by simply updating their software through a standard interface, such as OBDII. This procedure is commonly referred to as engine or ECU tuning. ECUs are a relatively recent addition to the automobile, having first appeared in the late 1970s.

As technology advanced, so did the electronics that go into cars. The ECU in a modern automobile, together with advanced engine technology, makes it possible to control many aspects of the engine's operation, such as spark timing and fuel injection.

The ECU may also control electronic throttle control (drive-by-wire), valve timing, boost control (in turbocharged engines), ABS, the automatic transmission, speed governor (if equipped), and the electronic stability control system.

Performance gains are realized by adjusting the ignition timing advance. Higher timing may result in higher performance. However, to cope with advanced timing, one must run high-octane gasoline to avoid pre-ignition detonation or pinging. In addition, changing fuel maps to coincide with the stoichiometric ratio for gasoline combustion may also realize performance increase.

Most manufacturers tune for optimum emissions and fuel economy purposes, which can limit performance. Cars with a turbo fitted can have the requested and allowable boost levels raised, these applications usually have the most effect if the turbo fitted is a low Pressure turbo which leaves the most room for improvement.

 

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