Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Tom asks: I had a 1993 Cadillac years ago and I got a performance chip put into it that perked up the performance but also increased the gas mileage. I now have a 2007 Lacrosse and am considering chipping it (about $300). What do you think?
My reply: “Chipping” cars means replacing a computer chip which controls various parameters such as ignition timing with the idea being to get better performance (and mileage) out of the car than the factory settings. This was a very popular thing to do in the early days of computer-controlled engine management, circa the mid-late 1980s through the early-mid 1990s.
But along came OnBoard Diagnostics II (OBD II) and more sophisticated engine management systems that use code rather than “chips.” These systems can be modified – the term is “reflashing” (i.e., reprogramming) the ECU, or Electronic Control Module. I am pretty sure most recent-vintage (OBD II) vehicles do not have replaceable “chips.”
Either way, though, if you can obtain a performance/mileage improvement by altering the factory settings/programming without causing problems (and voiding your warranty coverage) then it might be worth doing if the cost is less than the value to you of the improvement achieved.
But it may not be. New cars – late model cars – aren’t as rich in untapped potential as the cars of the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s were. I gibs you an example:
I could install a header in my ’02 Nissan Frontier; the gain would be about 5 horsepower for a cost around $300. Not worth doing. Mainly because the factory exhaust is pretty efficient, so the aftermarket exhaust doesn’t make all that much difference.
On the other hand, adding headers to my ’76 TA made a yuge difference – because the factory manifolds were hugely restrictive. Putting a high-flow exhaust on the car was worth 30 horsepower and the headers (plural) cost less than the header (singular) for my truck.
Before you kauf anything, ask for data about the power (and mileage) gains you will get if you have your car’s ECU reflashed. Then decide whether those gains are worth the cost!
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Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
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