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Giving drivers the ability to improve their fuel economy while providing more power from the engine might seem like an offer that is too good to be true. But with performance chips, it’s very likely that these tiny additions to your car can have exactly that effect. Yet, with a plethora of performance chips available on the market it’s easy to get confused as to which are the best.
In this article, we have the essential information you need to make the right decision for your car by taking an in-depth look into what makes a great tuning chip and why you should buy one. We also answer frequently asked questions, so you can make your purchase in full confidence.
The Best Performance Chip
DiabloSport is a well-known enterprise when it comes to providing the public with fresh new tuning programmers, and this item is one of our favorites. Suiting almost all vehicles on the road, you simply need your OBDII port in order to plug this in and get started.
Again, this item focuses on the power and torque of your car by overriding the four-cylinder mode with the V8 option, allowing you to quickly and forcefully move when you need to. Just be aware that your vehicle will need to host the Active Fuel Management system in order for this performance chip to work.
Connects to the OBDII port
Suits most domestic vehicles that feature Active Fuel Management (AFM)
Forces regular V8 mode
- Weight0.8 ounces
Very simple installation with no tuning or alterations required
Quickly resolves lagging problems often seen when changing from 4 to 8 cylinders
Not suitable for cars without AFM
No tuning of personalization abilities
A great option that meets the needs of a wide range of vehicles (providing they were registered after 1996 and equipped with an OBDII port), this programmer is perfect for a variety of drivers. Whether you like to check out the open road, commute to work, or are a long-distance driver looking for maximum performance, the Insight Monitor from Edge Products is a popular choice.
The easy-to-read screen displays all the information you need, making it easy to monitor your performance and to self-regulate. You should be aware, however, that this option does not come with any tuning abilities and acts as a monitor only.
Suitable for vehicles with an OBDII (diagnostic) port
Range of on-screen colors and designs available
- BrandEdge Products
- Weight12.8 ounces
Touch screen makes it easier to manage tasks and monitoring
Slimline and easy to carry when not in use
Great for monitoring and diagnostics
This is only a monitor, so no tuning capabilities
Screen can slow down considerably over time
A power chip that focuses on driving performance in high-load vehicles, this device works by disabling the four-cyclinder mode, thereby allowing your car to regularly operate under V8 mode. As you can imagine, this provides extra power and torque where you need it most.
Since it’s so small, the change that this simple addition can make is incredible. It uses a plug-and-play style of installation, so you don’t have to worry about spending hours tinkering under your hood. You can even maintain your warranty with this option.
Designed for high-load vehicles
Disables 4-cylinder mode
- BrandRange Technology
- Weight3.2 ounces
Does not reprogram factory settings, maintaining your warranty
Ideal for vehicles with high-load requirements, such as tow trucks
Very easy to install with a plug and play system
Can result in “check engine” light coming on
Affects miles-per-gallon negatively
Another option that doesn’t void your warranty, the Throttle Response Controller from Pedal Commander does exactly what is says on the packaging. Easy to install, you can plug and play this component quickly and easily, allowing you to work on improving fuel efficiency.
There are four adjustable modes that are pre-programmed into this tuner, which can also be altered to give you a massive 36 configurations to best suit your needs. It also comes with an app, which acts as your display and allows you to easily see the output and efficiency of your system.
Improves fuel economy
Very easy to install and use
- BrandPedal Commander
- ModelPc-18 Pc-30
- Weight7 ounces
Doesn’t void your car warranty
Very easy to install as a plug-and-play application
Comes with a phone application for easier controls
Does not provide the same positive results in heavier trucks
A handheld programmer that could easily be mistaken for an MP3 player, the Flashcal F5 Tuner from Superchips is an easy-to-use system that acts as a great monitor for your vehicle. This is another plug-and-play device, although this particular option only works with the Jeep Wrangler.
Unfortunately, this option comes with very few, limited adjustments and mostly acts as a monitor. While you can alter it for tire size, axles, and so on, there are few improvements beyond this.
Fits Jeeps only
Handheld, plug-and-play device
Works with upgraded equipment
- Weight9.6 ounces
Ideal for those looking for the most personalized experience
Quick and easy to use
Hosts some nice features that customers appreciate
No overall performance enhancement
Suitable for Jeep Wrangler only
Another option from SCT Performance, this item is also WiFi enabled and therefore super quick and easy to keep up to date with all the latest tuning programs. This, in turn, helps you get the most from your vehicle at all times with little to no effort.
The 40490 fits a huge range of vehicles and can hold up to 20 custom tuning programs, allowing you to fully customize your driving experience. It also comes with a full-color display, so you can clearly and easily see your monitoring information during use and keep an eye on your fuel economy.
Fits a wide variety of vehicles
- BrandSCT Performance
- Weight15.7 ounces
Holds up to 20 individual custom tuning files
Provides clear information via the full-color display
Customer support is hard to reach with limited hours
This Popular gadget from Bully Dog is one of the top products on the market thanks to its huge range of abilities. The dash-mounted display allows you to continually keep an eye on your performance management through the use of this power chip and comes pre-loaded with fuel-saving tuning, which is suitable for most cars.
Be aware, however, that the more complex the system, the more likely you’ll run into problems when things go wrong. This is especially true in this case as users note that when things go wrong it can be extremely hard to sort and resolve technical issues.
Dash-mounted LCD display
Ability to diagnose and clear fault codes
Clear display uses day and night modes
- BrandBully Dog
- Weight1.02 pounds
Pre-loaded with fuel-saving tuning for most cars
15 performance parameters are displayed at once using the full-color screen
Some users note struggles with technical errors
Users note only marginal improvements overall
Suitable only for Ford Powerstroke diesel engines, this performance chip is one of the best on the market. It is listed toward the lower half of our Top Picks as it is limited by the make and model when it comes to vehicle compatibility. It’s extremely easy to install and uses a simple 6-setting knob that allows you to quickly switch between pre-loaded tunes even while driving (although this isn’t advised).
It does, however, negatively affect your MPG, and even the lifetime warranty isn’t quite enough to save this shortfall – although it’s definitely a nice little bonus to a popular and simple choice.
Comes with six settings
Very popular product
Easy to install
- BrandTS Performance
- Weight4 ounces
Easy to switch between tunings
Comes with a lifetime warranty
Negatively affects MPG
Components can be sensitive and prone to blowing a fuse
Here’s another option from DiabloSport only it has a full-color screen that allows you to quickly locate and adjust your settings. Whether you’re looking for a tune-up or simply want to monitor your engine, this is a very easy-to-install and easy-to-use option that works brilliantly for a wide variety of drivers.
Users appreciate the customization abilities as well as the pre-loaded programs, which make using this power chip even easier. The only real downfalls are the price (it’s twice as much as some of our other options) and the regularity of updates, which seem to happen almost constantly.
Comes with preloaded programs
Highly popular among users
- BrandDiablo Sports
- Weight6.7 ounces
Great for personalized motors
Very easy to install and set up
One of the most expensive options on our list
Frequently requires updates
Designed purely to read and restore your engine, the F5 tuner from Superchips analyzes your fault codes and allows you to improve your MPG. It also has the ability to adjust some of your performance settings in order to gain more power and speed – although there are many others on our list that are easier to work with in this capacity.
While it is generally compatible with most vehicles, it will not work in customized vehicles, so swapping from another tuner to this option is not the best idea. It also gets slammed by users for the high price tag – an understandable qualm, considering the same programs can be covered by cheaper options.
Two-year warranty included
Loved by customers
Compatible with most vehicle types
- Weight11.2 ounces
Full-color screen is easy to diagnose, find faults, as well as tune
Great for tow trucks and domestic vehicles alike
Won’t work with customized computing in vehicles
Many customers aren’t happy with the overall value
Able to work on all fuel types, this is one of the most versatile options on our list. This award-winning performance chip from Hypertech is popular thanks to its quick and easy usage as well as the wide variety of customizable options.
You should be aware, however, that many users have had problems with the customer support from Hypertech. Indeed, many have noted that this company is much more focused on the sales side, so you may find yourself having to upgrade once you start having problems.
Award-winning performance chip
Works with regular, premium, E85 and diesel fuel types
- Weight12.8 ounces
Plenty of options and tuning programs to choose from
Works with customized vehicles
Poor customer service
Only works on a maximum of three vehicles
Our last DiabloSport choice is another option with a full-color screen and a quick-and-easy installation thanks to the plug-and-play design. This particular option works with a huge range of models and is best matched with larger trucks with up to and around eight-liter engines.
This is most likely because the additional 25Bhp that this item provides is best utilized by heavier vehicles that can handle the change in tuning. It even works well with customized vehicles and therefore is one of the most popular options.
Best to use with larger trucks
Works with wide range of models
- Weight1.19 pounds
Provides up to an additional 25Bhp
Can be adjusted to fit a customized vehicle
The check engine light often appears when in use
Not designed for added throttle/Bhp
A great, basic option with an easy-to-read screen and a simple set up, this performance programmer from Jet Performance is another popular choice. With three pre-set tunes, you’ll find that setting up this item is remarkably quick, and the effectiveness of these programs speak volumes.
Almost all users have noted that there is a clear and direct change in overall performance after using this programmer. Most commonly, the transmission and shifting is much easier and smoother. Just be aware that fakes may be sold, and the customer service may be sub-par for any problems you may have down the road.
Includes three pre-set tunes
Modifies rev and speed limit
- BrandJet Performance
- Weight12.8 ounces
Noticable gain in performance
Simple to set up
Three levels of power and easy to use
Customer service isn’t that great
Fake products are prevalent
Our last option focuses almost entirely on providing your vehicle with increased speed and power. With increases of up to 35 horsepower and 50-foot torque, users extol the huge change in overall performance caused by this power chip.
This item only works with Ford F-150s, so before you make a purchase make sure your make and model match the requirements. It also needs to be attached using the dash pod, which makes installation and set up a little awkward.
Helps increase power
Comes with dash pod for installation
Customizable to suit your vehicle
- BrandEdge Products
- Weight1.6 pounds
Provides significant gains in horsepower and torque
Can be calibrated to suit tire size
Overall MPG decreases
Can be awkward to fit as it needs to be attached to the dash
More expensive than many options on our list
Best Performance Chip Buying Guide & FAQ
What to Consider When Buying a Performance Chip
- Vehicle Make and Model
Naturally, you’ll want a performance chip that is suited to the make and model of your car. Not all power chips are universal, so you should always check with manufacturer before purchasing your next chip.
Amazon has a handy feature which gives you a good idea as to whether a new component will match with your current vehicle but it’s always better to be safe than sorry when spending hundreds of dollars on a new item for your car.
- Fuel Type
Your fuel type will have an effect on which items you can buy for your car. Diesel performance parts are naturally going to be very different from standard gas components, and diesel tuning requires a different set of systems to gas tuning. Thus, in this example, you’ll need to be sure that you grab a diesel programmer that can match your fuel type. Just like the make and model, you need to be completely sure in order to be safe, so do get in contact with the company if you have any uncertainty.
Each performance chip comes with its own set of pre-loaded programs, but there are also some that allow you to create and alter your own tuning programs. These are incredibly handy if you’re looking for a specific output to be increased and so on, but they are often more complicated and harder to get to grips with. Decide what you’re comfortable with first, before purchasing your power chip.
Depending on how you like to check out your data, you may find that you prefer a smaller monitor that you only need to access during tune-ups – or a full-color monitor that provides details of every aspect of your vehicle.
Bear in mind that you may need to carry your new monitor around with you, while parked up or will have to find a place to store it when not in use, so be sure you’re comfortable with this before immediately choosing the biggest option.
Benefits of a Tuning Chip
- Increased Performance
The main idea behind performance chips is that they improve the overall performance of your vehicle. Whether you’re looking for increased fuel efficiency or are more interested in the power and speed of your beloved truck or car, a good power chip will help you get the most from your engine, without the need for constant trips to the mechanic or shop.
When something goes wrong in your car, it can be something or nothing. The worst feeling is when you take your vehicle to the shop, only to discover that the problem was only a minor fault in the first place and could easily have been fixed by yourself at a fraction of the cost.
With many performance chips, you’ll find that the system includes a diagnosis and reporting option. This allows you to skip past the line to the mechanic and check out the basic electrical faults for yourself, saving you from a red face and damaged wallet.
Regardless of what your main goal is, it’s always a good idea for regular road users to be able to keep an eye on their vehicles. Whether you’re a commuter or a long-distance driver, being able to easily see how your vehicle is driving gives you peace of mind, allows you to see any upcoming troubles and quickly spot even small issues and changes in your engine, before they become big problems and a danger.
- Lower Running Costs
While some performance chips come with the ability to increase your power and torque, this can have a negative effect on your MPG. Others, however, are able to help you increase your fuel efficiency by giving you easy-to-read data that allows you to see when you’re using too much energy to get around, and so on.
By doing this, you become more conscious of your driving and therefore improve your overall MPG. Meanwhile, others provide tuning programs to help you gain the most out of your driving and help you to become more fuel efficient without even having to think about it.
Types of Programmers and Performance Chips
- Control Modules
These plug into the electrical system under your hood, where they then become permanent fixtures. They are known for providing accurate, detailed information in a real-time basis, as they are continually reading and assessing your engine and computer system. They will then analyze the output and efficiency, adjusting your engine to suit the new tuning program.
- Power Programmers
A power programmer works in a very similar way to control modules, with the main difference being a “plug and play” capacity, which allows you to easily add the performance chip to your car. Once you have added the gadget to your OBDII port, you will need to answer a few questions about your car in order to get the best set-up – so be sure to keep your manual nearby.
These should only need to be kept in for around 10 minutes, although they will likely need to be updated regularly. This helps to keep your cars tuning up to date and can be done via your desktop or laptop, usually using the same plug and play system.
- Engine Management Systems
An engine management system allows you to gain full and complete control over the tuning of your car. Usually preferred by truck and SUV drivers, it can handle everything in your engine – from fuel injector systems to your idle speed. At which point all of the information should be made available to you, using a screen that allows you to flick between different tuning programs. They are, however, the most difficult to install in your vehicle, as well as being considerably more expensive.
Best Performance Chip FAQ:
Q: What is a performance chip and how does it work?
A: Performance chips, also known as superchips or power chips, are designed to be an aftermarket computing update for your car. Some of these will completely override your current computing system, while others work alongside it to get the most out of your car.
For some “the most” translates to the best speed, torque, highest power or even something as simple as a smoother ride and increased fuel economy. Each one runs on a different code, so the results are different, depending on which option you’d like to purchase.
Q: Does a performance chip increase horsepower?
A: The majority of power chips don’t actually help by increasing horsepower. Instead, the focus is on creating a more economical drive. That said, there are a number of options that focus on providing a more impressive torque, while also improving the overall horsepower of your engine.
Before buying your next chip, be sure to check that your selection offers this, as you may be disappointed by some of the others if you’re looking for a more powerful engine. You should also be aware this increased power naturally comes with a reduction in your MPG.
Q: Will a performance chip damage my engine?
A: A good performance chip should never have a negative effect on your engine. It will, however, void your warranty and it’s likely that branded garages won’t touch your car after you have altered the computer based within it. It is also likely to increase your emissions, meaning that you could fail your emissions testing. Finally, you should be aware that chips can lower the overall lifespan of your car, and these factors usually cause your insurance premiums to rise in kind.
Q: How do I install a performance chip?
A: Many of the options given in our list use a simple “plug and play” design. To install these, you’ll simply need to connect your performance chip to the OBDII port, and you should be good to go. The most complicated part of installing a power chip is actually beforehand – as many will need to be updated with your PC or laptop before being connected. In order to do this, it is always best to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to get the precise tune you’re looking for.
Our Top Pick
We love the Custom Power Flash Programmer from SCT Performance as it provides, overall, a fantastic value option that works brilliantly with one of the most popular car brands on the market – Ford. Designed with plenty of pre-loaded tunes for an easy plug and play set up, the control freaks among you will love that you can also customize your new programming chip. Overall, this is a great choice for Ford owners who want to add that touch of extra power and torque to their driving.
- How Does a Performance Chip Work? – It Still Runs
- Engine remapping and chipping: guide, tips and cost – Car Buyer
- How To Program Car's ECU (Guide to Car Tuning / Chip Programming) – Total Car Diagnostic