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Hack Your Car

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the pistons-exiting-through-hood dept.

Upgrades 838

gurps_npc writes "The New York Times has this story about hacking your car's chip. You can get significant horse power and torque boosts (+18 horsepower and +70 foot pounds of torque in the given example), as well as improve (or decrease) fuel efficency. The car companies do not like (surprise surprise) people personalizing their vehicle's programming and warn of burning out your engine with bad code, and voiding your warranty."

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in soviet russia... (-1, Funny)

Mohammed Al-Sahaf (665285) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276042)

car hack you!

Soviet Russia nothing (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276071)

San Fran Farmers market.

/bad taste

Re:in soviet russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276088)

There once was a pedophile called Taco
who fucked a mexican named Paco
the kid was smart
and sued the retard
now he lives behind bars, the whacko.

uhm, sure (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276046)

This is nothing new.

I like traffic lights.

FIRST POST (-1, Troll)

Belzu (735378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276047)



YOU FAIL IT! (624257) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276066)

This is not the first post! I wish I could hack my car's chip to make it more efficient, for when I go out driving and run down FAILURES like you!!!


Yes But (-1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276050)

Does it run the new, improved, code-stolen-from-Win2K-and-SCO Lunix?

Carmageddon (-1, Troll)

StuWho (748218) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276056)

Don't put MS software on the chip

Re:Carmageddon (1)

Vlar (749162) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276093)

and don't let it leak out to the internet. No need to follow a bad example

hackable eh? (1, Funny)

name773 (696972) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276058)

hackable implies a security hole, and the manufacturer doesn't want you to exploit it.... Microsoft does make cars!!

Magnusson Moss Warranty Act (1, Informative)

jargoone (166102) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276060)

warn of burning out your engine with bad code, and voiding your warranty

Car manufacturers can be such bullies sometimes. Luckily, there are things such as the Magnusson Moss Warranty Act [] to help protect consumers.

Re:Magnusson Moss Warranty Act (5, Informative)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276082)

That doesn't cover damage you cause by dicking with the computer.

And when your engine wears out sooner, it's not hard to argue that the changes you made to the computer caused it, if those changes pushed the engine harder than normal.

That act is mostly applied to replacement parts, not performance tweaks, especially potentially damaging ones.

Re:Magnusson Moss Warranty Act (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276147)

Yup, unless you can prove (you can't) that reprograming the car didn't alter the way the car will wear you're SOL. So, do your research, if you're going to tweak your car, do so INTELLIGENTLY!!!!! I've taken my stock 227hp car up to around 340-350hp. It's 2 years old, driven fairly hard, and is still running really well.

Re:Magnusson Moss Warranty Act (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276120)

That only work if your non stock part did not cause the problem. If your paint job fall off your covered. If you blow a piston because you put in too much fuel your out of luck.

Re:Magnusson Moss Warranty Act (5, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276149)

Nothing protects you if you take a sledgehammer to the roof of your car. That's excessively stupid and definitely part of "normal use" so void goes your warranty.

You're okay to get your oil change at Jiffy Lube or your repair part from another maker who tries to duplicate the specs. But, that so isn't what's going on here...

Re:Magnusson Moss Warranty Act (2, Informative)

TheTray (750213) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276186)

I didn't read the article so it's not 100% clear what there doing but this doesn't seem knew. Changing these settings can cause the engine to die prematurely. While you may be able to reprogram the chip back to factory specs before you get it repaired it's still illegal and immoral. While that Act can protect you in many cases it can be very difficult to prove someone tampered with the engine computers while they can still cause damage. Thus leaving the car companies to hold the bag while you get to screw with settings you may know nothing about. Honestly I can understand that if the change you made didn't damage your car good, but if it did then the reponsibility is on you to fix it, even if you can catch the dealer on a technicality. Being that they can't prove it. This is almost the opposite of the RIAA lawsuits. The car owners are proected even if they did something to cause the damage because there is no proof. Where as the RIAA is lawsuit crazy without concrete proof that any damages occured. This is the horrid state of affairs our government is in. While the DMCA and the powers the RIAA has in the court room suck, it's not fair to car manufacturers who get held liable for some people's deliberate damage to the car. Note: I am not really using "you" to refer to jargoone, merely as a tool for someone who is doing this to their car. Also I do think we should have right to modify these settings, I also don't want to see the car manufacturers to be forced into RIAA tactics to protect there profits.

Re:Magnusson Moss Warranty Act (2, Informative)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276217)

The Magnusson Moss Warranty Act covers "aftermarket" parts. Aftermarket means, 3rd party, non-dealer, OEM REPLACEMENT parts. This does not include non-OEM replacement parts. OEM replacement parts are manufactured to the same specifications as the original equipment. A new computer chip, supercharger, or new suspension setup are not OEM parts. Now there is a small caveat to all this. If you install a suspension in your car, it voids the warranty on suspension items, but not on drivetrain, etc. If damage can be traced back to one of these tuner parts, you can sure as hell be guaranteed that the dealer will not cover this, and your warranty is voided for that portion of the car.

Re:Magnusson Moss Warranty Act (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276232)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA good luck with that one hahah

I dont think I would hack my car (4, Insightful)

MakoStorm (699968) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276061)

I would tinker with the insides of any computer, or any electronic device.

But on the other hand, if I make a mistake with a car I could hurt or kill myself.

I think I will just leave them alone and keep hacking my Xbox and Tivo, I cant die if I screw up my Tivo.

Life without Tivo? ARRRGH! (4, Funny)

DrInequality (521068) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276097)

I cant die if I screw up my Tivo.

I'd die pretty quickly without my Tivo!

Re:I dont think I would hack my car (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276108)

"I cant die if I screw up my Tivo."

hmmmm i wouldnt say that to any die hard soap fan who has a busy schedule

Re:I dont think I would hack my car (2, Interesting)

Crazieeman (610662) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276122)

This is why I'm really reluctant to do even basic work on my car myself. Computers, there's only one way to risk killing yourself, and you'd have to be TRYING to do it. Car, one mistightened nut, and you're in traction.

Re:I dont think I would hack my car (3, Interesting)

jargoone (166102) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276183)

What you say is true, but are you always certain of the competency of the person who is working on it? The number of times I've had something simple fucked up made me worry enough to start doing all but the most difficult maintenance myself.

Re:I dont think I would hack my car (4, Interesting)

Skater (41976) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276210)

Hear, hear.

Like the guy that patched my tire...except, several hours later, they couldn't find the patch, after I had to return because the tire was flat again. Or the guy that 'fixed' my completely disconnected exhaust system (the bolts loosened and fell out): as soon as I fired it up, I could hear an exhaust leak. The manager couldn't believe the mechanic missed it.

And don't get me started on the crooks...


Re:I dont think I would hack my car (0, Redundant)

Emor dNilapasi (455542) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276143)

True, but you'll want to die if you screw up your Tivo. :)

Re:I dont think I would hack my car (3, Interesting)

jargoone (166102) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276165)

I cant die if I screw up my Tivo

Sure you can. Have you seen the unshielded power supply?

Tivo hacking safety! (4, Funny)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276182)

Tivos are probably the most dangerous of consumer appliances to service. Very high voltages (up to 5000 V) at potentially very high currents (AMPs) are present when operating - deadly combination. These dangers do not go away even when unplugged as there is an energy storage device - a high voltage capacitor - that can retain a dangerous charge for a long time. If you have the slightest doubts about your knowledge and abilities to deal with these hazards, replace the Tivo or have it professionally repaired.

Careless troubleshooting of a Tivo can not only can fry you from high voltages at relatively high currents but can irradiate you as well. When you remove the metal cover of the Tivo oven you expose yourself to dangerous - potentially lethal - electrical connections. You may also be exposed to potentially harmful levels of television emissions if you run the Tivo with the cover off and there is damage or misalignment to the waveguide to the Tivo chamber.

Just kidding. I got that text from a warning in a guide to microwave repair [] .

Actually... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276239)

Actually, tivos can be fairly dangerous, since the power supply isn't enclosed like it is in a computer.

Re:I dont think I would hack my car (2, Interesting)

MakoStorm (699968) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276188)

Okay, you are all right, I will leave my Tivo alone...(never hacked it in the first place) I got that 3 year thing from Circuit City on it, so I got three years before i can play with it.

I love my Tivo, I never would have believed it would change my life like it has.

I will just tinker with my Mandrake machine and the wife's computer.

Re:I dont think I would hack my car (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276220)

Exactly. Most people don't have the resources to properly test their code changes, nor do they likely have a good enough understanding of how the system works to understand how their changes will affect the system as a whole.

How many times have you made a change to someone else's code only to end up introducing a new bug? It's pretty easy to do especially if you aren't very familiar with the whole program. Heck, people often introduce new bugs into their own code when they make changes.

I assume that the car manufacturers do rigorous code testing: unit testing, bench testing, simulation testing, integration testing etc. This is an instance where a single bug could end up killing or severely injuring someone.

car mods? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276063)

Wow, we sure are modifying everything these days. As a Valentines tribute, I'd like someone to mod a toilet to allow two people to sit at once and release their poo together. Or does this already exist?

Re:vlad mods? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276089)

Just get a really disgusting fat pig [] of a person to lay on the floor with their mouth open.

Overclocking... (1, Insightful)

DRUNK_BEAR (645868) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276065)

warn of burning out your engine with bad code, and voiding your warranty. No different than overclocking and many people have been very successful doing this...

Re:Overclocking... (5, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276110)

No different than overclocking and many people have been very successful doing this...

Because we all know an internal combustion engine, with hundreds of moving parts, metals with critical temperature points, etc, is exactly like a CPU.

Re:Overclocking... (3, Insightful)

DRUNK_BEAR (645868) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276199)

Well, if you don't know how hardware works, you don't overclock. If you don't know how to car control works, you don't mod it either.

Sorry to be so unclear, but the analogy still stands. It's not everyone that is only specialized in one particular field and doesn't have a clue about anything else...

Re:Overclocking... (2, Insightful)

Skater (41976) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276227)

You know, it's interesting: in some ways, cars and computers are similar (for example, starting is hard on them). It's worth noting that the people who work on each are pretty much the same: they start playing around with it, and pretty soon they're an expert mechanic or computer repairperson. It's really a matter of confidence and learning, not some mystical knowledge.


Re:Overclocking... (1, Insightful)

paganizer (566360) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276237)

Cars are just NOT that complicated. or they don't have to be, at least.
My father-in-law used to do pretty good business taking out the electronic crap in new cars and replacing it with normal stuff; you don't need any of it, unless you have a engine that was never designed to be normally aspirated, in which case never mind.

But if you have a decent sized engine, throw on a dual-point distributor, a high-rise intake manifold and a holly 6-pack; you not only will pass emission control tests, but you'll get all the horsepower and torque you are supposed to get.

You do have to manually adjust it every month or so, but it's easier than compiling.

Re:Overclocking... (1)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276164)

> No different than overclocking and many people have been very successful doing this...

So some wern't .. and you want those people cruising around your neighbourhood in their ABS-modded cars?

Maybe I'm okay with tweaking the fuel injection timings, or whatnot, but I'm not cool with people tweaking the software that has anything to do with break, or acceleration, or turning ...

I can see it now. MAHD .. mothers against hacked driving. Don't code and drive!

This is no new thing (5, Interesting)

CptChipJew (301983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276070)

People have been doing this ever since computer controlled fuel injection has been in style.

If you peruse eBay, you'll see people selling replacement chips for around $400 that are supposed to add this many horsepower.

But if you think you're going to get another 70ft/lbs of torque in a Honda Civic by just doing that, think again.

As well, changing these values can be dangerous. I have a friend who quite messed up his Buick Riviera (he added fuel injection) by messing with the values. There was a huge table of values to fill out, and each had to be precicely tuned to achieve the right mix of performance and mileage. This is no easy task.

Actually, I got more than that from my GIAC chip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276163)

an additional 80ft/lbs and 47hp in my A4, thankyouverymuch... :)

Aftermarket ECU Chip vendor []

Re:Actually, I got more than that from my GIAC chi (1)

CptChipJew (301983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276206)

That's an A4, which is much more powerful than a Honda Civic.

Honda engines are not torquey at all.

The cheapest A4 1.8T has 166 ft/lbs of torque at peak. The cheapest Civic has 110.

And, with all cars, the more you have base, the more you can add.

Adding just a good intake system to a Ferarri will add up to 60hp. On a Civic, you'll get around 5.

Re:This is no new thing (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276193)

But if you think you're going to get another 70ft/lbs of torque in a Honda Civic by just doing that, think again.

Everyone knows that the only way to get 70 ft-lbs more torque from a civic is to cover it in Type-R stickers and put a big wing on the back.

For a good laugh at the riceboy industry, surf on over to [] .

Re:This is no new thing (5, Interesting)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276195)

If you peruse eBay, you'll see people selling replacement chips for around $400 that are supposed to add this many horsepower.

And unless you buy a matched kit with cam, inlet, exhaust, etc, you're just gambling that it will work better than your existing setup. If you're paying $400 for a chip, you'd be better off buying [] (or building [] ) a programmable computer instead. Then spend some dyno time and get it set up right.

oil change too ? :-) (1)

Walrusss (750700) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276075)

is it the same warranty voiding that the car company once said you could cause when you don't make your oil change at the dealer ? can't expect those companies to like doing less money :-)

Why why why (2, Insightful)

Mark_MF-WN (678030) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276076)

Why are companies so utterly retarded about these things? They should go out of their way to SUPPORT this kind of thing. It provides zero-cost research to the company, and increases value to the customer. Besides, as long as everyone is in understanding that it voids the car's warranty, why would they discourage it?

The same goes for Microsoft and their crappy console, and the thousands of other companies that blatantly spit on their best customers.

Re:Why why why (4, Insightful)

DRUNK_BEAR (645868) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276113)

It's the same as censoring slashdot... If the editors would do it, then, legally, they would be responsible for every content that is posted. Every comment.

It's a question of responsibility. If you do tests in a controlled environment and with crash dummies, there is very little chance of hurting someone versus if you openly encourage every Joe Blow to mod his car...

Re:Why why why (1)

wmspringer (569211) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276116)

Possibly because they anticipate someone screwing up the programming, causing an accident, and then suing them?

Even if they win, they can't be interested in that kind of publicity..

Re:Why why why (1)

seibed (30057) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276201)

the reason that no reasonable car company would support it is that, being code, it is quite easy to hide the fact that someone has been inside... so when someone violates the warranty, they could just shove the original code back in and return it to and suddennly the car company is paying for a new engine.

Re:Why why why (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276225)

What makes you think this provides any useful information to the company? I guarantee you that the auto manufacturer does a VASTLY more thorough test of an engine design than any amateur can possibly do -- fully instrumented, checking all corners of the configuration space, etc. There are in fact generally good reasons why the manufacturer chooses NOT to wring the extra 5% of power out of the engine -- reliability, emissions, efficiency, etc., especially within the context of assembly process and component variations during mass production.

Hackers aren't engineers. Get that through your head. The auto company learns NOTHING it didn't already know when people reprogram engine computers.

Hacking cars does not make you a better customer, it just makes you a hacker. They have your money either way, but from their point of view they are likely to get dinged with warranty repair costs they don't deserve when somebody hacks. And the truth of the matter is, they're right.

Same as overclocking. You think it doesn't cost Intel and AMD money? I guarantee you it does. People break their CPUs overclocking and abuse warranties to get them replaced all the time.

Re:Why why why (1)

24-bit Voxel (672674) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276238)

Im gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that the research isn't free, as it has already been done. It's not like these guys are creating new functions in software, just turning on and off certain values. The auto makers already know the system, they made it. What if the difference between certain "engines" was the software setting on fuel effeciency, rpm, etc etc. If that is the case then these modders are getting something for nothing, and no business likes that. (Unless its promotional.) It's likely that changing a 0 to a 1 is in reality simple, but to the dealers its a "2000 dollar upgrade". I can't say I know this for sure, but it seems very likely in my life experience.

If I can build the super and the premium widgets for the same cost, yet sell them for different amounts I am doing very well. Typically the 'premium' widget costs so much to manufacture that it is seldom worth building and selling, except for bragging rights. (Anyone remember the 512 MB Voodoo?) If these car compaines can turn the Super into the Premium by flipping a switch rather than remanufacturing... well, that's just smart business.

Re:Why why why (1)

switcha (551514) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276244)

It provides zero-cost research to the company

Yes, I'm sure the engineers that work for the major auto manufacturers were a tad lazy when tuning the chips for optimum efficiency and safety. I bet they'd appreciate and give extensive consideration the input of the unwashed masses, what with their vast car building experience and all.

chips and cars (4, Funny)

maxbang (598632) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276077)

My car would run better if it had a fucking dorito installed in it. Stupid mitsubishi.

Re:chips and cars (1)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276235)

Go buy an RX-7 or RX-8. Those come with two doritos in a pringles can.

I'll be back later to explain the joke unless someone else does first.

Quality Control of hacked code? (5, Insightful)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276080)

When I was taking Real-Time programming we discussed car code. The prof said it has a 7 year development cycle and takes about 2 developer hours per assembly instruction to write, test, and debug the code.

I don't see a hacked code being anywhere near as reliable. Even if it makes the changes you want, your car might end up stalling as often as windows crashes.

ProfQuotes []

Re:Quality Control of hacked code? (4, Informative)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276150)

It's generally not the "code" that's being hacked, but the data lookup tables. Sure, you could rewrite your engine's algorithms and maybe add some features, but all most people do is edit the fuel map to richen the air/fuel mixture and balance the mechanical mods they've made (exhausts, air inlet, etc).

Re:Quality Control of hacked code? (5, Informative)

pidge-nz (603614) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276176)

Generally speaking with regard to modded ECU's, what is usually being changed is the Open-loop fuel delivery and ignition maps. No programming changes, just tweaking a few values to better match the particular car when accelerating. When you car is cruising, the fuel and ignition map values are adjusted by feedback from the EGO (Exhaust Gas Oxygen) and knock sensors, to have the engine run at near stoichiometric. Even the aftermarket ECUs have fixed programming code, just adjustable maps and feature triggers (e.g. water injection, VVTi Cam control, turbo waste gate control, traction control igntion or fuel cut). But tuning the fuel and ignition maps does take a lot of time.

Re:Quality Control of hacked code? (1)

seibed (30057) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276180)

they aren't actually changing the bulk of the code that would or would not make the car more reliable... primarily they are changing the amount af retardation on the cam to allow more or less fuel to optimise the mixture... the default is essentially a lowest common denominator and doesn't take into account simple things like using higher quality gasoline (higher octane) and such.

My Car Chip (5, Funny)

nic barajas (750051) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276083)

I don't know what he's talking about. My '86 Toyota Camry doesn't have a chip, except where that modded '04 sports coupe flew by me.

Mod Chips for cars (1, Redundant)

justMichael (606509) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276084)

Have been available for years..

This is not news.

Google link. (5, Informative)

x136 (513282) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276085)

Altering Your Engine With New Chips []

Hooray, I get to be a whore today! :P

But if it wasn't for the smoke... (4, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276086)

The article states that some of these hacked cars are violating state emissions standards. Yet, they also have the ability to reset their cars back to the factory settings whenever they need to. In fact, in some states, newer cars aren't even emissions tested every year because it's presumed they come out okay from the factory.

"But if it wasn't for the smoke, I'd be happy with it," is I think the exact reason why car makers are underclocking the potential power of cars. This could be an enviromental problem waiting to happen if this catches on.

Re:But if it wasn't for the smoke... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276168)

Heh...In my state, there are no emission standards for diesels. So to my fellow TDI drivers... SMOKE 'EM IF YOU GOT THEM!

Re:But if it wasn't for the smoke... (1)

seibed (30057) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276226)

the guy who made that comment was an idiot. he's drivign a diesel and he's complaining about smoke??! and it is rare for anyone to notice a substantial reduction in MPG... usually there is little or no difference and most likely its a placebo in this guys case. (ie he just *thinks* hes getting worse mileage)

Whats next? (1)

johnty (558523) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276090)

-Hack your microwave: heats up food quicker, allows you to use metal containers

-Hack your toothbrush: reduces brushing time, whitens teeth 5 shades in 2 days and prolongs time between visist to the dentist

-Hack your hacks: increases efficency of hacks without loosing warranty.

etc etc

Re:Whats next? (1)

StuWho (748218) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276157)

Hack your dildo - from 125bpm to 500bpm, buy your JESUSCHRIST upgrade here

Well, for what reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276091)

Well, for what reason are these limitations on horsepower/torque/whatever in the car's computer there in the FIRST place?

Is it because of sloppy and/or conservative programming?

Is it because of a massive conspiracy to lower the efficiency of your car and make you buy more oil?

Or is it maybe-- just maybe-- for totally valid reasons relating to safety and health of the car's internal part things, which is why the car companies were trying to keep you from hacking these things in the first place?

Re:Well, for what reason (2, Interesting)

pidge-nz (603614) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276234)

The reasons are to protect the internals of the engine - so that they last the (at least) 60,000 miles expected of a production, road going car, not the 1 mile needed for a Methanol fueled drag car. For instance, Turbo cars run reasonably rich (down to about 10.5:1) under "wide open throttle", to reduce the temparture of the fuel-air mix to prevent or at least reduce knocking or pre-detination, and to lower the combustion temperature. This is a good thing for the engine - but results in lots of hydrocarbons going out the tail pipe - which is why you have a catalytic converter... Without those, you can end up with blown head gaskets, melted pistons (they are only made of aluminium), bent/broken conrods or even holes in the engine block from con rods making a rapid exit after breaking.

Turbo chips (1)

shfted! (600189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276092)

No, they don't want you to hack your own car so that they can sell you an expensive replacement "turbo chip" to do exactly the same thing as this.

Chip (1)

eodmightier (208901) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276094)

I've been running a chip in my VW for 3 years now. Great gains, fun mod, great bang per buck. My warrenty was long expired and I was fully aware of the added stress from my lead foot from the power increase.

Besides having to run 90+ octane, I love it.

Great... (0)

Flabby Boohoo (606425) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276098)

this story sounds like a Jeggs commercial on Spike TV.

Next story, the technology used to lip-sync on Most Extreme Elimination Challenge.

Registration-free link (1)

Krunch (704330) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276099)

Here [] .

OSS for car engine computers? (1)

erick99 (743982) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276101)

Here is a case where more knowledge about how and why the computer is programmed a certain way in a certain car would go a long ways towards making an informed choice. There may well be cars that are too conservatively programmed and can be safely "goosed" up a bit. Still, you gotta have a pretty fat wallet or a nice line of credit to take these kinds of chances with your engine. I replaced an engine last year (it died of old age I think) and it came to $5,000 for parts and labor. So, at those prices, I'll stick with the stock chip.

Happy Trails!


let's see them sup up... (4, Funny)

Valar (167606) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276103)

... my 1990 volvo 240.

On second thought, I'd like to see them burn it out :)

Re:let's see them sup up... (1)

Student_Tech (66719) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276214)

With the stock engine or a Chevy V8 [] or Ford 5.0L V8 [] ?

Yeah, it isn't just a chip, but put the bigger engine in and the associated other electronics(higher power fuel system, ect) and then you can add a chip to play with the engine.

If you chip your car... (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276115)

...then the onus is on the manufacturer to prove that the chipping was the cause of any defect in the event that they want to withdraw the warranty. At least according to here [] . On the other hand I'm not 100% convinced that's a correct interpretation of this law.

This is not the best idea (5, Informative)

Illissius (694708) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276118)

Dan [] has a thing or two to say about these. He tends to be right an awful lot, too. Since /.ers are too lazy to click on a link, here's what he says:

EPROM power!

I have a question about your page [] on chip upgrades to improve car performance.

Mainly, my question is why what you say, when the Powerchip [] site pretty much says the exact opposite on all counts.

Would Powerchip lie outright, and provide a three year warranty with possibility for an extension for the drivetrain?

In searching through the Web I only come across your opinion of a chip swap being a bad choice to upgrade. If you can refer me to your references I can make a better judgment on whether or not it really is not good to upgrade my ECU.


First up: I didn't say that drop-in Electronic Control Unit (ECU) upgrades for otherwise stock vehicles were outright fraud, though some companies in that market have certainly been snake oil merchants. I just said that a drop in chip isn't likely to be good value compared with various actual mechanical upgrades. Powerchip, like various other chip vendors, will charge you several hundred Australian bucks for a new chip.

Now that I've said that, dig this.

A while after I put my piece on ECU chips up on the Web, one Wayne Besanko of Powerchip contacted me.

He did not offer any independent evidence to support Powerchip's claims. Nor did he point out anything I'd said that was wrong.

Instead, he offered me money, plane tickets and accommodation if I'd travel to Powerchip's HQ and write a "white paper" on Powerchip's products.

He didn't say "here's a bucket of cash, if you write what we say", but our correspondence led me to the firm belief that, um, only one viewpoint on their products would be acceptable, were I to take up the offer.

So there's that.

And, again, as I write this, I remain unaware of any proper independent testing that indicates that these pricey drop-in ECU chips are good value, compared with a variety of actual mechanical modifications.

Sure, you can get a bit more juice from a stock engine by goosing up the ECU programming; drop-in chips from reputable companies like Powerchip don't generally do nothing. I wouldn't be surprised if there were quite a few cars, particularly turbo diesels, that have sub-optimal stock ECU programming, leaning further towards the "green" end of the scale and away from the "performance" end than their owners would choose, given the option.

The particular oddities of individual engines (in high performance cars, at least) may also benefit significantly from custom-tuned ECU maps, even if you aren't going for new cams, an after-market turbo, blah blah blah.

But drop-in chips aren't tuned for individual engines. They're one-size-fits-all. If you want a chip that fits your car's engine in particular, you have to go to a speed shop that'll test your engine and blow an EPROM to suit.

In the vast majority of cars, I think it's quite sensible to say that if you aren't making significant mechanical modifications to your engine, then the money you'd spend on a "hot chip" would be better put towards those modifications (or, you know, spent on the rent or something, but we're not talking about sensible life choices here). I think that even something as simple as a less restrictive air filter is likely to give you more horsepower per dollar than a hot chip.

Even Powerchip themselves admit (or, at least, did admit at the time I corresponded with Wayne; I haven't groveled through their specs lately) that a 15% power and torque gain from a plain chip swap is unusually high. Figures closer to, or below, 10% are common. Some people would question even that - but even if you get a whole 15%, that ain't a hell of a lot. Worth having for free, sure, but Powerchip's products aren't free.

If someone's got $AU500 or so (are there any Powerchip upgrades cheaper than that?) to spend on performance modifications for their car, and they've already got good shock absorbers and tyres, then they want a better air filter, maybe a better exhaust system, other mechanical upgrades as appropriate to the weaknesses of their particular vehicle, and maybe to save up for a turbo.

If they've already got a turbocharged car, then they can get a boost control. And if they go so far as to rework their engine with new cams and valves and so on, then they'd probably do well to get a chip blown to match, and maybe also a fancy-pants new ECU if they're a real racer, or just dig techno-toys.

Shortly after I mentioned to Wayne that that I'd read this edifying article [] and was not impressed by the politician's answers he gave there, he clammed up.

Makers of "hot chips" for basically-stock cars are, by and large, an industry with no proper objective testing of their products, lots of gullible consumers, and plenty of fraudulent claims. I've no reason to think that Powerchip themselves make fraudulent claims, but some chip vendors certainly do.

Since Powerchip appear to have, more than once, advertised drop-in chips for otherwise stock vehicles that give superior engine performance to high-spec factory-custom versions of the same car, I can't help but think that something must be fishy. As has been said numerous times - why would factories bother with a whole new ECU, exhaust, porting, cams, et cetera, if they could get functionally identical results by just blowing a new EPROM?

Again? (1)

0mni (734493) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276119)

How many products in todays marketplace are running below their peak efficiency?, it's becoming somewhat ridiculous that if you wish to get your full moneys worth out of a product you need to use another product to unlock it.

I would never (5, Funny)

djroute66 (43321) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276123)

I would never drive or be a passenger of a car that is running my own firmware.


Re:I would never (1)

StuWho (748218) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276196)

Would you drive it if it was my firmware?

And the impact on the environment? (4, Insightful)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276127)

Most cars are tuned for a compromise of fuel efficiency, low pollution, and reliability. So these mods will adversely affect these more mundane automotive goals.

On the one hand, these high performance mods probably turn the car into serious emitter of nasty gases.

On the other hand, the added stress probably shortens the lifespan of the engine and gets the car off the road that much sooner.

yep (4, Informative)

rebelcool (247749) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276192)

with many of these chip mods, your car will no longer pass emissions inspections.

A car engine is a complex, finely tuned piece of equipment where every variable is carefully thought through - and tested the hell out of over several years by their engineers.

You can't expect to go modifying things willy-nilly and expect only gains without losses in other areas - particularly environmental and reliability. This is especially true where you're modifying things like engine tables.

heh (0)

name773 (696972) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276128)

i'd expect manufacturers to be happy, especially if you break the car and they get to fix it at their price rate

how is this news? (1)

seibed (30057) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276133)

not worth the effort unless its on a turbo or supercharged engine, and you will violate your warranty.

This is not new (1)

rebewt (588158) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276136)

People have been "chipping" their cars for several years now. In fact, there are several different types of chips, some only replace values of certain addresses while others replace large portions of the computer program.

Some car mfr's and divisions are more willing to allow chipping - such as Fords SVT division.

i can understand (4, Interesting)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276139)

look, I'm as open source, hacker-friendly as anybody, but I'm not sure I agree with allowing people to hack cars, planes, and the like ..

basically, any technology which has the power to kill me, and is used in primarly public places that I roam in.

can anybody else suggest other technologies that are used in everyday life, owned by most people, and used often in public places that have the power to kill me if they happen to 'go wrong'?

... and this is news??? (3, Redundant)

yzquxnet (133355) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276145)

Car tuners have been doing this since the advent of ECU controlled cars... I wouldn't even consider this hacking because it so common. Any reputable car shop can reflash your cars ECU and reprogram a variety of variable from fuel tables, transmission shifts, timing, etc. if it's in the ECU it can be reprogrammed.

Also... on a vehicle from the factory with no aftermarket parts don't expect drastic gains, unless your vehicle is equiped with forced induction and the ECU has the ability to control the wastegate. IE. You're not going to get 50hp by 'hacking' your hondas ECU. More likely you'll get 5-10hp... even then it's usually a trade off of having to use higher octane fuel.

I had my cars ECU reflashed to take advantage of higher octane fuel (increased timing) and recieved 13 rwhp and 15 rwlb/ft.

If it's a forced-induction engine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276212)

...gains of much more than 13hp 15ft/lb are possible with an aftermarket ECU chip.

As an example, the pre-2001 B5 (platform code) Audi A4 1.8T, when 'chipped', goes from 150hp & 150lb/ft to 197hp & 230ft/lb.

New meaning for 'crashes'? (1)

RandBlade (749321) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276152)

Much as I may despise Microsoft for their buggy codes, the worst that can happen on my PC is loving information. If the computer 'crashes' I can typically just reset it, for serious break-downs I just need to reinstall the software. "Format C:" solves nearly all M$ errors.

If you mess around with cars it is infinitely more seriously. A car crash is no laughing matter, neither are serious breakdowns. Kill someone and rebooting is not an option.

I might go even further and suggest it should not be legal to do this. At least in the UK, all cars must undergo an annual 'MOT' to determine if they're roadworthy every year, it is illegal to drive a car on public roads that mechanics have not OK'ed. When you drive you put other people's lives at risk, so this is a valid requirement. If people are able to mess around with the code on their machines, then not only can they screw it up, but there is no way for mechanics to tell that things are working fine.

It works at first... then.... (4, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276167)

This reminds me a bit too much of the "simple free digital cable PPV device" we see spammers selling. You hook it up, you "buy" as many order-with-your-remote shows as you can for a couple months, and then when the bill comes, you see just your base bill with no charges for the shows your watched.

The device blocks the upstream communciations frequencies so your box can't call home, but allow the broadcast frequencies to pass through so you still get watchable signals. However, after a few months, the party's over. The cable company sends down a signal cutting off your service, and tells you you'll have to let the digital box call home before you can watch anything again. Guess what, the box has been keeping count all along. So you pay full price for everything you thought was free, and you're out the money you spent on a worthless device...

If somebody's selling an unathorized upgrade without being willing to stand behind their product, you better watch out. Something's not right with the deal.

Re:It works at first... then.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276216)

As some others have said, this isn't anything new. For Bosch ECU cars, the changes are in the lookup tables for engine timing, fuel, and air mixture.

The biggest gains are in turbo-charged cars, where the limits on boost pressure are increased (with corresponding changes to the above mentioned timing, fueling, and air mixtures)

many thousands of miles on my twin-turbo Audi S4. factory spec is 250hp - now it is closer to 325hp. Rock solid reliable, and yes, safe. (The base lookup table for when there is a problem isn't changed!) so things like the check engine light, etc. are fully functional.

you folks should do your homework before blathering.

hard drive (4, Funny)

DerProfi (318055) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276185)

Great googly moogly! My new Toyota has a hard drive in it?? Who woulda thunk it?!

Partly to combat hackers, many carmakers are using encrypted chips in new models or, like Toyota, have done away with removable memory chips altogether. That has the e-mechanics shifting strategies, either by downloading new software directly into the computer's hard drive or attaching separate electronic devices that piggyback on the factory-installed control module and override it. Some of these devices alter the "rev limiter" that prevents engine speed from zooming beyond the red line or remove the speed governor that limits top-end performance.

Hacking Bluetooth enabled cars (4, Interesting)

Grue (3391) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276189)

I keep thinking about getting a Toyota Prius, the ones with Bluetooth. But I REALLLY wish they offered a SDK or API to 3rd party developers. Imagine stepping into your car with your Bluetooth equipped iPod, and streaming mp3s to your car stereo? Or your Bluetooth enabled GPS unit, and displaying it on the cards LCD? Or downloading mileage information for reimbursement, or automatically dialing 911 on your cell phone when the emergency system (airbags/whatever) goes off. They could increase the value of the car untold amounts just by harnessing the power of all the coders out there.

XBox rules!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276191)

first post!!! you lame assholes... I can post first because my XBox is a american product and my pride in my great country and my great XBox accelerate everything...

If only they would make games for that bitch... IAve played Metroid Prime and it ruled... I hope M$ will buy those japanese bastards and port Metroid to my great american console system!!!

Join the fun!!! []

Google link (1)

Joey Patterson (547891) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276198)

Google link []

New EPROMs are silly (4, Interesting)

UPAAntilles (693635) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276202)

For the price of a generic EPROM, you could easily get mechanical upgrades that enhances your car even more than the EPROM. If you're going for extreme performance, after all the mechanical upgrades, get a special chip made specifically for you.

Dan from DansData has written on it in a much better fashion than I ever could though...
His main "hotchip" article []
Scroll down to the EPROM stuff, he addresses his experiences with "Powerchip" []

*Sigh* now the NYT is going to cause a bunch of people to waste money. People that don't know enough about cars are going to get preyed on by companies like "powerchip". Just like people in electronics stores that don't know enough about computers.

I'm not sure about what they say about companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276205)

I am not sure that the car companies don't think that it isn't bad, just that it may not be the best to not do it if you warranty hasn't expired.

Keep in mind the car in question (4, Interesting)

Osty (16825) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276211)

As many others have pointed out, chipping a car is nothing new. However, many people have unrealistic expectations about reprogramming their ECU. In the article, they mostly mentioned turbocharged vehicles like the Jetta TDI or 944 Turbo. The BMW owner mentioned was unsatisfied with the change because naturally aspirated (NA) cars don't benefit well from remapped ECUs.

Modifying a car's ECU mainly just adjusts air/fuel mixture, but on a turbo car it can also increase boost pressure. This is where the main hp gains can be found, but is also where you'll likely blow your engine. A NA car will need more modifications than just a chip to get anymore than a nominal power increase. Intake, headers, and exhaust are all necessary to increase airflow to take advantage of a performance chip. Even then you can generally only expect to make another 10hp at the very top end of your hp curve, and you might even lose torque at lower rpms (torque gets you up to speed, hp keeps you there).


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8276222)

And consequently runs like crap. No crashes so far thank god.

I call bullshit! (4, Funny)

foxtrot (14140) | more than 10 years ago | (#8276241)

Computer chips don't improve vehicle performance. Stickers, spoilers, and exhaust tips improve performance.

I mean, duh...
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