Today that invention allows a billion circuits to be placed on a chip the size of a fingernail. As a result, an ECU on a new $16,500 Nissan Versa Note has 12 times the computing power of the first $25.4 billion Apollo moon shot. And that’s a roundabout way of saying that the most important part of your ride is not that 707 hp 6.2L turbocharged V8, it’s your Electronic Control Unit (ECU) and that’s where performance chips come in.
Messing with the Manufacturer’s White Bread Programming
Your ECU has chips that map out the performance parameters of nearly every component in your car or truck. When a manufacturer’s engineers create the maps, they typically establish pretty conservative parameters meaning there is room for customization. In other words, there’s room for a stock car or truck to be tuned to optimize performance.
When carmakers are programing their ECU units, they have priorities that are driven by law (emission control), and marketing (fuel economy, longer periods between scheduled services, etc.), and safety (caps on RPM). And that’s just the start. Everything from power performance to braking has a map that tells the components how to behave.