How Does a Superchip Work?

by Vee Enne

A superchip is an engine control unit that has been reprogrammed for better performance. Engine control units are electronic devices that control many different portions of the operation of an internal combustion engine. Fuel injection and timing are controlled by simple engine control units, but more elaborate engine control units can control everything from the ignition to boost in a turbocharger.

Engine control units use sensors to monitor engine function and other performance information. They can monitor and control the air pressure inside the car's intake manifold, and keep track of how much throttle is applied during the car's operation. Engine control units can also measure and regulate the temperature and pressure of air in the engine. The engine control unit will take action, managing the performance of the car according to the programming it has received.

Superchips have been altered to allow more speed and power, particularly during racing conditions. Initially, the physical chip in the car had to be replaced with a reprogrammed chip. Now, however, it is possible to reprogram the chip that is already in place in the car by connecting it to a computer and applying a conversion program. The process of converting an engine control unit in order to change the programming to more favorable settings is also called chip tuning.

It is possible to change a car's performance by adjusting a few areas of the engine control unit. For example, increasing the timing of the ignition can provide higher performance. Auto manufacturers program the engine control unit for maximum fuel efficiency and the lowest possible emissions. These levels may result in lower power and thrust available for the engine. When reprogramming the engine control unit to reverse the values, it is important to note that the fuel economy and emissions will lower in compensation for the increased power available to the engine.

About the Author

Vee Enne is a U.S. Military Veteran who has been writing professionally since 1993. She writes for Demand Studios in many categories, but prefers health and computer topics. Enne has an associate's degree in information systems, and a bachelor's degree in information technology (IT) from Golden Gate University.

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