ENGINE ELECTRONICS: Where can I have the Engine Control Unit (ECU) of my car re-mapped ("chipped") to give better performance? And where can I have my car's ECU tested for faults and repaired rather than replaced?
Electronic engine management systems in new cars are compromise programmed to provide reasonable performance and emissions and in a wide variety of weather conditions on a wide variety of fuels. They are also programmed to give best fuel ecomomy in the specific EU fuel consumption comparision tests performed in laboratory conditions. That means the manufacturer programme may not be ideal for the conditions in which you will be driving the car and leaves plenty of scope for improvement.
'Chipping' is the generic term for re-programming an engine's electronic management system for increased performance, different performance characteristics, better fuel economy, or to run on a different grade of fuel. This can be done internally, by dismantling the engine ECU and either replacing or re-programming the chips inside, or externally, by altering the signals from the ECU to the fuel injection system and ignition igniter. Some ECUs can be reprogrammed in-situ externally via the cars OBD2 fiagnostic port.
Both petrol and turbo-diesel engines can be 'chipped'. Prices start at around £100, but are more usually in the £300 to £400 bracket and rise to around £600.
The latest development is reprogramming the car's ECU by means of its OBD2 diagnostic port in the cockpit. Revo offers a standard upgrade, a standard upgrade plus immobiliser, and variable higher performance upgrades. You plug in, switch to re-programme and remove the plug-in device. This leaves the original programming inside the ECU with the revised programme alongside it. The big advantage is that the car can be returned to standard spec by reversing this process before it goes in for a service. It can then be chipped back again after the service has been done. If the owner does not have a plug-in chip and has merely had his ECU reprogrammed, the servicing franchise might revert the ECU back to standard as part of the service, leaving him with the expense of re-chipping afterwards. More about this at www.mega4.co.uk Covers the VAG range of Audi, SEAT, Skoda and VW, but not many others
Superchips has been in the business longer than anyone else and now also offers a similar OBDII plug-in to the Revo for all Fords from 1996, most VAG engines and petrol engined BMW MINIs. It is called 'Bluefin' and it differs from Revo is that it does not leave a 'ghost' programme in the car's ECU. You use the device to reprogramme the ECU, which takes a few minutes. And can later use it to revert the ECU to standard with no detectable sign that an upgrade had previously taken place. Recent applications are to the MINI One (+33bhp. + 34Nm torque), Ford Focus ST (+46bhp, + 71Nm torque) and the VAG 2.0 TDI PD (+37bhp. + 75Nm torque). The VAG reprogramming is particularly effective because it not only gives the engine 185bhp, it boosts the torque at low revs and makes it more flexible, so you can accelerate uphill in 3rd gear from just 1,200rpm. When you first receive your Bluefin you use it to interrogate the car's ECU for its individual code which you then send back to Superchips online or by mail so your Bluefin can be activated for your particular car and no other. Bluefin costs £445 from www.mybluefin.co.uk, tel: 01280 816781. Superchips offers other types of ECU reprogramming from £300. Their reprogramming of the ECU of the single turbo 2.7 V6 diesel fitted to the Range Rover Sport and Discovery 3 is particularly popular.
ECU Reprogrammers include:
• Superchips of Buckingham (petrol and diesel), tel: 01280 816781 (website: www.superchips.co.uk www.MYBLUEFIN.co.uk)
• ECU Testing www.ecutesting.com
• Paramount Performance www.paramount-performance.com
• Randstad Ltd www.randstadltd.co.uk
• Diesel Power Tuning www.dieselpowertuning.co.uk
• BBR of Brackley (petrol and diesel Starchips): tel: 01280 700800 (website: www.bbrgti.demon.co.uk)
• Milford Microsystems of Kidlington (system developments), tel: 01865 331552; AMD, Oxon, tel: 01865 331226
• ECU Exchange (website: www.ecuexchange.biz ) supplies, exchanges, repairs and tests all types of ECU
• Tim Styles Racing, Somerset, tel: 01278 453036;
• Siegerland (UK), tel: 0191 4286226 (website: www.tuningbox.com)
• Power-Box, tel: 01603 722698 (website: www.dieselchiptuning.com)
• Prima Racing, tel 0115 949 1903;
• Jetex of Stratford-upon-Avon, tel: 01789 298989 (website: www.jetexlimited.freeserve.co.uk)
• Webcon of Sunbury (Diesel Torqmaster), tel: 01932 788630 (Website: www.webcon.co.uk)
• Darley Specialist Services (Diesel Powerchip), tel 01332 553143.
• ATP's Network 500 offers a nationwide ECU testing service, tel: 01543 467466. But remember, apparent ECU faults are often simply due to a poor contact in the multipin plug.
• Carelect (website: www.carelect.demon.co.uk) offer a repair service for injection ECUs.
• ECU remanufacturing: www.bba-reman.com
• Chips for VAG ECUs: www.upsolute.com
• The ECU Doctor specialises in the examination, testing and rebuild of customer engine control units posted to them: www.the-ecu-doctor.co.uk.
• Tunemycar specialises in ECU testing, exchange and repair; throttle body and air mass meter replacemewnts and ECU remapping:tunemycar.com
• ecu clinic cheap reconditioned mass airflow sensors and ecus: www.ecuclinic.com
• Bell Auto Services did a very good job remapping a duff Siemens ECU on a Berlingo 2.0HDI www.bell-auto-services.co.uk/aboutus.html Have agents. South Wales Agent is www.totaltuning.co.uk
If you alter the specification of your car in any way you must inform your insurer or your insurance could be void.
Highly Recommended ECU Repair Service
Blue Streak Europe Ltd, Lingford Street, Huchnall, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG15 7SJ, UK, tel: 0115 9834721 www.injectioncorrection.co.uk
"The ECU on my 'G' reg VW Passatt failed and I was unable to resolve this until my son located Blue Streak Europe Ltd.
A phone call established that if I posted the failed unit they would examine and confirm whether repair could be affected. If positive the cost was £35 which together with the repair would be £181 including return carriage and VAT. If not, the unit would be returned FOC at £8 carriage only.
The unit was posted at 5.0pm Tuesday and at 9.40am Wednesday the a delightful voice confirmed receipt. At 10.40 a different delightful voice they confirmed the repair was possible, but apologised for unfortunately being so busy it may not be possible to despatch it that day!
At 10.50am Thursday a delivery driver appeared at the door clutching a package containing the ECU, looking as new, together with leaflets detailing their extensive services.
For their fantastic service the company deserves the highest commendation, and you and your readers may wish to put their address on file, just in case."
- ECU Doctor: The ECU Doctor specialises in the examination, testing and rebuild of customer engine control units posted to them: www.the-ecu-doctor.co.uk
- ECU exchange: Supplies, exchanges, repairs, tests all types of ECUwww.ecuexchange.biz
- ECU remanufacturers: www.bba-reman.com
- ECU Repairs: www.injectioncorrection.co.uk;www.BBA-reman.com
- ECU Testing: www.ecutesting.com