The Truth About Engine ECU Re-mapping
Should you re-chip, or re-flash your engine control ECU? Plenty of people do – and sometimes it ends in tears.
Re-mapping your engine sounds great – just a few taps on the keyboard. More kilowatts and more Newton-metres plus greater economy, better emissions.
But it doesn’t always work out that way. Certainly it did not recently for this guy:
“My VW Amarok failed. The dealership stated there was an oil leak that clogged the DPF, which fouled the turbo. When I asked for a diagnostic they claimed it was because the ECU was remapped so therefore it is my fault. The company who remapped the engine are putting it back on VW. So basically I have a 4 year old $60,000 paperweight.” – Shannon
When your engine blows up, an aftermarket engine control ECU is a great deal for the carmaker – because it essentially allows them to sidestep any accountability for engine or powertrain failures.
And then there’s the ECU-hacking backyarders. Do you suppose the guy selling you some aftermarket chip over the counter of an industrial unit in West Analsex has a test-track and a couple of engine dynos running flat-out, doing extreme accelerated life component testing on all the makes and models he re-flashes?
Do you think he bothers to establish emissions compliance? Does he appear to have a budget to compensate you for a catastrophic engine failure? I urge you to think about this beyond the vague claims on the el cheapo website.
These malignant keyboard jockeys can certainly overfuel an engine at wide-open throttle get power. They can lean it out at part throttle and push the NOx through the roof – and also save a little fuel. But there’s no free lunch.
You cannot do this without compromising reliability and/or emissions.
The most poignant of barrel bottom-scraping missives from the department of self-destructo engines over the past 12 months emerged into my inbox almost a year ago today.
“I bought a Ford Ranger 2012 brand new. It’s 10 months out of warranty. It’ been serviced on time at the dealer. The car has a chip on it and the Dealer said Ford won’t provide assistance because of that chip. The chip was recommended to me by the Ford salesperson and I was told it would not void the warranty. (The salesperson’s dad sells them through his own business).” – Nathan
I went a fair way down the track investigating this. All I can say is: I didn’t sniff any bullshit.
I formed the view it is – at best – morally repugnant for a salesman at a dealership to solicit customers for dad’s ECU upgrade business. And to purport warranty compliance, which is flat-out untrue, that’s epic misconduct – even for a car salesman.
So I contacted Ford.
A company with a functioning moral compass would have gone on a witch hunt. A dealer’s franchise agreement would have been leveraged against a significant pull-through. Subject to verifying the truth of the allegations, or course. I’m certain there’s a ‘bringing the brand into disrepute’ termination clause in most car dealers’ contracts.
If I had received a phone call from Ford, and if the facts had been corroborated by the owner of the Ranger, with his balls suddenly released from the $15,000 vice, if they’d said: We’re fixing this and we’re taking definite steps to ensure this kind of malfeasance never happens again …
… I would have gone: ‘OK. Nice one. I won’t report it.’ Instead: Deafening silence.
So my strong advice to you is: Buy a vehicle that performs as you require in its standard configuration. Engine, handling – whatever – do not step across the line and open Pandora’s box by re-mapping the engine control ECU. Unless you want to wave goodbye to essentially all consumer safeguards.
Re-mapping the ECU is an invitation to disaster.