Performance Chips Buying Guide

Comments (8) Featured, Guides, Product Reviews

As you’re reading this sentence, your engine’s power potential is sound asleep under your vehicle’s hood. And that’s holding back your horsepower and torque.

It’s time to wake up the beast, and boost your vehicle’s performance levels. And you can do this without replacing your fuel injectors or sparkplugs. Simply get rid of the pre-preprogrammed limitations of your built-in computer system.

All modern vehicles have them.

They control critical performance functions, including your ignition timing, air-to-fuel ratio and automatic transmission shifting.

Auto manufacturers program these computers for the average Joe. And they assume Joe won’t maintain his vehicle properly, and will always opt for the lowest fuel grade.

If you don’t relate to Joe, and actually want the best possible performance from your vehicle (including quick acceleration and powerful towing capacity) you need to invest in a performance chip.

Installing one will deliver boosts in horsepower and torque across the entire RPM range. And this will translate into quicker acceleration, rapid passing, and stronger towing. All of which won’t cost extra fuel, as your engine will be running more efficiently.

And the best part is the chip’s custom tunes will allow you to make the mods you want for your unique driving style and needs.

How They Work

All performance chips, in varying degrees, improve your vehicle’s performance by taking control over the following vehicle computer systems:

  • Air-to-Fuel Ratio
  • Ignition Timing
  • Recalibration for Mods
  • Speed Limiter
  • RPM / Rev Limiter

Air-to-Fuel Ratio

I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you understand the process of combustion and how it powers your vehicle.

And what’s important to combustion, other than the initial spark, is the mix of oxygen and fuel. The ratio between the two is controlled by your onboard computer. And the computer is not tuned for optimal performance.

When you bring a performance chip into the equation, you get a much more potent fuel-to-air mix for superior performance across the entire RPM range. And decreased detonation problems.

Ignition Timing

Just like anything complicated, the combustion process depends on a variety of factors. And one of the most important factors is.. timing.

The spark plug needs to ignite at the perfect fracture of a second for optimal performance. And I can’t say that’s the case when your stock onboard computer in in control.

A performance chip will find the correct ignition timing to guarantee that no single horsepower is lost. And obviously, you’ll enjoy a boost in power output and efficiency.

Recalibration for Mods

If you’re an aftermarket enthusiast, chances are your vehicle is probably fitted with larger-than-stock tires, among other mods.

And whatever the mods, they have already changed the conditions based on which your stock computer commands your vehicle.

A performance chip will take all of these changes into account, and will recalibrate all vehicle settings to accommodate for optimal performance.

Speed Limiter

If you think that horsepower is the only factor which determines your max speed, you need to consider your tires.

The truth is that your vehicle is only as fast as its tires. They are the bottleneck, not horsepower. The reason is that different tires are designed to handle a variety of top speeds. And your stock computer is programmed to limit your power based on your stock tire’s parameters.

And upgrading to performance tires won’t deliver any great benefit if it’s not paired with a performance chip to raise that speed limiter.

RPM / Rev Limiter

Do you know why Formula One racecars accelerate so quickly?

It’s because their RPM range does not red line until 19,000 (compared to the standard 7,000 for stock vehicles).

And a performance chip will ensure your vehicle uses the entire RPM range to draws more power and to accelerate quicker.

Right now, you lose power every time you shift. The loss happens when your transmission disengages from the motor and switches gears. A performance chip will push your rev limiter closer to its limits to extend your power range.

Types of Performance Chips


You have a lot of options when it comes to finding the perfect performance chip for your vehicle.

So if you’re looking for simple plug-and-play power or completely customizable tunes, TDot Performance has the right product for you.

Performance chips are generally grouped into 1 of 3 categories: Control Modules, Power Programmers, and Engine Management Systems.

Control Modules

A control module connects directly to your vehicle’s electrical system. Once it’s there, it acts as the middle man between the main vehicle computer and the variety of vehicle sensors.

The module hijacks data as it’s making its way to the onboard computer, analyses it, and makes any needed adjustments to key performance functions like the air-to-fuel ratio, and ignition timing. Once optimized, the information is free to reach its final destination.

It’s that simple.

Control modules are custom-programmed to optimize your vehicle’s power based on its specific make, model, engine size, transmission type, and even stock tire size.

The modules are available with varying power levels, or stages. Bully Dog control modules feature six power levels to allow users to select the specific power output they want to drive with, at any time.

Other control modules are manufactured with the diesel engine in mind. DiabloSport and Banks Power tuners feature optional in-cab displays which let you monitor your vehicle’s performance readings including turbo boost, engine gas temperature, RPMs, 0-60 acceleration, and your quarter mile time without having to leave the driver’s seat.

And the best part is you’ll be able to control a variety of tuner settings. In real time.

Control modules are very easy to install, and it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. All you have to do is plug the built-in wiring harness into your onboard computer. The connection does not require any soldering, splicing or drilling.

Once the module is connected, you’ll never have to tinker with it again. Unless you want to revert to your factory settings.

Banks Power Edge Products Bully Dog
chips-1EconoMind Diesel Tuner chips-2EZ Plug-In Module chips-3Triple Dog GT Tuner
From $896.09
Free shipping
From $487.45
Free shipping
From $527.67
Free shipping
Gains up to 75 hp & 135 ft/lbs up to 70 hp & 220 ft/lbs up to 120 hp
Options 6 Power Levels 6 Power Levels 4 Power Levels
Warranty 2 Year 1 Year 1 Year

Power Programmers

Much in the same way as a control module, power programmers tweak data from your vehicle’s sensors to optimize performance.

But unlike a control module, power programmers are not left permanently installed inside the electrical system. They’re what we call plug-and-play devices.

When you need more power, all you need to do is plug in the programmer into your OBD-II port.

Don’t worry, it’s right there, under the dash.

Once it’s connected, the programmer will prompt you to answer a couple of questions about your vehicle’s current mods and what power levels you’re looking for. And based on your answers, it will calibrate a set of operating instructions and feed them to your onboard computer.

And once this unique program is uploaded, you can disconnect the programmer or run some tests with new modes and settings.

From start to finish, the tuning process will take no more than 10 minutes.

The great advantage with these programmers is the amount of control you’ll have over customizing your system. Edge Performance programmers allow you to tune your onboard computer based on any mods you make to your tire size, speed rating, or rear-end gear ratio.

These mods truly alter your vehicle’s performance and driving style, but without a programmer, your vehicle’s onboard computer won’t take them into account.

Hypertech and Superchips programmers (among others) even take into account if you’re using regular octane fuel as opposed to 91 or higher when calibrating your settings.

Superchips Hypertech Edge
Flashpaq Tuner Max Energy Power
Evolution CS Programmer
From $404.55
Free shipping
From $508.83
Free shipping
From $546.45
Free shipping
Options 3 best in class tunes up to 3 custom programs 4 power levels
Warranty 1 Year Lifetime 1 Year
Diablo Sport SCT Jet Performance
Trinity Programmer Livewire TS Programmer Performance Programmer
From $774.15
Free shipping
From $825.18
Free shipping
From $325.53
Free shipping
Options up to 5 custom tunes 10 custom tunes pre-loaded modules
Warranty 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year

Engine Management Systems (EMS)

You’ve probably guessed that an EMS is the performance chips you can customize the most. And it’s far more than that.

An EMS won’t just tune your vehicle’s onboard computer. It will downright replace it. And this gives you all the power you could ever want over every single aspect of your vehicle’s control system.

Engine management systems will customize your vehicle to your precise specs. And if you know your entire drive train system down to the smallest detail, you’ll finally be able to play God with air-to-fuel ratio, fuel injector control idle speed and nitrous management.

The EMS installs inside your engine compartment as a direct replacement to your stock onboard computer. This involves simply unplugging the old, and plugging the new. Once completed, your new EMS will be completely synced with all of your vehicle’s sensors. And that’s everything it will need to make your vehicle fierce.

You’ll also have the option of connecting your laptop to your EMS for monitoring and direct manipulation of performance parameters and settings.

If an EMS sounds like something you’ll want, keep in mind that it is a highly specialized product.

What About My Warranty?

Modding your vehicle does not void your warranty.

Your rights are protected by the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act. The act says that your warranty cannot legally be voided because you installed aftermarket parts on your vehicle, unless the manufacturer the part is really what caused the damage.

And the same law applies for performance chips.

Installing a control module or power programmer will not automatically void your warranty.

But… installing an EMS will. So keep that in mind.

8 Responses to Performance Chips Buying Guide

  1. Doug clark says:

    I have a 2015 ram R/T and want to install a Diablo tuner but understand u must also purchase the computer modual as well at a cost of around $500. Do you have any info and price on the entire conversion. Thank you

    • TDot Performance says:

      Hi Doug,
      I would stay away from Diablo if you do not intend to modify your PCM and eventually add custom tunes. Look towards the SCT X4 tuner for pre-loaded tunes on that year of HEMI. The X4 is also within you price range and offers the same service and support as the Diablo.

  2. Eric says:

    Is there an applicable EMS suited for my Acura CSX 2009 atm tech package.
    Thank you.

    • TDot Performance says:

      Hi Eric,
      With a K20Z power plant you are never out of options. The bad news is our lineup of manufacturers do not sell for this application. The good news is the JDM market is full of options. For a reliable flash tuner rely on Hondata’s tuners. For a piggy back or standalone go with ECUtek and Haltech.

  3. Andrew says:

    I have a 05 Chevy Silverado 5.3 and am current running a bully dog gt 91 tune with supporting mods of kooks headers, kooks offroad y – pipe magnaflow catback and a volant intake. I know my truck has more power trapped in there, so my question is there a better tuner for my application without going for a dyno tune?

    • TDot Performance says:

      Hi Andrew,
      Your list of modifications would qualify as a stage 2 system. Once you reach this level preset tunes and flashes will only give that 5.3L very marginal gains. The only way to pull power out now is to dyno and create a good balance for the mods that are currently on the truck. I would suggest speaking to a local Bullydog tuner about setting your current tuner with a custom tune that uses your mods to their full potential. You might be hard-pressed to find that doing so will not take away from the 5.3L’s reliability. And, given that the LY5 & LM7 are hardcore sleepers you will definitely wake a lot of sleeping ponies out of that 5.3L.

  4. Peter says:

    Looking for better gas mileage from my Tundra 5.7 It has too many HP as it is so can I back it off for mileage?

    • TDot Performance says:

      Hi Peter,
      You wont be able to back off the power with a programmer but you can better modulate throttle and air fuel mixes and get the truck to save you some money through economy tunes. I would suggest you look at Banks Power tuners and Edge tuners. They’re economy tunes will easily save you the MPG.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *