Tuning Chips for petrol cars
Long term damage? No. Not to the engine. What you need to be aware of is the ability to return the car to its original state of tune. Why? Because dollars to donuts you’ll have to fill it with some level of premium fuel …mid-grade or high test fuel …and that might be an expensive proposition depending on what part of the world you live in. And if you should want to sell the car or trade it in, you’ll have wider appeal if it’s returned to a stock tune. A dealer may not even accept it as trade since it will appeal to a more specialized customer and they’re really not sure what, exactly, was done to the car.
To the tranny? An automatic? Maybe. Automatic transmissions have some built in longevity programming. For instance, many GM vheicles have what’s called “Torque Management”. What this does is to kind of hobble the engine briefly to soften the torque load through the tranny specifically during shifts. One of the “tune” avenues on a GM tranny is to reduce or negate this “Torque Management” system. In short, the tranny is under increased stress that may shorten it’s life or create issues down the road. You may mitigate the stress by installing a fluid cooler and regular fluid changes …and then again, maybe not.
Other considerations: This brings up the point of increased maintenance. As you tweak the engine and tranny you’re moving out of the realm of the factory protocols; you’re putting more stress on the engine and tranny. That 7500 mile oil change or when the “Oil Life” monitor says to are based on a stock vehicle. Tranny fluid that may have a normal drain interval of 100k miles might not cut the mustard with a “tightened up” tranny. Like a lot of things in life, there’s no free lunch.
My take on the whole “tune” thing:
First, don’t get me wrong. I like being able to tweak and get more power out of an engine …even my lawn mower. But I’m also a “cost/benefit” realist; will the pile of money I would spend on improving the performance of an engine be worth it? I’m highly skeptical of a lot of the whole performance tuning thing. IMHO “Performance” chips or chip tuning really doesn’t do much in the normal running of your engine. Why? Because any “tuning” must keep the car in compliance with U.S. federal emissions standards. If you don’t live in the USA then maybe there’s a lot more that can be done with a chip swap or a chip tune …but here in the U.S.? Not so much. And the high cost of these “tunes” kinda blows the cost/benefit ratio out of the water. But that’s my opinion. Others will swear up and down the uber expensive tune they got has turned their ride into the Batmobile. There’s a lot of subjectivity. And advertising hype.
In the US, there isn’t much of significance that can be done to the engine to “improve” its performance under normal driving conditions. Most chips or tunes will require, at the very least, the use of mid-grade fuel and some mandate only premium fuel be used. Depending on the age of the vehicle, a cooler opening thermostat is also needed. One of the tacks, based on the fuel octane used, is to remap the ignition advance curve of the engine to take advantage of the higher octane …while still complying with the EPA. They may also optimize the fuel injectors …pulse width an the like. Like tranny tweaks, “tightening up” the fuel delivery can make the engine more responsive. Will you notice this in daily driving? Maybe. Then again, a good, professional grade injector and upper intake tract cleaning may accomplish the same thing for a lot less money.
But, depending on the make and model of your car, the factory ECU may be able to “recognize” higher octane fuel and make adjustments. I had a ’99 Volvo S70 and its ECU was set up to operate under varying fuel octanes; the optimum specs for the engine were made using premium fuel but it would run just fine on regular as the ECU would adjust for the fuel being used. I don’t know that aftermarket engine tunes or chips will allow this fuel flexibility …something you need to consider before taking the plunge