ECU Chip


 

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  1.8T VW Chip Tuning Guide

   When beginning to modify the performace of your VW 1.8T the very item to consider has got to be a reprogrammed ECU, or as everyone calls them "chips".  A chip for a 1.8T will provide amazing gains for a small amount of money, it is undoubtably the most cost-effective mod you can do!  The decision of what chip to purchase is probably one of the hardest decisions for a VW 1.8T owner to make.  With so many choices out there and all tuners making the same claims it can get quite confusing at times.  

There are several key issues to consider when looking to purchase a chip for your 1.8T:

-Reliability
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Warranty Concerns
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Price
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Options
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Dealer Availability
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Performance
 

Reliability
   
For some the question of reliability is of great concern when purchasing a chip.  Increasing the boost on your 1.8T will undoubtably result in more wear and tear on your engine and especially your transmission.  Your driving style will have a lot to do with reliability however.  If you race from light to light racing every car in sight your transmission will suffer and you will be lucky to get 30k out of your clutch!  However, driving with a more spirited attitude at times shouldn't really affect the overall reliability of your engine and transmission.  Its been proven that thousands of people have ran their chipped 1.8T's with no problems at all.  It must be said that anytime you modify your car your taking the stock components to the limits of their capabilities and they may require replacing sooner that what would be normal.
 

Warranty Concerns
   Will adding a chip void my warranty??  
Yes and No: according to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act: "No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumers using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade or corporate name..." (15 U.S.C. 2302).  
   So basically, if you have a warranty claim, the dealer (or warrantor) must prove that the part that you modified directly caused the failure. For example, if you chipped your car and the exhaust falls off, then the car is still under warranty.  But if you modify something that causes another part to fail then your warranty will not cover the part that failed.
 

Price
   Although the price of a chip may be a little high for some to entertain, when you consider the $/hp value you would be silly not to consider a chip.  For example the average gain from a chip is about 45hp and the average cost of a chip is about $450; this works out to $10 per hp.  Just imagine if every mod had this much potential, you could sink $1000 dollars into your engine and come out with 100 extra hp!!  DREAM ON!!  Compare that value to lets say perhaps a turbo inlet pipe; avg price $170, avg gains 4hp, result = $42 per hp.  Don't waste your time with lower priced mods first that wont give you much gain for the price.
   Prices for a chip will range from $299-$899.  The lower priced chip is definitely a good buy but if your looking for some different features and higher gains look to spend at least $500.
 

Options
   Various options are available for certain chips, but with a price tag attached!  

   The basic chip will give you a single program that cannot be changed or swapped without someone removing the chip and soldering it back in.  Chips that work this way include Upsolute and Neuspeed.  

   A few other chips use what is called a socket.  Bascially this allows the chip to simply be plugged into the ECU with no soldering required.  This also allows changing the chip back to a stock one if you have an extra chip available, its a little easier as it doesn't require resoldering (something most can't do).  Garret and Autotech use this socket technique.  

   The last and most expensive method is a soldered chip that allows you to switch between stock, chipped, race or even a valet mode.  This method is used by APR and allows you to change modes by using the cruise control stalk!  Some very slick stuff that no one else offers as of yet.  

   So it really comes down to are you willing to pay for more flexibility with your chip.  The benefits of being able to switch programs can be quite appealing for some.  Those concerned with warranty issues when taking the car to the dealer can switch it back to stock before taking it in.  Also, those who drag race and are looking for that extra edge can fill up on race gas and switch it the race program for some extra power.
 

Dealer Availability
   Having a dealer nearby may also be a condsideration to take when purchasing a chip. Since installing a chip requires removal of your ECU and then reprogramming the chip you are going to either:

 a) send the chip away to the tuner and not have your car for a couple days  
 b) goto your local dealer and have them burn the chip on site (no down time)
 c) get it done at a show or event (once again, no down time).  

   In my opinion the best way to get the chip done is at a show or event, not only is it more convinient for you (they will take out your ECU and chip it while you enjoy the show!!), but also the price.  Many times tuners will offer special deals at shows that make it even more worth it!  Some things to consider however are that you may need an update or have problems with the chip once you get back to home location (note: the majority of people with chips have no problems at all). Updates are generally available for free by most tuners and if your dealer is local they can get the upgrade done quickly and without any downtime.  
 

Performance
   The main reason you want to buy a chip!!  The various levels of performance among the chips range from a lower 0.8 bar to a 1.3 bar chip.  Bascially a lower boost chip will net less power but with a smoother output, while the higher boost chips will net more power but will be more abrupt in its power delivery.  Depending on your engine code the performace increase does vary.  For example the AWD engine code will see the least amount of power gains among all 1.8T's.  On average most chips run at about 1.1 bar and will increase power to about 200 hp from the stock 150.  As I stated though other engine codes vary in performance; according to the APR 93 octance programs the following values pertain to the various engine codes.  AWD = 204hp, AWW, AWP = 215hp.  

When looking for a chip there are 4 major brands used by enthusiasts today;
 1) GIAC
 2) APR
 3) Upsolute
 4) Neuspeed

   There are a few others out there but these 4 seem to provide the best overall performance levels.
 

Dyno plots of various 1.8T setups