If there is one thing today’s car or 4×4 owner can be thankful for with the modern forced-induction engine, it is relatively cheap and easy performance gains.
The aftermarket is flooded with diesel tuning companies offering services that claim (with various degrees of accuracy) improvements in power, torque, fuel economy, amongst others.
Being so spoilt for choice makes a decision difficult, so to help you narrow down your options we are comparing two popular solutions; Austrian company Steinbauer and rival DP Chip, the hometown hero from Australia.
We will look at what improvements over standard each control system claims to achieve, and how they do it, to help determine what diesel computer module is the best for your needs.
Both the Steinbauer performance chip and DP Chip make big claims about the increase in power and torque; as much as 25% more power and 35% more torque over a standard engine.
We will talk more about how this is achieved later on, but it is mostly due to increasing the fuel injection duration. Not needing to touch injectors, exhaust, or the ECU itself to find improvements makes this hugely appealing.
Better performance means better towing and overtaking ability, two important considerations for modifying your car or 4×4 in the first place.
To really see the improvements, a dyno run before and after will validate claims and reassure your money is well spent.
Fuel economy improvements
While Steinbauer and DP Chip say an improvement in fuel economy for any vehicle is achieved (both claim a potentially optimistic 10% for some models), this comes with a few caveats; a vehicle that is more fun to drive often encourages more spirited driving, taking away those incremental gains. Not only that, more fuel is required to make more power to start with, so vehicle-specific components like gearboxes and transmissions also play a big part in any fuel savings and these vary greatly.
Both the Steinbauer chip and DP Chip are, first and foremost, performance modifications so the tuning is tailored mostly towards drivability and improving power and torque delivery. Consider that improved fuel economy is a pleasant surprise rather than a guarantee.
DP Chip and Steinbauer claim all engine systems are monitored in real time to ensure the increased performance parameters never exceed what is considered safe for a standard engine.
What both chips don’t touch or adjust is what’s important here; turbo boost pressure remains the same, with adjustments only made around fuel injection duration. The Steinbauer chip doesn’t make changes to the common rail fuel pressure, which should maintain injector and engine reliability.
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Plug and Play
Both these chips simply take advantage of existing plugs and connections and require no modifications at all.
However, on some older vehicles a wire-in harness might be needed.
This plug and play ability makes installation a doddle, and no actual engine components need to be touched. Most people will manage with zero to little stress.
The benefit of a plug and play tuning system is the removal is just as straight forward. The standard ECU is left untouched, and no trace of the module is left behind. It is ideal for those who wish to sell their vehicle in standard condition.
When you consider that changing an exhaust, injectors, and air intakes are much more labour intensive and far more difficult to return to standard, either of these fully-integrated diesel engine performance chips is an excellent unit, easily installed and easily removed.
While prices for both DP Chip and Steinbauer start at around $1,500, the Steinbauer option for some vehicles can be more expensive.
DP Chip has a nationwide dealer network (76 locations), offering a local option for most diesel vehicle owners. If you don’t have the confidence to install it yourself, getting to one of their workshops shouldn’t be difficult.
Steinbauer is supposedly only exclusively distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Diesel Care, an east coast-based company with just the four locations. They are specialists authorised to work on Denso, Delphi and Bosch engine systems as well, and clearly a company of very high repute. If you want them to fit the module, it might be a long drive from outside south-east Queensland or northern NSW.
There are a few other 4×4 and diesel specialists around the country that offer the Steinbauer module as well.
DP Chip offers an incredibly generous 6-year product warranty on any performance module, easily outdoing the Steinbauer ECU chip with its 1-year offering (though with product registration this is extended to a more reasonable three years if done so within 90 days of purchase).
Steinbauer has a 30-day money back guarantee, but DP Chip doubles this to a 60-day “no questions asked, money back guarantee” return policy, and furthermore, DP Chip goes on to offer a New Vehicle Engine And Driveline Warranty:
“DPChip offers to warrant damage caused to a vehicle during its New Vehicle Warranty period. DPChip will only support its New Vehicle Engine and Driveline Warranty on legitimate claims where the DPChip is the ‘proven’ cause of the problem.”
This provides excellent peace of mind for potential buyers.
Making your Selection
Steinbauer is a company with a truly international reach and decades of experience.
DP Chip has been developing their product for the last 15 years, but have been in business for over half a century and their extensive warranty backs up the faith they have in their product.
They are very similar products and either should offer worthwhile benefits for any vehicle owner.
The great warranty offered by DP Chip might be enough to sway most owners, especially for newer vehicles.
Diesel Chip FAQ
What does a diesel performance chip do?
Any performance chip, regardless of it being for diesel, petrol, or LPG, seeks to tune the engine to maximise performance. This can be done by increasing turbo boost pressure, changing an engine’s timing, and
Can performance chips ruin your engine?
Absolutely. Cheap aftermarket options with little research and development make performance gains in often very easy yet unreliable ways, like increasing turbo boost pressure or fuel rail pressure. Other ECU tuning options remove warning lights and manipulate sensors to achieve these gains, but that also removes your security blanket and thus an engine can be running with no prior warning of a failure. It isn’t just diesel tuning, either; with most modern petrol engines being turbocharged, tuning options have never been more commonplace.
A well-engineered performance chip shouldn’t just be about making more power; of course that is one of the primary reasons to install one, but a reputable manufacturer like either of the two here build products that utilise most, if not always all, of a vehicle’s standard array of systems to ensure engine reliability is maintained.
Modern engines, more than ever before, are complex things; high compression, smaller capacities, forced induction, and direct injection means engines, despite being arguably more reliable, are also pushed to higher limits, so an aftermarket tuning module needs to be well researched.
Is it better to chip or remap?
Both have advantages and disadvantages. The vehicle’s ECU is an unbelievably complex computer system and a remap, while offering performance gains, can also be the cause of a catastrophic failure if the tune isn’t well tested to be safe. All companies offering remaps will assure owners their tune is safe; which you can only take on face value, so do as much research as possible. But that doesn’t mean they are all bad! Just be aware of the risks that come with any modifications and, once again, research remaps and the companies offering them as much as possible.
Remaps also offer the chance to throw in some niceties that performance chips may not (like EGR and DPF deletes, though the legality of turning off the warnings for these systems is questionable at best and illegal at worst). Pricing for a basic remap is not all that different from a performance chip, but the cost creeps up quickly dependent on dyno time and vehicle-specific considerations.
The beauty in the performance chip is the ease with which they can be installed, the extensive R&D that’s gone into the product itself, and the safe tolerances within which they operate. Most people will probably be happy with the performance chip, though some individuals will prefer the ability to tailor a tune to meet specific needs and control more ECU system variables (or maximise modifications) with a remap.