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> Programmers, Tuners, and Performance Chips

Programmers, Tuners, and Performance Chips

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In the past, it was said that there were three keys to adding power to an engine: carburetor, camshaft, and compression. With the advent of electronic engine management, a fourth C is added to that list: computers. Programmers, tuners, and performance chips have been an integral part of vehicle modification for more than 30 years. Here we’ll explore the differences between these seemingly interchangeable terms.

Image of an Edge programmer
An Edge programmer

Performance Programmers

Performance programmers are the most common style of aftermarket engine computer modification on modern vehicles. Sometimes called a tuner, this item plugs into your vehicle’s OBDII port where it can gain access to and recalibrate the programming of your engine computer. By altering stock engine computer parameters, gains in both horsepower and torque are made with the push of a button.

Image of a Hypertech programmer
A Hypertech programmer

From the simple LCD display of the Hypertech Power Programmer to the advanced touch screen display of the Edge CTS2 Evolution Programmer, programmers vary in design. Performance programmers often carry additional features such as speedometer correction for running larger tires, reading and removing diagnostic trouble codes, and monitoring engine performance data. These programmers are available for both gas and diesel engines.

Performance Chips

Image of a Hypertech PROM chip
A Hypertech PROM chip used on pre-OBDII computer controlled engines
Distinct from programmers is the performance chip. These items are made for older vehicles that predate the use of OBDII ports. Rather than a handheld device, a performance chip usually plugs into the vehicle’s computer itself to recalibrate its programming thus increasing power. Hypertech still offers their Power Chip to provide power gains on select older vehicles.

Other Power Enhancements

As automotive computers grow in complexity, aftermarket manufacturers are adapting in innovative ways to provide items that alter programming to increase power. Items of note inlcude Hypertech’s Interceptor and Diablosport’s Powerpuck. These items install inline to your vehicle’s wiring harness, rather than plugging into your OBDII port.


Image of a programmer's touchscreen interface
A touchscreen interface lets you change programming on the fly

Benefits of a Programmer or Performance Chip

Gasoline Engines: Horsepower and torque gains vary from one vehicle to another. Depending on your application you could receive single-digit gains or increases of up to 40 horsepower, with similar gains in torque. Aside from the obvious benefits of increased performance, programmers can also give you the ability to diagnose DTCs (diagnostic trouble codes) and monitor performance parameters not found on your vehicle’s stock gauge cluster such as voltage, intake air temperature, and oil pressure, assuming your vehicle’s ECU has the capability to monitor them.

Image of diesel engine
A programmer can increase the power and torque from your diesel engine substantially

Diesel Engines: While a programmer can provide significant increases in power on a gas engine, diesel engines are perhaps where these devices truly shine. Dramatic increases in torque (sometimes 100 ft/lbs or more) can be achieved using a programmer on a diesel engine. Advanced models can be paired with additional sensors to monitor valuable data such as transmission temperatures and exhaust gas temperature. If you’re a diesel engine enthusiast, a performance programmer is well worth considering from both a performance and vehicle-care standpoint.

No matter how much power you want to add to your ride, the experienced staff at is standing by to help you pick the right part. Give us a call or chat in today and leave stock performance in the dust.