"Chipping" My Audi A4 - Long Term Effects?

I’m the proud owner of a 2003 Audi A4 1.8 T with about 5000 miles. I’m currently looking into “chipping” it. Does anyone know of long term damage to the engine or other mechincal problems? I’d like to keep this car for a long time (5 to 7 years), as I absolutely love her.

I asked someone I know in Audi service and they told me this would create problems down the road. Their argument was that you are making the engine handle more HP then is was ever intended (20 more HP). Others, though, say it’s no problem and are suprised I haven’t already done it. I think maybe Audi service is conditioned to say it’s going to be problematic I’m also worried about any possible negative consequences to my warranty.

What’s the straight dope?

I don’t know anything about Audis but, in general, putting a conservative performance chip in an otherwise stock vehicle shouldn’t be cause any mechanical hassles. Make sure the chip is from a reputable company though. If your engine can’t handle an additional 20hp, there’s something seriously wrong with Audi engines.
As far as the warranty goes, it’s been my personal experience that dealerships will ignore any mods that have no direct effect on what’s being repaired but YMMV and I’m fairly certain that it will officially void your warranty.

Peace - DESK

Three things to be aware of:

  1. Some chips may raise the software redline of your engine (by 500 RPM or so), allowing you to run it up to higher RPMS before it kills the gas. While this gets you a bit of extra performance, it can also be harmful to the engine as you’re running it beyond its rated limits. Note that this only applies if you have a manual transmission: autos will shift for you before redline anyway (unless you update the auto’s software too).

  2. If the chip really gives you 20 extra horsies (and a comparable amount of extra torque), your transmission may not be designed to handle it, which could result in failures down the road (especially automatics, as they tend to be a bit more fragile).

  3. If the chip uses increased turbo boost to deliver the extra HP, this will certainly put extra stress on the engine and decrease its life. Overboosted engines have been known to actually explode, which definitely isn’t covered by the factory warranty :).

All in all, I wouldn’t do it. You probably wouldn’t notice anything amiss in the short term, but over time I think the effects of the chip would add up. In 5 years, you’d notice that your car just doesn’t run as well as other, non-chipped A4s (idles rougher, accelerates slower, burns more oil, and so on).

I have a 2003 BMW 325 that I was considering chipping / modding, but after researching it I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Spent the money on a radar detector instead. :smiley:

It’s unlikely that 20 extra HP would put any part beyond it’s threshold or affect the longevity. Your biggest concern is probably how that chip makes the engine squeeze out 20 more HP.

For example, 20 more HP from an exhaust upgrade would almost always benefit longevity and reliability.

20 from a chip just places a bit more emphasis on keeping the engine tuned and keeping very high grade octane fuel running through it’s veins at all times to ensure the more aggressive timing the chip likely delivers does not produce pre-ignition, which would directly affect the internal combustion chamber and/or the emissions system.

Generally, chips are combined with improved intake and exhaust technoligies, alont with higher octane, to squeeze out the potential of the engine as the sake of some economy and possibly drivability.

Out of the shop, cars are tuned to balance economy, performance and drivability. You might opt to boost performance via a chip at the cost of economy(mpg), cost (fuel) or drivability. The changes might be so slight that you don’t even fret it.

What chip are you looking at? The ARP staged upgrades for the 1.8T engine shouldn’t cause you any trouble. AFAIK, people running the ARP Stage III package are getting amazing results, but I believe that includes a turbo upgrade.

Here’s the deal: Your engine will be fine. The 1.8T engine is a fantabulous platform to build on, but the problem you are going to run into is that raising the boost on that teeny tiny KKK turbo is probably going to shorten its life a bit. No big deal, really, as long as you are prepared to have to buy a turbo upgrade/rebuild, which you would probably need to do anyway, since you’re planning on keeping the car for a long time.

A word of warning, which probably invalidates my entire post to this point: There are great places to get car advice on the Net, but the SDMB is not one of them. IME, there is a glaring vaccuum of car knoweldge here, especially when it comes to tuning. I would call ARP and talk to them about your goals and find out what they suggest. And take your car related questions to audiworld.com.

BTW, [b}Philster**, mild tuning via chips and dyno time tend to actually improve gas mileage. One of the ways that chips get power boosts is by leaning out the mixture, increasing the A/F ratio. This, when running boost, may make your engine more prone to knock, requiring higher octane and/or cooler intake temps, but mild tuning can make your car get better gas mileage.

Adding a chip to the car does not necessarily void the warranty. My understanding is that the language in the warranty is pretty vague regarding this. I think there may be some variation among different state laws as well. Ultimaely, though, it depends on who the service manager is, and what the problem being fixed is.

The other option is to get the new chip and a new motherboard. Then swap out the chipped board for the stock board before you bring it in for service. Not that I’m telling you to do anything fraudulent, just saying that’s an option…

Good chips out there

Necros, you are correct. I shouldn’t have gone there. But some folks get pissed when they have to fuel up on premium fuel, which you sometimes have to do. Some perceive it as less economical to pony up the $ for premium. Sorry, that’s really the point I was making, but I dropped mpg in there.

Just to chime in here, I’m a 2002 Subaru WRX Sedan owner. My car is a 2.0 liter 4-cyl boxer engine turbocharged running 13.5 PSI stock from the factory.

My first mod was a full exhaust upgrade (removing 2 of the 3 catalytic converters that are stock) which net me a whopping +33 BHP. This involved an uppipe (pipe connecting your exhaust manifold to your turbo), downpipe (pipe that exits the turbo’s turbine and heads toward your muffler), as well as a higher flow muffler (not a “rice-cannon”, mine’s quite tasteful and business-like)

My next mod was a computer “reflash” which is possible with Subarus. It differs from a complete “chip change” because now I can download whatever type of “programs” I want onto my stock ECU. This allows me to get an Economy mode program, a Valet Mode program, a Stage2 Performance Program, an Anti-Theft program and many others. There is a whole website devoted to custom programs that I can download onto this PDA device and then upload into my car’s ECU through my OBD-II diagnostics port. Quite a snap!

My reflash did several things to accomplish another +25 BHP over my exhaust gains:

  1. Advanced Ignition Timing - This allows for more performance and power from the same engine internals and fuel octane
  2. Increased Turbo Spool - The computer “reflash” program allows my wastegate to operate earlier in the spool process to close and start building boost at a lower rpm.
  3. Increased Max Boost Pressure - My maximum boost pressure jumped from 13.5 PSI stock to around 16.1 PSI now with my Stage2 reflash.
  4. Upgraded the Stock Sensor’s ability to detect “knock” and lower timing appropriately - Whenever my car may experience “knock” or “pre-detonation”, my car’s ECU can now pull timing to a safe level which will save my engine in the long run. It does this automatically, several hundred samples per second!

There are many 1,000’s of Subarus with the same exact reflash, some of which have over 20,000 miles on the reflash and have NO signs of advanced wear and tear on either the engine or drivetrain.

Soley “chipping” your Audi is a VERY similar process as the engines in these two cars have many similarities. If you do a little research and find a reputable tuning company, you should have NO problems with your car’s longevity.

Upgrading a turbo, or injectors, or fuel pump WILL most likely cause problems with your car’s longevity. I’d stay away from those unless you are willing to replace your vehicle in the near future.

??? Why do you say that? I guess if you’re upgrading the turbo the push more boost by a significant amount than the engine is designed to handle, then that will affect engine life, but simply changing the turbo, or upgrading it doesn’t necessarily mean that. For example, if I were to replace thew CT26 in my Celica with a GT28R ball-bearing turbo, I could push the same amount of boost as stock (9 psi) and get the same engine durability, faster spool and longer turbo life. Also, larger injectors and fuel pump simply allow you run more fuel. It’s only by using that extra fuel to generate more power than the engine can handle that your jeopardize your engine. Just slapping a Supra pump on your car otherwise isn’t going to make an difference.

BTW, I thought WRXes ran 14.7 psi stock? And, are you running the Vishnu reflash?

Here is a good example of this warning in action

In a word no. This is not how chips increase horsepower, and this is not how any gas mileage increases are obtained. This is because most oxygen sensors out there can only read a very narrow range right around 14.7:1. Honda, Volvo and a few other now use what is called a wide range or Lean Air Fuel ratio sensor which can read mixtures much leaner than 14.7:1. However these sensors have only been around for the last 5-7 years and chipping has been around since automotive computers were introduced in the early eighties.
Since the chip maker is not as concerned with meeting all of the emission standards that the car maker must meet he can play fast and loose with the engine parameters. Increasing advance will result in increased gas mileage, and better performance, but it also increases oxide of nitrogen emissions (ain’t nothin free). Most chips that I have seen have used a mixture of the following
More aggressive advance curve
Increased turbo boost (on cars with turbo control valves)
More fuel at high loads (due to increased boost)
Increased redline
If you are serious about this, don’t look at HP gains, look at the increase in torque. it will give you a better gauge of what you will feel when you step on the gas.

I’m guessing you have never read the warranty that came with your car. It was written by a large group of very competent lawyers, and I guarantee you that modifications to the to the car, and racing are excluded. Any damage caused by such modifications will also be excluded. Other items not related to the modification will still be covered.
Real world examples:
Customer chips car Transmission fails. Customer got to buy the new transmission. Reason, putting and extra 50hp through the trans caused it to fail.
Customer chips car brings car in because A/C compressor does not engage. After about 3 hours of fault tracing, it is discovered that the aftermarket control unit was not sending the “A/C OK” signal to he climate control. Customer paid 3 hours labor and was told to take it up with chip maker.
Customer chips car, and turns up turbo boost Blows engine. Customer pay.

Do not chip a car and expect the auto maker to sit idly by and not complain if you cost them thousands of extra dollars in warranty expense. If you do chip a car, then do so with the understanding that there may be consequences to your wallet.
Who works for a car company and has chipped cars before

My post was in reference to upgrading a turbo for performance gains (ie: increase in boost pressur), not in reference to keeping stock boost/timing/fuel levels. If someone is spending money on an A4 or WRX to change out their turbo, injectors, and fuel pump, they aren’t looking for the same level of performance as stock. That’s a given. So in that light, I wanted to propose the doing those modifications is more likely to shorten the life-span of an engine.

The reflash I have is made by Cobb Tuning out of Salt Lake City, UT. Here’s the website: http://www.accessecu.com/

The reference I made to a Stock WRX having only 13.5 PSI is correct, check it here: http://mastrowrx.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=18 OR here: http://www.justintubbs.com/subaruwrx.php

I agree with Rick that any ECU modifications or “chipping” is bound to void a warranty. I’m already past my warranty period, so I’m not concerned as long as I’m not pushing my car too far. I’ve seen many examples of that so far, so I stuck with a reputable tuning company specifically working on Subarus.

I would recommend that if there is such a company for Audis, you do the same.

Mea culpa. My tuning experience has been more along the lines of standalone EMS along with WB O2. My basic poiint stands, though: Leaning out the mixture, a common tuning method, can improve gas mileage. I didn’t say anything about emissions. :wink: Also, increasing advance, which a chip DOES do, can also improve gas mileage. So, I don’t think I was very far off base. My underlying assumption that EMS tuning and chip tuning was the same was erroneous, however. Unless one got a chip that allows standole interfacing with it, like the WRX chip discussed above, and uses it in combination with a WB o2 sensor. I’m not exactly sure what the APR chip does the ECU, so I can’t say what strategy it uses to improve performance. My guess is that you are correct, and changing timing in conjunction with increased boost accounts for most of the improvement.

I’ve heard good things about the AccessECU, and have always liked Cobb. I have a Cobb CAI on my Forester.

Also, third hand here (from SCC), it says stock boost is 14.2 psi: http://irvinesubaru.com/wrx/sccweb.html
Also, interesting Nabisco discussion: http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/showthread/t-140354.html

I’m 100% positive that the Stock WRX PSI is 13.5, the STI’s is 14.5 PSI. My boost gauge (at stock) read about .09 MPa which is ~13.5 PSI. I think alot of people throw numbers around on the Internet, but don’t do alot of research.

The reflash I have is called AccessPORT, and is an extension of AccessECU (a “chip exchange” program) It’s really innovative, and to my knowledge isn’t being done yet with other car manufacturers. Cobb plans to release an STI/ForresterXT version in early summer 2004, with a Mazda RX-8 and Nissan 350Z version to follow.

Sorry for stealing this thread and plundering it like a barbarian Viking. If you want my vote on whether to “chip” your Audi or not, I say “chip it!”

I dunno, mang. Sport Compact Car, Car & Driver and Motor Trend all agree on 14.2 psi, so I suspect that it is information straight from Subaru. I don’t dispute that your car makes 13.5, just that the intended boost level was 14.2.

I wholeheartedly agree with your “chip it!” recommendation. :wink:

Mmmm. 1.8T’s.
Lunch. :wink:
mangeorge (A4 3.0 owner)

I’d say go for it!

Below are some european tuners for Group VAG cars. Note that some tuners (MTM for example) are considered “official” and will not void the waranty (at least in Europe):

http://www.vwvortex.com/ (For general information)



And for some extreme tuning :wink: : http://www.dahlbackracing.se/

I have a Revo http://www.revotechnik.com/ “flash” in my Jetta 1.8T

They just flash your factory “Chip” via the diag port under the dash.

This is totally undetectable by the dealer. Thus keeping your warranty intact.

Even if you blow your motor…not that I advocate such deception :wink:

No mechanic worth his ASE cert would not feel the difference during a road test though. This is where the Revo SPS 1 programmer which allows you to set it back to stock for dealer visits comes in.

you are looking at about

234FT/LBS or so at the flywheel.

I was door handle to door handle with a modded WRX the other day from a 60-110mph HW roll.

Cost around

$499 programming
$199 SPS1

Wow. Lots of food for thought, although some of that went right over my head.

I’m going to head over to AudiWorld and continue my research. Thanks all.