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Anyone Can Cheat

NPR reports that Soon It’ll Be OK To Tinker With Your Car’s Software After All. The vehicle’s software had been protected by copyright law, but ‘backyard mechanics’ wanted to mess with it and a change in the law will allow them to do it without the threat of prosecution.

The reality is that Chip tuning has been alive and well for years, and there are web sites that provide people with the hacks to do what VW did, just not affecting as many vehicles at one time.

There is a long history of individuals modifying their vehicles and computers in the US. Laws won’t stop it, anymore than Prohibition stopped drinking.

4 comments

1 Badtux { 10.31.15 at 1:08 am }

I have a Superchips widget to reprogram the computer on my Jeep. Of course, my purpose for doing so is to fix the transmission shift and speedometer after putting on big tires, and also to disable the tire pressure sensors since they don’t go down far enough to deal with the lower pressures of the big tires. But I went ahead and put in a tune that also remapped how fast the throttle responds when you press the gas pedal (it’s a fly-by-wire gas pedal that connects only to the computer, not to a throttle valve, and the stock mapping is very sluggish and quite painful when combined with the lesser power to the road implied by the larger tires). I also thought about changing the fan temperature maps to kick the fan in sooner, but realized that the stock map was fine.

I’ve often wondered how it is that Superchips avoids getting sued to a splot on the road. All I can surmise is that Chrysler realizes that suing them would be more negative publicity than pretending they don’t exist….

2 Bryan { 10.31.15 at 4:15 pm }

They certainly made it easier to get accurate speedometer/odometer readings when you change wheel and tire sizes. When they installed catalytic converters, after market sold more exhaust cut-out valves, so it should have surprised no one that people were going to figure out how to modify their rides.

If I moved from Florida to Colorado I would definitely have to hack the settings, the same way I had to diddle the carbs on my MGB-GT when I drove from Monterey to Rochester, NY in the 1970s. Every time I filled up I had to tweak things to keep the engine working reasonably well.

Given all of the changes you have made and the altitude changes you deal with, it makes sense that you would want to achieve a better tune than the factory provides.

3 Badtux { 11.01.15 at 6:26 pm }

The modern fuel-injected cars actually use the MAP and oxygen sensors to adjust for altitude, so altitude isn’t a problem like it was with carburetors. They’re down on power of course at altitude, but so am I (sigh!).

Back in the day, speedometer gears lived in the tail of the transmission and drove a cable to the speedometer/odometer. Compensating for bigger tires required actually installing a new gear in the tail of the transmission, like I had to do for my old Jeep. Nowadays it’s driven off the ABS sensors at the wheels and is all electronic. So it’s nice to be able to adjust the speedometer without installing a new gear in the transfer case tail (where it is on the old Jeeps), but it does require a tool to adjust the computer, sigh.

I’m running the stock tune, mostly, all I diddled was the accelerator response time. The stock settings are set up for 32″ tires and 4.10 gearing, which is pretty low gearing for such a powerful engine in such a small vehicle, and opens the throttle valve somewhat sedately in order to protect the driver from a sudden burst of power (the 3.6L Pentastar makes somewhat more power than the original engine that my Jeep was designed around). Thing is, while that was acceptable with the small tires, with the big tires it makes the Jeep respond very sluggishly to throttle inputs. With those big 35″ tires I’m not going to get whiplash!

4 Bryan { 11.01.15 at 11:09 pm }

The dual Skinner Union carbs on an MGB required a lot of messing around any way, so you always carried the kit with you. That and ‘positive earth’ made it a lot of fun to work on. 😉

At least you could get the necessary gears for the Jeep. Most cars don’t have them available, and a number of states have vehicle and traffic laws that make it illegal to make changes that affect the odometer.

There is a lot to be said for analog controls, but most people aren’t good enough to make them useful. Drive by wire, as long as the software is decent, is a safer choice for most drivers.