What is a Unichip?
Manufactured right here in South Africa by Dastek, the Unichip is a highly-evolved and fully re-mappable supplementary (or ‘piggyback’) performance ECU. It works in conjunction with a vehicle’s original engine management system to enable an engine to be custom mapped. It’s available as a ‘U-Connect' plug-and-play DIY fitment for more popular vehicles and as a universal ‘Dealer Connect’ for other applications. In both instances the results are improved vehicle efficiency and performance.
How does the Unichip improve your vehicle’s performance?
Modern engine management systems rely on signals from engine sensors. The Unichip piggyback ECU intercepts these signals, enabling the original engine management system’s settings to be adjusted – even if no other mechanical modifications are carried out. The result is an optimised engine that reaches its full potential in terms of power, fuel consumption and drivability.
Moreover, the Unichip ECU allows appointed dealers such as RGMotorsport to fine-tune not only fuel and ignition requirements, but a whole host of other performance related functions. This enables owners of modified vehicles to extract the ultimate potential from popular engine upgrades. The benefits of induction systems, camshafts, exhaust manifolds/systems and even turbocharger conversions can be fully exploited. The Unichip is more than just a ‘chip’: it’s a multifunctional supplementary ECU that’s capable of being custom ‘live-mapped’, in exactly the same way as much more expensive ‘standalone’ engine management systems.
Where do these performance improvements come from?
When car manufacturers (OEM’s) develop engine management systems they make compromises to take into account the production and operating variations of the vehicle during its life. Production tolerances mean that no two vehicles are exactly the same - depending on where and how the vehicles are used they may experience different climatic conditions, fuel quality, service intervals, and driving styles, and much more. Taking all of these factors into account results in an OEM engine management system which uses pre-set, homogenized settings (called a ‘map’,) which isn’t necessarily optimized for maximum performance or efficiency, particularly when being operated in a country like SA where our fuel choices and environmental conditions result in a unique operating environment.
Naturally, OEM engine management system’s maps also cannot take into account any mechanical modifications that owners make to their vehicles. Every mechanical modification, no matter how small, can have a significant effect on the air/fuel ratio and ignition requirements on an engine. In these scenarios the Unichip piggy back ECU is the ideal tool, because it’s designed so that a Unichip dealer can alter these settings way beyond the OEM map designer ever expected.
How does the Unichip increase power and torque?
Every motor requires optimized ignition, air/fuel ratios and, where applicable, boost at a number of RPM points and load conditions. The Unichip gives access and ability to adjust and optimise both the ignition and fuelling on a car, so that they can precisely control engine performance. With 17 rpm ‘sites’ between 500 and 8000rpm and 12 load sites between zero and wide open throttle built into the Unichip’s software, this equates to 204 possible points of adjustment for fuelling alone, with a same number again 204 for ignition timing.
With the Unichip ‘U-Connect’ plug and play package for diesel vehicles, the Uni-Q piggyback ECU unit arrives having been remapped by Unichip Europe for your specific model year of vehicle. You simply follow the supplied instructions and a few minutes later you can be enjoying the additional performance and efficiency of the Unichip. Then at a later date, (and especially if you make further mechanical modifications), you can visit a Unichip dealer and they can live ‘remap’ the ECU to extract even more performance.
For “Dealer Connect’ applications, the Unichip dealer has to install the Uni-Q into the vehicle’s wiring loom, either using the same plug and play system, or by undertaking a simple wiring modification. Once this process is complete, the dealer then optimises the Unichip’s map ‘live’, using a chassis dyno (or rolling road). The Unichip can store up to five of these user-selectable maps, providing full control whether you’re going to a track day event or sending the car for a service.
How much extra power can I expect from the Unichip?
Power gains of eight to 10% are commonplace once a Unichip piggyback ECU is installed, as measured on a rolling road. In rare cases – usually turbopetrol cars - gains of 15% have been independently verified. However, the exact power gain depends on the specification and condition of the engine, plus the calibration levels of the OEM engine management system.
No two engines (or rolling roads) are identical, so the results achieved on each Unichip must be regarded as individual. This is particularly true of ‘Dealer Connect’ Unichip installations, where results are verified using ‘before and after’ rolling road testing across the rev range, so that the improvements can be judged objectively.
Will the Unichip improve my car’s fuel economy?
Yes – in most driving conditions, the Unichip will improve fuel economy. Many modern fuel-injected vehicles waste fuel by running very rich air/fuel ratios as part-throttle openings. With the Unichip, it is a simple procedure to correctly optimize the ratios over 12 throttle positions to maximize fuel economy for cruising and part-throttle running.
History of the Unichip:
The Unichip was invented in 1995 by automotive technician, Pieter de Weerdt, as a means by which a skilled tuner could modify a car’s electronics in order to optimize performance. The product available today represents the 25th evolution of this technology and there are about 600 Unichip dealers across the 57 countries currently using it as the preferred ECU tuning solution. The Unichip Uni-Q is manufactured by Dastek in South Africa, in a state-of-the-art Pretoria facility staffed by 120 personnel. Dastek’s manufacturing environment uses the very latest design and production techniques, including surface mount technology, robotized ‘pick and place’ machines and dust-free electronic assembly rooms. Unichip is at the forefront of automotive tuning technology and has been a supplier to many of the world’s car manufacturers.
Why is the Unichip different from other ‘chips’?
‘Chipping’ used to refer to how engine management tuning upgrades were conducted in the early days of vehicle electronics – the car’s engine management system would be dismantled, the standard ‘chip’ removed and a new ‘chip’ carrying performance orientated mapping would be soldered in. These days, ‘chipping’ is still used to refer to a process that’s now conducted by ‘re-flashing’ the OEM engine management system through the vehicle’s On Board Diagnostics (OBD) port.
Unichip differs from both of these methods, because it is a supplementary engine control unit (ECU). As such, it is far more advanced than any generic ‘re-flash’ programs, tuning boxes or the like that are available today. The Unichip is an individually programmable piggyback ECU designed to meet the requirements of both engine and driver. Being fully adjustable, it is also future proof and can be remapped by your Unichip dealer to exploit further engine modifications that you make to your car – many OBD programmers cannot do this.
Instead, the Unichip simply intercepts the information to and from the standard engine ECU and adjusts the signal to enable the engine to reach its full potential in terms of power, fuel consumption and drivability within the already mentioned manufacture specified safety parameters.
What are the advantages of the Unichip?
With the Unichip electronic control unit no changes are made within the vehicle’s original standard engine management system and thus all the safety parameters as set by the manufacturer remain in place. There is no tampering with these original safety parameters, which include cold start and knock sensors, water and air temperature sensors, and oxygen sensors. Inadvertent (and often costly) alterations to these can sometimes occur due to operator error when ‘re-flashing’.
Unichip also offers some crucial advantages over generic ‘re-flash’ chips. Firstly, even if you ‘re-flash’ your standard engine management system (EMS) back to the standard settings prior to service work, the EMS logs how many times it has been re-flashed and this is easily detected by a franchised dealer’s diagnostic equipment. Frequently, the upgraded code of the ‘re-flash’ is overwritten during main dealer servicing, so your upgrade as well as your warranty could be immediately removed.
Once the Unichip is installed, it leaves no electronic “footprint” and this also applies should you want to remove the unit, unlike when you program the standard ECU with a re-flash programmer. Secondly, being universal, when you sell your car, you can remove your Unichip and then have it installed on your next car – it can simply be remapped by your Unichip dealer. Or you can choose to sell it onto a fellow owner – something you simply can’t do with an OBD re-flash that’s around the same price as the Unichip piggy back ECU! Bearing this in mind, the Unichip represents excellent value.