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Pros and Cons of Chips (IMHO) (archive)

[ Follow Ups ] [ 5-series (E28) Message Board ] [ Msg. Board FAQ ]

Posted by Brian K on August 30, 1999 at 13:35:28:

In Reply to: Re: Sounds just like......Question re Chip posted by Mike O on August 26, 1999 at 10:16:37:

Mike C, this is in response to your inquiry below. I have not checked the board for a few days, sorry for the delay.

I have thought a lot about chips in the last few days. Here is what I have concluded:

They are not really worth it. I had a Jim C chip, which is supposedly the best, and supposedly gives something like 25 extra hp and lb-ft of torque. Frankly, after driving the car with the chip, then with the stock chip a couple minutes later, I did not notice any difference at all. Certainly not enough to justify the costs/risks, which I think are pretty significant.

Mike, see my post above.

: : Mike, thanks for your info. That sounds EXACTLY like what happened to my car. My wife was driving it, and it stalled a a stop light. She managed to restart it. It then stalled at another light a few blocks away, and was dead.

: : I had it towed home (she was only about a mile from home). I could smell fuel, so I figured it was a spark problem. Pulled a plug, grounded it, and no spark. Tested the coil, the reference sensors, etc. etc. and everything checked out. Still, no start, dead as a doornail. Hmmm. A few knocks on the ECU, and bingo, it started up. I drove it around a bit, and the same thing happened, it would die, but I could restart it by tapping on the ECU unit.

: : As it turns out, the ECU unit is not triggering the ground for the coil, thus the resistance of the windings in the coil check out, but no spark. Sounds similar to what you may have had.

: : Finally, did you have a chip? I have had a Jim C chip for about 2 years now. The "ECU type" people that I have spoken with in the last couple days have generally been of the position that we should not use aftermarket chips in these cars. Not so much because the chip itself is bad or does bad things, but because the circuit boards are very fragile, especially in older cars like the E28 (the boards are old and have been through hot, cold, etc.). The process of cracking the box open, separating the boards, and putting the new chip in can cause tiny cracks in the circuit board, or do other bad things, which can lead to failure down the road. No chips for me in my new ECU, which will remain sealed and untouched!

: : Brian

: : : My car simply stalled one morning as I was pulling into my parking garage at the office and would not restart. It had never done that before. It restarted a few hours later and I was able to drive it towrd home at the end of the day. On the way, it simply cut out completely two different times (once at speed and once at an idle) and, once again, would not restart at first, but did restart in a few minutes.

: : : My local mechanic (whom I trust) ran the car and tested the ECU functions after the car repeated its stalling thing for him. He said that something (I can't remember if it was spark, fuel or what) was definitely not being triggered by the ECU at those times. I hope that gives you some idea ...

: : : By the way, I can't remember my exact final cost of the unit--it may have been slightly more than I said--and there was a refundable core charge that I didn't mention.

: : :
: : : : Hmm, I wish I would have known the wholesale/retail price thing, I would have tried to get it through a dealer. Even at $400, the price seemed pretty reasonable. Oh well, as long as it works, I will be happy!

: : : : BTW, why did you need a new ECU for your car? Did it just stop working? It surprises me that these apparently fail quite often. I would not necessarily expect that, as the ECU does not have any moving parts, etc. in it and it is pretty well protected on its perch in the glovebox.

: : : : Thanks again.

: : : : Brian

: : : : : : I need to get a new ECU for my 535i. The dealer wants $730 for a Bosch rebuilt one. I can get one rebuilt by Programa with a 3 year warranty for $404. Junkyard ones seem to be about $250. Given all of these numbers, the Programa rebuild sounds like the way to go.

: : : : : : Anyone ever used them? Anyone else have any problems with their ECU?

: : : : : : Thanks!

: : : : : : Brian

: : : :
: : : : : I got a Programa ECU for my '85 535i and it seems to be working fine. As I understand it, Programa will sell to the public at a "retail" price like the one that you mentioned, in order to protect their relationship with the auto repair trade. I believe that your mechanic could buy a Programa unit from a Programa parts wholesaler at a much better price (I think my guy paid around $200 and charged me a reasonable profit above that).

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