Ask Unichip: Black Boxes and Cracking Codes

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We have recently been privileged to discuss the world of aftermarket ECU tuning in depth with Jack from Unichip, one of the pioneering companies when it comes to engine tuning software. This post wraps up our Q & A series with Jack, and we finish things off by posing some questions about the dark and mysterious details of the computer coding required to achieve the outstanding results offered by Unichip’s tuning products.

Cracking the Code

Unichip currently has no competitors when it comes to ECU tuning solutions for the Toyota Tundra, and we asked Jack whether that was as a result of any particular difficulties associated with “cracking” Toyota’s engine codes. Jack’s answer chipped away at yet another one of the myths surrounding ECU tuning: Performance chip manufacturers don’t need to have a complete understanding of a car company’s engine codes in order to design an effective engine map.

According to Jack, the Unichip software for the Tundra is completely self-contained and doesn’t use any of Toyota’s original engine code. In fact, Jack went on to explain that it would be possible to pull a Unichip off of a Toyota pickup and plug it into a Chevrolet Corvette Z06, and assuming that the correct maps are present the vehicle will start up and run with no issues at all.

Essentially, the Unichip system acts independently of the Toyota ECU, observing the engine’s operation and manipulating the sensor data that is sent to the vehicle’s computer in order to achieve the power increases that owners are looking for. Because the Unichip “piggybacks” onto the ECU, it can work on any vehicle.

Jack says that very few codes are actually “cracked” by the aftermarket anymore, with most companies forced to purchase ECU code from an automaker and rewrite it so that they can reflash a stock chip. Toyota is one automaker that refuses to sell their computer coding, which can make developing products for its ECU systems quite difficult.

Since Unichip doesn’t need a manufacturer’s original software to do their thing, they’re the only game in town for most Toyota vehicles.

A Wealth of Information

Jack has given those of us (the majority, I would think) who don’t have a deep background in ECU tuning with some fascinating details regarding how Unichip designs and implements its systems. While the Tundra-specific information is quite interesting and sheds some light on questions that many of our readers have been curious about, overall the depth of knowledge that Jack has shown in this interview has really helped to provide a better understanding of ECU tuning from a performance perspective.

In particular, Jack’s willingness to dispel some of the half-truths and assumptions surrounding aftermarket chip tuning is unexpectedly candid and definitely helpful when attempting to decide what programmed solution might be best to install in your Toyota.

Special thanks to Jack and Unichip!

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