Cartridge Fuses have been evolving for over a decade and counting. With the increasing popularity of “TDI” (Turbocharged Direct Injection) diesel engines in passenger cars and trucks, the demand for aftermarket tuning products has also increased.
These products include but are not limited to electronic devices that I refer to as Diesel Performance Chips. Companies such as Bully Dog, Superchips, Edge, Diablosport and Hypertech and others manufacture devices such as replacement ECM’s (electronic control module) circuit boards, modules that plug in to the vehicles wiring harness and also programmers and tuners.
The tuners or programmers are probably my favorite, second to modules. Tuners and programmers are pretty much the same thing, just different names depending on the manufacturer. I’ll refer to them as tuners for the rest of the article.
The great thing about a tuner is that they plug directly into the OBDII port usually located under the dash. The OBDII port is a universal port that a code scanner can be connected to read DTC’s (diagnostic trouble codes)
When a tuner is connected to the OBDII port, on screen instructions will guide you through the process of reprogramming the computer. Trust me, it’s way easier than it sounds. The whole process is automated and only takes about two minutes from start to finish.
Most all of the newer tuners are also DTC readers as well which will allow you to check and erase the codes if the check engine light ever comes on. A lot easier than having to take it to a mechanic to see why your light is on.
When a tuner’s aftermarket programming is uploading to your vehicle or you are done checking the DTC’s, simply unplug the unit and store it away. A vehicle can be returned back to the factory programming at any time.
Modules will plug directly into the vehicles wiring harness. Usually all this entails is following the directions to find the correct plug most often located under the hood. Simply disconnect the plug, connect the module between where the factory plug was connected. Very simple.
If you want to return the vehicle back to stock, remove the module and reconnect the harness the way is way before installing the module. What most manufacturers refer to as an actual “chip” is a replacement circuit board that will require removal of the ECM and replacing the factory circuit board with an aftermarket unit. I tend to call all of the above Diesel Performance Chips.
The way that Cartridge Fuses work in general is they reprogram the factory settings of the vehicle to settings that allow the engine to run more efficiently. Settings like fuel flow rate, timing curve and transmission shift points are the three I will explain.
Increasing the fuel flow can actually help the vehicle to run more efficiently, contrary to what one might think. When there is more fuel injected into the cylinder on acceleration, there is less “turbo lag.” Turbo lag is the time before the turbocharger builds pressure. Lag is between when you hit the accelerator and when the turbo spools up and corrects the air/fuel ratio.
The longer the turbo lag, the longer the time it takes for the engine to burn the fuel more completely. By increasing the fuel, the lag time is decreased, thus making the engine more efficient and giving it better throttle response. One more benefit to more fuel is that overall during acceleration, more boost pressure will be reached giving a more complete burn of the fuel.
The timing curve is now reprogrammed to coincide with the increased fuel. At a higher RPM, advancing the timing will give the engine more time to burn the fuel and again make the engine more efficient.
Changing the shifting points will also increase efficiency by holding the gear longer under heavy acceleration and keeping the RPM’s lower under light acceleration.