By William “Bernie” Bernhard, AEM Technical and Safety Services Manager

ChippingIt almost goes without saying that farmers are instinctive tinkerers, and contractors always need more power.

And for an amount ranging between $299.95 and $2,599.99, they can satisfy those demands with a little device they can install on their diesel engines. Whether it’s a pick-up truck, a large tractor, or a massive articulated mining truck, these devices can be outfitted onto any piece of equipment in the fleet with a diesel engine.

However, this begs the following question: Are equipment end users realizing a good investment by increasing the power of their machinery to both the OEM’s recommended levels and standards set by the U.S. EPA? Well, to quote an old friend, Mr. Paul Harvey, “and now for the rest of the story.”

AEM is comprised of more than 1,000 member companies and thousands of their employees – engineers, product managers and safety professionals. These individuals spend countless hours designing equipment to be productive, efficient, technologically advanced and – most importantly – safe.

Ultimately, their goal is to deliver the best product they possibly can to all of those tinkerers and moguls that seek more power.  

Now, about that little device I mentioned before... The manufacturer's engine control unit (ECU) is a programmed electronic microprocessor-controlled device that control various engine systems, as well as determine an engine’s fuel use and power output based on a wide variety of different parameters.

Diesel performance chips are “third-party” manufacturers’ electronic devices that modify the equipment’s original programming to increase the power output of an engine. Some are very simple to install. These manufacturers claim to deliver better fuel economy, boosted power, more torque, better acceleration and more pulling power, overriding the thousands of hours of AEM member’s research, development and testing. Years of OEM engineering and experience is simply tossed out.

Chips deliver more fuel to the engine, which increases wear and tear, reduces life, creates more soot, builds more stress on drivetrains, as well as disregards EPA certifications. It reminds me of a favorite saying from one of my engineer friends: “A universal feature of design is you can’t get something for nothing. Change one variable to make something better, and you invariably make something else worse.”

ChippingWith this fact very much front of mind, manufacturers are tasked with delivering the best product, performance and value to their customers.

During my time as an off-road equipment dealer, I witnessed several instances where equipment had been modified by the owner in order for it to perform differently. More often than not, those modifications were the cause of an early date to our service department.   

Chips deliver more fuel to the engine, which:

  • Increases wear and tear
  • Reduces life
  • Creates more soot
  • Builds more stress on drivetrains
  • Disregards EPA certifications

Do you remember the Volkswagen emissions scandal? It impacted 11 million cars worldwide, including 500,000 in the United States, costing VW $2.8 billion and four top VW executives their careers. In addition, VW’s stock value dropped by a third. 

The Clean Air Act requires new engines and equipment sold or distributed in the United States to be certified to meet U.S. EPA-established emission requirements to protect public health and the environment from air pollution. EPA officials may seek civil penalties for violations of the act and various regulations. Enforcement actions include cases against a variety of parties, including manufacturers, importers, distributors and consultants.  Violators are subject to civil penalties up to $45,268 per noncompliant vehicle or engine, and $4,527 per tampering event or sale of defeat device (chip). 

My craving for dark chocolate pales in comparison!

AEM member manufacturers agree their main purpose is to bring value to end user customers. These customers make tough decisions every day to improve productivity, their investments, and their overall businesses. Therefore, it’s vitally important to invest wisely – in personnel, equipment, facilities and communities – as opposed to products that “chip” away at your livelihood and add “wear and tear” to tried and true ways of life.

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