Programmers are something of a universal answer for enhancing the already-amazing characteristics of modern vehicles. They’re useful in improving fuel economy, horsepower, and towing capabilities. They even allow drivers to tap into the onboard computer for complex diagnostics and adjustments.
But what exactly does it do?
A programmer accesses the ECU of the car and manipulates mapping of the fuel and timing to enhance the power curve. This offers the ability to switch from an economy tune to a performance tune. Additionally, programmers work to enhance shift points of the transmission. And they can even be used to recalibrate the speedometer (with the right model).
However, a tuner’s ultimate job is to get man in touch with the engine. When carbs and distributors disappeared, the gap between driver and machine widened. Suddenly, the car is solving its own problems and adjusting itself on the fly. With a good tuner, consumers find themselves able to tap into the knowledge of a powerful computer to help strengthen the characteristics craved most when driving. And really, it reinforces the bond between man and machine—that’s what this industry is all about, right?
Where do I start?
As a shop owner, focus on stocking the best of the best and knowing the product inside and out. Kris Lavery, Keystone Automotive Marketing Coordinator, has a rule of three that comes in handy here.
“There are three keys, in my opinion, to increasing your average sale and building a loyal clientele that becomes your most effective form of advertising: know your product, know your customer, and have good/better/best options…but ALWAYS show them the best first!”
Superchips, Hypertech, Diablosport, Jet, Bully Dog, and Edge make tuners that reach well within the realms of economy, performance, and towing gains for all types of applications. You’ll find Jeepers, modern muscle fans, truck fanatics, and even sport compact guys debating about who holds the crown. But for sure, the names above are in the running.
What should I tell customers?
Despite proven results, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding computer programmers, and consumers are often misinformed. For years people have been led to believe that tuners automatically void a vehicle’s factory warranty upon installation. In actuality, though the idea may hold some water, it isn’t completely true.
Superchips, a long-time and trusted supplier of computer programmers, addresses this issue right on their website. They state that “consumers of aftermarket products are protected by the Federal Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act. The Act provides if something breaks on your vehicle and you take it in for warranty repair, the dealer must honor your warranty unless whatever modifications you have added to your vehicle directly caused the problem in question.”
In other words, if your problem isn’t directly linked to the programmer, then a warranty should be honored. If, however, the programmer is linked to the issue at hand, then sorry Bubba—that’s on you. Technically speaking, they don’t void the warranty, rather the warranty just doesn’t apply to aftermarket parts.
What else should I know?
As if tuners haven’t been through the ringer enough, there’s more.
“A lot of the newer vehicles are set up in such a way that makes it harder to get large performance/torque gains out of them like they used to. Also, the EPA rules have really hurt the overall industry because people are trying to get programmers (for diesels mainly), so they can remove the DPF filters and/or install EGR delete kits and then program the computer around these changes. However, the EPA has made those delete systems illegal and have sued the programmer companies,” said Gahre Scudder, a Keystone sales team lead based out of North Carolina.
Diesel fanatics in particular are working around some of these challenges by completing mechanical upgrades that bypass the headaches associated with programmer use. Arguably, that’s impacted some diesel tuner sales in the process.
It may be a tense tug of war these days, but the tuner biz is far from dried up. Offering tuner brands means that shop owners need to rise above product awareness. They need a vested interest in educating consumers about the fact–and fiction–associated with the purchase. Taking the extra time to help them wade through the regulatory muck can result in more than a one-time sale, landing you a loyal repeat customer.