Computer Tech

The Latest in Late-Model Bolt-on Power

Jason Walker Dec 18, 2002 0 Comment(s)

Looking for quick ways to bolt-on performance for late-model cars and trucks can be slightly confusing and very often extremely pricey. These computer-controlled vehicles of today require a whole different way of thinking for the backyard car nut looking for power adders that are easily obtained and installed--the equivalent to swapping a two-barrel carb for a four or upgrading the ignition system. Sometimes just popping the hood on a new car and seeing the engine compartment full of wires is enough to send chills down your spine. With this in mind, we must keep up with technology and hopefully find "user friendly" power adders that can be installed without taking a class in electrical engineering. Performance chips have been around now for years but have also proven, in some cases, to be unreliable and even damaging to the car's electronics. For the most part, these chips have come a long way from their humble beginnings to sophisticated chunks of silicone that re-map your car's computer to better control the air/fuel ratio, ignition advance, tranny, and any other parameters controlling efficiency and performance.

One of your best bets for quality electronic performance upgrades is to contact Jet Performance Products in Huntington Beach, California. Jet has been testing and perfecting automotive electronics for over 30 years. Everything from basic performance chips to state-of-the-art electronic transmissions are offered for import and domestic applications.

The new Programmable PCM (power control module) for GM-powered cars and trucks is what caught our eye. This unit can best be described as the next step in chip technology. The best part to this whole deal goes back to what we were talking about at the beginning of this story. The installation takes somewhere around five minutes (or less) to install for a gain of up to 25 hp. We don't know about you guys, but a quick 20 or so horses for that kind of installation makes us thinks a little differently about that engine compartment full of wires.

Then, there is the issue of cash. The outcome of that is basically like swapping a two-barrel carb to a four-barrel carb and intake manifold, yielding about the same gain in horsepower with much more work involved for about the same price, if not less. That may be comparing apples to oranges, but let's face it: with parts like the Programmable PCM available, it gives us backyard auto jockeys some simple upgrades that work despite our lack of an electrical engineering diploma. Oh yeah, we almost forgot to mention that Jet has built a special port in the Programmable PCM that allows you to adjust the chip for future upgrades.

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Before the new chip was installed, we made a few passes on the dyno for an average horsepower baseline. The '02 Chevy Silverado 5.3L, with a Granatelli Motorsports Mass Air Flow Sensor and cool air intake tube and filter installed, pumped out 224 ponies.

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The first part of the installation is to disconnect the battery. This must be done, no excuses.

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Loosen the single bolt holding the main loom plug into the brain (computer), pull it off, and let it hang for now.

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The new Jet unit comes with a new longer bolt, as it now needs to pass through the main loom plug and the PCM.

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Here is the hard part: Plug the new PCM into the brain, followed by the main loom plug right into the PCM's backside, and tighten.

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That's about all there is to that. When we were finally finished with this extensive installation (yeah, right), we spun the wheels up once again and ended up with an 18hp increase. Just that increase alone was felt instantly when we got the truck out onto the street, with no loss of fuel economy or reliability.

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