The days are long gone when we would simply crank the screw a half turn on the injection pump to squeeze out an extra 75 horses.
It’s a little bit more complicated today. You can still gain a lot of performance with aftermarket chips, but they are usually from questionable sources.
What about the consequences? Twenty years ago, if the engine was still on warranty and that extra power punched a connecting rod through the block, you’d turn the screw back and claim warranty. Nobody could prove what really happened.
Today, you can do the modification if you want, but if something goes wrong you’re going to get caught. The computer is omniscient. The dealer can tell immediately if your broken engine had been chipped. If the engine was still on warranty, that warranty is gone and you’re stuck with a big repair bill.
If it’s off warranty, you’re stuck with the same big repair bill, says Larry Hertz of the Western Equipment Dealers Association.
“Our concern is that if a farmer chips their tractor and then blows an engine or a drivetrain component while on warranty, the warranty is void so who pays but the farmer?” Hertz said.
“If the failure happens a few years down the road, then who pays? Again, the farmer. Most producers simply don’t know how much this could end up costing them or the next owner. These repairs can be $50,000 to $100,000.”
However, many farmers say they are dissatisfied with the performance of their tractor or combine, and they’re willing to take the gamble.
According to WEDA, chipping is becoming more widespread. The association launched an awareness campaign last month to inform farmers of the financial consequences of a chipping project gone wrong.
The campaign asks the simple question: “who pays the bill for chipped equipment?”
In a news release, WEDA’s John Schmeiser said equipment dealers have become increasingly concerned about the chipping trend in recent years.
“The idea is to alter the operating software for a piece of farm equipment, to run it at higher horsepower, torque or ground speed or to modify emission controls,” said Schmeiser.
“Equipment chipping can be done for far less than the price of buying higher-capacity equipment, so you can understand that an equipment owner would listen to that logic. However, chipping creates three issues.”
- Equipment manufacturers will void the warranty if operating or emissions software is removed or modified.
- If equipment is run at higher horsepower, temperature or ground speed than it was designed for, it won’t last as long as it was designed to last.
- Altering or removing DEF emissions systems is illegal in Canada and the United States.
Schmeiser said dealers have seen equipment come in with engine or drivetrain failures they believe would not have occurred if that equipment was operated within engineered ranges. With the warranty gone, the farmer is left to pay the repair bill, which could be as high as $100,000.
“We also have serious concern about chipped equipment coming in on trade. If the equipment’s been run harder than it should be, the next owner could see performance problems or a shorter lifespan than they paid for, and that’s just not fair.”
Whether it’s a lost warranty, chipping-related repair costs, compromised trade-in values or legal risk, the ultimate cost of chipping is borne by a farmer. It could be the equipment’s original owner, a farmer who buys that chipped equipment later, a neighbour or even a relative.
“We respect the fact that it’s their equipment and their decision. Our position is that when you consider the risks of chipping, we don’t think it’s worth it.”