Ferrari ECU

Ferrari ECU


Jailbreaking your car’s computer isn’t fraught with the dangers it once was.

When you bought your car, you really didn’t buy all of it.  You don’t own the software in the ECU chips. That’s copyrighted by the manufacturer. That tiny chip determines just how much horsepower hooks up to the wheels, and just how much pollution you put into the atmosphere while driving.

In October of 2015, Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco filed petitions seeking to change laws that auto enthusiast couldn’t alter software codes.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act has changed a couple of sentences to now allow the unlocking of certain “access controls” without getting sued by the manufacturer. Zoom-zoom.

But automotive enthusiasts have been tuning their machines for years by inserting rogue chips in place of factory issued, all in the name of performance.

In the interest of total disclosure, I did this with my Ferrari 348 years ago, and was very happy with the increase in power …emissions be damned.

But should you be doing electronic surgery?


  • can the drivetrain in your car handle the extra juice?
  • you still may void the warranty but do you care?
  • do you live in a state with tight emission controls that require annual testing?  (i.e. California)
  • OK with fines if caught circumventing emissions controls?
Lamborghini on Dyno

Lamborghini on Dyno

So what does all this mean to you about that illegal-thing? The Feds could care less about how much horsepower your car puts out; it’s the emissions that they want to curb and you could get charged up to $3,750 for each device on your car that circumvents emissions.

Like performance enhancing drugs, it’s only illegal if you get caught.

The car makers still know more than we do when it comes to building cars so why tinker?  I guess now just because we can…


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About the Author: Dave Miller

Dave Miller With Lotus GT
Dave Miller drives the fastest, coolest, sexiest cars on the planet. He travels the world uncovering the hidden gems in luxury transportation, meeting the owners, and connecting with extraordinary car enthusiasts. Dave is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and writes for various publications. In addition to, you can follow Dave's adventures via Drive With Dave Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and tune into the Drive with Dave Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

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