Piston Slap: Chipped or Just Broken?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap chipped or just broken

Evan writes:

Sajeev (Sanjeev need not apply),

My previous car was a MKV GTI that I, in my youthful excitement for all things automotive, chipped. I shelled out the big dollars (on sale) for the name brand company that had a good reputation as being conservative with their programming.

And yet, that car was nothing but trouble from that point on. Sure, I could have turned off the extra horsepower with a couple minutes time in a parking lot, but once you get that extra power going back is really hard. As a nonsmoker, I understand how hard quitting smoking must be now. I just couldn’t do it. So I lived with a car that ate a variety of parts all the way until I sold it, reset and locked into stock mode.

I am now in another 2.0T car and on principle am not intending on any modifications of the car that could possibly effect reliability. It just wasn’t worth the pain, suffering, and time spent in a VW Service department waiting room.

But was my car, which I bought used, just an aberration? Or do chips really cause with breakage?


Sajeev answers:

Be it chip, tune or a computer swap to something worthy of a mechanical engineering laboratory, I’ve only considered two reasons why a new program breaks a vehicle.

  • The nut behind the keyboard.
  • The nut behind the wheel.

I own modified and tuned EEC-IV/V Fords: generally robust EFI vehicles that are open source like Twitter’s API. It’s been this way for 25-ish years! So my world of tuning is straightforward and simple, even my SCT tuned Mark VIII is a frickin’ indestructible Corolla compared to your tuned VAG product! That’s because, as mentioned before on TTAC, a late-model GTI is barely durable/reliable when left unmodified.

So do chips/tunes cause problems? Hell no, it’s the entire machine that’s the problem. Or not the problem. So let’s try this again:

  • The nut behind the keyboard.
  • The nut behind the wheel.
  • The nut behind the decline of German Engineering from a high watermark to a nightmare outside of short-term leases and certified pre-owned warranties.
  • The nut that invented Limp Home Mode (just kidding)

That said, I wonder how those Ecoboost SHO/Focus ST guys fare when they crank up the boost? Odds are they still break, just in fewer places for less money. Perhaps a Corvette, Mustang, Charger, or maybe even an Ecoboost F150 is a better vehicle to tune, sans German driving experience? Probably not up your alley, nor is my tuned 2011 Ranger. Which is unfortunate!

Sanjeev retorts:

Unfortunate? Listen jerk, you bet your ass he’ll never drive a girly truck with a re-flashed computer. He’s not retarded…

[Image: Shutterstock user Joyseulay]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2 of 68 comments
  • Lythandra Lythandra on Jul 16, 2014

    My 03 GTI has been chipped (APR) for 120k miles so far and no problems yet. Theres a very good chance I'll pick up a 2015 GTI towards the end of the year.

  • Raresleeper Raresleeper on Jul 16, 2014

    Knocking the Germans, eh?? My bud had an Audi 200 Quattro Turbo (sedan, not Avant) which, much to our delight had a nice, big, Superchips box wired in on the front passenger floorboard. DID it make a difference in power? Dunno, but it sure went like stink. Things didn't break at all with that car, strangely.... it held up quite well But he did completely obliterate it on the highway while doing about 110. Ahhh. Good times, good times.