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MG MGF Technical - Chip tuning (MG World article)

There is a very interesting article in the latest - last ?? :-( - issue of MG World (nr 41, December 2003) about chip tuning of MG cars. The article is about a UK tuner - working with a Dutch company - who changes the software inside the car's ECU to boost power and torque. In other words, it's not the old-fashioned "change the chip" type of tuning but a more sophisticated approach involving a re-mapping of a number of parameters of the engine through a laptop computer. The claimed power gains (e.g. 15 bhp for a ZR 160, so should be the same for a TF 160) are very impressive and the writer seems very positive to the results achieved on the two cars tested (a ZS 120 and a diesel ZT). Apparently, the changes can be done only on later cars which have an OBD2 compatible ECU.

The upgrade is described as being effective, undetectable, reliable, clean and reversible - almost too good to be true.

However, the article also contains the odd mistake making me suspicious about whether these people really know what they are doing and what they are talking about: at some point they talk about the ZS's knock sensor, whereas everyone knows that there is no such thing on the K-series engine. Besides, MGs aren't even mentioned on the Dutch company's website (

So, what do you guys and gals think of this? Could this be true or would anyone trying such an upgrade end up like a well known former MG owner from Luxemburg?



The method appears sound Per, i too was impressed by the article. The trick here is in the RR setup and this is where the 'person who shall remain nameless' fell foul. I'm sure that if it is done properly then there should be no problems.

Scarlet Fever

I haven't seen the article yet, but with the latest OBD2 compliant engine management systems that can be 're-written', this kind of tuning is going to become more common.

Unfortunately, this will only work for cars built after 2001, as MEMS1.9 and MEMS2 cannot be 're-written' in this fashion.

Also note that if you have your chip reprogrammed, and then get the car serviced at an MGR garage, you may discover that your dealership has reverted your MEMS to factory settings! :o(

Anyone know if this tuning company was altering just the ignition map (in which case the 15bhp claim is frankly unbelievable) or ignition and fuelling?
Rob Bell

The article was pretty short of technical details (but I noticed the comment about the knock sensor too - put me off the whole thing). They did talk about keeping a copy of the modified software just in case a friendly dealer rewrites it!

Tim Jenner

Buy the "MG world" magazine now, you live abroad ? No excuse, subscribe online.

Yep they keep a copy, so it can be replayed.

Quote : "By leaning off the fuelling map, plus tweaking the ignition curve, we can not only gain power but also make the car more economical"

Preceded by "Those MG's tend to run a bit rich".

My experiences with the engine are contradictory, I found the engine to run a bit lean. Pascal (TF135) found his to run a bit rich...

There maps are based on 97octane fuel, the article states that if you fill it up using 95octane, that there won't be any problems as the knock-sensor would cut in. Well no it doesn't cut and it will harm your K-Series engine...

Buy the "MG world" magazine now, you live abroad ? No excuse, subscribe online.


I suspect that the comment "the K-series tends to run a bit rich" is one of those over simplifications - because like you, I think that there are points that the engine clearly appears to run lean... and others where it is clearly rich. Lambda sensors are very helpful to help determine this.

I'm very worried about the article's mention of a knock sensor. Oh dear. Unfortunately, it seems that the author didn't know that much about K-series either to notice this error... :o(
Rob Bell

Rob, when digging deep into the "Test-Book" system I found that there IS several mentions about knock sensors as well as test procedure as if these were commonly installed ! Maybee those strings in the diagnostic is there for future use ? But we all know there are no such things yet on the 4 cyl. K-engine. But what about the KV6 ? Any knock sensors there ?

BR, Carl.
Carl Blom

Perhaps this is a facility that was planned but never executed in production Carl? The KV6 doesn't use MEMS - isn't it a Siemens system?
Rob Bell

Stealing the thread a bit - but would like to know if you have noticed any less "flat spot" when going at full throttle with the new adjusted regulator ? May bee not so easily detected in the seasonal heavy rains ;o)
Any possibillity of a write up in the "you know what" mag. ? / Carl.
Carl Blom

All low rpm hesitation has gone Carl - and the power delivery feels - subjectively - very smooth. Will be verifying next year on G-Force's rolling road. Curiously, the high end restriction of air flow is now all the more noticeable [thank the MPi head design for this]

If "you know what" mag is in print next year, you can be sure that some words will indeed be appearing! :o)
Rob Bell

I have sent an e-mail to that Dutch company - RICA engineering - to ask what they can do to a TF 160. That was several days ago and I still haven't received any answer. I guess tuning MGs isn't such a big part of their business, which would explain their lack of interest... :-(


Keep at it Per - it would be good to get more information on this service: perhaps some of the info in the article was a 'slip of the tongue'
Rob Bell


you can also try a well-known and renown French tuner, Fochesato, in Lyon.
I know a guy who had his F 1.8 MPi "re-mapped" and he was very pleased by the result. He said the cost was roughly 500.
But I don't know if he can program a VVC ECU...




I finally got an answer from RICA engineering but I'm not sure if that makes us much wiser. Here it is:

"We have done a lot of the Mg Rovers but not your car. So we thought your are welcome to call us or shall we call you. We must put your car with standard software on the MAHA Dyno. And after chiptuning of course on the Dyno again. I do not really know maybe 10 Hp or 12 Hp more, but the Dyno will tell us. We know if you use Ramair or K&N replacement filter increase 6 Hp. Give us a chance to investigate by Rover Dealer in Holland. If you need some documents for the other Rovers, we will send you."

Although I asked about the issue of the absence of a knock sensor, they didn't say anything about that. Hmm... I think I will let somebody else act as guinea pig for those guys...

However, I found the tuner mentioned by Fabrice much more interesting (thanks for the link, Fabrice!). Judging by their website, these people really seem to know what they are doing! If you read French, I particularly recommend the section "Techniques" in which they explain very clearly the various possible forms of "chip tuning".

I think I will give those guys a call to hear what they say about a TF 160. After all, Paris is not that far from Brussels... (to be continued... ;-) )


Keep us posted then Per!

Shame that you didn't get more useful info out of RICA - but then I guess one might not expect to :o( Good luck with your dealings with Fochesato. :o)
Rob Bell

I think most of the gains will be due to setting the timming up for a higher grade of fuel, basically removing the safety margine that was built in.

Also, how many engines will still be running rich with a decent exhaust & air filter?

Can they set up a modified engine?


Alastair McLeod

I'm sure you're right about the ignition timing as the main tweakable variable, Alastair.

On this issue, there is one very interesting aspect that I have not seen mentioned anywhere else and on which I would like to get some comments from you guys:

When I checked in my old workshop manual for the MGF from 97, it says that the timing is set at 10 before vertical. In the workshop manual for the TF, it says that the timing is set at... 12 before vertical, i.e. a more "careful" setting!! This strikes me as quite amazing, given that with the TFs, in their various guises, MG Rover where out to get more power out of the different engines.

Is this a change which was introduced with the TF or are later Fs also set at 12? If the change was introduced on later Fs, could this partly explain the apparent fall in HGFs from '98? But then: how come power figures for those later Fs where not revised downwards? Were other changes made to compensate? If the timing change was introduced with the TFs, could this be construed as an admission by MG rover that the latest power increases for both MPi and VVC versions are really pushing the enveloppe just a little too far for comfort and that these changes to the timing were necessary to try to prevent HGFs? And, if so, is any tweaking of the timing on the TF a sure way to HGF?

Lots of fascinating questions there, which should keep us busy on those long winter nights... ;-)


Hi Per

Going from 10deg before TDC to 12deg BTDC is advancing the ignition, this will give more power if you don't get "pinking" and melt the engine. Use good quality fuel.

Also, the TF 135 got a different air filter, cams, exhaust & a re-map to increase power, all the stuff the tuning companies have been doing for years.

Alastair McLeod

Oh... I see...

So much for my understanding of this sort of tuning...

Per (<-- embarassed)

This thread was discussed between 17/11/2003 and 02/12/2003

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