Monday, May 22, 2006

Rica chip tuning a Maserati Ghibli

I recently received an email from Enrico regarding my experience with Rica chip tuners. I figured my emailed response might be of interest to others.

I did indeed get my Ghibli chipped with Rica. They reprogrammed the chip rather than installing a new one (although they did upgrade the timing chip since they complained that the standard one was too slow).

I've generally had a good experience with them. They're not the cheapest, but included in the price I get a lifetime of service; every time I change something on the car (like fit a new exhaust for example) then they remap the chip free of charge. I even get a "free" dyno test every time they do something.

They tailored the upgrade specifically for the car... it's not an "off-the-shelf" job. Every time they change something they test it on the dyno and using a lambda sensor they check to see if everything's working to plan.

The first time I took the car to them, they increased the rev limit to about 7200 rpm. The car runs absolutely fine at these revs, with not a hint of the engine being over stressed or unballanced. As a result, the engine output increased from the standard 306 hp to 327 hp. It's always an eye opener taking the car on the dyno, since it invariably shows up how the car is running. When I first took it along, it uncovered that the car was only producing 270 hp. After a short bit of investigating, I found out that the boost controller on the car had stopped working and was running in fail safe mode, only producing about 0.7 bar boost pressure. It wasn't until the boost controller was replaced that the car produced 327 hp with about 1.2 bar inlet pressure.

Bear in mind that I've only had dealings with Rica in Wateringen in the Netherlands. You really depend on the skill of the chip tuner and this of course varies from place to place. The guys where I take my car have had some previous experience with Maseratis and seem to think the electrical system on the Ghibli is rather archaic. Hence the free chip upgrade they gave me.

One thing that I am sceptical about is the recent experience I had with my exhaust. It appears that my car was running for some time in open loop mode due to a faulty lambda sensor connection. It took me a while to track down the problem to this and when I eventually did, I was very suprised that the engine's management system hadn't triggered the "check engine" light on the dash. Anyway, I suspect that running the car rich has plugged up my catalysts. I'm also now a bit weary of installing new catalysts since I don't trust the engine management system to tell me if there's any problems with the fuel mixture. So the only way around this is to fix the engine management system (which isn't going to happen... there's very few people who have the know how to do this), piggy back my own diagnostic system (which is maybe what I'll do, since I plan some future upgrade) or replace the exhaust with straight through pipes and risk running into problems with the police. Anyway, the reason why I say this is because I suspect that rica may have had something to do with the management system not registering the problem with the lambda sensor (although they swear that they don't touch any of the error flagging bits of software, only the fuel and timing maps).

In short... I wouldn't hesitate in taking my car back to Rica, indeed I toyed with the idea of taking my wife's Volvo V50 to them (especially since they offered me a discount for being a loyal customer) but my wife made it quite clear that my car was for playing with, not hers! Indeed, Rica have a contract with the Volvo dealership in the Netherlands... I believe that Rica are responsible for the difference in power between the standard 2.4 model and the 2.4i model... the former is 140 hp and the later is 170 hp and the only difference is the fuel and timing maps. If I'd taken my wife's car to them they would have given me 180 hp (from the car's standard 140 hp) and Volvo would not know the car was chipped. I've actually been at their workshop when a mechanic from Volvo has bought along a customer's car to get it chipped. Incidentally, Volvo charge about a 70% mark up on getting the car chipped directly with Rica!

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