To begin, if you have not already seen the tests by quarkslab on reverse engineering the Nitro OBD2 performance chip scam, check it out here: https://blog.quarkslab.com/reverse-engineering-of-the-nitro-obd2.html
We point you in this direction because this NitroOBD scam has been flooding the internet for a few years now, and has given birth to numerous copies with varying colors and logos. We provide our analysis below of the Dragonfire performance chip by Redline Technologies and show what is inside. To accurately understand the big picture you should first read the above quarkslab article in its entirety. It is proven based on several different articles and tests that the Nitro OBD module is a verified scam. Don’t just take our word for it!
There are also several youtube videos proving the details of the Nitro-OBD light flasher scam and some of it’s variants:
Reverse engineering the Redline Technologies Dragonfire Performance Chip
Tags: CAN OBD Performance Chip Vehicle Tuning Scams Analysis Reverse Engineering Dragonfire Redline Technologies Scam
This article involves reverse engineering and analyzing the OBD performance chip “Dragonfire Performance Chip by Redline Technologies” in order to identify if it functions as advertised or not.
The Dragonfire Performance Chip by Redline Technologies is a ‘discontinued’ product, and we have our suspicions as to why. A colleague donated one of these for testing as the company seems to have changed their name from Dragonfire Performance to Dragonworks Performance. Can it be to hide bad results of their old product the Dragonfire Performance chip? We will try to find out. This is a screen grab of the older Dragonfire Performance Chip:
The newer Dragonworks performance chips appear on ebay as well as their website run by, you guessed it, an advertising / media company, ‘successmapmedia’:
While the website has a sleek and nice appearance, the actual content makes you scratch your head. Notice the capitalized emphasis on the words “American Made”, as well as the emphasis on “we have invested over 20 years into the knowledge we have…” It sounds a little odd, but let us take a deeper look:
Browsing into the website a little further we come across this, a familiar sight in many chiptuning scams: OUTRAGEOUS HORSEPOWER CLAIMS!!!
Do you like how it seems that horsepower just grows on trees? Who knew! Seriously? Are we truly expected to believe outrageous claims of 97HP gains on a STOCK CADILLAC ESCALADE from a simple OBD plugin device? Either the definition of horsepower is changing or something is rotten in Denmark (or MUCH closer than that)! In reality, these kinds of gains are hard to achieve, even with heavily modified vehicles with real upgrades, not just an OBD plug in device.
Another concerning statement from the website:
They now claim that they “program a tune specifically for your engine and any modifications done to your vehicle (if there are any)”. So now they program your vehicle modifications into the chip before it ships, but earlier they claimed it was a program that ADJUSTED to your vehicle and any modifications you installed later on. Which is it? All of this, including the drop-down vehicle selector, which enables you to select any engine size, including ones that do not exist for certain vehicles, are enough to make me suspicious already. Remember, a “one size fits all device” is usually not legit.
Their performance chip products are advertised like this on the website: “ABOUT OUR COMPANY
We started out as many of you; we were a group of car enthusiasts and we would buy performance chips for our cars (along with other performance parts) always looking to get just a little more performance gain. Over time we learned that each type of chip and tune on the market had its positives and negatives. Most chips on the market would boast performance gains but we could barely notice any changes at all, even on dyno we would see at best 10hp gain. And they were always locked to the basic stock vehicle unless you went with a custom tune. Custom tunes were great and would be adjusted as you modify your vehicle more but they cost several hundreds to thousands of dollars to get. So, we decided to create our own chip for our cars. We brought together the cost-effective design of a plug-in chip with the unique “self-learn” program that would give you further adjustments as you modify your vehicle even further just like you get with a custom tune without all the costs.”
Sounds like a nice summary, except for the part about “so, we decided to create our own chip for our cars”. It may just be us, but given the NUMEROUS scam devices which look identical to this one, we are just a TAD bit skeptical they created anything. My suspicion is leaning towards another rebranded scam from China. However, we could be wrong 😉
While the Dragonfire Performance chip is no longer available on the website or their ebay store, their newer variants are. The feedback does make one wonder what is going on:
A 100% positive feedback score? Either this is a magic product or something is going on behind the scenes. It reminds you of your old school days when you wish you could change your “F” grades to A’s and pass that tough course you couldn’t seem to master. However, imagine changing ALL your “F” grades to A’s. Not B’s, not C’s, all A’s. Wouldn’t that be more likely to arouse the principal’s suspicion? (At least throw a few C’s and B’s in there.) If this feedback score is accurate, with that many sales, there are bound to be some negatives or neutrals. That is unless ebay is being asked to remove negatives for one of their powersellers (which they have been known to do in the past).
A clue as to why this is was actually inside the package with the Dragonfire Performance chip:
So, in exchange for a positive feedback, the buyer is bribed with a $5 paypal payment. Still, this does not account for buyers who may truly have issues with the module and cannot leave negative feedback (or make it stick).
Aside from the dishonesty of ebay, there is yet ANOTHER discrepancy. Yes, oh yes, the infamous ‘suspicious dyno’ routine. On their website they posted a link to what should be a dyno run proving gains for their performance module. When you view the video, all you see is an ad for the Dragonworks brand. They have another video which boasts the following horsepower gains:
Now it is 75HP and 63 torque gains – wow – on a STOCK Chrysler 300! Why didn’t Chrysler just add this power into the stock vehicle to begin with and sell more powerful cars? Perhaps these guys know more than Chrysler and are just that good!
The price for the Dragonfire Performance Chip was $69.97 and their newer variants, the Elite Performance Chip sells for $59.99 and the Elite Plus Performance Chip sells for $79.99 on their website.
CASE / PACKAGING
The products we last reviewed looked somewhat different, but the Dragonfire Performance Chip does have some STRIKING similarities to the infamous NitroOBD performance chip scam:
Both cases or blister packs are identical, most likely from the same supplier. Still, what if we told you there was something on the actual insert that the company wasn’t aware of that DIRECTLY links this to the well-known NitroOBD2 ‘nicolay’ scam? Are you ready for it? Check this out:
We suspected the product was made in China, based on the simple fact we have seen so many of these scams in the same shape and size, with varying colors and logos attached to them. However, in this case, the QR code is the smoking gun on the source of this product, and we have not even looked at the module itself yet! Thanks to the QR code decoding tool at inliteresearch.com, we were able to extract a website link from it:
Here is the link extracted from the QR code:
This link brings us to dhgate.com, an ecommerce site specializing in products from Asia and countries outside of the USA. The link specifically brings us to the product page for an earlier version of, you guessed it, the NitroOBD2 performance chip scam, sold by ‘orientautoservices’. (I thought they said their performance products were “American made in house”? Whoops!):
Not enough? Here is yet another goof that Redline Technologies didn’t realize was on the insert, put there by the company that made them in China:
This UPC barcode, 6936070000012, returns the following product result on amazon:
Yet another link to the Nitro OBD scam! It is the same upc, meaning this must just be a variation of the NitroOBD performance chip scam.
This alone is enough to determine the source of this product, but we will press on to the actual Dragonfire Performance Chip by Redline Technologies. So far the packaging looks identical on the outside, but are they indeed the same inside?
We obtained a Dragonfire Performance Chip and disassembled the outer plastic shell. The inside looked unique and was a single circuit board, but as with previous scams, we just cannot seem to find the microprocessor! It’s like someone is trying to hide it – imagine that!
We can also see that several pins are not even soldered to the connector – pins 1,2,3,9,10,11,12,13. This makes the chip useless for several older vehicles that do not use the newer CAN standard. Big shock at this point. While playing the where’s Waldo game, we did eventually find the microprocessor chip – it was hiding underneath where no one can easily identify it:
After finding the microprocessor, we desoldered the board and removed it from the connector to reveal the bottom.
We can see the cut pins from the bottom side and also notice there is a place for the crystal / resonator, but it is not populated. This means it cannot be a PIC16F59 microprocessor, like in previous chip scams. A closer look at the chip further confirms our suspicions about this being a fraud:
The microprocessor is an STC8F2K08S2 chip. It gets worse. This chip is only made by one company, “STC”, which is headquartered in China, with known ties to the Chinese government:
Now that we know where the chip was made (China), and where the packaging was made (China), we know the company selling this has fibbed! However, can the product still deliver on their claims? We need to find out more about this chip. We located the datasheet and low and behold, it is in Chinese and had to be translated:
We found the page that refers to the STC8F2K08S2 MCU and located the specifications for it:
Notice this mcu only has a flash size of 8KB! The usual choice used by previous scam performance modules was the PIC16F59, which had only a 3KB memory size.
We know that most legitimate vehicle maps are 512KB or larger, depending on the vehicle model and configuration:
While we know this sized memory cannot contain genuine vehicle map data, it could definitely fit a simple light flashing routine, which is exactly what previous scam modules have been proven to contain.
From these facts, we can clearly see that the Dragonfire Performance Chip by Redline Technologies is not what it claims to be. Our first suspicions were correct. No 97HP gains for you! Darn! The Dragonfire Performance Chip by Redline Technologies is simply another of the many light flasher scams with a colored case added!
To confirm this, we connected the Dragonfire chip to a vehicle and drove for two weeks, going through multiple fill-ups and noticed no difference in fuel economy, performance or any other vehicle behaviour. (We now know why). There was absolutely no 97HP gain, and we didn’t even need a dyno to notice! Most drivers can easily detect an increase of 10HP or more even without additional tools / gauges.
To confirm further that the programming inside the microprocessor is indeed the same as the numerous verified Nitro OBD scams we previously reviewed, we connected both modules to a 12V power supply on the bench and noted the blink intervals of the led lights (OUR BLINK TEST):
Blink Test Video: https://youtu.be/8LalJBrk4Hw
Both the Nitro OBD tuning scam (Left) and the Dragonfire Performance Chip (Right) blinked at EXACTLY the same interval! Same programming, same blinking interval, same scam (but pretty lights though!).
You may have noticed the previous scams blinked in a different pattern (like a standby interval). This is explained in the original NitroOBD videos at the top of this article. Basically the NitroOBD has been found to change patterns depending on the activity of the vehicle pins. It has one mode which simulates blinking lights to make the user think it is communicating with the vehicle. When the pin has no activity, it blinks slowly as if in a low power or standby mode (although it has no ability to truly enter a sleep mode, this is just a light pattern change). We showed with the previous scams that they all exhibit the ‘sleep’ light pattern and this latest scam also does this. As with the other scams, it can also enter what we call the fake ‘activity’ pattern, which is what we saw in this latest test. Needless to say, both modules exhibited the same blink pattern, although the Dragonfire chip (right) seemed to enter the pattern a second faster than the older NitroOBD scam (left). The reason for this is the microprocessor is the newer STC, but the program still operates the same, showing us it is the same source and same program, just ported from the older PIC16F59 to the newer STC mcu. Sad!
From our research as well as testing we find that the Dragonfire Performance Chip by Redline Technologies is just another duck, I mean Nitro OBD scam. Nice try! Don’t CHIP in your hard earned money for this one – you’re better off to buy a BAG OF POTATO CHIPS!
If after all this, you STILL are considering purchasing this product, here is our response:
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