Before reading further, 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 from China has been flooding the internet for a few years now, and has given birth to NUMEROUS copies with varying colors and logos. Ever since unscrupulous sellers discovered they could sell these light blinkers as ‘tuners’ at a high price, the market has been overwhelmed with them. We provide our analysis below of the Powertune Engine Tuning Module / Performance Chip and reveal what is inside this product. To accurately understand the big picture you should first read the above quarkslab article in its entirety. It has been 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 original Nitro-OBD light flasher scam and some of it’s variants:
Reverse Engineering the Powertune Engine Tuning Module Tuner OBD Performance Chip
Tags: CAN OBD Performance Chip Vehicle Tuning Scams Analysis Reverse Engineering Powertune Engine Tuning Module OBDII Performance Chip Tuner Scam
This article involves reverse engineering and analyzing the “Powertune Engine Tuning Module” in order to determine if it truly works as advertised or not.
The Powertune Engine Tuning Module contains a glossy black and white case design but are there similar looking products we have reviewed before? Unfortunately, yes – several. The main page of the company website, Powertuneperformance.com, is comprised only of PAGES of testimonials, giving us the impression they are trying a little too hard to ‘convince’ us that the product actually works:
Aside from this and the other page with the Powertune Engine Tuning Modules for sale, there is no information on the company or source of this tuning module, and no way to contact them via the website. The reviews on amazon are mixed, with both good and bad opinions of the chip:
CASE / PACKAGING
The product box is unique in that it is not the now infamous NitroOBD clear blister pack case, but our attention is focused mostly on the OBD module itself. Also included was a small card with a money back guarantee and ‘satisfaction guaranteed’, which is nice, with the install steps on the rear side:
A comparison of the install steps on the back of this card with those of previously examined scam modules is a bit alarming as they are not identical but ARE very similar:
The Powertune Engine Tuner Module case DOES match the same shape as all the previous light blinker scams, but is this one different? There are no labels on the outside of the case, like most newer chip scams we have previously examined. There is just one hole present on the top of the case for the ‘RESET’ button:
What are the manufacturer’s claims about this ‘engine tuner’? Here is a screen grab of their claims:
These claims are troubling, as they are the same as previous light blinker scam chips – claims that the module is compatible with all transmission types and “ALL 1996 and up gasoline vehicles”. This suggests the Powertune is another ‘one size fits all’ module which is exactly what the previous nitro-obd clone light blinkers were. Is the Powertune Engine Tuner Module the exception to the rule? Let’s find out.
The PowerTune Engine Tuner Module is listed for $79.95 on the powertuneperformance.com website. If this is indeed a REAL tuning device, it may be worth the cost. If not, as we suspect, it is just another overpriced nitro-obd light blinker chip from China, worth a few dollars at best. What is inside?
We ordered a Powertune Engine Performance Module and disassembled the outer plastic cover. Inside, at first glance, we find a newer, unique looking circuit board layout. However, when compared to the known nitro-obd light blinker scam chip on the left, we see it is just the same circuit with the parts rearranged:
The main difference, aside from the component locations being moved around, is the number of LEDs on the circuit board. The Nitro-obd scam chip (left), and most of it’s variants examined so far, have three LEDs, while the Powertune module (right) has six LEDs. What is going on here? This is trickery, as we will see below. The six lights are present to fool the user into thinking the module is more advanced than it actually is, and to hopefully prevent it from being compared to the now numerous Nitro-OBD scam chips:
As can be seen from the above comparison, only three of the six leds are even used on the Powertune module – the other three, while they are physically connected to the external pins of the microprocessor chip, never turn on! It is becoming evident that the Powertune engine tuner module is most likely just another Nitro-obd light blinker scam chip. However, all previous Nitro-OBD scam products we examined used the PIC16F59 microprocessor. Where is the microprocessor (brain) on the Powertune engine tuning module? It is hidden on the underside of the circuit board:
What a handy way for the producer of this module to hide the microprocessor used – we have seen this a few times before. So what do they have to hide – what mcu chip is being used?
As you can see from the above diagram, after removing the top circuit board from the obd connector, our old faithful chip, the PIC16F59 microprocessor is the same module being used as was in the previous Nitro-obd light blinker scam modules. No big shock, but we were hoping for a bit more. We know from previous articles that this MCU has too small of a memory size to fit a legitimate tuning map so a much smaller program, like a light blinker program, must be present instead. Not a good sign for Powertune!
Here we see that the Powertune Engine Tuning Module has identical components to the original Nitro-OBD chip scam, and the supplier of Powertune admits on their amazon page that the module works on all gas vehicles 1996 and newer. This supports our previous view that the module is in fact universal and is a one size fits all device which fits on any vehicle because it is simply a scam.
From these facts, we can clearly see that the Powertune Engine Tuning Module is not what it claims to be. Our suspicions were correct. It has been shown to be just another of the now numerous light flasher scams with a different colored case and logo!
Examining the circuit board on the OBD connector itself shows which pins are connected – all pins needed for most protocols used on today’s vehicles ARE connected to the circuit board (not that it really matters if the microprocessor does not contain a genuine tuning map file):
To be fair, we connected the Powertune module to our test vehicle and drove for the 100-200 miles as suggested on the included card, with a result of no noticeable changes whatsoever. (Big shock)!
For further proof that the programming inside the Powertune Engine Tuning Module is indeed the same as the numerous verified Nitro OBD scams we previously reviewed, we decided to examine it with a realtime bench test. We connected both modules, the original Nitro OBD scam module (left) and the Powertune Engine Tuning module (right) to a 12V power supply on the bench and noted the blink intervals of the led lights (OUR BLINK TEST):
To verify the pattern is indeed exactly the same, you can watch the bench test yourself here:
Blink Test Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dh7URGByss
Both the Nitro OBD tuning scam (Left) and the Powertune Engine Tuning Module Performance Chip (Right) blinked at EXACTLY the same blink rate! Same programming, same blinking interval, same scam (but different colored lights and case!).
So far it is fun and games, as the module does give a pretty light show. However, it is not so funny when the module causes damage (and some Nitro-OBD scam modules do!). Here is a poor guy who had the Powertune module damage his vehicle, so watch out!
Powertune Engine Tuning Module damages vehicle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYmmhLA7_AQ
How do these companies keep selling this junk? By hoping you never see the truth. They cannot shut down all the videos and complaints customers post, so they hire web companies to post articles online praising their product to hopefully drown out the real reviews. We have seen this same behaviour in previous articles. Here is an example of this:
The website is Autoguide.com, and it sounds legitimate – like a real review or automotive information website right? It showed up during our google search for information on the Powertune chip. It is actually a PAID promotion site:
Here they admit that autoguide.com is an advertising site masquerading as a product review website! There you have it. They are paying sites to write good things about and ‘push’ the product! Sneaky, yes. Illegal, no. This being said, is it any surprise when we see that the ‘editor’s pick’ on the autoguide.com website is – you guessed it – the Powertune Engine Tuning Module?
It is sad the depths some will go to in order to push a product. Why are there so many colors and shapes of this same $3 Chinese Nitro-OBD scam out there? Because unscrupulous sellers discovered they can order in bulk from China and pay them to silkscreen / emboss their custom logo and design onto the scam chips, giving them a unique appearance, while keeping the internal circuitry the same. Most of these companies do not know how to open an electronic design program, much less program your vehicle with a performance tune! They are simply resellers, buying cheap pre-made light blinkers from overseas and selling high to you in the USA. There is no testing or circuit design skills needed – just big profits. The burden is on us, the consumers, to be alert and smart to the numerous pitfalls on the market today, weeding out the junk and finding the few products that actually do what they claim. Be alert!
Another interesting find is a powertune engine tuning module review video posted on youtube in 2018:
Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okYyd5hZCl4
At a quick glance, it seems like just another review video by someone who purchased the module. However, a closer look reveals what we believe is an attempt of the owner of Powertune to plug his own product. Notice the text “Another guy made 4 videos showing him installing the chip on his Dodge Challenger and he loved it.”. Most users wouldn’t include ‘and he loved it’, unless it was someone they were familiar with. This is just conjecture, but it seems a bit off to us. More importantly, note the name of the uploader of the video: “M.”. A security scan of the website powertuneperformance.com shows it is running on wordpress and has the following user account:
This may just be coincidence, but the username of the account at powertuneperformance.com is ‘Michael’. It would make sense that the M. on the youtube account stands for Michael. If this is the case, then the owner of powertune uploaded this video to advertise this product yet again. This is just our opinion, but we think it is highly possible.
From our research as well as testing we find that the Powertune Engine Tuning Module Performance Chip is just another of the many light blinking boxes like the NitroOBD and SuperOBD light blinker scams. Our instincts early on were correct. Don’t CHIP in your hard earned money for this – 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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