Remapping a car has become increasingly popular in recent years, as car enthusiasts look for ways to boost the power and performance of their vehicles. This process, also known as chipping, involves modifying the car’s engine control unit (ECU) software to alter its factory settings.
In simple terms, the ECU is a computer that controls various aspects of the car’s engine, including fuel injection, turbo boost, and ignition timing. By remapping the ECU, it is possible to adjust these settings to increase your car’s power and torque, as well as improve its overall fuel economy and engine response.
Manufacturers limit the power output from factory and apply a generic map for worldwide production. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you will often find a custom remap will allow your vehicle to perform better based on your climate and location for example. Air temperature and the specific fuel you use are also key factors to consider.
How Does Remapping Work?
So, how does remapping work exactly? When you take your car to a specialist tuner, they will connect it to a computer via the OBD port and use special software to modify the ECU’s settings. This remapping process can vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle, as well as the stage of tuning you want to achieve.
For example, some tuners offer a “stage 1” remap, which is a relatively simple modification that can provide an extra 20-50 horsepower (for example) and improve fuel efficiency. Other remapped stages, such as stage 2 or stage 3, can offer even greater power gains but this requires additional hardware modifications such as an upgraded exhaust system, injectors, cams, turbo and fuel pump.
The term Stage 1,2,3 simply refers to what level of modifications you are running. The actual process involved in remapping a car is the same regardless of your supporting mods. If you have no modifications to your vehicle then this would be classed as a stage 1 map. If you have an upgraded intake, exhaust and fuel pump etc. This would be classed as stage 2.
Of course, as with any modification you could make to your car’s engine, there are both advantages and disadvantages to remapping. The main reason most drivers opt for a remap is to increase their car’s power and torque, which can also make it feel smoother and easier to drive.
However, there are some downsides to consider. Firstly, remapping can affect your car’s warranty and insurance premiums. Most manufacturers and insurance providers do not cover remapped vehicles, so you may need to declare this modification to your insurance company and pay a higher premium.
Since it is essentially ‘invisible’, many choose not to declare this modification but we advise it’s best to declare all modifications to your vehicle to avoid the risk of invalidating your insurance if you need to claim.
Additionally, if the remapping process is not carried out correctly, it could potentially cause damage to your car’s engine. This is why it’s important to choose a reputable and experienced tuner to carry out the work.
Finally, it’s worth noting that not all cars can be remapped. Older models or cars with less sophisticated engine control units may not be compatible with remapping software. It’s also worth considering whether your car is suitable for remapping based on its current condition and mileage, but also whether the gains are worth it.
How Much Does It Cost To Remap A Car?
So, how much does it cost to remap your car? This can vary depending on a number of factors, including the make and model of your vehicle, the type of remap you want to achieve, and the tuner you choose. The software and hardware such as dyno (rolling road) time required to carry the work out will also contribute to the price.
Prices can range from a few hundred pounds to over a thousand pounds, so it’s important to do your research but more importantly, think about the longevity of your engine. This may sound expensive but replacing a blown engine will cost you a lot more.
Overall, remapping can be a great way to increase your car’s power and performance, as well as improve its fuel efficiency. However, it’s important to weigh up the potential advantages and disadvantages and choose a reputable and experienced tuner to carry out the work.
By doing so, you can ensure that your car runs smoothly and safely, without affecting the driveability and reliability of your vehicle as you’ve done your homework and not just found the cheapest option around. We recommend a custom remap on a rolling road over a generic software map.
Are There Any Disadvantages Of Remapping?
When it comes to remapping your car’s engine, it’s important to be aware of the benefits and potential disadvantages that this modification can bring. One of the main disadvantages is that it can affect your car insurance as we briefly mentioned prior.
Most insurance providers consider engine remapping to be a modification that alters the factory settings of the car’s engine and may therefore increase the risk of accidents or damage. But mainly this is a red light to insurers as you’re basically telling them you want to go faster!
As a result, your insurance provider may charge you a higher premium or even refuse to cover your car altogether. You are much better off choosing an insurance provider who covers modified cars as they are much more understanding towards modifications. A-Plan is very popular these days due to its excellent rates and coverage of many stages of tune.
Another disadvantage of engine remapping is that it requires the use of higher-octane fuel. This is because a modified engine requires a higher level of fuel to operate effectively, and lower octane fuel can lead to engine knock or other problems.
As a result, you may need to factor in the cost of higher octane fuel when considering the overall cost of engine remapping and ongoing fuel prices. Most tuners recommend Shell V-Power or Tesco Momentum 99 which are more expensive than regular fuel.
As an example; your remap may cost £500, but running V-Power or Momentum 99 vs regular fuel may cost an extra £500 per year, so it’s important to factor in overall running costs. Once mapped, you generally can’t switch to cheaper fuel as you’ll compromise the performance and cause problems as your ECU will see that you’re not using the correct fuel it’s been told to use.
Modern cars with advanced or locked electronic control units may be more difficult to remap than older models. This is because the ECU software is often more complex and may require specialist equipment and expertise to modify and access it.
This is why new vehicles are often turned away by tuners until the technology to modify or unlock the ECU develops. You need to choose a specialist tuner who is familiar with the specific make and model of engines in your car. They can offer advice about what can and can’t be done and the safest way to carry out the work.
Longevity testing is also unknown on new vehicles as there’s no way of monitoring how reliable a remap will be unless the engine used in a new generation has been used in previous generations. But finding the right tuner will eliminate some guesswork as they’ll apply safety measures and follow best practices in the industry.
Turbo Engines vs Naturally Aspirated
One of the advantages of engine remapping a turbocharged engine is that it can provide a lot more extra power and performance than a naturally aspirated engine. Forced induction allows you to increase or decrease the boost pressure which is measured in PSI or Bar of boost. Combined with fuelling and timing you have much more control during the tuning process.
Therefore, delivering much more noticeable increases in horsepower and torque, easily. Turbo-charged vehicles tend to benefit from additional supporting mods such as exhaust upgrades, downpipes and induction modifications to improve airflow and exhaust gas flow.
Naturally aspirated engines are limited to fuelling, timing and supporting airflow mods like exhaust upgrades and induction to get the most from a remap. Generally speaking, naturally aspirated engines make a lot less torque and peak power comes at the top of the rev range.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t get it done on an NA vehicle. It’s just so you’re aware that the gains are much smaller than forced induction. Some naturally aspired engines see some healthy gains and when it comes to V8s such as LS engines then you can actually see some pretty impressive numbers.
Which Cars Deliver The Best Results?
Generally speaking, turbocharged engines in production cars between 2010 – 2019 often see some of the biggest gains over factory figures. If we were to choose a specific manufacturer over any other would probably be BMW.
In recent years they developed the N54, B58 and S55 engines which have become a tuner’s dream. With just a basic custom remap on a standard car many tuners are seeing huge lifts in BHP and Torque.
Audi is a familiar face in the tuning world too with the DAZA 5-cylinder engines used in the RS3 for example. Similarly to the B58 found in the 1, 2 and 3 series BMWs, they see huge lifts in power and torque over stock. It’s quite common to get an extra 80-100bhp and over 100 lb-ft of torque in some cases.
There are lots of manufacturers with good platforms to tune on though, even naturally aspirated engines such as the K20 engine found in Honda’s. Furthermore, lots of diesel engines respond very well to remapping such as the 1.9 and 3.0 TDI found in many VAG vehicles and another for BMW is the 3.0 diesel variants.
Like anything though, just conduct your research and speak to owners and tuners who have experience with this already so you can make your own decision on whether your vehicle is suitable and who carries out the work.
ECU Remapping Specialists
Depending on where you are in the country you may have to travel for the best custom map for your vehicle.
For people looking to tune popular models by Audi, BMW, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, VW or similar then RS Tuning based in Leeds is one of the best at custom tuning in the industry.
They can work with OEM ECUs, Syvecs, Link, AEM, Apexi, ECUMASTER and many more standalone ECUs.
If you have purchased a car recently and you believe it may have tune software then they also do map reading, dyno runs and diagnostics for lots of makes and models.
Remember, that extra power and speed come at a cost, and may increase wear and tear on your car’s engine over time. Ultimately, the decision to remap your car’s engine is a personal one that depends on your individual needs and preferences.
If you’re looking for extra power and performance, and are willing to accept the potential downsides, then engine remapping may be a good option for you. Many vehicles remapped correctly show no signs of wear and tear over standard though so it all depends on finding the right specialist to carry out the work.
It’s important to do your research, choose a reputable tuner, and be aware of the potential impact on your car insurance and fuel costs. If you’re 50/50 about getting it done then the good news is you can always reverse it back to standard as most specialists can do this. If you’d rather change your vehicle frequently then you may find this article useful about Vehicle Subscriptions.