How to tune an Audi ECU

What is the ECU?

"All you need to know about Audi ECU tuning"

The computer in a car engine controls many aspects of the car's ignition.

The engine's burn must be continually adjusted to take into account engine load, temperatures, and how efficiently the burn is.

Different fuels and varying ambient temperatures can also affect how well the fuel burns and adjustments must be made to the amount of fuel used and the timing of the spark.

Audi, like most manufacturers, build in a lot of leeway in the layout of these ignition, air and fuel tables so they can cope with different climates and fuel qualities.

If a driver is prepared to fastidiously maintain the car, thereby eliminating the wear and tear that occurs and the effect this has on performance, you can significantly tighten up the MAP in the ECU and extract more power.

Expected power gains from an Audi remap

Turbo engines generally make the best gains and a tune/remap is one of the easiest mods to do. You can expect a power gain of around 20-35% on turbo engines.

On NA (naturally aspirated) engines the gains are more modest at around 14% but if you've done other mods this can be the best way to fully extract the potential power they offer.

A computer is plugged into the Audi OBDII port, the existing ECU data is downloaded where it can be revised, verified and uploaded back into the car.

Bosch and Siemens ECUs were used in Audi models over the years.

The Bosch ECU's are pretty good at protecting the engine and will trigger a limp home safety mode long before damage occurs to the engine in the event of a bad event happening.

Generally speaking, cars equipped with DPF filters and those that meet the more stringent emissions regulations will be Siemens units.

Comparing ECU tunes from different providers

Don't ever look at the headline power figure, often times this is just a top end blip. You will look better if you can claim a 40hp power increase.

In reality a competing map that only offers a 30hp power increase, gives more power throughout the rev range, especially in the low to mid RPM region where you need it the most.

The only way to make a meaningful comparison is to compare the dyno printouts and see what the power gains are across the RPM range, and which one will best suit your driving style.

In the image above you can clearly see the high power tune in red, is only a blip and doesn't perform as well as the stock tune, but the green tune gives decent power gains through the RPM range.

Having lots of power at the bottom end can cause traction issues and will often create additional wear on the turbocharger, as it won't get time to spool down after a spirited drive.

Differences between mapping companies

There are off-the-shelf maps, where a generic map that suits all one model of Audi is used, and many franchised mapping companies will use these.

They are better than the Audi ECU program, and still give a wide margin for error, and are best suited to cars that have not been modified.

The benefits are the cost and the fact they take less time to install and set up.

Specialists are around with extensive knowledge of your Audi, and they have a wider selection of maps to choose from than a "one shop does all ECU maps" franchise.

They are also aware of common pitfalls and idiosyncrasies, for example, some of the diesel engines have flat spots, and Audi has set the Torque levels lower on either side of this to smooth it out. Without that gem of knowledge, you might end up with more power but have a power blip right in this "dead" zone.

Different model revisions also require a different approach, we note that alternative injectors and turbocharger units have been used over the years, all of which will require a different map setup if they are going to work well.

The Best ECU mapping option

If you've done other mods to your Audi and want to fully explore the potential power and minimize the safety margin that was built in then you can't beat a custom map.

This will usually be set up on a rolling road, where data can be analyzed on the fly and adjustments made to fully maximize your power gains.

It will take into account your precise car's setup and can even, should you so desire, restrict you to premium fuels where the knock resistance offers larger potential power.

A rolling road tune/remap will take longer, and is more expensive but our members who've had this done really recommend it, and many had standard off the shelf tunes or remaps before.

Adding unusual injector capacities or turbos will invariably require this custom approach, especially if you want to fully release the potential power gains.

DIY Audi remaps

We wouldn't recommend you try this unless you have a knowledge of spark advance and how engines work and have the ability to fully edit the map and create a valid file to flash back.

It is possible to brick your ECU requiring a bench flash or replacement.

We are aware of some companies selling downloadable maps, the quality of these will vary but should generally be as good as a franchised "off the shelf" map, but cheaper.

Having said it is cheaper you'll need to factor in the software, hardware and OBDII leads, so unless you plan to do many maps it's often more cost effective to go to a specialist.

Make sure you choose a company that offers a full support service, so if you hit any problems or issues they can help you out.

Problems after Audi remaps

The most common issue is a slipping clutch, which is not surprising as the clutch has generally done many miles and you are suddenly putting 40% more power through it.

Upgraded clutches are a good bet after a map, read our clutch guide for more information on this.

Flat spots, limp home mode, engine warning lights, and erratic idling. A tune/remap will often highlight weak areas in your car, so if, for example, the injectors are not performing as well as they should you may experience issues.

This is not an issue with the map, just a weak area in your car that needs to be fixed. A reputable remapper will provide a diagnostic and check that the sensors, valves and injectors are working within expected parameters.

The concept of a tune/remap is to remove the wide safety margin manufacturers build in, so this implies you as the owner has to fastidiously maintain the car and TorqueCars recommends that you shorten the service intervals to reflect this, and only use the highest quality oils and components.

Because we are international and have readers from all over the world reading this we are unable to recommend companies here, but please join up and ask in our forums, where you'll benefit from the experience of other Audi Owners in your area and can compare notes and swap tips.



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