Is Gearbox Tuning/Remapping Worth Doing?

"A look at the benefits and advantages of tuning your automatic gearbox."

A gearbox is a vital part of any mechanically driven vehicle and this is why it is important to discuss it in detail.

I’ve specifically mentioned mechanically driven vehicles because the electric vehicle counterparts don’t have gears.

So, here I delve into some of the less known aspects of this component of your vehicle and show how it can be optimized and improved to increase your enjoyment as a driver.

On a manual gearbox you the driver make many decisions. The speed at which you let up the cluch, the point at which you change up or down. More advanced drivers will allow the RPMS to rise and fall to match the engine and transmission speed before the clutch is engaged.

You may also favour lower gears for better acceleration and other drivers will favour higher gears to maximize fuel economy.

Please watch our video which covers the principles of gearbox mapping. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

What Does The Computer Do On A Modern Automatic Gearbox?

While the automatic gearbox on vehicles in the past used hydraulic actuators, the more recent and advanced vehicles now make use of an integrated computer with the help of which they get to know the best time to shift the gears.

The computer tells the system which is the best gear option at any point in time and this is why such computers are often referred to as the brain of the modern gearbox systems.

Can You Adjust This?

The way the computer controls the gearbox can be adjusted and for this purpose, you will have to tune/remap your vehicle’s gearbox.

Remapping is a process in which new files are loaded in the computer controlling the gearbox and thus the way the computer behaves is completely changed.

Gear shifting is a complicated process which is reliant on several factors which include:

  • Vehicle Speed;
  • Engine Speed;
  • Load On The Engine;
  • Pedal Position

Shift points are set depending on these factors. Setting higher engine RPM change points and adjusting the shift speed will dramatically improve the cars acceleration and response.

By remapping the gearbox, you can change the above-mentioned parameters and resultantly, the output is greatly modified.

Some engines have launch control systems which help you get off the line more quickly.

Most gearboxes have a sport or kickdown mode which holds the RPM's for longer, and some have a range of shift patterns ranging from economy to track.

The more recent the automatic the more complex it will be and this leave a lot of scope for improvements.

Bear in mind your Gearbox ECU Will Continually Learn & Adjust

Most modern computer controlled gearbox are set in a "learning" process, which over time builds up a picture of both your engines quirks and your driver style.

When a gearbox ecu is reset people have often sited slow gear changes and poor operation, but this improves over time as the overly cautious safe settings are optimized.

RPM change durations and periods of heavy or light accelerator use will be factors used to calculate the optimal shift points.

Benefits of Remapping The Gearbox

It is commonly believed that VAG has installed several performance limiters in the ECU of its gearboxes. As a result of which, the peak performance of the vehicles is capped.

This is because the vehicle can’t transfer all of the torque to the wheels. This gives an irritating feeling to performance enthusiasts who feel the urge to improve the output of their vehicles to their peak.

Such aficionados thus often resort to remapping their gearboxes to get the most out of their vehicles. How much performance improvement is obtained varies from one vehicle to another.

However, in some cases, the performance boost that can be obtained with the help of the gearbox remapping is around 10%.

Some companies go as far as claiming that the gear shifts after their gearbox tunes or remaps are up to 50% quicker.

The practice of remapping the gearbox is not new and that’s because of several allied benefits which include but are not limited to:

  • Smoother gear shifts;
  • Improved acceleration;
  • Better paddle response;
  • Reduced lag;
  • Adjustment of Launch Control;
  • Better driving experience;
  • Less power loss in the drivetrain;
  • Improvement in Fuel Efficiency;
  • Adjusted RPM shift-points.

Drawbacks/ Problems Of Remapping The Gearbox

By remapping the gearbox and raising the RPM limit, you put additional stress on the hardware of your vehicle. Most mappers will ensure things are not pushed to the limit and still allow reliability and offer better performance.

But be careful as with any mod that pushes things to extreme limits.

Doing this could mean that the life of your gearbox will take a major hit which in the long run is not good for your wallet. Such gearboxes often fail after 15k to 20k km so expect to expend a major sum of money on the repair works.

This highlights the importance of choosing a reputable mapping company to perform this mod.

Is The Performance Boost Significant?

It is also to be noted that in most cases, the performance boost as a result of the gearbox remapping is only under 6 to 7 mph.

So, it depends upon how you look at it. For some people, this might be a huge difference which will enable them to win their drag races. However, for others, this increase is not that substantial when considering that the allied damage it causes to the vehicle is huge.

Thus you are the best judge as to whether remapping your engine’s gearbox is a good option or not.

Many people are of the viewpoint that remapping DSG is a good option only when you are dealing with bigger turbochargers as in that case most benefits can be achieved.

You must also keep an eye on the various videos shared on the internet in this regard as some companies often try to upload comparisons between the stock vehicle and the tuned/remapped ones but they don’t always show the truth.

One such example that I saw, included an Audi. So, the stock vehicle was put in the “Drive” mode whereas the modified one was in “Sport” mode for the same test.

Is This An OBDII Remap Or A Plug-In? Can It Be Done As A DIY Project?

Gearbox tuning can be done with OBD units and it is a fairly easy process. This means that you can tune your vehicle’s gearbox on your own as a DIY project.

Plus the best part is that you can use it even after reflash and the device works for your vehicle just as it did the very first time.

So this means that the overall cost of doing the whole process is considerably low and you can take it on as a fun project for yourself.

What Effect Does Gearbox Mapping Have On Performance?

As already mentioned above, the effect on the performance of vehicles with gearbox remapping depends upon the vehicle in question.

While some vehicles show minor improvements, there are some cases in which the performance boost is more significant.

It is hard to compare shift times in terms of 0-60 as this will typically only use a couple of gears, but in everyday use you will notice the faster shifts and optimized shift points.

As mods go it won't look impressive on paper but in the real world the benefits are very dramatic.

Engines can also be mapped for dramatic gains

One such example is the Polo GTI which produces around 180bhp when stock. However, when a stage 1 tune/remap is performed on this vehicle, the power increases to as much as 220bhp.

This is an increase of around 22% which is an impressive gain not just in everyday driving but also in drag races.

To read more about remapping engines see our ECU remapping article.

ECU Model Is Pivotal

However, it is to be noted that the ECU model of a vehicle plays a vital role in this process.

Thus most companies that provide these remapping services often ask the interested vehicle owners to bring the vehicles to their setup so their team can take a look at whether the process can be performed or not.

The company also claims that the shift pattern, as well as the launch control, can be improved depending on the type of box.

What Is Throttle Response & How To Change It?

To understand this, let’s first discuss what is meant by throttle response. So, this refers to the response of the vehicle when the throttle or the gas pedal of the vehicle is pressed.

How effectively the vehicle responds to the input determines the throttle response.

The better the throttle response, the better it is for performance vehicles as the driver needs to work lesser for pushing the vehicle to higher speeds.

It is to be noted here that in the stock cars, the throttle response of vehicles is intentionally kept under a check in almost all vehicles.

However, there are several ways to improve this. This is usually done by changing the signal that is sent to the ECM.

Throttle Response Improvement With Plugin

A quick way of improving the throttle response of a car is by making use of plug-in devices. Here are a couple suggested by our members but we've not actually tested these so I can't personally vouch for them.

There is a multitude of options available in the market for this purpose and the ShiftPower Throttle Response Controller is one of them.

Another option in this regard is the Plug & Play device offered by PedalMonster. It is a throttle sensitivity module and the best part is that the company offers an iOS as well as an Android app to give you complete command over your vehicle.

This is an OBD-II connected device and draws its power from the vehicle.

Many such devices nowadays come allied with other beneficial features such as Reverse Safety and Active safety. The purpose of these features is to disable these plugin devices when the vehicle is put in the reverse gear so that the car can operate under its normal/ stock conditions.

The best part of these devices is that it takes less than a minute to install them which means that anyone, without any advanced knowledge of the subject, can install them and enjoy the added performance.

As we mentioned earlier, most of these plugin devices come along with an app. With the help of this mobile application, drivers can select from various modes, each specific to a particular driving style.

Benefits Of Plugin Devices

These plugin devices are usually reasonably priced and the performance improvement they offer is impressive.

Some of the benefits that these plugin devices offer include:

  • Reduced throttle lag
  • Elimination of sponge pedal
  • Complete control over the gas pedal
  • Better acceleration

With the help of these plugin devices, you can also reduce the throttle sensitivity which gives more command to the driver and thus puts him in charge.

These plugin devices offer the added advantage that they do not void the warranty on your car as they don’t play around with the vehicle’s engine tuning.

Besides this, most of these parts are offered with a warranty usually spanning over 3 or 5 years. This gives additional peace of mind to vehicle owners.

The overall performance improvement varies from vehicle to vehicle and from one plugin device to another, some vehicle owners even report a performance boost of around 25%.

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