The 3 stages of remaps

"Remapping & engine mod stages explained"

Please bear in mind that tuning stages are purely arbitrary and each tuner will usually have their own take on what a stage represents.

Usually they just mean level instead of stage, and some companies offer up to 5 or 6 stages or levels of tune.

We wish people would stop using stage to describe a tuning option or plan but while they do we'll define here what we mean and expect when we talk about the term.

We get asked so much about this that we wanted to spell out what we mean and most car modders mean when talking about stage 1, 2 or 3 tunes or remaps and mods.


General buyers guide to remaps

Remaps are not all the same and please ignore the peak power figures, most companies just try to give the highest peak power gain they can.

Let's dissect two tunes or remaps offered by mapping companies on a turbo engine. We will oversimplify this, but you should look at a power curve from each map and see which suits your driving style and gives you the power where you want it.

Based on a fictional 150bhp car

Base power: The turbo cuts in and starts pushing 100bhp from 2500rpm, rising to 150bhp - between 4000 and 5500 rpm and dropping to 125bhp to the 6900rpm redline

Map 1 175hp peak

Base power: Turbo cuts in and starts pushing 130bhp from 1800rpm rising steadily to 170bhp - between 4000 and 5500 rpm and tailing off to 140bhp to the 7000rpm redline

Map 2 200hp peak power

Base power: Turbo cuts in and starts pushing 125bhp from 3000rpm 200bhp - between 4800 and 5100 rpm dropping to 100bhp to the 7000rpm redline

The fictional dyno graph of these is shown below for comparison.

Which of these tunes or remaps is the best?

So which one will be faster? The second map only delivers peak power for 300rpms, outside that it peaks and tails off very quickly. The first map brings the power on sooner and delivers a power gain right through to the redline.

It is worth noting that the 2nd map is pushing a very high & short peak and is more likely to break the engine than the first one. This sudden peak will also cause loss of traction and wheelspin further slowing your progress.

Ideally you want the power to come on as soon as possible and to maintain a relatively flat wide torque curve right up to the redline.

Stage 1 tunes or remaps & remapping

These are for standard cars or cars with just one or small factor modifications. Power gains are usually around 15% percent on NA (naturally aspirated) engines and 30% on turbocharged engines. Diesel remaps nearly always produce more economy at these low levels of tune.

Most start at Stage 1 & quickly progress to stage 2. We recommend you go straight in at stage 2!

Aims of stage 1 tuning maps

Keeping the car within manufacturer tolerances but optimizing it for driver preferences and extracting the very best from a stock OEM setup in good condition.

Stage 2 remaps & remapping

Pushing the performance envelope further with less regard and concern for daily running costs. You will need a few modifications to support a stage 2 map. Exhaust and intake are commonly upgraded but turbos should also be switched to better units. Components like turbos and gearboxes will often start to fail earlier but this depends much on your driving style. Short bursts of performance will do no harm. Constantly driving on the redline will dramatically accelerate engine wear.

Power gains are only a little more than stage one, perhaps 20% on NA (naturally aspirated) engines and 40% on turbocharged engines. The real gain is that power comes on much lower down in the rev range and you have a longer power band to play with. (again this depends on the car setup and big turbos can create more lag but in the main stage 2 mods give much more mid range overtaking power.)

Keeping the car drivable in traffic and maintaining reliability are still considerations as is keeping the car legally within emissions and local construction and vehicle usage regulations.

Aims of stage 2 remaps

Fully release the power of all the car mods done so far, maximizing performance but with high regard for reliability. Service intervals will be shorter and consumable items likes clutches, brake pads and tires will need replacing more frequently. The overall life of an engine and gearbox may also be reduced a little but is not a major factor to consider.

Stage 3 remaps, remapping and modifications.

Pushing the car to it's limits, many parts are uprated and stronger components are used. Engines are stripped out and rebuilt to very precisely machined tolerances. Large turbos, hybrid turbos, better flowing intake and exhaust, stronger crank, pistons and a focus on forged engine parts.

For competition use stage 3 maps are a good proposition. Some of our members have car mods that support a stage 3 setup but dial them back to stage 2 map levels for reliability.

Aims of stage 3 remaps

Considered by some to be race maps, they often push engine emissions to nearly or fully into illegal categories. Diesels may smoke more, particulate emissions and filters may be removed or bypassed and in petrol engines CO2 and emissions and catalysts are taken out.

You will require some substantial supporting mods for a stage 3 map.

Power gains are pretty much limited only by your budget. We have seen some very impressive stage 3 offerings pushing power levels to over 100% of standard.


Switchable maps

These offer a chance to enjoy a car in all conditions. Few drivers will switch maps every day but most will prefer and economy or performance map for daily driving. When doing a track day the driver can then switch into a stage 3 race map without worrying about emissions, and wear and tear as the car will only be doing short burst of very high performance driving.

  • Hand held flash tuning devices like the JFA automotive touch tune
  • Plug in module with a programmable port or jumper switches (tuning boxes)
  • Built in map switchable via an instrument panel switch (depends much on the car & ECU)
  • Via a laptop through the diagnostic port

It generally takes around 5 minutes to reflash a cars ecu through the diagnostic port and probably a similar amount of time to reset the jumpers and switches on tuning boxes.

We are big fans fo switchable maps but most drivers will find they stick with one map for 99% of the time. A good tuning company with a rolling road can setup your car to perform to your preferences. I like lots of low down torque, and good economy under 2000rpm and then a massive surge in power to the redline.

This enables me to drive in two modes, economically and sport mode. You need the extra power for overtaking and as you won't be using the upper part of the rev range in daily economical driving there is little point in not having this tuned to stage 2 levels.

Join us in our forums to discuss your tuning options for your specific car, we have a very friendly and helpful community of experienced and seasoned car tuners from around the world.

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