Remap, obd tuning and chiptuning

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What is remap and remapping?

Engine remapping is when the car’s onboard computer (often called an Electronic Control Unit, or ECU) is modified with new software to affect its behaviour.

From the factory, the vast majority of cars won’t have their engine’s maximum potential performance on offer — even on sports cars. ECUs usually limit the engine’s performance to improve reliability, emissions and fuel consumption.

It was once the preserve of drivers with well-equipped garage facilities and a desire to give their vehicles an edge. Now it’s available to just about anyone.

Remapping – sometimes referred to as ‘chipping’ – is the relatively straightforward process of enabling an engine to reach its full potential.

The technique enables you to access the Engine Control Unit (ECU) and override the manufacturer’s settings. As an aside, ECU also refers to electronic control units that look at various elements in a car.

Your car’s engine may also be limited slightly to make sure it can deliver a good balance of fuel consumption and outright performance in less-than-ideal conditions, such as very hot weather (when engines typically produce less power.)

A remap is usually done to unlock more power from an engine by removing some of these restrictions. It’s also possible to have a remap focused on increasing fuel consumption as well.

A car’s engine can also become more responsive, allowing the driver to overtake more easily. This can also cut down on the number of gear changes the driver has to make, allowing them to handle situations that require more torque without dropping down to lower gears. Again, this can help boost fuel economy if used strategically.

Manufacturers use the ECU to design the driving experience as they want, or to comply with driving regulations. Using an ECU can extend a car’s lifespan too, as it prevents the engine from being driven too hard. It also prolongs the engine’s reliability – if the engine’s performance is limited in one model, it can be re-used in a later model with fewer restrictions placed on it.

Sometimes, however, this experience is a little too slow for some drivers. This is where car remapping comes in.

What is chip tuning?

Chip tuning is a widespread term in the tuning industry. Those who want to achieve more power in their vehicle usually resort to chip tuning. By now, a number of terms have been assigned to chip tuning: Performance enhancement, engine tuning, diesel tuning, OBD tuning, sensor tuning, map or control unit optimization or injector tuning.

With chip tuning, we change the parameters of the engine control in order to achieve extra performance from the engine. We optimize the special maps, e.g. the boost map, the ignition map or the fuel map. What is of great importance here is that we leave the safety functions of the engine control switched on. With us, this component protection is fully functional – something you unfortunately cannot say of many “tuning boxes” or amateur tuners. When the component protection is deactivated, severe engine damage can be the consequence.

Most cars registered after 2000 have a standardized OBD2 interface for vehicle diagnosis. The software of the ECU can be read out and adjusted via this interface. For all cars that do not allow OBD2 optimization, for example, the BDM port is used. The same interface is also used by the manufacturer to upload the software. 

Chip tuning is the entry level to engine tuning: If you want to increase your engine performance, the first step is to optimize the engine electronics. In most cases, performance increases of up to 40% can be achieved with it. If you still want more performance – for instance, by way of changed hardware such as an upgrade turbocharger, different injection nozzles or a large down pipe – then you need individual tuning (chip tuning) in order to exploit the potential of your modified hardware components to the full.

Another variant is an add-on module - colloquially known as a tuning box. This is connected between the control unit and the sensors. The chip tuning sends new values to the engine control unit in order to adjust the various parameters such as fuel injection and boost pressure. The modified values are adapted to the specific engine in advance. The advantage of an add-on module is the simple installation and the removal without residues, which is also possible by the vehicle owner. After removal of the add-on modules, the vehicle is back in its standard condition.

What is OBD tuning? 

OBD reading and writing is perhaps the most common and popular tuning method. It has revolutionised the industry making the accessibility of tuning available to a wider audience. OBD is the "on board diagnostic port" that is used to access the ECU from within the vehicle. It is often located under the steering wheel or around the glove box. It is designed to allow for fast and easy fault diagnostics which assist mechanics with finding problems by scanning the engine control unit for codes. Some cars allow you to take full data reads though the OBD and others will only allow for a partial read. In some newer cars the software is locked and some tools offer VR files which are essentially original files stored on a server that match the software version within the ECU. The tool is then able to bypass the tuning protection and write your modified version of the file. 

On-board diagnostics, or OBD, is an automotive term referring to a vehicle's self-diagnostic and reporting capability. OBD systems give the vehicle owner or a repair technician access to state of health information for various vehicle sub-systems. The amount of diagnostic information available via OBD has varied widely since the introduction in the early 1980s of on-board vehicle computers, which made OBD possible. Early instances of OBD would simply illuminate a malfunction indicator light, or MIL, if a problem was detected—but would not provide any information as to the nature of the problem. Modern OBD implementations use a standardized digital communications port to provide real-time data in addition to a standardized series of diagnostic trouble codes, or DTCs, which allow one to rapidly identify and remedy malfunctions within the vehicle.

OBD stands for On Board Diagnostics and basically is the communication method to make  communication possible between a computer and the ECU of a vehicle. It is the most common manner for vehicle workplaces, car companies and tuning companies to make connection with a vehicle in order to do diagnostics and make adjustments.

The OBD port (On-Board Diagnostics) is basically a plug in the vehicle which can be connected to which has a self-diagnostic and reporting ability. The OBD port enables the vehicle’s owner or vehicle’s technician to access information relating to the health state of various vehicle sub-systems.

It is also the easiest and most applied manner for tuners or tuning companies to get the software out of a vehicle’s ECU in order to adjust the ECU software and unlock the true potential of a vehicle's engine. Nowadays, the most tuning tools allow OBD as read method but sometimes car manufacturers and ECU manufacturers will improve the security of ECU software by trying to block the external communication possibilities, also known as tuning protection. In that cases there are other read methods to make the connection possible which we will treat later on this page. 

Many see the modern crop of Turbocharged diesels as the future of road car tuning. Even in North America, a nation famed for its love of the petrol engine is starting to come around to the benefits of turbo diesel passenger cars in particular. These engines offer fantastic potential for reliable low cost tuning without removing any of the appeal of buying and running a turbo diesel powered vehicle, such as economy, reliability and longevity.

Turbocharged petrol engines have always been regarded as the sports flagship engine for good reason. They boast far higher power & torque figures than a non-turbocharged power-plant with similar displacement and are usually fitted to the manufacturer's flagship models. They are also ideal candidates for remapping as the ECU also controls the wastegate (turbo boost pressure control).