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.