Remapping with a laptop

As you already know, respected Fast Car user, an engine’s ECU controls everything from immobilising the engine to optimising fuel economy. Fair play, like, but this is Fast Car magazine: we don’t do MPG, we do BHP and torques! And we want decent performance increases with not a lot of hassle, and just as importantly, not much cash. This, my friend, is where remaps rule the tuning scene.

Vauxhall Corsa VXR on the rolling road

Regal Autosport's rolling road.

You see, the reason engines can be tuned so easily is that they’re manufactured to perform well within their limits from the factory. They’re basically detuned to increase reliability and fuel economy. Some manufacturers even quite heavily detune their engines to create lower spec models and meet insurance or economy standards.

Added to such factors are ordinary motorists’ needs for fuel economy, extended service intervals, ultra- smooth gear changes and cold-start simplicity. This is all stuff that’s controlled by the ECU, so it’s easy to see how many of the in-built compromises can be ironed out or even sidestepped completely by a remap.

Just like your Xbox 360, your ride’s ECU is capable of accepting spicy new software and remapping an ECU to increase performance is done in exactly the same way – by uploading a revised programme onto the ECU through the OBD port.

Regal Auto ECU remapping

Chris from Regal Autosport gets to work.

These programmes are developed by tuners – they’re based on a standard manufacturer’s ECU calibration file but with alterations to a number of key points. Each setting can be finely adjusted throughout the engine’s rev range, mapped to work alongside every other parameter.

The aim is to increase power, torque, performance and driveability without putting too much negativity into the car’s usability or mechanical safety margins.

Corsa VXR on the road

More powah! Awesome.

What does a remap alter? Well, it’s pretty simple really, and based on tried and tested tuning techniques. For example, fuelling may be increased to give an optimum air/ fuel ratio at wide open throttle, while maintaining reasonable fuel consumption throughout the mid-range. Ignition timing can be tweaked to provide a more advanced timing curve, again increasing power and throttle response.

Regal Autosport print out

Awww, pretty colours.

Best of all, turbocharged (and, to a lesser extent, supercharged) cars also have boost pressure controlled by their ECUs; by increasing boost (along with fuelling, timing and mechanical components where necessary), power and torque can be massively improved.

So there you have it, remapping is your friend. Painless, quick and with massive results, and all from around the £200 mark. Two thumbs fresh.

An engine ECU

This my friends, is what your ECU looks like.

WHAT IS AN ECU?
An ECU is the motor’s engine management computer, or in simple terms, its brain. It constantly reads and evaluates information fed to it by various sensors located around the car. It analysis stuff such as engine load, throttle angle, air density, exhaust gases, air, fuel and coolant temperatures, then compares it to a preset map. The ECU can then effectively control engine operation and efficiency by adjusting timing, air/fuel mixture, injectors, and boost pressure on turbo rides. Mmm, boost pressure…

Live engine ECU mapping

If you want the best, then live remapping is the way to go.

LIVE MAPPING
What is live mapping? Well, it’s a proper serious way to tweak your factory ECU and also the best, most accurate method to get a well tuned ride. It involves hooking up a laptop to the ECU and going for a drive (or rolling road session). This way a tuner can maximise performance far more effectively than simply reworking some figures from a desk.

Engine ECU chip

An old school tuning chip. Ah bless.

CHIPS
An ECU is the motor’s engine management computer, or in simple terms, its brain. It constantly reads and evaluates information fed to it by various sensors located around the car. It analysis stuff such as engine load, throttle angle, air density, exhaust gases, air, fuel and coolant temperatures, then compares it to a preset map. The ECU can then effectively control engine operation and efficiency by adjusting timing, air/fuel mixture, injectors, and boost pressure on turbo rides. Mmm, boost pressure… Before the days of remaps, chipping was the only way to alter a car’s ECU. So instead of a simple upload, tuners would physically open up the ECU and solder a new microchip into the board. Many older rides are still upgraded in this manner.

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