What is 'remapping' - and is it worthwhile?

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Originally published July 16th 2014

Did you know that you can boost both the power and fuel economy of your car in about 30 minutes, simply by altering the settings on the engine control unit?

It’s a process called 'remapping' – and it’s all the rage among petrolheads.

Car control

The engine control unit (ECU) is basically a computer that controls how the engine works, a bit like a brain.

But the default settings – or maps – are not necessarily the best they could be, as manufacturers who sell their cars around the world have to take into account different climates, fuel qualities and laws when they program the software.

Car makers are also known deliberately to limit the performance of their cars through the ECU so they can release faster models at a later date, with just a few software changes and a much higher price tag.

Enhanced performance

Remapping is intended to make the most of your car by overwriting the ECU’s default settings with new software which can be programmed to enhance the car’s overall performance.

It usually takes between 30 minutes and an hour, and modern technology means it’s pretty straightforward.

Previously, the process was called 'chipping' and involved the removal of the main microchip from the ECU, which was then replaced with a modified chip. Lots of scope for strife in that process.

Speed and power

If the remapping is successful, you should notice an immediate improvement in the speed and power of your car.

Some remappers claim an increase in horsepower of between 30 and 40bhp and in torque of up to 80nm.

The engine will also be more responsive, so it will be easier to overtake, for example. You might also find that you don’t have to change gear as frequently, boosting the number of miles to the gallon.

Lifetime warranty

Damage to the engine is rare, but you should always choose a reputable firm to carry out the remapping – and preferably a firm that offers a lifetime warranty on the software.

You could even do a remap yourself as you can now buy plug-in kits that come with the software upgrade already installed.

Bear in mind, though, that some cars cannot be remapped, usually because they are too old. If you car was manufactured before 2000, you might have difficulty, but it all depends on the make and model of the vehicle.

Tell your insurer!

Remapping is a way of fundamentally changing your car, without actually changing your car, if you see what I mean, so do you need to tell your insurance company?

The short answer is, yes. Remapping is classed as a modification because your car has been altered, even though the alteration is not visible. And you must inform your insurer of any modifications you make to the car or you could invalidate your policy.

..you must inform your insurer of any modifications you make to the car or you could invalidate your policy.

In other words, it would not pay out in the event of a claim. You could also get into more serious trouble for deliberately hiding relevant information, which is not too far away from insurance fraud.

Best deal

Some insurers refuse point blank to cover a modified or remapped car.

Others are less squeamish, though they would usually charge an extra premium, sometimes in the form of a flat fee.


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