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What Are Remapping Stages?

You may have heard people referring to their car as 'stage 2 tuned' or 'stage 3'. Whilst there is no clear-cut definition of what different 'stages' are, we thought we'd shed some light as to what people typically mean when they refer to different stages of tuning.

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For the avoidance of doubt, there is no official definition of what different stages mean – it’s typically marketing jargon that companies like us over the years have come up with to try and give customers a general idea of what modifications they’d need to take their car further than just a software remap.

ECU Remapping – What Is It?

It’s first important to understand the actual definition of ECU remapping. ECU remapping, in short, is the reprogramming of a vehicles ECU. It’s that simple. Whether we talk about various stages of remapping or not, the ‘remapping’ process is always the same: download the ECU’s data, manipulate it, upload and overwrite the new software version to the ECU. Whether we look at a ‘stage 1’ or ‘stage 2’ remap, the tuners job and processes during the remapping part of the tune, are ultimately the same, it’s just that the goalposts can move slightly.

Why Do Stages Exist?

You can only take an engine so far. What we mean by this is that you can only push stock components to a certain level of output before limitations in the factory parts are hit. For example, a stock turbo on a made-up car may be capable of 2 bar of boost pressure. However, if the stock injectors cannot deliver enough fuel to safely mix with 2 bar of boost pressure, a tuner may cap boost pressure at 1.6bar. In this example, the injectors are a limiting factor.

Stages exist to give a rough idea of what kinds of changes (vehicle modifications) need to be made due to limiting factors in a drivetrain. Anything past a ‘stage 1 remap’ will require physical modifications to be made to the drivetrain.

It is worth noting that what is required for different stages does ultimately depend on what the limiting factor is for the previous stage but this is all vehicle dependant. Whilst this is not a 100% accurate depiction of what each stage means for EVERY car, we’ve generalised, below, what each stage would typically refer to in most cases.

Stage 1 Tune

Typically, when people talk about ‘ECU remapping‘, they are usually referring to what is also known as a ‘stage 1 tune’. This is effectively modifying only the factory software on the vehicle’s ECU.

Stage 2 Tune

A stage 2 tune usually refers to ‘breathing modifications’ being factored into the equation when remapping. In this example, the following upgrades are generally what we could consider as breathing mods:

  • High-flow or catless downpipe
  • No GPF/PPF/OPF
  • Uprated intake kit
  • Uprated intercooler or chargecooler

Stage 2 remapping, along with the physical modifications can usually see anywhere from another 20-60bhp on top of what a stage 1 tune would provide.

Often, the first limiting factor on a stage 1 tune for most cars is exhaust flow or exhaust gas temperatures. These are both affected by factory exhaust and emissions systems. Uprating the intake and intercooler allows for cleaner, cooler air (which is more dense) to enter the, maximising the amount of fuel that can be safely combusted.

As mentioned, this is not a definitive list of mods required. If we look at the B58 engine, for example, we would not need to uprate cooling for stage 2. We would, however, recommend upgrading the factory charge pipes (a relatively inexpensive modification) because the stock components are prone to failure after tuning. We can also offer a ‘stage 2+’ solution which is for B58 equipped vehicles with the upgraded TU fuel pump. This is called a stage 2 ‘+’ because this modification wouldn’t really be worthy of the ‘stage 3’ name but the limiting factor at stage 2 is the high-presssure fuel pump.

If we then look at the 3.0TFSI supercharged engine in the B8 Audi S5, some companies would have a stage 2+ solution if the vehicle was equipped with an upgraded supercharger pulley whereas some would only offer a stage 2 solution if the pulley had been done.

Stage 3 Tune

A stage 3 tune almost always refers to a remap applied to a vehicle with the aforementioned breathing mods AND an uprated turbocharger, usually a hybrid turbo.

Companies like TTE, Pure and others, will develop uprated hybrid turbochargers for certain vehicles. These turbochargers will normally maximise what a stock engine can handle, without needing to forge internals or make other drastic changes to the engine or gearbox.

A hyrbid turbocharger is a unit that uses the factory turbo externals/casing and has larger internals to allow for even more charged air to be generated.

If we take the 2.5 lump found in the RS3, a TTE 777 hybrid turbocharger can provide enough air for the engine to produce over 450bhp (depending on fuel) more than the standard car, a whopping total of 850bhp just from a hybrid turbocharger and stage 2 mods.

Taking A Car Further

It doesn’t stop there, either. If people have ambitions for more power than what stage 3 offers for their car, people often opt for ‘big turbo’ upgrades rather than just a hybrid turbo. This is a completely different unit and often doesn’t use any of the stock components found in the factory turbo.

Naturally, this can mean a lot more work is required to get the most out of the big turbo such as installing forged pistons and connecting rods, making custom exhaust manifolds and potentially uprating gearbox components.

This level of tuning typically isn’t referred to in stages but I suppose one could consider this as ‘stage 4’.

In Conclusion…

There you have it, a rough idea of what the tuning community means by various stages of tuning. At Phantom Tuning, we can provide the software remapping for all stages of tuning. We don’t currently offer any mechanical work on-site at either of our branches, so you would need to look to have physical modifications done prior to arrival if you’ve booked in a stage 2 or custom tuning session with us. However, if you’re not sure who to go to, we can always recommend local firms that we trust to fit any parts you need.

Remember, if you want to book a tuning session with us, you can do this by entering your reg here and following the steps. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to call us, send us a message on our contact page or message us on our socials.

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These FAQ's Answer Most Questions

Whilst a remap will add a small amount of extra strain to the vehicle, all of our files are well within the safe parameters of the vehicle’s components (such as the engine & transmission/drivetrain) capabilities. We would only increase engine output to what we deem to be safe as it wouldn’t be beneficial to us or you to push your vehicle to anything beyond that.

It is not in our interest to push your vehicle past its limits. We simply wouldn’t have a business if we blew cars up on a daily basis.

There are a couple of ways for a remap to be detected. The most cost effective and most commonly used method by manufacturers is to check the CVN with diagnostics tools. If an ECU has a different CVN than it should, a manufacturer’s diagnostic tools will be able to detect this.

A remap can also be detected with manipulation DTC’s that appear within various modules in the car. 

Some dealer tools can even detect that changes have been made to the original software but don’t show exactly what has been done.

With most modern vehicles, our industry-leading remapping software and tools can successfully flash an ECU whilst keeping the original CVN and not throwing any manipulation DTC’s. This means most dealer diagnostic tools would not be able to detect the remap.

That said, a remap is NEVER undetectable. If someone wants to dig deep enough, they will eventually find it.

A good workaround for this which covers most instances is to have the vehicle returned to stock which we are able to do for £60 including VAT. Depending on the method of tuning for your particular car, we can mitigate the chances of it being detected.

A very common question with very common misconceptions. Ultimately, there is no such thing as a generic map. ‘Generic’ implies that we could use any tune file on any vehicle. Every tune we apply has been custom calibrated for your vehicle make, model, drivetrain, ECU and software version.

For stage 1 and most stage 2 files, we can use dyno tested, safe and proven solutions without having to make any tweaks. Why? Because we know it’s a safe calibration that we’ve used before on an identical drivetrain that’s been developed on the dyno and on the road. 

We can apply calibrations at our Bedfordshire branch for heavily modified vehicles with the use of our rolling road.

There is a common misconception that a tune made ‘on the fly’ is both much safer and will produce better results. This isn’t necessarily the case, the quality of the tune is down to the tuners ability to tune on a particular platform of drivetrain and ECU combination.

There is no tuner in the world that writes completely custom software from scratch every time. In most instances, they’ll either use a tried and tested solution OR use that solution as a base to work from and apply very minor tweaks. 

The only time this differs slightly is for heavily modified vehicles, i.e. uprated fueling, uprated turbos etc. In this instance, a heavily modified car will likely have a unique combination of modifications. What usually happens is the tuner will, again, apply a base map from a tried and tested solution and then modify that calibration with a few revisions to suit the modifications.

What you need to be looking out for is not the ‘custom vs. generic’ argument at all. You should be looking out for companies that offer remapping but use clone tools (which have a high likelihood of killing the ECU) and apply untested £1.00 calibrations from a CD they bought on eBay.

A good way to be sure you’re talking to a good tuner is to look at their reviews, digital presence and importantly, how much they’re charging. If they’re only charging £150 for a remap, the chances are they don’t have the funds to afford insurance or to pay to fix the car if it goes wrong.

TLDR;

There’s no such thing as a generic map. Don’t cheap out. Choose your tuning company based on reviews, presence and trust.

This is always a tough question. The reality is, modifying your vehicle will always affect a manufacturers’ warranty.

At our Bedford branch, we are able to provide customised calibrations for heavily modified vehicles with the use of our rolling road. You can also request before and after dyno runs when booking online or you can opt for a custom tuning session if your vehicle is heavily modified.

In general, at Phantom Tuning, we mainly cover stage 1 and stage 2 ECU remapping.

When it comes to relatively basic requirements such as stage 1 and stage 2 remapping, a dyno is not always needed. The reason for this is our remapped files have already been tested on a dyno where a slave or donor vehicle was remapped.

This means that we’ve already stress tested and proven the figures that our remaps can provide on a well-maintained vehicle.

For stage 1, the donor vehicle is identical to yours, so there is no need to dyno test the file again. For stage 2, the need for a dyno depends on whether or not there are any discrepancies in modifications.

As part of our service, in most cases, we will before and after road test a vehicle when possible, to ensure the remap behaves as intended.

This means that we’ve already stress tested and proven the figures that our remaps can provide on a well-maintained vehicle. For stage 1, the donor vehicle is identical to yours, so there is no need to dyno test the file again. For stage 2, the need for a dyno depends on whether or not there are any discrepancies in modifications.

As part of our service, in most cases, we will road test a vehicle when possible, to ensure the remap behaves as intended.

Ultimately, a remap will optimise the engine. Therefore, it is common to expect improved fuel economy under normal driving conditions.

If you’re expecting to be able to drive spiritedly and still gain another 20% fuel economy, your expectations are unrealistic.

Under normal driving conditions, most of our customers see slight improvements in fuel economy, anywhere from 5% to 15%.

Manufacturers restrict the performance of a vehicle for multiple reasons. An example would be warranty lifespan. It’s in a manufacturer’s interest to ensure their vehicles underperform to reduce the number of warranty claims during the warranty period. It also enables them to extend the time and mileage in which a warranty can be offered.


Increasingly now, manufacturers are saving costs by limiting the number of engine sizes they offer and instead using different versions of the same engine. This enables them to not only save money on research and development but also to charge more money for a vehicle with a higher power output.

For example, the Ford Transit Custom is available in: 100BHP, 125BHP and 150BHP. However, each of them uses the same engine, transmission and drivetrain. The interesting thing is that each of the versions are capable of 180BHP. They simply charge more for the higher-powered versions.

Manufacturers also need to bear in mind that their vehicles are being sold across the globe with various tax brackets, insurance groups and environmental conditions. As a result, they need one universal map to suit all scenarios whilst ensuring maximum sales of the vehicle in question.

Nothing. Typically, all that the different driving modes tend to do is change your throttle mapping. Some vehicles also add weight to your steering and tighten the suspension.

With a tune, the power is changed across all modes. your existing modes will still behave the same and each mode will have its own custom throttle calibration.

If your vehicle goes in for service work at a main dealer and it’s in warranty, we would advise you to bring the vehicle to us first to remove the map and then come back to reapply the tune.

If your vehicle isn’t in warranty or you’re not visiting a main dealer, you don’t have to worry about taking the map off and reapplying.

However, if you do have your car serviced at a main dealer, whether it is in warranty or not, they may need to apply a software update to your vehicle. In this event, there is a chance you may lose your map. If you do, we can reflash the modified file on to your car for a small fee of £60 inc. VAT.

We do. Stage 2 requirements are: upgraded intake & decatted or sports catted downpipes.

An average car will gain an extra 20-50bhp for stage 2, depending on the vehicle. 

The calibrations for stage 1 and 2 are quite similar, however, most of the additional gains will come from the physical modifications rather than the tune itself. For example, if you’re already running a stage 1 tune and have already applied stage 2 modifications, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel too much difference in changing the map to a stage 2. 

In short, no. A Remap wouldn’t disappear anyway; the whole flash data would disappear, but again, this is impossible on its own accord. If it were to happen, your car wouldn’t start! The only way you can lose your tune is if the vehicle is flashed to stock by another tuner or main dealer via software update.
There exists a rumour that disconnecting your battery will wipe your remap. This is just a rumour, your tune would still remain. If you were to take your battery out of your laptop and replace it, it wouldn’t automatically restore factory software. The same applies to your ECU. There is no way to hit the ‘reset button’ on an ECU without third party tools.
Unfortunately, components fail on stock and tuned vehicles. Whether it be a broken coil pack, blown turbo or cracked block. These things can happen and parts don’t last forever. Ultimately, we won’t tune a handful of vehicles because they are prone to specific failures post-tune. However, if your vehicle has an issue post tune, it’s likely that said issue was already present or on its way to being an issue before it was remapped. Our advice is to take it to a trusted mechanic to carry out diagnostics and to help you rectify the issue. In a worst case scenario, we are able to flash the vehicle back to stock for £60 including VAT to help diagnose the fault. Out of the thousands of vehicles we have tuned, we are yet to see a failure due solely to the car being remapped.
Whether your car is tuned or stock, the only way to determine these figures is to run the car on a dynamometer (AKA Dyno or Rolling Road). If you have not opted to pay for our dyno services in our HQ at Bedfordshire, we will not be able to tell you the exact figures for your vehicle. We can only tell you what an identical drivetrain, running stock power produced with the same remap. You’re always welcome to come back to us for a dyno run, power runs on their own are £100 including VAT.
If you’re after more power once you’ve had a stage 1 tune or ECU Remap, you’ll need to start making physical modifications to the drivetrain. Breathing mods such as intake and exhaust can add anywhere from 20-50bhp, after that, you’ll need to start considering turbo upgrades and more. Your best bet is to do some research in your vehicle’s community to figure out how much you’re willing to spend to make certain power figures. Once these modifications are installed, we can write custom calibrated tunes to suit your vehicle’s needs.
Whilst we love to see people carrying out more frequent servicing, for mild tuning, there’s no need to service any more than the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. Doing so will only help increase your engine’s longevity but it is not mandatory. 
If your vehicle fails an MOT after being tuned, the remap is not the issue, you have a mechanical fault somewhere (likely with the emissions systems).
You must always inform your insurer of any vehicle modifications, including an ECU remap.
As mentioned previously, the only way to have ‘lost a remap’ is if the vehicle has been flashed with new software via a main dealer tool or by another tuner. If this hasn’t occurred, you haven’t lost your remap. Whilst we can check that your tune is still there for £60 including VAT, unless you’ve been told that your vehicle has been flashed, we’d advise not paying for this service. If the vehicle has been flashed to stock and you pay £60 including VAT for us to check, we can reapply the tune at no additional cost.
Unfortunately, we see a large number of mechanics run into issues with cars that they simply do not have the knowledge or tools to diagnose. It’s easy for a mechanic, with limited knowledge of how tuning works, to charge customers a few hundred quid for diagnostic services, not be able to determine the issue and blame a remap. Effectively, it’s their way of using a ‘get out of jail free’ card when they’re out of their depth. Time and time again, we flash vehicles back to stock, at the expense of the customer, for the issue to still be present. Put simply, if there is an issue with the remap, the issue will be immediately present. It won’t develop days, weeks or months later.

Our Pricing Explained

Job Type Price Comments
ECU Remap £375 As of Feb 2021, we changed our remap pricing to be as competitive as possible. All ECU remaps now carry the same cost, regardless of difficulty.
Dyno Power Runs £100 This charge is for a total of 3 power runs. This is discounted by £20 if purchased with a remap and includes an additional 3 power runs before the tune.
Custom Tuning Session £247 (Additional) If your car is heavily modified (i.e. turbos, injectors), you'll need a custom tuning session so that we can modify the tune on the fly. This is charged on top of the cost of a remap.
Gearbox Tune £350 A gearbox tune has a fixed cost of £350. This is discounted by £75 if purchased with an ECU remap.
VAG Rollback £150 For emissions rollbacks on affected VAG cars, a fixed price of £150 applies. This is discounted by £100 if purchased with a remap.
Already Tuned £60 Where vehicles come to us and are already tuned, it's in our interest to advise as to whether or not we can improve on the tune. If we can, we will set realistic expectations. If we cannot improve on the tune, we will also advise. A minimum charge applies for our time, in the event that we do not proceed to remap the vehicle.
Remap On/Off £60-120 Should you wish to remove your remap, outside of our 30-day moneyback guarantee period, we apply our minimum charge. Should you wish to have your remap reapplied, for instance, if the vehicle has been to a main dealer for a software update, our minimum charge applies and in some cases, depending on the job and software change, we may charge £120.
OFF Solutions Range For additional solutions such as EGR off or pops and bangs, the cost of these starts from £20. For situations where you may want a solution ONLY, for instance, an EGR delete but no remap, this will be the same price as a remap. We will optionally include a performance remap free of charge if this is the case.

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