You want to optimise your engine and make your car more powerful and responsive?
You may have considered car remapping.
But did you know it could have a dramatic impact on your insurance premiums? It might even mean your current insurer will stop insuring you.
We’re going to explain remapping, the pros and cons of remapping your engine, the potential impact on your insurance premiums, and the best insurers to go to if you want a decent quote
Table of Contents
What is car engine remapping?
Car engine remapping is basically changing the software that your car’s engine control unit runs.
Car tuning used to mean getting your hands dirty going into the engine. But modern engines are controlled automatically, so vehicle remapping is about software, not mechanics. It involves changing the car’s ECU.
What is the ECU in a car?
Modern cars have an Engine Control Unit (ECU) inside the engine. It’s basically a small computer which monitors and manages engine performance. For instance, it fires the spark plugs, and opens and closes the fuel injectors. ECU remapping changes the way your ECU ‘drives’ your engine.
Cars arrive at the dealer with a default programme running. It’s set for the average driver and like all averages, it might not suit everyone. So you might decide you want to tweak the programme to get more out of your engine.
What is chip tuning?
In the early days the programme came on an Eprom chip that had to be physically removed from the engine before the engineer could work on it – that’s why you’ll still hear some people talk about ‘chip tuning’ or ‘chipping’. Professionals call this a ‘KTAG remap’. Because of the need for physical intervention it will take more time and be more costly than a regular remap.
Nowadays, though, ECUs come with an OBD port – that stands for ‘On Board Diagnostics’ and it’s basically a serial port that mechanics use to diagnose engine problems. So new software can be flashed directly into your car’s ECU – an ECU remap is just like rooting your smartphone.
You can even reverse your car remap if you’re not happy with it. In fact Celtic Tuning, one of the major firms in the remap UK market, promises to reverse your remap for free if you change your mind within 14 days.
What are the different types of car remapping?
Remaps also come in two types.
- A Stage 1 remap simply involves using ECU remapping software to rewrite the ECU’s programming. It’s purely and simply a software change.
- A Stage 2 remap involves changing the hardware as well, for instance changing the turbos or exhaust. Once you get into Stage 2 remaps you’re talking about very extensive car modifications and the cost will be much higher than a simple Stage 1 remap.
If you have an older car (first registered before 2000) or a car without a turbo engine, though, you can stop reading here – you won’t be able to get an engine remap. If you want to boost performance you’ll be looking at changing the hardware.
What are the pros and cons of car engine remapping?
Car engine remapping can give your car’s engine more torque and more power.
There are several advantages to engine remapping. While remapping cars is popular with rally and track fraternities, to up their acceleration and top speeds, you might also consider remapping for a more pleasant and economical drive.
- Up to 35% more power and torque makes for safer overtaking.
- The car will be more responsive. Remapping will improve control and drivability.
- More torque means you can drive at lower RPM in higher gears, which will economise on fuel. Diesel tuning can dramatically improve fuel economy, but petrol engines get a less significant reduction in fuel use.
- More power could be useful if you regularly tow a trailer or caravan, or carry heavy loads.
- Vehicle remapping might affect your car’s warranty if it’s not approved by the manufacturer or a dealer.
- It could also shorten the length of your engine’s life. The car could need more servicing as you put more pressure on the components. (It’s fair to point out that a professional remapping engine remap should have been designed not to overstress your motor.)
- Fuel costs could go up if you need to use higher octane fuel.
- Remapping a car could affect your car insurance.
How do I find the cheapest insurance for a remapped car?
You’ll need to do some comparison shopping, and you should consider a specialist insurer who understands car remapping in detail and can offer you a good price.
Remap insurance is a specialist field because each car has to be priced individually. So your best bet for engine remapping insurance will be probably be one of these companies, who understand this complex area and can give you a tailor made quote.
You must know that even a stage 1 remap could lead to a 20% increase of your car insurance premium. Always check upfront with your insurer!
How much does a remap cost?
Car remapping costs are not very high compared to other servicing and car modification costs; a remap should cost you anywhere between £200 and £400 and can take as little as 30 minutes.
That’s a stage 1 remap cost; if you’re going for a Stage 2 remap, the total car remapping cost will be much more.
Most remapping companies already have well developed inventories of software that can help them remap your car fast and efficiently, and that’s brought the total engine remapping cost down for owners of popular cars. Many of them have a system on their websites that lets you see quickly what you can achieve and how much does remapping cost for a given model of car.
Is remapping worth it?
That will depend on how you drive.
For instance, if you drive economically, using the additional torque to change gear more smoothly and stay in lower gears, you could really improve your fuel economy.
If you thrash the engine and end up having to replace components more quickly than you’d expect, you might get a lot of fun out of your remap but it will end up costing you money.
If the main reason you want a remap is fuel economy, remapping diesel engines delivers the best returns.
How will car rechipping affect my insurance?
Car rechipping will generally increase the price of your premium. Some insurers will not even cover a remapped car at all. However, if your insurer is willing to continue cover for your chipped car, a rough guide is that you might expect your premiums to go up an extra £70-150.
Direct Line, for instance, refuses to cover cars that have been chipped, and Admiral has also been known to refuse cover.
Insurers all have their own views of risk. Some believe that drivers who have their cars chipped are interested in only one thing – driving faster. That makes them high risk ‘boy racer’ drivers.
Insurers also use car insurance groups as a guide to their pricing. Cars with less acceleration and less powerful engines are likely to be involved in fewer, and less serious, accidents. So when you remap a car, you’re making it a higher risk car. And because it no longer fits the ‘group’ category, it will have to be insured as a one-off special deal. High volume insurers often aren’t set up to do that.
Most insurers will hike the premiums in line with the increase in bhp that your remap delivers – they will want not just to know that you’ve remapped the car, but exactly what modifications were involved.
If the increase for a non-aggressive remap if more than £100, you should start looking around for a better deal.
How will chip tuning affect my warranty?
If your car is still under warranty, chip tuning will invalidate the engine warranty (and possibly the power train warranty) unless it’s a remap approved by the car manufacturer (and most manufacturers won’t provide remaps).
That’s definitely something you should think about before you go ahead with a remap.
Most dealers’ diagnostic equipment isn’t good enough to find out whether you’ve had a remap or not. But if you need a very expensive replacement under warranty, the experts might be called in. A more in-depth examination of the ECU probably would find out that you’d had the engine remapped – and you’d end up paying for the repairs.
Do I have to tell my insurer that I’ve remapped my car?
You ought to declare a remap to your insurer, as it is a material change to your car’s specification.
By the way, if you are buying a car, you’ll need to ask whether it has been remapped. Usually, you’ll find remapped cars for sale to enthusiasts who will pay for the extra performance – the remap is a selling point. If it’s been remapped, you’ll need to declare that when you’re getting your insurance quote.
Can my insurer find out that I had a remap job?
Yes (probably). Remember that while insurance companies might not know much about car remapping, if you make a claim they can employ a specialist to take a good look at your motor.
You may be thinking you’ll get away with it. “How can an insurer tell if my car is remapped? There’s nothing to see!”
Some professional remappers think that their work shouldn’t show up on dealers’ diagnostic equipment, so they wouldn’t be able to tell. But others say it’s possible that their work could be detected.
Others offer the possibility to return your ECU to the default setting. However, if you had a serious accident, you might not be able to do that before the insurance company gets its hands on your car.
Some people believe that an insurer will never find out if they had a remap job. However, if you have a serious accident, it’s quite likely that the insurer will call in a specialist mechanic to assess the car.
If any evidence is found of a remap job, your insurance could be invalidated and the insurer won’t pay out. That isn’t a risk worth taking.
And of course, if you haven’t declared your remap, the cost of the remap won’t be covered by your insurance in the event of any claim.
An insurer could also simply dyno-test the engine. If it’s producing more power than the specifications show it should, then it’s probably a remapped car.
Does remapping damage your car?
The question is: is remapping safe?
A professional remap that’s supported by dyno tests and an experienced car remapping team won’t trash your engine.
And it won’t leave a trace on your dashboard since all you have to do is connect the OBD port. Of course, if you’re not up to driving a more powerful car, there might be a problem!
What car modifications affect my insurance?
Any change at all to your car’s specification could affect your insurance, even something as small as a sticker.
Remapping is a specific type of modification that improves your car’s performance. That makes your car a higher risk, as far as the insurer is concerned, and it will involve an increase in your premium. The potential harm to your engine from over-stress might also be one factor in how some insurers view remapping and insurance.
For instance, if you add a high-end entertainment system, you’ve increased the risk of theft and the cost that the insurer would need to cover if your car was nicked. That could mean your premiums go up – though some insurers won’t put your cover up for small mods.
With hardware modifications, you might make components more difficult and more costly to replace. Again, that would increase the size of a claim so an insurer would want to charge a higher premium. If you increase the performance of your car with additions such as turbo or Powerflow exhausts, you’re making it a higher risk to insure – statistically, faster and more powerful cars have more, and more serious, accidents.
Will car remapping change my fuel economy?
Car remapping can improve your fuel economy significantly, though to get the best out of it you may need to change your driving style.
Diesel cars tend to get better improvements in fuel economy than petrol cars. Some drivers have reported improvements of 4-5 mpg after they’ve remapped their engines.
The more smoothly you drive, the longer every litre of fuel will last. And if you use your gears wisely so that you’re always driving at the lowest RPM you can, you’ll also get the maximum mileage out of every tank.
Where can I get my car rechipped?
You have plenty of options when you’re considering a remap. You can:
- do it yourself using an installation handset that comes in the post;
- get it done at home by a mobile remap service; or
- you can take your car into a dealership.
Remap prices differ depending on the make and model of car, the amount of tweaking you want done and the desired increase in bhp. Some providers will offer different levels of remap for the same car. Some, like Quantum and Celtic Tuning, also provide van tuning for common models like the Ford Transit.
We’ve listed a few of the best reputed car remapping businesses here.