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Performance Tuning Explained

ECU Tune (via OBD and on bench + boot-pinning)

Improve the performance and fuel economy of your petrol or diesel car. No visible modifications just by simply reprogramming the computer in your car to unlock that hidden power and reduce the over fuelling that car makers set the computer at from the factory.

Tuning Stages:

We're frequently being asked what are the differences between all different tuning stages.

Having explained this to our clients many times, we thought it would be beneficial to write this little article on our website for those of you who are interested.

STAGE 1 vs STAGE 2 vs STAGE 3 vs STAGE 4

The main reason stages exist is to allow the customer and the tuning company to budget effectively, and also measure performance gains. By changing software and hardware we can monitor and measure power gains.

STAGE 1 tune is simply an ECU remap.
This is the most cost-effective way to modify any vehicle for performance. Turbo-diesel and turbo-petrol vehicles respond extremely well to stage 1 tuning and commonly see a 20 – 40% increase in bhp(brake horse power), which is the power available from the engine and torque(usually measured in Nm-Newton Metre) which can be described basically as force applied.

A stage 1 tune can be combined with a high-performance air filter, and we always recommend that the customer runs their vehicle on 98 RON(Super Unleaded Petrol) or diesel fuel such as BP Ultimate

Stage 1 in a nutshell:

Great horsepower gain
Easily Reversable
Safer option
Well tested
Affordable from £199


STAGE 2 tune is a highly modified remap tune.

An upgraded induction kit is usually installed to improve airflow to the engine.
It also generally involves fitting a turbo-back exhaust on turbocharged cars or a cat-back exhaust system on non-turbocharged cars.

These modifications are designed to improve airflow in and from the engine.

This stage typically transforms engine sound into a noticeable grunt.

At North Wales Automotive we don't manufacture stage 2 parts, however, we can supply & fit them at owners risk and the outcome and responsibility completely sits with the owner.

Stage 2 in a nutshell:

Normally applied after stage 1
Turbo-back or cat-back exhaust (improves airflow from the engine);
Induction kit (improves airflow to the engine);
Pushes engine harder, this comes with some mechanical risk
Remapping is still affordable, starting from £280

Please note: The differences in power can vary depending on the engine's health and condition of the turbo, ancillaries etc. Our tuning system allows us to safely make changes to the ECU's firmware, meaning we can create the best possible tune without taking the car beyond its safe limits.


STAGE 3 tune is considered by most to be a level that’s best invested in for the track. That’s because it can be very expensive. It usually involves upgrading the intercooler, cylinder head and inlet valves, head gasket, and spark plugs in addition to all stage 2 modifications. This stage will require a car to be set up on a rolling road to optimise the fuel and timing and correct exhaust emissions. It is also at this stage that the stock turbo on a car might be upgraded, although this is recommended as the final modification to complete vehicle tuning.

Stage 3 in a nutshell:

Stage 1 and stage 2 mods;
Upgraded turbo/ supercharger;
Upgraded intercooler;
Upgraded head gasket;
Upgraded inlet valves;
Upgraded spark plugs;
Exhaust manifold gasket;
Expensive £poa


Stage 4 is the last state of tuning for most cars.

What’s modified for a tune to be classed as stage 4 is open to interpretation, but at the very least, it is here that an upgraded turbocharger/ supercharger, such as a hybrid turbo is installed. Along with that, most tuning companies will also install a re-circulating dump valve and enlarged, ported wastegate. Stage 4 may also include an upgraded oil cooler, multi-hole & upgraded injectors, serious engine & component rework.

In the vast majority of cases, stage 4 cars are not for road use and are instead track-only cars.

Stage 4 in a nutshell:

Stage 1,2 and 3 mods;
Further upgraded turbo/ supercharger;
Dump valve;
Multi-hole injectors;
Usually track-only;
Very Expensive £££'s
Other considerations

Beyond stage 2 an upgraded clutch is pretty essential, and an upgraded gearbox may also be essential for stage 3 and above depending on how much power the stock gearbox is rated for.

Coilovers/ lowering springs can be installed at any time to improve the control and handling of a vehicle as can anti-sway bars, but most owners will install these by stage 2.

Upgraded brake discs and pads are an important consideration for any state of tune to ensure the stopping power of your vehicle.

We regularly have customers travelling to Wrexham from all different areas for our tuning expertise.

Economy Tuning Explained

With fuel prices at an all time high, we’ve seen a surge in the number of enquires from vehicle owners that are exploring ways to improve their vehicles fuel economy and as the name suggests, economy tuning can be a useful tool in achieving this goal for certain vehicles, but before you set your mind on an economy remap, it’s important you understand what economy tuning is as it’s not suitable for every vehicle or every driver and bear in mind, the purpose of an economy tune is not to improve performance.

As a general rule, economy tuning is only a feasible option if you have a turbo diesel vehicle and even then, we’re talking about front or rear wheel drive vehicles with an engine size up to 2.5l, if your vehicle has a larger engine or it’s four wheel drive, the fuel economy increase would likely be limited, this of course leaves you with the question as to whether or not the cost of our economy software is worth it compared to the potential fuel saving and that ultimately comes down to your annual mileage.

If you have a petrol vehicle, in most cases economy tuning just isn’t suitable, the same applies to performance vehicles, if you have something like a VW Golf R, considering an economy remap is just a waste of time, you’re better off buying a more economical vehicle.

With our economy software you can expect your vehicles fuel economy to increase by up to 20% but there are two important words there, up to, in reality we can’t guarantee an economy remap will increase your vehicles mpg, that’s part of the reason we offer a 7 day money back guarantee with our economy software, there are just too many factors beyond our control that can impact fuel economy such as if your vehicles tyres are underinflated or if it hasn’t been serviced correctly or in-line with manufacturers guidance, then, you’re already going to be suffering from greatly reduced fuel economy and an economy remap can’t undo the effects of poor maintenance or neglect.

Arguably the most important factor in terms of economy is you, the driver, if you have a heavy right foot driving style then you’re going to be using more fuel than necessary, an economy remap focuses on maximising efficiency below 3,000rpm, if you’re constantly driving at a higher engine speed, you won’t benefit from an economy tune.

If your vehicle is mechanically sound, correctly maintained and you’re an careful driver, then you can potentially unleash the benefits of our economy software, to give you a real world example, one of our employees owned a Skoda Fabia with the incredibly popular 1.6TDI engine, prior to our economy software it was delivering fuel economy averaging at 55mpg, with a combination our economy software and a far more efficient driving style, it began averaging 75mpg on a like for like journey, that’s an increase of almost 40% which on a long commute makes a substantial difference.

Tuning an engine for economy focuses on optimising torque delivery below an engine speed of 3,000rpm, this is achieved by modifying several parameters within the ECU’s calibration, this improves how the engine responds at low speed and allows you to get into a higher gear sooner without the engine feeling laboured, maximising your mpg will require you to change your driving style as if you were to push the engine speed past 3,000rpm, the benefits of our software will be lost.

If you’re a business customer or you have a fleet of commercial vehicles, we can further restrict a vehicles’ top speed (to 60mph for example) and we can limit the engine speed to a maximum of 3,000rpm regardless of throttle input, this effectively forces a vehicle to be driven more efficiently but as implied, we wouldn’t recommend these limits for a privately owned vehicle.

Some vehicles also grant us the option of reducing throttle response but this requires discipline, if you’re used to how the throttle performs, suddenly reducing that response could cause you to drive more aggressively which uses more fuel, for that reason we wouldn’t automatically adjust the throttle response but it remains an available option on certain makes and models.

Performance tuning is very different to economy tuning, you may have heard that turbo diesel vehicles benefit from a fuel economy increase following a performance remap, this is largely true.
You might have seen companies out there using strange phrases such as “50/50 remaps” or “blend remaps” to describe whatever they’re offering, these are just made up phrases and in our experience, whether you asked such a company for a performance remap or a “50/50 remap”, the file they write to your vehicles ECU will likely be the same, it’s just a performance tune with a made up name that happens to deliver slightly improved fuel economy, we don’t use these made up phrases, we offer our performance tuning and our economy tuning, they are separate and distinct services with different aims.


Now that you understand a little more about performance and economy tuning, you’re probably thinking what’s best for me? If all you care about is maximising your vehicle’s economy and you’re prepared to change your driving style, an economy tune is more than likely the best option for you (providing your vehicle is suitable) but bear in mind, the aim of an economy remap is not to increase your vehicles performance, in fact if you asked us to reduce the throttle response the vehicle would feel slower.

If you’re looking to get the best of both worlds, improved performance with a little extra economy then our performance software is likely the better option.

In addition to the all of the tuning options above, it may be necessary in certain circumstances to remove some functions of the ecu system or add them as required. Below is a list of some of the optional programming we can offer.

DTC/EML removal

DPF, EGR, AdBlue off
Anti lag
Cat heating
Cylinder on demand off
Exhaust flaps
Launch control
Pop & Bang / Crackle map
Rev limiter
Swirl flaps off
Torque monitoring off
Vmax limited at specific speed
Vmax off
Start / Stop system off 

ECU software upgrade and downgrade

mechanics discussing car diagnostic
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