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What is car remapping and is it legal? The advantages and disadvantages of car remapping

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September 14th 2021 info

Car remapping – also known as ‘chipping’ - has grown in popularity with drivers who appreciate strong performance.

The process changes a car’s Electronic Control Unit (ECU) to manipulate its rate of acceleration. Commonly, car manufacturers will place limitations on a vehicle as part of its factory settings. Remapping overwrites that.

However, is it safe? Is remapping a car legal? Does it void insurance or impact resale value? Below, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of remapping a car, as well as its short and long-term costs.

What is car remapping?

As mentioned, car remapping is a process that alters the functionality of a car’s ECU. The ECU controls the power of the engine, and can be used to place restraints on how much energy the engine uses.

Manufacturers use the ECU to design the driving experience as they want, or to comply with driving regulations. Using an ECU can extend a car’s lifespan too, as it prevents the engine from being driven too hard. It also prolongs the engine’s reliability – if the engine’s performance is limited in one model, it can be re-used in a later model with fewer restrictions placed on it.

Sometimes, however, this experience is a little too slow for some drivers. This is where car remapping comes in.

Before we explain what car remapping is, it’s important to state that this should always be done by a qualified professional. Attempting this at home yourself can destroy your engine and lead to dangers on the road.

Remapping is a complicated process, but in simple terms, it’s altering a microchip in a car engine. This alteration removes the constraints on the engine, meaning the driver can design a driving experience just right for them. Overall, there are three key stages:

  1. Slight modification and remapping, making small changes to the driving experience.
  2. Adding physical alterations like spoilers and coilovers.
  3. Fully optimising the engine for maximum performance.

Car remapping is similar to tuning and remapping is often offered as a service during it.

How much does remapping cost?

The price for remapping depends on your car’s make and model. On the lower end, you can expect to pay around £150, with prices going up to around £400. For some models, this may be even higher.

Prices can change if you opt for a car map switch. Sometimes, drivers are torn on what degree of remapping they want and can choose to have a switch implemented that swaps between remaps.

The real cost of remapping, however, isn’t what you pay upfront – it’s what you may have to pay in the longer term.

Does remapping affect insurance?

For most insurance providers, remapping a car will affect your insurance costs. Car insurance providers aren’t fond of modifications, and car remapping is a serious change to a car’s overall safety, speed, etc.

However, the cost of this insurance is compounded by other factors. For example, if you are a young driver, then remapping a car will increase your insurance even further. On its own, an increase in insurance prices may be fine, but if your insurance is already high, then expect a serious hike.

Car remapping is considered a modification. This means that if you don’t inform your insurance provider about the change, then it can void your insurance. Potentially, not informing them can lead to you driving with an invalidated policy.

It’s also worth noting that modifying your vehicle can impact your finance agreement if you have one, so you’ll need to check with your finance provider beforehand too.

Is remapping a car illegal?

“Is remapping a car legal?” is a common question from novice car modifiers. Currently, there is no law against car remapping, but it is recommended to be undertaken by an experienced professional.

The only thing you need to do after remapping is to inform your insurance company of the change.

Advantages of car remapping

As mentioned, performance is a key reason why people remap their vehicles. However, there are other benefits too.

Sometimes, remapping can improve fuel economy too. If a car is naturally faster and performs better, the need to hit the accelerator decreases. This naturally improves a car’s mpg and betters its fuel economy.

Not all remaps concern speed or acceleration, either. Sometimes, a remap can improve handling, making a car easier to drive.

The increased performance can improve a vehicle’s towing ability too, making it perfect for staycations and holidays.

Disadvantages of car remapping

Insurance costs aside, car remapping can bring a few disadvantages. Overall, the disadvantages of remapping a car include:

  • Remapping only really benefits turbo engines. There are serious diminishing returns when remapping a non-turbo engine.
  • Engine strain from remapped cars is significantly greater, given the greater speed, power and performance of an engine.
  • Speeding is much easier in a remapped car.
  • Sometimes, a driver will need to purchase higher octane fuel to run their car, which is typically more expensive.

As with car tuning, deciding whether remapping is worth it is up to you. For most drivers, however, they’re better off with an unmodded, standard car. 

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