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Remap, what is it?

Many people are unsure of what the term remap or remapping means in relation to an engines ECU. To explain this process we first need to break our question down into two parts:

ECU What is it?

When referring to the ECU in relation to an engine we are referring to the Engine Control Unit (ECU).

Electronic engine management and control systems (ECU's) have been found in some makes of car since the 1980's. From the mid 1990's almost every new car had an ECU, each manufacturer to some degree having their own unique system.

ECU what does it do?

In basic terms the ECU manages the operation of the engine controlling such as, but not limited to:

  • Air fuel mixture ration
  • Engine Idle speed
  • Ignition timing
  • Variable valve timing (VVT)
  • Electronic valve control
  • Rev limiting
  • Water coolant temperature control

As most modern day ECU's are based upon  a microprocessor, adjustments to the operating characteristics of an engine under the control of an ECU are made in real time 'while the engine is in use' as apposed to the more traditional mechanical adjustments normally made by a technician.

For any device to be able to control any system that device must be capable of monitoring signals from the system. In the case of the ECU the system is the engine and as such the ECU receives numerous input signals from various sensors on or within the engine and its associated components. For any device to be able to control a system (engine) that device (ECU) must also be capable of issuing commands or sending output signals to the system (engine) which cause a change in its operation.

When an ECU receives or detects a change of an input signal it then has to make a decision as to what to do, if anything.  The outputs from every ECU are based upon a decision made by the ECU based upon input signals that it has received, but that is only part of the process. To make a decision the ECU must be able to compare inputs it receives against known values, or range of values. These values are the key as to how your ECU will control your engine and in turn how your engine will operate.

The ECU Map

The values referred to in the above are stored, normally within none volatile memory (electronic memory that does not loose its data when power is removed) found within the ECU itself. These values are what we commonly refer to as the MAP. In electronic / software terms they can be thought of as a table of data (values) each position in the data table having a set value function or address. This data table is what we call the 'MAP'.

Remapping what is it?

By changing the values in this data table (ECU MAP) the operating parameters of the engine will also change as the control of the engine by the ECU is based on comparing its input signals against values stored in its MAP. Changing the values in an ECU's data table is to remap its functionality, hence the term commonly known as 'RE-MAPPING' or 'ECU REMAPPING'.

Remapping, why would we remap the ECU?

Let us first look at the benefits that an ECU gives a vehicle / engine manufacturer.

Motor manufacturers tend to have a manufacturing base in one particular country where a specific model or range of models are produced. These vehicles are then shipped to markets all over the world. Each market / country having their own laws and emission regulations relating to vehicles. Things such as road quality, service levels and fuel qualities also effect the optimum engine performance and reliability. The presence of an ECU allows manufacturers  to maintain a standard physical engine design while setting engine operating parameters via the ECU's data table (MAP) which reduces manufacturing costs.

As a result of the process outlined above many cars sold here in the UK are ECU provisioned to operate within several markets / countries. In reality meaning that most cars on the road today in the UK are operating under controlled restrictions via the ECU, more specifically the MAP / look-up data used by the ECU when dynamically controlling the engine.

Remapping: The answer?

We now have enough information to answer our question ' what is remapping?'. It is the process of replacing the ECU map / look-up table data with a MAP / data table which removes some of the restrictions imposed on the engine by the ECU. Further, a trained ECU remapping technician can 'fine tune' or selectively bias MAP data setting to provide a customised engine performance to meet the needs of his client. This is known as a custom remap.

Remapping: why has it only recently become available to the general public?

The crux of the answer is down to something called the 'on-board diagnostic port' OBD. During the early years of ECU development most manufacturers used their own connector layout which was used to connect various pieces of external  monitoring and control  equipment. Here in Europe it was not until 2001 that regulations stipulated that all new 'petrol' vehicles (passenger) were to be fitted with a standard OBD port connector (OBDII). The regulation was extended to cover diesel engines in 2004. This simple change in regulations made it possible for companies other than vehicle / engine manufacturers to mass produce equipment that could be connected to the on board diagnostics port (OBD) of any passenger carrying vehicle (car). It was not long before it became commercially viable to produce equipment that was capable of modifying the ECU MAP of an engine to customize its performance. While this had been done for some years for specialist race vehicles, it was now possible for anybody who owned a vehicle fitted with a standardized OBD port / connector to have their vehicles engine parameters modified to suite their needs. Hence the birth of the remapping industry as we know it today.

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Some within our industry will tempt you with ridiculously low prices for so called 'custom remaps' only for you to be told that unfortunately your car is different and as such will cost you more.

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Client Reviews

Apr 9, 2013

Stuart Jenner : Ramsgate, Kent.

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Apr 9, 2013

Steve Fooks : Canterbury, Kent.

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