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WHAT IS AN ECU (ENGINE CONTROL UNIT)?
The engine in all modern vehicles is controlled electronically by an ECU, which is constantly processing formation received from a multitude of sensors. The engine’s fuelling, ignition timing, boost if applicable, torque values, etc, are all calibrated within the ECU code based on the conditions in which the vehicle is being used, its altitude, the quality of the fuel in its tank, and so on. Together with the sensor information the relevant tables, or ‘maps’, are used to keep the engine running at optimal performance – whether it is being asked to deliver high or low output.
ECUs are increasingly complex and every new generation that ECU manufacturers (typically BOSCH, Siemens, Delphi, Magnetti Marelli, Denso and others) produce requires a deeper understanding of the strategy that has been employed.
WHAT IS ECU REMAPPING/PROGRAMMING?
When a manufacturer develops a new car they have to take into consideration all of the conditions it may be subjected to in all of the regions in which they intend to sell this model. This means instead of just optimising the ECU’s program or ‘map’ to deliver the best performance or the most fuel efficiency they have to make compromises to the map to take into account these potential differing operating conditions. These could include sub-standard fuels, extremes in temperature and altitude, differing emission laws and even the possibility that vehicle may not be serviced on a regular basis and in accordance with the manufacturers recommended instructions.
ECU remapping is taking a read from the ECU’s processing chip of the vehicles standard compromised map and adjusting various parameters within the map such as fuel pressure, boost pressure (on turbocharged applications) ignition advance and throttle pedal control amongst others to release the true performance from the engine. It is a completely safe process as it is just giving the engine the performance it should have had in the first place before all the compromises were applied to the original programming.
Every engine will have its own unique map and by adjusting this we can fine tune the characteristics of the engine; unleashing more power and in many cases reduce fuel consumption too.
BENEFITS OF ECU REMAPPING/PROGRAMMING
ECU programming will not only improve the engines power and torque figures, it will also sharpen the throttle response and widen the power-band. This will make the power delivery a lot more linear, which in turn will make the vehicle feel livelier to drive and the engine more flexible. Frequently, the vehicle’s power output is restricted by the manufacturer for no other reason than to ensure that it fits into a class to suit fleet buyers. As a driving enthusiast, you do not need or want such restrictions placed upon your vehicle’s ECU, so with a conversion you can benefit from the hidden power and torque locked away within your engine management system.
The other main benefit of remapping will be a reduction in fuel consumption. With the extra torque - especially at the bottom of the rev range - you will see a fuel saving as it will require less throttle input to maintain motorway speeds; you can drive in a higher gear at a slower speed; and the additional power is especially useful when fully laden, towing, or on gradients.