It is legal to tune your ECU, if done moderately. However, ECU tuning is a surefire way to void your car warranty and it may be hard to claim for insurance afterwards.
Fortunately for us, the changes by ECU tuning can be reversed to its factory settings. This is useful if you need to bring your car back for warranty or insurance.
Though, you may not have the chance to do this in advance in unexpected scenarios like traffic accidents.
Personally, I have tuned my good old civic and managed to shave off 3 seconds from my ¼ mile straight line lap. I have my fair share of experience when it comes to tuning, warranty and insurance.
In this article, I want to share with you what I learned about ECU tuning. Especially with the most frequently asked questions like below:-
- What It Does
- Downsides Of ECU Tuning
- Is ECU tuning legal?
- Reversing ECU Tuning To Factory Settings
- Can ECU Tuning Be Detected?
- Tips to Diagnose Your Car
Why ECU Tune Voids Warranty (& Insurance)
ECU Tuning will void your car’s warranty. – it can potentially ruin your engine since it’s adjusted to work on specific settings that didn’t follow it’s factory’s standard.
Engine mapping consists of ignition-timing and fuel mixture data in your car’s ECU memory. The data is stored in your car’s computer. Those data can be represented graphically in the form of a characteristic map.
Depending on how you tune it, whether it’s for performance or fuel efficiency. This new map will not work as the factory map did with its proven values. Running on a new map can potentially put a lot of stress on the engine.
Car manufacturers are aware of this practice of people tuning their own car. They really can’t do much to prevent this, but to void your warranty. They will instantly notice a tuned car when plugged into ECU during either a car service or an inspection.
If your car is under warranty, tuning your engine is not a wise move. Dealerships do not accept tuned cars.
Damage caused to your engine will not be covered, and fixing engine related problems is going to cost you big bucks from your own pocket.
Can ECU Remap Be Detected By Dealer?
ECU remapping can be detected by dealerships. The data can be detected with an OBD2 scanner, and can be identified easily if your car has a different engine mapping value.
You can definitely reverse your ECU tuning to original form, but that can be a little tricky. You may be too late to do it, if your engine dies in the middle of the road or is involved in an accident.
Generally, cars will be inspected when involved in an accident, especially if they are heavily crashed, mainly to determine the reasons behind the crash. So, if you have heavily tuned your car and crashed it.
The insurance company will know and you will lose the coverage. Thus, every damage that you made shall be paid right from your pocket. (Ouch!)
Unfortunately, this is one of the downsides when it comes to tuning a vehicle. You never know what may happen and can cause some major headaches.
How Do You Reverse ECU Tune?
Reversing ECU tuning to its original form is simple, all you need is a copy of the factory mapping values. Without your factory map, you will not be able to reverse tune your car.
When you take your car to a tuning shop, make sure that you are having your factory tune available at any time. Because you never know when you are going to need it.
Tuning is usually done with a plug-and-play tuner to your OBD2 port. The tool allows you to switch to a different tuning profile. I.e., Performance, Fuel-Economy, Stock.
However, some experts can dive into the computer and see when these changes were applied. So, it depends on how skilled mechanics you are having at your dealership to investigate this issue.
The point is, make sure you have backup of the factory mapping values before you begin tuning. If somebody else is doing the tuning for you, remember to ask if they have the factory values ready.
It will not make you sound arrogant. You are just asking great questions. Don’t worry about this!
Reasons Why ECU Tuning Is Not Illegal
ECU tuning is legal. No one can fine you if you ECU tune your car. But you can face some other repercussions if you opt for this mod.
Different states around the US have different laws, some are stricter and some are not. For example, if you live in California, you will probably not be able to pass the inspection at your local DMV.
Failing an inspection can be caused by many things, but in this case, it will be caused by your carbon footprint.
Cars from the factory have specific values that need to comply with in order to pass the smog inspection. If you have tuned your car for better performance, in some cases, you may find out that you cannot pass the inspection, until you bring it back to factory spec.
Your car will not comply with the ecological norms that are needed for your car to be registered.
If you live elsewhere, for example in some state that does not have such strict laws when it comes to registering a vehicle. You may get away with this… But it is still not recommended to do.
Most of the modded cars to get maximum performance are not particularly safe. You’ll also need to take a note about how your car handles. If you have a big amount of horsepower, you also need a big amount of suspension and brakes upgrades to make your car street friendly.
Which means, even if tuning can help you gain more power, it doesn’t mean that your car parts can handle the extra load.
If you tune your car for better fuel economy, you will be fine. Because tuning to increase fuel mileage will not harm the engine and is eco-friendly.
Things To Know
Sometimes, tuning is not always perfect. You might see warning lights on your dashboard. I highly recommend anyone to get this code reader just to keep in your tool box.
Having yourself a basic diagnostic code reader will be great to determine the cause and find a solution. The scanners are able to detect the engine system and read or erase error codes.
I found several affordable ones from Amazon, and I have bought this Universal OBD2 Diagnostic Tool, which works pretty amazing.
The reader is very easy to use. You will just need to locate where the reader would plug into your car. You can choose to clear the codes after you read them which will likely turn off the Check Engine light.
In this article, we have covered a lot about ECU tuning and what are the possible consequences and repercussions of remapping your car.
There are a few things to consider when it comes to tuning, which is legality and also the maintaining factory warranty.
Extreme tuning is not recommended, you may end up with a stressed out engine or will not be able to get your car registered in some places.
Unfortunately, tuning is a necessity if you want to get the most out of your aftermarket parts. Things like exhausts, downpipe and headers all require tuning to work well.
My final verdict – if you are still covered under warranty, don’t do tuning yet. The car is still new and you should cherish it for a little while longer.
If you are sure about gaining performance and have plans to install performance parts like exhausts and downpipes, then tuning is absolutely recommended. It’s even a necessity.
Here are some good reads we have in store for you:-
How Much HP Can You Gain From Dyno Tune?
Drive in style, tune wisely.