Car ECU remodelling: cost, legality and advantages

Car ECU remodelling: cost, legality and advantages

What is the car control unit?

The car control unit, more precisely the engine control unit, is a computer that controls all the individual functions of the engine, a bit like the brain for the human body.

This computer is essential to handle the huge amount of electronics in modern cars. Think of a normal small car as having 3 million times the computing power of the space shuttle that took man to the moon in 1969.

The car's control unit controls all the indicators and warning lights that alert us in case of engine problems. If you are interested in learning more about car lights, we suggest you take a look at our Car/Motorcycle Spy Guide.

The car's ECU settings, also called "maps", are set by the parent company's factory to comply with all the different laws of the countries where the car will be sold. Often these maps become limitations on our car's performance by not allowing the engine to unleash its full power.

So the remapping car ECU comes into play which by refining the maps improves the performance of our car. The cost of redoing the car ECU becomes an investment that, thanks to better performance and lower fuel consumption, can pay for itself in a few years of use.

What does it mean to redo the car ECU?

Remapping the car's control unit is nothing more than replacing the default settings with those of other software that allows for better performance, both in terms of fuel consumption and power. This is necessary because the factory settings must take into account the different climates, fuels, legislations and limitations of all the countries where the car will be sold.

Let's take an extreme example to make you understand. It's as if the new smartphone we just bought came with the writing constantly present in all the languages of the world. As interesting as it is to learn a new language, in everyday use we are interested in the fact that the phone is only in Italian, not in all the languages of the world.

The same goes for the control unit, for cost reasons factories produce a single software suitable for all markets and this may not always be beneficial for those who drive their cars in Italy. Moreover, the same manufacturers often sell different cars with the same engine but with big differences in power and price!

How is this possible? The answer is again in the default settings, or maps, of the ECU. The engine is "depowered" at the factory to allow the manufacturer to sell at higher prices other cars with the same engine but with more horsepower. All this while having to develop and produce only one engine, thus reducing R&D and production costs.

With ECU remapping, a specialized technician replaces the parent company's generic software with a specialized and improved one. Therefore, it is almost always possible to obtain performance improvements without changing any mechanical components of the car. Witchcraft? Black magic? Of course not, just IT!

What is the car's ECU being remapped for?

ECU remapping is used to obtain improvements in the performance of your vehicle, both in terms of power and fuel consumption. Without changing any mechanical components, but replacing only the factory default software, we can then increase the performance of our vehicle, surpassing even some models of the same parent company sold at a higher price.

Normally when a car satisfies us but we would like to have a few more horsepower or touch a higher top speed, re-tuning the car's ECU is the least invasive and most economical option.

In practice, when you redo the car's ECU you can immediately feel an improvement in driving performance. The ride is smoother and less "jerky", speed during rolling and acceleration increases and gear changes are smoother. In addition, you will immediately notice a decrease in fuel consumption, due to increased engine efficiency.

Ultimately, with the ECU remapping you get a more efficient car, more enjoyable to drive and with lower fuel consumption.

Now let's see how much it costs to redo the car's ECU!

How much does it cost to redo the car ECU?

The remapping of the control unit usually costs between 300 and 500 euros, to which must be added the cost of the new approval to make it compliant with the law. However, the price of redoing the ECU can be influenced by several variables, including the level of power you want to obtain, the type of car to be redone, additional services and the need to manually reprogram some components.

The more power you want to get, the more it will usually cost to redo. Many companies offer several power steps to choose from. It's no use overpaying if you just want to get a few more horsepower to help with overtaking.

Several companies that do ECU programming or car ECU remapping may offer additional services that raise the price. The most typical of these services is warranty on ECU efficiency and coverage for problems related to ECU malfunction. Another service that is often offered is strong>free updates if a new version of the software is released. Finally, many programming houses offer the service of resetting the maps or factory settings as a service. This can be useful in case you want to sell the car and the buyer has asked for the factory settings.

The cost of re-mapping varies from ecu to ecu. Some can be redone by connecting the ECU to a computer with the new software via a cable. Other ECUs require manual intervention on the hardware. Being meticulous and very precise work, the cost will certainly increase given the need for a highly skilled operator.

However, we can say that 350 Euros is a pretty honest ECU remapping price, especially for "normal" car models. Sports cars or very special requests will certainly increase the cost of ECU remapping.

How to remap the car ECU legally?

One of the aspects not to be underestimated when planning a replacement car ECU is legality. "Can I redo the ECU without getting into trouble?" is a question we get asked a lot. The answer is YES, but it depends on how the ECU is remapped.

A reworked or upgraded engine that goes out of homologation parameters must be resubmitted to the engine shop for re-homologation. Normally, if you have professional re-mappers they will take care of this, otherwise it will be up to us to stay out of trouble with the law.

This is because if the vehicle has been retuned, it is most likely that it is no longer within the speed limits and pollution parameters stated in the Road Traffic Booklet. In addition, by increasing the power without the knowledge of the Ministry of Transport, you will evade part of the car tax that is calculated on the original factory power of the vehicle.

Another problem that can be solved by redoing an "illegal" car ECU is insurance related. In case of an accident, the insurance company could make use of the right of recourse and ask us to pay all the expenses personally. This is because the increased profits of the car after the ECU remodelling has created a possible precedent for the car accident.

Therefore, in essence, remodelling the control unit is perfectly legal as long as it is carried out in accordance with the legal regulations and the car is homologated again in case of power increases.

What are the pros and cons of redoing the car's ECU?

The remodelling of the car's control unit is one of the most cost-effective changes that can be made. So let's see what are the main pros and cons of redoing the car ECU:


  • Improved performance: car ECU remapping is a modification with which you can safely increase your car's power, recuperation and top speed. With this simple modification we can make our car much more gritty and efficient without having to modify expensive mechanical components.
  • Reducedfuel consumption - the factory ECU is set to work well all over the world and in all markets where this model of car is sold. With a replacement car ECU we will modify the parameters making them more suitable for Italian circulation, eliminating unnecessary parameters and refining the necessary ones. In this way the engine runs much more efficiently and petrol or diesel consumption is reduced.
  • Easy to install and remove - some car ECU replacements are made by removing a factory chip and inserting a replacement one. Therefore, the whole modification can be easily reversible by any mechanic.
  • Costvariable - car ECU remapping can be done in different ways and using different cost schedules. Those looking for track improvements will obviously have to pay for more expensive software than those just looking for a reduction in their car's fuel consumption.


  • Warranty issues - if the car's ECU remapping is done during the manufacturer's warranty period (minimum 24 months from first purchase), the manufacturer may cause you problems during couponing or in case of car problems. Since remapping the car's ECU is an alteration of the factory settings, the manufacturer, in case of car defects, may not pay for repairs using the remapping as a justification.
  • Another disadvantage of remapping the car's ECU is that in case of an accident,insurance could make a fuss due to the alteration of the ECU parameters.
  • Need to re-map the car - the parameters of a car should always be below the limits described in the road booklet. If the ECU remapping of your car has greatly increased these parameters by exceeding the limits in the registration booklet, the car will have to be re-approved. Driving a car whose parameters are beyond the booklet limits is in fact legal and may result in a vehicle impoundment.
  • Increased componentstress and wear - standard factory components are designed to work with the standard performance of the factory ECU. If a remap of the ECU on a particularly demanding car is not matched by a modification to the other components, such as the brakes or axles, problems can arise. The engine itself would then have much greater wear and tear and could be damaged prematurely as it would not be able to cope with the performance increases.

Diesel or petrol: when is it better to redo the ECU?

The procedure for redoing the car's ECU is almost identical for any car you take to the mechanic. However, the best results in terms of increased performance are obtained on turbocharged engines rather than aspirated engines.

Since most turbo diesel engines are turbocharged, remapping the ECU of a diesel car can almost always provide greater performance gains than on petrol cars, where aspirated are even more prevalent today.

In terms of investment, the price of a car ECU pays off faster on a diesel car than on a petrol engine.

Car ECU refurbishment: final thoughts?

ECU rebuilding can be a great way to get a performance boost from your car without spending insane amounts of money on new or upgraded mechanical components.

That said, we should always rely on competent people who know what they are doing. Rimapping the ECU is not just connecting two wires and pushing a button. A good mechanical/electronic preparation is necessary to perform the procedure correctly and avoid problems to the brain of our car.

The legal aspect should not be neglected, both to avoid fines and penalties and to avoid problems with the insurance in case of accidents.

Therefore, if you wonder if the cost of redoing the ECU is a good investment to make the answer is yes. Among the many changes we can make to our car, the ECU remapping is the one that gives the clearest result and performance increase. If we are not satisfied, it is a matter of a few seconds to go back to an unmodified car.

Where to go for car ECU remapping in Milan?

In Milan there are many specialists in the remapping of the control unit of cars and motorcycles. Knowing how to choose the right one for your case can be complicated.

In fact, some remappers are specialized in the use of software to improve performance to the maximum. These specialists are often used by those who drive sports cars or race on the circuit.

On the other hand, other remappers are dedicated to improving the overall performance of cars and are therefore suitable for those looking for greater fuel efficiency.

You can rely on Pistonudos to find an honest, competent and close to you ECU programming center and discover the most suitable ECU remanufacturing cost!

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