Remapping car insurance

Find out what car engine remapping is and how it can impact the cost of your car insurance premium.

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An increasing number of motorists are turning to remapping as a way of optimising their car engine and making their vehicle more powerful. You can get an engine remapped in as little as 30 minutes and it can make a big difference to how your car performs. However, it can also push up the price of your car insurance premiums by around 20%.

What is car engine remapping?

Car engine remapping involves changing the manufacturer’s default settings and software on your car’s electronic control unit (ECU). By replacing this with new software, your car will be able to operate at its full potential. Your car’s power and torque output could increase, and your vehicle will be more responsive, improving control and driveability.

  • What is the ECU in a car?

The ECU is essentially a small computer that monitors and manages engine performance, including firing spark plugs and opening and closing the fuel injectors.

When a vehicle is manufactured, the settings on the ECU software are set to limit its performance. This is often done to meet emissions regulations or economy or noise regulations, or so that the car’s life will be lengthened. It also reduces the risk of a car manufacturer having to repair or replace damaged engines under warranty.

  • What are the different remapping stages?

There are three different stages to car remapping and each stage gets more expensive.

Stage 1 simply uses ECU remapping software to rewrite the ECU’s programming.
Stage 2 involves changing the hardware as well, such as performance intercoolers or the exhaust system. Turbos are often switched to better units too. Power and torque output tends to be higher as a result.
Stage 3 is generally for car enthusiasts and track events. A stage 3 remap pushes the vehicle to its limits, with many parts uprated and stronger components used. Engines may even be stripped out and rebuilt.

  • What is chip retuning?

Changing your car’s ECU settings used to be known as “chipping” or “chip retuning”. This was because the factory microchip had to be physically removed from the engine and replaced with a new one programmed by your supplier of choice.

These days, ECU programmes can be written on laptop software and then uploaded via the car’s Onboard Diagnostic Port. However, it’s best to leave this to the professionals, rather than giving it a whirl yourself.

What are the benefits of car engine remapping?

There are several advantages to car engine remapping. For example:

  • You could see up to a 35% increase in power and torque, making overtaking safer
  • Increased power could make towing a caravan or trailer much easier
  • The car will be more responsive and you’ll be in for a smoother driving experience
  • You’ll have better fuel economy if you go easy on the accelerator and this will help reduce your carbon footprint

What are the disadvantages of car remapping?

Alongside these advantages, there are several drawbacks to be aware of:

  • Increased power can put extra strain on the engine, which means you’ll need to have your car serviced more often
  • If your remap isn’t approved by your car manufacturer or dealership you risk voiding your warranty
  • If you need to use higher octane fuel, your fuel costs will increase
  • You’ll only see the full benefits if your car is turbo-powered
  • Your car insurance costs could rise, or your insurer may not cover your car at all

How much does remapping cost?

Remapping can cost anywhere between £150 and £400, depending on the make and model of your vehicle, and the stage of remapping you choose. It may cost more if your ECU needs removing or you opt for a stage 3 remap.

Keep in mind it’s far better to pay more for a good quality remap than to scrimp and end up damaging your car long term.

When comparing remap options, it’s worth looking out for remap specialists that have certification from The Institute of Motor Industry (IMI). The IMI is the professional body for those working in the UK car industry and it is more likely to use the latest equipment and software subscription updates.

Is remapping safe?

Providing the remap is carried out by a competent and reputable professional, rechipping your car should be safe and the benefits can be enjoyed almost immediately. However, if you cut corners and pay for a cheap, low quality remap, your car’s engine could end up being damaged.

In addition, if your car has an existing engine fault, a remap could make matters worse and should generally be avoided.

How does car engine remapping or rechipping affect insurance?

In the eyes of insurers, car engine remapping or rechipping is considered a modification and your car insurance premiums will likely increase as a result. Cars that have more powerful engines are more likely to be involved in an accident, so if you remap your car, you will make it higher risk and your premiums will go up.

However, the good news is that because remapping has become increasingly common, any hike in your premium shouldn’t be too dramatic. Generally you can expect your premium to rise by 20%, which means if you pay £500 a year, you’ll pay £100 more. Younger drivers or those with motoring convictions are likely to see chunkier premium increases than older, more experienced drivers.

Be warned though – some insurers will refuse to provide cover altogether for cars that have been remapped, so it’s worth checking with yours first before proceeding.

Do I need to let my insurer know if I’ve remapped my car engine?

Yes, you should always inform your insurer if your car engine has been remapped as your insurance premiums will need to be adjusted. If you don’t tell your insurer and later have to claim on your car insurance, your insurer may refuse to pay out.

Will my insurer know if I’ve had my car remapped?

Car insurers aren’t psychic and if you’ve only been in a minor scrape, your insurer is unlikely to examine your car that closely. However, if you are involved in a serious accident your insurer could ask a specialist mechanic to assess your vehicle and this is where you could get caught out.

If this happens, your insurance policy will be invalidated and that’s simply not a risk worth taking. So always be upfront with your car insurer about remapping.

How to get the cheapest car remapping insurance

  • Shop around: The easiest way to get cheaper car remapping insurance is to compare deals online and hunt out the most competitive deal.
  • Pay annually: This will be cheaper than paying in monthly instalments when interest is often added.
  • Increase your excess: Paying a higher voluntary excess will lower your premiums. Just make sure you could still afford to pay it if you had to claim.
  • Reduce your mileage: Consider walking or travelling by bike more often to help lower your mileage.
  • Park in a secure place: Keeping your car parked in a garage or a secure driveway will be cheaper than parking it on the street.

Bottom line

Remapping can improve your car’s speed, power and driveability, but it doesn’t come without risks. If you’re considering remapping, always talk to your insurer first to see how it will affect your insurance costs. If you decide to proceed, be sure to use a qualified professional to reduce the risk of damaging your vehicle’s engine.

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