Updated: Jan 24
Confused on what it means to tune a car? Looking for different Audi tuning options? Worried about voided warranties? We've got all your answers in this article.
What does “Tuning” a Car Mean?
Tuning a car means modifying your vehicle to enhance performance. These tunes or modifications can be software based or mechanical modifications.
What are the Advantages of Tuning an Audi?
Software based tunes change the manufacturer settings of an Audi’s ECU (engine control unit) or TCU (Transmission control unit). An ECU tune provides better engine performance and or fuel economy. Specifically ECU tunes can increase horsepower and torque, which then increases acceleration and top speed of your Audi. Its important to note that an ECU tune does not mean making a mechanical change to your engine, it is just changing the software which governs the engines settings. A TCU tune changes your Audi’s transmission settings. This can provide faster gear shifting, better acceleration or launch control, better throttle response, and increased torque.
Mechanically tuning or modifying your Audi can take the form of adjusting the suspension by lowering your car with lowering springs or adding coilovers, changing the exhaust of your car or tailpipes for better, or modifying the body of the car with large rear spoilers for example.
What Tunes are Available for Audi’s?
There are dozens of available ECU and TCU software tunes for Audi’s. It’s important to spend time researching the reliability of certain vendors, as these tunes will be significantly modifying the speed, emissions and safety of your vehicle. Probably the most trusted tuning company for Audi vehicles is APR Tuning, a large company with headquarters in Alabama (Link to their website). APR Tune’s are flash tunes, meaning they override the Audi’s engine control unit. Other available flash tunes vendors include Integrated Engineering and Unitronic. Other types of software tunes include so-called “piggyback” tunes, made by companies like Jb4 or Burger Tuning.
What is the Difference Between a Flash Tune and a Piggyback Tune?
The JB4 runs as an ECU between the sensors and the ECU. It gives lower than actual boost feedback to the ECU which in turn carries on targeting what its programmed to do. In this manner boost is increased over stock without the ECU knowing what actual boost is. It does the same thing with the fueling to counter the extra fuel needed keeping the ECU out of a adaption range for fuel.APR changes the program on the ECU. The ECU records when it was flashed a what is meant to be the dealer tool number. If a dealer tool is not present which they use for billing back to get paid for updates the car gets flagged automatically without looking further. This is the reason why newer cars when flashed back to stock still get detected.
What are Tune “Stages”
Most tuning vendors offer 3 “stages” of tuning. Typically the first stage tunes do not require any additional mechanical changes to the car to compensate for the increased horsepower and torque from the tuned ECU settings. Stage 2 tunes typically require installing new exhaust downpipes, intercoolers, or pulley systems to compensate for the increased power. Stage 3 tunes require even more mechanical modifications to the car.
What are the Downsides of a Tune:
The foremost downside of tuning your Audi is the potential to void your manufacturer warranty. If Audi can prove that a specific modification you made to the car caused the mechanical issue you’re getting service, you will be forced to pay for the repair yourself. Further, from that point on your car will be flagged by Audi, and you will have to pay out of pocket for all further service and repairs. If you decide to turn your Audi, make sure to flash the car back to stock before taking the car in for service. This way, the service center will be less likely to pick up on your modification. To be clear however, if Audi checks the ECU they will be able to see you tuned the car. A Piggyback tune like the JB4 tune has a greater chance of avoiding recognition by Audi dealerships. However, again, if Audi mechanics look in great detail at the engine logs they will be able to see that the car was being driven beyond parameters set forth by Audi. In other words they will be able to see that your car was revving higher or accelerating faster than a stock Audi should.