Should you buy a used car that's gone through different stages of car tuning?

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To buy or not to buy a tuned used car?

Unless you know how and what the used car is tuned to, it is best to stay away from tuned cars. After all, they were tuned to their past owners' driving styles, needs, and requirements.

If you are aware of how and what the used car is tuned to, by all means, do purchase it and have fun driving it! But, if you have no idea what tuning means and what it can do to your car, read on!

Flash/Chip tuning

Have you ever heard of stage 1, 2 or 3 tunings? If you did, this is what the aforementioned refers to.

Flash tuning is the conventional tuning method achieved by connecting a computer to a car's Electronic Control Unit (ECU), usually through the OBD port located below the steering wheel. The computer then overwrites the existing software or 'tune' on the ECU with a new one, otherwise known as remapping.

Here is a general summary of what each tuning stage consist of:

Stage General description
Stage 1 (Remap + fully stock components) Stage 1 remap optimises performance within the limits of the car's stock components.

Turbocharged cars receive more significant gains as compared to non-turbocharged cars. A 20% to 40% increase in bhp and torque is an ordinary occurrence for turbocharged cars.
Stage 2 (Stage 1 mods + remap + performance intercooler + aftermarket exhaust + aftermarket induction kit) Stage 2 modification gives the car better performance due to the improved airflow to its engine.

This stage is also where the car's sound gets exciting (Eg. Pops and bangs).
Stage 3 (Stage 1 & 2 mods + remap + hybrid turbocharger + forged engine) Stage 3 modification is for tracking purposes, where the car reaches its peak performance.

Due to its aggressiveness, staged 3 tuned cars are usually not recommended for daily road use. Also, stage 3 modified cars tend to require regular overhauls and servicing.

Throttle control

Throttle control is not equivalent to tuning. It merely alters the values transmitted to the ECU from various sensors located in the car. As such, when the ECU attempts to compensate for the altered values of the engine (for optimal engine performance), it produces more power. This overcompensation is interpreted as a 'tuning gain'.

This is a common method adopted by most drivers as it is cheaper and completely reversible to stock performance since it is a 'plug-and-play' modification. Furthermore, these 'plug-and-play' modifications do not void your car's warranty.

If you are looking to sell your car or head down for servicing, all you need to do is unplug the throttle controller, and the car is back to stock - Perfect for retaining your warranty and your car resale value. 

ALSO READ: 5 best used-car models and brands to buy in 2021

This article was first published in sgCarMart.