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A Comprehensive Guide on Tuning Stages

Rahmi Doğucan Ertane
September 21, 2022

To tune up is our god-blessed right, and knowing how to do it is a fine art. Mastering the complicated arts of modification is a must to achieve that personalized driving experience, and boy, do we love the personalization. Making an engine your own, your tires your own, and your vehicle your own means having complete control and knowledge over your road time. Improvements can range from enhancing miles-per-gallon to modifying for improved hp. So, where do you start modifying your vehicle? Let’s learn some broad terms first!


It's not as simple as you might assume to explain the tuning stages: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 tuning, Stage 4, and more. These subcategories broadly define the different alterations to the car in the tuning sector. The words are used by accessory producers, tuning companies, tuning organizations, and of course, the owners and tuners themselves. You can read this guide to learn everything there is to know about the stages.


What are Tuning Stages in Car Customization?

 

A stage is a group of improvements assembled into a whole. A stage represents how far you've progressed with the tuning stages of your car, as you might anticipate. Stage 2 tunings are more refined than stage 1 tunings. The difficulty comes from the fact that each "stage" might mean different things to different vehicles and even different tuners.


Stage 3 tuning on a turbocharged Audi may differ significantly from stage 3 tuning on a typically driven Skoda, depending on the tuner. Even worse, what one tuner defines as stage 3 tuning may not be what another tuner working on the same car does. But there are some guiding principles.


Stage 1 = chip tuning / tuning box

The beginner's stage, you’re not required to do any detailed planning for the coherence of the modifications with your vehicle.

Stage 2 = downpipe, intercooler, sports air filter, possibly upgrade turbocharger/upgrade compressor kit

Where things start to get real. Planning that is including your car’s stock performance and after-tune performance needs to be noted carefully to move further from this stage.

Stage 3 tuning = engine reinforcement, complete exhaust system, modified intake/air flow

You’re basically getting ready for the race track. Papers that look like scientific experience reports and high-cost material picking is vital.

Stage 4 and more = custom engine control unit, nitrous oxide injection, methanol conversion, displacement increase, crate engine

At this point, you’re asking for custom-created aftermarket parts and performance-enhancing products that are specifically engineered for your specific make and model. Planning with your vehicle's already implemented tunes is a must to achieve the 100% out of your vehicle.


What Does Car Tuning Stages Include?


Different tuning stages usually exist to differentiate the modification types. By deciding which stage you’re at, you can define your needs and add more before moving on to a more demanding kind of modification. For example, at stage one, you won’t need more robust brake pads because there aren’t considerable increases in HP that would require them. But if you’re already at stage 3 tuning and haven’t added an intercooler, a volume increase on your turbo may go downhill.


Because the phases sometimes just explain the different tuner options, it is impossible to distinguish the various performance enhancement stages consistently. But the differential can be reasonably approximated. Although every manufacturer, professional tuning stages workshop, and tuner may have a different justification for their Stage 1, Stage 2, or stage 3 tuning, the end result is the same, and they typically resemble one another. So let's examine each stage's typical features in more detail.


Stage 1 Tuning

As complicated as the subject is, Stage 1 tuning is the beginning and the first level of programming (chiptuning, tuning boxes, plug-and-plays). The software is being built for a brand-new car on a stock chassis. Most of the time, it is still unknown at this point how much the vehicle and its components can sustain. As a result, the performance gain only occurs in incremental steps, continuing until the desired level of performance and load is reached. It is designed to fit a car with stock components and no aftermarket additions.


Pedal Commander, being a plug-and-play tuner, takes its place in the first stage but the performance upgrade that it provides moves it up on the tuning stages list. Pedal Commander provides the beginner-level ease and simplicity of the first stage, coherence with the hardware plan of the second stage, and the individuality of each vehicle and its needs aspect of the third stage. At each stage, Pedal Commander gives you the boost that you desire in an optimizable manner. The great side of Pedal Commander though is the freedom that it provides. You won’t need any hardcore planning about your fuel consumption on ECO mode of Pedal Commander!


Additionally, stage 1+ may be engineered to use superior fuels, such as E85 blends or racing fuels. These tuning alternatives typically don't require further alterations, like fundamental stage 1 tunings. Better fueling and a few simple bolt-ons can help you get more power.


Stage 2 Tuning

Hardware adjustments like upgraded or larger intercoolers, downpipes, or intake/exhaust modifications are typically included in Stage 2. At Stage 2 tunings, the Intercooler will also be updated or replaced (if available). The conversion measures also change depending on the kind of vehicle. Similar software customization (Stage 1 Tuning) happens once the hardware conversion has occurred. In this situation, the fuel component is equally crucial.


We haven't reached the point where we can upgrade the factory turbo or superchargers or add forced induction. Before proceeding to more substantial, pricey changes, stage 2 is typically where you seek to maximize power and performance.


Because there can usually be a wide variance in stage 2 tuning and mods, it can be a little perplexing. With a chip-tune, intake, and headers, specific engines might be categorized as stage 2. Another might still be stage 2, but with even more modifications, such as upgraded fuel pumps and injectors, cams, intake manifolds, and cams.



Stage 3 Tuning

The tuner works with the issue even more intently, starting at stage 3 tuning or higher. He is now interested in upgrades like fortifying the engine with forged pistons and connecting rods, a stronger clutch, a more potent drivetrain, a bespoke crankshaft, and many others. Additionally, stage 3 tuning frequently includes a sports exhaust system specially designed for the car. However, totally from front to back, not just in the form of a few rear silencers. A sports catalytic converter and company are best. A racing clutch, bigger turbochargers, intercoolers, fuel pumps, injectors, exhaust and intake valves, springs, manifold absolute pressure sensors (MAP), more extensive air flow sensors (MAF), and fuel injectors are a few examples of additional parts.


Most people agree that a stage 3 tune is the one to invest in for the track. It can be unbelievably expensive, which is why. In addition to all stage 2 improvements, it is typically entailing upgrading the intercooler, cylinder head and inlet valves, head gasket, and spark plugs. A car will need to be set up on a rolling road for this step to optimize fuel and timing and correct exhaust emissions. A car's stock turbo may also be updated at this point, though it is advised to save it for the last change to finish vehicle tuning.


Tuning Stages 4 and More

After Stage 3, the tuner capabilities are frequently determined by what they are pleased with. But Stage 3 + is the cherry on top, of course. The following stage would be Stage 4, which involves the production and completely customized tuning. A software solution appropriate for the project must be installed following the hardware. Vehicles with Stage 4 occasionally have brand-new engines too. They might even have one Methanol Injection or Nitrous Oxide injection to a specially designed Motor Control Component. Drag racing and professional use on the race track are the primary uses for vehicles with Stage 4 performance upgrades or higher under the hood.


How to Pick the Best Mods in Tuning Stages?


A list you ask for and a checklist you shall receive! Since there are lots of mumbo jumbos to look out for, there must be a guideline to follow about the tuning stages, right? Not really. You’re free to try and fail and observe what happens. Remember that it burns some pockets, though.


For example, above stage 2, an improved clutch is necessary and depending on how much power the stock gearbox is capable of, an enhanced gearbox may also be required. Pro bars and coil overs can be installed at any point to enhance a vehicle's control and handling. However, most drivers will do so by stage 2. More robust brake discs and pads are crucial factors to take into account for every tuning level to guarantee your car's stopping power.


Key features of Stage 1 Tunings include:


  • Simple bolt-on alterations (Plug-and-plays, OBD2 and piggybacks)
  • Intake/Filter
  • The Exhaust Blow-off Valve
  • Additional minor modifications

Key features of common Stage 2 or Stage 2+ mods:


  • Simple Stage 1 Modification +
  • Modifications that add more power;
  • Cams
  • Pulley for a supercharger
  • Headers and downpipes
  • Throttle body
  • Intake Manifold
  • Charge conduits, Inlets, and Outlets
  • An Improved Fuel System
  • Cooling Modifications
  • Fuel Injection Timing

Key features of Stage 3 Tunings include:

  • Supercharger or turbo upgrades
  • Addition of forced induction
  • Extensive fuel system upgrades
  • Built engine (rods, pistons, bearings, etc.)
  • Head/Valvetrain upgrades (valves, lifters, springs, etc.)
  • Other supporting mods
    • Brakes, suspension, differential
    • Wheels & tires
    • Cooling system upgrades

A Comprehensive Guide on Tuning Stages