All you need to know about car tuning stages

Vehicle part makers quote modifications in Stages usually but what does this mean? It is usual for performance part makers and tuning houses to use the numbers 1 – 3 to for each state of tune. To be frank it is actually quite  meaningless as they often mean different things but there are some common threads we can infer between them all.

What do each tuning stages refer to and how do they differ when comparing say a stage 1 with a stage 3 modification.

Everyone you ask will have their own idea and no stage is tied to a power gain or percentage figure.


So here are the common threads between the car tuning stages…

Stage 1 mods are a “bolt on” or one part modification that does not need other upgrades or work to support it. Most consider a stage 1 tuning part to refer to a fast road mod suitable for daily use.

These will include … a fast road camshaft, performance high flow exhaust, air filter upgrades and induction kits and even low power remaps are often classed as stage one.

The key is that they are fine on a standard car and need  no other mods. Adding one or more of these modifications together usually gives a cumulative power gain greater than the sum total of all the other parts power gains added together.

Stage 2 tuning is the next level and we are getting into mods that require other parts in order for them to work.

They are usually also more aggressive and make daily driving a little more arduous or noisy and would be found on most track day cars.

Examples of stage 2 mods include a hybrid turbo or turbo upgrade because it requires a different manifold or diverter valve or remap to work at it’s best.

A stage 2 remap may require a turbo upgrade or uprated clutch or diverter valve to work properly.

Reliability of the car should be unimpaired but you will pretty much have lost any scope or margin for error in the standard manufacturers setup and will have to fastidiously service the car and maintain it.

Stage 3 tuning is the most aggressive stage, typically for serious motorsport or competition use.

Mods used in stage 3 are often technically illegal for road use. Stage 3 tuning mods are generally mods that are unsuitable for road use.

Problems include an erratic idle, high rpm powerband, failing emissions tests and be too lumpy to drive around in slow traffic.

On the track though where high RPM is in use all the time, and brakes are generally kept warm through use and emissions are not a consideration then stage 3 is practically a requirement.

Power gains cannot be quoted for any of these stages as this varies dramatically from car to car, also the parts used have varying degrees of affect on the power band.

Tuning companies will often have an in house menu and refer to a basic stage 1, a more aggressive stage 2 and the maximum power option as stage 3. We have seen some tuners quoting 7 stages.

We hope this clears up some of the mystery when these terms are used, and we wish that people would stop using such meaningless expressions when it comes to car tuning.

For further reading and more information please watch the following video on tuning stages, and read this article which shows the difference between stage 1, 2 and 3 tuning.

Posted in articles, theory.

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