Stage 1, stage 2 & stage 3 tuning mods.

Discover "Car tuning stages"

You will often see modifications available in stages. Typically manufacturers of performance parts and car tuning companies use stages 1 - 3 to denote the state of tune provided.

So what does a tuning stage mean and what are the differences between a Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 tune up?

Right off the bad we have to point out there is much confusion about these terms and they are often misused.

There is a wide divergence of opinion on the web about these and some manufacturers merely mean option 1, option 2 or option 3.

Others mean cheapest easy power gain, slightly more expensive but you'll get more power, and give us a blank cheque and we'll take everything to the max.


Thankfully though there is a definition with growing acceptance of these stages of tune. Getting the right sports upgrade kits for your planned usage of the car is a time and money saver. Stage 3 (competition) mods just won't work well on the road, making the car difficult to drive.

This video gives a good overview of the stages of tune for cars and car engines.

Read our guide on mods using the links below or scroll down to find out more about the definition of stages.

Tuning tips and articles Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

Stage 2 mods make more power but generally need other mods to support them or to get them to work properly.

We consider the following types of mod to fall into each stage, but we know that opinions vary.

Stage 1 mods: Remap, Suspension upgrade (drop 25mm - 39 mm.), Lighter flywheel, Alloy wheels, Sports exhaust, Panel air filter.

Stage 2 mods: high flow fuel injector, Ported and polished head, Power/Sport clutch, fuel pump upgrades, Fast road cam.

Stage 3 mods: Competition cam, Engine balancing, Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Sports gearbox.

So how do you know if a modification fits into a stage 1 or stage 2 category?

Let's look at what definitions people generally use to categorise modifications on cars and hopefully this will help demystify it for you, and when someone starts talking about stage mods you can call their bluff if they get it wrong!

The commonly held perception of these are as outlined below.

Stage 1 Mods

Stage 1 tuning is a "bolt on" or single modification that requires no other work to the car or engine. You can consider a stage 1 modification to be referred to as a fast road mod.

  • It is suitable for a daily use car.It can be used in isolation with standard components. Overall reliability and daily drivability of the car will remain.
  • Obviously any power increase will necessitate a reduction in the manufacturers inbuilt safety margin. Weak components will sometimes fail but in general a stage 1 tuning modification can be added to a car without incident or problem.

A stage 1 modification will usually be enhanced further with the addition of other performance parts. Examples of stage 1 mods, remap, sports exhaust silencer, air filter or brake pad upgrades. (These are all simple single bolt on parts.)

Stage 2 Mods

Stage 2 tuning is a little more aggressive than stage 1 but needs to be added with other parts. It will give a power gain but will usually require the uprating or replacing of other parts to work.

  • Examples of stage 2 modifications include a hybrid turbo which requires a different manifold or diverter valve or remap to work at it's best.
  • 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.
  • This can be considered a track day tuning option.  Service intervals should be reduced and you can expect to perform a major overhaul on the engine every few years in some cases.

Examples of a stage 2 modification, aggressive remap that requires a stronger turbo/diverter valve, sports exhaust requiring new headers and different mounts, Internal modifications requiring fuel to be uprated etc... (the concept is that you need another mod as well.)

Stage 3 Mods

Stage 3 tuning is also referred to as the motorsport or competition tune. This is wholly unsuitable for road use.

  • The car will typically idle erratically, be uneconomical, fail emissions tests and be too harsh to drive around in traffic.
  • The stage 3 tune extracts the maximum power from the engine and reliability will be impaired.
  • We have to bear in mind that competition cars are stripped down and rebuilt each season or even each race at times.

Examples of stage 3 mods include high performance brake pads and disks that require heat before they start to bite, aggressive cam profiles causing a lumpy tickover, heavy competition clutch, ultra light flywheels etc... 

Power gains are not quoted for any of these stages as this varies dramatically from car to car and the parts used have varying degrees of effect on the power band.

Adding two or more stage 1 mods will not make it a stage 2 mod if the upgrades would happily work on their own, although you will generally get more power from each by combining them.

So to recap, a stage merely refers to a group of mods, and implies how easy they are to fit and whether they can be safely used on the road.

What are remapping stages?

Remapping stages are also used by many companies so we'll explain them here

It is important to keep in mind that tuning phases are entirely subjective. For other firms, 5 or 6 levels of tune are offered instead of stages

Many people question us about stage 1, 2 and 3 remaps and modifications, so we thought we'd clarify.

Not all remaps are created equal, and most vendors will strive to offer you the most peak power boost. On a turbocharged engine, let's compare two remaps.

Just compare the power curves of each map to find which one best matches your driving style.

Based on a 150bhp vehicle. Power: 100bhp at 2500rpm, 150bhp at 4000-5500rpm, and 125bhp at 6900rpm.

Map 175 peak horsepower Power: GREEN

130bhp at 1800rpm, 170bhp between 4000 and 5500rpm, and 140bhp to the 7000rpm redline with the turbo engaged.

Map 200 hp max Power: RED

125bhp at 3000rpm, 200bhp between 4800 and 5100 rpm, and 100bhp at 7000rpm, depending on turbo boost.

So which is the best remap? So, which is faster? After 3000rpm, the second map's peak power drops down rapidly after taking an age to build up. This map's peak is incredibly high, and it's more likely than the first to damage the engine. Rapid traction loss and wheelspin will occur due to this rapid peak.

Remapping stage 1

These are for stock or lightly modified vehicles. On NASP engines, power improvements are typically 15%, whereas turbocharged engines get 30% gains in power.

Diesel remaps almost often improve fuel efficiency at these low tuning settings.

Most start at Stage 1 and rapidly go to Stage 2. If your first and only mod was a stage 1 remap you would not be disappointed.

Remapping stage 2

Stage 2 is the best place to begin! Stage 1 is more of a tweaking the OEM maps'  aiming to keep your car within factory tolerances while optimising it for the driver and getting the most out of a decent OEM setup. remapping stage 2 extracts higher performance at the expense of everyday operating expenditures and the requirement of additional hardware mods.

A stage 2 map will need some revisions. The usual upgrades are to the exhaust and intake, but not usually the turbos.

On NASP engines, power improvements are about 20% (because you've combined this with another mod or two), while turbocharged engine power gains are over 40%.

You get more power at lower revs and usually a larger and longer power band.

The primary stage 2 changes offer substantially greater mid-range overtaking power, however this depends on the vehicle configuration.

Still, making the automobile drivable in traffic and reliable is important, as is keeping it legal in terms of emissions and local vehicle use codes.

Stage 2 remaps' goals Unleash the full potential of your car's modifications while maintaining rigorous safety standards. Constant wear and tear on clutches, brake pads and tyres will need regular replacement. Longevity of an engine and gearbox may also be affected, although this is minor.

Stage 3 remapping

In stage 3 remapping parts are upgraded and stronger components employed to push your motor to its limits.

Engines are dismantled and reassembled to exacting standards. Larger turbos, hybrid turbos, greater intake and exhaust flow, stronger crank and pistons, and forged engine components.

Stage 3 maps are suitable for competitive usage. In order to maintain dependability, some of our members' cars have been modified to handle a stage 3 configuration.

Some call them racing maps because they drive engine emissions close to or into unlawful levels. Diesels may smoke more, DPF filters are removed, while petrol engines may lose CO2 controls and catalysts.

A stage 3 map will need a lot of supporting mods. Your budget is the only real constraint on power growth. Stage 3 products have exceeded normal power levels in several cases.

A reputable tuning shop with a rolling road can tune your automobile to your specifications. Low down torque, decent economy under 2000 rpm, then a huge power rush to the redline. This gives me two driving modes: frugal and sporty. It's for overtaking, therefore having it adjusted to stage 2 isn't necessary. Join our friendly and helpful community of professional and seasoned auto tuners from all around the globe in our forums to discuss your tuning choices for your individual vehicle.

We hope this article has clarified the terms

Source reference :- TorqueCars Tuning Stages

Check out TorqueCars new YouTube channel, and see their awesome new content...


Please use our forums if you wish to ask a tuning question, and please note we do not sell parts or services, we are just an online magazine.

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Your Constructive comments on this article

11 Responses to “Car tuning stages”

  1. Ali says:

    Yes, this did indeed did satisfy my curiosity, but you were not too clear as to what sets apart ‘sage one’ from ‘stage two’ meaning, all you mentioned basically is that stage two is better than stage one, obviously that is the case, but could you kindly elaborate slightly on what a general ‘stage one’ modification consists of, and what a ‘stage two’ modification consist of??
    Thank you 🙂

  2. xTALIBANx says:

    Stage 1 is just a remap with no modifications on the car and stage 2 needs some mods like Hybrid Turbo or Turbo back exhaust, FMIC and other stuff (to the best of my little knowledge)

  3. xod says:

    Actually from this article I read stages as “How easy is it to undo this mod?”. So stage 1: remap, air filter, exhaust silencer, etc. these are all easy to undo. Done a remap? Just do another with the original map. Changed the air filter? Just look for the old one in the trash container and put it back in and you’re .. undone. After these “safe side” mods come the stage 2. Say you have single slot brake pad configuration on the frontwheel and want to move to a double slot brakepad (that’s 4 brakepads instead of two). You will need 4 brakepads now and a new brake caliper and almost always a new brakedisk which can take the increased ammount of heat. Of course after this your braking will tear your face and splash it on your windscreen but it’s not that easy to undo. Stage 3 is even more .. but I think you got the idea.

  4. DIMITRIS says:

    dear friend…
    i read your article and i want to make some questions and i will wait an answer anytime you can!
    1. did excist any 4 stadioum or higher ? and what are the upgrades on it.
    2. can you be more specific about stage 3 and describe all the components that need to be change?
    3.i have a vw golf 2002 1.400cc 75hp ! i’m planing to make stages 1 and 2 how many horse power you think by your opinion i will gonna gain?

  5. Adie says:

    Dear Dimitris,

    Stage 1 is minor, just small upgrades to the factory products already in your car. You probably wont gain much more horsepower (5-20 additional hp max).
    Stage 2 however can give you massive hp gains, varying from just 25 extra hp to doubling your current horsepower or better.
    I myself have a ’91 Honda Integra, and a 86′ VW Rabbit. My suggestion to you would be to swap your engine for the 2.0L Turbo from the Golf TDI, or the 2.5L Turbo from the 2002 Rabbit. That alone will boost your hp to 200hp. However, I dont know how much experience you have with mechanics, and that can get costly.
    If you dont want to make the effort on a new engine, you can also upgrade these areas:
    -Suspension (Struts, lowering springs, sway bar)
    -Brakes (new rotors, brake pads)
    -Performance Chip (get a performance chip with the top limiter removed, this alone will give you a huge boost in speed)
    -Air Intake (Short Ram or Cold Air intake)
    Engine parts (manifold,headers, camshafts, clutch and flywheel)

    If you upgrade all that, I can guarantee you’ll have close to or over 200hp

  6. BlackBetty says:

    Thanks for the info. I started out just looking for info on when to change your DV for an upgraded one for performance and came across this info which will help with levels of improvement to my 2.0T A4 , probably not going past stage two. Thanks again.

  7. Joshua Dennis says:

    could anyone possibly give me the estimated prices on each of the three stages, thanks

  8. Arashi says:

    This helped SO much. Bought a car already at stage 2, and basically had to learn to control it from square one. Still have much to learn, but baby steps right? Lol

  9. Mahdi says:

    Hi I was looking at your stage 1 paragraph which I am interested in. However, I have a 1.2 polo and I was wondering if it’s possible to get it done on that car? If so, would you know any places that could do it for me within London? Many thanks

  10. Ndori says:

    Starting with stage 1, is there an order in which these mods should be done?

  11. admin says:

    Remaps should always be done last, as the timing/fuelling and turbo durations will vary depending on how well the engine can convert fuel into power. Adding just an induction kit or exhaust, won’t affect power much, you need to balance the flow of air through the engine. Most other stage 1 mods will not matter if done in any order.