The differences between stage 1, stage 2, and stage 3 tuning?

Find out about "What are Tuning Stage 1 2 3 Differences."

Often, car engine upgrades and car performance kits will be available in stages. Usually, manufacturers of performance parts and companies that tune cars use the terms "stages 1 through 3" to describe the level of tuning they offer.

So what are the differences between say a stage 1 tuning upgrade and a stage 3 upgrade? We have another article on tuning stages if you want a different perspective on the subject.

Which tuning stage should you carry out on your car? Let's look into this topic and break open some of mystery surrounding tuning stages.

Differences between Stage 1 Stage 2 and Stage 3.

So, what does a tuning stage mean, and what is the difference between a Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3 tune up? Does it really matter if you go stage 1 or 2? Is stage 3 always best?

It doesn't help that there are no standard references between stages, and it varies from part supplier to tuner, but there are some general rules of thumb that apply when talking about upgrades in terms of stages.

Right off the bat, we have to say that these terms are often mixed up and used in wrong ways so let's look at the most common understanding of the differences between these terms.

What some part makers say.

People have a lot of different ideas about these on the Internet, and some manufacturers just 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 check and we'll take everything to the max.

So in reality you can't compare the tuning stages easily, but although many companies make up the definitions as they go there is actually a commonly understood explanation of the differences between tuning stages.

The real difference

There is a definition, though, and these stages of tune are becoming more and more accepted. It will save you time and money if you get the right sports upgrade kits for how you plan to use the car. Modifications for Stage 3 (competition) won't work well on the road, making the car hard to drive.

This video gives a good overview of how cars and car engines are tuned at different stages.

Use the links below to read our guide on mods, or scroll down to learn more about what stages are.

Stage 2 mods give you more power, but they usually need other mods to work right or to support them.

The way most people think about these stages is shown below.

What are Stage 1 Mods

Stage 1 tuning is a "bolt-on" change that doesn't need any other work on the car or engine. A stage 1 modification could also be called a "fast road mod."

It's good for a car you drive every day. Cheap to install and an easy DIY upgrade.

It can be used alone or with other standard parts. The car will still be reliable and easy to drive every day.
Any increase in power will, of course, require the manufacturer's built-in safety margin to be cut. Sometimes weak parts will break, but adding a stage 1 tuning modification to a car usually doesn't cause any trouble.

Most of the time, adding more performance parts to a stage 1 modification will make it even better. Some examples of stage 1 modifications are a remap, a sports exhaust silencer, an upgraded air filter, or new brake pads. (All of these are simple bolt-on parts.)

What are Stage 2 Mods

Stage 2 tuning is a little more aggressive than Stage 1, but it needs to be added with other parts. It will give you more power, but most of the time it will need other parts to be upgraded or replaced for it to work.

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

Stage 2 offers more power but is more complex and you'll need specialist knowledge sourcing and installing parts.

For example, a hybrid turbo needs a different manifold, diverter valve, or remap to work at its best. This is an example of a stage 2 modification.
The car should still be reliable, but in the standard setup from the manufacturer, you won't have much room for error.
This could be a way to tune your car for a track day. Service intervals should be cut down, and in some cases, the engine will need a major overhaul every few years.

For example, an aggressive remap that needs a stronger turbo/diverter valve, a sports exhaust that needs new headers and different mounts, internal changes that need more fuel, etc., are all examples of stage 2 modifications. (The idea is that you need more than one mod.)

What are Stage 3 Mods

The motorsport or competition tune is another name for Stage 3. This is not at all good for the road.

Most of the time, the car will have a rough idle, waste gas, fail emissions tests, and be too loud to drive in traffic.
The stage 3 tune gets the most power out of the engine, but it will be less reliable.

Stage 3 mods are not road legal, and in reality impractical for road use in most cases, but they do offer the largest performance gains around.

We have to remember that race cars are taken apart and put back together every season, and sometimes even after each race.

Some examples of stage 3 mods are high-performance brake pads and discs that need to get hot before they start to bite, aggressive cam profiles that cause a bumpy tickover, a heavy competition clutch, ultra-light flywheels, etc.

There are no power gains listed for any of these stages because the power band changes a lot from car to car and depends on the parts used.

We think the following types of mod belong in each stage, but we know that other people may think differently.

Stage 1 Tuning Differences to Stage 2

Stage 1 changes include a remap, a suspension upgrade (which lowers the car by 25 mm to 39 mm), a lighter flywheel, alloy wheels, a sports exhaust, and a panel air filter.

Stage 2 changes include a high-flow fuel injector, a head that has been ported and polished, a Power/Sport clutch, an upgraded fuel pump, and a Fast Road cam.

Competition cam, engine balancing, adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo or supercharger), internal engine upgrades (pistons, head, and valves), and a sports gearbox are all part of Stage 3 mods.

Generally speaking stage 2 will give you more power than stage 1 but it depends on the mods you do, for example a stage 1 remap on a turbocharged engine will most likely give more power than an induction kit, head work and camshaft upgrade on a stage 2 car.

So, how do you know if a change belongs in Stage 1 or Stage 2?

Let's take a look at how people usually classify car modifications. Hopefully, this will help clear things up for you, and if someone starts talking about "stage mods," and comparing them between part makers you'll be able to tell them they're wrong and explain the real difference between these tuning stages.

If the upgrades would work fine on their own, adding two or more stage 1 mods won't make it a stage 2 mod, but you will usually get more power out of each by combining them.

So, to sum up, a stage is just a group of mods, and how easy they are to put on and whether they are safe to use on the road is shown by how they are rated.

Further reading on this topic is available on TorqueCars under guide to tuning stages.

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