It takes two to four hours to tune a car on average. But depending on the type of tune-up, this time varies. For example, ECU tuning can take a few hours whereas bodyshell tuning can take a few days.
You want a tune-up of your car and mechanics charges per hour in most places. So, you need to know the accurate time for car tuning.
So, exactly how long does it take to tune a car?
To satisfy your query we have compiled all the different types and stages of car tuning and the time needed to perform it. Continue reading to find out.
How Long Does It Take To Tune a Car?
It takes two to four hours to tune a car for a basic tune-up. Having said that, car tuning can take up to a few days depending on what you are tuning. Here is a brief table to show car tuning time based on components and then another table based on stages.
Here at a glance you can see the time to complete a tune-up of different car components.
|Engine Tuning||2 to 4 hours|
|Dyno Tuning||4 to 5 hours|
|Carburetor Tuning||30 mins to 1 hour|
|ECU Tuning||2-3 hours|
|Suspension Tuning||few hours to a day|
|Interior And Audio||few hours to a day|
|Bodyshell Tuning||few hours to few days|
|Lighting||2 to 3 hours|
|Wheel And Tire Tuning||few hours to a day|
|Differential||few hours to a day|
Most car tuning performed on passenger cars can be done in a day. The most popular and cost-effective tuning is ECU tuning.
This term refers to the tuning that is performed on the engine to remove any bad and low performing factors, to make it more reliable and fuel efficient. Nowadays, engine tuning is done by installing new software on the ECU to control engine operations.
Engine tuning is also known as ECU remap or engine chipping. It can be done by a mechanic or you can DIY. You need a diagnostic tool to hook up to your car and install the updated software.
Depending on your vehicle engine, production year, make, and mechanics expertise, tuning time differs. Nonetheless, it takes two to four hours for a basic engine tune-up. You can even make your car go faster with some specific tuning.
This procedure is done when your car is not performing optimally to the manufacturer’s specifications. Dyno tuning is done to check if there is any problem with your engine’s HP, torque, or air-fuel mixture.
Your engine is hooked up to a dynamometer to test the performance. Then this data is used by the EMS (engine management system) to adjust the settings of your ECU. It takes four to five hours for proper dyno tuning.
A Carburetor controls the air and fuel mixture of the engine. Carburetor tuning is adjusting the various components of the carburetor, such as the idle mixture screws, main jet, and air/fuel mixture screws, to achieve the desired air/fuel ratio.
Carburetor tuning can take 30 minutes to 1 hour. It’s not a simple process so we recommend you hire a mechanic.
This tune-up is particularly popular these days since you just need a laptop and a cable to hook up your car. ECU tuning is adjusting the settings on your ECU to get optimum performance. There are different types such as Piggyback ECU and flash ECU tuning.
ECU tuning can take up to a few hours including flash ECU and piggyback ECU.
This type of tuning is mostly done on race vehicles but you can tune up your regular suspension to get better handling. Basic suspension tunings, such as adjusting the ride height or alignment, can take as little as 2-3 hours.
More complex suspension tuning like installing and adjusting coil overs or changing out sway bars may take several hours or even a full day. The time it takes also depends on the skill and experience of the technician doing the work.
Interior and Audio
Basic interior upgrades like installing new floor mats or a new steering wheel take only an hour. However, installing a new sound system, adding a subwoofer, or customizing the upholstery, can take several hours to a full day.
Bodyshell tuning includes new wheel rim paintwork, spoiler installment, and parts replacement. On passenger vehicles, bodyshell tuning is performed to get better aerodynamics and looks.
Depending on what you are changing/installing, it takes a few hours to a few days for body shell tuning.
Customizing the lighting of cars is popular where tuners change the brightness, light tone, and headlight shape. You can do basic lighting tune-ups like installing LED bulbs in a few hours. Contrarily, mods like installing a completely new HID or LED headlight system take 2-3 hours.
Wheel and Tire Tuning
This tune-up refers to changing your wheels’ size, shape, and offset by installing new wheel bearings, hubs, and spacers. Similarly changing the size, tread pattern, compound type, and tire pressure, you can improve the handling.
It can take a few hours to a day to do wheel and tire tuning. The time required also depends on the skill and experience of the mechanic, the complexity of the wheel and tire setup, and the vehicle.
When you modify the gear ratio, torque bias ratio, and LSD (limited-slip differential), it is called differential tuning. Upgrading to a new limited-slip differential takes only a few hours. But installing a higher torque capacity differential can take several hours or even a full day.
We understand that car tuning lingo can be a bit confusing and a lot of times overlapping.
Here are three stages of a car tune-up. You will notice these tune-ups include the components we have covered above.
While doing car tuning, a stage is how much you have tuned. So stage 2 is a more advanced part of car tuning than stage 1. Similarly, you can only do a stage 3 tune-up after you are done with stages 1 and 2.
|Stage||Time||What You Are Tuning|
|Stage 1||Few hours||ECU remapping, Intake-exhaust, air filter|
|Stage 2||Few hours to a day||Exhaust, intercooler, engine, and gearbox mounts|
|Stage 3||Few hours to Few days||Fuel injector, fuel pump, upgraded turbo, piston, rods, and valves|
Most passenger cars go for stage 1 tune up. Sports car owners or tuning enthusiasts do stage 2 tuning whereas race cars go up to stage 3 tuning.
Stage 1 Tuning
This is the basic car tuning we know of where the tuner fixes ignition timing, air-fuel mixture, etc by doing an ECU flash. This stage is the most cost-effective stage of car tuning and requires little to no hardware upgrades.
In stage 1 tuning, the tuning process is fairly simple and takes up to a few hours to perform.
Stage 2 Tuning
In this stage of your car tuning you are adding turbo-back exhaust on turbocharged vehicles or a cat-back exhaust on non-turbocharged vehicles. Stage 2 tuning includes an upgraded intercooler together with some stiff aftermarket engine and gearbox mounts.
To perform stage 2 tuning you need more advanced knowledge of EMS (engine management systems) and tuning techniques than stage 1. The time to complete a stage 2 tuning can be from a few hours to a day.
Stage 3 Tuning
Installing larger turbochargers, upgrading the engine internals (pistons, rods, crank, etc), and adding a high-performance fuel system refers to stage 3 engine tuning. These modifications result in a significant increase in the engine’s power output and performance.
Stage 3 tuning is mostly done on race cars and takes a few hours to a few days to complete the tune-up. We recommend you get a mechanic to do a stage 3 tune-up since it’s at the edge of legality.
How Much Does It Cost To Tune A Car?
A basic tune-up like the ECU tuning can cost you around $50- $150. But a high-end upgrade like adding a performance turbo can cost as much as $200-$900. This includes the labor and parts price. However, this price differs depending on your car and the mods you are applying.
Can You Tune Your Car Yourself?
Yes, you can tune your car yourself. But make sure you have the expertise and tools needed. However, while dealing with safety-related parts like ECU remaps, suspension tuning, etc. let a professional handle them. We recommend you let a professional tuner do the tune-up since errors in tuning may have catastrophic results.
Professionals can foresee installation errors unlike tuning enthusiasts. You don’t want to end up guessing what’s legal and illegal while tuning. So, it’s best for a tuner to perform the procedure.
Is Tuning Your ECU Illegal?
No, tuning your ECU (engine control unit) is not illegal. Tuning your ECU will give you improved fuel economy and power output and it is a standard procedure. So it is perfectly legal to tune up your ECU. 6
Will Tuning Car Damage the Engine?
No, Tuning a car won’t damage the engine if you do it properly. An experienced tuner will match your car’s capability of boost and it won’t hurt the engine at all.
Is Tuning A Car Permanent?
Tuning the ECU system or flash tuning is not permanent and it can be reprogrammed to stock settings anytime. However, added hardware like a turbocharger or air filter is a permanent tune-up unless you remove it.
Hopefully this article answered your “how long does it take to tune a car” question thoroughly. Car tuning is versatile and the time depends on your mechanic’s expertise as well as your car’s needs and capabilities.