Many people choose to modify their cars to improve their performance and there are not few modification options for a car enthusiast. Some critical steps you can take to improve your car's performance include maximizing exhaust and airflow efficiency and replacing suspension components to improve handling. In the long run, you may even want to consider adding a form of forced induction or even nitrous oxide. Ultimately, modifying your car is about making it unique, so choose modifications based on your driving style, your interests, and your vehicle.
Method 1 of 3: equip your car for good performance
Step 1. Make simple adjustments to maximize fuel economy and power
Modifying your car to increase its performance won't do you much good if you can't keep up with the required maintenance that keeps your car running smoothly. By changing your oil regularly, making sure your tires are properly inflated, and following the recommended service schedule for your vehicle, you can make it perform better and last longer. Check your vehicle's owner's manual to find the recommended service at different mileage points. Some cars may require a timing belt or chain adjustments or fluid changes at specific mileage markers to ensure the vehicle continues to perform as designed.
- Professional "tweaks" including changes to the fuel and air filter, spark plugs, and even the transmission fluid and filter are a great way to keep your vehicle running properly.
- Make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended pressure to improve fuel economy and extend the life of the tire.
Step 2. Install a cold air intake
Think of your car as an athlete running a race. Your car's air intake is how you breathe as you run. Factory inputs are designed for a number of purposes including things like reducing engine noise. By replacing the factory inlet piping with one that has been designed to maximize horsepower, you will not only increase horsepower but also increase fuel efficiency. Cold air intakes are often larger in diameter than factory inlets and are designed to take the most direct route possible to the throttle body.
- Cold air intakes usually include a replacement air filter that increases the filter surface area. This allows more air to move through it at a greater volume.
- Some cold air intakes include heat shielding to prevent the engine temperature from heating the air as it travels to the engine.
- The colder the air, the higher the density of oxygen, which allows it to burn at a higher temperature and creates more horsepower.
Step 3. Buy a higher flow exhaust pipe
If the air intake is the way an athlete (your car) inhales while running, the exhaust pipe is the way he exhales. There are a number of options available when it comes to installing higher flow tailpipes. Many people choose to install a replacement cat back exhaust, which replaces the lines from the catalytic converter (s) to the muffler. Catalytic converters, front lines, and even higher-flow exhaust manifolds are also common modifications. Replacing the entire exhaust system (from the exhaust manifold to the muffler) will maximize engine performance.
- Larger diameter and flow exhaust systems have a more significant effect on turbocharged vehicles. The increase in exhaust flow also serves to increase the efficiency of the turbocharger.
- Some places have strict rules when it comes to replacing catalytic converters. Check the website of the local department of motor vehicles or equivalent entity where you live before modifying or replacing the catalytic converter.
Step 4. Reprogram the engine control unit
The engine control unit (ECU) in modern cars keeps the engine running smoothly. The ECU adjusts the air to fuel ratio in the engine to keep it constant regardless of air density (height) and temperature. If the engine starts to burn at a higher temperature (consume a lot of oxygen), the ECU will add fuel to the mixture to bring it back into balance and vice versa if the engine starts to consume a lot of fuel. The ratio that the ECU maintains is factory set and is based on a number of factors, such as reducing emissions and increasing reliability. By using a programmer or taking your car to a workshop to install a new program that prioritizes performance in the ECU, you can unleash some power and even increase fuel efficiency.
- Some vehicles can be reprogrammed through their OBD-II ports using programmers that you can buy for your specific vehicle or "chips" that you can install.
- The more luxurious models of these programmers allow you to use more than one program or profile. This allows you to switch between air-to-fuel ratios that prioritize performance and fuel efficiency, and even use a lower octane fuel.
Step 5. Swap the tires for high-performance alternatives
Tires are extremely important to the performance of the car. Good traction determines your car's ability to transmit the power it produces to the ground. It's the difference between getting a good start and burning your tires at the starting line. Most people choose performance tires designed to compromise between maximizing the tire's "footprint" and allowing a water-displacing tread.
- Pay attention to the speed rating of the tires you buy. The rating is usually a single letter that refers to the maximum speed for which the tire is rated. Most cars come with S-rated tires that can reach up to 180 km / h (112 mph) safely. Many performance tires have a Z-rating, which is appropriate for speeds in excess of 240 km / h (149 mph).
- Some high-performance tires produce more rolling noise than their factory alternatives.
Step 6. Replace the spark plugs
The spark plugs produce the electrical spark that ignites the air-fuel mixture in each cylinder of the engine. Over time, they can wear out or become ruined due to unfavorable operating conditions, such as using too much or too little fuel. Affected spark plugs have a limited ability to ignite the air-fuel mixture, which can result in engine failure. There are many options when it comes to spark plugs, so do some research or consult with an employee at your local auto parts store when choosing spark plugs to install in your engine. Spark plugs should be replaced at regular intervals as part of your regular vehicle maintenance to ensure they don't corrode or fail.
- Some spark plugs are made of different materials. Copper is a better conductor, but it has to be replaced much more frequently due to corrosion, so many people choose iridium plugs for performance purposes as they work almost equally well and last much longer.
- Be sure to check your car's repair manual when calibrating the spark plugs before installing them. Spark plug gauge is the distance it takes for the spark to arc from one part of the spark plug to the other. An incorrect gauge can affect the spark plug's ability to ignite the air-fuel mixture.
Method 2 of 3: Improve Your Car's Handling
Step 1. Replace shocks and springs with high-performance alternatives
The shock absorbers and springs in your car's suspension were designed and built with your comfort in mind. To maximize comfort, the suspension allows the wheels to roll up and down to limit the amount of body shock. Replacing these components with stiffer shocks and springs will sacrifice your riding comfort a bit, but the added stiffness will keep the tires in better contact with the road, thereby improving traction when accelerating, braking or turning.
- Shock absorbers and coil springs allow you to lower the vehicle and make the ride stiffer based on your preference and riding style.
- Many stiffer suspensions also lower the vehicle, which lowers its center of gravity and also serves to improve handling.
Step 2. Install larger stabilizer bars
Anti-roll bars run through the chassis of your car from the front and rear to connect the sides of the body and increase the structural rigidity of your car. Swapping the factory stabilizer bars for larger diameter bars will further increase the stiffness of your car's body. This increase in stiffness helps ensure that the tires stay as flat on the ground as possible to maintain good traction. When buying anti-roll bars, it's best to pair them so that the rear and front end offer the same level of torsional force and don't allow your car to spin under the torque of hard starts and tight turns.
High-strength tubular steel is often a better alternative to solid bars, which can be extremely heavy
Step 3. Replace the rubber bearings with polyurethane bearings
The suspension has a number of bearings that separate the moving metal parts, reduce vibrations, and help maintain the weight distribution of your car. Unfortunately, the rubber these bearings are made of tends to break down over time. Polyurethane replacement bearings are much stiffer than their rubber counterparts and will not wear the same as factory bearings.
- Polyurethane bearings will make loud squeaking sounds if not properly greased when installed.
- The bearings can be replaced one by one or kits can be purchased to replace them all at once.
- Some bearings may require the use of a press to remove them from their frame.
Step 4. Install a strut bar
Strut bars connect the left and right side of the car in the same way as anti-roll bars, but are installed on top of the car under the hood and trunk lid. These bars connect directly to the driver and front passenger struts, which increases the structural rigidity of the car and helps in attempts to keep the tires as flat as possible on the pavement during aggressive driving. These bars are a great addition to replacement anti-roll bars to reduce the amount of your car leaning and twisting when turning.
- On some cars, you may not have access to the rear struts to install a bar at the rear.
- You may have to remove the strut bars when working on your car's engine in the future.
Step 5. Install upgraded brakes
It can be said that being able to stop is the most important part of any car's performance. The better the quality of your brakes, the longer you can wait to activate them before turning, which means maintaining high speed longer than your competitors. You have a lot of options when it comes to installing better-class brakes, from buying better brake pads to replacing the entire system with bigger, stronger components.
- Replacement brake pads are designed to improve your car's ability to stop. They use factory brake components and are a great choice for most street applications.
- The different compounds in brake pads are designed for different uses. Ask your local auto parts store about the options available for your specific car.
- You can buy kits to replace your car's brake calipers and rotors with larger ones, which increase the friction surface of the brake pad and improve your ability to stop. It is important to ensure that the tires are large enough to accommodate the installation of larger brakes.
Method 3 of 3: Add a Forced Induction or Nitrous Oxide
Step 1. Install a turbocharger kit
Turbochargers are basically air pumps that are powered by the exhaust gas that comes out of your engine. The exhaust that comes out of your engine turns a turbine, which transfers that energy through a transmission shaft to a turbine on the other side that absorbs and compresses the air towards the inlet of the engine. In fact, a turbocharger forces more air into the engine than it can handle through normal aspiration. Most turbocharger kits include high volume fuel pumps, ECU programmers, higher flow fuel pressure regulators, and even fuel injectors. You should buy the turbocharger kits for your specific car unless you are an experienced mechanic.
- Many turbocharged cars have intercoolers installed between the turbocharger and the car's air intake to cool the air and increase its density.
- Equipping your car with a turbocharger requires extensive adjustment of the air-to-fuel ratio that would be best left to the professionals.
Step 2. Supercharge your car
Centrifugal superchargers and turbochargers work in very similar ways. While a turbocharger is powered by the exhaust coming out of the engine, superchargers are driven by a belt, like the steering pump or the air conditioner in your car. This means that superchargers aren't as efficient as turbochargers, but they don't have to wait for the exhaust to rewind them. Because of this distinction, many people prefer superchargers for their more consistent power distribution. Installing a supercharger kit involves most of the same modifications required for turbochargers in terms of fuel.
- Roots style superchargers are not mounted the same, but are belt driven anyway. These superchargers are traditionally found in older model carbureted engines.
- In forced induction applications like supercharged cars, you should use a higher octane fuel to increase the stability of the fuel-air mixture in the engine.
Step 3. Add a "dry" nitrous oxide kit to your car
Nitrous oxide is a gas that contains more oxygen than regular air found in the atmosphere. As a result, adding nitrous oxide to the air that travels through your car's intake serves a similar purpose to forcing more air into the car with a turbocharger or supercharger. Rather than mechanically forcing more air into the engine, nitrous oxide introduces more oxygen molecules into the same amount of space that regular air would normally occupy. Nitrous oxide kits that do not mix this gas with fuel when injected are known as "dry" kits. These kits are designed to add a lesser amount of horsepower compared to wet kits but can be an extremely inexpensive method of giving your car a quick increase in horsepower.
- Nitrous oxide kits only affect power output when in use, reducing wear and tear on your engine compared to power-adding devices such as turbochargers and superchargers.
- After turning on the nitrous oxide kit, you usually control the amount of nitrous oxide that is released with a button or switch on the throttle that activates when you press the pedal into the ground.
- Some dry nitrous oxide kits use the fuel pressure regulator to increase the pressure of the fuel going to the engine to compensate for the added oxygen, while others do not.
Step 4. Install a wet nitrous oxide kit in your car
Nitrous oxide wet kits serve the same basic purpose as their dry counterparts, but mix the fuel directly with the nitrous oxide as it is injected into the engine. As a result, nitrous oxide wet kits are often considered safer for the engine as the air-to-fuel ratio you choose is maintained even when adding nitrous oxide. This stability allows wet kits to add even more horsepower than dry kits with a relatively low risk of pre-detonation. Like turbochargers and superchargers, using nitrous oxide properly in the car may require custom adjustments that may be beyond the knowledge of most hobbyist mechanics.
- Nitrous oxide wet kits are generally activated using buttons, just like dry kits.
- Nitrous oxide is not flammable on its own as the films suggest. It must be mixed with a fuel in order to burn.
- Nitrous Oxide Kits can be used in conjunction with a turbocharger or supercharger.