How to Increase Horsepower & Upgrade Your Performance
I've been working on fast cars my whole life. By now, it's an obsession. You get to the point where you only focus on a couple of things. The adrenaline rush from the feel and the sound of the engine, how time slows down. But even with all of that, it's the hard work and the accomplished goals that really mean the most to me.
Hi, I'm Kevin Tetz, and here's some simple first steps to increasing horsepower and building a serious high performance vehicle that you can do with the help of your local AutoZone.
Now the first thing you want to do is look at the engine. Think about it as a big air pump, and all you gotta do to get your car moving faster is help the air move faster and flow better through the engine. Now a great upgrade that you want to look at first is a cold air intake, like something from Spectre or from K&N, to bring the air in, and a performance exhaust, like this one from Magnaflow, to kick the air back out.
The air intake system replaces the factory air filter and intake housing. And it's designed to dramatically reduce intake restriction as it smooths the airflow path. Now this allows your car's engine to take in a larger amount of air than the factory air filter assembly, and more air means more usable power and better acceleration through your RPM range. Now this particular system from K&N comes with a high-flow filter and a lightweight shield that directs cooler air into the molded intake. And with this system, you get guaranteed power gains.
Now there's several different ways to improve the performance and the sound of your exhaust system. The simplest one is simply to replace your factory mufflers with high-flow performance mufflers from brands like Flowmaster and Magnaflow. Now this can be a bit of a heavy DIY project, because it can involve cutting and some welding. So if you don't have the tools, and you're not quite there with your skills, a local muffler shop can take care of this for you quickly.
Now another alternative is with a cat-back exhaust system on a later model vehicle. What that does is replace the factory exhaust system from the catalytic converters to the rear of the car. Now cat-back exhaust systems offer real performance gains and most installations can be taken care of with simple hand tools.
Another great way to free up some horsepower is what we've got sitting here, which is a full performance exhaust system. There's a couple different ways you can go with the full system, the first one being a bolt-on kit that's designed to fit your car. Then, we've got the option of a universal kit like this one from Flowmaster that you can custom configure to fit your vehicle the way you want it to. Great options with a full system include mandrel bends to free up the flow at less resistance, and the option to have either a crossover pipe like this or an X-pipe to best take advantage of scavenging from your exhaust manifolds or from your headers.
You also have the option of choosing the performance muffler of your choice based on your performance goals or just the way you want the system to sound. Now this is a heavy DIY project that's going to require some cutting and welding, so if you don't have a welder or you're not comfortable with your skills, make friends with your local exhaust shop, and they can take care of you. The point is you've got tons of options with AutoZone.
These two upgrades will make your engine more efficient which increases horsepower. And AutoZone provides dyno results for the K&N systems that are gonna give you a really good idea of the performance gains.
If you want a car that goes fast, then you better make sure it can stop fast, and upgrading your brakes is something that most of us can do. For performance, you want to look at your pads, calipers, and your rotors. And if you want a little extra flare, you can use some custom caliper covers, or go on to the full brake kit, like this one from Power Stop.
Duralast GT is a performance brake pad used for high heat applications such as racing, towing, high GVW vehicles, police, and fleet vehicles. Duralast GT brake pads are constructed using carbon fiber technology which makes them durable and provides extraordinary stopping power, even under the most extreme braking conditions.
You have got to be able to control your car. Especially when it's screaming at the top of its RPM range. Now you can really improve the handling with some performance tires, and you can get better feedback with a performance steering wheel. Now most stock steering wheels are typically a larger diameter; they're made from molded plastic, and they can be hard to hang on to in extreme conditions. A smaller diameter wheel, covered in leather or suede, like these ones from our friends at Grant, give you better feedback, a better grip, and better car control.
High performance means high heat, and if you're dealing with high heat, you've got to go with synthetic. One of the best benefits of synthetic oil is that the oil itself doesn't break down as fast. The viscosity stays the same for a longer period of time, and especially under extreme conditions. But it's not just your engine oil. Synthetic and performance fluids throughout your vehicle can free up horsepower with less friction, and better protect your parts under stress, all at the same time.
Power programmers are a simple and proven way to really wake up your car, providing power gains up to 30 horsepower or even more in some diesel applications. They use a data cable that connects the programmer to your car's computer by plugging into the car's diagnostic port of a '96 and newer vehicle. A programmer can access and change tuning data that controls air and fuel into your engine, timing events, even transmission shift points, and line pressures to give you more power and a better performance feel, better towing, and even better fuel economy, depending on how the programmer is set.
Things like synthetic fluids to increase efficiency, and programmers for more power can change the way your vehicle performs without a ton of time and effort invested. Now these are a great way to make more power with almost any vehicle.
It's really that simple to get started. Start with a cold air system and a performance exhaust. Make sure you've got good brakes, and upgrade your steering wheel and tires for better handling. Upgrade your computer system to see more power gains and your fluids to gain more efficiency, and you are going to see better road handling, better feedback, and you'll make your vehicle a whole lot more fun to drive.
I'm Kevin Tetz, see you in the Zone.