Love your car, but wish it was a little faster? Turns out you don’t have to put a second mortgage on your house to give your car an added boost. You’ll be happy to hear that there are plenty of inexpensive ways to increase your car’s horsepower.
For starters, you could purchase a cold-air intake for your car. Cold-air intakes cool the air that flows into your cylinders to mix with fuel. The idea is that because cold air is more dense, more air then enters your cylinders. That in turn leads to more combustion, which means more power. A cold-air intake can yield a 5- to 7-horsepower increase for a typical engine provided that your car isn’t already sucking in a lot of cold air; if you live in Alaska, this performance upgrade is not going to make a difference. However, car owners living closer to the equator may see fit to opt into this one.
Another option for the penny-pithing car enthusiast is installing a cat-back exhaust. Straightening the pipes between the catalyst in the exhaust tubing to the car’s rear bumper can “loosen up the entire system,” according to Jeff Zurschmeide, author of “The New Mini Performance Handbook.” According to Zurschmeide, cat-back exhausts allow for gases to be pushed out of the exhaust easier and more efficiently, making more room for air and fuel, making higher horsepowers possible. “New catalysts are less restrictive than they used to be, and they’re designed to work with the engine. They’re not such a bar to performance anymore.”
High-flow catalysts can also boost your car; swap out your old catalyst for a modern aftermarket high-flow number and you’ll definitely feel the difference. Paired with the cat-back exhaust, you can really make a difference on your car without spending too much money. The only issue is that it’s illegal to remove a catalyst that isn’t broken and doing so can result in large fines. You could always just break it yourself though.
Auto-lovers on a budget can also switch around the alignment of their tires to increase their car’s power. Many cars are set up with a toe-in alignment that can be straightened for more speed.Regular tires can also be swapped out for a set of shorter tires to increase acceleration. That will make your speedometer read incorrectly though.
One final trick for increased auto performance? Try reflashing your car’s computer. That means changing its programming regarding timing, fuel-air mixture, and other horsepower-upping inputs. Reflashing may lower your mileage, but what’s great about this little tweak is that it can also be retweaked or untweaked. That means if you need warranty work done, you can just reset it to its original standards. That untweaking feature also comes in handy if you need to get your car inspected by the state environmental department. The downside? This trick will only really work if your car is either turbocharged or supercharged; normally aspirated engines can only be upped an extra half a horsepower by reflashing alone. It also will only yield a large net horsepower increase if factory settings were the major obstacle between you and more power; if the settings are already such that your car is as powerful as it possibly can be, there’s little programming you can do to increase your performance.