The phrase “less is more” applies about as much to car engine’s power output as it does to time spent on a date with a brainy supermodel who’s as fun to converse with as she is to look at. It seems you just can’t get enough, and when it comes to automobiles, we feel your pain when you mash the pedal on your subcompact hatchback with cracker-sized wheels, “accelerating” to 60 mph at what can only be described as a geologic rate.
So you’ve purchased your car of choice and remained within your diminutive budget, only to hope your routes are mostly downhill. You regularly scream, “I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain!” a la Montgomery Scott as you try to merge with freeway traffic but are passed by a Biggest Loser contestant on rollerblades. You’re in luck. There are ways to bring your car’s horsepower to levels higher than Tom Cruise’s vertical leap, and they don’t have to cost you a large fraction of your annual salary. Just remember one thing, young man: with great power comes great
Blow Hard: Turbocharging
Turbocharging isn’t all noise and fury — that whir is the beautiful, sonorous tone of forced induction when the turbine pulls more air into your engine’s combustion chamber, giving your car a boost via the bump in air pressure and fuel. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a potent naturally aspirated engine that uses normal atmospheric pressure, but add a couple of turbochargers with minimal lag and you’ve got yourself the equivalent of automotive Viagra.
Pressure Is On: Supercharging
If your already potent car sounds angry when you mash the throttle, you can easily add not just more audible rage but more power via a supercharger. Whereas turbocharging makes use of a turbine, a supercharger increases air pressure and density via mechanical means such as a belt, chain or shaft connected to the crankshaft of the engine. The supercharger then allows each intake cycle more air, which gives your engine that extra power kick under nearly the full rpm range.
Go With The Flow: High Performance Exhaust
If you haven’t already noticed, more power is all about moving air. To that end, you can reduce your car’s back pressure by swapping out exhaust systems. It’s not just about getting a freer flowing unit but also getting straighter pipes to up the flow. You won’t just gain horses in the process — you’ll also let the neighbors know you don’t mess every time you come home from the office.
Pass The Chip: ECU Reprogramming
This just might be one of the least expensive solutions to power gains in your car, though it’s certainly not the most noticeable. Car manufacturers don’t necessarily recommend such changes to their generally conservative ECU programs, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen. Tuner companies can reprogram or chip your car’s electronic control unit (ECU) by adjusting ignition timing and the air to fuel mixture, lending your car more power and simultaneously voiding your car’s warranty — so consider yourself warned.
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Cold Fusion: Cold Air Intake
Your car needs to breathe, but it prefers cooler air, so replacing your car’s airbox with a fat-tubed cold air intake can give you at least a few extra horses. Just make sure you find one that doesn’t mount it too low in your engine bay, or you just might take on water and ruin your engine for good. Oh, we almost forgot to mention the cool sucking sound your car will make when you hit the gas.
Lose the Bulk: Drop Unnecessary Weight
No, we don’t mean you should lose your friends, but short of actually spending money on increasing your engine’s actual horsepower, you can bump up your car’s performance and handling by cutting your car’s weight. Getting rid of superfluous items like your back seat, air conditioning, the sound system and even floor carpeting can mean you just might be able to simultaneously do a sub-12 second quarter mile and dash any hopes of using your vehicle for respectable date transportation.