Contributor: Graeme Henk
So you’ve recently taken ownership of your new ride – and now you’re already looking at making sound just a bit beefier, and feel a bit nippier right? Buckle up, our car performance guide is about to take you through all the basic steps you should cover when modifying your car!
The key to successful engine modifications is understanding how your car makes power – and it’s not complicated, we promise. Ready to have your mind friggin’ blown? Here we go:
More air + more fuel = more power. That’s it; that’s the formula of speed, broken down into its simplest form for everyone to understand. In other words, the bigger the combustion explosion inside your engine, the greater the resultant propulsion of your vehicle will be.
Of course, the trick is in choosing the correct combination of performance components which provide said air and fuel in order to achieve your desired result.
Your first step in your performance modifying journey should be to concentrate on your car’s breathing: getting air in and out of the engine as quickly and efficiently as possible. Note; the key here is efficiency.
The less restrictive the passage is which the air needs to travel into your engine, the faster it will flow – this is why a cone filter or induction kit is usually the first mod that anyone does.
Not only does it give your engine a deeper, more menacing growl on acceleration; but an induction kit that has been designed specifically for your vehicle certainly optimizes the airflow into the engine.
Your induction is only the first part of your car breathing better. Now that you’re cramming air in there, you don’t want unnecessary back-pressure to build up due to a restrictive, narrow-diameter stock exhaust system. This is why the next step is usually doing an aftermarket exhaust system.
Fitting a performance exhaust to your car comes with numerous actual benefits; it’s not just about having a loud car that has you going BWAAAAP all over town! (Admittedly, doing that is pretty fun though right?) Chat to your preferred exhaust fitment centre about available options for your car.
A larger-diameter exhaust system helps to flow the exhaust gases as rapidly as possible, which in turn will keep your engine happy – and, more often than not, actually help improve fuel economy. This is actually an aspect we’ll be getting to in a moment; but one last word of advice on an aftermarket exhaust: The biggest size isn’t necessarily always the best.
Now that we’ve got the air up to par, we need sufficient fuelling to match – and the easiest, quickest way to do this is via software tuning. For basic power upgrades, concentrating on your car’s brain and how it commands the fuel injectors is what matters. You’ve done your bit with the hardware mods, now the software needs to be reprogrammed to accommodate and account for these mods.
The good news in terms of your fuelling is, factory-fitted injectors are programmed to run well below their maximum duty cycle; so it’s not necessary to swap them out for bigger variants just yet – that only happens once you get really serious about high-performance car upgrades.
This is why we often hear car guys and software tuners referring to “Stage 1” tunes; these are ECU remaps which alter and improve the factory parameters of your engine’s fuelling and ignition.
As a rule of thumb, turbocharged vehicles will benefit the most from a software tune and see the biggest power gains; while the power delivery and general driveability of naturally-aspirated cars will see pretty reasonable improvements with software.
Your car’s stock ECU is like having a matric certificate, while a software remap is the equivalent of having a Master’s degree. Let that sink in for a second.
Now, go out there and enjoy your car’s newfound power. Stay tuned to our blog and social media channels though; we’ll soon be exploring a few more car performance options and guidelines for your car – but be careful; if the bug bites too hard, you might end up with a build like this Mitsubishi Evo IX which we recently featured!