Fortunately there are plenty of ways to make your car faster without being an engine pro, so put down the stickers and look into these tips for finding some extra speed.
The easiest way to go faster is to simply lose weight, and yes that applies to the car as well as the driver. Most experts agree that shedding 10 pounds is roughly equal to adding 1 horsepower, so think about that when filling the boot with speakers or eating another cheeseburger. Less weight means a better power-to-weight ratio, and that means more speed.
Cold Air Intake
Engines are essentially big air pumps. The more air you can get in to mix with fuel, the more horsepower you can make. Cold air intakes generally don’t provide a big bump in horsepower, but good ones can flow air better while pulling cooler air from outside the car. Cooler air is more dense, hence more air for more horsepower.
You can take in all the air you want, but if you can’t get it out of the engine it doesn’t matter. A higher capacity exhaust that’s less restrictive can help the engine breathe better, creating more horsepower in the process.
Modern engines operate through precise computer control. From the factory these computer settings are usually conservative to help with fuel economy, engine longevity and so forth. Simply altering these settings with either an add-on computer chip or a programmable tuner can add horsepower, but be careful. Get too aggressive and you could do serious harm to the engine.
Gears can have a huge effect on acceleration. Front-wheel drive cars with transaxle assemblies are difficult to access for gear changes, but most rear-wheel drive cars with a differential outside the transmission can swap to shorter gear ratios for significant gains in quarter-mile performance.
Front-wheel drive cars generally see the greatest benefit from limited-slip differentials, though they’re good for rear-wheel drive applications as well. Simply put, they provide better traction for initial acceleration, knocking a few tenths off that critical 0-60mph time. In cornering, they can help tame understeer for faster lap times.
People often think of suspension upgrades as beneficial for track performance, and that’s absolutely true. Aside from better lap times, tighter suspension can also improve initial acceleration by providing better traction and less weight transfer. Additionally, simply replacing worn suspension components can get more horsepower to the ground instead of losing it through loose parts.
We’ve already talked about losing weight, but it’s even more critical at the wheels. Turning big, heavy wheels requires more horsepower than smaller, lighter wheels. Resist the urge to get those fancy 22-inch rims and stick with a small, light wheel for better performance.
Dedicated Performance Tyres
As tyres age they tend to harden up. Also, most high-mileage all-season tyres are a harder compound that trades aggressive dry traction for long tyre life. They’re great for putting on a smoke show, but neither will perform as well as a dedicated high-performance tyre with better grip on dry pavement.
It takes horsepower for the engine to operate things like the alternator, power steering pump and so forth. Underdrive pulleys for the accessories can free up a bit of that horsepower, but stay away from changing the crankshaft pulley. Aside from that being a direct engine component, most crankshaft pulleys are specifically balanced for the engine. Upsetting that balance could lead to very bad things, namely catastrophic engine failure.