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23 / 04 / 2019

How do I upgrade my car engine?

As Ricky Bobby once said “I wanna go fast”, but where should Ricky start? Sure, buy a heap of bolt-on modifications and start tinkering but is your engine ready for this? Below are a few suggestions and some things to consider when upgrading your engine.

The basic’s

Staying on top of the basics with your car will play a big role in ensuring your car can perform to its fullest potential and potentially. Things like changing the oil on a regular basis, ensuring the air filter is clean, topping up transmission oil, keeping radiator fluids full etc.

Let your engine breath

Ok, let’s get practical here. Go to your local hardware or medical supplies and buy a face mask. Don the facemask and go for a run. Obviously, it’s a lot harder to breathe with a face mask on so, therefore, you probably can’t run as far or as fast as you can without the facemask.

Now, apply this practical experiment to your car (don’t actually put a facemask on your car), put a cold air intake on your car, letting your car breath better, note the difference. Cold air is denser. Which means more air particles are closer together allowing more air to enter the engine.

K&N Cold air intake kit.

Let your engine breath – Part 2

Notice that when you take a big breath in, you need to take an equally as big of breath out. Same goes for your engine. When you install your cold air intake which allows more air in, you need to give the air a smoother and larger passage out. By installing a slightly larger, higher flowing exhaust, you can let the air escape the combustion chamber faster. You have a number of options when it comes to replacing your exhaust systems. Some opt for changing the tailpipe to make the car sound better, but just because the sound is bigger does not mean the car is performing better. For a performance exhaust, start at the “headers” (extractors). You will notice the difference in length of every single exhaust is often longer before it joins to the tailpipe. Standard manifolds are generally made from a heavy cast iron which commonly cracks over time whereas extractors are made from steel and some manufacturers construct them from stainless steel.

From left to right: Stainless steel extractors. Cast iron Manifold.

Re-programme your ECU

The above steps are a great place to start, to complete these steps you have to let your engine control unit (ECU) know what you’ve done. Your ECU is like the brain of your engine. The ECU adjusts the air to fuel ratio entering your engine. If you don’t reprogram your ECU after changing your air intake and exhaust, your car might run worse than it did before. If you have too much air enter your engine and not enough fuel to properly combust, your car will be sluggish. Your ECU will tell your injection system “hey we’re breathing a lot more now, add some fuel” your ECU decides how much and provides your engine with the optimal fuel to air ratio to perform, however, providing your engine with a richer or leaner mix at certain rev ranges can give better performance. Consider consulting with an ECU tuning specialist before doing so.

The ECU also tells your ignition system when to ignite the said fuel to air mixture in your cylinders. If your engine ignites too early or late, your “timing is out”. Igniting the mix at the perfect time allows for the biggest explosion in your cylinders. This will be covered in your ECU re-map.

In conclusion

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars in bolt-on parts to increase the performance of your car. But if you want to, this is still a good place to start. Getting your basics in order and making sure you have a mechanically sound engine to build on and letting your ECU do some of the heavy liftings, could save you in the back pocket.