Time Needed: 5 minutes to a lifetime, Difficulty: Beginner to Garage Hero, Cost: $5-black hole that eats money
Horsepower is, well, addictive. Going faster raises your adrenaline, ignites your serotonin, and sends shivers down your spine. Heck, there’s a reason why Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “Faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” We’ve overcome that fear.
Adding horsepower to your car, however, isn’t as straightforward as Thompson’s advice. Nor is it as cheap as just, you know, going faster and faster. No, adding horsepower has become a billion-dollar industry and ranges from putting more horses in Mustangs to Ferraris.
To better accustom yourself to the ins and outs of adding horsepower to your ride, Car Bibles’ speed-demon editors have put together this guide to help you navigate the world of horsepower additives. Pedal to the metal, folks!
The Safety Brief
We want for you to exit the garage with all the fingers you went in with. There’s no need for safety to come third, make it first. To ensure your skin stays unblemished and your bones intact, you’ll want safety glasses, gloves, and, more than likely, a fire extinguisher.
The Tools and Parts You Need
Here’s the thing. Adding horsepower can require as little as a funnel to as much as a fully stocked garage, complete with loaded tool chests, a lift, a welder, paint booth, among the thousands of tools that go with it. You’re going to need a bunch, so let’s figure out how you want to add horsepower first.
The Job: How To Add Horsepower
There isn’t just one way to increase your car’s horsepower, so we’ve laid out a few different options.
Octane booster is a liquid additive that you pour into your car’s gas tank to increase the octane rating of your car. This doesn’t necessarily increase your horsepower, but it does increase the performance of your car’s combustion cycle.
Cold/Ram Air Intake
Your car’s combustion cycle depends on three things: gasoline, spark, and air. The more air you can funnel into your engine, as well as the colder it is, the more boom you’re gonna get out of your motor. A cold/ram air intake allows for more and colder air to be forced into your car’s intake and into the engine, thereby producing more power. Don’t expect anything major, however, the gains will be extremely minimal.
Just as forcing more air into your engine increases your horsepower, so does removing it faster. The faster the flow from end to end, the more power you’re going to make. A performance exhaust, one that either starts at the headers, the catalytic converter, or the muffler, will increase your engine’s horsepower gains.
Newer cars are all managed by hundreds of thousands of lines of coding, all of which control your car’s performance. With a software update, those lines of code are changed to increase horsepower either through fuel, air, temperature, or other parameters.
Somewhat similar to an air intake, forced induction is when you slap a turbocharger, supercharger, or electric turbocharger onto your engine in the effort of “forcing” more air into it.
Turbochargers rely on intake and exhaust gases to propel their turbines and force air into the engine, while superchargers are pulley based and not as efficient. Electric turbochargers run off your car’s electrical system to force air into the engine.
Performance Engine Build
If you’re going all in, a performance engine build by a reputable engine builder could be right for you. From the factory, your car’s engine is designed for longevity, not overall performance. Engine builders go through the entirety of your engine and make substantial improvements to its performance through new camshafts, crankshafts, bore and stroke of the cylinders, and every nut and bolt.
And there are multiple stages to choose from, everything from mild upgrades to something that will run the quarter-mile in under 9-seconds flat.
Yes, the thing you do to all your Forza cars is actually a thing in real life too. Engine conversions are popular across the automotive spectrum and can turn your puny little naturally aspirated four-banger into a V10 monster in short order. You can see the video below for proof.
What most people won’t tell you are all the associated systems you’ll need to change for the engine swap to work. Things like new ECUs, firewalls, subframes, suspension, and brakes. Along with a host of interior and exterior modifications as well.
The Car Bibles Questionnaire
Car Bibles answers all your burning questions!
Q: What’s the Cheapest Way to Increase Horsepower?
A: Unfortunately, horsepower ain’t cheap. Low-buck solutions like octane booster can help, but it isn’t permanent. Long-term solutions like forced induction are highly expensive, like, in the thousands of dollars range.
The cheapest way is probably adding a new air intake or full header-back exhaust system, but those will still run you hundreds of dollars for good parts.
Q: What’s the Easiest Way to Go Faster Around a Track?
A: Go to racing school. You may think you’re Senna, but you aren’t, and everyone, including your humble Car Bibles editors, can do with a lot more training. Racing school will show you what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and how to get around the track faster.
Other than that, you can buy good performance tires. Tires keep you glued to the tarmac and will drop lap times faster than any other performance modification you can think of. In reality, adding power should be one of the last thing you do to improve your track times.
Q: How Can I Add 5 Horsepower to My Car?
A: Buy our stickers.
Q: How Can I Stop Quicker?
A: Look ahead, be mindful of your space, and be prepared to stop. Other than that, you can buy larger brake rotors, brake pads, and upgrade your brake master cylinder. Don’t forget to bleed it though.
The Horsepower Video Tutorial
Car Bibles’ editors understand that not everyone is a text-based learner. For those kinesthetic people out there, we have your back with a video showing you exactly how to add horsepower. So we pulled it from one of our favorite, and most trusted, sources and it’s a great additional resource.
Best Places To Buy Tools and Parts to Increase Horsepower
You can buy tools and parts to add horsepower at almost every auto parts and home improvement store. As well as online stores like Amazon. You have a sea of options to select from. But why deal with the hassle when we can just tell you what you want, such as Octane Booster, Performance Mufflers, or a Performance Chip to flash your ECU?
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