The Fluidampr Is a Simple Mod That Changed the Feel of My GTI’s Engine
It doesn't make horsepower per se, but it does effectively improve performance
I am always looking for ways to improve my cars, specifically my 2010 Volkswagen GTI. I recently had APR Stage 1 software installed on my car, which was worth every dollar, but my worst fear about the tune came true: The GTI became significantly less rewarding to rev out. I needed to remedy this unwanted change and satiate my desire for an extra bit of character, power, and response from the EA888 TSI engine. It was a fateful day, then, when I woke up in a stupor on the floor of a Subaru shop and noticed a neat mod that was popular amongst that crowd: a Fluidampr.
In researching the Fluidampr, I found a good couple of articles about them on Motoiq.com. The writers there dyno-tested the part on an Acura Integra and a Mk7 Volkswagen Golf R. Interestingly, there were considerable power gains to be had from a simple crank damper. Even more interesting was the MotoIQ writers describing a marked increase in smoothness and refinement and a step-change in engine character. Specifically, it made the engine feel lighter and free-revving.
One thing my TSI engine is not is free-revving. It is decently smooth, but with the new 034Motorsport void-free rubber engine mounts and dogbone mount, I could feel some vibration. The heavy stock dual-mass flywheel didn’t help either. My interest in this mystical crank damper was piqued, especially because the Fluidampr is alleged to increase engine life.
By sheer luck, my interest aligned with availability on Facebook Marketplace. I found one used for $400 with the upgraded ARP crank bolt to replace the old torque-to-yield garbage. Four days later, it was at my doorstep and I pored over it. It seemed to be a high-quality piece and hefty. The Fluidampr website lists the static weight as 5.3 pounds, and the rotating weight as 3.5 pounds, which relates to what makes the Fluidampr magic happen: silicone fluid.
Most OEM crank dampers are pretty simple. They’re just pulleys with tuned rubber rings on them. Some have external weights to balance the engine, and some don’t. The rubber rings are tuned to attenuate (dampen) certain vibration frequencies from the engine crankshaft, usually the ones that are most harmful to the engine. Without any crank damper, the engine will destroy itself much more quickly, especially at certain rpm, and cause premature crankshaft bearing failures and other weird stuff.
Every engine, as a spinning thing, has a certain natural frequency or resonance where it absolutely shakes itself apart, and that’s where the stock damper does its job. Those frequencies and vibrations are the micro-accelerations and decelerations of the crankshaft as the individual pistons fire down onto the crank. This makes the crankshaft flex and bend in tiny, but significant, ways in a torsional whipping motion. OEM crank dampers that are tuned for their applications are great but have their weaknesses.
The primary limitation of the stock damper is that it’s tuned for stock power. Once your engine is tuned, that changes the amount of accelerative force exerted on the crankshaft. More power means more of that torsional whip, which changes the frequencies of the crank.
Part of that weakness is that the OEM damper is designed to dampen a limited range of frequencies. It can only do work in a certain rpm range, and it’s very rare to have a damper that is complex enough to handle more than a couple thousand rpm.
The Fluidampr seems to address both of these weaknesses. Built with a small steel flywheel inside, it is self-tuning and dampens vibrations across the entire RPM range. It achieves this with that silicone fluid I mentioned earlier. Instead of tuned rubber rings, the Fluidampr is filled with a viscous medium instead. It’s less of a fluid and more of a thick goo specially formulated by Fluidampr the company.
That silicone fluid is the special black magic of the Fluidampr. In effect, it frees horsepower that is otherwise wasted on nasty vibration and torsional whip. It is only beneficial to your engine, with the main demerit only coming from your wallet, and I was excited to get mine installed.
Installation is straightforward. On most cars, it requires removing some aero panels to get access to your crank bolt. Using an impact gun to remove the crank pulley isn’t officially recommended, and you should use the proper crank counter-holding tools or method, but I whizzed the old bolt off with an air gun. Don’t be like me, or you could damage the crankshaft on some engines, though generally, you’ll be fine. Make sure to do research on your engine for any specific procedural hurdles.
For my specific engine, I had to have the new crank damper on post-haste because of a small chance that the lower timing gear could jump out of place on my TSI engine. I lined up the key on the crankshaft snout, held it on, and hand-threaded the new bolt until the pulley was held snugly against the crank. Make sure you line the key up, that is crucial. Usually, it won’t go on unless it is properly keyed, so don’t force anything.
Use that same counter-hold tool to help you torque the pulley to spec. Once again, I didn’t. I pulled the handbrake up a few extra clicks and threw the car in sixth gear. Fluidampr calls for a 250 lb-ft of torque on the ARP bolt, which is quite considerable. Though it was a struggle with the car starting to creep as I torqued the bolt down, I felt the torque wrench click and the job was done. A good tip: I’ve used the fifth/sixth-gear-and-handbrake method to crack many stubborn crank pulleys and torque them properly. You don’t always need special tools.
From the moment I started the car, the difference was palpable. As it settled from cold idle to normal warm idle, the engine was absolutely smoother. I rolled down my driveway, and as I blipped the throttle to get going in first, everything felt different. It felt like I’d installed a lightened flywheel. The TSI engine revved freely, like I’d never felt before. I’m not embellishing when I say that it started revving freer than my ‘09 Civic Si. The difference is night and day. The Honda revved harder, but this feels less labored and more eager over more of the rev range.
Shifting, heel-and-toeing, and top-end power were significantly improved. Before, the engine would do 5,500 rpm before running out of puff and starting to groan. Now, it revved with authority and power straight to 6,000 rpm. The 4,000-6,000 rpm improvement was so significant that I felt like there was less power below 4,000 rpm. There isn’t, but the relative difference made it feel as such.
The new smooth character made it feel like a totally different engine. It reminds me of my BMW ZHP, in which I sort of started to forget that it was sitting at 4,000 rpm in the daily stoplight-to-stoplight slog. The engine became so balanced and smooth that I hardly believe it’s a four-cylinder. It has adopted undertones of a flat-plane V8, which is bizarre to say.
To discover such life-changing changes from such a low-key modification was shocking. For $450 new, this has to be one of the best mods you can do, if you’re lucky enough to have a car on the list of Fluidampr applications. I love that it helps save the engine across a broad range of vibration ranges, and because of that, it simply frees trapped horsepower that is otherwise wasted. It is free power that makes your engine more reliable. Where else can you find that?
What do you guys think? Would you throw a Fluidampr on your car? Let us know!