How to get supercar performance on a budget.
Modern performance cars come so well-tuned from the factory these days, finding hidden horsepower can be like squeezing blood from a stone. But, for many first-time car owners and weekend warriors, the challenge isn’t to get more from an already fast car, it’s to unlock the potential of the more practical vehicle that’s available to you. That’s something that has brought car folks together for generations. Try these ten suggestions to tap into the well of performance you knew was hiding under the surface of your daily driver or 24-hours-of-lemons competitor.
Lower It Achieving a low center of gravity will allow your car to corner more quickly. Lowering springs can be had for just about any car these days, and you can probably do the entire operation for under $500 installed.
Change Your Air Filter If you’ve never checked on the condition of your car’s air filter, now is a good time. Allowing these important components to become caked with dirt and debris can keep your engine from breathing, that means less power. Swapping in a high-performance filter will increase MPG and make your car more powerful.
Ice Bags for the Win! This is not what you’d call a long-term power adder, but it’s a move that drag racers have been employing for decades, and it works. Drop a few bags of ice on your intake to shave a tenth or two off the old e.t. Never fails.
Add Lightness Colin Chapman started Lotus, and his philosophy is one of the truest in racing. A lighter car will always be a more responsive car, so if you’re not using those extra seats, body panels or radio, get rid of ‘em. Trust us, you’ll feel the difference at the track.
Boost It! Now, this is not an upgrade that can be had quite as cheaply as gutting your car or relieving it of some extra seat weight, but there are few upgrades that will deliver more power for your money. Forced induction on the cheap means lots of ponies, more than any other single upgrade. Just make sure you’ve got the proper enlarged fuel injectors to match your new boost.
Re-Tire That Thing The things tire manufacturers can do with rubber compounds these days shouldn’t even be allowed on a racetrack. If your car is sporting rubber more than a few years old, it’s likely dried out and not sticky anyway. Upgrade to modern tires for improved traction and a quicker car.
Short-Throw Shifter Here’s an upgrade that will actually change the feel from the driver’s seat. You can find short-throw shift kits for most manual transmission cars. They’ll reduce the distance your shifter must travel to find a gear, and that means valuable tenths back to you.
Programmers and Chips Every modern car’s ignition and timing is controlled using a computer these days. You can take advantage of that by making tweaks that come pre-configured in a performance chip or fuel map. Got a boosted car? That means even more gains to be had.
Exhaust System Upgrades Unless you live in California where all upgrades that make cars louder than factory are deemed illegal these days, you can install a new exhaust system to give your car a more aggressive sound and free it from restrictive factory plumbing.
Throttle Body Your throttle body is the inlet to your car’s intake manifold: it’s what your engine breaths through. You can replace the stock unit with a larger one to increase airflow. More air, more fuel, more power — it’s that simple, and these tend to be very affordable.