3 Inexpensive Ways to Release Horsepower

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Toting the Fornt
Extreme Horsepower

Please, allow me to explain. You hear it on infomercials, all of the time: “Give your car more horsepower with a hurricane air filter…” Increasing your engine’s horsepower level can only be achieved in the following ways.

  • Increase cylinder bore size. By increasing the diameter of your cylinder bore, your engine gains cubic inch displacement, thus giving it the potential for increased horsepower.
  • Raise compression ratios. Larger valves in conjunction with smaller valves, stronger valve springs, replacing OEM pistons with domed or flat-top pistons. These things can raise compression ratios, yielding significant gains in horsepower.
  • Increase the amount of time that valves remain open. By replacing your engine’s stock camshaft with a high-performance camshaft, that is milled for a higher lift and longer duration, you can accomplish this and increase your engine’s horsepower.

These methods of increasing horsepower are best left to professionals. They are relatively extreme, not to mention very expensive and time consuming. Maybe increasing horsepower is not what you need; if you are only looking to increase power output by around 50-hp, then you just need to “free-up” some your engine’s horsepower that is currently being wasted in other areas. So, if you just want to see a few more “ponies put to the pavement” without breaking the bank, these easily accomplished and inexpensive tips will help.


Power Tuner/Programmer

power tuner
Diablosport T-100 Tuner

Releasing your late model (1996 and newer) vehicle’s performance potential can be as easy as checking for trouble codes. Optimum fuel delivery, ignition timing, and automatic transmission shift settings for increasing horsepower and torque can be easily downloaded into your vehicle’s powertrain control module (PCM) using a custom power tuner or re-programmer. DiabloSport and Hypertech are two of the many companies offering top-quality, downloadable power programs for cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs. Diesel trucks and cars can also profit from re-programmers; Banks Performance & Engineering is the end-all in expert diesel performance. Gasoline powered vehicles can typically expect to gain from 10 to 15-horsepower and between 15 and 20 lb.-ft. of torque using a performance tuner or re-programmer.


Cold-Air Intake

cold air intake
K & N Cold-Air Intake Kit

Replacing your restrictive stock intake air filtration device, with a high-performance, cold-air version, can net you another 10 to 15-horsepower and 10 to 15 lb.-ft. of torque. Installation of a cold-air intake is fairly straightforward for the mechanically inclined, but those who are mechanically challenged may want to consider professional installation. Cold-air intakes are typically sold with a stainless-steel or plastic inlet pipe, connector tubes and clamps, a heat shield that doubles as an air filter housing, and an air-charged high-performance air filter. Add to the cold-air intake a throttle body spacer and you can free-up even more horsepower. The cold-air intake supplies your induction system with cooler, denser outside air which allows your engine to more efficiently atomize it. The throttle body spacer provides a “swirling” effect for intake air which makes it even denser, further improving performance and efficiency.


Exhaust Modification

flowmaster 10
Flowmaster 10-Series Muffler

Exhaust modification is a very personal thing. You can go as moderate or as extreme as you see fit. As a rule; the quieter an exhaust system is, the more horsepower it is stealing from your engine. Mufflers and resonators make exhaust quieter by placing restrictions in its path. These restrictions force the engine’s exhaust to flow around them, reducing noise emission and robbing horsepower in the process. Less restrictive performance mufflers, such as Flowmaster 10-Series , along with the removal of resonators can yield an increase of up to 15-horsepower at the wheels. Removal of all mufflers and resonators will provide slightly greater increases but remember as the restrictions are removed the exhaust grows louder. Check local and state laws regarding exhaust noise emissions before having any exhaust modifications performed.

S.M. Darby

S.M. Darby

I am a freelance author with over 25 years of experience as a professional, ASE certified automotive technician and shop owner, muscle car enthusiast, avid street racer, and classic car restoration specialist.