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The Need for Speed: How Engine Upgrades Increase Your Car’s Power

There are a variety of engine upgrades that you can do to increase your car's horsepower and improve performance.

Many of today’s cars and trucks already come with impressive horsepower, but why stop there? A variety of engine upgrades can quickly and easily increase horsepower and improve overall performance. Here are a few of the ways you can give your car a bit more muscle.

Spark Plugs

Let’s start with good old spark plugs. These sit inside the cylinder heads and ignite the fuel. This combustion is what makes your engine run, so as simple as spark plugs are, you’re going nowhere without them. A single spark plug for a car lying on a blue surfaceOver time, spark plugs get dirty, corrode and eventually wear out. They might still do their job, but not as efficiently as when they were new. Make sure you change your spark plugs regularly so you get the best possible performance from your engine.

Weight Reduction

You won’t get extra horsepower by reducing the weight of your car, but you will improve its performance. Ditch any unnecessary items that might be piling up in your trunk. You can even go so far as to remove seats if you’re not carrying passengers. The less weight in your car, the better it will run.

Cold Air Intakes

Due to its positioning, a standard air intake draws warm air for fuel combustion. This isn’t ideal. A cold air intake is designed to pull air farther away from the engine where it’s cooler. Colder air is denser and produces more power, which means you’ll see a horsepower increase with this easy engine upgrade.

Superchargers and Turbochargers

Adding a supercharger or turbocharger is an engine upgrade that can yield big horsepower gains. These devices accomplish this by increasing airflow, so that the engine can add more fuel to the combustion process. Although the result is the same, each one works slightly differently.

A supercharger gets its power from a belt connected to the engine and delivers power the instant you hit the gas. A turbocharger gets its power from the exhaust system, which is more efficient, but produces a delay (or “turbo lag”) when you press the pedal.

Exhaust Headers and Manifolds

You should be noticing a theme at this point. Improving engine performance and horsepower is all about airflow. It’s not just about the air coming into the engine. The air going out also matters.

Stock exhaust manifolds are designed to meet emissions requirements, not provide optimum horsepower. Replacing these parts allows air to move more quickly through the exhaust system. Long-tube headers give you more horsepower at midrange and top RPMs, while short headers deliver improvements at lower RPMs.

Performance Chips

Factory-installed chips ensure that everything runs to detailed specifications to comply with emissions regulations. You can alter these specs by installing a performance chip.

This lets you take control and alter the fuel-to-air ratio, the ignition timing and the turbo boost, yielding an instant horsepower increase without having to go into the engine compartment. All it involves is connecting to the OBD-II port to access the information. No need to get your hands dirty.

There are many ways to improve your car’s performance. From maintaining items like spark plugs, to upgrading parts like cold air intakes, you can easily make your car a standout.

Check out all the engine kits available on NAPA online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on engine upgrades, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Wakelin.

Nicole Wakelin View All

Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.

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