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15 Ways to Increase Your Car Engine's Horsepower

Aug 22, 2017

how to increase your cars horsepower

Horsepower.  It’s a word you’ve heard over and over again in the automotive world.  In the world of nerds, it would be equivalent to your car’s HP (hit points), always on the eternal quest to boost it.  To be quiet honest, many car guys don’t even scientifically know what it is, just that they want it, and lots of it.  It’s a ‘mine is bigger than yours' statistic.  However, if you turned toward that person bragging about horsepower and asked him “what it was” he’d have little clue.  Only that it makes the car go faster.  But what is it?   What is horsepower and how do we get more of it in our car engines?


So to break it down for you, horsepower, a unit of power to define the rate at which work is done.  In other words, the power that a horse gives when pulling, or essentially the power needed to raise 550 pounds a distance of one foot in one second, or the power needed to move 33,000 pounds one foot in one minute.


Where did the phrase horsepower come from? Exactly where you might think… from horses.  And a man named James Watt.  Who used to stare at mill horses all day walking in circles, powering the mills.   He created a steam engine that he claimed would “out-power” the horses 200 times over, but it was difficult for him to explain it to the millers in comparison to their horses.  So he developed a formula workload to help relate it to them on the fact that he estimated that a mill horse would pull/push the mill shafts with a force of 180 pounds, in a 24-foot circle, 144 times in an hour.  He then did more math to come to an equation that a mill horse could push 32,572 lbs one foot in one minute (which he later just rounded up to 33,000 lbs which he equated to the power of one horse. Horsepower. 


The picture sort of ruins the cool-factor. 


So now that we know the origin of the energy unit, how do we get more of it?


How to Increase your Car Engine’s Horsepower


There are many ways to increase your car’s horsepower but we will start with understanding how your car’s engine actually works.  To put it plainly, your car engine is one big air pump with a series of deliberate combustions that push as much air in and out of as possible.  If you want to increase the horsepower, you’ve essentially got to find ways to move more air in a greater volume through your engine. 


1.   Installing a High-Performance Cold Air Intake to increase horsepower

The colder air is, the denser it is. Meaning the more air per volume. For this same reason you’ll notice a balloon may appear to deflate when you take it outside in the cold, or your car tires will appear to lose air in the winter.  What this means for you is that the more dense the air is going into your car’s engine, the more air molecules are present to mix with the fuel to burn and create power.  The bottom line is the better, deeper, cleaner, faster and efficient your car can breath in and out, the more potential you have for increased horsepower.  So how do we do this?

Cold Air Intakes do exactly this.  Cold air intakes draw air into the car from a “colder” place outside the vehicle.  They have special filters that increase the surface area in which the air is pulled through into the engine, sometimes 3 times as large as your factory parts.  It also reduces resistance and unwanted turbulence that would reduce or inhibit steady airflow to the engine.


2. Installing a High-Flow air filter and intake.

A quick, cheap and easy way to throw a few more horsepower at your engine is to swap out your air-filter for a high performance one.  It allows your engine to “breath” better, kicking in a small amount of additional power.  Keep in mind that you need to check your state’s regulations.  Not all filters are legal in all areas.

increase horse power with high performance exhaust


3.   High Performance Exhaust System

Installing a free flowing exhaust with larger diameter piping will allow your car to expel exhaust quicker.  The faster the car can exhale carbon monoxide, the quicker it can inhale fresh oxygen to make more carbon monoxide.


Forced Induction


One of the most effective (but expensive ways) to increase your car’s horsepower is to “fast and furious” that bitch. In other words, to drop a supercharger or a turbo charger into your car. 


4. Supercharger

Not unlike the way cold air intakes benefit your car by providing denser gas, forced induction systems compress the air flowing into your engine and can offer over a 50% increase in horsepower to your engine.  If your engine and wallet can both support his upgrade.  By “forcing” in more air, you can mix more fuel and output more power.  They are easier to install than their cousin the Turbocharger, and give you more instant gratification when you step on the gas.  Being as they are “belt-driven” it actually makes them most effective on 6-cylidner engines, vs. four.  They also don’t require an intercooler, so you have less room for heat issues or break down.   


5. Turbocharger

While a supercharger gets it’s power from a belt connecting directly to the engine on the way in, a turbo charger gets it’s power on the way out from the exhaust.   They are extremely efficient in the respect that they “recycle” energy from the exhaust stream to power themselves, but do to the nature of this, they create a delay or “turbo lag” in increased energy.  With a turbo charger, you’re looking at a 25% increase in hp, even though the peak Hp can be higher than the supercharger.  


6. Nitrous

Another “Fast & Furious” favorite… essentially it’s a portable super/turbo charger, which makes it one of it’s most appealing features (the fact that you can take the kit from car to car, without losing your investment).   The Nitrous is like a can of “air-maker”.   It essentially creates more air in which to combust within the engine, in turn, creating more power.   A NOS kit can run you from $900-3000 and are illegal in most states.  But on the plus side, they can be used in addition to a turbocharger or supercharger to reduce lag and increase the final output of horsepower.  


7. Water-Injection Kit

A water-injection kit can both increase your vehicle’s gas mileage while reducing carbon deposits in the combustion chambers, helping to prevent engine pinging you’re contributing to because you’re too cheap to put super premium in your car’s tank.


While this modification will do nothing to boost horsepower on a naturally-aspirated engine, when coupled with turbo or superchargers, you’ll see horsepower gains a plenty.


8. Performance Camshaft

By increasing the duration and timing of the value openings within the engine, you can increase both horsepower and acceleration in your car.  This can be accomplished by installing a performance cam.  The downside to this other than the cost is that you create a noisier engine sound while you’re obnoxiously idling in front of your girlfriends house at 2 am, or is that an advantage?  You decide.


9. Reflash your vehicle’s computer

These devices reprogram your cars computer, allowing for more horsepower, torque, and even better gas mileage.  Depending on the engine, you can see some pretty respectable gains this way.



So in continuation of how to increase horsepower to your car’s engine, we have our final section which honestly just explains “How not to LOSE your horsepower.”  Those of you who don’t treat your cars with all the TLC they deserve will quickly find their horsepower making it’s way out to pasture.


10. Use the right gas for your car engine’s compression.

Stop being cheap.  You spend the money on a high performance car, don’t ruin it by putting low octane gas in it.  What will happen is one of two things…   1. In older cars you’ll create engine pinging which adversely affects with your car’s combustion ability, draining your power output.   2. Your newer car will electronically adjust to the cheap gas you’re putting in the vehicle and begin combusting at a lower rate, sapping performance out of the motor and killing off a herd of your horses one by one as it adjusts to mediocrity.


11.  Keep your filters clean.

If your car can’t breath, your car can’t perform.  Keep your air and fuel filters clean and performing at their best and your car will continue to output its maximum horsepower potential.


12.  Keep your car tuned up.

If your spark plugs aren’t sparking, your engine is not performing.  Not only keeping healthy sparkplugs in your car will maintain it’s performance, upgrading to higher quality spark plugs may also improve it’s performance. Wires are just as important..


13. Keep your car well lubricated.

Anything that creates friction in your car’s engine reduces performance.  Keep up with and change all of your car’s fluids on schedule.  The better condition your car’s motor oil is in, the more it can do for your engine output.


14. Remove the junk in your trunk… and anywhere else for that matter. 

Keeping your car’s weight to a minimum is key to improving your car’s performance, so remove all unneeded weight from your car.  This includes back seats, spare tires, car jacks, air conditioners, speakers, and even replacing parts of your car with fiberglass or carbon fiber.  If you remove your entire air conditioner, and your girlfriend, you’re looking at a 240 lb weight reduction in your ride.  Stay hot and single my friend, in the name of illegal street racing. 


15. Upgrade your wheels.

To help your car perform better, not only will high performance wheels and tires reduce your car’s weight, but it will help it handle better as well.  You can shed about 10 lbs or more per wheel.



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