The Need for Speed: 20 Different Ways to Make Your Car Go Faster
Lets face it… there’s one thing on every guy’s mind from age 16-17 that quickly becomes a passion and an obsession that continues throughout the rest of their lives. What is it you ask? It’s 'the need for speed”. That never ending quest of ‘the fast and the furious’ to make our vehicles go faster. We all remember our first cars, but not only that, we all remember the first time we lined up those cars at a red light next to a tuned up import or an American Muscle. You stare down the other driver. You tighten your grip on the wheel. You set your gaze on the road ahead and when that light turns green you put the pedal to the metal… and what happens next? You probably get smoked, and learn a real-time and humbling lesson on where your car lies in the grand scheme of 0-60 times. Not quite where you had hoped. From that point on, your mission becomes clear… its time to make your car faster.
The biggest question about upgrading your car’s speed is where to start. Every make, model and year will have different options for specific modifications but we’re going to go over the ins and outs for general speed upgrade and mods that work for most cars.
What determines your car’s speed?
The speed of a vehicle is determined by a large combination of factors which include engine efficiency and performance, weight, and the programming of its electronic parts. The two most important things you can provide to your car to increase its speed is air and fuel. Air and fuel are essential for propelling a car forward and their combustion in the engine provides the force needed to power the car’s components that make it move. The more air and fuel you can get to your engine, the more power it can give back. For this reason most upgrades are focused around pushing additional air and gasoline into the engine while others drive the extra exhaust back out.
In older vehicles you may have more mechanical parts present. These parts take away from the car’s horsepower, as well as the fact that some stock parts of a car may actually be installed to restrict the full capabilities of an engine. Replacing these parts can significantly improve a cars top speed and acceleration.
How to improve my car’s performance
In no particular order you’ll find a general list of upgrades that will improve your car’s performance. Please understand that every year, make and model is different and all of them will have unique upgrades to enhance performance, but as a general guide these will work for most cars and is a great place to start.
An obvious fix and quite possibly one of the simplest is to replace your spark plugs. What do they do? A spark plug is a critical engine component that provides the spark that ignites the air-fuel mixture that drives an engine. A spark plug operates by directing electrical current to flow through a centre electrode, forming a spark across an electrode (or air) gap, completing the circuit to a ground electrode. No spark, no air-fuel combustion to drive your car, and bad spark plugs are often ignored. Ever blow a spark plug or have one misfire? Your car is going no where fast. Replace and upgrade spark plugs often. Check with your user’s manual as to how often they should be replaced.
Spark plugs made out of iridium are out of this world. Literally. The metal came to us on a meteor from outer space. The iridium increases the spark which combusts the fuel faster by better charge.
Replace Mechanical Parts:
If there are mechanical parts that you can upgrade or replace to be electrical, this will definitely improve your horsepower. Mechanical parts draw from the vehicle’s horsepower and slow down your car. Fans that keep your engine cool, and fuel pumps are two common parts (usually on older vehicles) that can be replaced with electric parts that will prevent them from taxing horsepower, leaving all the ponies dedicated to your speed and acceleration.
As stated before, engines need air and fuel to perform, so to install or upgrade an air intake will definitely boost your speed. The part you may have seen in cars before but had no idea what it does. Its that long pipe with the accordian looking piece (air filter) that looks like it doesn't belong there because it's not made out of metal. An air intake does exactly what it sounds like it does… allows your engine to intake more air. Many air intakes are quick and affordable upgrades with an added bonus of improving your vehicle’s gas mileage.
Performance is typically enhanced by removing restriction from heads, intake manifold, throttle body and intake piping. An easy way to increase stock airbox flow rates is to add a K&N filter element. K&N is the leader in this industry and guarantees a couple extra HP for your car at a low cost. Boosted fuel economy and the filter will pay for itself in the long run. Also - Keep your pipes clean. The smoother the pipe walls the better, allowing air to flow easier. Clean and polish the throttle body, and any pipe connection ports. You can also port match the intake manifold and as well as deburing can help. Removal of “tumble generator valves” when applicable will greatly improve airflow on some vehicles.
The standard computer chip used in stock fuel injection systems typically deliberately restricts the amount of air and fuel a car can consume, drastically restricting its power and speed. By replacing the unit with a custom performance chip you will greatly improve horsepower, speed, and fuel mileage by allowing your engine to handle more air and fuel. These chips can be specifically adjusted and programmed to optimize performance for your specific vehicle.
If you still own a car with a carburetor, you can upgrade this as well. A carburetor is a device that mixes the air and gasoline into a vapor to be burned inside the engine. Newer cars have fuel injection, but if your car is older and does have this device upgrade your barrels where applicable. If you have a two barrel carburetor, upgrade to a four. Additionally you’ll have to install a new intake manifold, but you’ll also be additionally adding speed.
Most people know about this one… it’s notorious habit of increasing the sound your car makes typically precedes it’s reputation for making your car faster. By upgrading your exhaust you reduce the amount of restriction in the engine, easing the flow of the exhaust leading to improved performance. Dual exhaust systems can be installed in place of a vehicle’s catalytic converter - but make sure you are installing a true dual exhaust, which starts all the way back, not one that just splits the output between two tailpipes. This also facilitates the flow of exhaust through the engine. Always check local sound ordinances before upgrading to an exhaust that will make your car extra noisy.
The exhaust flow is often increased by removing mufflers, adding larger headers and port matching the headers, as well as keeping the inner pipe walls smooth. The change from exhaust manifolds to headers improves the weakest link in your exhaust system. You can even header wrap your exhaust half way so that the hot air naturally seeking “cold air” sucks the exhaust out.
You’ve seen this used in every Fast and the Furious movie. You wait for it… that moment when the characters are in a head to head battle and the driver presses a button labeled N0S and immediately the car shoots forward with an extreme burst of speed propelling it past the other racer. But what does it do? Nitrous oxide is used to create additional oxygen for an engine during combustion. It has the added benefit of cooling the intake air, which causes the air to be denser. Unlike other mods, a nitrous oxide system is not run continuously on a vehicle but instead, applied in short busts when needed. Many states prohibit the use of this modification so be careful to check state law.
NOS is the company that specializes in nitrous oxide systems. No matter what type of engine you have, there is a NOS that will inject your car full of this stuff. Depending on your budget and need for speed, NOS offers several modified systems that will inject nitrous oxide from both single and multiple spots, enhancing your performance boost.
There is an important reason that a NOS is only an “on demand” upgrade. Too much nitrous oxide in your engine will blow it apart. You have to be very careful with how much you inject, depending on your car and type of engine.
Forced Air Induction Systems:
There are two different types of forced air units that can be added to your car: turbochargers and superchargers. More and more often you’ll see these as a factory upgrade in high performance vehicles and sports cars, but they can be added aftermarket. These systems drive more oxygen into an engine but can be very costly upgrades.
Turbochargers: A turbocharger is added to a gasoline engine. These units are powered by a vehicle’s exhaust flow which spins a turbine to push clean, compressed air back into the engine. Compressing the air means more air can be squeezed into the cylinder, and since more air means more fuel can be added, this allows for a much more powerful combustion in each cylinder which increases the power output of the engine.
Superchargers: A supercharger also manually compresses air to force it into an engine, but whereas turbochargers use the exhaust flow to operate, a supercharger is typically powered mechanically by a belt, chain, or gear connected to the engine’s crankshaft. This modification tends to require advanced engine reconstruction and sometimes even a hole cut into the hood of the car in order to accommodate it’s size. They’re easy to spot and are a sweet spot that tend to be loved by classic muscle car owners. They look like rocket engines sticking out of the hood and damn near perform like them. Nothing says my American Muscle will smoke your import then having one of these bad boys gleaming out from the center of the hood. Superchargers are turbochargers on steroids. But just like steroids… the can be illegal in some areas and situations so check your local laws.
Reduce Your Car’s Weight:
The less your car weighs, the faster it can go. So get rid of all unnecessary weight. No junk in the trunk. Some cars don’t even come with a spare tire just to improve performance. An easy way to cut weight significantly is to replace your hood and trunk with carbon fiber counterparts. The same goes with upgrading your rims to a higher performance lighter model. You can also swap out your seats, remove carpeting and even your air conditioner. If you plan on installing a roll cage, you can even remove crash bars in doors to drop 50-60 lbs from your vehicle. If you really want to get serious about increasing speed… your stereo equipment should be the next to go. If you’ve ever seen professional race cars, they don’t even have headlights. Added bonus: improved gas mileage.
Increase the amount of fuel dumped into each cylinder by upgrading the fuel system. Add high flow fuel pumps, large diameter gasoline lines, high flow fuel filters, high flow rate injectors, larger fuel rails, ect. Special attention must be paid during these upgrades. Too much boost and not enough fuel will cause pre-detonation, blowing your engine. Every vehicle will have a different air-fuel ration so make sure to check.
You can enhance your vehicle’s speed by tuning up your drivetrain. This includes gears, stall converters, clutches, flywheels, differentials, and drive shafts. These upgrades are vehicle specific and need to be done very carefully.
Increase your speed (and handling) by improving your suspension components. A reduction in chassis flex helps to increase a car’s handling and response by adding sway bars and tower braces. There are many options to optimizing it. You can add subframe components, h-braces, and other types of strengthening devices to protect your car as well, especially if you are going to be giving it a beating to prevent the chassis from becoming deformed.
Get a good set of tires and keep them properly inflated. Good tires can make a huge difference. More grip makes your car both faster and safer and gives you better handling ability, especially around turns and corners. Check the tread often and keep them in top shape.
Good rims can improve your car’s performance. Not only do they make it look cooler, lightweight rims will decrease the car’s weight, and improve handling and brake performance.
Ok so you may be confused on this one… how do brakes increase the speed of my car? Easy. Better brakes allow you to brake later and more efficiently, and to keep your vehicle in control, which in turn allow you to get your foot back on the throttle.
ECU Tuning & Reflash:
This is essentially a software update that releases factory restrictions on your car and improves performance. One of the easiest ways to add speed to your ride, especially if your engine is turbocharged. Reflashing changes the programming regarding timing, fuel-air mixture and other horsepower-upping inputs. This can also be reset if you need to have warranty work done to your car or for inspection. Reflashing works for turbocharged or supercharged engines. Naturally aspirated engines will barely see any improvements. By upgrading the OEM computer you get cool features like maps, diagnostics, basic dyno functions, and other cool data about your car. Make sure you find the right professional for this.
Body Kits are a fun way to make your car just look completely awesome. While body kits are remotely helpful at increasing your car’s speed at normal driving speeds, they are extremely important and valuable at high racing speeds. Body kits modify the car’s exterior, including side skirts, front and rear bumpers, guards, hood, and spoiler. They can help reduce the left underneath the car and help to pin the car to the road while racing.
Improve Your Driving:
You may not have thought about this one, but a more skilled driver can get better performance out of any car, especially on the track. Learn the techniques, attend a class or advanced sports/racing school and learn the ins and outs of different vehicles and the best way to get the most out of them. There are even stunt driving classes you can take that will really help you learn to understand and control your car. Every vehicle will be different based on power, chassis type and driveline layout. Front wheel, rear wheel and AWD systems each require specific skills especially when braking, and turning/cornering. Learning to become a more efficient and effective driver will ultimately help you get the best performance out of your vehicle.
Legalities to Increasing Speed:
Pay careful attention to local laws, limits, rules and regulations. Some upgrades that improve performance and speed are not allowed in all states and exceed legal limits.
Respect speed limits and the safety of other drivers at all times. Just because your car can go faster, doesn’t mean you need to be racing off every stop light or speeding down the highway full throttle, clocking your zero to 60 time. There is a time and a place to show off and push the performance limits of your vehicle, but definitely not at the cost of risking the safety of others.
Check car warranties before adding modifications or making upgrades. Many parts and accessories can void your valuable factory warranty. Check with your dealership and automaker before making changes to your car that will affect this.
All speed modifications and upgrades are general suggestions. While they apply to many cars, they will differ from car to car, make, year and model. Make sure to consult a professional before making any modifications or installations to your vehicle to avoid damage to your car.
Do you have any additional modifications you’ve made to your car that has increased it’s speed and power? Shout us out in the comments below and let us know about it!