3 February 2014

Big Power: Engine Modifications That Boy Racers Can Only Dream Of!


Whenever someone talks about modifying their car, thoughts of lowered suspension, shiny exhaust back boxes and throaty induction tones from uprated air filter systems spring to mind.

Sometimes, though, there are times when the most determined of car modifiers want to extract as much horsepower out of their cars as is possible without their engines blowing up! If you are one of those petrolheads, continue reading to find out what options are open to you.

Forced induction

One of the best ways of obtaining more power from your engine is to convert it from a naturally-aspirated engine into one which uses forced induction. There are two main choices when it comes to forced induction:

Turbocharging - a turbocharger is a device which uses exhaust gases to drive a turbine, which in turn forces extra air into the engine. Virtually all modern diesel engines come with turbochargers as standard, and many petrol engines have turbochargers fitted to sportier models, or low-emissions engines, but it is possible to fit a turbocharger to any naturally-aspirated engine; 

●    Supercharging - a supercharger is essentially a way of compressing air and forcing it into the engine. Unlike a turbocharger which uses exhaust gases to drive a turbine, a supercharger runs off a pulley connected to the engine’s crankshaft. Many people opt for supercharging their engines instead of turbocharging them, because there is virtually no lag in comparison to turbochargers.

Although you can normally only have one supercharger attached to an engine, it is possible to have more than one turbocharger connected to an engine, especially if it’s a 6-cylinder or 8-cylinder engine.

Exhaust systems

To complement such modifications, a larger bore stainless steel exhaust system can also be fitted along with smoother exhaust manifolds.
According to Car Lolly; "some owners of performance modified cars can also fit free-flowing catalytic converters, although for some people who wish to take part in track day events, they may remove the catalytic converter completely and fit what’s known as a “de-cat pipe” - essentially a bolt-on, straight piece of exhaust pipe."

Increasing compression ratios

Modern engines generally have low compression ratios and retarded ignition timing so that they can run on 95 octane or lower petrol without experience “knocking” from the engine.

An option open to all car modifiers is to raise the compression ratio of their engines. In a nutshell, the end result is an increase in brake horsepower and fuel efficiency (as less fuel is burnt in high compression engines).

This can be achieved by reducing the size of the combustion chamber or by using thinner cylinder head gaskets. Once the compression of an engine has been increased, the owner of the car will need to use higher octane petrol such as super unleaded to avoid engine knocking.

Diesel engines already have high compression ratios, so this modification does not need to be carried out.

ECU remapping

In order to make effective use of such engines and avoid rough running problems, its ECU needs to be remapped. Rather than using remaps for standard cars (such as Superchips), car modifiers need to use fully customisable piggyback ECUs such as the Dastek Unichip.

Image Source: Chrysler Group / Flickr - Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons 2.0

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