Toyota To Ferrari: How To Increase Your Vehicle’s Horsepower

By Mark Iafrate - August 2, 2016

We all love our cars, but sometimes when we buy them, we’re being dealt a forced hand of variables and factors that frankly, may not meet our standards.

We all want a super badass driving machine, but with the dealers and manufacturers having to abide by price and emissions standards, compromises have to be made.

Fortunately for you, with a couple of adjustments, you can have full control you car’s horsepower. There are many ways to create more horsepower from a stock engine, and in today’s post, we’ll show you how.

AIR FLOW

Cold Air Intake to Increase HorsepowerWhen you buy a new car, ever wonder why they use polished intake manifolds? Simply put, air resistance can rob power from the engine when the piston moves down in the intake stroke, and these manifolds eliminate the air resistance. Apart from this, bigger air filters and reduced intake piping can also improve air flow.

Cold Air Intake

 

This is probably one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to increase horsepower.

Basic science tells us that hot air expands and cold air contracts. This is where all that hard-earned knowledge gets put to use.

It is ideal to have the coolest air possible in the cylinder because the hotter the air is, the less it will expand when combustion takes place. This hot air comes about when it is compressed, causing its temperature to rise.

Here’s where some physics comes in handy –  as the air coming into your engine gets colder, it also gets more dense. The engine operates by taking in air, mixing it with fuel, and burning the mixture to produce power. If the air is more dense, it will produce more power.

To do this, many turbo charged and super charged cars have an intercooler. An intercooler is a special radiator through which the compressed air passes to cool it off before it enters the cylinder.

Cold air intakes feature a specially shaped filter with an increased surface area to pull a larger volume of air through. They also offer a reduction in air flow resistance and unwanted turbulence within the pipes.

Ease Of Exhaust Exit

Allow your exhaust to exit more easily. Back-pressure is typically caused when the exhaust pipe is too small or when the muffler has a lot of air resistance. Similar to our first point, because of this, the engine will lose a lot of power if Exhaust Pipe to Increase Airflowthe back pressure or air resistance makes it hard for the exhaust to exit the cylinder.

Also, meeting both emissions requirements and maintaining low production costs can limit the ability of your exhaust to move air as efficiently as possible. To eliminate back-pressure in the exhaust system, as well as to get extra horsepower and increase torque, high-performance exhaust systems often use headers, big tail pipes, and free-flowing mufflers.

Both long tube and shorty headers boost your vehicle’s performance by moving air faster and more efficiently. Shorty headers deliver more horsepower and torque in the lower RPM range, making them perfect for your daily driver.

Long tube headers, however, help improve torque and horsepower from mid-range to top-end RPMs and are ideal for high-performance, high-revving super rides.

Pro-Tip: High-Flow Cat-Back Exhaust System

If you’re really serious about getting your horsepower up quickly, a cat-back exhaust system may be just what you need. A cat-back exhaust system is typically paired with an aftermarket high-flow catalytic converter and replaces your restrictive stock muffler and factory exhaust pipe to form a system that increases both torque and airflow to improve horsepower.

While shopping for these, look for systems with large-diameter, mandrel-bent pipes to see the most impressive gains. Some of them may also boast straight-flow mufflers to further boost the freedom of airflow through the exhausts for even more power.

Forced Induction (Superchargers & Turbochargers)

If you can cram more air into a cylinder of a given size, you can get more power from the cylinder (potentially up to 50%) in the same way that you would by increasing the size of the cylinder. By adding more air, the engine can also mix in more fuel, so a charged engine produces more power overall, which significantly improves acceleration.

Commuter Car Racing on the TrackTurbo and supercharged use forced induction by pressurizing the incoming air and cramming more of it into a cylinder. Many manufacturers make aftermarket turbos and super chargers for many different cars.

Generally, turbochargers are considered more efficient as they use “wasted” energy from the exhaust stream as their power source. However, the drawback of this is that they present a greater delay (or turbo lag) until you feel power.

While a turbocharger gets its power from the exhaust system, a supercharger is powered by a belt that connects directly to the engine. Superchargers, although not as efficient as turbochargers, offer almost instant power when you step on the gas and are usually easier to install.

OTHER METHODS

If you follow all these strategies outlined thus far, it’s safe to say that you’ll have a pretty revved up engine in no time. However, if you’re looking for a couple more tips to really take your car’s power to the next level, these secondary tips may do just the trick for you.

Increase The Compression Ratio

It’s no surprise that higher compression ratios produce more power. But be weary, as they only do so up to a certain point. The more you compress the air/fuel mixture, the more likely it is to spontaneously burst into flames (prior toIncrease Displacement for Horsepower Boost the spark plug igniting it). This is why high-performance vehicles need high octane gasoline; their engines use higher compression ratios (hence explaining their ‘high performance’), and the high octane gasoline help prevent this dangerous  combustion from occurring.

Lighten Up

It’s amazing just how similar a car is to the human body. Just like how a person would require more calories (energy) to function every day, every time a piston changes direction, it requires energy to do so. The heavier the person, the more calories required by him to function, so essentially, the lighter the piston, the less energy required to pull off that action. Lighter parts also allow the engine to rev faster, giving it more horsepower.

Increase Displacement

Lastly, an increasing displacement translates to an increase in power, primarily because of the ability to burn more gas during each revolution of the engine. The quickest and easiest way to do this, is to make the cylinders bigger.

As soon as you start to try increasing the displacement, you might want to consider the possibility, finances, and economics of buying a new high-performance engine and trying to fit it into your car. In the long-run it may be easier and cheaper. This is a topic in and of itself and warrants an entirely different blog post in the future.

So for now, take these quick tips, implement them and turn your beat-up Toyota into a lean, well-oiled Ferrari. You probably won’t turn heads when driving, but you’ll blaze by other drivers.

About the Author - Mark Iafrate

4 comments

  1. Interesting and informative article. I think as a follow up to this should be your thoughts on remapping (running) pros and cons.

  2. Chad,
    I have a 1934 Morris Cowley 6 Sedan, I have done most of the things you suggested above, most importantly cold air induction because the original air was taken from the air cleaner that was situated on top of the head, it looks like a rocker cover but it is not, it’s a side valve engine.
    As for the polished inlet manifold which I did, I was told by an engineer that it was a wrong move, exhaust yes inlet no, the reason being the rougher the surface the more cavitation and turbulence you get which helps mix the fuel and air better, when that piston goes down it still draws the same amount of air polished or not and the power gained is negligable.

    Les. ‘Australia’

    • Good stuff. I thnk this is one of those subjects, which have a difference of opinion. Some say as you say, some say smooth. I think looking at it from a technical point of view a rough surface will probably gain you better all round power, especially low down and through the midrange. However, if you are going for out and out power, polishing the intake is the way forward.

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