Do you want to improve the performance of your vehicle? There are cheap mods for more horsepower and other benefits.
Your car is bound to lose engine power over time due to wear. Also, you may want to get more than the default settings from the manufacturer. Fortunately, many ways for achieving that exist without spending much. Some mods will also give you better acceleration, deceleration, and fuel economy.
Read on as we discuss cheap horsepower upgrades for your car in detail.
Getting Your Car a Tuner
A car tuner is a device that adjusts your vehicle’s engine power, drivability, and fuel economy. It does all these by changing settings such as ignition timing, air-fuel ratios, engine chips, and spark plug gaps. Furthermore, you don’t need any aftermarket parts.
Car tuning is often done by professional mechanics. But an average driver can also do it using the right tool. Your vehicle comes with setting limits that may deprive it of more power. Using a car tuner is a way of adjusting the set parameters for better performance.
Don’t expect a tuner to double the performance of your car. However, most car tuners in the market can give you about a 15-30% increase in performance.
Professional car tuning can cost from $200 to thousands of dollars, depending on the car model. But if you are a DIYer, you can buy a tuner for a few hundred dollars for a lifetime. Fortunately, most devices come with performance tunes and hook directly into your car’s OBD2 port. You should, however, ensure you buy the right one for your car model.
Installing a Cold Air Intake
Installing a cold air intake (CAI) is one of the cheap horsepower upgrades for any car owner. You can get better engine performance by doing that. That process simply means replacing the stock air filter box with a more efficient unit.
There are differences between conventional air intake and a cold air intake system. The latter is not enclosed inside the air take box, which is the case with the stock unit. It also features a larger tube, usually 3-4 inches in diameter. Consequently, more air gets in to keep your engine running at its maximum efficiency.
With a cold air intake filter, you can get an extra 5-20 HP. It is one of the cheap car mods for horsepower.
Cold air intake filters vary in price, and what you buy depends on your budget. Some can cost you as low as $30, while others are as high as $400. Filters in a higher price range are more reliable and will improve your car’s performance better.
Installing a new cold intake filter requires the removal of the stock unit on your car. If you are not a DIYer, you may go to an auto repair shop and pay an additional labor cost.
Adding a Performance Exhaust System
Modifying your exhaust system is one of the cheap car mods for horsepower. You can cheaply buy an aftermarket part that allows more exhaust gasses to be expelled from the engine block.
Most automakers do their best in designing the exhaust unit, but their best is not the best enough. The design is usually to minimize production costs, which often doesn’t lead to the most efficient system. That is why you should think of an aftermarket exhaust unit as one of the cheap horsepower upgrades.
Aftermarket exhausts are designed with larger exhaust pipe diameters and other features that allow more exhaust gasses to exit the combustion chamber. As a result, more exhaust gasses can exit the combustion cylinder.
A high-performance exhaust will cost you about $300-$1200, including labor. But the horsepower you get from this cheap upgrade is not much. You will probably notice slight performance improvements on the road.
Getting a Tune-up
Car engines lose power over time due to the wear of various components and clogging of filters. If you feel that your car is underperforming, the tuning up or maintenance may be overdue.
Tuning your car involves getting under the hood and inspecting various elements that require replacement. An average car driver should be able to do some parts, but if you are not a DIYer, contact your mechanic.
Tuning up your car involves replacing engine oil, oil filters, transmission fluid, air filter, fuel filter, and spark plugs. Remember, you don’t have to do all these at once if some are still in good condition. That is why you need to check them first.
A proper car tune-up gives you more power and a better mileage per gallon. For instance, you will not have problems such as misfiring and flooding with new spark plugs. Your engine’s health will also be in check.
The cost of tuning up your car varies considerably depending on the components you replace and their brands. A minimal car tune-up can cost about $40-$150, covering just the replacement of spark plugs and wires. On the other hand, a standard tune-up can cost you $200-$800 or more.
Using Performance Tires
Upgrading your car tires is one of the cheap car mods for performance you can think of. Though it is not cheap as such, it is worth every penny. Most tires are built to last and not for the grip you need on the road.
The tire upgrade to make depends on where you drive most. For example, wide, low-profile tires are recommended for asphalt. Similarly, you will need high-profile, rugged tires for dirt roads.
A high-performance tire will give you better performance and drivability. You can accelerate faster, negotiate bends at a much higher speed, and bring your car to a stop quicker. However, you should remember that tires designed for maximum grip have fewer grooves. This compromises their performance on wet or icy roads.
Michelin Pilot Super Sport and Pirelli P Zero are some of the popular high-performance tire brands to consider. But what you buy will significantly depend on your budget and the car model. One tire can go for $100 on the lower end of the spectrum and rise to $1,000 for high-end tires.
Replacing Regular Spark Plugs with Iridium Spark Plugs
Replacing spark plugs is part of tuning up your vehicle. The new ones have better performance, but that also depends on the model. Iridium spark plugs, for instance, are the most preferred for improved horsepower.
Spark plug manufacturing technology has evolved over the years for the better. If the one on your car uses the old technology, you are missing a lot regarding horsepower and fuel economy.
Replacing your spark plugs every 100K miles is a good idea. But doing it with the iridium brand is even a better idea. One Iridium spark plug goes for about $10. The number you will need depends on the type of your engine.
Most engines need one spark plug per cylinder. That means a 4-cylinder engine requires four pieces, and a 6-cylinder engine needs 6 of them. So, you should check your engine unit for the number of Iridium spark plugs you need and calculate the total cost. And don’t forget to include the labor charges if you will not be doing it yourself.
Using High Flow Intake Air Filter
If replacing the entire stock airbox unit on your car proves costly, you may opt for changing just an engine air filter. A high-flow intake air filter is the best aftermarket replacement part.
A high-performing engine requires a sufficient supply of air, and a high-flow intake air filter is designed just for that. The car’s engine can suck as much air as needed without resistance or obstructions.
There are different high-flow intake air filters in the market for cheap horsepower upgrades. However, you should only choose what suits your car model. Also, you should confirm with your regional laws if changing an air filter is permitted. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of the law, do you?
A high-flow air intake filter allows in more air for better fuel combustion, giving you an improvement in power output of about 13hp and 13ft-lbs of torque. That, however, depends on your car model. You may get more or less.
The most popular high-flow air intake filter is K&N. This will cost you about $50 to buy on Amazon.
Replacing your Stock Wheels with Lighter Wheels
Replacing your stock wheels with lighter options will not give you more power. But you will realize a significant improvement in drivability.
Wheels are the most significant contributors to the unsprung weight that makes your car sluggish. Unsprung weight is also caused by other components that hang below your vehicle’s body. The lighter they are, the faster your vehicle will accelerate and decelerate.
To achieve a significant improvement, consider reducing the weight of every wheel by about 10 pounds. This will offer you better handling, braking, and steering.
You can consider an alloy wheel, which weighs about 40% less than steel or other aftermarket aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber rims.
Getting Better Brakes
The last cheap car mod for better performance to consider is replacing the stock brakes with aftermarket ones. Once again, upgrading brakes will not give you more horsepower but better drivability and control.
The stock brakes on your car are just fine to perform the intended purpose. However, if you want a more robust performance for critical driving conditions, you should get an aftermarket brake set. These are often designed to handle heavy braking requirements.
Some aftermarket products have oversized calipers and brake pads to quickly dissipate heat generated through frictional braking. That reduces the possibility of brake fade.
Brake fade is an occurrence that leads to the inefficiency of a braking system or a total loss of braking power. Obviously, you don’t need that when behind the wheel.
The rear and front brake kit costs about $300 on average. But you can expect the actual market price to significantly vary, with some brands going for as high as $700.
There are many cheap horsepower upgrades you can consider. We have only discussed a few commonly opted for by many car owners. To know more, you can always talk to your mechanic. Some of the cheap car mods for horsepower require experience. Don’t attempt them if you doubt your skills.
I’m Tim Miller, an automotive mechanic, and blogger from Denver, Colorado. I’ve had over 15 years’ experience in car repair and using OBD scanners. My reviews and articles about car repair and maintenance can be found on my own websites.
I’m the founder of gmundcars.com and angf35eis.com. My fan page is facebook.com/autozikcom.