A good auto service technician could adjust things like idle speed, fuel/air mixture, fuel metering and timing on older vehicles so you could get more pick up from your ride. Today, that's all handled by the engine control computer. Still, there are a few ways to coax your engine into better performance.
- Air Filter: An engine relies on air, fuel and spark to run. The “air” part of that equation is pretty easy to enhance. A dirty air filter will, of course, restrict the flow of critical fresh air into the fuel system. This compromises fuel economy and power. The filter should be changed at regular intervals; for those who are looking to enhance performance. Aftermarket air filters are available for even freer breathing ability. Engines also perform better when they can take in colder, denser air, and cold-air induction systems can offer a slight boost in power and fuel economy. It's an easy auto repair item that can offer a noticeable, immediate improvement.
- New Spark Plugs: Spark plugs don't need to be replaced nearly as often as they used to on cars from a generation ago. However, they still need to be changed, and, usually at about the 100k mile mark. Previously, spark park plug wires would also be changed along with the plugs, however, that's a thing of the past; newer vehicles no longer use distributors and plug wires. Most of today's cars have their computer electronically trigger “coil packs,” a small coil-on-plug arrangement that delivers spark to each plug. It's a good idea to go ahead and check the coil packs while changing plugs; they can be problematic on some vehicles, and they're inexpensive and easy to replace.
- Exhaust: Engines do require a certain amount of ‘back pressure' to function properly, but a too-restrictive exhaust can hinder engine performance. Some vehicles are designed with exhaust pipes that are routed around undercarriage parts with numerous bends and turns, and there's not much you can do to lower the restriction of an exhaust setup like that. A freer-flowing muffler, however, can help the engine breathe a little better...however, the noisy, coffee-can-sized exhaust tips you see on street racers are generally pretty worthless. Bear in mind, also, that exhaust modifications can cancel a new-car warranty.
Today's car manufacturers make fuel economy a priority; after all, they have government mandates to meet. Cutting weight, cutting drag on the engine, improving aerodynamics, changing transmission and rear-end gear ratios...they're on top of all these things. Every time that gas prices spike, you'll hear about various MPG enhancers like magnets and additives, etc.
Take it from the pros at 106 St Tire & Wheel: they don't work, so don't waste your money. Properly-inflated tires, sane driving habits and a properly-tuned vehicle are the best bets for improving gas mileage and pickup.