It's been said that “a car engine is a machine that never has enough power.” While that's true for some, for most people their car is just fine as it came from the factory. Sometimes, though, you want to get a little more oomph and maybe one or two more MPGs out of your vehicle. We won't get into mods like a bolt-on turbocharger or a nitrous oxide tank, which can easily result in burned-out pistons or other expensive auto repair if done improperly!
In the hands of a good auto repair technician, things like idle speed, fuel/air mixture, fuel metering and timing used to all be tweak-able on older vehicles. Today, that's all handled by the engine control computer. Still, there are a few ways to coax a few extra ponies out of your engine:
- New Spark Plugs: Spark plugs don't need to be replaced nearly as often as they did on cars from a generation ago, but they still need to be changed, usually at about the 100k mile mark. At one time, spark plug wires would also be changed along with the plugs, but that's also a thing of the past since newer vehicles no longer use distributors and plug wires. The standard now is for the computer to 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.
- Air Filter: An engine relies on air, fuel and spark to run, and the “air” part of that equation is pretty easy to enhance. A dirty air filter will restrict the flow of fresh air into the fuel system, compromising 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.
- 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.
Now, a word to the wise.
Today's automakers don't miss a trick when it comes to fuel economy; after all, they have government mandates to meet. Cutting weight, cutting parasitic 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 miracle fuel economy modifications like “vortex generators,” water injection, magnets for the fuel line and other questionable products. Take it from us: they don't work, so don't waste your money. You're better off with properly-inflated tires, sane driving habits and a properly-tuned vehicle. Schedule an appointment with 106 St. Tire and Wheel for outstanding tires and auto repair in Queens, NY area.