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How to Gain More Horsepower

Increasing the horsepower of a car engine is a favorite and much-talked about topic by many car enthusiasts. Rarely do we find two enthusiasts agreeing on one method to increase horsepower. But before dealing with the "how to", let's first say what horsepower is. Technically, "horsepower" is a unit of power equal to 33,000 foot-pounds of torque per minute.

Changing certain engine parts can definitely increase your car's horsepower. If you'd ask a car enthusiast how much horsepower his engine generates, his reply may not be definitive...but he still spends money in the hope of adding even more horsepower.

Before you think of the various things you can do to increase your car's horsepower, assess whether your car's engine can handle that increase in power. Performance modifications and horsepower increases often put more stress on the engine.

There are two very common methods employed by late-model car enthusiasts to increase horsepower: using a cold-air intake and an aftermarket, performance exhaust system. Specially designed cold-air intakes increase the flow of air and pull cold air from under the car or bumper. These lower-restriction intakes have larger filters that move the intake air further away from the hot engine. The resulting, denser cooler air leads to more power.

Replacing exhaust systems with new ones with medium bends and larger diameters than standard ones, increases flow and allows the engine to breathe better.

Another efficient way to help increase horsepower is to install a performance chip in the Engine Control Unit (ECU). These units are like the brain of a car. Generally a performance chip will add horsepower with little to no change in your fuel consumption efficiency. Using a stronger ignition system and replacing stock spark plugs and wires would also be beneficial. A longer, stronger spark means you may save more fuel and get a better burn.

Adding a turbo charger or super charger also helps increase horsepower. Installing a turbo charger (or a larger turbo) is a step to be taken very cautiously. You should always check if your engine can take the load of a new turbocharger. All turbochargers work on a forced induction method. Turbochargers compress air into the cylinder. A turbocharged engine lets more air into the cylinder, thereby allowing the engine to generate more power.

A more intricate, time- and money-consuming effort in gaining horsepower is an internal engine modification. This can make a lot of difference in horsepower. A "port and polish" on your cylinder head can reduce the turbulence in the air flow. There's a wide range of products available at Eastwood for a "port and polish" on the cylinder, like Eastwood's Porting Kit and Deluxe Polishing Kit. Stronger valve springs or an increase in valve size can also contribute to an increase in horsepower. Valves control the amount of air entering the cylinder, and most times, the more valves, the more power the engine can produce. More valves use more cross-sectional area in a cylinder and this increases the volumetric efficiency of the engine. However, more than five valves in the cylinder may lead to mechanical complexities.