The Beginner’s Guide to Engine Upgrades

While it’s safe to assume that a brand new engine is going to serve you well for a while to come, there may be occasions where you find you need to upgrade some components & do some engine fine tuning.

If it seems like a bit of a challenge, don’t worry – we all have to start somewhere. Thankfully, you don’t have to be the best mechanic on the planet to get the most out of your engine, and what’s more, you won’t necessarily have to see a mechanic to give things a little bit of a boost.

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at how you can effectively upgrade your engine, intake, and exhaust components for the best results. If you’re struggling to make the most out of your horsepower, or wish your car was a little more efficient on fuel consumption, it might be time to consider some performance upgrades.

For the purpose of this guide, we will be looking at a generic engine, meaning that some engines may differ in terms of the specifics we refer to in this guide. Make sure to consult your manufacturer, or a service centre, if you’re insure about what to do at any point.

Do keep in mind that this guide is for general reference only – as your own engine tuning needs may vary, as may the specifics!

First Things First

Upgrading an engine largely means investing in a few bits and pieces of aftermarket. This means that you’re likely going to need to set a budget aside to invest in a few crucial parts.

When you upgrade your stock engine components, you’re going to be focusing on boosting air flow, improving your ignition timing, and clearing out your exhaust in an efficient and practical manner.

Now that we’ve introduced you to the key concepts surrounding performance tuned upgrade components, let’s start taking a look at them in a bit more detail.

In some cases, particularly if you are new to engine upgrades, you will need to ask for the support of a mechanic. When it comes to ignition timing – in particular – you’re going to need to make sure the support of a trained hand is close by so that you can keep things as safe as possible.

Of course, if any of the following procedures sound a little complex, don’t worry. It’s fairly easy to swap out filters and the like once you know how, but we do all have to start somewhere. Therefore, take your time reading through the following advice and make sure to reach out to a service center if you feel you need extra guidance or backup.

What is Induction?

Induction is the process through which cleaner air is introduced into your engine. To be able to perform at its best, your engine is going to need induction so that you can improve the rate of airflow coming in and out of the vehicle.

It’s thought that upgrading the induction is a fairly simple process, at least compared to other tweaks you might want to make along the way.

Simply invest in an efficient air filter with tubing, which you can use to swap out with the induction system that your car arrived with. Air filters really do vary in terms of style, shape, and size, meaning you will need to shop carefully for the best fit.

For example, you can invest in quick, simple paper panel filters, which you can just swap in pretty quickly. These filters also come in foam and mesh types, too. However, many people will opt for cone filtration instead, as this will stand to bring more air into the engine than your standard panel filter.

Beyond this, there are cone filters, which are designed to help make things even more efficient. Crucially, the cone shaped performance filter will ensure that air availability in the engine will increase, which will offset rising temperatures. This is normally installed on a short ram basis, which many feel to be very convenient.

Of course, you can also install a cold air intake. Generally, you will need longer piping for these systems, which will provide the coldest air possible. The science behind this can be a little involved – but ultimately, many drivers avoid cold air intakes as they can alter the way their throttles respond. Through these systems, air will travel via intake through to the throttle itself, before travelling to the main manifold. The fewer bends there are in the passageways in between, the more efficient the system will be.

If this all sounds a little confusing – there’s no need to worry. This process simply ensures that the engine cools down quicker and that it has as much cold air as possible to operate efficiently.

What is Ignition Timing?

Moving on to the next stage, fine tuning your ignition timing is all about making sure the engine powers up at the right point once there is enough air intake. Timing is everything – and you’re going to need to make sure your ignition kicks in right before compression hits its peak.

As you’ll likely already know, ignition is everything – and you’re going to need to make sure your engine sparks up at just the right point so that you’re making the most of the potential power available. It might surprise you just how much ignition plays a part in engine efficiency.

Lighting the ignition too rapidly could lead to problems in the crankshaft, meaning that this stage of tuning may be best left to the professionals. However, getting ignition timing right is often a case of replacing or upgrading your spark plugs and HT leads.

Replacing and upgrading these components is a must if you find the existing parts to be worn. However, if you are buying new, there may not be much need for you to swap out on this side of things.

Earth leads, too, may help to provide you with a little more stability when it comes to the actual engine running. This is one aspect to tuning which you can effectively handle yourself without much issue, particularly as there are plenty of alternative earthing cables out there which will easily replace worn-out cabling that arises over time.

Exhaust Upgrades

Your exhaust, of course, is where the engine cycle ends. It’s here where your car kicks out everything that’s not used in the process so that it can achieve peak efficiency.

There are many different ways to enhance or upgrade your exhaust, meaning that this area can be a little confusing to those who are new to the process. For example, it may be worth you swapping out the muffler to achieve a more satisfying exhaust tone, and to  lessen airflow restriction.

Another great option for an exhaust upgrade is a cat-back system. Replacing this part, a crucial connector and piping necessity, may help to restore a little power to your engine.

You should also consider taking a look at the manifold, which is where the exhaust largely communicates with the different pipes and cylinders in the engine. To increase performance, you can upgrade to a manifold that consolidates the manifold outlet, further lessening restriction.

This might sound easy enough – it’s a case of swapping out your existing manifold and replacing it with a performance tuned unit. However, as always, it may still be worth asking professional mechanics to take a look for you if you’re unsure on what to do next.

There is also the catalytic converter, too, which works hard to lessen the amount of carbon dioxide released from your vehicle. A performance catalytic converter can be a cheap part depending on the manufacturer of car you opt for. Therefore, many drivers will look to upgrade their CCs as a priority. However, they can also be one of the most expensive parts in the tuning process, meaning that it’s worth having a firm budget to hand before you consider this.

That said, many drivers will find that this is one of the most reliable ways to release more horsepower to the car.

Car performance engine

How Else Can You Increase Engine Performance?

There are many different ways through which you can increase the efficiency and power of your engine. Of course, each engine is going to be slightly different, and there are even more ways through which you can improve the way your car engine performs.

Please only use this guide as an introduction, however – as you’ll need to approach more advanced tuning solutions and upgrades with a trained mechanic at a service centre. Crucially, it’s worth remembering that there is a world of different mods and tweaks you can bring to your engine, and a mechanic is likely to show your way around the best of them.

Are you worrying that your new car is struggling to get up to its full potential? Rather than buy a whole new model all over again – why not look at upgrading things with some well-chosen aftermarket parts? If you’re really unsure of what is likely to work for the best, be sure to reach out for advice.