Tech Chat

How to Make More Horsepower - Part I

Several months back, we talked briefly about ways to make more horsepower. Over the next few months we will discuss in more detail how to make more horsepower. These ideas will be cheap to expensive, but should give you a good idea on how to make more power. Some ideas work better when combined with other ideas and we will help point those out.

This first article will discuss how to put more air into your vehicle. Think of an engine as a big air pump. It sucks air in and then pumps it back out. This is the basic principle behind our first idea, getting more air into the engine.

We start by looking at the start of the process. Air is sucked into the engine through a filter and air box. Replacing the filter with a higher flowing filter from companies like K&N will allow more air to be brought into the engine.

You can then take that a step further by replacing the factory air box. The factory air box was designed to be quiet which creates a restriction in air flow. There are several replacement air boxes on the market. The key to look for in an air box is one that allows the engine to breathe cool air from outside the engine compartment. Cooler air will produce more horsepower. Most replacement air boxes will come with a free flowing air filter.

Another alternative to the above is replacing the factory hood with a ram-air or induction hood. This allows cooler outside air to be forced into the engine, plus you get the added cool factor from the looks.

These next few options are more expensive but will produce the most horsepower. Turbo charging and supercharging have been around for several decades. A turbocharger works by using the car exhaust to spine a turbine which compresses outside air and forces it into the engine. Since a turbo charger uses exhaust gases there no drain on the engine. The biggest disadvantage is turbo lag. Turbo lag is the time that it takes for the turbo charger to spin up before providing enough boost to the engine.

Supercharging is one of the best ways to add good horsepower to an engine. A supercharger runs off the engine and is always producing boost. There is no turbo lag since it is a direct drive unit. The newest superchargers can be hidden under the hood to produce a sleeper look. Superchargers work the same way as turbo chargers by compressing incoming air and pushing it into the engine. Supercharger manufacturers, such as Vortec, have produced complete bolt-on kits for many vehicles.

The next item to look at is the throttle body or similar item for fuel-injected vehicles or the carburetor for older vehicles. A bigger throttle body or carburetor will allow more air into the engine. Most are rated by the CFM or cubic feet per minute rating. The higher the number, the more it will flow.

Last item is the intake manifold. A performance intake manifold will outflow your stock manifold. Depending on your vehicle, there will be several to choose from. The best way to pick one is to talk to the manufacturer or vendor to find out what the optimum RPM range of the manifold. You then want to pick one that will be in the RPM range that your vehicle will operate in most of the time.

Well that’s it for this month. Check in next month as we talk about how to get the exhaust system opened up. If you have any questions or comments, please send them to You can also check us out online at

Vincent Wright


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