Everyone loves some speed. While a truck built specifically for the trail needs a lot more torque than speed, trucks destined for more road than trail use can all use a little boost in power. There’s three main areas to upgrade your engine for speed and those are: Air coming in, air going out, and what your engine does with it in the middle. While you can upgrade cams, add nitrous, and other major changes, there are simpler and better ways to get steady, consistent power. The list is ordered from cheapest to most expensive and in all actuality should be done in this order anyway.
1. Air Filter
Replacing your air filter
is the best place to start when looking for more power for your truck. From the factory your truck most likely came with a sub-par paper filter that is more focused on cheaply catching particulate than allowing more airflow. All you need to do to dramatically increase your trucks ability to breathe better is to install a high-quality aftermarket air filter. While these will cost more than the factory replacement, they’re reusable basically forever with a little care and maintenance and best of all, they will let a LOT more air into your engine.
2. Cold Air Intake
Believe it or not, the temperature of the air coming into your truck greatly affects how your engine handles it. Air is denser at colder temperatures, which means the colder air is, the more of it that fits into the combustion chamber. The more air you get into the engine at once, the more efficient and powerful it is. If you’ve ever drive your truck hard on a cold spring or fall morning you may have noticed it had a little more power, this is why. You can help you engine get the coldest air it can get by installing a cold air intake
(CAI) in your truck. A CAI replaces your factory air box and routes the air intake closer to the ground and away from the heat of the engine. You probably shouldn’t install a CAI into the truck you go mudding with, but other than that CAIs are perfectly safe and will give you a marked increase in your power and speed.
Once you’ve got your engine breathing in well, it’s time to get it breathing out a little better. Your exhaust system includes a lot of pieces, including the manifold, muffler, headers, tips, and catalytic converter, so it’s an area ripe for upgrading
. You can choose to upgrade basically any part of the system and see some improvements, but most people start with the muffler. Installing a less restrictive muffler is a great way to allow the engine to rid itself of the exhaust from combustion, which means better combustion and more speed. Past the muffler, the most popular upgrade is what’s called a “cat-back” upgrade. This literally replaces everything from the catalytic converter back. So you get bigger pipes and a better muffler and while this does cost more than a muffler alone, it will give an even larger increase in power, responsiveness, and overall speed.
4. Performance Chip
This is where things start to get technical. Chances are that your truck has an on-board computer that handles all the work when it comes to daily operation. From air-fuel mixtures to timing to knock prevention, the computer does it all. Because everything is handled in the computer, it’s a one-stop-shop for upgrades, a performance chip
basically hacks the computer to give it some new information. The term “chip” can be somewhat misleading as while older versions of this were actually chips that you installed via a plug, many today actually reprogram the computer via a laptop. Some of these “chips” can be installed and adjusted by you and me, but the more hard-core changes should be done by a custom tuner, since the bigger the gains, the more fine-tuning is required. A computer chip or reprogram can give you huge boosts in power and speed, sometimes in the 50-horsepower range or higher. When doing big upgrades to other components, sometimes a computer upgrade is required and the combined force will give you huge increases of 100hp or more.
The last item in our list is easily the most expensive. A supercharger
will give huge boosts to power and speed, but there is a significant cost involved. Superchargers can give you up to 50% increase in the power your truck currently has, which is why there is such a high cost involved. A supercharger is basically a device that runs off of a belt in your engine that pulls more air into the engine that could naturally go into it. This means more fuel-air mixing, which means more power. Not every engine can accept a bolt-on supercharger, but many can. Depending on the engine you’re starting with you can see some pretty huge improvements really quickly. Major increases in power will require upgrades to internal components and to the computer, but this can be a slow process, building up to the fastest truck you can afford. (Header image courtesy of flickr)