Free Horsepower Mods: 3 Steps for Better Engine Performance

January 27, 2012

While it may seem like a sort of holy grail to most automotive enthusiasts, free horsepower is a very realistic possibility that many can obtain for very little work and cost. While such modifications do indeed increase power, it should be noted that in most of these cases, each improvement alone will not be overly dramatic. You are simply optimizing your engine to be the best it can be. Substantial gains in power require substantial additions of fuel and air, so if you are looking for such gains outside of a turbocharged vehicle, you may be disappointed. If you are interested in free horsepower and free torque in modest amounts for minimal work, then these three simple tricks are a good place to start.

Adjust Your Ignition Timing

Older vehicles equipped with distributors are in luck when it comes to easy, free horsepower tricks. By turning your distributor several degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise, you can in essence advance or retard your ignition timing, optimizing your engine for current operating conditions. It should be noted, however, that this is done with care. Over-advancing your ignition timing can lead to detonation problems and engine damage, should you encounter excessively hot weather or less than premium grade gasoline. Take it slow and listen carefully for any signs of detonation. If you think you may be pushing things too far, or you have any doubts, stop immediately. All timing adjustments should be done with the aid of a timing light for best results.

Throttle Body Bypass

Many vehicles route coolant through a port in the throttle body in order to prevent freezing of the throttle butterfly during cold weather. While this is great during the winter, in warm or hot weather, all this does is heat the throttle body, which in turn heats the intake air, reducing power. By simply rerouting this coolant around the throttle body with a short piece of tubing, you can reduce intake air temperatures by several degrees, freeing up potential power in the process.

Improve Intercooler Efficiency

With some creative rerouting, your factory equipped windshield sprayers can be re-tasked with spraying the intercooler of your turbocharged vehicle to help improve cooling efficiency. Especially apparent in hotter weather or at higher boost levels, this simple modification can lead to improved power, and only requires a few zip ties, and filling your washer reservoir with distilled water.

Free horsepower isn’t simply a myth. By using a few simple tricks that optimize your engine, you can improve power output by a noticeable amount, all without spending a dime. It should be noted that while these modifications are free, it is always a good idea to accompany them with premium, high octane fuel and regular, thorough maintenance and tune-ups. By optimizing power, you are reducing some of the safety margins the factory designs into the engine, while simultaneously increasing stress. This lack of safety buffer means that a bad tank of gas or overly hot weather that would normally be an inconvenience in a stock engine, may cause severe trouble if care is not taken. Always tune carefully.

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