Your well-to-do buddy from college just bagged another monster commission from some seriously lucrative fund management, while your promotion has been delayed yet another year. He drives home with a 420 horsepower Porsche Panamera 4S, having paid the six-figure asking price in cash, and your 10-year-old, slightly dinged, very curb-rashed Audi A4 sits in your driveway begging for some much-needed performance TLC. Life is hard for you, and the pain is palpable. You’ve thought about getting rid of your car, but it still runs well, and it’s paid for. But you want more from it — better handling, better acceleration and the ability to enjoy driving it for at least the next few years.
It’s time to mod your existing ride and breathe some new life into it. No, we don’t mean getting a subscription to Performance Tuner and then transforming your car by slamming it, buying a new engine and festooning it with green paint and a spoiler the size of Moby Dick’s tail. You want to remain tasteful while improving your car’s drivability factor. There are numerous “under-the-skin” changes you can make to your car without paying through the nose and without looking like the latest addition to the Fast and Furious crew. Here’s eight affordable ways to make your current ride that much better.
1. Cold Air Intake (CAI)
Breathe Deeply and Repeat: Unlike a creepy, heavy-breathing caller on the other end of the phone, a cold air intake is a welcome thing — at least for driving enthusiasts. In fact, this may be the least expensive way to improve the power and efficiency of your car. It replaces your car’s standard airbox and filter with a cone-shaped, long-life filter and an aluminum or plastic intake tube. All this provides more air to your engine, boosting the horsepower and fuel efficiency. Just make sure you mount it higher under the hood, rather than down low by the wheel wells. Sucking in any kind of moisture can result in the dreaded hydro-lock, essentially killing your engine. And, as with any engine-related modifications, just know that it could possibly void your manufacturer warranty and/or insurance coverage should something go awry.
2. High-Flow Exhaust and Headers
The Exhale Matters, Too: Bringing more air into your engine increases performance, but adding new headers and a better-flowing exhaust system allows waste gases to exit with greater ease, boosting your car’s oomph even more. A modern car’s muffler and catalytic converter exists to reduce noise and harmful emissions, but they also increase a car’s back pressure and impede the car’s ability to get waste gases out of the engine, thereby wasting power. Exhaust gas coming from the cylinder has to push all the other exhaust through the manifold pipes and silencers; this is what’s known as back pressure. Too much back pressure doesn’t just diminish a car’s available power; it also raises engine temperatures and makes the engine work harder, reducing fuel economy. Installing a new exhaust manifold that provides both smooth and equal-length pipe sections to exit gas from each of the engine’s cylinders, along with installing an exhaust system (not just a big muffler and tailpipes) that minimizes bends and increases pipe size, can have marked effects on your car’s performance. And, heck, if your beater also starts sounding like a German sports car, who’s to complain?