Pimp your turbo – 5 easy ways to maximise the power and performance of your turbocharged car
October 29th 2014
How to get more out of a vehicle’s engine is always at the centre of the true performance enthusiast’s thinking. Whilst there are many ways to measure vehicle performance, in the world of the petrol-head – BHP is the undisputed king!
Thankfully, if your current turbocharged car isn’t satisfying your need for speed, there are plenty of things you can do to remedy it! In this guide, we look at 5 relatively easy methods you can use to drive the BHP up, and maximise engine performance.
1. Replacing the air filter
One of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to improve engine power on any vehicle is to replace the air filter with a better one. The stock filters on most vehicles are made from paper, and whilst they are pretty good at keeping dirt and debris out of your engine, this comes at a price – they can restrict the airflow, meaning your engine can’t suck in enough air, which artificially restricts performance.
Investing in a performance air filter manufactured from a more advanced, easily breathable material will deliver an instant improvement in engine power, at a low price. In addition, replacing the filter is a simple 30-second job that even the complete novice can handle – simply open the air box, and swap the filters over!
2. Colder air
You may have noticed that your turbocharged car feels a bit more powerful on cold winter days than it does in the summer. This is because cold air is denser than warm air, which means it holds more oxygen, and oxygen is a vital part of the combustion process. As temperatures rise, air becomes less dense and your turbocharger and engine has to work harder, impacting on power and performance.
Fitting a cold air feed to your engine is an effective way of dealing with this problem, as long as you have it fitted as far away from hot areas of the engine, like the exhaust manifold - one of the best places to put it is behind the front grille. Cold air feeds are pretty inexpensive, and fitting them is usually fairly straightforward, although it can require making small modifications to your existing air box.
3. ECU remapping
All modern engines are managed by the vehicle’s ECU or (Engine Control Unit) – an on-board computer that controls the settings for things like fuelling, torque, power, injection timing and injection pressure. Each ECU comes pre-configured with factory settings – but usually, these aren’t the best settings for your vehicle, especially if you’re looking to maximise power and performance.
A performance ECU remap works by uploading new settings to your engine’s ECU, improving throttle response, maximising torque outputs and increasing BHP, to safely optimise the performance of your engine without affecting reliability.
On some vehicles, an ECU remap can deliver a power increase of 20% or more, and our friends over at AET Motorsport provide a fully customised ECU remapping service starting at £350+VAT, including use of the advanced Dyno.
If you’re boosting the air intake and power of your engine, it needs to be able to get rid of all this extra gas to work effectively, which is where a new exhaust system comes in.
A performance exhaust can provide gains in terms of power – as long as you get the right piece of kit. Whilst you can buy ‘performance’ back boxes that improve the sound of your engine, they don’t really provide any power gains (and in some cases can actually hamper performance).
To see any real improvement, you’re going to want to invest in a ‘cat-back’ exhaust system (one that replaces everything from the catalytic converter onwards). Whilst they can be fairly pricey, these will help your engine to breathe and rev more easily, whilst providing you with a few extra BHP to boot.
5. Upgrading the intercooler
As we mentioned earlier – maximising cold air intake is one of the key principles behind improving bhp and performance, and with turbocharged engines, the intercooler is a key part of this process.
Turbochargers work by compressing the air before it enters the combustion chamber, and this process generates a lot of heat, heating up the air, and the intercooler works to keep things cool.
Whilst most turbocharged vehicles come with an intercooler, these tend to be fairly small, can be fitted in the wrong place, and aren’t really suitable if you’re looking to maximise performance. Investing in a larger, more efficient unit, and placing it in the grille at the front of the vehicle will help to keep the air cooler, providing real gains in terms of BHP and performance.
How AET can help
At AET, we’re passionate about performance, and our sister company, AET Motorsport, provides a full range of performance components, tuning, consultancy and fitting services designed to help you get the most out of your vehicle.