How to Make Your Car Faster
How to Make Your Car Faster
Since we’ve been driving cars, there have been car owners that want to know how to make your car faster. When you think fast, you think speed. But, what we’re really into is the rate of change in that speed, or, acceleration. A car that can go 150 miles per hour is impressive. However, if you learned that it took 20 minutes to reach that speed, it would be a lot less notable. If it accelerated to that speed in only a few seconds, that would be much more remarkable. So how do we achieve this improvement in acceleration?
At first thought, more power sounds like the only answer. While that is a great way to accomplish the goal at hand, there are several other improvements that can be made that help answer the question, “How to make your car go faster?” These improvements to make your car faster include weight reduction, faster shifting (in automatic or manual transmission cars), better traction, and of course, increasing horsepower.
Let us start with the obvious; more horsepower!
Some of the coolest car mods you can do are those that increase performance. Arguably one the best bang for your buck modifications is tuning. How to tune your car yourself can get a little complicated. Luckily, the COBB Accessport makes tuning effortless. You simply plug the Accessport into your OBD port and select the appropriate off the shelf map designed for your fuel and modifications. There are maps included for completely stock vehicles. Even if you have no other modifications the Accessport can still offer a noticeable increase in power that will make your car faster.
The fundamental objective for increasing power is upping the amount of air and fuel we can burn in a combustion cycle. There are several other modifications we can add to achieve this goal. Since most vehicles have a bit of headroom when it comes to the amount of fuel available, let’s focus on increasing airflow.
Hard Part Modifications
There are many ways to increase the amount of air entering the combustion chamber. The more involved modifications include cylinder head porting, camshaft changes, intake manifold improvements, or adding forced induction. These are all great but do require a significant amount of effort and cost. A more straight forward way to increase airflow is done through upgrading intake or exhaust components. Upgrading your intake or exhaust also comes with the byproduct of making your car sound better!
An upgraded intake can help reduce restriction in the stock intake system and produces an increased snarl from your engine. Another cold air intake benefit is that, in turbo cars, it also lets you hear the turbo spool more clearly. Accompanying your intake with an Airbox can help maintain optimal airflow and cooler intake air temperatures. COBB intakes are made from material that saves weight, reduces heat transfer, and resists deformation under fluctuating temperatures.
Now that you’re getting more air in you can focus on getting more air out. Exhaust modifications help get the air out of the engine through increasing the diameter allowing for optimum flow characteristics. An upgraded exhaust also makes your car sound better!
Let’s move on to some of the more overlooked and cheaper ways to make your car go faster.
Weight reduction is the easiest and most inexpensive way to make any car faster. By dropping weight, you can improve your car’s acceleration without making any additional horsepower. “Yeah, okay…” I hear you cry! “Weight reduction isn’t going to make that big of a difference.” It really does!
Consider some calculations to get an expected quarter mile time to illustrate the impact of weight reduction. We’ll use the equation ET = 6.269 (weight/hp)^1/3 (This is a widely used equation created by Roger Hunnington to estimate quarter mile times). Let’s use a new Subaru STI as our example vehicle.
It weighs about 3500 pounds and has 305 horsepower at the flywheel. Using the equation, we can expect it take 13.816 seconds to get through the quarter mile. Using the same equation but dropping the weight down to 3400 pounds, that same 305 crank horsepower gets us to the finish line in only 13.683 seconds! That’s over a tenth of a second (which is huge in drag racing) only by dropping 100 pounds! If you kept that 100 pounds of weight it would take an additional 14 horsepower on our example vehicle to match that same time through the quarter mile! Now that we know it’s worth doing, how hard is it?
How to Reduce Weight
The easiest way to reduce the weight of your vehicle is by removing interior components. You can likely get the 100 pounds in our example vehicle by simply removing the passenger seats ad spare tire. This is incredibly easy, costs nothing, and is a modification that can easily be returned to stock once your racing is completed.
Another common way to reduce weight comes through lightened parts or body panels. There are several aftermarket companies that offer lightweight body panels made from fiberglass or carbon fiber that save a lot of weight. These can get pricey but will make a massive difference.
One of the heftiest systems in any car is the exhaust. Replacing the factory steel system with a titanium cat-back exhaust is another great way to reduce the amount of weight you’re carrying down the track.
More time between gears means more time not accelerating. You can make your car a lot faster by simply reducing the time between shifts. But, it’s not all about a quick hand. There are some actual modifications we can do in order to decrease shifting time whether you have an automatic or manual transmission.
Manual Shifting Improvements
A quick hand certainly helps but we can make some changes to our shifter to reduce shift times. What if you shortened the “throw” or the distance the shifter had to move between gears? That will certainly help reduce shift times. Depending on your shifter setup, this can be accomplished with a short throw shifter or an adjustable shift plate. These modifications reduce throw allowing for quicker and more precise gear changes enhancing the overall driving experience.
Flat Foot Shifting
The next consideration can also make your car faster. Flat foot shifting (FFS) or “No-Lift to Shift” is keeping the throttle to the floor between shifts. This is especially beneficial for turbo cars. Shifting with the throttle plate fully open allows for boost to be kept “up” and recover nearly instantaneously after engaging the next gear. This method can cause issues if you don’t have a rev limiter so be careful! The Accessport has the FFS feature for most platforms. The feature temporarily lowers the rev limiter so the engine is not over-revved when the clutch is pressed. This allows for more aggressive, quick, flat foot shifts to be conducted in a safe manner.
Automatic Shifting Improvements
There are several different forms of the automatic transmission. Whether you’re working with an auto equipped with a torque converter or the lightning quick shifting of a dual clutch transmission (DCT) there is a way to improve shift times. Older technology transmissions with lesser computer controls will require hardware changes for this improvement. This hardware upgrade comes in the form of a “shift kit.” An automatic transmission shift kit increases shift firmness and modifies the transmission’s shift timing in order to dramatically reduce the time between shifts. With newer computer controlled transmissions we can accomplish these shifting improvements with tuning.
From Volkswagen’s DSG transmission, Porsche’s PDK transmission, Nissan’s DCT, or Ford’s 1080r, the sky is the limit when it comes to transmission tuning. Each of these transmissions has an available Accessport to accomplish your tuning goals. Transmission capable Accessports have off the shelf transmission control module (TCM) maps. These maps can adjust factory limitations in torque management, increase clutch clamping pressure to increase shift firmness, reduce shift times, and can optimize shift points for peak use of the entire power band.
If you’re spinnin’, you ain’t winnin’! Traction is one of the most important factors in how to make your car faster but is often overlooked. You can have all the horsepower in the world but if your tires are spinning in place, failing to get that power to the ground, your car won’t be any faster. So how do we improve traction? Tires!
Tires are one of the most critical pieces of equipment on your vehicle. They come in a ton of different specs which can make it be hard to determine which ones may work best to make your car go faster. The most important things to consider when choosing the right tires for your needs are size and compound.
Tire size is crucial. The wider the tire, the more contact with the road surface that tire can achieve. That area of contact between the tire and the road surface is called the contact patch. Generally, the wider the contact patch, the better. But, there is a limit to how wide you can go. Be sure to consider the width of your wheels and whether going too much wider will interfere with any inner fender or suspension components.
Tire compound is also important. Generally, the softer the compound, the more grip a tire will have. In a racing situation where you want your car to go faster having a softer tire will be best. The downside is that softer tires will wear faster. Each tire will have a Uniform Tire Quality Grade Standard or UTQG rating. This rating standard was originated to help inform consumers on tires based on their relative treadwear, traction, and temperature capabilities. Traction grades of “AA” are best but come with a low treadwear grade meaning the tire will wear out more quickly.
Wheel and tire upgrades can be expensive. Luckily, you can likely get more traction out of your current set!
Remember that contact patch from above? We can increase the contact patch with our current tires by simply reducing tire pressure. Lowering the pressure will cause the tire to compress against the road surface more, increasing the area of the contact patch, and thus increase traction.
There are other ways to get better traction at no additional cost. Those big smoky burnouts at the dragstrip aren’t just for show! Ever see cars on the track swerving back and forth during yellow flags? Both examples are working towards the same goal which is to increase heat in the tires. Generally, a warmer tire provides more grip improving traction.
Alright. You’ve got your tires ready. They’re hot. Pressure dialed in. But now you’re still having an issue of spinning or bogging down off the line. The solution? Launch control.
The next traction consideration doesn’t necessarily improve traction but it does help you more effectively use the traction you have available. The launch control feature is available on the Accessport for most platforms.
It can be difficult to hold the RPMs steady to get a good launch, especially in a manual transmission car. COBB’s Launch Control feature allows you to floor the gas pedal at the starting line and hold a specific RPM. This enables the potential to build boost off the line and allows for more consistent launches. This value is adjusted to adapt to the current surface, tires, power, or weather conditions! Spinning out of the hole? Lower the RPM! Bogging? Raise it up! A good launch is crucial for fast and consistent ETs. Having a couple of tenths advantage in the first 60 feet of any race can mean the difference in winning and losing even if your competition has more power.
Automotive performance gains don’t always have to be costly, you can always do little jobs like bleeding brakes by yourself for continued optimal performance. Hopefully, you’re able to employ at least one of these strategies to help make your car faster and perform even better than new. You can also check out our knowledge base at www.cobbtuning.com/support for more details on all things COBB! We’re also here for troubleshooting tips, upgrade path advice, and can help with any other questions at [email protected] or give us a call at 866-922-3059
One thing you didn’t mention that I consider a very important performance parameter is final drive gearing. Changing the ring/pinion is quite an operation, but it can be improved quite easily by changing the drive axle tire size/diameter. A shorter (smaller diameter) tire will improve acceleration for cheap.