How to Make Your Car Sound Better
Enhancing the audible feedback can make the driving experience a lot more fun and will often come with some slight performance gains as a bonus. The noises we want to enhance come from air moving in or out. This is from one of two ends; the intake or the exhaust side. Since most of the vehicles COBB supports are turbocharged, this list will be specific to turbocharged vehicles. Naturally aspirated vehicles will have mostly the same parts but there are a few on this list specific to turbocharged vehicles.
Opening up either end with different modifications is an easy way to intensify any drive making it one of the coolest car mods. There are several ways to accomplish this feat. Some of them are great modifications that will make your car faster and sound better. Some of them are terrible and should never be done. Let’s cover the intake and exhaust side with some of the Dos and Don’ts of how to make your car sound better.
Upgrading the exhaust is first on the list for how to make your car sound better. Exhaust upgrades affect the sound and have power potential. If you decide to go with a titanium version like the one here, there are also tremendous weight savings. There are several components to the exhaust system and you have the option to upgraded some or all of these components. The more parts that are upgraded, the more performance potential. Let’s go over each of the parts that make up the exhaust system.
Starting with the rear of the car, you’ll see exhaust tips and typically mufflers just beyond that. These are typically crammed in just behind the axle. If you wanted to upgrade only this section, you would purchase an axle-back exhaust system. This will typically offer limited performance gains but will offer enhanced sound though the upgraded mufflers.
A cat-back exhaust upgrade is one of the most common modifications. The cat-back includes the axle-back section above and additionally a midpipe. This midpipe links the piece of the exhaust with the catalytic converter to the axle-back. A cat-back exhaust will make the car sound better but, like the axle-back, will do little to add power gains. This is especially true with factory turbocharged vehicles that tend to have a well flowing cat-back exhaust already from the factory.
A downpipe is the section of the exhaust from the turbocharger to the end of the catalytic converter. Because it comes down from the turbo, it is called a downpipe. This section is typically the most restrictive and an upgrade here can free up some power potential.
A turboback exhaust is all of the above combined. It goes from the turbo charger to the back of the car. This is the best modification as it is an upgrade for the full exhaust system and offers the potential for increased power along with the audible and looks benefits of the additional exhaust sections.
Generally, those components closest to the turbo will provide the most restriction. If adding performance is your main focus, a downpipe only may suit your needs. If you’re wanting to make the car louder and aren’t concerned with performance, an axle-back may be the way to go.
How much louder these upgrades will be and how they change the exhaust sound will depend on how restrictive your stock system is. Check out the COBB Sound Check playlist below for more insight into how these exhaust upgrades sound.
All of the above are solid Dos if you purchase from any name brand aftermarket company. It’s important to note that some of these exhaust upgrades will require tuning. For most applications, an upgraded downpipe with a high flow catalytic converter will require some sort of tuning changes. Typically, any changes passed the catalytic converter will not require any tuning changes. If you are adding these modifications, make sure you have the appropriate tune to go along with it. The Accessport is the easiest route to how to tune a car. Failing to run the proper tune is a definite Don’t as it can lead to major issues and has the potential for catastrophic failure!
Catless Downpipes are also on the Don’t list. COBB always recommends using a downpipe with a high-flow or OEM catalytic converter, not only to help meet emissions standards, but also for performance and safety of the car. In most vehicles we support, using a “race” or non-catted downpipe can cause boost creep, or uncontrollable boost. This is typically something that tuning cannot fix as it is a mechanical issue that can only be resolved with a catted downpipe. None of our OTS maps support cars with bypassed emissions equipment. We recommend welding on a catalytic converter or getting a downpipe with a cat already installed.
An upgraded air intake is one of the first modifications on many enthusiasts list. Firstly, easy installation. Even if you’re not a master technician you can follow along COBB’s detailed instructions to get your intake installed in no time! And, it typically requires minimal tools. Second, performance! Some cars do respond better than others but in any case, you can see some power gains especially when accompanied with tuning. Last, but certainly not least, sound!
The intake is the front-line of your engines operations. It intakes the air and distributes it to the turbocharger. If there is a restriction here, an upgrade can yield some significant power gains. Fortunately, for most vehicles, especially those that are factory turbocharged, the intake tends to be fairly well designed from the factory. This means that power gains are typically negligible unless additional significant modifications are added which require airflow beyond what the factory intake can provide. But, even with that in mind, the intake still looks and sounds incredible. Most enthusiasts don’t realize just how much louder the intake can be. If you’re converting a closed box intake system to an open filter with a lot more surface area, you’ll definitely hear the difference.
When we talk about an upgraded intake, it could be something as simple as a drop-in filter. Or, it’s a complete metamorphosis to accommodate an upgraded turbo. What it most certainly not is a PVC abomination sourced from your local hardware store’s plumbing aisle shown in the video above. That is a complete Don’t!
An upgraded drop-in panel filter can make your engine noises more audible and maintains the stock airbox. Swapping out the stock filter is one of the easiest modifications you can make. A drop-in filter will allow more air to pass through than the stock one. This can increase power and the volume without replacing any other parts. It’s a great upgrade for someone that wants to maintain the stock airbox but wants an improvement over stock. When you want to kick it up a notch from there, you can replace the entire intake and airbox.
An upgraded full intake will definitely make your car sound even better. It checks several boxes by adding to the aesthetic under the hood, potentially adds some horsepower, and best of all, sounds amazing!
Not all intake are created equally. When shopping for an intake consider whether you need something that includes an airbox. An airbox is useful to shield the intake from hot air under the hood. It can also help prevent the intake from ingesting water. This is especially important for intakes located lower or towards the front of the vehicle.
Also keep in mind that if your car uses a Mass Airflow (MAF) based tuning strategy that installing the intake may require tuning adjustments.
Any time you change the way the air comes into the engine, you can affect the tune on the vehicle. This is because the MAF sensor expects a certain airflow. When that airflow is changed by a different filter element, changes in tubing bends, or by different diameter piping, the MAF sensor must be properly re-calibrated to “see” those changes. If you run an intake for which the mapping is not properly designed, the car could potentially run dangerously lean and stumble throughout the rev range. With that in mind, make sure you have the appropriate tune with an intake installed.
We know from the How Turbochargers Work post that the throttle blade is the deciding factor in when boosted air is halted. When it closes, the Bypass Valve/Blow-off Valve (BPV/BOV) opens allowing air to escape and the intake tract becomes decompressed. This component is typically located between the throttle blade and intercooler. In a system using a BOV, the air is vented to the atmosphere. In a system using a BPV, the air is recirculated into the intake tract.
It’s important to retain this re-circulation on MAF based cars no matter how cool it sounds when the air is vented. Don’t worry, you can still hear it fine in full re-circulation!. It’s important because that air has already been measured by the MAF sensor. This means that a certain amount of fuel is injected with the expectation of that air being present. Anytime this air is vented, the car will run rich which can potentially cause issues. With that in mind, make sure you have the appropriate tune if you decide to convert your BPV to a BOV or simply just stick with a BPV in full re-circulation mode. This is an awesome modification that enhances the best of the turbo noises!
Still have questions concerning how to make your car sound better? Check out our knowledge base at www.cobbtuning.com/support for more details on this and all things COBB! There is also an entire video series called COBB U that will help any new auto enthusiast broaden their vehicular knowledge! We’re also here for troubleshooting tips, upgrade path advice, and can help with any other questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 866-922-3059