7 Ways to Increase Your Vehicle’s Horsepower and Torque

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In the simplest of terms, your engine is one big air pump. It is a series of deliberately-timed combustions that pull in and push out ever-essential air.

Finding ways to move greater volumes of air in and out of your engine is what leads to an increase in horsepower and torque.

And, it doesn’t matter what side of the table you’re on in the horsepower vs. torque debate. The fact remains: they are both key components in powering your vehicle.

If you’re looking to see gains in either area, we’ve got a few ideas to get your engine performing at its peak.

cold air intake

1. COLD AIR INTAKE

Upgrading to a performance cold air intake is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to increase horsepower.

As the air coming into your engine gets colder, it also gets denser. Since your engine operates by taking in air, mixing it with fuel and burning the mixture to produce power, the denser the air — the more power it will produce.

Cold air intakes feature an innovatively shaped filter that offers an increased surface area to pull air through. It sometimes increases up to 3x the size of your factory air filter.

Cold air intakes are also designed to reduce air flow resistance and unwanted turbulence within the pipes which would reduce airflow into your engine.

SHOP COLD AIR INTAKES

diameter throttle body

2. LARGER-DIAMETER THROTTLE BODY

In conjunction with your fuel injection system, the throttle body regulates the air flow that goes into your engine.

This system is an important part of your vehicle because, as with all combustion, air is required for your engine to fire properly.

Installing a large-diameter throttle body with bigger flaps allows more air to flow into the engine. Doing this increases several aspects of performance. A larger throttle body delivering air at a higher rate helps you feel faster acceleration and a surge in engine power by up to 25 hp.

Additionally, you can install a throttle body spacer to further enhance your fuel economy and increase torque.

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SHOP THROTTLE BODY SPACERS

exhaust headers and manifolds

3. EXHAUST HEADERS AND MANIFOLDS

Meeting both emissions requirements and maintaining low production costs can limit the ability of your stock exhaust manifolds to move air as efficiently as possible.

This makes aftermarket exhaust headers a good place to find extra horsepower and increase torque. Both long-tube and shorty headers boost your vehicle’s performance by moving air faster and more effectively.

Long-tube headers do the best job of building torque and hp from mid-range to top-end RPMs and are ideal for high-revving super rides. And, shorty headers deliver more HP and torque in the lower RPM range.

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high-flow catalytic converter

4. HIGH-FLOW CATALYTIC CONVERTER

High-flow catalytic converters don’t function too differently from your stock unit. A high-flow cat is responsible for the same task of reducing emissions — only faster.

They achieve this by using a less dense internal cell count and increased volume surrounding the catalyst itself.

Along with your other exhaust mods, a high-flow cat is focused on increasing the flow capability of your engine to help it make more power.

High-flow cats increase power across the RPM range, though most noticeably in the lower RPM range, to deliver a boost of both torque and horsepower.

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high-flow cat-back exhaust system

5. HIGH-FLOW CAT-BACK EXHAUST SYSTEM

So-called for its placement behind your catalytic converter, a cat-back exhaust system replaces your restrictive stock muffler and factory exhaust pipe.

Paired with an aftermarket high-flow catalytic converter, this superior system increases both torque and airflow to improve horsepower.

Look for systems with large-diameter, mandrel-bent pipes to see the most impressive gains. Cat-back systems also feature straight-flow mufflers to further contribute to the freedom of airflow through the exhausts for even more power.

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performance chips and programmers

6. PERFORMANCE CHIPS AND PROGRAMMERS

The computer that controls your engine is factory-programmed to comply with certain emissions and fuel octane requirements that leave a lot of performance capabilities on the table.

By utilizing power programmers and performance chips to adjust your vehicle’s settings — like fuel-to-air ratio, turbo boost and ignition timing advance — you can easily increase engine power and torque.

Performance software is easy to use and usually features plug-n-play installation that connects directly to your OBD-II port. It even comes programmed with pre-made or customizable tunes.

SHOP CHIPS & PROGRAMMERS

forced induction (superchargers and turbochargers)

7. FORCED INDUCTION (SUPERCHARGERS AND TURBOCHARGERS)

Forced induction systems, like a supercharger or turbocharger, compress the air flowing into your engine and offer the greatest performance increase.

It’s not uncommon to increase horsepower and torque by over 50% with the aid of forced induction. By adding more air, the engine can also mix in more fuel. So, a charged engine produces more power overall, which significantly improves acceleration.

While a supercharger’s powered by a belt that connects directly to the engine, a turbocharger gets its power from the exhaust system.

Turbochargers are considered more efficient since they use “wasted” energy from the exhaust stream as their power source. However, by nature, they present a greater delay (or turbo lag) until you feel the power.

Superchargers offer almost instant power when you step on the gas and are usually easier to install.

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AutoAnything has everything you need and more to beef up your horsepower and torque to get your vehicle up to speed. So, start small or go big. Or start small, then go big — the choice is yours!

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Mike Cote
My 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road Access Cab 4x4 offers bed space to camp in, haul my dirt bike around, and it's been done up to take on the trails. Favorite mods include my Icon coilovers to soak up the bumps. My Walker Evans 501 Legend wheels wrapped in Toyo RT tires give me the clearance from my upper control arms to fit (and they look darn good) and the over-sized tires take on rocks with plenty of traction. My Rigid Industries fog lights have kept me out of a ditch or two when night wheeling. Growing up going to car shows and helping my dad work on the family vehicles ignited my passion. My best memory was the first time I flushed the coolant. My dad forgot to tell me to keep my face out from under the drain plug. Never made that mistake again!

18 COMMENTS

    • Hey Craig, we do actually! It’s the 73mm throttle body right here: https://www.autoanything.com/air-intakes/73A4289A0A0.aspx

      We have an issue in our data where it’s just listed for the 3.7 V6, but it’s actually the same part for the 3.5 Ecoboost. I just checked with BBK to confirm that, and we’re going to fix our data.

      Let me know if you have anymore questions or anything else I can help you with!
      Garrett

  1. I have a 93 Ford Bronco XLT 5.3L 351W. I am looking to upgrade my throttle body from stock (50mm I believe) to either the BBK 56mm or 61mm. Is there really a performance benefit in doing this? I currently have CAI, TBS, Basani Headers, Y-Pipe and full exhaust with Flowmaster 40 Series muffler. What should I expect from a 56mm and/or 61mm?

    • Hey David, I did come digging on this, and it seems like the way to go is the 56mm over the 61mm unless you’re doing a full engine build, port matching the intake manifold and a tune. It’s more for high RPM, big horsepower builds.

      The benefit from the 56mm isn’t going to be huge, but you’ll be getting the maximum benefit from it since it will be in conjunction with the intake, headers, and exhaust you have. I would say 12-15hp, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but you’re hitting the upper limit from what you can get from these engines with just bolt ons anyway.

      Check out this forum here: https://www.fullsizebronco.com/forum/21-noobie-bronco-tech-questions-flame-free-zone/407601-bbk-throttle-body.html

      The user Seattle FSB on that page knows his stuff, and is like the FSB guru over there. I’ve talked to him before.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  2. I’m not even qualified to be a shade tree mechanic but which of these, if any, can be used on a diesel F150?

    • Definitely, man! I’m going to shoot you an email to figure out the details on your truck so I can recommend some parts for you.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

  3. Sorry to make you do a bunch of work but, I have a 2003 Mercedes E500 with 302 HP. I just want to know what I could get that wouldn’t require a massive amount of work or tens of thousands of dollars to up the HP just a bit. it has the 5.0L V8. Thank you in advance and I appreciate that you actually reply to comments! Have a good one!

    • Hey Spencer,

      Oof, those W211 E500s are great cars but there isn’t a whole lot out there in terms of performance parts unless you want to spend big money, unfortunately. I did some digging around on forums and found that a few companies used to make exhaust kits for them, but not anymore by the looks of it.

      Your best bet would probably be to snag yourself a performance muffler (or two if you have the dual exhaust) and take it to a local exhaust shop and have them weld those in. That will make it sound great, but to get more power, they would have to weld up a custom catback exhaust for you. Depending on the place, this isn’t as expensive as a lot of people think. The struggle for you is to find a shop that won’t charge you an arm and a leg just because it’s a Mercedes, when in reality it’s no more work for them than a Toyota would be.

      I’m going to send you an email with some things I found for ya.

      Cheers!
      Garrett

    • Hey Marcus,

      There isn’t a ton out there for the Rogue, but Bully Dog does make a tuner for it here: https://www.autoanything.com/performance-chips/bully-dog-gt-tuner

      I checked around on the Nissan forums, Rogue owners and Altima guys with the same engine seem to be pretty happy with them, and we have this review from just a month ago (click the link above and put in your year, make, and model and you can see this review on the page):

      “Very impressive module. Gives out important information. Gives temps of the trans and engine. Great low end torque, better mpg over all 2-3+ bumped the ideal up to allow for better ac in the summer during idling. 2 degrees advanced time.”

      Other than that, you can do a drop in filter, which won’t be huge, but it’s something. Stillen I see makes an exhaust for it if you want to go that route for a little more power and some good sound, but we don’t carry it.

      I’ll shoot you an email as a follow up.
      Cheers!
      Garrett

  4. Hey Garret, I’m not a real engine dude or anything, I just appreciate cars and the work behind it. But I was wonder do Subaru’s have throttle body upgrades, found an exhaust and cold air intake but can’t find a throttle body. It’s a Crosstrek 2.0L flat 4. I’m trying to stick with blot ons and be able to say it pushes 200hp, right now 152.

  5. I have a 1993 Chevy Cheyenne with a V6 and I’m desperate for more power. What I have simply isn’t enough and leaves the truck struggling to keep up with other vehicles on the road.

    I’m open to any and all options and I’m willing to spend upwards to the $1000 – $1500 range.

    Recommendations for cold air intake, throttle body upgrade and exhaust system?
    Your input is very appreciated, I’m by no means a mechanic or shade tree mechanic, but my truck is super easy to work on. Thanks in advance

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