Intake Manifolds: Born To Rev

Intake manifold
Intake manifolds
are a fascinating part of the internal combustion engine. Their design has a great deal of influence on how the engine performs. The simplest change can drastically alter how the engine feels under power.

Your engine in its most basic form is an air pump. As the piston moves down the cylinder during the intake stroke, it’s pulling a fuel/air mixture through the intake valve. Above that, your fuel system (unless your car has direct injection) is delivering fuel through the open intake valve. The oxygen supply needed for combustion is coming in at the same time, via the intake manifold.

And why should you know this? Because the design of the intake manifold has a significant effect on the output of your engine.

The Long and Short of It

Back in the days of prohibition, moonshiners started modifying their cars with the purpose of getting away from the law. One of the quickest ways to get more power out of a car is to allow the engine to breathe more efficiently. If an air intake is like your nose, then the intake manifold is like a pair of lungs. You can sniff all you want, but if your lungs aren’t up to the task of taking on that air, you’re going to have trouble.

Intake manifolds are designed to evenly distribute air to each cylinder of the engine. The more cylinders an engine has, the more complex this becomes. Older vehicles were pretty uniform in the way their manifolds were designed. Each cylinder has its own dedicated “runner” that delivers the air to the cylinder through the intake valve(s).

The tricky thing is, the length and diameter of the intake runners affect where you get your power. If your intake runners have a larger diameter, you’ll have higher horsepower, while a smaller diameter has less power but will allow you to reach that peak power more quickly. Longer runners are good for low-end power, while short ones are best for when you need the power in the upper registers of your power band. This is where modern technology comes in handy.

Power Where You Want It

Engine bayOlder cars had to find the happy median with their intake manifold design to perform the best for their typical scenario of use. Many new cars can have the best of both worlds — or at least a broader range of the two. Commonly called the DISA valve, a butterfly valve is built in to their intake manifolds to adjust the length of the intake runners depending on the throttle position. This ingenious little device is quite common on BMWs, for example. It helps bring a wider range of performance to a vehicle without having to swap the intake manifold out for specific power needs.

If you’re modifying an older car and you want more power, you’ll have to stick to the more traditional method. Depending on where you want your power, you’ll want a specifically designed manifold for that purpose. Take this Edelbrock Performer intake for example. You’ll see that in the product description, it’s designed to run at idle to a 5500 RPM limit and will provide a broad torque curve with excellent throttle response and mid-range power. This particular setup would be good for a muscle-car owner who is looking for good power on the street. Good throttle response and mid-range power is what you want if your goal is to be the stoplight drag king. This Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, in contrast, is built with high-end power in mind and would be better suited for situations in which top speed is the end goal.

When To Replace Your Manifold

You may not be looking to soup up your daily driver, but knowing how your car works is always a benefit to a car owner and can save time and money. Most intake manifolds on late-model cars are made of plastic. Over time they may crack, warp, or have a bad gasket. Typical symptoms of a faulty intake manifold would be hard starting, stumbling during acceleration, and often a “check engine” light. A leak in the intake manifold would likely set off a code that your engine is running too lean or getting too much air. A lean running engine could lead to premature detonation in the cylinder, which leads to major damage of the engine.

Have you found the perfect setup for your car? Let us know what you’re running in the comments below!

5 Things You Need to Do Before Modifying Your Ride

Did you pick up a classic project car? Or did you simply decide that it’s time to start modifying your current vehicle? Before you kick off the projects, there are a few things you should take care of—especially if you’re planning on adding extra power. Whether you’re working on a 1965 Falcon or 2015 F-150, here’s what to do before modifying your ride.

Don’t be Fred Flintstone

You can’t go if you can’t stop. Adding more power for a faster ride is a wonderful thing, but having the power to stop all that power is even more important. Most factory braking systems are acceptable with factory power levels but become inadequate after modifications.

Look into pad and rotor upgrades at a minimum. Ceramic pads are a great all-around street option, and certainly better than those asbestos pads on your ’50s Plymouth. Modern vehicles mostly come with organic pads offering less health hazards and a cheap price, but opt for composite pads for the best braking possible on the street. While swapping pads, be sure to flush your brake fluid for easy and cheap insurance. If you want to go the extra mile, drilled and slotted rotors look awesome and provide extra cooling for repeated stops.

Stay cool

Speaking of cooling, don’t forget that more horsepower almost always means more heat. On a classic, you’ll want to upgrade the cooling system. An upgraded radiator isn’t cheap, but the price includes peace of mind. Another way to look at it: a better radiator is cheaper than a new engine block.

If you have a heavy belt-driven engine fan, look into upgrading to electric fans. They’re lighter, reducing parasitic power loss, and can increase power and gas mileage. Don’t forget to keep the rest of the vehicle cool. If you’re working with an automatic transmission, you’ll want to look at a transmission cooler. It’s cheap and helps prevent the number one cause of early transmission failure: heat. You can even run a differential cooler, if you like overkill. If your ride is newer, its cooling capacity is probably improved over a classic, but it may be time to flush the radiator with some fresh coolant.

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Get charged up

Electrical systems from back in the day just aren’t up for modern performance. While performing repairs on a classic, go for upgrades in the electrical system. Swap out the old school points distributor for a higher performance and more reliable HEI unit. It’s the same price, easier to find in stores, and will support your higher horsepower goals. For a classic or modern ride, pick up some thicker spark plug wires with low internal resistance. They’ll deliver more bang to the spark plug. Also, just about every electrical part can be affordably upgraded here, so go for the best spark plugs, coil, cap, and rotor that your budget allows.

Tackle those corners

Ignore the suspension, and your street warrior might be a sudden and unfortunate off-roader. Adding power without suspension improvements makes a 1966 GTO just spin the tires and a 2006 GTO have excessive wheel hop. Either way, you aren’t going anywhere quickly.

Controlling all those forces on curvy roads and under hard throttle takes a good suspension. Upgrade your shocks, struts, and springs with more sport-oriented options. Add sway bars for better cornering, or upsize with thicker diameter bars if your current bars are lacking. If your classic is over 25 years old, look underneath at the suspension bushings—you’ll want to replace those crumbling rubber things right away. Performance versions are cheap, but even new factory equipment rubber bushings will be a dramatic improvement.

Under pressure

Tires have improved more in the last 50 years than perhaps any other area of the automobile. If your Packard project came with tubes and re-treads, or your Mustang is running Gatorbacks, it’s time to get some new tires. You can go for a period-correct look, while still increasing grip and hydroplane resistance and decreasing stopping distance. Hagerty recommends new tires if yours reach eight years old, regardless of mileage or tread life. It seems obvious, but these are the only four contact points your vehicle has with the road. Inspect them carefully and budget for a good set of tires.

While this seems like a large checklist, remember that this isn’t a side track distracting from your performance goals. This is about making your ride a better, safer, more reliable, and faster vehicle.

Anything we missed here? Let us know in the comments.

Upgrade Your Car with Modern Stereo Tech

Whether you’re shopping for your first classic car, handing down a beloved vehicle to a high schooler, or looking to upgrade your current ride, adding modern stereo tech to an older car can bridge the generational gap. It may seem like a daunting task to add Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, USB, and app functionality into a 30- or even 50-year-old automobile. In reality, however, you’re just a few steps away from making it happen.

Source | Andrea/Flickr

1. Find a stereo that fits your needs

Maybe you want to stream Bluetooth audio to your car stereo, but you don’t really need navigation or the more complicated features of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. There are many stereo-head units on the market in the $70-$200 range that will fit the bill perfectly.

If you want to get a bit fancier, look for a head unit that supports your type of smartphone (Apple or Android) and go from there. Some units even feature navigation screens that retract into the dash when not in use. But know that the more complicated and feature-packed your stereo is, the more expensive it’ll be.

2. Find a stereo that fits your car

The ease of this depends on how ‘classic’ your vehicle is. A common industry standard in place since 1984, DIN car radio size, makes it easy to fit any stereo to any car. Your car will have either a single DIN slot for the stereo head unit (roughly 7 inches by 2 inches) or a double DIN slot (roughly 7 inches by 4 inches). It’s possible to mount a single DIN head unit in a double DIN slot with the use of a spacer, but those with single DIN slots won’t be able to swap to double DIN head units.

In addition to choosing the right stereo size for your car, you’ll want to be sure you get a matching faceplate to cover the mounting screws and make the installation look clean and tidy. Often, stereo manufacturers will include a standard faceplate with the head unit, but for some cars with unusual dash opening shapes (Volvo 240s, for example), you’ll want to be sure you have a vehicle-specific trim plate, too.

For cars older than 1984, you’ll find many have slots that will work with DIN or double DIN stereos. You’ll need a mounting plate that’s specific to your make and model, but it should install in a similar manner to more modern cars. For those with older cars with non-standard stereo installation locations or sizes, you’ll need to be a bit more creative, mounting the stereo in a different location. Many owners choose to mount a modern stereo in the glove box to preserve the vintage look, as well as providing a place to mount the new equipment without having to cut or modify the dashboard.

If you’re not comfortable with the level of creativity and possible fabrication installing a stereo in a classic car, there are many custom audio shops that will gladly tackle the project for you. Don’t expect to get the job done at a major chain store though.

3. Find the right wiring harness

It might be a bit intimidating to think about wiring a car stereo into your older vehicle, especially if you’ve never done something like this before. Fortunately, there’s a whole industry built around making this as easy as possible, with adapter harnesses for almost any car you can think of available.

One of the most popular brands is Metra. When looking for the right wiring harness, you’ll want to keep in mind that there are two harnesses offered for most cars: the into-the-car harness and the into-the-stereo harness. You’ll want the into-the-stereo harness for a stereo upgrade, as this is the part that plugs into the car and interfaces with the stereo. Your new head unit will have its own plug with wires coming out of it. To get them working with each other, you’ll need to connect the head unit’s plug and wires to the wiring harness that plugs into your car.

4. Wire it up

If you’re handy with a soldering iron, that’s the best way to connect your new head unit’s plug to your into-the-stereo wiring harness before plugging it into your car. Soldering the connections will ensure you have the most durable, vibration-resistant connection possible. Do your soldering outside the car, preferably on a clean work bench, to ensure you don’t cause any unintended damage.

Pro Tip: Be sure to slip some heat shrink tubing onto each wire before you solder them so you can safely insulate and protect each joint once you’re done.

If you’re not into soldering (and don’t want to learn just yet), you can always use crimp connectors to join the two harnesses. Just follow the instructions on the crimp connector package to ensure you get a good conductive joint.

No matter whether you choose to solder or crimp, connecting the wiring harnesses to each other is usually as simple as matching each wire color. Be sure to reference your head unit’s manual, however, as well as the labeling or instruction that come with your car-to-stereo wiring harness, as some models may use non-standard wire colors.

5. Remove the factory head unit

Many factory head units are installed with anti-theft features to keep thieves from walking away with your stereo. That means you’ll need a special tool, usually a couple of prongs with special shapes, to insert into the sides of your factory head unit, before it will release and slide out of the dash. It’s sometimes possible to make a DIY stereo-removal tool. However, the proper tool is usually cheap to buy, and having the right tool to remove your stereo will make the job much easier and quicker.

6. Plug in the harness, antenna, and any other accessories for your new head unit

The main plug for your new stereo is the one you just finished wiring up, so plug that in. The antenna for AM and FM radio will also be clearly labeled and will be the only connector of its type (typically a round cable with a single prong sticking out of the center). Other accessories, like subwoofers, satellite radio, or CD changers, will have their own specific plugs, and may or may not be compatible with your new head unit.

7. Install the head unit

Once you’re all wired up and plugged in, slide the head unit into the dash until it’s securely in place. Many head units will simply lock into place with a click as it reaches full insertion. Others may require screws to hold them in place. Install any trim surrounds or faceplates necessary to give your installation a finished, professional look, and you’re ready to go.

Once you’ve got the new head unit installed, you’ll be streaming tunes from your phone or music player in no time. Just follow the instructions supplied with your head unit to pair them up, and you’re off and running. Now that your new head unit is working smoothly, you may realize you want a bit more sound than your stock speakers can give you. You may even want more total power than your new head unit can supply, which means you’ll want to install an amplifier. All of this, and more, is possible, no matter the age of your car.

Have you upgraded your ride with stereo tech? We want to hear your experiences in the comments!

The Future of Hot Rodding: Electric Cars

Hot rodders and horsepower enthusiasts tend to have a dismal opinion of electric cars. Once accurately described as slow tin cans, today’s electric vehicles are the future of the muscle car and the hot rodding hobby.

As you probably know, an electric car has no internal combustion engine, but relies on an electric motor and battery for motivation. The upside as a commuter vehicle is reduced operating costs, zero engine noise, and zero at-vehicle emissions. The downsides have traditionally been style and handling, as most early electric cars had all the aesthetics of a melted bar of soap, and all the driving charisma of a kid’s pedal car. Times have changed.

Source | Unsplash/Tim Wright

The future is fast

Tesla currently leads the charge (puns blatantly intended), with overpowered versions of the Model S sedan and Model X crossover. The Model S P100D in the appropriately named Ludicrous Mode can achieve 0 to 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds. That’s an impressive number, especially when you consider the electric sedan weighs over 4,600 lbs and can seat seven passengers. This electric $130k American sedan shames million dollar super exotics from Lamborghini and Pagani.

And Tesla isn’t the only one doing electric performance. Porsche’s Mission E looks incredible, and should offer terrific performance. GM recently trademarked the Corvette E-Ray name, so electric performance may be affordable very soon.

Source | Tesla

Under the hood with electric cars

But enough about buying new cars. Half the fun of hot rodding is tinkering under the hood and spinning wrenches, right? That can still happen in the age of electrics.

While these cars don’t need oil changes, they will need maintenance. Everything from the A/C and power steering, to shocks/struts and related suspension parts will eventually need replacing. That electric Nissan Leaf still needs brake pads.

There’s hot rod parts for electrics too. Just like a gas burning ride, you can upgrade the wheels, stance, handling, braking, and so on. If you are just into appearance mods, electric cars will have aftermarket options like body kits, giant wings, and vented hoods too.

Source | Saleen

Electric aftermarket mods

Aftermarket tuning companies will survive in this new electric era just fine. Saleen has been making Ford Mustang parts for decades, but now also fully reworks the Model S into their own distinctive performance sedan renamed the GTX.

And let’s not forget the DIY hot rod market. The motors may be unusually quiet, but they are relatively easy to replace with something more powerful. Just like a small block to big block engine swap, but with more torque and fewer emissions. There’s even the option to retrofit modern electric motors into a classic. There’s nothing wrong with a ’57 Chevy with 1,000 lb/ft of instant torque and no gas bill. In fact, that’s pretty cool.

This era is much like the transition from carburetors to electronic fuel injection (EFI) in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Enthusiasts said EFI would be the death of the performance car, the DIY mechanic and hot rodding, but instead the highly adaptable technology lead to the modern golden age of performance we now enjoy. EFI is the reason we can have street cars running 9 second quarter miles. The electronic age will be different too, but it has the potential to expand the hot rodding hobby into new markets and areas of interest. This is not the end of performance cars, but an exciting new chapter full of potential.

Do any of you have experience maintaining or modding electric cars? We want to hear about it!

The Weird World of Intake Manifolds

 

Intake manifolds are often a hot rodder’s upgrade part but are otherwise mostly ignored. Every minivan on the road has an intake manifold feeding an air and fuel mixture to the cylinder heads, so they don’t have the sexy and complex reputation of a turbocharger. Still, throughout the history of internal combustion, there have been several intake manifolds that left us scratching our heads. Here are a few of the weirdest.

Source | Andy Jensen

If You Can’t Dodge It, Ram It

This one causes a puppy-head-tilt reaction in everyone who sees it for the first time. The Chrysler B-block was a standard and unexciting people-moving engine by 1960 until it was topped by the unique cross-ram manifold. The dual four-barrel carbs sit way out over the exhaust manifolds and run the air charge through a gigantic, 30-inch runner to the opposite side intake port. Yup, the driver’s side feeds the passenger side cylinders, and vice versa. Chrysler rated the 361 cross ram at 310 horsepower, which wasn’t bad considering the muscle-car wars hadn’t really started yet. While it wasn’t a drag strip warrior due to losing power in higher RPMs, the cross-ram-equipped car had an impressive 435 lb-ft of torque down low, thanks to the extremely long runners.

Defying Gravity

What do you do when the traditional intake manifold world gets boring? Turn it upside down — or in this case, sideways. Sidedraft carbs were needed due to packaging constraints on cars with average-size engines in a small engine bay, like the Jaguar XK120 and Datsun 240Z. While North America was familiar with a standard Holley sitting directly on the manifold, the sidedraft style meant the Weber or SU carbs were mounted 90 degrees sideways, feeding a vertically mounted intake manifold. It’s easy to assume that gravity pulls fuel from the carb bowl into the manifold, which means sidedrafts shouldn’t work. Fortunately, the Venturi effect, which draws the air and gas mixture into the engine, is far more influential than gravity, meaning the intake manifold works just the same as if it were installed on top of the engine. If you want really weird-looking, there’s aftermarket kits to put sidedrafts on a rotary.

Truck Engine in a Sports Car

Remember the ’80s? No? Well, lucky you. The rest of us suffered for a bit while the manufacturers tried to figure out how to balance horsepower with emissions. GM’s solution was electronic-fuel injection with the tuned port intake (TPI) manifold. The distinctive long curved runners connecting the plenum to the lower manifold are a source of the engine’s torque, with a tuned length that takes advantage of pulses in the air charge at low and mid RPM. Right as the pulse of air is about to slam into the closed intake valve, it opens, sending a blast of slightly compressed air into the chamber. While only generating 245 horsepower, the TPI could make an impressive-for-the-time, 345 lb-ft of torque. If that isn’t oddball enough for you, the ’85 to ’88 V8s had nine fuel injectors.

Looks Like a Bad Day at the Factory

A transverse (sideways) mounted intake manifold make sense on a transverse mounted engine, like the modern Toyota Corolla. The cylinders are in a line between the wheel wells, and the intake manifold lines up with the cylinders left to right. Things get quite a bit more confusing when looking at the engine bay of the Infiniti Q45. The Nissan VH series engines were longitudinal (front to back) V8s driving the rear wheels but topped by a spider-like intake manifold sitting sideways as if it were front wheel drive. The reasoning behind the strange layout is unclear, but it was probably for packaging or emissions. This reminds us that the orientation of the intake manifold does not always determine the drive wheels. For further proof, look to the ’90s Acura Legend. While the engine drives the front wheels, the longitudinally mounted manifold suggests the rear wheels are driven. Oddly, this layout in a modern Japanese EFI sedan recalls the classic Oldsmobile Toronado.

While these oddities are no longer in production (excluding some as aftermarket upgrades), they solved an engineering dilemma of their times.

If you know of any other unusual intake manifolds that should be on this list, make sure to let us know in the comments.

5 Hacks, Tips, and Tools to Warm Your Winter

Whether you love winter or dread it, one thing you can’t do is ignore it. Unless you live a ways south of the Mason-Dixon line, in which case, carry on. For those remaining cold few (or many), let’s talk this winter’s best hacks, tips, and tools for staying warm.

Stay warm in winter

Source | Oliur Rahman

Tip: Heater System Tune-up

Level: Easy to Experienced

If your cabin remains lukewarm at best, your heating system may need a tune-up. Before you head to the shop, though, check your antifreeze/coolant. A car’s heater works by passing radiator fluid through your hot engine to a heater core. A blower passes air over the heater core and directs the heat into the cabin. Problems with your heating system can originate at any point along the way, but checking for sufficient antifreeze is an easy place to start and might save you money.

Problems with your heating system can originate at any point along the way, but checking for sufficient coolant is an easy place to start and might save you money.

First, make sure your engine is cool. Then check the quality of your current antifreeze using an inexpensive antifreeze/coolant tester. This video shows you how. If the tester indicates that your antifreeze isn’t up for the challenge of winter, you may need to flush your radiator.

Otherwise, go ahead and top off your coolant with fresh antifreeze. Be sure to check your coolant reservoir as well, adding antifreeze to the cold fill line. Now, take your vehicle for a drive and see if adding coolant was a simple solution to the problem. If not, the issue might be with the thermostat or even your heater core. Experienced DIYers can tackle the full tune-up, but others may want to visit a trusted mechanic.

Tools: Winter Tool Kit

Level: Easy

A well-stocked tool kit can go a long way toward making your winter more comfortable (and safer). Save time and elbow grease with windshield spray de-icers or de-icer windshield washer fluid. Keep lock de-icers handy to prevent winter from freezing you out. In case of roadside emergencies, stash a flashlight and reflectors or flares in your glovebox and a spare shovel in the trunk. Add thermal foil blankets and chemical hand warmers to stay warm without giving rodents a place to nest.

Hack: Remote Start Kits

Level: Experienced/Consider Hiring a Professional

Vehicles with a remote start feature have been around for decades, and so have aftermarket remote start kits. On the upside, these kits could cost thousands less than purchasing a new vehicle. They also allow you to warm and defrost your car before you even step out into the snow. Remote start kits only work on automatic engines, however, and require a working knowledge of your vehicle’s electrical system. Purchase a quality kit, and read the instructions carefully. If in doubt, hire a professional to finish the job.

Hack: Heated Seat Kits

Level: Easy to Experienced/Consider Hiring a Professional

If your vehicle isn’t equipped with heated seats, you may be facing the dreaded cold-bum conundrum. Is there anything worse? We don’t think so. For an easy solution, use one of the many heated seat warmers on the market. These usually slide over top your existing seat and plug into your vehicle’s 12 Volt outlet. Installing universal seat heaters can also bring much-needed relief. Unless you relish the thought of removing your vehicle’s seats and disassembling them though (and you DIYers might!), installing universal seat heaters may be a job for your favorite aftermarket shop.

Tool: Portable Micro-Boost Battery Chargers

Level: Easy

Nothing beats a fresh battery when it comes to powering your vehicle through the cold season. That said, life and extreme drops in temperature happen. Should you find yourself in a dark, snowy parking lot with a dead car battery, a portable micro-boost charger can get you back on the road. Use a micro-boost to jumpstart a dead battery or power accessories like smartphones, reducing the overall demand on your vehicle. Keep a portable battery charger in your trunk or glove box, and check its charge level on a regular basis.

Is winter a force to be reckoned with where you live? Leave a comment below about which winter tips, tools, or hacks keep you warm.

Quick Ways to Improve Your Interior Car Lights

Daylight Saving Time ends this month, which means you’ll be spending more time driving in the dark. You know what we’re talking about: long evening commutes, running errands at twilight, or starting your car before the sun shows up. While you can’t avoid winter’s shorter days, you can make them more comfortable.

One easy way to do that is by upgrading your interior car lights with simple, inexpensive LED lights. You’ll have a more brightly lit cabin for those long nights, which could do wonders for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Here’s what you need to know about choosing and installing LED lights for cars.

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Why upgrade to LED lights in my car?

We could go on and on about the benefits of basic LED replacement lights. Here are a few reasons why they’re in all our cars:

  • They produce a more vibrant, clean white light than the standard yellowish incandescent bulbs. (Pretty useful when you’re searching your trunk for that black football cleat or your pup’s favorite chew toy.)
  • LED bulbs also come in a variety of colors and kits that allow you to customize your interior to your needs and style.
  • LEDs have a longer life than incandescent bulbs and run cooler. They also draw less power, which translates to fewer drained batteries because someone left the door ajar.
  • Replacing interior bulbs with LEDs requires no special tools or experience.

How do I upgrade my interior car lights to LED?

You can upgrade your car’s dome, map, glovebox, step, and/or trunk lights. How accessible the bulbs in these areas are depends on your vehicle’s make and model. Many vehicles feature a clear, plastic lens cover held in place by plastic clips and/or a few screws. In that case, use a flathead screwdriver to loosen the screws and gently pry off the lens covers.

In other vehicles the dome and map light bulbs are housed inside a unit held into place with larger metal clips. Removing these units will take a little more time and skill, but a screwdriver will still do the trick. Once you’ve removed the lens covers or light units, replace the incandescent bulbs with LEDs.

For help selecting the correct LED lights for your car, talk to your Advance Auto Parts Team Member. White bulbs are classic and provide the best visibility for these areas, but the choice is yours. If possible, double check that the lights work before replacing the face plates. LED bulbs have positive and negative polarity, like a battery. So if they don’t light up at first, you may need to turn the bulbs around.undefined

How can I step up my LED game?

If you want to further customize your vehicle’s interior lighting, take a look at LED strip kits. LED strip kits bathe your vehicle’s interior in a number of ambient colors, from your floorboards to your trunk space, and are also fun and easy to install. Adhere the LED strips where you want more light, then use the 12V adapter. Or hardwire the kit into your electrical system. Many strip kits also come with a remote that lets you choose from a variety of colors and modes, so you can adjust your lighting to match your state of mind and lend a more luxurious feel to your car’s interior.

Upgrading your car’s interior lighting is a simple and inexpensive way to improve visibility and add panache to your vehicle.

Pro Tips for installation:

  • Replacing interior bulbs with LEDs requires no special tools or experience. Simply follow the instructions in your owner’s manual.
  • LED bulbs have positive and negative sides, like a battery. So if they don’t light up at first, you may need to turn the bulbs around.

Have you installed LED lights in your car? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Modern Mods for Vintage Muscle Cars

There are many of us out there who dig old muscle cars and enjoy wrenching, but who don’t necessarily want to be “hood up” every other weekend tending to their ride’s sometimes fickle ways. Guys or gals who’d rather be burning rubber than burning daylight. One of our writers, JDP, fondly recalls his ’69 Chevelle SS396, stating it was the only car he’s ever driven that he was a little afraid off, so brutal was its acceleration, rightfully accompanied by the heavy metal chorus of its exhaust bellowing through headers and a pair of Cherry Bomb glasspacks.

But being able to enjoy the thrill of that built-up monster was not without its price, and we’re not just talking about the 8-10 mpg appetite. Fitted with a dual point distributor and a Holley 750 Double Pumper carb, his SS wasn’t exactly easy to keep in a perfect state of tune. If JDP still owned it today, he says a few modern updates would have probably been done to it by now. The trio of suggestions we present here would be nothing that would affect your muscle car’s loveable character mind you, just things that would improve its reliability, overall performance and safety.

Pertronix electronic ignition

Pertronix electronic ignition

All Fired Up
Plenty of shade tree mechanics who’ve grown tired of fiddling with ignition points have made the switch to an electronic ignition. With their “plug and play” convenience, an electronic ignition means one less thing to worry about, and deal with come tune-up time. A perfectly timed, hot spark delivered to your beast’s cylinders efficiently takes the worry out of one aspect of the holy trinity of internal combustion requirements (the other two being air and fuel).

Top choices for making this upgrade include systems by Mallory (who recently merged with MSD) and Pertronix. Indeed, the latter company offers a system that fits within the distributor, thus preserving the original appearance of the engine compartment.

 

FAST electronic fuel injection

Bye Bye Four Barrel
Whether it’s a scorching summer day or a crisp fall morning, and whether you’re driving along the coast or up high in the mountains, there’s no denying that fuel injection has the advantage over a carburetor in terms of delivering a precisely metered air/fuel mixture regardless of changing driving conditions.

We actually covered this very topic not long ago in our Carburetors versus Fuel Injection article. As we stated there, these “self-tuning” systems offered by Edelbrock, FAST, Holley and MSD will have your ride always operating at peak efficiency without you needing to deal with re-jetting and making other adjustments you’d face with a carb. And no worries about having that classic engine compartment ruined with something that looks like a Flux Capacitor, as some of these systems mimic the iconic look of a big four-barrel carb.

Stop it, will ya?
Crazy as it sounds, some of the most potent muscle cars made came standard with drum brakes all around, with front discs being optional rather than standard on certain models. It’s pretty much common knowledge that discs do a much better job of swiftly hauling a car down from speed than the old drums. That’s why a brake swap — be it just from front drums to factory-spec discs or a considerably more powerful setup sporting massive discs and calipers all around — serves as a very worthwhile performance and safety upgrade.

 

 

For your next automotive project, head to Advance Auto Parts for all the auto parts, tools and accessories you’ll need for the job!

Bigger isn’t Always Better

Wheels: Bigger isn’t Always Better
by Street Talk


Seems that “Bigger is better” has become something of an American mantra. We’ve got Big Macs, big sunglasses, big houses, big trucks. And in the automotive modification world, big wheels. The latter have grown from simply big to downright cartoonish in some cases, giving some rides the look of rolling caricatures.

On the other hand, there are big wheels that do more than add automotive eye candy. With improved performance as the goal, these wheels, when shod with high-performance tires, are essentially the athletic shoes of the automotive aftermarket.

Yet despite how cool bigger than stock wheels may look, depending on where your priorities lie, they may not be the best choice for your car.

Bigger For More Bling
The first custom wheels to start the big wheel movement were “Dubs”, which is urban slang for the number 20. Measuring 20 inches in diameter, these large wheels were favored among pro athletes, rappers and other celebrity types who wanted their rides to draw even more attention. Some even had separate center pieces that would spin freely, further upping the “look at me” factor when the car stopped and the wheels seemingly kept spinning.

Originally seen fitted to big luxury cars, such as Cadillacs, S-Class Benzes, 6- and 7 Series BMWs and various Bentleys, Dubs soon appeared on exotic sports cars too. Eventually, as the wheel choices expanded and got more affordable, non-wealthy folks got into the act, putting them onto more mainstream cars and trucks, such as Chevy Camaros, Olds Cutlasses, Chevy Caprices, Chevy Tahoes, Ford Expeditions and Ford Crown Victorias. The car makers themselves started offering big wheel options as well.

More recent years have seen these styling statement wheels grow much larger, with 24-inch and even larger aftermarket hoops being squeezed into fenders originally designed for 15-, 16-, or 17-inch factory wheels. Although they’re larger than 20s, these wheels are still called Dubs by most people. Indeed, a magazine dubbed “Dub” sprang up back in 2000 to celebrate the big wheel culture. And it’s still going strong today, some 16 years later.

Typically chromed and sporting fancy designs, Dubs were (and are) typically much heavier than the original wheels which came on a given car. That’s not a good thing as it negatively affects the car’s overall performance and ride characteristics. Due to their greater mass, they take more power to overcome what’s called rotational inertia. In other words, because they’re heavier, it takes more power to get them rolling. Conversely, once they’re up to speed, it takes longer to slow them down. So both acceleration and braking are affected.

Similarly, their heavier weight makes them slower to react to quick up-and-down motions of the suspension. Factor in the super low profile tires they’re wearing, whose minuscule, stiff sidewalls offer virtually no impact absorption, and you’re left with a notably harsher ride than what the car originally provided.

Bigger Wheels for Performance Enhancement
On the other end of the big wheel spectrum are the performance wheels that are typically available in “Plus-1, Plus-2, Plus-3” etcetera fitments, which indicate how much larger (in inches) than the stock wheel they are. These larger wheels are constructed of ultra-lightweight materials such as exotic alloys or even carbon fiber, so they actually end up weighing less than the smaller, factory-issued wheels.

As such, these high-performance wheels don’t saddle your ride with any of the ill effects that heavier wheels impart on a car’s dynamics. Instead, this type of a big wheel upgrade provides notably crisper handling and sharper steering response. Less mass also helps improve acceleration and braking qualities.

Yes, going with these larger yet lighter wheels still means that, even without suspension mods, the ride is going to be somewhat stiffer than stock due to those shorter, stiffer tire sidewalls. So those who are happy with their car’s factory-issued handling and ride balance may want to reconsider this type of upsizing upgrade, while those enthusiasts looking for sharper, more “connected-to-the-road” handling will likely feel it’s a more than fair trade-off.

Affordable Exterior Enhancements

For many car guys and gals, modifying their ride’s style to make it their own is one of the most exciting and satisfying aspects of being an enthusiast. Maybe the stock wheels look rather plain and/or lost in the big wheel wells, so installing an aftermarket quartet can go a long way towards jazzing up the car’s looks and stance. Maybe you’d like to liven up its face too by accenting the headlights with some electronic eyeliner. And then there are the sporty spoilers, which range from mild to wild.

Note that in keeping with the affordable and “bolt-on” installation nature of this article, we didn’t include pricier and much more involved mods such as lower body kits and boxed wheel flares.

Custom wheels for Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ

Custom wheels for Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ

Which Wheels?
It’s hard to top a new set of wheels for making an easy, yet impactful visual statement. With so many different styles available, ranging from a subtle upgrade over stock fitment to what can only be described as over the top bling (remember “spinners”? Ugh.), aftermarket wheels are understandably one of the most popular upgrades.

In addition to the visual pizzazz they provide, new wheels can also improve your car’s handling. Going with a larger diameter wheel means going with a lower profile sidewall for the tire. That translates into sharper handling as there will be less sidewall flex when you’re pushing your car on a curvy section of blacktop. Keep in mind that a stiffer ride is part of the deal, as those shorter sidewalls won’t help absorb the smaller bumps as much as the original, larger and more flexible sidewalls did.

Despite the temptation to “go big or go home” — for example bolting on a set of 20s when 15- or 16-inch wheels were original fitment — we advise keeping it to a “plus two” (two-inch larger diameter over stock) maximum. The reasoning behind our thinking is that, unless you’re going with very expensive, ultra lightweight wheels, those larger wheels are also going to be substantially heavier, which negatively affects a car’s acceleration, braking, and ride characteristics.

One of our favorite sites for wheels is tirerack.com. In addition to the great selection they offer, their site allows you to see what different sets of wheels will look like on your car (provided your make and model is in their extensive data base).

Smoked headlights for Ford Mustang

Smoked headlights for Ford Mustang

Show me the light
Swapping out headlights and taillights is another relatively simple and cost-effective way to personalize your car. First seen on German luxury cars, accent lighting around the headlights is now a very popular aftermarket accessory. If you’ve got round headlight elements, you can go with what BMW called “Corona rings” — circular lighting rings that surround the round lighting elements. And then there are what we call “LED eyeliner”, which was made popular by Audi and as our nickname implies uses LEDs to brightly accent the headlight clusters.

Custom taillights have been around much longer, and come in a wide array of styles. If a cool, subtle vibe is your thing, a lightly tinted set of taillights can work, especially if the stock ones feature multi-color elements. However, if you are looking for some flash, there are the clear lens units that have individual elements within accented with bright metal accents.

Spoiler alert
Although front and rear spoilers serve a purpose (they reduce aerodynamic lift at higher speeds, thus keeping the front and rear tires of the car more planted to the asphalt), let’s be honest, most folks dig them for the looks. Just as with the wheels and lighting options, spoilers come in a huge variety of styles.

We tend to prefer the more subtle ones — a discreet chin spoiler up front followed by a small, color-matched rear spoiler rising maybe an inch or so off the rear deck. But for those who like to turn the knob up to “11”, larger front air dams with gaping ducts (to ostensibly help cool the brakes) and large rear wings towering a few feet off the rear deck are available. Not necessarily our cup of 10W-40, but to each their own. It’s all about your own preferences and sense of style.

For plenty of affordable customization options, be sure to check out Advance Auto Parts.