Ways to Boost Power without Breaking the Bank

Much like an elite athlete’s ability to rapidly breathe allows them to perform stronger, so it goes with your car’s engine. Whether you drive a ’69 Chevelle or an ’09 Civic, the same principle applies. Get more air in and out and your engine will make more power and run stronger. This is why forced induction (i.e. turbocharging and supercharging) is so popular as a means for, literally, pumping up an engine’s output. That’s great, but unless it came on your car it’s also easily a $5,000 and up modification.

If you want to improve your car’s performance without spending a lot, then you’ll want to focus on cost-effective ways to make that mill breathe like an Olympic decathlete without tearing into it. In other words, consider these following bolt-on mods that will give you the best bang, or should we say breathing, for your buck.

Edelbrock Pro-Flo 1000

Edelbrock Pro-Flo 1000

Golden Oldies Take a Breather
Going with a less-restrictive air filter setup than what the factory has supplied has long been a staple of performance enthusiasts. Those who own an old American car from the ’60s and ’70s typically favor a round, open-element air cleaner that sits over that carburetor. Although some old muscle cars actually came standard with these types of filters, or even trick hood scoops that funneled colder outside air to the intake, more often than not you’d see a closed housing that breathed through a snorkel-like fixture sticking out of its side. Other options for those golden oldies include Edelbrock’s iconic, triangular “Pro-Flo 1000” (formerly known as the “Lynx”) open-element filter.


K&N Cold Air Kit

K&N Cold Air Kit

Something for the Younger Ones
When fuel injection became more widespread in the ’80s, air filter assemblies took on more complex configurations that continue to this day. The latter is due chiefly to being equipped with various sensors that keep tabs on things like intake air temperature and velocity so the computers can adjust fuel metering accordingly. The air filters themselves are typically buried within black plastic boxes. The aftermarket quickly came to the rescue with low-restriction, cold-air kits that typically feature a semi-conical open-element filter. K&N, in particular, makes well-engineered kits that are known for their high quality and wide range of applications.

Ok, Now Exhale
So now that your engine can inhale more deeply; it’s time to turn your attention to the exhaling side of the equation – the exhaust. Before model year 1975, when catalytic converters (“cats”, for short) came on the scene to clean up exhaust emissions, the default performance-enhancing setup was pretty straightforward: exhaust headers running to true dual exhausts with a crossover. Nowadays, the ideal setup is pretty much the same, albeit with high-flow cats plumbed into the system. Of course you’ll want to check with your state’s emissions laws beforehand regarding replacing the cat(s), as some states may only allow factory replacements.

Still, going with a full engine-to-tailpipes system can be rather complicated (ask anybody who’s installed headers) and expensive, plus that labor is probably beyond what most shade-tree wrenches can do. The good news is you don’t have to go that far. Those looking for a cost-effective and minimal hassle upgrade should consider a “cat-back” exhaust system. It is just that, a system that bolts up after your car’s catalytic converter(s). With its freer-flowing pipes and lower-restriction muffler(s), a cat-back exhaust system lets your engine exhale easier and sounds pretty cool in the process.

Cat-back exhaust

Cat-back exhaust

Regardless of what you drive, there are plenty of great choices for a cat-back system. Popular brands include Borla, Dynomax and Magnaflow. Even within each manufacturer’s product line, there’s great variety, sonically speaking. You’ve got systems that are fairly quiet at idle and part throttle that then growl gratifyingly when you step into it. And then you’ve got the more aggressive setups that proudly make their presence known whether you’re burbling at a light on the boulevard or grabbing gears as you rocket up a freeway on-ramp.


For these power-boosting auto parts, along with all the tools you’ll need to complete the job, Advance Auto Parts will get back to the garage fast. 

Interior Modifications: Part One.

In part one of this two-part series, we look at interior modifications that improve the driver’s performance and comfort.

So you’ve got your engine putting out the power, your suspension/wheels/tires are dialed in, brakes are beefed up and the body is done. Now it’s time to turn your attention to the interior. With your ride’s notably increased performance and handling capabilities come increased responsibilities for the interior. Specifically, keeping the driver securely in place during high-performance driving, providing him with an effective interface between the car and himself, and monitoring additional engine parameters, such as turbo boost.

In the first installment of this two-part series we address seats and steering wheels, two important components that can optimize the performance of the most critical component in the car – the driver.

Get a hold of yourself

Now that you’ve got the more capable suspension and stickier tires, you don’t want to be sliding around in your seat while you’re unraveling your favorite twisty mountain road or taking part in a high-performance driving event, such as an autocross or a track day. A well-bolstered sport seat is key to holding your butt (and the rest of your body) securely in place while you’re enjoying your car’s athletic handling. It’s also a safety benefit, as you can better concentrate on the task at hand rather than having the steering wheel double as a grab handle as you try to prevent yourself from hip-checking the center console.

There are basically two types of performance seats, fixed back and reclining back. As the name implies, the fixed back seats are non-adjustable for recline. Advantages of a fixed-back seat include an abundance of lateral support and excellent compatibility with five- and even six-point racing harnesses. Fixed seats tend to be the choice of those whose car sees more racing duty than daily driver duty. Going with a reclining seat means you’ll enjoy greater comfort, much easier ingress and egress, easier rear seat access and considerably greater compatibility with stock seat belts. Reclining sport seats provide a nice balance between high-performance driving support and daily driver livability.

Recaro fixed back seat in a Porsche 911

Recaro fixed back seat in a Porsche 911

There are a number of companies to choose from when selecting a sport seat, such as Corbeau, Procar, Recaro and Sparco. Recaro seats in particular have been found as either standard or optional equipment in various high-performance cars over the years, ranging from Fords to Mitsubishis to Porsches. That said, all these manufacturers offer well built, comfortable and supportive seats for a wide array of applications.

Steering you right

Unless your car is over 20 years old, it probably has an airbag-equipped steering wheel. As such, you may choose to keep it in place for the added safety factor. That said, some enthusiasts prefer to swap out that original equipment wheel for an aftermarket unit. A few reasons are that a smaller than stock diameter wheel provides slightly quicker turning, a rim wrapped in leather, suede or Alcantara (artificial but very convincing suede) gives a more tactile grip, and an aftermarket wheel usually looks at least ten times better than that typically blocky stock affair.

Momo steering wheel in a Mazda Miata

Momo steering wheel in a Mazda Miata

Just as with the wheels you wrap your tires around, the wheel you wrap your hands around comes in a dizzying array of brands and styles. Check out the sites of Momo, Grant and Nardi and you’ll see what we mean. We prefer the classic three-spoke racing style with a traditional, non-sculpted rim, but your personal preference may dictate otherwise. Given the rather large amount of time you spend using the steering wheel, the importance of selecting one with the right overall diameter, ideal rim thickness and preferred grip cannot be overstated. As such, we suggest going “hands-on” and checking out the wheel (or wheels) you’re interested in at the store in addition to researching them out on-line. As they say in the car selling business, “the feel of the wheel can seal the deal.”


Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts is ready to help with a large selection of quality parts and accessories. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Name That Part revealed – Rocker Arm

There were lots of great guesses from our Facebook fans this week, but only one is correct. If you said “Rocker Arm,” you got it. For the full, original image, see the pic below.

For more information, check out this Sealed Power Rocker Arm on our site. For those who don’t know, we play Name That Part each Monday on our Facebook page. How it works: we post an image that reveals a small portion of an auto part, and our fans race to guess what it is. It’s a lot of fun and no major car knowledge is necessary to participate. (Although, it definitely helps!)


Rocker Arm

Editor’s note: To our Facebook fans: be sure to check back often for the latest insights into all things DIY. Also, visit our online store for great deals on quality auto parts, car accessories and more.

The DIY Garage is up and running

It’s been a few days since the launch of the official Advance Auto Parts car blog, and we couldn’t be happier. The response and feedback have been phenomenal. We attribute this to the notion that DIY’ers love reading and talking about the projects they work on, and that some outside perspective is always welcome.

Our bloggers feel the same way. Each brings their own story and ideas to the mix. All five also thrive on offering up tips and little nuggets of insight within their installments. Check ’em out.

And as you read through our auto blog, be sure to check out the happenings at Advance Auto Parts. Our online store continually features specials, coupons, articles, how-to videos and more, and best of all, it’s just a few clicks away. Check the Advance Auto Parts News section right here for the inside track on all that.

Lastly, we’d really like to hear your thoughts. Let us know what’s on your mind, what projects you’re working on, what tools work best for you…whatever. You can leave comments here, hit us up on our Facebook page or tweet our stories. However you choose to communicate, we appreciate your help in spreading the word on all things DIY.

Jim Kazliner
Editor, DIY’er



Welcome to our DIY blog

One of the best things about being a DIY’er is talking about the projects we take on. There’s a level of pride that comes with completing a job that just revs the spirits up—whether it’s basic maintenance or a full-fledged rebuild. It’s not just about a sense of accomplishment. It’s deeper than that. It’s almost soulful. To some degree, it’s the feeling of being in control of one’s destiny. And in these hectic times, that’s truly a rarity.

Enter the new Advance Auto Parts auto blog. We love talking about this stuff, too. And we couldn’t think of a better way to interact with our friends and customers than through a DIY blog—dedicated to all things driving.

Our bloggers share the passion. We’re proud to feature a host of featured DIY blogs dedicated to the cause. While he may seem like your typical suburban dad on the surface, The Mechanic Next Door is anything but. He brings a wealth of knowledge and DIY auto repair stories from the neighborhood to the table. The DIY Mom has a keen insight into cars—one that only a mother could have. Make sure you’re on your best behavior when you read her blog! Rural Tales showcases stories from places situated far off the beaten path, while Street Talk drifts into tuner territory, with conversations on the latest in high-performance imports. Finally, our Gearhead’s Garage is the place to go to get into American Steel—muscle cars, hot rods, classics and more.

Feel free to join in the conversation, spread the word, or give us a shout out on your Facebook or Twitter account.

And oh yeah, before I forget, make sure to check out our News section from time to time, to hear about special offers, deals and other happenings at AdvanceAutoParts.com.

Jim Kazliner
Editor, DIY’er