In these tough economic times it's getting harder and harder to spend money on your truck. It's not really a hard choice when it comes down to either buying a supercharger or paying the rent. So what is a poor gearhead supposed to do-not work on his ride? We say, "No way." To help you feed the need for speed in these tight times, we hit up every contact we know of to locate horsepower upgrades for less than $200. Some of the things we found are right at the ragged edge of 200 bones, while others can be had for much less. Every part in this story will add or free-up existing horsepower to get those back tires roasting. We will give you a little bit of theory as to why these parts do what they do, how much they cost, and of course how much power you will feel.
The motor in your truck is basically a large air pump, firing off of a combination of fuel and air. The more air the engine can ingest, the more horsepower it has the potential to make. A free-breathing engine will also have a little better throttle response, as the delay of air getting in is reduced. Aftermarket drop-in filters, like the ones offered by K&N, not only out flow the stock paper elements and facilitate more horsepower, but they are also washable. So not only will you have more power with this filter, but getting it back when the filter is dirty is just a cleaning job away.
Price: $50 to $100
K&N Engineering, Inc
Carb And TBI Spacers
Spacers, much like aftermarket air filters, are designed to help get more air in, but they do it in a little different manner. Spacers increase the distance between the injector and the valve, allowing more time for the air fuel mixture to cool. The cooler the mixture, the more dense it is, so the potential for a more powerful combustion is possible. Improved throttle response and power gains in the mid through top end rpm will be seen. Most of these will install with simple hand tools in a matter of minutes and are available from companies like LMC Truck.
Price: $90 to $150
Another way to get more air into the engine is to increase the size of the throttle body itself. Giving the engine a bigger mouth to suck in the air will give you more horsepower. The one shown here measures 75mm in diameter and also features an adjustable throttle position sensor.
The intake manifold basically distributes the air/fuel mixture to each cylinder. So if you can make the manifold more efficient at doing this, the engine will produce more power. There are two different options when it comes to manifolds-single and dual plane. For an unmodified factory engine, a dual plane manifold will produce power down low where you need it. Single plane manifolds are best suited to heavily modified engines.
Tech: (270) 781-9741
Higher Ratio Rocker Arms
A rocker arm is a lever that basically converts the lobes of the camshaft into valve actuation. Each rocker arm has a ratio that multiplies the amount of lift from the camshaft lobe. If you increase that ratio you get increased valve lift without having to remove the camshaft.
Gains: 15hp and up
Installing a performance distributor will net you all kinds of good stuff. Not only will you get a hotter spark, you can also tune the spark curve to put your powerband where you like it. By increasing the spark energy you can burn more of the air/fuel mixture instead of letting it flow out of the exhaust valve.
Gains: 5-25hp depending on how bad your stuff was
An underdrive pulley increases the torque and horsepower output of an engine by reducing parasitic drag caused by belt-driven accessories like the water pump, alternator, or power steering pump. Basically the power it used to take to spin the accessory is now transferred to the wheels. Be aware if your truck is daily driven don't use more than 15-20-percent underdrive.
The camshaft dictates how much air gets in the motor by telling the valves when, how much, and how long to open. Installing a cam with bigger lift and duration numbers will increase the engine's ability to feed the cylinders.
Gains: 38hp and up
On the other end of the "engine is an air pump" theory is the exhaust. After everything is burned up in the combustion chamber, it has to get out. A performance muffler will help in this scenario by allowing the spent gasses to exit more freely.
Gains: 5-8hp on gas and 7-15hp on diesel
Late Model Restoration
Exhaust Cut Outs
If installing a free-flowing exhaust will add power, then opening it completely will do it even better. You can just unhook the exhaust from the headers, but jacking up the truck and so on will get old really quick. To open the exhaust easily, Hooker offers these exhaust cut-outs.
Price: $88 each
Since the stock exhaust manifolds are the biggest restriction in the exhaust system, swapping in a set of headers will get you more muscle. These shorty-style headers from Summit Racing will hook right up to your existing pipes and produce more power.
Price: $149.95 for most popular Chevy, Ford, and Dodge trucks
Crank Scraper And Windage Trays
Oil control is often overlooked when trying to find more power. While the oil is there to keep the moving parts from eating themselves, it also sticks to things like the crankshaft, making it heavier and harder to spin. A windage tray, pan baffle, a crank scraper combined will get control of the oil.
Price: $51.52 for all of them
Like stated before, oil is in the motor to keep the metal parts from contacting and wearing on each other. Now if you can provide this protection with slicker stuff, parts will move more freely and less friction will be generated.
Price: $8.99 per quart
One of the largest horsepower-robbing elements of a motor is the belt-driven cooling fan. By removing the belt-driven fan and replacing it with an electric unit, like this one from Godfather Customs, you gain back all of the power while still keeping the engine temperature at a normal level.
Gains: up to 20hp
Carb Tuning And DVD
An improperly tuned carburetor can waste horsepower, but knowing what to do can be a little confusing. Thanks to Holley's Trick Kit and Tuning DVD, things will be much easier. The DVD is two full hours of everything you want to know about how to tune a Holley. The trick kit has every little part you would need to dial in your carb.
Gains: 5 to 20hp
Price: $100 for the kit and $22 for the DVD
Go Fast On Funny Gas
Now this is out of the $200 price range, but we just couldn't leave it out. One of the best power-per-dollar investments is nitrous. NOS offers them for 4 bbl carbs, EFI, as well as a universal 4 and 6 cylinder kits. Nitrous can be put on a stock engine, and for the 4 and 6 cylinder crowd, sometimes it is your only option to add this much power.
Gains: 25-150hp depending on how big you jet the system