How To Tune Your Car
Tuning your car means getting it to run and perform better. Some drivers want maximum performance from their cars while others want it to run at its most efficient and economic. Either way, tuning your car will improve the way it feels. Here is how you can tune your car.
The first step is to ensure the engine is running properly. This involves:
- Changing the oil and oil filter
- Installing new spark plugs
- Performing a full service if necessary
- Test engine compression and replace worn valves or piston rings
Once this is done, you are ready to test your engine. This will vary depending on whether you have a carburetor, fuel injection or turbo engine. Diesel engines operate differently and need to be looked at separately.
Carburetor engine – Tune Your Car
An old-fashioned carburetor engine runs with a breaker distributing the spark with a mechanical advance as the revs increase. You can play with the timing of the spark to ensure a more efficient engine and therefore better power and economy. The process can be summarised as follows:
- Connect a strobe light to the spark plug pulse so you can “freeze” the engine and see the timing mark (located on the pulley at the bottom of the cambelt)
- Mark this with white paint so you can adjust the timing
- Rotate the distributor housing to gradually adjust the timing, testing the engine every time you adjust (ideally done with a rolling road dynamometer)
Fuel injection engine – Tune Your Car
These engines are more sophisticated and the timing is determined and adjusted electronically on the car’s computer. The vehicle is designed to assess the exhaust for oxygen and then adjust the intake of fuel to match that. As it’s all computer-determined, it’s difficult to manually add any value other than to replace a faulty chip in the computer.
Turbo engine – Tune Your Car
Turbo engines can be adjusted to deliver significantly more power as the turbo pushes more air into the engine. You can fit a second turbo or upgrade the existing turbo to get more power from your engine. The settings are controlled on the car’s computer but these can typically be remapped and you could gain as much as 40% more power this way.
In addition to adjusting timing in your engine, there are a number of other interventions that can be done to tune your vehicle, as listed below.
- Balancing your engine
- Adding a sports camshaft
- Installing performance headers, sports exhaust or sports catalyst
- Installing an intercooler (on a turbo engine)
- Altering wastegate and blow off control
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