Most people buy a car based on the performance or fuel efficiency of the vehicle, not for the colour or 'cool factor'. As time goes on, the engine's fuel economy and power slows down with age, and car owners resentfully accept that their cars no longer run like they did when they were new. This does not have to be the case. Car engines are like guitars, and when they get out of tune, they can be fixed. Some engines just need minor fixes to run in top shape again, while other engines may need several parts replaced to get it back to mint condition performance.
Replacement parts do not have to cost a fortune. Older or salvaged cars are scrapped for parts all the time, and the working and reusable components are resold. Many people sell parts from their own cars, as well. These used parts are usually affordable and reliable. When engine parts need to be replaced, buyers can pay high prices for new parts, or used parts can often be located through auto repair shops or by searching online. Numerous online retailers sell used auto parts, and eBay, in particular, offers a diverse variety of choices in a broad range of prices. Knowing which parts need to be replaced begins with understanding how to tune a car's engine.
How to Tune a Car Engine
Before tuning a car engine, one needs to determine whether he or she prioritises the power performance of the car or the fuel efficiency of the engine. While both can be achieved in many instances by tuning the car engine, it is also possible for performance to be achieved at the expense of fuel efficiency and vice versa.
There are several ways to tune a car engine, but the preliminary diagnostic testing should begin with a full service of the car. Sometimes a car's engine does not perform well because of the supporting actors, such as the oil and oil filter or the spark plugs. Worn piston rings and valves can also greatly affect a car's engine performance. Testing the engine compression reveals whether or not that is the problem.
Different Types of Car Engines
There are three types of car engines: carburettor, fuel injection and turbo. Tuning the engine depends on which type of engine is in one's car. Performance and fuel efficiency are directly correlated to matching the right fuel to the air delivery ratio.
Carburettor engines use a mechanical device known as a spark plug to distribute the spark that runs the engine. The longer the breaker takes to start the spark, the less fuel efficient the engine is. However, if the spark starts too soon, the engine starts to knock because the combustion process does not occur at the right moment for a proper cycle. A strobe light can be connected to the spark plug to see the timing of the spark process. There is a timing mark on the bottom of the cambelt on the engine that looks like a small groove and notch. With white paint on the notch, the strobe light makes the engine timing more noticeable. The distributor housing can be rotated to adjust the timing to be sooner or later than it has been performing. Larger jets can also be installed to increase the fuel to match the air delivery.
Fuel Injection Engines
Fuel injection engines are more prevalent in cars today. Because carburettor engines are comparatively inefficient in design, fuel injection engines address the problem of spark timing by working with the car's computer to map fuel and spark timing for optimal performance of the engine. The computer adjusts the settings to meet the best ratio between fuel and air intake and is customised by the owner's driving style, temperature of the location, and different fuel grades being used.
Because the engine's performance is dependent on a computer, the only way to tune a fuel injection engine is to replace the performance chip to improve the computer's technology and understanding of the engine's performance. Some engine computers set a conservative default on the fuel delivery and timing maps, and owners can alter the settings to yield better performance.
Turbo engines push more air into the engine to provide more power and yield better overall performance. Because the turbo engine depends on the turbo for its performance, tuning the engine relies dramatically on the exhaust and intake compression impellers. By hybridising the turbo with a stock OEM turbo casing and upgrading any internals or by fitting a second turbo or replacing the pre-existing turbo with a larger one, the power of the turbo engine can be increased significantly. An intercooler added to the turbo engine cools the temperature of the air intake to allow more power gain.
For those who do not wish to replace any of the stock parts on their turbo engine, the computer can be re-flashed through the diagnostic software or by altering the boost and wastegate control, which are typically set at a conservative default setting by manufacturers, to increase the engine's power capabilities.
Because there are several components at play within an engine, there is a lot of movement that occurs when the engine is running. The constant movement and forces from the various parts can cause an engine to become imbalanced, which is indicated by vibrating at high speeds. Balancing the engine leads to a more efficient engine that performs better at high speeds. Engine balancing focuses on the components inside the engine and the forces within an engine when under combustion. This performance under combustion refers to the energy released by each cylinder. For equilibrium, each cylinder should match the power of the other cylinders; otherwise, imbalance occurs.
The other components of the engine, such as the flywheel, pistons and rings, piston rods, pins, crank, and bearings, cause engine imbalance when the weight of the components is not dispersed appropriately. Reorganisation of the engine's components improves engine performance and fuel efficiency when the weight is redistributed to cause less vibration at high speeds. Other than reorganising the components, metal can be welded onto other parts of the engine to make lighter sides heavier, rather than trying to rearrange the pieces. Another option is to replace certain heavy parts, like a crank, with a different crank made of lighter metals.
Replacing Other Engine Parts
There are several other parts of an engine that can be replaced to yield higher performance, such as the camshaft, sports exhaust and sports catalyst. The camshaft controls the ports that regulate air intake, thus affecting the performance of the engine's rev range. The longer the rev range duration, the more power that comes out of the engine, as the shaft allows for more air and fuel to enter the engine. Double overhead cams are easier to tune than single overhead cams, as they have separate profiles for their inlet and outlet ports. To check for the wear in the camshaft, the owner can run a fingernail over the lobe on the shaft to feel for any wear where the lifter touches the camshaft. More than one millimetre of wear requires a camshaft replacement.
The exhaust can also be changed to improve performance. The exhaust is designed to allow gases from the engine's mechanisms to escape efficiently by breaking up the sound pulse from the engine. The reduced pressure in the exhaust system allows for more power to be produced by the engine. The exhaust, along with the air intake and fuel capacity of the engine, allows for a more efficient flow rate, meaning more power. A quick fix for the exhaust is polishing the inside of the exhaust pipe to streamline the exit of fumes, thereby causing less friction. Replacing the cast iron exhaust with a steel one has a similar effect, as well. Likewise, replacing the catalyst with a sports performance catalyst in the exhaust can also yield more power from the engine.
Safety Precautions When Tuning a Car Engine
Changing various aspects of an engine or supporting car parts to tune the engine should be done with the utmost safety and with solid knowledge on the matter. Making alterations in the engine can cause significant damage if they are done incorrectly or without proper understanding of the mechanics of a car's engine, and this can lead to injuries or accidents on the road. When working on a car, protective eyewear, gloves, and a mask are highly recommended to prevent personal injury, including burns and hazardous gas inhalation. If consumers are uncertain about tuning their own car engines, they can always consult a professional mechanic instead of doing it on their own. Regardless of who does the engine tuning, used engine parts can often be purchased at a discounted price compared to what one would pay in an auto shop.
Car performance and fuel efficiency can be achieved without having to buy an entirely new vehicle. Engines can be tuned in various ways, depending on the type of engine. Engine types include carburettor, fuel injection, and turbo, and each type has a different way of timing combustion and maximising the air intake and fuel delivery system for optimal power. There are other ways to tune a car's engine, including replacing parts in the engine or exhaust to streamline the flow of air, fuel, and exhaust and create a better-performing car.
Safety should always be practised when altering a car's engine, and less experienced car owners should consult a professional mechanic rather than risk damaging the car or hurting themselves. Used car engine tuning parts help car owners save money, even if a mechanic tunes the engine and installs the parts. Used parts can be purchased on eBay without sacrificing the quality or condition of the part, or buyers can consult local repair shops to find out how to purchase used parts in their areas.