5 Ways to Increase a Vehicle’s Horsepower for Auto Mechanic College Students

Horsepower is the unit of power used to define the rate at which the engine works. The phrase originates from a man named James Watt, who wanted to measure the power generated by horses walking in circles at mills. He figured out a way to measure the power that a horse provides when pulling, determining that they generated enough power to raise 550 pounds by one foot in a time of one second, or to move 33,000 pounds one foot horizontally in one minute. 

Today, this same logic is used to determine the amount of power generated by a vehicle’s engine—with horsepower in this context representing a vehicle’s acceleration capabilities, power, and speed. 

If a driver decides that they want to boost their vehicle’s horsepower, they’ll probably turn to an automotive professional to get the job done. Here are five ways to increase a vehicle’s horsepower that auto mechanics should be familiar with.

1. Those in Automotive School Can Increase Horsepower by Installing a Cold-Air Intake

A vehicle’s engine functions by mixing air with fuel to create combustion, transforming this combustion into power. Cold air is denser than hot air, as it contains more air per volume. In a cold-air intake system, a vehicle’s engine takes in more air due to the density of the air itself. More air translates to increased combustion, which in turn creates more power for a vehicle, resulting in increased horsepower. A cold-air intake draws in air from outside a vehicle where it’s colder, through special filters that increase the surface area pulling air into the engine. If you’re in a mechanic program, it’s useful to know about the cold-air intake system, as this is one of the most effective ways to increase a vehicle’s horsepower.

A vehicle’s horsepower can be increased by installing a cold-air intake system

2. A Supercharger or a Turbocharger Can Increase a Vehicle’s Horsepower

Superchargers and turbochargers are both forced induction systems, which increase a vehicle’s horsepower by compressing the airflow making its way to the engine. The principle behind these devices is similar to that of a cold-air intake: when an engine receives more air, the engine can burn more fuel and produce a greater amount of power. Superchargers are easy to install, and they get their power from the engine belt to provide an instant increase in power as soon as the engine is activated. Turbochargers get their power by recycling energy from the exhaust. While they’re more efficient than superchargers, superchargers can provide up to 50% more horsepower—while with a turbocharger, the average increase is about 25%.

3. Use a Catalytic Converter to Make a Vehicle More Powerful

If you’re in automotive school, you should know about the option of installing a catalytic converter to increase a vehicle’s horsepower. A catalytic converter is a device that controls a vehicle’s exhaust emissions, reducing pollutants and toxic gases within an engine’s exhaust gas by neutralizing the harmful compounds. Catalytic converters can be built into the vehicle’s exhaust system, and they affect the performance of the engine. Filtering a vehicle’s exhaust optimizes an engine’s performance, increasing gas mileage—and in turn, improving the horsepower of the vehicle. 

A catalytic converter reduces harmful compounds in a vehicle’s exhaust, but can also help to boost hp

4. Reflashing the Vehicle’s Computer

Another way to increase a vehicle’s horsepower is to reflash its computer. A reflashing device can reprogram a vehicle’s internal computer, changing inputs such as fuel-air mixture intake and timing, all of which have a role in increasing horsepower. If programming is the main factor limiting a vehicle’s horsepower, then reflashing can boost an engine’s horsepower and even increase an engine’s gas mileage. 

5. Lighten the Vehicle’s Load

Making a vehicle lighter is a simple way to increase its horsepower. The lighter a vehicle, the faster it will be. There are a few ways to shed extra weight in a vehicle. You can remove spare tires, speakers, car jacks, air conditioners and more, all of which will yield a significant boost in horsepower. Another way to make a vehicle lighter is to swap out the tires. Carbon-fibre tires are much lighter than conventional tires, and will boost handling capabilities as well as increasing horsepower. 

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