This article was first published in 2006.
The concept of electric supercharging seems to be regaining
popularity. There’s a wide range of electric blowers on the market but the
majority of these products (especially the cheaper ones) are of limited worth.
You can guesstimate the amount of boost you’ll achieve based on the system’s
power draw and the size of the switching relays (used for activation) – the
smaller the power rating, the weaker the supercharging effect. Some of the
cheaper electric superchargers may deliver boost on a small capacity engine but
we’ve seen reports that larger capacity engines see next-to-zero benefit. Also,
be wary of claimed power gains that include replacing the vehicle’s airbox – the
measured gains are largely due to the ‘naturally’ improved induction flow...
As new car manufacturers tussle for sales, one marketing
strategy is to advertise extended service intervals. The result is less time in
the workshop and reduced maintenance cost. However, if you buy a car with
extended service intervals, it’s important to read the fine print in the service
manual before adopting the regular log book schedule. Take the (now superseded)
Mitsubishi Magna as an example – its recommended service interval is every
15,000km but read the service manual closely and you’ll find it suggests a
7500km interval in ‘severe’ driving conditions. That’s half the distance
between oil changes! If you give your car a bit of stick and use it mainly for
short trips, you’d be ill-advised to adhere to the standard service
Along with monster turbos and intercoolers it’s becoming
fashionable to run big brakes on your ride. While big brakes are something we
advocate on any truly quick machine there are some pitfalls for buyers. One of
the biggest traps is clearance between the new calipers and your existing wheels
– sure, 20 inch rims might be able to accommodate the upsized discs but
what about making sure the wheel spokes can pass the new calipers? Before
handing over any money, we suggest trial fitting the new brakes or, in some
instances, the brake manufacturer may be able to supply a wheel clearance
template (PBR has ‘Wheelcheck’ templates at http://www.pbrperformance.com.au/performance.htm).
But be careful when relying on measurements to check clearance – a millimetre or two
can be the difference between success or failure!
Modifying your car is all about improving efficiency and
performance – so why not apply the same approach to car sound amplifiers? Wiring
a 4 ohm speaker to each output channel of an amp is ‘the done thing’ – you get
the rated power output along with the claimed levels of total harmonic
distortion (THD). The only problem is you’ll need to splurge on another amp if
you want more power or more speakers. An alternative is to reconfigure the
speaker wiring so you extract the most from your existing amp. If you have an
amp that’s stable operating down to 2 ohms, you can wire a pair of speakers to
run in parallel from each output channel. The reduced impedance makes the amp
work harder and, in many instances, output is doubled (check the specifications
of your particular amp). That’s free power – the only downside is
slightly downgraded THD.
On a similar note, you should be careful to take steps to avoid
interference and unwanted noise when wiring your amplifier. Regardless of whether
you’re using RCA or speaker level inputs to the amp, it’s important to keep them
as far away as possible from the 12V power feed. If the amp is mounted in the
boot, you should route the RCA or speaker level inputs down one side of the
vehicle and the power supply line down either the centre or opposite side. Keep
them separated and you should enjoy crystal clear sound!
After you’ve tuned your atmo engine with all the bolt-ons, cam
and cylinder head work, you’ll probably be scratching for further mods. At this
point, many people opt for individual throttle bodies – a visually impressive
but expensive upgrade. But what sort of gains are there? Well, on a modern
engine – especially those with a dual-stage intake manifold - it’s likely you’ll
find only a modest top-end gain. This typically comes in addition to improved
throttle response. So before splurging your cash, it’s a good idea to first measure
the restriction through your existing intake manifold/throttle assembly – all
you need to do is find out the manifold vacuum with the engine at full power.
The higher the vacuum, the greater the restriction and potential for
improvement. If there’s enough restriction to justify an all-new short runner induction
layout, you should be aware that it’s possible you’ll lose some drivability and
torque at some point(s) in the rev range. Invariably, it’s a trade-off...
Not long ago an AC power supply in your car was an extravagance –
but all that’s changed with recent price plunges! A DC to AC inverter can now
be bought from about AUD$50 (for a low output version) while a 500W example (as
seen here) can be picked up for AUD$160. This is the perfect unit for powering a
fridge, in-car PC or a cappuccino pump based intercooler water spray/water
injection (see World's Best Intercooler Water Spray, Part 1).
The ability to run AC devices opens up a whole new world!
Wanna give your engine a relatively low cost and low fuss
boost? Well, why not consider a NOS ‘Sneaky Pete’ type nitrous system? The
Sneaky Pete (as its name implies) is an extremely compact nitrous injection
system that has the potential for stealth installation. The supplied bottle
takes just 10oz (280g) of nitrous liquid and the system comprises a nitrous only
delivery system, which means you’ll need to put more fuel through the injectors
while activated. Very sneaky!
A trick way of adding some extra appeal and safety to your ride
is to swap your conventional third brake light to a LED job. LED brake lights
not only look cool but enhance safety thanks to their greater intensity and
quicker light-up time compared to a filament bulb. Check out the article Hi-Po LED Brakelight Upgrades to
find out how your existing third brake light can be upgraded to high intensity
LED technology. Alternatively, you can raid the wreckers to find a complete LED
brake light – we bought one for just AUD$15!
If you’re performing a home car alarm installation it’s
important to follow a few easy steps to further minimise the risk of theft. The
siren should be mounted somewhere that’s difficult for a thief to access, the
alarm wiring should be integrated with the factory loom and you should consider
how easy it is for a thief to gain access to the battery without lifting the
bonnet (some vehicles have holes into the engine bay from the inner guard). Keep
these factors in mind and you should keep your car yours!
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