11 Simple Ways to Make a Car Go Faster

Volkswagen-Jetta-1

So, you painted flames on the side of your car and it’s still not going faster? Not to worry, this guide was built for people just like you.

We’re going to talk about 11 simple ways to make your car go faster. The ideas are simple, cheap, and easy to try out.

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What Goes into Your Car’s Speed?

If you want to go faster, you’ll need to know what’s currently slowing you down.

The speed of your car boils down to just a few concepts:

  • Your car’s overall weight
  • The efficiency of burning fuel
  • The grip between your tires and the road under them
  • Your engine’s performance
  • Aerodynamics

Car’s Weight

There’s an equation that tells us that as weight goes up, force goes down. Low force means low acceleration and lower overall speed.

Burning Fuel

Fuel (or as we call it, “go-fast juice”) is the only reason your car is moving. A controlled explosion converts fuel into power which moves your car. Efficient fuel burning means more power in the end.

Oil-Change-Engine-Oil

Tire Grip

If you run full speed onto an ice rink you’ll know why grip matters. Tires with good grip driving on an ideal surface will yield the best possible speed. Not enough grip, and you’ll be slipping and wasting energy.

Engine Performance

Obviously, more powerful engines can make cars go faster. Dropping a V-12 in your Camry is one way to go faster, but it costs so much money that it hurts to even think about it. Spoiler alert: there are other ways to improve your engine performance. More on that, later.

Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics, or aero, is how well your car can cut through the air. Air is always slowing a car down. A refrigerator is less aerodynamic than a McLaren P1. Better aero means better speed (more or less).

Car-aerodynamics
Vehicle’s aerodynamics being tested in a wind tunnel

11 Simple Ways to Make a Car Go Faster

Now that you’re an expert on what makes cars go fast, it’s time for some actual examples. Here are 11 of our favorite ways to make your car go faster simply and without spending too much money.

Custom Muffler

One of the more fun options to make your car go faster is with an aftermarket muffler. Not only do they sound great, but a nice muffler can get rid of a choke point in your exhaust system.

This allows your car to get a physical horsepower boost from simply getting a new muffler.

Make sure you read your state’s law and see what kind of muffler you can get away with. Places like California are pretty strict about the type of muffler, exhaust, and noise your car can make.

While you’re down there, you should see if you can swap from an exhaust manifold to a header. This can help get rid of some backpressure in your exhaust system and give you an even bigger boost to your car’s speed.

Performance-exhaust
Performance exhaust muffler

Tires with More Grip

From a physics perspective, your car won’t move without grip. When you get stuck in snow or mud, it’s all thanks to a lack of grip.

Grip allows your car to produce more power, in simple terms. If you upgrade your tires and get a set with nice grip, you’ll see an immediate change: your car will start accelerating faster, you’ll take corners faster, and you’ll have much more control as you drive.

Also,  make sure you’re keeping up with your tire maintenance. Check the health of your tires to ensure you have enough tread to keep moving.

Performance-tires

Better Brakes

An old adage says that you can only go as fast as you can stop. When it comes to cars, you want to make sure you have some powerful brakes if you expect to go faster in your car.

Putting your Civic’s brakes on a NASCAR car will result in an immediate disaster. That’s simply because it takes more powerful brakes to be able to slow down and stop faster and more powerful cars.

We always highly suggest upgrading your brakes. There are some great aftermarket options that will improve your braking and allow you to go faster.

Performance-brakes
Bigger rotors and brakes = Better stopping power. Make sure to get the right fit for your vehicle and wheel size

Tighter Suspension/ Lower the Car

Your vehicle’s suspension will transform how the car feels. It can improve the cornering and handling of your car.

Another thing to consider is lowering your car. This improves the aero and gives your car a more fun driving stance.

This, in turn, makes your car go faster.

Performance-Shock-Absorbers-Suspension
Aftermarket adjustable performance coil-overs

Maintain Your Car

Regular maintenance is a surefire way to boost your performance. It doesn’t add any extra horsepower to a stock car, but going too long without maintenance will eat up some of the valuable hp you have.

In other words, maintenance will prevent your car from losing horsepower over time.

Things like spark plugs, belts, oil, and filters will make sure your car is hitting its peak performance.

Not only does this help your car go faster, but maintenance also keeps your car alive longer.

Car-maintenance-air-filter-inspection
Air filters tend to get dirty and clogged up after so many miles

Your engine performance and burning fuel efficiency will be optimized as you maintain your car. If you don’t have the time, energy, or know-how to do this work yourself, you can take it to a mechanic regularly.

Strip Unnecessary Weight

As we mentioned, weight is one of the biggest players when it comes to going fast.

In an earlier article, we talked all about horsepower. We compared a Nissan 370Z Nismo to a Dodge RAM 1500. Both cars have roughly the same horsepower, but a weight difference of about 2,400 pounds between them.

The lighter 370Z goes 0-60 3.1 seconds faster and has a top speed 26mph higher than the RAM.

Nissan-370Z-Nismo
Nissan 370Z Nismo

How are you supposed to strip weight in your car? There are a few places to look.

If possible, you can remove your spare tire, jack, and carpeting in the trunk. You can remove the rear and/or passenger seats in your vehicle.

It’s also a good idea to clean out heavy junk in your car that you don’t need. Some people also opt to get rid of their large speakers and custom sound system to shed some pounds.

It will cost some money, but there’s also an opportunity to take out the driver’s seat and put in an aftermarket race seat.

ECU Tuning from a Specialist

The brain of your engine is the ECU — the engine or electronic control unit. It controls things like the idle speed, air to fuel ratio, valve timing, and rev limiter.

If you go to an expert ECU tuner, you can unlock a lot of horsepower on your car. Car experts say that you can expect up to a 20% boost in power.

An ECU tune doesn’t do a ton for naturally carbureted cars, but it works wonders if you have a turbocharger under the hood.

To be very clear: we would never suggest that you try doing an ECU tune on your own. There’s a very high chance that you’ll seize your engine, total your car, and put yourself in a lot of danger.

In addition, make sure the rest of your car can handle the improvement in power and torque achieved from an ECU remap. The last thing you want is gears shredding apart due to them being undersized.

Performance-ECU-tune
Professional car mechanics working on laptop computer for car ecu tuning.

Remove or Turn Off the AC

The quickest and cheapest answer is to turn off your AC. When your AC is running, your engine has to divert a lot of its power to juice the AC.

That diverted power goes away from your drivetrain. Essentially, the AC leeches energy away from your car and results in a slower vehicle.

Don’t believe us? There’s a quick way to test this theory. Go to an empty area that has plenty of road ahead of you.

First, put your AC on and crank it to the fastest speed. Lay your foot on the gas pedal and remember how fast you accelerate. Turn your AC completely off and turn on the recirculate setting. Stomp on the gas and you’ll feel yourself fly so much faster.

A more extreme version of simply turning off your AC is to remove the components. Your engine can’t waste power on an AC that isn’t even there.

Climate-control-AC

Lighter Wheels

Wheels can be really heavy. As you get a set with better grip, you should also shop for sets that are lightweight.

One rim alone can be upwards of 20 pounds. The tire is around 25 pounds or so. If you can find lighter rims, you could be off to a great start. Any weight shaved off of one rim gets multiplied four times across your car.

Performance-aftermarket-wheels
Not all aftermarket wheels are lighter than OEM so make sure to compare the weight

Cold-Air Intake (CAI) or Short-Ram Intake (SRI)

There are many aftermarket solutions for upgrading the vehicle’s intake. Some are officially endorsed by your vehicle’s maker and there are many other third-party companies selling both the cold-air and short-ram intakes.

Some vehicles benefit more than others when upgrading the intake for the engine. It depends on the engine design, compression and how restrictive the original intake filter is. As a general rule of thumb, SRI typically deliver between 2-10hp and CA can deliver 5-20hp.

Again these figures could be way off for your vehicle but roughly that’s how much performance gain you can expect typically.

Performance-cold-air-intake
Cold air intake with a heat/dust shield on a Mazda Miata NA

Short-Ram Intake (SRI) – means the intake is shorter which allows for a more OEM fit. Some companies even offer their own intake housing to protect the newly installed air intake.

Cold-Air Intake (CAI) – Typically have a much longer pipe going from the engine to the air filter. This allows for cooler air to be delivered to the engine.

One drawback of this is if your CAI is designed to go all the way down towards the bottom of your vehicle, there’s a possibility it could suck up water when it rains severely. This is called a hydro-lock when water messes up the vehicle’s compression.

Several companies have tried to overcome this with either a bypass valve absorbing up the water or by designing a shield for the air filter.

Learn How to Really Drive

It’s one thing to drive a car, it’s another thing to see how a professional drives the same car. There are a ton of techniques and nuances that we have no idea about.

Driving-fast

Learning how to really drive from a professional instructor will help you handle your car better. In the end, your car will go faster with a more trained driver behind the wheel.

This is especially useful for people who take their cars to track days or have a safe place to have some fun in their car.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to make your car go faster. If you want to see some real speed improvements, consider implementing all 11 of our simple ways to make your car go faster. For more guides and information, explore the rest of our blog. Make sure you pick up the right tools and accessories to keep your car operating at its peak performance.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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