Fast road and track day car tuning guide. The phrase car tuning brings up all sorts of different images for different people and I think its fair to say in the eyes of Joe public it’s probably a negative image with a hint of Saxo and a dust bin exhaust. While this image may represent a small part of the car tuning industry it isn’t necessarily negative.
Car Tuning – A Beginners Guide
The real problems come with cars driven irresponsibility, and this is the source of the negative press and image of the tuning industry. If the people who see car tuning in a negative light can see past this minority representation they will see the tuning industry has something to offer everyone, whether it to be to travel in greater comfort, to have a safer car or to have a car focused on a particular use whether this be shows or motorsport.
Car Tuning – A Beginners Guide to Car Tuning
So let’s ignore this small minority who tarnish the image of the aftermarket automotive industry and let’s look at what’s possible.
The basis for all car upgrades is either to customise the look of your car and/or to eliminate the compromises made by the car manufacturer. These compromises made by the car manufacturers can be found in all areas of the car, whether it is the suspension, seats, tyres, wheels, engine or appearance. These compromises are either made to make the car look blander so it doesn’t offend anyone and appeals to as many people as possible or more commonly, compromises are made due to cost and these are probably the most obvious weaknesses that can be felt by the driver. The two approaches listed below will fundamentally address both these issues, make the car more personalized and eliminate the compromises made by the car manufacturers.
First of all you need to decide what sort of vehicle you want at the end. This can vary widely but let’s look at two possibilities, the daily driver and the track day focused car.
Daily Driver/Road Car
The first is the good all round daily driver. It offers ride comfort close to the standard car but with far higher handling limits. The brakes are much stronger and can resist fade much better than the originals allowing the car to handle spirited driving on the road and light track use. The power of the car will be close to standard but the engine will fell more responsive and willing. The interior of the car will be uprated to give the driver greater control.
This would be our choice of modifications for the driver wanting to achieve this level of performance
Road Car Tuning – Stage 1: Chassis Braces – Front Upper, Rear Upper and Front Lower Chassis Braces. These noticeably improve a cars performance making it feel more responsive and giving the car higher grip levels.
Chassis Brace Manufacturers – OMP, Sparco, Wiechers Sport, TEIN, Carbing
Road Car Tuning – Stage 2: Suspension – Fixed Damping and Fixed Ride Height – The dampers will be uprated over standard and come from a high quality manufacturer. The amount of money spent on suspension is directly related to the performance of the damper. A high quality damper will offer ride comfort similar to standard but take the cornering and stability limits of the car to another level. Springs can either be bought as part of a kit with the dampers or if not springs from quality manufacturers like H&R & TEIN will work fine with any set of high quality dampers. This is a fit and forget option and will easily performance better and last longer than the original equipment.
Fixed Suspension Manufacturers – Bilstein, H&R, Eibach
Road Car Tuning – Stage 3: Brakes – 99% of the time the cars standard brakes will answer all your needs. However when a new ribbon of tarmac unfolds itself before you, be it a mountain pass or an open road through the country, your going to want a brake system that’s going to allow you to exploit your car and the road to the maximum. It’s at times like these when you’ll need a set of performance brake pads. A good set of performance pads will be almost unfadebale on the road and give better bite, giving you more confidence to attack the road and also be nicer to use in day to day driving.
Performance Brake Pad Manufacturers – Ferodo, EBC, Roesch
Road Car Tuning – Stage 4: Seats – Unless your car was a performance model out of the factory the chances are your seats will be woefully inadequate. They will offer minimal support during cornering which will seriously dent your ability to drive the car to its maximum potential. Instead during high speed cornering you will be left supporting yourself with the steering wheel or leaning against the door or centre console. This make spirited driving very uncomfortable and perhaps most of importantly of all, dangerous. When your not being supported by the seat its very hard to tell what the car is doing on the limit and this will hamper your ability to tell how much grip is available and limits what you can do to make adjustments as and when you need to.
Sport Seat Manufacturers – Cobra, Corbeau, Sparco, OMP, Recaro, Sabelt
Road Car Tuning – Stage 5: Level 1 Engine – Improving the breathing of your engine will make it fell more responsive and give a small increase in power and it will also allow you to hear the engine making you fell more connected to the driving experience. For non turbo cars a good manifold, sports cat, cat back exhaust, free flowing induction kit and a custom remap/piggyback ecu will give the car a new lease of life. Depending on the car, this set of modification can give a 5-10% increase in power and make the car much nicer to drive.
Performance Exhaust Manufacturers – Sebring, Remus, Supersprint, Milltek, Magnaflow, 5Zigen, GReddy, HKS
Performance Filter Manufacturers – K&N, ITG, RamAir, Raid HP, Pipercross, BMC, Jetex, JR
Performance Chip Manufacturers – Superchips, Dastek
For turbo cars a downpipe, sports cat, cat back, colder plugs, upgraded spark plug leads, induction kit, remapped ecu, large injectors, larger intercooler will give significant power increase. Depending on the size of the original turbo these modifications could give up to a 30-40% power increase. With little or no reduction in response.
Road Car Tuning – Stage 6: Level 2 – The next step of engine modifications for normally aspirated cars would be the uprating of the camshafts to more performance orientated items, the sky is the limit here, what you decide depends directly on how much you want to spend and how much of a compromise you are willing to make on every day drivability. As for this car were looking for a daily driver a stage 2 equivalent set of cams with an appropriate remap will give another 15% increase in power over and above what was given by the level 1 engine modifications
Performance Camshaft Manufacturers – Kent, Piper, Cat, JWT
Road Car Tuning – Stage 7: Wheels and Tyres – The benefits of better tyres and wheels will vary widely depending on the wheels and tyres that were fitted originally. However it is safe to say in the majority of cases it is fair to say that it is easy to improve on the standard wheels with a lightweight set of alloys from a good manufacturer. Lightweight wheels allow the suspension to work more effectively, this leads to better ride comfort, increased acceleration and braking due to less inertia and increased cornering performance due to the suspension working more efficiently. As with chassis braces, although you may think these parts would give little tangible differences but as with chassis braces, lightweight wheels give noticeable improvements in day to day driving and on track. Both from a comfort and performance point of view.
As this car is a daily driver the element of appearance is going to come into the choice of wheels. I.e. a set of 17inch wheels might be the optimum choice for ride comfort and handling but a set of 18inch wheels will lift the appearance of car that bit further. As wheels can make such a big impact of the looks of the car it comes down to personal preference as to the size of wheels. On the tyre front there are a number of ultra high performance tyres available and depending on the time of year and the general weather in your country the right tyre for you will vary. A good road tyre for theUKwill be vastly different to the tyre requirements for a country like the UAE. Basically if you choose a tyre from a major manufacturer you won’t go far wrong.
At the end of this tuning program you will have a car which is much nicer to drive than the standard model. It will be much more stable both in cornering, under braking and acceleration and when taking avoiding action for road hazards. This tuning program will allow you to get the most from your car so when that perfect road appears in front of you, you have the equipment to make the most of it.
Wheels Manufacturers – OZ, BK Racing, Hart, Rays, Arospeed,Rota, AEZ, Breyton
Track Day Car
The second is the focused track day car, it’s not a daily driver but you will use it occasionally on road but the main use of the car will be track days.
This would be our choice of upgrades for a car of this type
Track Day Car Tuning – Stage 1: Chassis Braces – Front Upper, Rear Upper and Front Lower Chassis Braces. These noticeably improve a cars performance making it feel more responsive and giving the car higher grip levels.
Chassis Brace Manufacturers – OMP, Sparco, Wiechers Sport, TEIN, Carbing
Track Day Car Tuning – Stage 2: Suspension – For track day use a set of coil overs is really essential. A good set of coilovers give you the ability to tailor your cars handling to the track and your driving style. Again as with fixed suspension, the amount of money you spend here is directly related to the performance you will get, in short the more the better, however as a general guide line 600GBP is a minimum to get you a high quality height and damping adjustable coil overs. To take it to the next level of adjustability a suspension kit with separate bump and rebound adjustment give the driver that extra element of control.
Coil Over Suspension Manufacturers – TEIN, H&R, Bilstein, KW, FK
Track Day Car Tuning – Stage 3: Big Brake Kit - Increasing the diameter of the brake discs increases the power of the braking system massively, not only are bigger diameter discs more resistant to fade, they are also easier to modulate and therefore less likely to lock up. As with suspension, the amount of money you spend is directly proportional to the performance of the big brake kit. Cheaper kits will invariably be heavier, and weight at the wheels is just where you don’t want it. The higher end big brake kits will use 2 pieces discs to increase lightness and will also use higher quality components, both to increase their resilience to heat and to keep weight as low as possible.
Big Brake Kit Manufacturers – Brembo, AP Racing, Tarox, Willwood
Track Day Car Tuning – Stage 4: Seats/Interior – As this car is going to get only limited use on the road the sky is pretty much the limit with regards to the interior, the only limit is the compromises your prepared to make and the size of your wallet, the good news is that there are big gains to be made with little or no outlay. I’m going to put all the options down so you can pick and choose what you want to do. First of all, the interior, this includes roof lining, carpets, door cards, interior fittings basically everything that doesn’t serve a purpose to the mechanics of the car. How far you go depends on how much you’re prepared to sacrifice. After stripping out the weight a good set of side mounted FIA approved seats will give you the control you need form the drivers seat. Side mounted as opposed to base mounted as side mounted seats allow the seat to be mounted much lower in the car. From here a roll cage can be fitted either bolt in or weld in. If I were to fit a roll cage I would get a full weld in because it not only provides greater driver safety but also dramatically increases the stiffness of the car.
Race Seat Manufacturers – Cobra, Corbeau, Sparco, OMP, Recaro, Sabelt
Roll Cage Manufacturers – OMP, Wiechers
Track Day Car Tuning – Stage 5: Exterior - After the roll cage has been installed the world of lightweight body panels are opened, fibreglass doors, bonnets and tailgates will slash weight from the car.
Composite/Lightweight Body Panel Manufacturers – Seibon,VIS Racing
Track Day Car Tuning – Stage 6: Engine – For normally aspirated cars, competition camshafts can be fitted straight away as low speed response is not important. The price varies depending on how wild the cams are. 15% increase in power can usually be fitted while using the standard valve train. For high lift cams a 30% increase in power can be made but they will have to be used with uprated valve springs, retainers and so on. High compression pistons should also be fitted. These modifications will go hand in hand with a performance engine back exhaust system, performance air filter and a matched remapped ecu. The combination of these parts can give approximately 40% increase in power. Stronger con rods and crankshafts along with cylinder head work and throttle bodies can give massive increases in power by allowing the engine to rev higher, up to 10,000rpm in some case. Power gains of 80% – 100% of standard power are possible with all these modifications.
Performance Camshaft Manufacturers – Kent, Piper, Cat, JWT
Throttle Bodies – Jenvey, Omni Power
For turbo cars, the sky again is the limit. The basics are much the same as normally aspirated cars with the addition of a suitable turbo
Turbo Manufacturers – Garrett, Holset, Turbonetics, Turbo Dynamics
Track Day Car Tuning – Stage 7: Wheel and Tyres – For track work looks may not be as important but the basics are the same. You are looking for the lightest combination of tyre and wheel possible while maintaining the factory rolling radius. A dedicated track tyre is essential, not only to get the most out of your track time but also to ensure your tyres will last the day.
Alloy Wheel Manufacturers – OZ, BK Racing, Hart, Rays, Arospeed,Rota, AEZ, Breyton, Image, Dymag
Tyre Manufacturers – Toyo
This tuning program will leave you with a car which will handle prolonged track use. Not only has the weight reduction dramatically improved all areas of your cars performance, it has also greatly reduced the mechanical strain on your car.
Car Tuning Guide Summary
Hopefully this beginners guide to car tuning has given you an idea of what’s possible for your car and has also inspired you to explore the companies that are listed on StrikeEngine, they are all here to make your car go faster, be safer and look better