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3 Problems That Will Reduce Your Car’s Horsepower Production

Regardless of whether you use your car for track racing or commuting, you expect it to perform at a certain level. However, after years of use (and tens of thousands of miles), your car just doesn’t seem to be producing a sufficient amount of horsepower. Instead of continuing to settle for a sub-par driving experience, determine whether or not these three problems are preventing your car from operating efficiently and arrange for the necessary repairs:

Insufficient Airflow

Your car’s engine needs to receive a high volume of air to ignite the gas that’s sprayed through your fuel injectors. Without a sufficient volume of air, your engine will struggle to ignite fuel—which significantly reduces your vehicle’s horsepower production.

The component that’s typically responsible for insufficient airflow is your air filter. Over time, your air filter’s pores become clogged with dust, dirt, and other contaminants. If your air filter is housed in a filter box (which is standard with almost all vehicles), then your airflow can also be restricted by leaves, pebbles, and other objects that become trapped in your filter box.

The easy solution to this problem is to replace your air filter at the interval recommended in your owner’s manual—which can be anywhere between 15,000-45,000 miles. However, a better long-term solution to this problem is to install a cold air intake or a high-flow filter.

High-flow filters and cold air intakes are less restrictive than conventional filters—which means your engine will receive plenty of air for optimum performance. Additionally, cold air intakes don’t require filter boxes that can become filled with airborne debris. High-flow filters can be washed and reused—which means you won’t need to spend money on a new air filter every couple years.

Exhaust Backpressure

In addition to receiving sufficient airflow, your engine must also be able to expel all its combustion fumes through your car’s exhaust system. However, depending on the design of your vehicle, your engine may not be able to do just that—which causes an issue that’s known as backpressure.

Backpressure occurs when a component of your exhaust system restricts the flow of exhaust fumes through your tailpipe. Typically, backpressure is caused by stock parts that were designed to reduce emissions or physical damage to certain parts of your exhaust system. Significant amounts of backpressure will make it difficult for your cylinders to cycle.

Your mechanic can test your vehicle’s backpressure and determine whether or not it’s significant enough to cause performance loss. If backpressure is reducing your vehicle’s horsepower production, then your mechanic can inspect your muffler, exhaust manifold, or catalytic converter for a potential restriction—such as a collapsed baffle, dent, or carbon deposit. If a restriction is found, then your mechanic will repair the issue or replace the problematic part entirely.

It’s important to note that these airflow and exhaust problems are typical of affordable import cars assembled with lower quality components, which is why you’ll commonly see import cars with aftermarket air intake and exhaust modifications. 

Misfiring Cylinders

Regardless of how much air your engine receives or how little backpressure exists throughout your exhaust system, a misfiring cylinder will drastically decrease your engine’s horsepower—especially if you have an engine with only four cylinders instead of six or eight.

Luckily, misfiring cylinders are obvious—if your engine pulses, produces periodic loud noises, or sends an error code to your cluster gauge (typically anything between P0300-P0312), then chances are your engine is misfiring. However, determining the exact cause of the misfire will prove to be difficult: a failing fuel injector, spark plug, or spark plug wire can all cause a misfire.

If you suspect that your vehicle has an airflow, backpressure, or misfire problem, then take it to your local mechanic right away. If you drive your vehicle while one or more of these problems are present, then it will only worsen over time and increase your repair costs. Be sure to take your car to the proper mechanic: a domestic repair for American cars, an import car repair shop for foreign cars.

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