The performance of your vehicle matters, whether you’re headed off-road, on-highway, or to the track. An upgraded suspension with a lift kit will only get you so far. What sits under the hood needs attention too. To maximize performance for any type of riding, there are several engine and drivetrain upgrades that will take your rig to the next level, no matter where you go. Make sure the engine can breathe well with the installation of an aFe intake, ensure that your engine expels spent gas efficiently with a high-performance exhaust system, and set the optimum gear ratio with a new ring-and-pinion gear set.
To run effectively, an engine needs to breathe. Factory intake systems often do not provide enough flow of fuel and air to compete at a high level of performance. Upgraded systems, such as an aFe intake intake, provides increased flow, as well as a charge of cold air, which maximizes combustion and gives you more power throughout the engine’s RPM band. Depending on the application, there are various types of intake systems that you can install, including a short- or long-ram intake, or a cold-air intake. Performance intake systems may include a lightweight aluminum manifold, an improved fuel injection apparatus, and a forced-induction unit for increased air intake.
With increased intake, your engine needs an efficient system for expelling spent exhaust gasses. If you improve one element of your powertrain, such as installing an aFe intake intake, a factory exhaust can let backpressure build up, robbing torque and horsepower throughout the engine’s RPM band. A high-performance exhaust will feature larger tubes, a set of headers to replace the OEM exhaust manifolds, and a set of free-flowing mufflers.
For newer applications in smog-controlled states, you’ll need to install a performance system that works from the catalytic converter to the rear of the vehicle, called a “cat-back” system. Some performance exhaust kits need to be bent and shaped to custom-fit your vehicle, then welded into place. Other kits come pre-fabricated, bent and tailored to the make and model of your vehicle. Pre-fabricated kits can be bolted directly into place with no welding necessary.
In addition to an improved exhaust or an aFe intake system, the proper gear ratio can make a significant difference for the performance of your vehicle. Gear ratio can be affected by one of two things: the size of the wheels and tires you have installed, and the ring-and-pinion set that you have installed in the vehicle’s differential.
The biggest and most direct gains are available with a ring-and-pinion set. The higher the ratio number, the more torque that the rear wheels will be able to put to the pavement. For example, a set of 4.56 gears will perform better for quick-launch applications than a set of 3.56 gears. Finding the right gear ratio depends on several factors, including the type of performance gains you need, as well as whether fuel economy is a necessary consideration. The higher the gear ratio number, the less fuel economy your vehicle will have.
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