Import Cars Guide Overview
If you are ready to tune Import Cars, you came to the right place. Tuning Import Cars is a fun and exciting experience that can bring hours of enjoyment and personal recognition after the end product is done.
In this guide, we will be talking about different paths you can take to modify your car.
Before modifying your Import it is wise to have an understanding of your needs and budget so you can select a path to minimize the dollars you spend and maximize the horsepower you get. In this guide, we have outlined five potential paths that can be taken to improve your Import Car. Three of the paths are for naturally aspirated engines (non-turbo) from the factory and there are two paths for Import Cars with turbochargers from the factory.
We have divided the paths into two sections, one for naturally aspirated and the other for from-the-factory-turbo cars because there is an optimal approach in selecting your parts in each scenario.
Your Import Car is Forced Induction from the Factory
Turbocharged Import Cars have bolt on parts that can give you a bigger multiplying factor in horsepower improvements than their naturally aspirated counter parts. What we mean is that turbo Import Cars will benefit more from a bolt on part such as an exhaust system then a naturally aspirated engine. In a way, upgrading turbocharged Imports is easier since you really can focus on all of the basic bolt on parts at first and then go to the more hard core parts later.
For each of the paths we will list parts to give you an idea of where to begin. This not a complete list of parts to tune your Import; its just an idea to get you started. If you would like more assistance on your particular Import Car, feel free to email us with a the make model, year, and submodel of your turbocharged Import Car (For example, 2008 Mitsubishi Evolution GSR) and we will help you out with any questions you may have.
The Two Suggested Tuning Paths to Upgrade your Turbocharged Import
- Path A-Turbo is to go for the most gains by upgrading to a bigger turbo unit.
- Path B-Turbo is not knowing if you want to go to a bigger turbo unit, but you know you want to get a little more gains from your current factory turbo setup.
Path A-Turbo - Going for the Most Horsepower
This path is suggested for the die-hard enthusiast with a bigger budget who wants to do everything all at once. Essentially what this path entails is upgrading your turbocharger unit with a turbo kit upgrade package and getting parts to support the extra power. The order you would want to do things is the following:
- The first thing is to select and buy an turbo upgrade kit package such as found in the Turbo Kit section of our site. These kits often come with different parts so knowing which upgrade kit you are getting lets you know what else to get to support and maximize the extra potential power. A turbo upgrade kit usually comes with a turbo manifold, a wastegate, and the actual turbocharger unit.
- The second step, which should be installed at the same time as the parts acquired in step one, is to get bolt on parts to support your Import. An example of a must get bolt-on item would be an exhaust system, which helps exhaust flow (reduces backpressure on the motor). Other parts to get would be an intake and potentially a boost controller.
- The third step, which again would be installed at the same time of initial installation, is to get a means to optimize the air / fuel ratio for power as well as efficiency. A means to adjust the fuel ratio on a more granular level involves purchasing a standalone engine management system, a piggy back engine management system, or a device to reflash your ECU. A way to deliver more fuel would be to purchase bigger fuel injectors, a higher rate fuel pump, and/or a fuel rail. If significantly more power will be delivered to your engine, your engine internals must be upgraded too. The internals which are usually upgraded are pistons and connecting rods.
- The last step is to tune your vehicle using what you purchased to manage your engine. Getting a professional tuner to tune your vehicle is highly recommended since it usually produces the best results, but if a "base map" tune file is available for your parts combination, that may work too (just make sure you data log all your engine parameters to ensure everything is runnig correctly).
Path B-Turbo - Maximize HP from Your Current Turbo
Turbocharged Import Cars have a lot of room to grow with basic bolt on parts. If you want to get more power later, most (if not all) parts purchased in this path can be reused for the A-Turbo path above. Here are the recommended parts:
- Start out by upgrading your exhaust system and get an intake system as well. You will see noticeable power gains from this combination.
- An ECU reflashing unit, such as one made by COBB Tuning, can help tremendously. These units usually have preset "base map" files for many bolt-on parts combinations. Another benefit of these units it is that they can also be re-used if you go for a bigger turbo. Alternatively, you can get a piggy-back system or a complete engine management unit, but they are more complicated to get running correctly.
- In order to take full advantage of your factory turbo, you can purchase a boost controller to adjust the amount of boost the turbo is putting out. Usually there is room to safely give turbocharged Imports an extra 2 to 4 PSI of boost without tuning for anything, but it really does depends on the car (the factory ECU typically has a range of boost levels it is OK with seeing).
- Lastly, if you get the reflash unit (such as the COBB one) and a boost controller, a trip to the dyno and professional tuning is highly recommended to maximize your horsepower output and engine efficiency, as well as keep your boost at a safe level for your stock engine internals.
Your Import Car is Naturally Aspirated (NA) from the Factory
The following set of paths are recommendations to upgrade your naturally aspirated engine (also known as NA) Import Cars:
The Three Suggested Tuning Paths to Upgrade your NA Import
For each path we will list a few parts to get you started. By no means is this a complete list of parts to tune Import Cars; its just an idea to get you started. Feel free to email us and let us know the make, model, year, how many doors, and trim level of your Import and we will assist you in selecting the other optimal performance parts for your Import.
- The first path (A-NA) is to convert your NA Import car into a forced induction setup via a turbo kit or supercharger. The forced induction platform will then be the base.
- The second path (B-NA) is to tune your Import with a naturally aspirated setup as your base.
- The last path (C-NA) is to get parts that will work for both a naturally aspirated engine and a forced induction setup, then decide later if you want to go forced induction or upgrade your naturally aspirated setup.
If you're confused about what naturally aspirated and a forced induction engine setups are you should read our Import Upgrading FAQ. The upgrading FAQ is a great place for beginners to start to learn about tuning their Import and a great refresher course for the experienced tuner.
Path A-NA - Going to Forced Induction as Your Base
This path will get you on par with stock turbo engines, but requires the biggest upfront money allocation. This path is recommended if money is not too much of an issue for you. The following is a list of steps to take for your NA Import Car:
- Get a supercharger or turbo kit. Depending on the kit you get, you might need to purchase other support parts, like an air intake, fuel delivery components, and an intercooler.
- If you do go for the turbocharged setup, look at our recommendations for a turbocharged car from the factory (Path A-Turbo) for other part suggestions.
- Go to a dyno shop and get a professional tune (not necessary if you have a good "base map", but still recommended for maximum power and efficiency).
Path B-NA - Staying Naturally Aspirated
If you choose not to go with a forced induction setup, then you'll be headed down the naturally aspirated path. Here are the following parts and actions we recommend:
This path is the best on your wallet and is what most people like to take. We find that new tuners will take this path to get a better feel for Import Cars customization. Some customers will eventually get a turbo kit and others will fine tune their naturally aspirated engine.
- The most inexpensive item you could get that will give you the best gains is a cold air intake for your NA Import Car. There are short rams, cold air intakes, and newer OEM-looking "airbox style" intakes which are very nice and sleek looking.
- The second item to purchase in this path should be an exhaust system. All Import exhaust systems we carry are highly tuned and will give you similar horspower gains so long as your car is not heavily modified. The choice of what exhaust you select comes down to a preference in the exhaust system's look and sound that is produced.
- Although not necessary, you can benefit from an ECU reflash unit such as a the Hondata FlashPro or COBB Tuning AccessPORT.
Path C-NA - Decide Later if You Want to Go Forced Induction
This path is designed for those people with Import Cars that are undecided on getting a turbo kit (or supercharger), and/or will attempt to save up for one. If you are sure you will not get a turbo/supercharger kit anywhere in the foreseeable future, then path B-NA is your best path to tune your NA Import. Here are the following parts and actions we recommend:
This path will allow you to postpone the decision of committing to a forced induction setup. If you want to tune your Import to get medium gains and save some cash, you could simply follow path B-NA. If you feel like you're ready to commit to the high performance of a forced induction base, then you could branch into path A-NA. In other words, starting on path C-NA will allow the most flexibility in regards to committing to a forced induction or naturally aspirated configuration.
- Get a Import performance exhaust system first.
- Although not necessary, you can benefit from an ECU reflash unit such as a Hondata FlashPro or COBB Tuning AccessPORT. These units can be used on a supercharged or turbocharged setup too if you choose to upgrade later.
- Upgrade your Import's ignition components, if needed.
- Analyze your budget. If you feel like you will get a turbo/supercharger kit in the near future, keep saving for it. If you are unsure contact us and we will give you some other low priced choices for tuning your Import with performance parts (such as an intake system).