Import Upgrading FAQ
Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Upgrading
Table of Contents:
How do I get more power?
First off, unless you have a Import which is a hybrid, you have to understand that all the power pushing you forward results from only the combustion of fuel. Basically, combustion is a chemical reaction where oxygen from the air and hydrocarbons from the fuel react to produce a lot of energy. The basic idea behind getting more power is getting more usable energy from the combustion taking place in each cylinder. There are three basic ways to accomplish this:
1. Add more fuel and air to each cylinder
2. Compress the air / fuel mixture even more
3. Ignite the mixture so it burns more efficiently (i.e., completely and at the correct time)
Needless to say, accomplishing this is much easier said than done. For example, as engine speed increases, it becomes harder and harder to get air in and exhaust out efficiently.
Fortunately, the aftermarket has done the research for us and has made it quite easy to add more power to your Import. Import vehicles are usually well engineered and can accept most power modifications without any decrease in reliability.
That said, there are some basic "bolt-on" parts that most people start with to gain power. Bolt-ons are parts that can be installed with just some simple tools (usually some wrenches and screwdrivers) and definitely don't require you to tear down your engine or weld anything. The most popular bolt-ons to start with for power are the air intake, headers, and exhaust, also known as I/H/E. These three parts will get your engine breathing better and produce a more aggressive engine sound.
Here's a quick chart that goes over all the part categories that relate to power:
To make all this power really work for you, lighten your car and get good tires! This will give you better acceleration, cornering, and fuel economy. Many performance parts are lighter than your stock ones, but you can also buy body parts that will help save weight.
How do I choose the right exterior parts?
It really comes down to your budget and personal tastes on what looks good and what doesn't. All the exterior parts we sell are quality items and will fit your Import just fine. An exterior part's price is mainly determined by what material it is made of. The material will determine how flexible, durable, and heavy the part is. Here is a breakdown of the common materials currently used:
Lastly, get a professional install if you unsure of your abilities! Make sure the installer checks for fitment before starting the install.
Will aftermarket parts void my warranty?
Fortunately, not in most circumstances. Under Federal Law (the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 to be specific) it is illegal for a dealer to deny you warranty coverage just because you installed an aftermarket part. To deny warranty, the dealer must reasonably prove the part to be a potential cause of the specific problem you are requesting warranty for. Even then, they can only deny warranty for components associated with the failed part(s), not for your whole car. Because many aftermarket parts meet or exceed original equipment specifications, this normally only happens when the aftermarket part is improperly installed.
It is no secret that Import Manufacturers want to see the aftermarket succeed. Import Vehicle Manufacturers spend a lot of money promoting how their vehicles can be customized and upgraded. It is usually when a part is improperly installed or deliberately misused that warranties get denied. Just make sure to get a quality installation (or if you do it yourself, use all the correct tools and follow the directions) and you should have no problems with any of the parts you buy from us.
Will installing aftermarket parts cause me to fail smog tests?
Many of the parts we sell are 50-state smog legal, which means they have been granted an Exemption Order (EO) by the California Air Resource Board (CARB). Since California is the strictest state in terms of smog laws, a part that is "CARB Exempt" is smog legal in all 50 states. Parts that are not 50-state legal may still be legal in other states if they meet the EPA smog requirements but not California's. Some parts (such as test pipes or race headers) can never be made smog legal.
You might be surprised to hear that some of the most powerful parts are smog legal. For example, some supercharger and turbo kits for Imports are 50-state smog legal! All non-engine related parts and accessories are smog legal by definition (like suspension, brakes, etc.).
Here's a helpful link you can use the check any aftermarket part to see if it is 50-state smog legal: http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/aftermkt/devices/amquery.php
I want a very quiet exhaust, any recommendations?
Please contact us so we can get you the latest information.
What's an engine swap?
As the name suggests, you take out your whole engine and swap it for another (hopefully more powerful) engine. This is typically done with used Japanese crate motors. Interestingly, Japan smog laws say that a car is "past its smog limit" after a certain mileage, regardless off how much it actually pollutes. This results in a large number of extra motors that are still in decent condition. Engine swaps can be expensive, but are very popular.
Unfortunately, it is very hard to pass smog with an engine swap. In general, the engine must be of the same year or newer than your chassis. JDM engines must be used only as direct replacements for their U.S. counterpart. The swapped engine must also be the same OBD (On-Board Diagnostic) version as your current engine and use a U.S. spec computer. There are several other requirements, but you get the point.
How do I choose the correct suspension setup?
A lot of Import owners don't understand just how much of a difference a good suspension setup can make. Choosing the best setup for you depends on how stiff of a ride you want, and how low to the ground you want your Import to sit. In general, a stock suspension will have the softest ride but will feel very sloppy when taking corners at speed. Most of the aftermarket suspension parts will stiffen your ride, and this increases handling performance. There are several different categories of suspension parts to choose from:
To lower you car, either buy a set of coilovers or get some lowering springs. In general, we don't recommend more than about a 2.8" drop on the front or back. When you lower your Import, keep in mind that OEM shocks and some aftermarket shocks are "position sensitive" and will not work well with vehicles that have been lowered too much. Of course, if you have the money, an adjustable full coilover system is the way to go.
Any other helpful tips?
Yes, here are several more simple tips that will keep your Import running at peak power and reliability for years to come:
1. Keep your tires properly inflated. You'd be surprised what an affect bad tire pressure can have on overall performance. Use your owner's manual recommended tire pressure because optimal tire pressure is based on your vehicle's weight, not the tire. If you run under-inflated, you'll notice the side wear increases; over-inflated tires show more wear in the middle. The best time to check tire pressure is in the morning before you drive more than a few miles. You should re-check your tire pressure every month or so, or when the ambient temperature significantly changes (winter & summer).
2. Start using synthetic oil. It is best to switch to synthetic after your car has 3000 or more miles on it. Contrary to popular belief, synthetic oil is perfectly fine to use in older cars, even with more than 100,000 miles on them. If your car already leaks oil though, or has worn seals, using synthetic oil may cause slightly more leakage because of the oil's superior flow properties. We consider Red Line to be the best synthetic out there, but there are plenty of other good brands such as Mobil 1.
3. Get a good quality oil filter. Two good ones that are commonly available are the Purolator PureONE (commonly available) and WIX. We recommend to stay away from FRAM filters just because the construction quality is not as good. A good filter will enhance oil flow and filter out more contaminants.
4. Get iridium spark plugs. Newer Imports already come with iridium plugs. Iridium plugs give better fuel economy, increased power/acceleration and better throttle response. They last for a long time and are very easy to install. Just remember NOT to gap them - they come pre-gapped from the factory.
5. Change you transmission fluid about every 4 oil changes, or 16,000 miles. This will help preserve your gears and synchros, especially if you drive hard.
6. Get a set of magnetic drain plugs for your transmission and engine. Theses little things help to pick up a lot of metal particles that may be floating around in your transmission and engine. This will decrease engine / transmission wear and tear significantly. Make sure to clean off the drain plug after each fluid change.
7. Don't run a higher octane fuel without a good reason. Use the octane specified in your owner's manual unless you have modified your engine's compression or power output significantly, OR if you know that your engine can benefit from a higher octane (like some modern turbocharged engines). Octane is simply a fuel's ability to resist detonation, meaning that it can withstand more heat before it ignites. High octane fuel is only suited for use in engines that create high cylinder pressures and a lot of heat. Many people think they can gain more power just by using higher octane fuel than specified in their owner's manual. As long as the fuel does not pre-ignite, any grade of fuel will produce the same amount of power (again, assuming a mostly stock engine).
Note: There is one exception to this. If your engine has a lot of carbon buildup from years of use and you are "pinging" (a.k.a. knocking or detonating), using higher octane may help to alleviate the problem.
8. Use a fuel system cleaner. Despite what you might think from the previous two tips, it IS a good idea to use fuel system cleaners once in awhile (say every 6-8 months). There is not quite enough cleaner present in MOST gasolines to keep your valves and injectors from building up gunk.
That's it! If you have a question that isn't answered here, feel free to email us and we'll be more than happy to help.