A Guide to the Best Aftermarket Engine Mods, Suspension Upgrades, and Other Performance Truck Accessories
When it comes to all-out performance, most trucks roll off of the assembly line with a number of compromises. Automakers are practically forced into sacrificing horsepower, style, and off-road capabilities in the name of everyday comfort and fuel efficiency.
Luckily for performance enthusiasts, you can easily amp up your truck’s engine, sound, and overall personality with some choice aftermarket upgrades. With a bit of research and a healthy modification budget, you can make your truck look and ride exactly how you want it to while wringing loads of extra power and performance out of your motor.
When it comes to performance truck parts, the sky’s the limit. You can inject some ponies and personality into your truck with entry-level aftermarket parts like performance mufflers and high-flow intake filters. You can dive a bit deeper down the rabbit hole of performance with more substantial aftermarket truck parts like cold-air intakes and performance tuners.
If that doesn’t satisfy your need for speed, you can go all-out with upgrades to your turbo system and intercooler, or even build your truck’s engine with forged internals to support huge turbocharged power gains. As long as you have the budget, there is always more performance to be made.
Your engine generates horsepower by continuously igniting a mixture of air and fuel in the piston cylinders. After each combustion cycle, all of that residual air-fuel mixture is forced out of your truck’s exhaust system so that the cylinders can make room for a fresh round of air. Your exhaust system is responsible for carrying all of those nasty combustion gasses safely out the rear of your truck bed.
Automakers generally tune their stock exhaust systems to be as smooth and quiet as possible while using the least expensive designs they can. In other words, they’re engineered to be quiet, cheap, and easy to manufacture. On the other hand, performance truck exhaust kits are optimized for maximum horsepower and a sporty, aggressive sound.
Complete exhaust systems generally use larger-diameter tubing than factory systems. The larger exhaust pipes allow more air to flow out of the engine, which gives you increased horsepower and improved fuel efficiency. Just as importantly, performance truck exhaust systems use free-flowing, sport-tuned mufflers and resonators. Increased exhaust flow with less muffling gives your truck a bold, rumbling exhaust tone as you accelerate down the road.
Air Intake Systems
Your truck’s engine essentially functions as a giant air pump. Air is drawn into the cylinders, mixed with fuel, then combusted to produce horsepower. The more air you cram into your motor, the more horsepower it will produce.
Performance air intake systems use high-flow air filters and non-restrictive tubing to increase the amount of airflow into your intake manifold. As an added bonus, a cold air intake system further improves performance by relocating the filter to an isolated location, such as your truck’s lower bumper or fender well. Cold air is denser than hot air, so cold-air intake systems can cram even more air into your cylinders for maximum torque.
Installing a performance air intake system on your truck is one of the easiest ways to squeeze out more power and torque. A performance air intake also improves the sound of your truck with a louder, throatier engine note whenever you get on the throttle.
Modern trucks use high-tech computerized fuel injection systems along with a myriad of electronic sensors and performance modules. Your truck’s engine control unit, or ECU, is essentially the brain that monitors and controls all of the electronic parameters that go into making your engine run.
Performance programmers allow you to tap into your ECU and make custom software modifications. With an aftermarket truck tuner, the custom software is preloaded onto a chip or module that you plug into the diagnostic port under your truck’s dashboard. The custom software automatically uploads to your ECU and optimizes your engine’s fuel injection and airflow parameters for maximum horsepower.
If you’ve installed other engine modifications, a truck programmer gives you even more bang for your buck. Custom performance programmers can include multiple software maps, or tunes, that are optimized to produce maximum performance in conjunction with other specific aftermarket modifications. For example, if you install an aftermarket cold-air intake on your truck, you can use an ECU tuner to load a custom tune with increased fuel injection to compensate for the extra airflow of your intake.
Other Performance Accessories
Following the above modification guide will give your truck a good start down the path of customization. However, you don’t have to stop there. If you drive a turbo-diesel truck, you can easily squeeze out gobs of extra horsepower by installing a performance intercooler and other turbocharger system upgrades.
If you’re a fan of venturing into the mud and water, you can protect your truck while off-roading with a positive air emergency engine shutdown system. You can also armor up your underside with a custom transmission pan and differential cover. They’ll give your truck some much needed off-road protection while giving your undercarriage a burly, aggressive look to boot.