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Performance Tuning?

Performance tuning focuses on tuning an engine for motor sport, although many such cars never compete but rather are built for show or leisure driving. In this context, the power output, torque, and responsiveness of the engine are of premium importance, but reliability and fuel economy are also relevant. In races, the engine must be strong enough to withstand the additional stress placed upon it, and so is often far stronger than any mass-produced design on which it may be based, and also that the vehicle must carry sufficient fuel. In particular, transmission, suspension and brakes must also be modified to match the performance of the engine.

In most cases, people are interested in increasing the power output of an engine. Many well tried and tested techniques have been devised to achieve this, but all essentially operate to increase the rate (and to a lesser extent efficiency) of combustion in a given engine. This is achieved by putting more fuel/air mixture into the engine, using a fuel with higher energy content, burning it more rapidly, and getting rid of the waste products more rapidly – this increases volumetric efficiency. In order to check the amount of the fuel/air mixture, air fuel ratio meters are often used. The weight of this fuel will affect the overall performance of the car, so fuel economy is a competitive advantage. This also means that the performance tuning of an engine should take place in the context of the development of the overall vehicle.

The specific ways to increase power include:

* Increasing the engine displacement by one or both of two methods: “Boring” – increasing the diameter of the cylinders and pistons, or by “stroking” – using a crankshaft with a longer stroke and longer connecting rods, in combination with pistons of shorter compression height (to maintain the original compression ratio).
* Using larger or multiple carburetors, to create more fuel/air mixture to burn, and to get it into the engine more quickly. In modern engines, fuel injection is more often used, and may be modified in a similar manner.
* Increasing the size of the valves in the engine, thus decreasing the restriction in the path of the fuel/air mixture entering, and the exhaust gases leaving the cylinder. Using multiple valves per cylinder results in the same thing – it is often more practical to have several small valves than have larger single valves.
* Using larger bored, smoother, less contorted intake and exhaust manifolds. This helps maintain the velocity of gases. Similarly, the ports in the cylinder can be enlarged and smoothed to match. This is termed cylinder head porting, usually with the aid of an air flow bench for testing and verifying the efficiency of the modifications.
* The larger bore may extend right through the complete exhaust system, using larger diameter piping and low back pressure mufflers, and through the intake system, with larger diameter airboxes and high-flow, high-efficiency air filters. Muffler modifications will change the sound of the car’s engine, usually making it louder; for some tuners this is in itself a desirable property.
* Increasing the valve opening height (lift), by changing the profiles of the camshaft or the lift (lever), ratio of the valve rockers (OHV engines), or cam followers (OHC engines).
* Optimising the valve timing to improve burning efficiency – usually this increases power at one range of operating RPM at the expense of reducing it at others. For many applications this compromise is acceptable. Again this is usually achieved by a differently profiled camshaft. See also Four-stroke cycle#Valve Timing, variable valve timing.
* Raising the compression ratio, which makes more efficient use of the cylinder pressure developed and leading to more rapid burning of fuel, by using larger compression height pistons or thinner head gasket, or by milling or “shaving” the cylinder head.
* Forced Induction; adding a turbocharger or supercharger. The fuel/air mass entering the cylinders is increased by compressing the air first, usually mechanically. Further gains may be realized by cooling compressed (and thus heated) intake air with an air-to-air or air-to-water intercooler.
* Using a fuel with higher energy content or by adding an oxidiser such as nitrous oxide.
* Reducing losses to friction by machining moving parts to better tolerances than would be acceptable for production, or by replacing parts. A common example of this is, in OHV engines, replacing the production rocker arms with replacements incorporating roller bearings in the roller contacting the valve stem.
* Reducing the mass of the “rotating mass,” which comprises the crankshaft, connecting rods, and pistons. Doing so can improve throttle response due to lower inertia, as well as reduce overall vehicle weight.
* Changing the tuning characteristics electronically, by changing the firmware of the engine management system (EMS). This chip tuning often works because modern engines are designed to give a great deal of raw power, which is then reduced by the engine management system to make the engine operate smoothly over a wider RPM range, with low emissions. By analogy with an operational amplifier, the EMS acts as a feedback loop around an engine with a great deal of open loop gain. Many modern engines are now of this type and amenable to this form of tuning. Naturally many other design parameters are sacrificed in the pursuit of power.

The choice of modification depends greatly on the degree of performance enhancement desired, budget, and the characteristics of the engine to be modified. Intake, exhaust, and chip upgrades are usually amongst the first modifications made as they are the cheapest, make reasonably general improvements (whereas a different camshaft, for instance, requires trading off performance at low engine speeds for improvements at high engine speeds), can often improve fuel economy, generally do not affect engine reliability much (because no moving parts are modified), and are in any case essential to take full advantage of any further upgrades.

Furthermore, tuners may also use analytical tools to help evaluate and predict the effect of modifications on the perfromance of the car.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from Wikipedia

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