External Engine Parts Tips

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What does an air filter do and why should it be changed?

Change Your Air Filter!

A car's engine is basically a great big gas powered air pump.

Consider a basic four stroke engine, gas fired engine:
• Air comes in through the air intake, and travels through the air cleaner.
• Gas is added to the air and that mixture is compressed inside the cylinder; when the atomized mixture is at its densest, the spark plug is fired.
• This ignites the mixture, and forces the piston down into the cylinder.

When all the pistons fire as they should, the driveshaft turns, and your car goes vroom. This complicated process requires precise ratios of air to fuel to be at top efficiency, so a clean air filter is essential. Dirty air filters can choke an engine, decreasing gas mileage, and cause fuel deposits to form from a * too rich * fuel mixture.

Air Filter Tip: Check your air filter every 12000 miles to ensure it is at its peak performance, and replace it when it becomes dirty. Your car and your wallet will thank you.

What are the symptoms of a dirty air filter?

Symptoms of a Dirty Air Filter

If you aren't a car guy or gal, you may think you need to go to the shop when the car is starting to perform poorly. It may be something as simple as the air filter - so check out these symptoms of an old air filter in need of replacement.

• Has your car lost performance? A dirty air filter can rob up to 20 horsepower from your engine!
• Is your fuel efficient car suddenly costing you more at the pump? Clogged air filters can absolutely make an impact on your gas mileage, so make sure you change them regularly to make the most of your fuel efficient car.
• You car may be idling rough – coughing or spitting when you are sitting at a light. Just like clogged lungs, swap out your air filter!
• Slow off the mark? Sometimes when you hit the gas the first time, it may feel boggy or jerky – this can be caused by a dirty air filter as well – so before you troubleshoot the fuel line or anything else, hit your local auto parts store and get the right model.

How do I know which intake manifold to choose?

Top End Power Vs. Low End Grunt

Top end power is the horsepower that catapults you into passing gear on the highway. Low End grunt is the torque that flattens you in the back of your seat pulling away from the lights. Which do you want?

Your choice will dictate your intake manifold choice. For a street car, the priority should be torque, since 90% of street driving is from a stop, or at 'part-throttle'. An intake manifold built for torque will put a smile on your face every time you pull away froma light or hit the onramp.

When should I swap out spark plug wires?

Don't Overlook Corrosion

Sooner or later, you have to replace your spark plug wires. Over time, extreme temperatures and corrosive fumes and liquids take their toll on your spark plug wires. If the wires are breached, your electrical system will be compromised which will not only inconvenience you, it can also be dangerous.

Many people overlook corrosion under the hood, especially if you don't know much about cars and never even pop the hood yourself. Check on your wiring and battery every few months (especially in the winter months) to ensure that everything looks clean and is in good repair.

What is the difference between a washable air filter and a disposable air filter?

Washable Air Filters vs. Disposable Air Filters

Depending on your car and what you want to achieve, you need to consider the pros and cons of washable air filters vs. disposable air filters.

If this is your daily driver, for the most part, a disposable air filter will serve your needs. They are cheap, easy to find and quick to install.

If you are looking for a high performance boost from a higher end air filter, washable may be just what you are looking for. They are more expensive up front, but because they are washable, they have a longer life.

What brand you ask? K&N air filters have a great reputation and a great warrantee (10 years). Now, the only issue with washable air filters is that they are harder to find. This is exactly the kind of car part that is perfect for buying online. You get a better price and you know you can find them.

What is the benefit of an OEM intake manifold?

You Can Improve On The Factory Design

OEM Intake manifolds will usually sacrifice peak horsepower, in favor of greater average power and increased gas mileage. OEM air intake systems also incorporate noise suppresion devices and non-optimal air intake routing which can hurt performance.

Adding a AEM cold air intake to an otherwise factory intake system can add anywhere from 5 to 20 horsepower, and improve gas mileage. The best part is, companies like AEM sell C.A.R.B. exempt cold air intake kits, so your car remains street legal.

What do I need in an intake manifold?

MMMmmmmm. . . Power Adders

The four-stroke internal combustion engine, at it's heart, is a big air pump. On the intake cycle, the downward moving piston sucks fuel, and oxygen-rich air in to the cylinder, ready to fuel the next combustion cycle.

If we introduce more oxygen to the equation, and proportionally more fuel via the intake system, a funny thing happens. MORE POWER.

There are three commonly accepted ways to achieve this: Turbocharging, Supercharging, and Nitrous Oxide Injection.

Turbos and superchargers physically compress the incoming air, thereby presenting a greater amount of Oxygen. Turbs accomplish this via an exhaust-gas driven turbine, while Superchargers are either belt or gear driven.

Nitrous injection relies on chemistry to get the job done. When subjected to heat, Nitrous Oxide splits, releasing straight oxygen into the combustion chamber. More 02 = More Power.

How do I replace my own air filter?

Starting Your DIY Air Filter Replacement

So you are ready to start your DIY air filter replacement - where do you begin?

Your first stop is your phone book or your computer – find your local auto parts store in the book, or hop online and look for car parts on the internet. Choosing the right part is as simple as knowing the year, make and model of your car. Remember that you can often get car parts cheaper online since online stores don't have to pay the overhead to maintain a storefront.

If you don't have experience swapping out even the simplest car part, make sure you get a Chilton's car manual, or an installation manual specific to your model of car.

Next, make sure you have the right tools for the job. You'll certainly need a complete socket set, a six or eight piece screwdriver set and (if you have a newer car) grab a Torx head socket or driver set.

Finally, make sure you have enough time. You may need all your patience if you don't have a lot of experience. Additionally, have the number of your favorite mechanic on hand. You should always have a back up plan.

Can I custom fit my spark plug wires?

Make Your Own Spark Plug Wires

If you have a classic car, you shouldn't have to pay a ton of money for *custom fit* spark plug wires, when you can buy a generic set, and cut them to fit your engine perfectly. A good cut to fit spark plug wire will terminate easily, be beefy enough to survive a muscle car's engine bay, and give years of trouble free service.

Make sure when routing your custom spark plug wires that you keep them at least an inch away from hot exhaust and engine parts. If things are real tight around the cylinder head consider investing in some heat sheild sheathing for the 6 inches of spark plug wire nearest the spark plugs.

what does a harmonic balancer do

Harmonic Balancers

Harmonic balancers, vibration dampeners or torsional dampener are used on an engine to stop or disrupt a vibration caused by the crankshaft. The vibrations give off a harmonic frequency and the harmonic balancer, made of both rubber and metal, is tuned to cancel out those frequencies, specifically. Since the crankshaft has to twist every time it rotates, its gives off a harmonic frequency, and the harmonic balancer helps to control that twist and the vibration. The harmonic balancer serves a second purpose, as well. It helps the engine by adding weight to the front of the engine, which allows it to runner smoother.

Does changing out spark plug wires require a specific tool?

Spark Plug Wires Need the Right Tool

If you want to change your accel spark plug wires at home, you should make sure you have the right tool to remove your spark plug wires. They sell special pliers with right angled rubber tip ends because if you use your hands to change out the wires, it is actually very easy to damage them. If you use the right tool, you just grab right above where the wire contact the nub and with light pressure and a twist, the wire comes right off.

What can a new air intake system provide in terms of performance?

So Many Choices

You can change a car's whole character with an air intake system upgrade. With so many choices out there, how do you know what package to buy?

Choose poorly, and you'll notice your gas mileage plummet, and your car will bog and stall off the line.

Choose wisely, and your car will be a blast to drive. Get involved with local car clubs and online communities; there's bound to be someone who has, or used to have your car. See what worked for them, and try to duplicate their set-up.

How can I choose the right intake manifold?

Intake Manifolds; Is There A Difference?

If you're looking to squeeze the last bit of performance from your car, do not overlook swapping out your intake manifold. Most aftermarket intake manifolds are designed to work in concert with other engine upgrades, such as carburetor and fuel injection upgrades, free flowing exhaust systems, and even final gear ratio changes.

Don't think you can just slap on a drag race intake manifold, and be running 10's at the track. Figure out what you want your car to do, and go from there. Do you want high revving horsepower, or gut wrenching off-the-line torque? One intake manifold cannot truly excel at both. Although most anything is better than a stock intake, don't make an uneducated purchase, or you could turn your car into a real dog.

Why should I replace my air filter?

Basic Maintanance

If you buy a used car from a dealer or from an individual, one of the first things you should do is replace the air filter. (If you know the symptoms of a dirty air filter, you may even get a better deal when you're negotiating the price if the car seems sluggish, boggy or rough.)

By getting the oil changed, swapping the spark plugs and wires and swapping out the air filter you can keep track of your maintenance and you can ensure that your car is working at optimum performance. The simplest car parts can make the biggest difference in the performance of your vehicle.

how doi i change the oil filter and what oil filter wrench should i use

Changing Your Oil Filter

When removing an oil filter, always make sure the engine and the filter has cooled.

After the engine is cooled and if the oil filter can easily be accessed (sometimes you may have to loosen or remove parts to get to the oil filter), with a oil filter wrench, loosen the filter. If it feels like it's not moving and you can reach the filter with both hands, use both hands. Once the filter is removed, take a look at it to see if there is excessive or unusual wear or metal shavings around the opening. If there are metal shavings or a question about what you see, consult your local mechanic for advice. If you have already drained all the oil from the vehicle and are ready to replace the oil filter, fill the oil filter about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full with motor oil. Install the oil filter, hand-tighten only, but firmly and do not use your oil filter wrench to tighten the oil filter. Make sure you remember to install your oil drain plug and refill your crank case with motor oil.

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George Sayour