Title:
Tips for customizing import tuners

Word Count:
880

Summary:
So youve tacked a three-foot-high metal bar onto the back of your trunk, spent $200 on clear-colored taillights and another $600 on VTEC stickers, rented The Fast and the Furious three times, and you say your car still doesnt go any faster? Were just as baffled as you, but we have a few pointers that might help.


Keywords:
japanese import cars, honda import cars, import tuner


Article Body:
So youve tacked a three-foot-high metal bar onto the back of your trunk, spent $200 on clear-colored taillights and another $600 on VTEC stickers, rented The Fast and the Furious three times, and you say your car still doesnt go any faster? Were just as baffled as you, but we have a few pointers that might help.

1. Even if the point is to build your own personal Import Tuner, its critical to start with a decent foundation. All the lowering, stiffening, and boosting doesnt mean half as much on a car that cant put it to good use, and there are plenty of cheap, good platforms out there.

- Whats popular isnt always best. Sure, you could become Slammed Honda Import Car Owner #16,384, and youd be getting a reputable car with one of the worlds most tuner-friendly engines. Youd also have to live with marginal low-end torque (not as easy to upgrade as horsepower), and unless you dip back into the 1990s, wouldnt be getting that cars double-wishbone front suspension, one of the things that made it special. Like most cars, its also front-wheel-drive, capping a low glass ceiling on the usefulness of whatever extra power you squeeze out of that little engine.

- Get a rear- or all-wheel-drive car if you plan to go fast. One set of wheels can only do so much, and overpowered front-drivers simply have lower handling skills all around, not to mention feeling slow-witted and less fun even when driven normally. And wouldnt you like to give drifting a try? Some recent RWD cars that sold for less than $30,000: Mazda Miata, Toyota MR2, Ford Mustang, Nissan 350Z, Mazda RX-8, Chevy Camaro, Pontiac Firebird.

- Lighter is better. Mass is the enemy of all vehicle dynamics: acceleration, braking, roadholding, turning, etc. Starting light is its own reward, and makes every future mod count that much more.

2. Now for the upgrades themselves.

- The single most beneficial: a turbocharger seen modified on japanese Import Cars. Assuming your first wish is to go faster (with the same engine), this exhaust gas-recycling device crams extra air into your engine at higher engine speeds, boosting output of both horsepower and torque. Superchargers achieve the same basic effect through less-efficient means (since it relies on the engine for power).

- After fortifying your engine is the time to worry about intake and exhaust mods (better cams, headers, air filters, mufflers, etc.) High-performance / high-strung engines are better equipped to enjoy the benefits of better breathing.

- As far as suspensions and lowering, feel free to go as hard as you can handle. But build properly, making sure your shocks are at least as aggressive as your springs, since the point of the former is to control the motion of the latter and you dont want your suspension constantly hitting its bump stops. And dont cut your springs!

- Bigger wheels benefit handling, but there are drawbacks: harder ride, more unsprung mass, more work for your shocks, and lowered resistance to pothole damage. Depending on how much torque you have on tap, too much traction can also make it hard to provoke wheelspin during launches, damping some fun and delaying the acceleration process. As a rule of thumb, dont fit a street car with any diameter past the teens, or with tires that have an aspect ratio of less than 40.

- Speaking of tires, no one brand is best, and model lines change names all the time. Just stay away from low-performance all-season tires (anything with M+S stamped on it) and try to stay with tires with a speed rating of H (130 MPH) or higher. After H comes V, Z, and Y. Before H comes R, S, and T. Yes, it doesnt make sense.

- As far as brakes go, bigger rotors help, but also only to a point. Braking depends just as much on tire traction as the brakes themselves, and again, going bigger also adds more unsprung mass. Instead, focus on making bum brakes better, i.e. swapping from rear drums to discs (better heat resistance, pedal feel, and stopping ability), or swapping from solid discs to vented ones (better cooling). Brembo is the standard in aftermarket brake brands.

- Fitting a new set of gears and/or a new final-drive ratio can boost torque and make your engine a little more responsive, at the cost of a little gas, more engine noise, and lowered top speeds (since you run into the redline earlier).

- If all you want is more low-speed muscle (like many motorists), all the tiny engine tweaks in the world wont help you. Power and torque are different (though related) commodities; what you need is a car with a bigger engine.

- Unless you have a rear-drive car and drive at triple digits, stay away from spoilers. Specifically, stay away from wings any high-flying bar that isnt 100% attached to the body. At low/medium speeds, their main contribution is drag, and on front-wheel-drive cars, the rear downforce they add is actually counterproductive, causing even more understeer than usual. Spoilers (i.e. the attached-to-the-body kind that you might see on an old Lexus SC400 or V6 Pontiac Firebird), on the other hand, actually improve airflow and are slightly useful.


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