5 Tips to Maximize Your Car’s Performance

Milles Studio/Stocksy
Milles Studio/Stocksy

While modern cars may make you feel like you’re getting prime performance from your vehicle, with all their fancy gauges and space-age looking technology, truth is, it probably can do better. Lucky for you, you don’t have to be a mechanic, or understand the complexities of installing a muffler bearing, to be able to complete some basic upgrades to boost your car’s performance. We talked to Richard Reina, product trainer at CARiD.com, for his best tips for getting the best from your ride. The good news? It’s easy to do.

Miquel Llonch/Stocksy

Fill the engine with the lowest viscosity oil you can

Your owner’s manual (yeah, there’s a lot of useful info in that thing!) will specify several oil viscosities (or thicknesses) you should use in your car, based on the climate you’re driving in. Reina recommends going with the thinnest oil you can. Oil viscosity is displayed  like 10W-40, meaning that 40 is the thickness of the oil during average temps, and 10 is the level it is in the winter. Choose the one with the lowest last number for best results.

Lose the extra stuff

Many of us load up with “necessities” like extra cases of water, a winter coat in June and a 20lb box of cat litter. But every pound of extra weight dampens performance by causing your engine to work harder than it needs to. That’s bad news for speed, and your gas tank. So first thing’s first, remove the unneeded stuff. Reina also suggests removing the roof rack when you aren’t using it. It also creates drag, slows down your car, and impacts fuel efficiency. Whether it looks cool or not is also highly debatable.

Paul Edmondson/Stocksy

Nix the all-weather tires

Most cars are sold with a generic tire that’s perfectly fine for using in a range of temperatures and wet weather. But, as Reina points out, those tires are a compromise: they aren’t going to be the best bet in a winter snowstorm, or your best bet in summer. He suggests a set of summer performance tires for the warmer months, because they lack the “stickiness” of all-weather or winter tires, and make for better performance on the road.

Set your tire pressure a smidge higher than the recommended PSI

Have you ever tried to ride a bike uphill with low air in the tires? No fun. Check out the recommended air pressure, which is either on your car door or in the manual, and fill your tire to just above. The sweet spot is about 2-5 PSI higher, as your car will handle turns better, and your engine won’t have to work so hard. Don’t go higher than that though, or your tires will not handle wet weather as well as they should, and you’ll wear them out quicker.

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Use a brake pad that’s made for high heat

When thinking about performance, we tend to focus on speed, ignoring another pretty important function -- being able to stop. The factory brake pads on your car are perfectly fine for average driving, but if you’re pushing the engine, you’re going to want to shell out for a performance brake pad that can handle the higher heat under the hood. They are normally made out of semi-metallic materials or ceramic and, unlike the organic material brakes that come standard on most cars, they minimize heat build up, and give you a firmer feel when you hit the brake. And, if you want to see how super cars (and rather skilled drivers) amp up their performance under extreme pressure, check out these videos.