Didn't He Forget Something? Photo courtesy of Flowtech Exhaust
For the most part, the days of "run whatcha brung" are long gone, which means it's pretty hard to go racing without the benefit of a good tow vehicle. We've all got 'em: from F-150s to Silverados, to dualies, to the new Kenworth T660. OK, maybe we don't all have that last one, but you get the idea.
We spend so much time working on and preparing our race cars that the tow vehicle is often overlooked. But it shouldn't be. Whether you're Peter Jellen driving a Joe Gibbs Racing transporter or you're a local racer towing your Street Stock on an open trailer behind a shortbed C1500, the goal is the same-get to the track safely at the lowest possible cost. After all, if you're blowing too much cash on travel, that means less money for shocks.
With that in mind, here are 10 things that will help you increase the efficiency and safety of your tow vehicle. Most of these items are generic in nature and can be used on gas- or diesel-powered vehicles.
1.Induction Making your motor breathe better is a major key in elevating its efficiency when it comes to towing. Aftermarket air intake systems can provide better gas mileage and increased performance. There are many choices when it comes to intake systems, but they all have the common goal of carrying more clean, cool air into the intake valves. That being said, intake system manufacturers spend gobs of money researching the best pipe routing, tuning resonance properties, and so on.
Here's an example of an after-cat system, complete with muffler, installed on a GMC Sierra
There are three components in an intake system: the air filter, the airbox, and the intake tube. Most manufacturers sell complete systems as well as individual components.
Let's start with the filter. Stock filters are made of paper, and aftermarket filters have gauze, foam, or synthetic media. Most are washable and reusable. Some need to be oiled while others work dry. The amount of air the filter flows is the key to getting optimum performance from an intake system. All reputable manufacturers will disclose their flow numbers. Remember, higher flow is better.
Next is the airbox. Some systems have an exposed air filter at the end of the air tube, but others use an airbox. The box systems are designed to keep out extra dirt and heat, which can rob horsepower from your truck.
Lastly, there is the intake tube, which holds everything together. There are polished tubes, powdercoated tubes, composite tubes, and more, all of which are designed to increase airflow. Arizona-based manufacturer Airaid makes a composite tube called the MIT. Airaid says the MIT flows up to 400 cfm more air than a typical factory unit. When an MIT was bolted onto an '04 Ford F-150 5.4L, the motor gained 12 more horsepower and 18 ft-lb of torque on the dyno. Not bad for a unit with an MSRP of $105.95.
Naturally, manufacturers design all three of these components to work in concert with one another, so it is a good idea to purchase complete systems. Most complete system kits bolt right up and can easily be assembled in a couple of hours. Figure a cost between $200 and $300, depending on the system and the manufacturer.
This PowerAid throttle-body spacer fits a 6.6L Duramax diesel. Photo courtesy of Airaid
2. Throttle-Body Spacer While you're bolting up that new intake system, take a minute to consider adding a throttle-body spacer (TBS). A TBS works just like a carb spacer on your race car and will help enhance midrange power, torque, and fuel efficiency. Airaid makes one called the Poweraid TBS. Its dyno-tested "Helix Bore" causes the incoming air charge to spin as it passes through the throttle body and carries it all the way into the combustion chamber. The spinning action produces a super-atomized mixture, which results in midrange power and overall efficiency gains.
3. Exhaust Systems Once you've reworked the intake system, it's a great idea to take a hard look at the exhaust system. The system from the factory is more restrictive than most aftermarket products. Aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to increase exhaust flow while reducing backpressure. This, in turn, improves torque. Additionally, a well-designed system helps lower exhaust gas temperatures, which is important because high EGT can harm vital engine components.
Aftermarket exhaust systems of good quality are plentiful, but there are a few features to examine, including how the tubing is bent and welded, what it is made of, and the width of the pipes.