11 TIPS – How to increase horsepower in a 4 cylinder car

Got a 4 cylinder car???? Want to go faster?? You are probably wondering how to increase horsepower in your 4 cylinder car.


A very large portion of cars manufactured today come with a 4 cylinder engine due to their fuel efficiency and ability to provide a decent amount of engine power compared to the overall weight of the vehicle.

But lets be honest……in most cases these 4 cylinder engines do not crank out enough horsepower to satisfy the average car-lovers need for speed.  I know this for a fact because I get asked this question all the time:

“ How to increase horsepower in a 4 cylinder car “ ?

Below I will list 11 TIPS for how to increase horsepower in a 4 cylinder car :


The very first thing to do, before looking to add any upgrades, is to make sure that all fluids and filters are in proper condition, and make sure that the air pressure in the tires are correct as per the specifications listed right on the tire.  This includes fluids such as engine oil, transmission fluid, clutch slave cylinder fluid, engine coolant, power steering fluid, and brake fluid.

Be sure to check the manufacturers specifications for what specific types of fluids when replacing or topping up the fluids in your automobile.  If you have an owners manual for your car, it should identify what types of fluids to use and the specific location where you can check the fluid levels.


The very next thing I would recommend is to check the condition of the spark plugs in your automobile.

The fuel and air mixture in your motor is ignited by the spark plugs to create an ‘explosion’ in the combustion chamber.  This explosion is what generates the power in your motor.  If your spark plugs are not in good shape, it with inhibit the ability of the engine to produce horsepower.

It is also very important to make sure that the spark plug wires are in good condition.  If any of your spark plug wires are worn/damaged, it will limit the effectiveness of the spark to the fuel/air mixture in the engine.

You can check out the video above to learn how to check the condition of your spark plugs.

NOTE: You can also upgrade your spark plug wires (add text link) to a larger diameter/more conductive set to help reduce the time it takes for the spark to reach the combustion chamber.  You could also consider upgrading the ignition coils and/or adding a spark control device to help boost the efficiency of the spark in the combustion chamber.



One of the most popular upgrades done by most people looking to increase horsepower in their 4 cylinder cars, is to upgrade the air intake system.  There are two ways to do this.  The first would be to upgrade the factory air filter to one that allows more air flow into the engine.  This is an easy modification as it does not require any changes – it is simply just a filter change.

A better way to upgrade the air intake system is to replace the restrictive factory piping and filter system with a more free-flowing intake.  These types of intake systems are called ‘Cold Air Intake’ or a ‘Short ram intake’.

K&N cold air intake honda 4 cylinder

These types of intakes allow a LOT more air into the engine which allows the engine to produce more horsepower (the engines computer system will adjust to the added air by increasing the amount of fuel – resulting in more power).

This is a great upgrade to start off with because of its low cost and how easy these are to install, even for a beginner.

The price for these intakes are very reasonable, especially when you consider that they not only increase horsepower, but that they also increase the fuel efficiency of your automobile.  This means you will save money every time you fill up your gas tank, which will offset the cost of this performance upgrade.

You can find great prices on Amazon for these types of air intake upgrades, and if you want to read more detailed information about these you can do so HERE.



Basically, what this does is erase all the factory restrictions that your stock computer has programmed into it.  You can set & adjust the programming for things like fuel-air mixture, timing advance, turbo boost, and many other ‘inputs’ to help unleash your engines true potential.

These are great for fine tuning and are very easy to use with most applications being a plug-and-play application.

To be honest, I would recommend upgrading your fuel intake system and exhaust before doing this upgrade, but most programmers/tuners allow for multiple adjustments to the settings so it can be adjusted after adding these types of modifications.

One of the most popular ones for Honda & Acura enthusiasts is the KTuner.

ktuner - horsepower 4 cylinder car

NOTE: If you don’t feel comfortable playing around with a tuner & adjusting your car’s computer settings, then I would strongly suggest taking your car to a performance shop where they can make these types of changes for you.



Earlier we talked about how important it is to ensure that the flow of air coming into your engine is as cool and unrestricted as possible (upgrading the air intake system).

Another important part of maximizing the engine’s performance is to make sure that the exhaust coming out of your motor flows as efficiently as possible.

Upgrading the restrictive stock exhaust manifolds and exhaust system is a GREAT way to gain additional horsepower and torque.

There are 3 areas to look at for improvement in the factory exhaust systems: 1) Upgrading the exhaust manifold(s) to aftermarket header(s) , 2) Changing out the restrictive stock catalytic converters to high-flow ones, and 3) Swapping out the inefficient factory CAT-back exhaust system with a performance aftermarket system.

There are two different styles of aftermarket headers available to consider, when looking to make this upgrade.  1) Long tube headers generally are better if you are looking to increase horsepower ad torque in the mid to high RPM ranges. 2) ‘Shorty’ headers usually create more horsepower and torque in the lower RPM range.

Honda stainless steel header


All 3 of these great upgrades will help your engine ‘breathe’ a LOT easier, resulting in more horsepower and torque.  Your engine will thank you, with a much ‘beefier’ throttle sound and more power when you stomp on the pedal!



There are many ways that you can gain some extra horsepower by upgrades to your car’s fuel system:

  • Upgrade to larger fuel injectors – deliver more fuel when needed
  • Install a larger throttle body intake – to allow more fuel and air to enter the combustion chamber
  • Change out the fuel pump to a high-performance model (improve fuel delivery)
  • Install larger diameter fuel lines to allow for more fuel flow to the engine
  • Upgrade the wiring to the fuel pump – increases the voltage being delivered to the fuel pump to improve fuel responsiveness (reduce the time between when the gas pedal is pressed, to when the fuel pump kicks in accordingly)

I would say that the necessity of these upgrades all depends on the engine’s need for fuel delivery, which all depends on the amounts of upgrades currently done to the automobile.



A turbocharger is something that is installed to help increase the amount of air flow into the engine.  It is powered by the automobiles exhaust flow.  The exhaust flow pressure spins a turbine which then forces clean and compressed air into the engine’s combustion chamber.

Because of this increased amount of air, more fuel can then be added which will create a LOT more powerful ‘explosion’ in the combustion chamber.  This allows the engine to create much more power.

A turbocharger is very similar to a supercharger as they both are pieces of equipment that help force more cool air into the engines combustion chamber to help increase horsepower and torque.

A supercharger is a mechanical unit that is powered by a chain, or gear, or belt.  The supercharger is spun by a pulley that is powered from the engines crankshaft via the chain/gear/belt.

These units require more advanced engine modifications and also usually a modification to the hood of the car/truck to accommodate the large air scoop (required to help force as much cool air as possible into the intake manifold).

Superchargers are more commonly found on older muscle cars then on more modern day automobiles.

When comparing a supercharger and a turbocharger, it’s probably easiest to explain it like this:

“ A supercharger is like a turbocharger, but on steroids! “

Superchargers are more common on larger engines with higher horsepower levels.

Turbochargers are more often used on 4 and 6 cylinder motors, and on automobiles manufactured in the last 25 years.

Turbocharger vs Supercharger



We have all seen the movies like ‘Fast and the Furious’ and ‘Gone in 60 seconds’ where someone pushes a ‘magic button’ that is usually labeled “NOS” or “BOOST” and then their car quickly accelerates into warp speed.

That little button that you see in those cars are the activation button for a Nitrous Oxide System that is installed somewhere in the car.

What is a Nitrous Oxide system?

A Nitrous Oxide system is a setup where a bottle of Nitrous Oxide is installed somewhere in the automobile, and there are lines and solenoids installed to help deliver the Nitrous Oxide into the engine when the button is pushed.

How does a Nitrous Oxide system work?

The Nitrous Oxide is sprayed into the engines combustion system, and the Nitrous Oxide helps provide a LOT of dense oxygen into the motor, and it also has a cooling effect on the intake air that is entering the motor via the air intake system.

This provides the automobile with an INSTANT horsepower boost (50 to 100 horsepower – more commonly referred to a “50 shot” / “75 shot” of nitrous).

You can install a Nitrous Oxide system on a car that has stock internal engine components, BUT only in smaller applications (50 and 75 shot doses).

Nitrous oxide system - horsepower 4 cylinder car

The main difference between a Nitrous Oxide system and most other engine upgrades, is that the horsepower boost from a Nitrous Oxide system is only temporary (5-10 seconds long).  The increase in horsepower only lasts for as long as the Nitrous Oxide is being sprayed into the engine.

You SHOULD only spray the nitrous in 5-10 second increments, or else the bottle of nitrous will be empty before you know it.  You can also cause engine damage y continually spraying nitrous in the motor for longer durations.

OK…so at this point we have 8 different ways to increase the horsepower in a 4 cylinder car.  Well, some of the areas identified above include several different items to address to help add more horsepower.

Below, I am going to list 3 more ways to help make your 4 cylinder car faster.  However, they don’t increase the actual horsepower of the engine, but they do help make your car accelerate faster and be faster when driving in various situations (when turning, or maneuvering through traffic).



No I am not talking about going on a diet………although, the lighter your car/truck is (driver included) the faster it will accelerate, haha.

I am referring to the overall weight of your automobile.  Reducing the weight will make it accelerate faster and help achieve better over all speed & performance.

There are several ways to make your automobile lighter.  Certain ways involve replacing existing parts on your automobile with lighter ones, and then there is another option – removing parts off of your car/truck all together!

Items on your car that you can replace with lighter versions:

  • Wheel rims – the stock factory ones are often very heavy (especially on smaller 4 cylinder cars when considering the ratio of the stock rim weight vs total weight of the car). You can buy many different types of lighter alloy wheels that look great and will also help with weight reduction
  • Body panels & hood – There are some manufacturers out there that manufacture & sell fiberglass body panels & hoods for a variety of automobiles. These are another great way to help make your car/truck a lot lighter
  • Seats – the factory seats weigh a TON in most cases, especially ones with power and/or heated seats. Swapping the factory ones out for aftermarket ‘racing’ seats will help shed some weight.   (ADD LINK HER TO AMAZON)
  • Polycarbonate Windows – if you plan on using you car/truck mostly at the track, then you could remove the factory glass windows (which are quite heavy) and replace them with these
  • Aftermarket brake and suspension components – Many aftermarket brake and suspension components are available in the market are lighter than the original factory equipment.
  • Exhaust headers – the aftermarket stainless steel exhaust headers will definitely weigh less than the factory cast iron ones (if your car/truck comes with cast iron ones from the factory)
  • Engine Pulleys – You can get an aftermarket pulley set that will be lighter than the stock ones the car/truck came with
  • Aftermarket Steering Wheel – these can often be lighter than the original stock ones

The other way to reduce your car’s/truck’s overall weight would be to remove any interior parts that you don’t feel you need anymore.

If you don’t ever plan on using the back seat, you can remove it and save a lot of weight.

Interior door panels, carpet, headliner………heck, you could even remove some of the internal door components if you don’t feel you need them haha.

Remove the spare tire, the factory jack (for changing a flat tire), mudflaps, and even the passenger seat, stereo & speakers, windshield wiper components, and the hood itself if you want to go ‘hardcore’ with your weight reduction plans.


Upgrading the tires on your automobile to a high performance tire will help a lot more than you probably think they will.

A good set of high performance tires will make a huge difference when driving at higher speeds through corners or bends in the road.

There is a great article on the Popular Mechanics website that explains a LOT about how performance tires will help your car/truck.


You can increase your speed and handling by upgrading your suspension components.

Reducing the flex in your car’s chassis will help increase the handling and steering response.  This can be achieved by adding/upgrading sway bars and tower braces.

Honda civic coilovers

Strut bars and coilovers are additional great ways to help vastly improve your automobile’s handling (and performance).

I hope you have enjoyed this article and that you have learned about a lot of ways how to increase horsepower in a 4 cylinder car.

Feel free to check out some of my other articles about performance upgrades here on my site.


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