If you're any sort of tinkering geek, you like to take things apart and make them faster, better, smarter, whatever. You may have tweaked your computer, overclocking it. You may have tuned your personal grooming strategies, making them smarter. You may have overclocked a family pet. In cars, these sorts of geeks are called hot rodders (archaic) or ricers (insulting) or foolish. They seek to find all the "hidden" horsepower in their vehicle, and / or replace entire systems in the vehicle to make it faster / more efficient / better handling, etc.
To that end, a certain knowledge of science is required. Internal combustion motors are notoriously science-y, filled to the corners with chemistry and physics. Your average modern car has more technology in it than the first moon landing. But there are some basics, and these basics are true across the board:
- A motor requires fuel and air.
- It also requires something to ignite that fuel and air mixture.
- The fuel-air mixture is placed into a metal cylinder and once ignited expands quickly, pushing a slug of metal (a piston) against a lever (a crank shaft).
- The fuel-air mixture is now spent exhaust gas, has to be allowed to escape the cylinder before the introduction of more fuel and air. A simple arrangement of levers and valves controls this behavior: the cam shaft and the intake and exhaust valves. The cam shaft has "lobes" that, during rotation, tap the valves open and closed. The intake valves are open when fuel and air are needed and the exhaust valves are opened when the combustion is complete.
- An engine, then, requires air, fuel, and a place to put the exhaust. To make more power, the air, fuel, and exhaust volumes and the speeds at which they enter and exit the engine must be increased. There are also ways to increase the energy of the fuel-air mixture by adding additional explosives.
- There are systems that bolt onto an existing engine that are intended to get more air into the engine, get more reaction out of the air-fule mix, and get the exhaust out faster.
- On the intake side of things, the user can bolt on a new intake system that increases air volume, or the user can bolt on forced induction, which compresses the air entering the engine to a set amount. Forced induction systems (turbochargers and superchargers) are expensive, complex, and difficult to install.
- A good compromise, then, is to install an intake that allows a greater volume of air. A cold air intake acheives this by placing the inlet for the intake outside of the engine bay, allowing cooler air to enter the system. Cooler air is more dense, which gives the engine more air per stroke. The path the air takes is simplified (smoothed out) to increase efficiency. All of this at the cost of a noise increase.
The simplified version: you remove the stock airbox / intake, and replace it with the cold air intake.
What actually happened:
- Remove the front bumper / bumper cover ("the front end of the car is laying on the ground, Jason," says Dr. Wife).
- Remove the stock windshield wiper fluid resevoir and pumps. ("No, seriously, the front end of your new Acura is laying on the ground where it doesn't do anything useful.")
- Using a razor blade or similar sharp implement, cut a 4 inch by 5 inch circle through plastic of the inner fender wall / engine bay directly behind the windshield fluid resevoir location. ("The whole front...hey! What are you doing with that knife? You're cutting a HOLE in your new car?")
- Remove the battery. Find the bracket that holds the positive terminal wiring loom and the ground wire loom. It attaches to the battery tray with two spotwelds. Use a 4mm drill bit and drill the two spotwelds out, then snap the bracket off. ("...a ragged HOLE behind the...and now a drill? What the hell? I'm going inside.")
- Attach the windshield grommits and motors to the replacement (small) resevoir. Screw it in place, hand tight. ("I'll be inside laughing if you yell.")
- Remove the stock airbox and associated EGR plumbing. This is a box roughly the size of the motor itself, just to the right of the motor. It is much bigger and heavier than it looks. ("Hey! Did you want anything for dinner?")
- Attach the 2 7/8" silicon elbow onto the throttle body, and hand tighten. ("We can take your car to the store! It'll be fun with no front end! We can, like, park it next to an SUV and lay the bumper on the ground, then act like we just nailed the SUV in the parking lot. We totally need some broken glass, though. And blood.")
- Feed the stainless intake tube through the hole you cut in the fender, and attach the mounting bracket to the vibra mount. Position the intake, and find the best fit. Re-attach the EGR tubes, and attach the filter to the front of the intake. ("Is that a hat? It's a filter? Can I use it as a hat?")
- Tighten everything. Replace the battery, use zip ties for loose cables. Replace the bumper. ("What do you mean the bumper doesn't fit? It fit before you took it off. Did you notice any alteration of physical space near the car or garage? No transient black holes? Well then it has to fit.")
- Tighten all bumper attachments. Start the car, check the gauges, and call it a day. ("Yes, you need a bumper. Because it looks funny without a front end, and the cops get angry if you don't have a bumper. Look at it! You can see all the bugs on the radiator! It's an ugly car now. You uglied it.")
- On first driving it, you will notice a whole new sound, as though you've removed the exhaust pipes and have installed a weedwhacker on steroids. When the iVTEC cams switch to their more agressive profile, the motor will sound like an unladen outboard boat motor, uncorked and ugly and raspy and screaming. Thankfully the noise totally requires you to bury your accelerator in the floor.
- Enjoy the envious looks from 16 year old boys in beat up Civics. Race a few Mustangs. Have fun.
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