Cheap Thrills

10 tips for making your horsepower recession-proof

Published in the August 2009 Issue August 2009 Column Ryan Harris

Smaller Chevy tires

  1. Buy an older truck. Thinking of upgrading? Downgrade instead. Getting outside of the techno era means cheaper horsepower mods, like delivery valves, fuel plates and injectors. Plus, you'll be working on it so much more often, you'll forget you don't have a job.
  2. Keep the truck you've got. Get real. You had to talk yourself into putting your truck up for sell based on how much more fun a new truck would be and how many problems your current truck has. But in reality, your current truck isn't half as bad as you've told yourself (because if you read your own ad, the thing's a gem). And you would most likely take a low-ball offer just to get out of it, only to realize how much you're going to have to spend to make the new truck road-worthy. Besides, you already own a portion of every new Dodge and GM truck on the road-you just didn't get to choose the colors.
  3. Opt for the stick shift. Auto transmissions are very expensive to rebuild and they can only hold so much additional power before that day comes. Manuals can also net you better fuel economy. Sorry to you GM guys, though.
  4. Clean your air filter and mass airflow sensor. Clean everything, change the fuel filter, too. Don't overlook the filters on lift pumps. If you have a DPF-equipped truck and a tuner that gives you manual control of the regeneration process, make sure you're doing that frequently, too. Of course, if you have a DPF-equipped truck, you've already ignored steps 1 and 2.
  5. Run smaller tires. They're cheaper and they take less power to spin, so more of your engine's power will hit the pavement. The donut-sized-tire look that GM has been pushing for the last few years just might catch on.
  6. Ditch the DPF. Don't want to spend the money for the exhaust and tuning? Think about this: a 5 mpg improvement over 25,000 miles at a fuel cost of $2.30 per gallon will save you over $1,900. This upgrade will pay for itself very quickly and continue paying you dividends over longer periods of time. You know, like how your 401k used to work.
  7. Customizing your truck's look? Follow these rules of thumb: Black wheels are cheaper than chrome, 18s are cheaper than 20s, 16s are cheaper than 18s, stock wheels are free. All-terrain tires are cheaper than M/Ts, road tires are cheaper than A/Ts, stock tires are free and they're most likely smaller than what you're shopping for (see No. 5).
  8. Clean out your garage. Subsidize your performance habit by hocking everything that's been sitting on a shelf or the floor for more than 6 months. You'd be amazed at what Ebayers will pay good money for. Just be prepared with a good excuse for when your wife asks what happened to her china set.
  9. Budget cuts prevent us from printing the last one.
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