Your Wrangler was designed with maximum off road performance in mind. The suspension, drivetrain, intake and exhaust are meant to work in concert, however, the engine that comes supplied in our Jeeps are meant to power the vehicle in its stock form only. As soon as mods such as lifts and tires are added, you’ve got a whole new deck of cards. Wranglers have never been accused of being dragsters – and that’s fine for many Jeep owners. Slow and steady wins the off-road race, but you may soon find that the ol’ reliable power plant that came with your Jeep just isn’t cutting it anymore. That’s when it’s time for an upgrade.
Suck, squeeze, bang, blow. You’ve probably heard those four words before, but if not, they describe how an internal-combustion engine works. The engine sucks in air, squeezes it to condense the gas and oxygen molecules, bangs it with a spark from the ignition, and blows the exhaust out. If you can optimize any of these processes and make them more efficient, you’ll get a bump in horsepower. Fortunately for you, it’s relatively easy and affordable to add some serious ponies to your Wrangler. Let’s take a look at some options from simple to radical that will add power to your Jeep’s heart.
Increase Horsepower, Torque and Maximize Jeep Wrangler Performance
Take A Deep Breath
Try this – grab a soda straw and try to breathe through it. That’s what your engine feels like with the factory intake system. Your stock intake is restrictive and starves your engine of fresh O2 needed for combustion. You can just as easily add valuable HP’s to your rig by upgrading your intake system.
The cheapest way to increase power to your Wrangler is simply replacing the stock paper air filter with a high-flow one. If you want real results however, replace the entire intake system with a high-performance system. K&N, Spectre, AirRaid, aFe, and Volant and others make complete exhaust system replacements that will have your Jeep breathing like an Olympian and churning out the horses – not to mention the deep, growling tone they offer when revved.
Let It Out
The exhaust may be the last phase of “suck, squeeze, bang, blow,” but it’s one of the easiest and most affordable ways to quickly bolt on horsepower to your rig. The faster your Wrangler can expel spent exhaust gasses, the quicker and easier it can consume the un-burnt fuel/air mixture and turn the crank and drivetrain. Adding a larger-diameter, high-quality exhaust system will instantly add ponies to your ride.
There are a couple of routes when upgrading your exhaust. You can add 20 or 30+ horsepower by opting for a complete exhaust replacement from companies like Gibson, Borla, and MagnaFlow, or add 10 to 15 horses by just replacing the muffler. You’ll need to weld these exhaust systems together, so if you’re not a skilled welder, a local muffler shop should be able to do the trick for a reasonable price.
High Tech Horses
Another simple, yet effective way to get more oomph out of your power plant is adding a chip or tuner to your Jeep. A chip is basically a small, plug-in device that optimizes the air/fuel ratio adding up to 35 horsepower, and increasing fuel mileage by up to five miles-per-gallon. These can often be purchased for under $100, and can be installed by even the most novice Jeep-tinkerer.
If you want to get serious about optimizing your Jeep’s performance for a variety of off and on road scenarios, a tuner may be the perfect accessory to add to your Jeep. A tuner is essentially a computer that interfaces with your vehicle’s computer system, giving you full control of a variety of performance and diagnostic functions. RPMs, fuel pressure, exhaust gas temperature, fuel/air ratio, and transmission shift points are all customizable, giving you complete control of your engine’s performance. Most come equipped with color LCD displays and user-friendly interfaces.
One of the most extreme engine mods for a Jeep Wrangler has to be the addition of a supercharger. Yes, they are one of the pricier options for adding horsepower, but with a big, big payoff – normally to the tune of an additional 90+ horses out of the box. No other mod can offer bolt-on horsepower like a supercharger. A supercharger is, in essence, an air pump that shoves air into the intake. Rather than making your engine suck air the traditional way, via cylinder vacuum, a supercharger forces the air into the intake, removing the work from the engine altogether.
Not for the novice mechanic, superchargers are a major engine mod, and installation should only be attempted by experienced mechanics. They do however, offer the most immediate horsepower increase that will be felt as soon as the accelerator is pressed.
For those of you who’s thirst for ponies is almost insatiable, there is only one option – replacing the engine with a bigger one. While the process is somewhat complex, the theory is simple – rip out the smallish inline or v-block six-cylinder that came with your Jeep, and slap in a snorting, stomping V8 that rattles windows and sets off car alarms. While this should only be attempted by expert mechanics, your Wrangler is fortunately one of the easier vehicles on which to perform an engine swap. Large, open engine bays, high ground clearance, and affordable conversion kits and parts all help the power-hungry Jeepers out there. Common choices for engine replacements are Chrysler’s own 318 cubic-inch V8, and it’s bigger, more powerful brother, a 360 cubic-inch monster. Additionally, you could choose to change brands altogether and plop in a Chevrolet 350. Whether a brand-spanking-new crate motor, or a junkyard jewel, salvaged from the corpse of some poor unfortunate truck, replacing the motor in your Jeep is a sure-fire way to get the tire-spinning, mud-shredding power you crave.
Whether it’s replacing your air filter or swapping engines, be sure to do your research and decide which option is right for you. Some people are satisfied with the power their Jeep supply from the factory, and some need more. Luckily for them, there is an array of options a mouse-click away. Feel free to visit our Jeep Shop for a full list of other Jeep Mods.