Tow Vehicle Essentials - Drive Or Tow?

Driving Your Corvette Is Definitely More Fun Than Towing It, But Sometimes You Don't Have A Choice

Dave Emanuel Jan 11, 2010 0 Comment(s)
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Setting up the fan's switch-on and switch-off temperatures using Spal's fan controller could be called programming, but that would be another over-statement. All you have to do is press the High and Low buttons on the controller when coolant temperature reaches the desired level and "programming" is completed. Unfortunately, the temperature sensor included with our controller was not of the proper metric persuasion required for installation in an LSx cylinder head, so we had to find one with the proper thread dimensions (available through most GM dealers and many parts stores). If you can't find nor particularly care about using a "genuine GM" sensor, BWD Automotive part number WT5132 is a suitable replacement.)

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A more direct route to increasing an engine's power output is to improve its breathing capability. That's easily accomplished through exhaust system modification. It's truly ironic that auto manufacturers spend so much time and money developing whisper-quiet exhaust systems, yet installation of aftermarket systems with a significantly more aggressive sound continues to be one of the most commonly made modifications. Although many aftermarket systems are installed in the quest for a "deep, throaty exhaust note," such systems also deliver increased power. That's largely because the same characteristics that restrict sound also restrict flow; within limits, increased flow capacity equates with increased power output.

Personal preferences vary greatly with respect to exhaust system configuration, so there are many "right" ways to modify a stock system. (Don't consider that statement as a license to do whatever is quick and easy-some modifications are just wrong.) The advantage of installing a complete exhaust system is that cutting and welding are typically not required. The disadvantage is expense. The original equipment systems used on 5.3-liter GM trucks incorporate mandrel bent 75mm tubing, so there's little to be gained by replacing pipes-it's the muffler that constitutes the major flow restriction. Aside from being large enough to house a small family, the stock muffler has enough internal twists and turns to confuse a seasoned navigator. That obviously creates a good deal of exhaust restriction-which can be eliminated by replacing the stock muffler with a low restriction model.

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Original equipment catalytic converters are another known power-reducing restriction. (The conditions under which a catalytic converter can be replaced are defined by both Federal and local laws, so be sure to check regulations before making modifications involving any emissions control device.) If your truck's converters need to be replaced, installing high flow models, such as those offered by Random Technology, will pay off with increases of 8-10 horsepower across the entire rpm range. GM's 5.3-liter engines are equipped with a Y-pipe that incorporates a converter for each cylinder bank. Replacement of the converters requires that the originals be cut from the Y-pipe and the replacements welded in their place.

One of the best ways to take full advantage of flow improvements made to an exhaust system is to make similar improvements to the intake system. Replacement of an original equipment air filter element with a low-restriction type is a no-brainer. However, a number of studies have shown that some brands of high performance air filters don't do a particularly good job of filtering. Issues seem to arise only under extremely dusty conditions, but it's a good idea to periodically check the intake ducting between the filter and the engine regardless of the air quality that normally surrounds your truck. Not only will you be able to determine whether the filter is performing satisfactorily, you'll also uncover any damage that is allowing unfiltered air to reach the engine.

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Another quick and easy method of increasing inlet air flow capacity is to replace the stock throttle body with one that has been CNC-machined for enhanced flow. As is the case when installed on a Corvette engine, a modified throttle body bolted to a truck intake manifold provides improved throttle response and more power across a fairly wide rpm range.

Although the engine control systems used in late model vehicles can adapt to a wide variety of mechanical changes, there are limits. Even within those limits, the systems are governed by relatively conservative factory settings that control air/fuel ratio, ignition timing, and transmission shift points. While typical bolt-on modifications don't require reprogramming of the vehicle ECM or PCM (Engine Control Module or Powertrain Control Module), additional performance benefits can be achieved by doing so.


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