How to increase the number of horsepower in your car and how to maintain the engine

From chip tuning to turbochargers - there are many ways to bring the engine to new peak performance. But not everything is legal. This guide reveals what is important when it comes to engine tuning.


  • What is engine tuning?
  • Mechanical tuning
  • Electronic tuning or chip tuning
  • Tuning with additional components
  • Is engine tuning legal?
  • Who should do engine tuning?
  • Conclusion: This is what matters when it comes to engine tuning

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What is engine tuning:

The term "tuning" comes from English and means "fine tuning". In other words, components that the vehicle already comes with from the factory are tuned or expanded with special components in such a way that maximum performance is achieved. 

  • A good example of this is chip tuning : it fine-tunes the engine control so that the car ultimately scores with more performance and less fuel consumption.
  • Seen in this light, a complete engine change does not actually come under the heading of “tuning” since it is not a matter of fine-tuning, but of replacing an essential component.
  •  This also includes the quite radical intervention of increasing the displacement by drilling. However, since both methods result in a significant increase in performance, it often happens that they are nevertheless counted for tuning.

In total there are three types of engine tuning: mechanical tuning, electronic tuning or chip tuning and tuning by installing additional components.

Mechanical tuning includes the processing of car parts such as the intake tract, the injection system, the camshaft, the piston or the carburetor.

With electronic tuning or chip tuning , either a software adjustment is made or an additional control unit is used.

When tuning with additional components , components such as a turbocharger, compressor or special exhaust or intake systems can be installed.

This guide introduces these classics of engine tuning in more detail.

Mechanical tuning:

Mechanical tuning involves increasing engine power by processing car parts. Changes to the intake tract, the injection system or the carburetor can lead to increased performance. Various options for mechanical tuning are explained in more detail below.

air filter:

As the name suggests, the air filter reduces dirt and dust before the air enters the engine. This air is necessary for the combustion of the fuel. The more impermeable the filter becomes over time, the more the engine's performance decreases, as it can no longer completely burn the fuel. The fuel consumption also increases as a result. Changing the air filter regularly ensures optimum engine performance .

Intake and exhaust ducts:

The intake ports and valves play an important role in the air supply itself. Cleaning, polishing and smoothing the ducts can also lead to an increase in performance, as can increasing the size of the throttle body. 

For tuning, however, an enlargement of the exhaust gas ducts is far more important , for example through double pipe routing. There are legal restrictions in the area of ​​noise and exhaust gas reduction.

engine change:

The complete exchange of the engine is one of the most common variants of engine tuning, although, as already written above, the engine exchange is strictly speaking no longer engine tuning. Above all, aggregates with multi-valve technology are often used, since larger inlet and outlet cross-sections can be achieved with them. This allows the air-fuel mixture to get in and out of the engine faster.

displacement increase:

Just like replacing the engine, increasing the cubic capacity is a very radical and costly method of increasing performance : the cylinder mounting guides are drilled out and the old pistons are replaced with larger ones. The goal is clear: the larger the displacement, the greater the performance.

Electronic tuning or chip tuning:

  1. Today's engines are regulated by a control unit.
  2.  This contains a chip on which the data determined from the numerous sensors on the vehicle are stored. These include, for example, the air density as well as the outside, engine and oil temperature. 
  3. The aim of chip tuning is a targeted manipulation of the chip in order to achieve maximum power and torque without putting too much strain on the engine. 
  4. The tuning can be done with new software or with an additional control unit that forwards the modified data to the engine control unit.

Eco tuning:

Chip tuning not only improves engine performance and torque, precise optimization of the combustion processes can also reduce pollutant emissions.

The advantage of chip tuning is that it is not necessary to remove or add additional components. Furthermore, no intervention in the existing motor unit is necessary. As a result, the effort and costs for this type of engine tuning remain very low . However, such an increase in performance always leads to higher wear and more fuel consumption.

Tuning with additional components:

Another option for engine tuning is to increase performance by installing additional components. Turbochargers and compressors are particularly popular here.


Turbochargers are primarily used in diesel engines, since with their support a roughly comparable output per liter can be achieved as with petrol engines. The principle is based on a compressor in the intake tract, which compensates for the performance-limiting vacuum of a classic naturally aspirated diesel . 

A disadvantage of the turbocharger is the so-called "turbo lag". This means the delay between stepping on the gas pedal and the noticeable increase in performance.


Compressors are primarily used in petrol engines. They compress the fuel-air mixture and pump it into the engine. The advantage over turbochargers is that the higher performance is immediately available . Both turbochargers and compressors can be ideally combined with chip tuning.


Due to the compression of the charge air by a supercharger or a turbocharger, the air quickly reaches temperatures of 100 to 200 degrees Celsius. As a result, the oxygen content of the air decreases, which in turn means that performance drops. 

The charge air must therefore first be cooled before it enters the combustion tract. The intercooler installed between the turbocharger and the engine takes over this task. It ensures that the extra performance is not lost due to the higher temperature of the air .

In addition, the intercooler itself also ensures higher performance: the performance of the engine can be increased by around three to five percent for every ten degrees cooling. The cost of an intercooler is around 200 to 400 euros . The tuning with nitrous oxide works with a similar principle and has so far mainly been carried out in the USA. Most systems are not permitted in Germany.

Tuning by water injection:

Similar to the intercooler, the tuning by water injection) is intended to cool the fuel-air mixture in the combustion chamber. 

This keeps the oxygen content and performance high. In addition, the injection quantity can be adjusted and increased depending on the air temperature . Some water injection systems are even so effective that an intercooler is no longer necessary for some turbocharged engines.

The degree of additional power depends on the power of the turbocharger used - theoretically between 20 and 30 percent, with some turbines up to 40 percent are possible. With the same driving style, water injection can also lead to a reduction in fuel consumption and pollutant emissions.

Is engine tuning legal:

It is important that the tuned vehicle remains roadworthy and that the safety of the driver and other road users is guaranteed . Therefore, there is an officially approved type for all safety-relevant components of a vehicle.

 This design is changed by the engine tuning, so that all changes must be approved again. When buying and installing the tuning parts, it is also important to ensure that they have an official test mark . If no permits are available, the vehicle owner must obtain them from TÜV or Dekra.

The changes must then be entered in the vehicle documents if the engine tuning leads to changes in the following areas:

Notifiable changes to the car:

In addition, interested parties should inquire with the manufacturer before tuning and inform their insurance company, since measures not carried out by the manufacturer can void the guarantee. The increase in value of the car can also increase the insurance premium.

Consequences of illegal engine tuning:

Tuning measures without permits can result in a fine or even points in Flensburg. In particularly serious cases, it can also happen that the vehicle loses its operating permit. As a result, it can no longer be driven on public roads and will be confiscated immediately.

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Who should do engine tuning:

Any engine tuning should be done by a professional . This has the special tool for installing the tuning components. In addition, when changing the engine performance, fine tuning with other components such as the crankshaft, the connecting rods and/or the pistons is necessary, which should preferably be carried out by professionals.

There are many tuning workshops, but how can a serious offer be distinguished from a dubious one? A reputable provider offers:

Vehicle-specific advice:

Extensive service:

  • Only components with test seals from recognized manufacturers
  • He should also point out the limits of tuning. If too much power is called up, the durability of the engine suffers. Last but not least, the workshop should issue a report for the insurance company and a guarantee on the tuning measures.


This is what matters when it comes to engine tuning

There are many ways to bring the engine to new peak performance through tuning. Here, a distinction can be made between mechanical tuning, electronic tuning or chip tuning and engine tuning through additional components. 

When tuning the engine, it is always important to ensure that all changes are noted in the vehicle documents and approved by TÜV or Dekra. Finally, it should be noted that engine tuning should be carried out by a specialist. Here it is important to make sure that it is really a reputable specialist workshop.

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