We spoke about reduction of vehicle weight as a means to raise fuel mileage under the Fuel Economy Tips section. This is also a valid way to increase acceleration in any vehicle, truck, or SUV and make it feel as if you have more horsepower. In the same manner, trying to propel a vehicle that weighs 3,300 lbs is much easier than moving one weighing 4,000 lbs. It takes much less energy to accelerate the lighter mass to a desired speed. By reducing vehicle weight you free up the extra energy that was previously necessary to move the car. This energy is now used to accelerate the vehicle at a quicker rate, thus decreasing your quarter mile times.
It is widely accepted in the automotive community that for every 100 pounds of weight lost from a vehicle the gain in acceleration felt would be like getting an extra 10 horsepower. Now remember, you are technically not “gaining” 10 horsepower. Your vehicle is accelerating at a quicker rate that is the equivalent “as if” you had gained 10 horsepower. This is an interesting note because many people erroneously believe that by dropping weight the vehicle is somehow producing more power. This is only true for dropping driveline weight as we have mentioned in the driveline for gas mileage section, not vehicle gross weight. This is an important concept that may take some thought to grasp.
Putting this tip into action may be a bit difficult. The cheapest way out of course is to eliminate as much unnecessary vehicle weight as possible. This includes removing junk from your trunk: old clutter, toolboxes, extra baggage. Some people even remove their spare tire for a good 40 to 80 pounds of reduction. Removing bike racks from SUV’s is popular as well.
The next steps, if you are so bold, are techniques commonly used at the quarter mile dragstrip to lighten one’s vehicle just before a race. These do not cost any money but may require some mechanical know how and the proper tools. They include removing one’s passenger seat entirely, removing heavy stereo equipment from the vehicle such as boom boxes or heavy amplifiers, and removing the front sway bar (this mod is not recommended for daily driving due to safety reasons). These mods combined can save well over 100 pounds of weight, a significant improvement.
The last set of advice requires the purchase of new parts and can become quite costly. However we will present them as options left to your discretion. Many aftermarket body panels are manufactured today that provide the driver with a lightweight alternative to stock pieces. For example quarter panels, hoods, and trunk lids that are made of fiberglass are available for many makes and models. A fiberglass hood can save 20 to 50 pounds of weight which can feel like an equivalent 2 to 5 horsepower gain. Replacing all quarter panels and doors of a vehicle with fiberglass can save several hundred pounds of weight equating to a 20 to 30 horsepower equivalent gain.
The most important thing to note when replacing vehicle components with lightweight counterparts is never to compromise the safety of the vehicle or driver. If a component modification results in a weaker chassis or puts the driver in harms way during every day driving then the power gain is not worth the consequences.