Need help improving my car... - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 01-20-2008, 07:59 AM
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I have a 1992 Chevrolet Lumina (base model) 4-door sedan. Lately, I've been interested in improving its performance and sound. However, I lack car mechanical knowledge and a big budget, so I'm going to stick with inexpensive, "do-it-yourself" things, or stuff that can be quickly done at a shop. My engine is a 3.1L V6 which supposedly produces about 135 horsepower. It is a 3-speed automatic. I've written a small list of things I plan on messing with/replacing/changing/upgrading to improve my car. This list includes:



-better spark plugs

-spark plug wires

-distributor cap (huh?)

-better fuel filter

-better air filter

-improved exhaust

-cold air intake



I have done some basic research on the internet, and consulted my older brother (though his knowledge is greater than mine, he is still rather limited on knowledge himself). I was wondering if anyone had any input/suggestions/recommendations/etc. for my "improvement project"
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#2 Old 07-11-2008, 09:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr_Vegan View Post


-distributor cap (huh?)



haha



How's this project coming?

I bet the cold air intake helped loads
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#3 Old 07-11-2008, 03:44 PM
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My car needed tons of work also. It sounded like it was just gonna die at any moment. There were various things wrong with it. I had no clue where to take it because I've always gotten screwed over by mechanics.



I ended up posting an ad on freecycle.com and asked if anyone could recommend decent, trustworthy, price efficient mechanics in the area and who wouldn't keep my car for a week when the job really only takes about an hour or so. I got a ton of responses that were very helpful. Just a thought if you find that some of the things on your list you can't manage to do yourself.
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#4 Old 07-12-2008, 06:34 AM
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Neither new spark plugs, distributor cap, plug wires, distributor cap, nor fuel filter will help, if the existing ones aren't defective or worn out. Wires and distributor cap can be easily and inexpensively tested by removing them and using an ohmmeter. Plugs can be tested by both the same method, plus looking at the appearance of the electrodes. A lower resistance air filter might help a tiny bit. But orig equipment air cleaners are near to as low as you can go. I don't think it is worth the expense to replace the air cleaner unless the existing one is sufficiently clogged up to need replacement. The exhaust system is another story. You can buy exhaust systems that improve engine efficiency. However generally this is only at the cost of louder engine. You need to be careful. Companies claims about their high performance exhaust systems can be exaggerated.



A careful checking of the emission control devices, fuel injection system, and fixing any faulty operation, can make an improvement. My car mechanical experience is pre-fuel-injection age, pre-computerized control of ignition spark, and fuel. But I would have the fuel injection system checked out to make sure no injector is clogged. My understanding is that the computer system that controls fuel volume, as well as sparkplug voltage and timing, generally either works, or doesn't work. If it doesn't work, the car doesn't run, or runs really really really awful. In my day we used to check spark advance to make sure it was approximately right, and if it wasn't, we would replace the mechanism responsible for spark advance - generally that meant replacing the distributor. Adjusting it to specs required expensive equipment, knowledge, and time. When you could buy a new distributor for $30, it wasn't worth the time. These days, the "mechanism" is the central computer, which adjusts the advance with a built in computer program. My understanding is that either the computer is working or it isn't. while you may be able to upload new firmware, I could be wrong but ny understanding is that it the device rarely if ever decides to just change the program on its own, so that the advance isn't adjusted properly, or the spark timing changes. However you can check the quality of the spark-producing voltage and current output in the secondary. You will need an owner's manual with specs and some kind of automotive oscilloscope. In my day we had analog oscilloscopes. These days there are computer-peripheral devices you can buy that put the oscilloscope display on your computer. Generally you don't have to remove any wires to check this, rather, you just clip electromagnetic current sensors around the spark plug wires, and clip an alligator clip or push on connector to the correct connector on the primary. There may even be analysis devices that tell you if the secondary voltage is correct for your make and model. So you don't have to view a pattern on an oscilloscope screen and compare it with pubished specs. The device that produces the high voltage needs to be checked for the right voltage envelope at each spark, as well as the timing of the sparks. If the voltage doesn't reach high enough, fast enough, and fall off at the right speed you won't have the best spark for complete burning of fuel. In my day we had coiled-wire transformers and sometimes electronic devices to help, such as capacitors and a few transistors and integrated circuits. Today there are digitally controlled devices and I don't know exactly what is available.



Then there are the exhaust emission control devices. The exhaust re-routers and exhaust sensors. Incorrect operation of some of these can cause poor fuel economy and poor engine operation.



Instead of old-style mechanical (spark) distributors, which use a mechanical linkage to sense crankshaft position, newer cars may have electronic sensors to detect crank position, and fully electronic devices, digital devices, to send the spark, with the correct envelope, to the right cylinder, at the right time. There may not be a "distributor cap."
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#5 Old 07-12-2008, 05:11 PM
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Well, if by "performance" you mean "make it go faster", and not "fix problems", I would say all of those are a waste of money. Small things like that aren't going to add much, if any, real power to your car. A cold air intake and a performance exhaust system would alter the sound, each altering it differently, and might add 5-10HP together unless your car was poorly engineered out of the box or the current parts are very old and worn. Really, the only reason to upgrade things like intake, exhaust, fuel delivery, plugs, etc, is if you're making major performance improvements that are going to stress the system and would be bottlenecked by those OEM parts . In and of themselves, they do little to a stock car. Very little.



Considering how much your car weighs (a ton), minor HP gains are going to do nothing to increase actual acceleration.



Save your money and:

A. buy a different car

B. buy a different car and then buy a turbo/supercharger plus those parts

C. buy a quality wet NOS system and save up for a new car because yours isn't going to last long with a NOS system on board



If you really want a performance car, go with option B. In my frank opinion, modding a Lumina is a waste of money, no offense intended, especially at that age. It's nearing the end of its life, and if you did manage to significantly improve the performance, it would probably result in numerous mechanical failures as the old parts and frame were subjected to stresses they were not engineered for. A 135HP/3500lb power:weight ratio is not a performace car and never will be unless you do a lot of weight mods and put in a new engine. Even on "performance cars", you don't just slap on a supercharger and call it a day. Generally, you have to upgrade numerous other parts in the process, or at least down the line, as the stock parts will wear down very quickly.



A "better fuel filter"? I don't understand that. Replacing the fuel filter is probably a good idea, as those are usually neglected, and should be replaced fairly regularly (10K miles on my car), but an OEM filter would probably suffice.



But, if you insist, get a K&N air filter and a Flowmaster muffler. It's cheap and will give you a lot more noise at least.



Sorry to be a downer, but I've been through this, and looking back wish someone had told me to save my money for a new car, or strippers or something useful. If you don't do your own work on your car and don't have a lot of money, performance modding is just not an option unless you're just out for looks, and in that case the vast majority of people aren't going to be impressed, probably the opposite, just so you know. I think both approaches just aren't warranted on a 16-yr-old Lumina.



If you're just out to fix problems, well ignore this all then.
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#6 Old 07-12-2008, 11:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DNK View Post

Well, if by "performance" you mean "make it go faster", and not "fix problems", I would say all of those are a waste of money. Small things like that aren't going to add much, if any, real power to your car. A cold air intake and a performance exhaust system would alter the sound, each altering it differently, and might add 5-10HP together unless your car was poorly engineered out of the box or the current parts are very old and worn. Really, the only reason to upgrade things like intake, exhaust, fuel delivery, plugs, etc, is if you're making major performance improvements that are going to stress the system and would be bottlenecked by those OEM parts . In and of themselves, they do little to a stock car. Very little.



Considering how much your car weighs (a ton), minor HP gains are going to do nothing to increase actual acceleration.



Save your money and:

A. buy a different car

B. buy a different car and then buy a turbo/supercharger plus those parts

C. buy a quality wet NOS system and save up for a new car because yours isn't going to last long with a NOS system on board



If you really want a performance car, go with option B. In my frank opinion, modding a Lumina is a waste of money, no offense intended, especially at that age. It's nearing the end of its life, and if you did manage to significantly improve the performance, it would probably result in numerous mechanical failures as the old parts and frame were subjected to stresses they were not engineered for. A 135HP/3500lb power:weight ratio is not a performace car and never will be unless you do a lot of weight mods and put in a new engine. Even on "performance cars", you don't just slap on a supercharger and call it a day. Generally, you have to upgrade numerous other parts in the process, or at least down the line, as the stock parts will wear down very quickly.



A "better fuel filter"? I don't understand that. Replacing the fuel filter is probably a good idea, as those are usually neglected, and should be replaced fairly regularly (10K miles on my car), but an OEM filter would probably suffice.



But, if you insist, get a K&N air filter and a Flowmaster muffler. It's cheap and will give you a lot more noise at least.



Sorry to be a downer, but I've been through this, and looking back wish someone had told me to save my money for a new car, or strippers or something useful. If you don't do your own work on your car and don't have a lot of money, performance modding is just not an option unless you're just out for looks, and in that case the vast majority of people aren't going to be impressed, probably the opposite, just so you know. I think both approaches just aren't warranted on a 16-yr-old Lumina.



If you're just out to fix problems, well ignore this all then.



It's been awhile now, and I've learned a lot (plus, I'm now at a W-Body forums for cars like mine built by GM). I've decided that obviously I can't do anything to make the Lumina (at least the version I have) very fast. If I WERE to do stuff like what I had mentioned a long time ago, I would be aiming to get the MOST power out of the particular engine that I have (instead of going for performance numbers...in other words, making it fast for a 3.1 LHO engined car). But, just to sort of defend the Lumina's performance capabilities, I know of a guy (over the internet) who has a 1992 Chevy Lumina Z34. Being the Z34, though, it had a better engine (3.4L twin-cam V6 producing 210 horsepower stock, mated to a 5-speed manual transmission). The dude poured $25,000 into his Lumina (lots of body work, sound system, performance upgrades....mainly the turbo) and got his car to 400hp, which is very good for a Lumina. He stated that he could spin/burn it in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd and could achieve a top speed of 160mph. Now, obviously, that's nothing compared to hardcore performance cars, but it's certainly respectable as far as Lumina's go. Anyway, I've decided NOT to do anything to my car other than maintaining it, although I AM going to get a CHEAP, but better sounding muffler (since I need a new one anyway). Thanks for the input anyway!
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