Most diesel trucks are known for their toughness and the amount of torque they provide.

If you own a diesel car and have regular engine maintenance, good for you, but investing in a few aftermarket modifications can improve your diesel engine performance and fuel efficiency.

Increasing the power of your diesel engine shouldn’t require you to dig deep into your pocket. There are different ways to increase the horsepower of your diesel engine without expensive modifications.


1. Turbochargers and Superchargers

When you want to increase your engine’s horsepower, the first thing to consider is a turbocharger. A turbocharger typically works by forcing more air into the engine than usual.

The turbo’s internal components include a turbine, which forces the exhaust gases through a compressor and then is expelled through the intercooler.

A stock turbo is made to increase the airflow three or four times over a naturally aspirated engine, while a performance turbo can increase airflow five to ten times more.

An upgraded turbo will keep the exhaust gas temperatures lower, which increases the efficiency and performance of your engine.

If you upgrade the turbo only, neglecting the airflow and increasing fuel flow, you’ll burn more fuel, increase exhaust temperatures, and decrease fuel economy.

Turbo air pressure is known as the boost and is measured in pounds per square inch. The most optimal setup is using a twin-turbo design.

The bigger the turbo, the larger the boost. However, the big one only works at higher speeds and quickly reaches peak performances.

Using a dual-turbo setup where you have a smaller turbo for normal driving speeds and a larger one for higher speeds and torque situations is better. The quick spooling turbos work hand in hand with the larger ones.

Superchargers are sometimes the solution if you need a dual-turbo design. A supercharger will spin at around 50,000 RPM vs. 15,000 RPM with a turbocharger.

Unlike a turbocharger, which uses exhaust gases to boost speed, a supercharger is directly connected to the engine by a belt or chain. It uses the crankshaft for its energy source.

The advantage of using a supercharger is that there’s no lag. It supplies a constant boost even when the engine is running at lower RPMs.

It’s easy to maintain, and it doesn’t use a wastegate for decreasing emissions.

Superchargers aren’t used a lot with diesel engines, as they already run at much lower RPMs than gas engines and you always risk the chain or belt breaking.

Superchargers can add almost 45% more horsepower to your engine, and like turbos, they work best at higher altitudes.

2. Chip Upgrades and ECM Flash

If you have an electronic engine, the easiest way to increase its power is to do an ECM flash, which means preprogramming the onboard diagnostic computer to handle more power.

Depending on the engine you own, a reputable flash dealer can dial your horsepower up a notch. Diesel engine models are typically grouped into families such as A B, C, etc.

For example, a Caterpillar 3406B is a different build than a Caterpillar 3406E. The block, pistons, head, and more will vary. That’s why you need to find a dealer who deals with your type of diesel engine.

Reprogramming the ECM will only take your dealer a few minutes to allow the onboard diagnostic computer to remove some power restrictions.

The ECM will allow more fuel, turbo boost, and air intake during compression. Ensure that you check the data plate on your transmission for the Nominal Torque Capacity Rating.

The first two digits of the number multiplied by 1000 are the maximum torque allowed for the transmission. If you upgrade your power and not the transmission, you may end up ruining your transmission.

If you don’t have an ECM in your engine, you can reprogram the ECM in the truck for optimal transmission shift timing and fuel improvements.

If you want to upgrade yourself, there are many modules and aftermarket chips you can purchase. Power modules will modify the ECM and allow you to select an engine for your desired performance manually.

3. Fuel Pump or Injectors

You can also look at aftermarket injectors if you want to increase your engine’s performance. Aftermarket injectors are made to allow more fuel to flow into the combustion chamber over stock models.

Finding the right injectors for your engine and modifications can be challenging. If you’re looking for high-quality injectors, go to

Injectors are usually rated for the horsepower output of a specific engine. The goal is more horsepower, but you don’t want to overdo it with overpowered injectors.

When you burn too much fuel, you put more stress on the engine. The fuel and air ratio should be increased in stages, meaning don’t upgrade the fuel pump or injectors, and skip the air intake or turbo.

Too much fuel and not enough air, or too much air and too little fuel, won’t provide your engine with the optimal performance.

High-performance injectors use a special nozzle, which increases the pressure for much better fuel atomization.

4. Larger Air Intake/Inflow Kit

Compression in a diesel engine can’t happen without the union of fuel and air. The stock intake usually hinders airflow by having a restricted opening.

The restricted opening normally contains a sound baffle to reduce engine noise. When you remove the baffle, it allows for more air to be sucked into the combustion chamber, and then it’s mixed with fuel.

In addition to the baffle, most of the stock air intakes have a paper filter.

The filter is usually of poor quality and can get clogged quickly. New intakes have synthetic fibers that allow better airflow even when it’s filled with grime.

Secondly, OEM intakes typically don’t suck cold air from the right places. Usually, they come from the radiator wall or underneath the front fender.

An altered intake will draw in cold air that’s outside of the engine housing. The cooler air outside is usually denser and will hold more oxygen.

The more oxygen is available in the air intake, the more air can be burned through compression. By upgrading the engine’s air intake system, you can expect a 30% increase in horsepower and improved fuel economy.

5. Upgrading the Intercooler

Once you upgrade the turbocharger, you also need to upgrade the intercooler.

The intercooler is created to maintain the boost pressure after leaving the turbo, while at the same time cooling the air before it reaches the combustion chamber.

The intercooler drops the ambient air temperatures from the turbo exhaust, which makes the air denser.

Cooler and denser air contains more oxygen, leading to more horsepower during combustion.

Aftermarket upgrades will feature a larger fin inlet and outlet, as well as an expanded gill end radiator. This is a must-have for any diesel engine enthusiast.

There is also a range of car-specific intercooler kits which include all the necessary mounts, piping, and hoses to install the kit. All kits are designed to give maximum cooling capacity while allowing for minimal pressure drops.

6. Upgrade the Exhaust System.

With extra modifications to the turbo, cylinder heads, and intake, it’s essential that you also upgrade the exhaust system.

The exhaust system of the diesel engine is designed to reduce engine heat and expel post-combustion gases. Same as air intake systems, stock exhaust ports are geared toward noise reduction as compared to performance.

Stock mufflers and exhaust tubes are designed with odd bends and kinks to limit noise and reduce emissions.

The overly kinked designs make it even harder to push exhaust gas out, which only work at optimum levels with the newer emission-compliant engines.

The aftermarket exhaust features a straighter design with a broader diameter opening. The aftermarket muffler and exhaust kit will reduce exhaust gas temperatures, improve horsepower, and improve torque.

7. Camshafts

Installing a performance camshaft is also another way to increase your diesel engine’s performance. The camshafts function is to open and close the valves.

Compared to an OEM camshaft, the design behind a performance camshaft is that the profile and lift are altered to allow more air into the inlet valves.

The higher lift placed on the lobe of the camshaft, the higher the valves’ stroke length. A greater stroke length then leads to more horsepower.

You can also choose to alter the valve timing, that is, when the valves open and close. With a performance camshaft, you can leave the valves open for a longer time, allowing more air into the combustion chamber.

When you leave the valves open for longer, it changes the compression ratio and also increases horsepower.

You can go to a machine shop where they can weld and grind to your desired size, polish, and measure the lobes with a dial indicator to determine the optimal specifications.

In addition to grinding the performance camshaft, the machine shop can bring back the crankshaft to OEM specifications to decrease friction and increase rotational velocity.


There are different ways to tweak and change various systems in your vehicle to increase your engine’s performance and horsepower.

However, it’s crucial to ensure you don’t overdo any modifications as you risk blowing up your engine.

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