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Old 04-01-2012, 03:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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A beginners guide to bolt on performance *all new members read first before posting*

Hello all, as the title states this is going to be a beginner’s guide to bolt on naturally aspirated mods for our 8th gen civics (both K20 and R18). I will be covering the basics of modding, all the way from the lower level easy mods to the extreme setups.

Before I get started, for all those looking for a quick answer to the question of “where I should start?” Just trust me get an intake (CAI/SRI), a race header, exhaust, and Flashpro. That is the basic setup, but if you want to get more involved then keep reading.

Prior to getting into the setups, I will cover a good amount of the parts available for engine modification.

INTAKE: One of the most common mods to start with is replacing the stock air box with an aftermarket unit. There is a ton of options out there, but they all adhere to the same principal. You will make more power with more air, especially colder air that is denser. These units achieve this through larger diameter piping, and open element filters.

There will forever be the argument of CAI (Cold Air Intake) vs. SRI (Short Ram Intake), which I am not going to get into here. Just know that both units have their own distinctive personalities. With a CAI you will generally make more power, but you risk hydro locking the car (basically water being sucked through the intake, very very very bad) and you don’t get the nice engine bling. The SRI will still make you power, and the sound it produces is intoxicating. The SRI also has better throttle response over a CAI. The problem with SRI’s is “heat soak”, in other words the engine bay becomes hot and as a result the car makes less power because hotter air is not as dense and thus the intake charge does not have as much oxygen. A way to counter act this is installing a heat shield, both K&N and CT-e provide them.

One of the best options for Si’s when it comes to a N/A build is a “hybrid” intake. This is an intake that combines the properties of a SRI and CAI. These intakes run from the throttle body straight to behind the driver side headlight and have either one or no bends. For these intakes you will have to mount your battery elsewhere, or getting smaller one like an odyssey or a Braille battery.

HEADER: Also known as the exhaust manifold. This piece of iron connects the engine block to the exhaust. This unit also contains the catalytic converter, the most restrictive piece of any exhaust system. After market units will replace the heavy Iron manifold with a lighter material manifold, such as stainless steel. After market units also have larger diameter piping providing better evacuation of the exhaust gases.

When choosing a header the most important factor to consider is whether or not you want to eliminate the catalytic converter. Eliminating the CAT will provide a “straight pipe” exhaust. These units will make the most significant power in upwards to an extra 15 horsepower. The downside to using these units is that without the CAT, the hot exhaust gases full of carbon are free to flow right out. This can result in carbon residue on your bumper, dirty exhaust tips; it can also ruin the resonators in your exhaust causing a very raspy sound. Lastly running a car without a CAT can result in you failing any emission test.

There are numerous options available for 8thgens, both R18 and K20 engines. For the K20 engines, one of the things to consider is length of the runners, size of the collectors, and pairing. Each of these will change the characteristics of the header, and influence the area where the unit will make power. If you want more info on this I suggest Google, or PM me, there is too much to cover for this basic intro.

EXHAUST: Probably the most popular mod for any car, ever, is changing the stock exhaust with an aftermarket one. This section will discuss the basics of the cat back exhaust options. Before getting too far into this, just note that the primary thing you should consider when choosing an exhaust is your personal preference. In today’s market for our cars, one 60mm exhaust won’t make any more power over another 60mm exhaust. Same goes for 70mm vs 70mm exhausts. There is not some secret trick or anything, don’t believe me? Just look at all the pictures of aftermarket exhausts next to stock exhausts. They have the same exact shape. There is a reason for this as the car has a specific design for the exhaust which needs to be followed, the way an exhaust will make more power than stock is by utilizing larger diameter piping. Do note that bigger isn’t always better, if this was true we would all have 4 inch exhausts, in general (as in not set in stone) a 60mm exhaust is good for a basic bolt on setup, and a mild cam build, and 70mm exhausts are good for k24 builds and aggressive cam builds This does not mean you cant have it reversed.

With that out of the way, selecting exhaust should be based on what supporting mods you have, and what sound you wish to achieve. It is not suggestible to run a 3 inch exhaust if that’s the only mod you have. You will not utilize the potential of the exhaust and it won’t sound as nice. The resonator and muffler are what will create the tone of the exhaust. I would not suggest relying solely on YouTube videos of exhaust sounds, as they never actually capture the true sound of the exhaust. Do note that if you are running a catless header, this will also change the sound of your exhaust.

ECU TUNING: Now that I have covered the three major components in the basic bolt on setup, I am going to cover THE most important aspect in achieving the most power out of your setup, and also the most reliability. A brief history lesson for those of you who weren’t around awhile back, there was a time when we had no tuning option. Then came Hondata reflash, then COBB AP, then Flashpro, followed by less popular options like hypertech and others. The best option for both the R18 and K20 is Flashpro. COBB was once a direct competitor to the flashpro, but the programmer who was handling the Honda section at COBB left and support for the platform has dropped. The other options available have nowhere near the capabilities of flashpro, which is why I can only suggest getting it at this point.

With that out of the way, I will explain why this is so important. Flashpro will adjust so many engine parameters its ridiculous. Most importantly it can fine tune fuel mapping, VTC, VTEC, cam angles, etc etc etc etc etc. By doing this, a tuner can control your ECU, adjust parameters, and make your car run more efficient, smooth, and power. Without Flashpro, you cannot run some of the more aggressive setups such as cams or k24.

Some further info on Flashpro, the unit and program will come with some preset tunes for common setups. I suggest getting custom tune, instead of running one of these catch all tunes. There are two options for custom tuning. One is you find a shop that has a dyno, and you have someone “dyno tune” your car. If possible have the tuner do partial throttle tuning as well, as this is very import to regular daily driving. A second option is an electronic tune or “E-tune”. This is achieved by driving your car while data logging and then sending the data logs to an e-tuner through email. The e-tuner will look at the data logs and change your tune based on these.

FUEL: An option to assist in achieving more power is by adding more fuel, or a different kind of fuel. Do note that if you are not maxed out on your current injectors, adding bigger ones will do nothing. There are numerous options for injectors out there, but the cheapest set will be out of the Acura RDX. If your plans are for an aggressive setup, these should be a priority on your list as you do not want your build to be slowed down by a lack of fuel. You can also upgrade your fuel pump, but again this is reserved for very aggressive setups as your stock unit should perform fine.

Another aspect in fuel is the type. One option is to run a higher octane fuel, whether it be 100 octane pump gas or E85. If you decide to run E85, you will have to modify fuel system components (search for more answers) Either way you will have to have a custom tune to run the higher octane fuel. The benefit is that the fuel is more stable, and you can have more aggressive timing and you can also utilize higher compression pistons. Also there is the nice part of more power.

INTAKE COMPONENTS: Earlier I discussed replacing the stock air box with an aftermarket one, but that is not the only part of the intake system. Now I will talk about the intake manifold and the throttle body. The intake manifold is the cast iron piece that is connected to the head of the engine, and is what introduces air into the combustion camber. You have a couple of options to consider when thinking about modding this.

You cant take your stock manifold and have it ported and polished. Basically someone cuts open the manifold, sands the insides down, and welds it back together (very basic description) what this does is improves the flow of the manifold, and also the amount of air that it can move. The other option is to purchase an aftermarket unit. These tend to be bigger than the stock unit, and have different length runners than stock. An option for the K20 engine is the RRC manifold which is out of a civic type-r. An option to keep the manifold cooler is to replace the stock manifold gasket with an aftermarket one which will keep some of the heat from the head getting to the manifold.

As for the throttle body, this is the piece of the intake system that controls when air enters. Think of it as a valve, and what actuates the valve is you pressing on the gas pedal. A larger throttle body will allow for a greater volume of air to enter the manifold. If you have the proper supporter modifications, a larger throttle body will greatly assist. You can also add a throttle body spacer, which is a metal piece that adds distance between the throttle body and intake manifold. This will change the flow of the air entering the manifold, and also the volume of the manifold.

CAMS AND VALVETRAIN: Everything I have listed so far can be added to your car without cracking open your engine, but now that we have got here you have pretty much exhausted your NA options. In principal changing the camshafts to a more aggressive set will change how long your valves will stay open during the four stroke cycle. Naturally the more air you can get into the cylinder the more power, and the quicker you can get the exhaust gasses out the more power.

There are many cam options out there ranging from “drop in cams” to highly aggressive cams. The DIC option, will allow you to replace your camshafts without having to upgrade your valvetrain. The reason for this is that the cam profiles are not aggressive enough to damage the valvetrain. If you do decide to go with a more aggressive set, a valvetrain upgrade (I will include timing chain tensioner) is a must as the cams can ruin these components by being too aggressive.

***special note*** I feel an obligation to let it be known that running aftermarket cams is a dangerous endeavor. There are numerous accounts of aftermarket cams failing. Aftermarket cams can, and have, ground out (material on the lobe degrades away), ruin chain tensioners, ruin vavletrain, and anyone of these can cause a catastrophic failure in your engine. Just know that you have been warned.

ENGINE SWAPS AND INTERNALS: And here we are, this is the top tier of NA mods. For this section, everything mentioned will require you removing the engine from the car.

Hows the old saying go? There is no replacement for displacement? Well that is true in many ways. There are two options for this. You can purchase an aftermarket stroker kit, which will increase the stroke of your stock engine by replacing the rotating assembly of your engine OR you can purchase the engine block of a K24 and mate it to your K20 head achieving the same effect. Again since this is a basic intro, if this is something youre interested in do some very very serious research. The main advantage of stroking our engines is the capability for more horsepower, and the added torque.

Another engine component that can be changed is the internals. By this I mean the pistons and connecting rods. The main point of changing the piston is to change the compression of your engine. The stock k20 compression is 11.0-1 and the r18 is 10.5-1. By increasing the compression ratio, you can extract more power from the engine by increasing the efficiency of the engine. A thing to consider when increasing the compression ratio is the octane level of your fuel, as there is a greater chance of pre-detonation with a higher compression engine. As for the connecting rods, changing this will allow for your engine to handle more power and rev higher as they will be stronger than stock. For the true “balla” status, you can have you entire rotating assembly zero balanced which will increase the revving ability of your car.

TRANSMISSION: I will not discuss the different types of clutch in this section, but instead the parts that will change the performance of the acceleration. First option is a lightweight flywheel. By lightening the flywheel, the engine can spin it easier and faster. The result is a quicker revving engine, and some top end acceleration. The downfall is the revs between shifts will drop faster.

The bigger ticket item when it comes to transmission mods is changing the gearing, either by replacing the final drive or the actual gears. By changing the gear ratios you change how the transmission multiplies the engine power. The common way is to replace the final drive, with either a shorter or longer geared final drive. By changing to a shorter final drive, you will accelerate through the gears faster BUT you won’t stay in the gears as long. Vice versa with a longer final drive, you won’t accelerate as fast through gears but you can stay in gear longer. How do you know which one is best for you? If you have a high horsepower setup, a longer final drive will benefit you more as you will have the power to turn the gear and it will allow you to stay in it longer. If you try a shorter final drive with a high horsepower car, you will spin your tires and won’t utilize your power band.

MISC BOLT ON MODS: Here is a brief list and overview of some miscellaneous bolt on mods. One option is adding an under drive pulley system. This will free up a couple of horsepower by lowering the parasitic loss of the engine.

Another option is an aftermarket radiator. This will be more of a cosmetic upgrade, as unless you are seriously tracking your car there is not a NA setup that needs a radiator upgrade as the stock unit performs fine. This goes the same for an aftermarket oil cooler.

Now that I have provided to you a brief overview of the basic parts out there, I will give you an example of the setups. You should consider looking at this for guidance only.

Low level setup-Intake (CAI/SRI), Race header, Exhaust, Flashpro, throttle body

Intermediate level setup-Low level+ Intake manifold, injectors, drop in cams

High level setup-Intermediate level+“hot” cams, K24 swap, forged internals.

Keep in mind those are just a rough guideline. Just remember when building your engine, have a plan and stick to it.

If there is anything you feel that absolutely needs to be added or changed let the mods know.

Thanks for reading.


Last edited by brado; 04-01-2012 at 03:20 PM.
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Old 09-16-2012, 02:42 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 02-13-2013, 09:55 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Very interesting.
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Old 03-06-2013, 02:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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good information
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Old 03-06-2013, 03:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
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A beginners guide to bolt on performance *all new members read first before posting*

Good read thanks for typing all that up.


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Old 03-07-2013, 11:53 PM   #6 (permalink)
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well this thread came back from the dead...lmao
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Old 03-15-2013, 01:44 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Good read thanks for typing all that up.


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Old 03-25-2013, 12:53 AM   #8 (permalink)
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For someone like me that is just getting into mods. This is amazing info, read it all. Thanks for taking the time dude !
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Old 03-28-2013, 05:39 AM   #9 (permalink)
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thanks for all the info
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Old 03-28-2013, 12:52 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Nice Intro Read. How add extra info about tuning and what can be expected from a full bolt on tune? That would be sweet.


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Old 04-11-2013, 08:19 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Awesome read. Def got some info I wasnt aware of.

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Old 04-25-2013, 01:40 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Awesome post, real informative and covers all the basics
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Old 04-28-2013, 09:07 PM   #13 (permalink)
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What they all said, considering this is going to be my first build.
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Old 05-08-2013, 06:16 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Only change I would make is not adding bigger throttle body in with entry level mods. Gains will be minimal and it can make the throttle really touchy. TB would be more beneficial after doing big changes to the engine, ie stroking or big cams.
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Old 05-25-2013, 04:10 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Only change I would make is not adding bigger throttle body in with entry level mods. Gains will be minimal and it can make the throttle really touchy. TB would be more beneficial after doing big changes to the engine, ie stroking or big cams.
Reason I put the throttle body as a low level is because of the ease of installation and how cheap the part is. I wouldnt suggest installing a TB without tuning. And with Flashpro, you can gain 3~5 hp easily, and like you said it will be beneficial after further upgrades.
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Old 06-15-2013, 05:13 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Nice write up!!!! I've been a Lil hesitant of doing mods on my 09 si because it only has 10k and I just bought it 2 weeks ago. So it's still a new born. And I've done a lot of bolt on mods to all my other civics because they were on the back end of their careers lol. But this write up really makes it easier and provides me with a blue print to go by.
Thanks bro!!!!
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Old 06-17-2013, 03:03 AM   #17 (permalink)
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thank you, thank you for taking the time to go over all of this stuff briefly and straight to the point!
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Old 06-18-2013, 11:05 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Nice write up!!!! I've been a Lil hesitant of doing mods on my 09 si because it only has 10k and I just bought it 2 weeks ago. So it's still a new born. And I've done a lot of bolt on mods to all my other civics because they were on the back end of their careers lol. But this write up really makes it easier and provides me with a blue print to go by.
Thanks bro!!!!
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thank you, thank you for taking the time to go over all of this stuff briefly and straight to the point!
Anytime guys! if you have questions or anything I still check in here once or twice a week.
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Old 07-02-2013, 08:18 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Good read thanks very helpful

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Old 07-02-2013, 09:28 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Anytime guys! if you have questions or anything I still check in here once or twice a week.

Lookin forward to your input once again thanks

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