Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Upgrading
An example of a nicely
done turbo Civic
This guide's purpose is to get your started in the right direction,
so you can make educated decisions when buying your parts. It is
meant for those who are fairly new to upgrading Civics (hey, let's
face it, we were all there at one time or another). Since the Civic
is one of the most modified cars in the world, there are literally
thousands of upgrades to choose for it. For new comers, it is often
difficult to choose from all theses options. This guide will
hopefully make the process a little easier. Table of Contents:
- How do I get more
- How do I choose the
right exterior parts?
- Will aftermarket
parts void my warranty?
- Will installing
aftermarket parts cause me to fail smog tests?
- I want a quiet
exhaust, any recommendations?
- What engine /
chassis do I have?
- What's an engine
- How do I choose the
correct suspension setup?
- Any other helpful
How do I get more power?
First off, unless you have a Civic Hybrid, you have to understand
that all the power pushing you forward results from only the
combustion of fuel. Basically, combustion is a chemical reaction
where oxygen from the air and hydrocarbons from the fuel react to
produce a lot of energy. The basic idea behind getting more power is
getting more usable energy from the combustion taking place in each
cylinder. There are three basic ways to accomplish this:
1. Add more fuel and air to each cylinder
2. Compress the air
/ fuel mixture even more
3. Ignite the mixture so it burns
more efficiently (i.e. completely and at the correct time)
Needless to say, accomplishing this is much easier said than
done. For example, as engine speed increases, it becomes harder and
harder to get air in and exhaust out efficiently.
Fortunately, the aftermarket has done the research for us and has
made it quite easy to add more power to your Civic. Civics (and
Honda cars in general) are very well engineered and can accept most power modifications
without any decrease in reliability.
That said, there are some basic "bolt-on" parts that most people
start with to gain power. Bolt-ons are parts that can be installed
with just some simple tools (usually some wrenches and screwdrivers)
and definitely don't require you to tear down your engine or weld
anything. The most popular bolt-ons to start with for power are the
air intake, headers, and exhaust, also known as I/H/E. These three
parts will get your engine breathing better and produce a more
aggressive engine sound.
Here's a quick chart that
goes over all the part categories that relate to power:
|Part Category & Example Parts
|Air Induction (air intake, throttle body,
||Helps more air flow into your engine, causing
your engine's computer to add more fuel, resulting in more power.
|Forced Induction (turbocharger, supercharger,
||Pressurized systems that force A LOT of air into
the engine, requiring much more fuel, and resulting in some big
power gains. Nitrous is a little different in that it is not
normal air, but nitrous oxide, which actually serves two
functions: 1. It cools down the incoming air, resulting in a
denser air mixture and 2. The nitrous oxide splits into nitrogen
and oxygen during combustion. The extra oxygen means more fuel
can be used during combustion, which results in more power.
|Fuel System (fuel injectors, fuel rail, fuel
pump, fuel pressure regulator)
||Allows more fuel to flow into the engine, and at
a faster rate. Necessary whenever you need to add more fuel than
your stock system can supply. Also, performance fuel injectors
help to "atomize" the fuel better, which results in more
|Exhaust (headers, cat-back exhaust system,
high-flow catalytic converter)
||Each time fuel combusts, it results in
high-pressure gases that need to escape. A well-tuned exhaust
system allows them to escape quickly at all engine speeds. This
allows your engine to run with less resistance, which results in
more usable power to the wheels.
|Engine Tuning (engine management system, cam
||After a certain amount of modifications, it
becomes necessary to re-tune your engine's computer to work
optimally and reliably. Tuning can yield significant power gains
and is a MUST for heavily modified cars. This is ideally done at
a dyno shop, which can actually measure the power your engine is
|Ignition System (spark plugs, ignition wires,
||Provides more powerful and precisely timed
sparks. This will cause the fuel / air mixture to be more
completely and efficiently burned. Spark plugs also have the
auxiliary function of helping remove heat from the combustion
|Transmission (clutch, flywheel, limited slip
||On modified cars, allows more power to be
transferred to the wheels. A limited slip differential (LSD) can
provide you with better traction to both tires. Automatic
transmission owners can look into upgrading their torque
|Engine Head (camshafts, valves, valve springs,
||The "head", or cylinder head, is the top part of
the engine that you see when you open your hood. This is where
the most gains will be had for naturally aspirated (not forced
induction) engines. Camshafts increase intake and exhaust airflow
while valves, valve springs, and retainers support higher engine
speeds and denser air mixtures.
|Engine Block (connecting rods, bearings, head
studs, pistons, sleeves)
||For those with a lot of upgrades, these parts
will make sure that your engine can handle the extra power.
Performance pistons serve more than just a structural purpose
though; they can change your compression ratio (i.e. how much the
fuel / air mixture is compressed).
|Cooling System (radiator, fans, oil cooler)
||Keeps your modified engine running at optimum
temperatures. If an engine runs too hot, performance suffers.
Running too cold can hurt fuel economy and emissions, and lead to
spark plug fouling. After some big upgrades, it's often a good
idea to get a water temperature gauge to know how hot you're
To make all this power really work for you, lighten your car and get good tires!
This will give you better acceleration, cornering, and fuel economy. Many performance
parts are lighter than your stock ones, but you
can also buy body parts that will help save weight. How do I choose the right exterior parts?
It really comes down to your budget and personal tastes on what
looks good and what doesn't. All the exterior parts we sell are quality
items and will fit your Civic just fine. An exterior part's price is mainly determined by what
material it is made of. The material will determine how flexible,
durable, and heavy the part is. Here is a breakdown of the common
materials currently used:
||Made from weaved carbon and covered with a clear
resin. Great looks and very popular, but can be expensive. Very
light weight and great fitment, and you don't have to paint it!
||Thick, heavier resin-based polymer. Very
flexible, great fitment and durability. Fairly expensive to
||Very fine glass fibers. It is the least expensive
material. Fiberglass is lightweight and very rigid - so it will
break easier than the other materials but allows for more extreme
styles. It's also the toughest to install.
|Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP)
||Essentially a polymer that is reinforced with
fiberglass to allow better durability and more styles. It is the
best (and most common) material in terms of quality for the price
you pay. Most aftermarket body kits are made from this material.
||Provides great flexibility, durability, and
fitment. It is also fairly light, but very expensive. Therefore,
it is not commonly used in aftermarket body kits.
Note: A polymer is basically a plastic.
Lastly, get a professional install if you unsure of your abilities! Make sure the
installer checks for fitment before starting the install.
Will aftermarket parts void my warranty?
Fortunately, not in most circumstances. Under Federal Law (the
Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 to be specific) it is illegal for
a dealer to deny you warranty coverage just because you installed an
aftermarket part. To deny warranty, the dealer must reasonably prove the part
to be a potential cause of the specific problem you are requesting warranty
for. Even then, they can only deny warranty for components associated with the failed part(s),
not for your whole car. Because many aftermarket parts meet or
exceed original equipment specifications, this normally only happens
when the aftermarket part is improperly installed.
is no secret that Honda itself wants to see the aftermarket succeed.
Honda spends a lot of money promoting how their vehicles can be
customized and upgraded. It is usually when a part is improperly
installed or deliberately misused that warranties get denied. Just
make sure to get a quality installation (or if you do it yourself,
use all the correct tools and follow the directions) and you should
have no problems with any of the parts you buy from us.
Will installing aftermarket parts cause
me to fail smog tests?
Some of the parts we sell
are 50-state smog legal, which means they have been granted an
Exemption Order (EO) by the California Air Resource Board (CARB).
Since California is the strictest state in terms of smog laws, a
part that is "CARB Exempt" is smog legal in all 50 states. Parts
that are not 50-state legal may be 49-state legal if they meet
the EPA smog requirements but not California's. Some parts (such as
test pipes or race headers) are not smog legal at all. Just because a part is not
smog legal doesn't mean it pollutes more; it could be that the
manufacturer has just not taken the time or money to get it
You might be surprised to hear that some of
the most powerful parts are smog legal. For example, some supercharger and turbo kits
for the Civic are 50-state smog legal!
All non-engine related parts and accessories are smog legal by
definition (like suspension, brakes, etc.).
Here's a helpful link you can use the check
any aftermarket part to see if it is 50-state smog legal: http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/aftermkt/devices/amquery.php
I want a very quiet exhaust, any
Please contact us so we can get
you the latest information. What engine / chassis do I have?
Find your Civic in our garage! Once you select your particular year,
submodel, and trim level, all the info will appear. Remember theses
are U.S. specs only. Japanese models have different codes and,
although very similar, have some important differences (like being
right-hand drive). What's an engine swap?
name suggests, you take out your whole engine and swap it for
another (hopefully more powerful) engine. This is typically done
with used Japanese crate motors. Interestingly, Japan smog laws say
that a car is "past its smog limit" after a certain mileage,
regardless off how much it actually pollutes. This results in a
large number of extra motors that are still in decent condition.
Engine swaps can be expensive, but are very popular.
Unfortunately, it is very hard to pass smog with an engine swap. In
general, the engine must be of the same year or newer than your
chassis. JDM engines must be used only as direct replacements for
their U.S. counterpart. The swapped engine must also be the same OBD
(On-Board Diagnostic) version as your current engine and use a U.S.
spec computer. There are several other requirements, but you get the
How do I choose the correct
A lot of Civic owners don't
understand just how much of a difference a good suspension setup can
make. Choosing the best setup for you depends on how stiff of a ride
you want, and how low to the ground you want your Civic to sit. In
general, a stock suspension will have the softest ride but will feel
very sloppy when taking corners at speed. Most of the aftermarket
suspension parts will stiffen your ride, and this increases handling
performance. There are several different categories of suspension
parts to choose from:
||What it Does
||Replaces your stock springs with a unit that has
easily adjustable ride height. Coilovers, in general, offer a
stiffer ride that a normal shock / spring setup. "Full" coilovers
come with shocks and are whole, self-contained replacements for
your stock springs and shocks, which makes them even easier to
install. Full coilovers are really the way to go if you have the
money - the springs and shocks in them are designed to work
||Very similar to coilovers, but instead of wound
metal springs, you get "air bags" instead. Essentially, these are tightly sealed, expandable
tubes that use air (instead of metal springs) as your shock absorbers. The result? A smooth ride
and the ability to raise and lower your Civic on command! These awesome features do come at a price though;
air suspension kits are generally the most expensive suspension systems you can purchase.
|Shocks / Struts
||Dampens the movement of your springs (prevents
your car from bouncing up and down). It is not recommended to use
stock shocks with aftermarket springs. Your stock shocks will
blow or wear out very fast because they cannot dampen the
stronger aftermarket springs very well. If you have stock
springs, aftermarket shocks will offer a tighter, less "bouncy"
ride. Struts are basically the same as shocks except they
function as a stressed part of the suspension. In general, struts
allow for a more compact suspension design. Struts are used in
the newer Civics that employ MacPherson-style suspensions in the
||Reduces body roll and stiffens your car's overall
structure. Several different types are available, including tie
bars, strut tower bars, and sway bars. Some types of bars also
reduce body flex, which is the tendency for a car's body to
temporarily warp (change shape) under extreme forces.
||An inexpensive way to really get rid of the
sloppy feel of a stock suspension. Provides a noticeable increase
in suspension response. Especially popular are the shifter
bushings, as they provide firmer shifts for manual transmissions.
||Corrects the way your wheels and tires contact
the ground. If you drop your car more than about 1 inch you
should consider getting a camber kit. This will allow you to
adjust your alignment to prevent your wheels from pointing
inwards (called negative camber). The main side effects of bad
alignment are excessive, uneven tire wear and reduced forward
To lower you car, either buy a set of coilovers or get some
lowering springs. In general, we don't recommend more than about a
2.8" drop on the front or back. When you lower your Civic, keep in
mind that OEM shocks and some aftermarket shocks are "position
sensitive" and will not work well with vehicles that have been
lowered too much. Of course, if you have the money, an
adjustable full coilover system is the way to go. Any other helpful tips?
here are several more simple tips that will keep your Civic running
at peak power and reliability for years to come:
your tires properly inflated
. You'd be surprised what an
affect bad tire pressure can have on overall performance. Use your
owner's manual recommended tire pressure because optimal tire
pressure is based on your vehicle's weight, not the tire. If you run
under-inflated, you'll notice the side wear increases; over-inflated
tires show more wear in the middle. The best time to check tire
pressure is in the morning before you drive more than a few miles.
You should re-check your tire pressure every month or so, or when
the ambient temperature significantly changes (winter & summer).
2. Start using synthetic oil
. It is best to switch
to synthetic after your car has 3000 or more miles on it. Contrary
to popular belief, synthetic oil is perfectly fine to use in older
cars, even with more than 100,000 miles on them. If your car already
leaks oil though, or has worn seals, using synthetic oil may cause
slightly more leakage because of the oil's superior flow properties.
We consider Red Line to be the best synthetic out there, but there
are plenty of other good brands such as Mobil 1.
a good quality oil filter
. Two good ones that are commonly
available are the Purolator PureONE (commonly available) and WIX. We
recommend to stay away from FRAM filters just because the
construction quality is not as good. A good filter will enhance oil
flow and filter out more contaminants.
iridium spark plugs
. Newer Civics already come with
iridium plugs. Iridium plugs give better fuel economy, increased
power/acceleration and better throttle response. They last for a
long time and are very easy to install. Just remember NOT to gap
them - they come pre-gapped from the factory.
you transmission fluid about every 4 oil changes, or 16,000 miles
This will help preserve your gears and synchros, especially if you
drive hard. Royal Purple makes transmission fluids that are of
extremely high quality.
6. Get a set of magnetic
drain plugs for your transmission and engine
. Theses little
things help to pick up a lot of metal particles that may be floating
around in your transmission and engine. This will decrease engine /
transmission wear and tear significantly. Make sure to clean off the
drain plug after each fluid change.
7. Don't run a
higher octane fuel without a good reason
. Use the octane
specified in your owner's manual unless you have modified your
engine's compression or power output significantly. Most Civics
(except for the Si models) are designed to run best with 87 octane
fuel. Octane is simply a fuel's ability to resist detonation,
meaning that it can withstand more heat before it ignites. High
octane fuel is only suited for use in engines that create high
cylinder pressures and a lot of heat. Many people think they can
gain more power just by using higher octane fuel than specified in
their owner's manual. As long as the fuel does not pre-ignite, any
grade of fuel will produce the same amount of power (again, assuming
a mostly stock engine). Note: There is one exception to
this. If your engine has a lot of carbon buildup from years of use
and you are "pinging" (a.k.a. knocking or detonating), using higher
octane may help to alleviate the problem.
a fuel system cleaner
. Despite what you might think from the
previous two tips, it IS a good idea to use fuel system cleaners
once in awhile (say every 6-8 months). There is not quite enough
cleaner present in MOST gasolines to keep your valves and injectors
from building up gunk. Some Honda dealers even do this as part of
regular maintenance now.
That's it! If you have a
question that isn't answered here, feel free to give us a call and
we'll be more than happy to help.