The Chevy Silverado is a great all-around SUV for most tasks. It comes with plenty of size and dependability, but it can be a bit lacking when it comes to speed. Some will however want to make their SUV a true Jack of all trades and will want to know how to make a Silverado faster.
There are many different ways to make a Silverado faster. Options range from simply using a higher octane fuel all the way to committing to a full engine swap. Here are the top 6 ways:
- Use higher octane fuel
- Install cold air intake
- Have the engine chip tuned
- Install performance exhaust system
- Install a turbocharger
- Full engine swap
Below we can explore some of the different ways to make a Silverado faster. They will be arranged roughly from simpler to more complicated methods of increasing the power output of the Silverado.
While higher octane fuel doesn’t necessarily contain more energy, it can provide a little extra boost if you are looking to get the absolute most out of your Chevy Silverado. Simply put, octane levels describe how stable fuel is.
With the high temperatures and pressures found in an engine, volatile gasoline can detonate prematurely, causing engine knock and losing performance. Opting for higher octane fuel will decrease the chances of your fuel detonating prematurely and improve your engine’s output.
A relatively simple upgrade to make a Silverado faster has to do with upgrading the air intake. Moving to a cold air intake moves the intake outside of the engine compartment and has it exposed in the engine bay rather than in an enclosed intake box.
This allows for cooler air to make it into the combustion chamber. The benefit of feeding your engine cold air is that cooler air is more oxygen dense. The higher oxygen concentration allows for more powerful combustion, and thus, higher energy output for the Silverado engine.
If moving to a full cold air intake setup is too much, you can still opt to replace the stock air filter in the intake box. These performance air filters typically have greater airflow to allow for more oxygen to reach the engine and have the added benefit of being washable so you won’t have to replace them as often.
While the process of tuning the engine computer in a Silverado is simple, it carries a lot of potential performance gains. Depending on the type of tuner and engine, a tuner can be installed by a mechanic swiftly or done yourself by plugging it into the OBDII port.
Once installed, the tuner can change various settings in the engine such as injection timings and fuel pressure. The changes made by the tuner can be continuously changed, allowing you to prioritize having optimum performance one day and then prioritizing fuel economy the next. One should however be careful when messing with engine tunes.
Typically the stock settings were chosen by the automaker because they provided a balance between performance and longevity. Pushing the engine past its set limits can lead to potential reliability issues with your Silverado engine.
Changing the exhaust of a Chevy Silverado is another great way to get some extra power. Stock exhaust systems have a lot of obstacles along the way between the exhaust manifold of the engine and actual exhaust tips. Objects such as mufflers, resonators, and catalytic converters aim to help reduce the sound and emissions of the Silverado, but they don’t let the engine work as freely as it could.
Going with a straight pipe exhaust system gets rid of many stops along the way and places a pipe straight from the engine. This allows for the greatest ease of pressure on your engine. This however involves getting rid of the catalytic converter, a vital piece to lowering emissions. In many jurisdictions, this carries a hefty fine of up to $10,000.
For those looking to avoid any potential trouble, opting for a cat-back system will only touch the exhaust after the catalytic converter. This will still yield power gains but retain the safe emission standards. Replacing the exhaust is a relatively simple process for any mechanic and can actually be done yourself with a few tools.
Keep in mind that opting for a free-flowing exhaust will also increase how loud your Silverado will sound.
Adding a turbocharger will make huge headway towards making your Silverado faster. It is, however, no easy task and will most likely not be able to be done by yourself unless you are highly knowledgeable about your engine.
Without a turbocharger, the Silverado engine is limited to how much oxygen it can pull in from the vacuum created by the intake stroke of the piston. While capable of providing enough oxygen to reach the factory standard output, there is always room for more power. A turbocharger works by adding to the vacuum created by the piston.
Turbochargers have an internal turbine that is spun by the exhaust of the engine. This turbine forces more oxygen than normal into the pistons, bringing an oxygen concentration that is far beyond factory spec. With a more rich oxygen content, the combustion becomes more powerful.
Installing a Silverado turbo can certainly be done by yourself if you have enough knowledge, but for most people, it will need to be done by a mechanic.
If all else fails and you just absolutely need to have a faster Silverado, an engine swap might be the only thing left. As the name implies, it involves taking out the stock Silverado engine and replacing it with a different one, preferably one with a higher power. To make the issue of compatibility simpler, you can look for engines from higher-powered Silverados.
Most Silverados were sold with multiple engine options and some years had powerful V8 engines. Since the engine bay should be the same regardless of which engine was offered, this would result in the most simple engine swap as long as you are swapping engines from the same generation of Silverado.
If you want to get really creative and adventurous, then you can look outside the engines offered on Silverado models. With how large the engine bay is in the Silverado is, most engines should be able to fit.
However, figuring out how exactly to mount it and connect to the transmission and various other systems of the Silverado will be time-consuming and downright impossible at times. Those looking for a challenge will enjoy tackling this task, but most will just recommend to just get a faster car rather than messing around with an engine swap.
You may find the following posts helpful:
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.