Ever find yourself reading about a Dodge Challenger or Dodge Charger, and all these high-tech terms stand out? It’s a little irritating reading about cold air intakes and dual air extractors, having no idea what any of that means. What’s worse is automaker websites seem to forget their average consumer didn’t grow up in an auto shop, so a lot of us don’t know what’s so special about all those components they add that make a performance vehicle so powerful. That’s why we’re starting this series – Performance Parts Explained. This week, we’re looking at many of the performance parts found on Dodge muscle cars.
What’s Under the Hood
The most important part under the hood of a vehicle is, without a doubt, that powerful revving engine. Here’s some of the components you might notice on, or under, the hood of a Dodge Challenger or Dodge Charger.
Air Catcher Scoop – Take a look at the new Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. See that huge opening that nearly stretches across the entire hood? That’s an air catcher scoop, and you can find a similar, smaller version on the Hellcat and other trims. They’re designed to increase the volume of air introduced to the engine, for more power of course. Some are operated by a vacuum to suck even more air in as the car drives along. When it comes to the SRT Demon, the engine sucks in about 1,000 cubic feet of air per minute.
Cold Air Intake – If you’ve ever browsed the Mopar Performance Parts catalog, this component has most likely come up. A cold air intake replaces the factory-installed air intake, moving the origination point of intake outside of the engine compartment so that colder air is introduced into an engine’s cylinders, versus the warmer air already in and around the engine. Colder air is denser than warmer air, and the more oxygen the engine can burn, the more power it can deliver.
Headlight Air Catcher – Here’s a neat design. Sometimes, a headlight in a vehicle isn’t just a headlight. Today, halogen headlamps are being replaced by LEDs, which are a lot smaller and offer some room for modification. On the Dodge SRT Demon, being that the headlamps are powered by LEDS, a small 2.6-inch passage lies in the center, acting as another air intake to feed air directly into the airbox and then the engine.
Factories tend to limit the power of an engine by not only installing lesser-performing parts, but also restricting the flow of air and exhaust. These two components can change that.
Cat-back Exhaust – Another popular Mopar performance part, the cat-back exhaust replaces the restrictive factory-installed exhaust system. The original exhaust system is made to collect exhaust gas from two or more engine cylinders and then collect it into a single pipe through the muffler – talk about getting clogged up. The cat-back exhaust is a free-flow steel exhaust that replaces the factory-standard restrictive muffler for better flow, performance, and sound. Let that engine roar!
Exhaust Headers/Dual Air Extractors – Similar to the cat-back exhaust, air extractors (known as exhaust headers in other parts of the world), are used to replace restrictive factory-installed iron exhaust manifolds. Made from steel and circular tubing, an air extractor is designed with bends to allow engine exhaust to flow freely through the exhaust outlet. On top of this, unlike default exhaust systems, dual air extractors come with multiple tubes, one for each cylinder, to provide the most unrestricted flow of exhaust. Then it all ends up going through the muffler.
Keep It Steady
With all that power under the hood, a high performance vehicle also needs several components to keep it on the ground – unless it’s the SRT Demon popping a wheelie of course.
Anti-Sway Bar – An unsung hero, anti-sway bars bolt the vehicle down into a central location across the front and rear axle lines to keep it steady. Furthermore, it connects each side to the front and rear suspension for better vehicle handling. When taking those sharp turns, the anti-sway bar will twist and provide torsional resistance to limit the possibility of the body rolling over.
Performance Springs – The drivetrain of every vehicle is made up of a system that includes tires, tire air, springs, shock absorbers, and links between the vehicle and the wheels. Regular springs in the drivetrain are integrated into a vehicle’s suspension to absorb impact in conjunction with dampers, better known as shock absorbers. In contrast, performance springs go beyond this and actually reduce the ride height of a performance vehicle by an inch or so to lower the center of gravity of the vehicle and provide better handling.
Shock Absorbers – Mentioned above, shock absorbers are designed to absorb and dampen the shock a car many incur when driving over rough terrain. Surely you’ve felt this once or twice by a surprise speed bump or uneven terrain. Shock absorbers are usually mechanical, sometimes hydraulic, and reduce this shock for a more comfortable ride.
Strut Tower Braces – These components usually fly under the radar, even though they are located at the top of the engine compartment. Attached to the automobile’s suspension, they actually enhance the structural rigidity of a vehicle, as well as its steering response and directional stability for better handling. It does this by reducing the suspension load across each strut tower, which leads to less chassis flex.
Performance Brakes with Rotors and Calipers – A rotor is the American term for a brake disc, the component connected to a vehicle’s axle. Calipers are another component that house brake pads and pistons, typically powered by hydraulics in today’s vehicles. To know how many brake pistons are in a caliper, just read it as it – the SRT Hellcat, for instance, has six-piston calipers. When pressure is applied to the brake pedal, the pistons engage and press a high-friction material known as brake pads against both sides of the rotor. The friction of the brake pads cause the rotors to slow down and eventually stop. Performance brakes work the same, but may have as much as twelve pistons and two calipers, with six in each caliper, for optimal stopping force.
Interesting stuff right? Now when shopping for a Dodge Challenger, you’ll know why it handles so well, even when behind the wheel of a 707-horsepower SRT Hellcat. Be sure to check out our next entry – we’ll be focusing on Jeep 4×4 systems and all the components that make them work so well.