Category Archives: Performance

Here comes the Vroom!

img_0929I knew that some day, I would upgrade the exhaust in the TJ, but I didn’t expect to do so almost immediately!  Courtesy of the sheer amount of rust on the stock exhaust and consequently the failing of my state inspection, I took to the internet to find the cheapest exhaust kit money could buy so I could pass and get tags on my Jeep asap.  I didn’t find much in the way of reviews or videos of the PaceSetter kit, but for around $130 shipped, it checked the boxes I needed. So I figured what the hell and clicked to buy.  Thanks Amazon!

The parts unboxed look decent, all the bends are in the right places and the welds look good.  The only thing that’s a little odd to me is the exhaust hangers are straight pieces of metal and don’t have any type of catch to help the kit stay in the hangers.

img_0938Install is fairly straight forward, drop the skid plate (make sure to support the transmission with a jack or jack stand), remove the OEM kit and bolt the new one in place.  Removing my OEM kit wasn’t too hard since the hangers had rusted off completely!  Reinstallation proved to be a little annoying since the kit included a pair of screws that were just a bit too short to bolt up the muffler up to the converter pipe.  But a trip to Home Depot remedied that issue.  The only other thing I needed to “customize” was the pipe length coming out the back of the Jeep.  Due to conflicts with the trailer hitch on my TJ, I had to chop off about a foot of pipe.  As a result, the exhaust dumps out just behind the rear passenger side tire.  Not a biggie, but if you planned to use the shiny chrome tip, I think you might be SOL.  Even if it did fit, the tip would have been positioned in such a way that it would get crushed the very first time you came down on a rock on the trail.  It’s kind of a blessing in disguise.  To make it fit, I cut it back to such a spot where it won’t hit on a rock.  img_0942It might not be a high tuck design, but it sure is out of the way.

The sound isn’t much louder than stock to me, about 2.4 dB louder in the cabin at idle, but the pitch is much throatier and has more of a growl to it.  The butt dyno says the Jeep is a little peppier with this kit installed, but I don’t have any measurable metrics to support that claim.  All in all, I’m satisfied with this kit.  I needed a bare bones exhaust system at a rock bottom price, and this kit delivered with a nice throaty little growl to boot.

PaceSetter TFX 86-2875 Exhaust vs. No Exhaust vs. Stock



Damn.  I’m convinced I have more trouble with state inspections than ANYONE I’ve ever met.  I thought certainly a bone stock Jeep could pass with flying colors, but the state ain’t having it!  The TJ failed due to a worn drive belt, rusty exhaust hangers, & readiness sensors not being set.

The drive belt is an easy fix despite the shop wanting $200 (that’s two HUNDRED bloody dollars!) for a $20 part & 5 minutes worth of work.  I sprung for the $30 belt from Autozone (3 year warranty on the belt thank you very much!) and popped it on.

The exhaust I knew was rusted out and was on my ‘to replace list’ anyways, I just didn’t expect to replace it immediately.  I’ve got an exhaust kit shipping to me now that I plan to write about when I swap out later this week.  The only downside is that since this is kind of an emergency (can’t title the Jeep if I can’t pass inspection), I picked up the cheapest kit I could find instead of taking my time to do a bit of research.  I watched a YouTube clip or two of the exhaust note and it didn’t sound bad at all.  Especially for this price point.

As far as the readiness sensors are concerned, I just need to drive it a bit to get those things to set themselves.  Luckily, I already have a Veepeak bluetooth OBD II scan tool & combined with the OBD Fusion app to check the readiness status.  Hopefully this three pronged approach will have me up and running legally by the weekend.  Fingers crossed!

AFE’s Silver Bullet Throttle Body Spacer, Fact or Fiction?

A few weeks ago I got a comment from a reader asking my opinion on Throttle Body Spacers (TBS).  Quite frankly, despite a lot of reading over many years I’ve never used a TBS myself.  If you search for dyno results, the folks doing the testing always lump in the TBS with a bunch of other mods so it’s hard to tell which mod produces which result.  Well, I had a little time on my hands and I’ve always been curious about the TBS’.  Does that little piece of metal actually do anything?  Let’s find out!

Opening up the box and looking at the parts… My initial reaction is Hell-to-tha-no!  Think about it, if this little chunk of metal made a noticeable difference, wouldn’t OEM engineers put them in all our engines to sell us more power from the factory?  AFE claims up to 10 HP & 14 lb-ft of torque for this little gizmo, so let’s see what all the excitement is about.AFE-SilverBullet-TBS

I consider myself a man of science, so I’ve hunted down a dyno and booked some time to get to the bottom of this.  First things first, let’s get a base run with my existing set up: 3.6L Pentastar V6, AFE 49-46218 Hi-Tuck Exhaust, Volant’s 17636 PowerCore® Intake System, & SuperChips Flashpaq 3872 set to the 87 tune program.





Dyno Results Before

As you can see in the image above, the Dyno shows 231.0 max HP at 6,400 rpm & 210.0 max torque at 2,600 rpm.  Not to shabby for this fat bottomed girl to scoot around on.  Now, let’s toss on the TBS.

To install the TBS, all you do is pop off the engine cover, remove the intake tube and pull 4 8mm screws holding on the throttle body, slip the TBS & gasket in place, then reassemble using the factory hardware.

Silver Bullet before and after

Just in case you blinked and missed it, here’s another picture of the TBS installed.

Silver Bullet Installed
With the engine cooled off and all the parts bolted up, let’s go for another run.


Dyno Results After
After installing the TBS, the new max torque is 210.7 (gain of 0.7 ft-lbs) and 236.8 hp (gain of 5.8 hp).  The torque gain, less than 1 ft-lb at the wheels, is pretty negligible and the new peak power, at the very tippy top of the red line, isn’t something I’ll use, but let’s overlay the before/after runs to see if there’s more to this story.

Dyno Results Combined

Looking at the overlay, the excitement is actually in the difference in the before/after torque curves.  Like I said earlier, 0.7 ft-lb isn’t all that exciting, but having close to your max torque earlier in the tach, well that’s a difference you can feel using the Butt Dyno.  I have no intention of taching out my Jeep for that extra 5 hp at the top end, however look back at the rest of the graph.  Just like the torque curve, you can see that you have access to more HP through out the entire power band.  Not a lot, but every little bit helps scooting around all that armor and tire weight.

I went into this test thinking I was going to send the TBS back because It doesn’t do crap.  Well, here’s scientific evidence that proved me wrong.  Sure it doesn’t make the 10 hp/14 ft-lbs it claims to on the box, but access to more of your engine torque earlier in the power band helps get the most out of this engine.  And between you and me, I still can’t believe that little part actually does anything at all.

Let’s get ready to ruuuuuuumble!

Ever since I banged my giant submarine can of a muffler on that first rock, I’ve been looking for a way to either armor it or get rid of it all together. The more I shopped around, the more I found that simply swapping out the exhaust kit would not only net some performance gains, but it would save a bit of weight, increase my clearance in the rear, and might even give the Jeep that nice little growl it deserves. I spent more time than I’ll admit to on the couch listening to exhaust kits on youtube, but in the end all it really took was me hearing my buddy Aeraun’s rig pulling Nubs’ Jeep at Rausch Creek to find the nice subtle, yet throaty exhaust note I’ve been looking for.

In years past, I would have just dropped off my Jeep at the exhaust shop, gone next door for a bite and waited for a call that said it was ready. But lately, I’ve been feeling a little bit of a Billy Bada$$ when it comes to my DIY projects, so I decided to tackle this one on my own. I mean, it’s a bolt on exhaust kit, how hard can it be, right? This set up looks fairly straight forward, install two pipes on a couple hangers with two clamps.

ImageWhen I got to step 1, remove the existing exhaust kit, my troubles began. I loosened all the clamps, applied a healthy dose of WD-40 at the connections, added a little force courtesy of a heavy rubber mallet, and I even tried a healthy dose of f-bombs to help the rubber mallet but that stock exhaust simply wasn’t budging! Unfortunately for that exhaust kit, I was feeling particularly annoyed AND motivated so I headed off to the store for a special tool that might help relieve my frustrations.

ImageDid you know that a Saw Zall is actually a brand name for a reciprocating saw made by Milwaukee Tools? But, if you’ve got no problem calling any copy machine a Xerox or ordering a Coke regardless of what they bring you, then yeah, you can call my new toy a Saw Zall. I installed the demolition blade called The Diablo (cue sinister laugh here!) and set off to make quick work of that pesky exhaust kit. As you can see, the dog totally approves of my handy work. As an added bonus, the exhaust is scrap parts now so I can just toss it rather than having it take up space in my garage for years while I find someone who wants to buy it!

ImageThe hard part in this whole thing really was removing the stock pipes. Once the old kit was outta the way, installing the new kit wasn’t that bad at all. Two clamps, a couple of hangers and we are good to go.

Image…or so I thought. Perhaps not everyone has had the same trouble I ran into, but my front exhaust clamp simply wouldn’t tighten down the connection. I adjusted the clamp, made sure the pipe was fitted properly, tightened again but still a leak. After fiddling with this for a few days and consequently snapping the clamp bolt, I decided it was time for something a little more… hearty.

ImageThese two HD clamps did the trick and fixed up that exhaust leak. The collar clamp works fine for the rear connection, but in the front it just didn’t cut it. The only other adjustment I had to make was rerouting my trailer wiring away from the pipe to keep it from melting any wires and the job is complete. I don’t have a rear shot b/c you really can’t see the exhaust at all unless you look up under the bumper. But I do have a video I put together where you can hear the stock exhaust with the Volant intake, then a quick shot of it with no exhaust b/c… well, why not! And it’s finished off with a shot of the installed kit.

It’s no longer actually as loud as the last part of the clip since I fixed the exhaust leak after I took the video. Now, once it warms up it sounds more like the one below, but I’m being a bit of a slacker and haven’t made an additional video yet.

The controversial CAI! – Volant’s 17636 PowerCore® Intake System

In the absence of any current mods, I’d like to take this opportunity to write about one other mod I’ve done recently. As with all my other mods, I did more than a little reading before deciding that there are, actually, some gains to be made out of installing a new intake on the 3.6L Pentastar engine. Sure, the dyno charts I saw for some open box tests were good but what really sealed the deal was looking at the OEM intake in all its glory and seeing just how hard it must be for the air to get from the outside, through the filter, and into the engine.

As I am a bit… (ahem) particular… I wanted a few specific things out of a new intake. First off, I didn’t want anything with a wide open filter. I love to play in the water waaaay too much to run an open filter and the risk of hydro-locking the engine just isn’t worth it. I liked the idea of a long life filter and I also didn’t want to discount the idea of a snorkel mod down the road. I compared products from AIRRAID, Banks, CORSA, K&N, and Volant. Unfortunately, K&N only offered an open filter set up, so they were off the table immediately. The Banks kit promises some excellent gains, but the inlet opening is almost like an open filter set up, so that’s out too. The AIRRAID kit shows promise, but there’s no chance of moving to a snorkel with this kit in later years. The Corsa & Volant kits look like they’ll both fit the bill. High intake locations that aren’t gigantic, long life filters, and the ability to convert to a snorkel kit down the road.

Comparing the Corsa & Volant kits, the only thing I could find different between the two was the price and the logo. I really and honestly can’t tell the difference between the designs other than the colors. I have to think the guy that designed the part for Corsa went to work for Volant and took the patent with him maybe? I found a stellar deal on the Volant kit on the internets and it arrived a few days later.

Volante1Removing the OEM intake is pretty darn easy. A flat head to undo the clamp at the throttle body and a socket (10mm maybe?) to remove two bolts holding it to the radiator and voila!

Volante2This little guy is a bastard! While easy to remove, make sure to be very, very careful not to bend or break it during re-installation in to the new intake tube. I think each one is $35 or so at the stealership?



Drop in the Air box (it just rests in place) which you should have assembled on your work bench (don’t over tighten the short screws holding on the cover!) and then with the air flow sensor installed; loosely fit the intake pipe using the supplied rubber grommets. Attach the clamps to the throttle body and fire it up! I haven’t dyno’d it, so I can’t claim any better/worse power. The butt dyno wants to say more power tho. I haven’t babied it, so I can’t claim better/worse MPG’s. But I can tell you for a fact that it sounds fantastic! When I get the engine really breathing, it sounds like a Corvette’s LS7 and when I lay off the throttle I can barely hear it in the cab. Other than the fact that it’s not helping my MPG’s courtesy of the amazing engine intake note, I’d have to say I’m really happy with it.


Starting, idling, and revving with the stock air intake

Starting, idling, and revving w/ the Volant PowerCore® Intake System

In cabin audio w/ the Volant PowerCore® Intake System – typical around town driving

In cabin audio w/ the Volant PowerCore® Intake System – gettin’ on it!