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The Volvo Parts, Accessories &
Performance Specialists Since 1963

Will I get more power from "bolt on" upgrades? Do "bolt on" parts need tuning?

Created on 2021-03-11, Last Updated on 2021-06-24

One of the most common performance questions we hear is “which parts modifications require custom tuning?” We hear a lot of opinions about this but the honest answer is pretty solid for Volvo models since 1999. The majority of bolt-on upgrades for these cars do not need tuning to make the car run correctly, but the engine should more easily reach the target torque levels.  You may need tuning if you want to take advantage of the added capabilities to generate more power.

First, you must understand that there are different kinds of parts. Your car measures the amount of air coming in (air mass meter), matches it with a predetermined amount of fuel (higher volume fuel injectors and pumps) and closes the loop by checking the resulting chemical composition of the burned gases after the turbocharger (oxygen sensor). If you change the size/flow of one of these systems then you have skewed all of the calibrations installed at the factory. Changing these calibrations will require significant modification to the mapping by a competent and careful tuner. Failure to do so may result in catastrophic issues that can significantly damage your engine. You have been warned!

But most typical performance modifications will not require this kind of mapping change.

Air-box and intake changes (that don’t adversely modify the proximity or function of air mass sensor), charge air piping, intercooler and intake manifold upgrades, exhaust manifold upgrades, downpipe (that retains the O2 sensors and catalyst) and exhaust system changes will not cause problems outside of the factory adaptation range. Even some turbocharger upgrades are on the table as possible.

However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t want tuning. While these changes may not require mapping to protect your engine, they will probably require tuning if you want to get the performance improvements you would normally expect. That’s just the way torque request cars work. Feel free to plod through our article about torque request systems if this seems contrary to you.

Let’s take a moment to look at tuning requirements from the other side of the logic.

i.e. Intercoolers: Your car came from the factory with an intercooler. At the outlet of the intercooler is a sensor which measures your intake air temperature after the intercooler. Some days (depending on ambient conditions) the intercooler will be far more effective than other days. Your car already makes changes for the quality of the air that comes to the engine. Most people can feel the additional power on cool damp days. Why would you need a different tune if the factory tune already adjusts for air quality? This would be like saying you need a different tune when the weather changes. Your intercooler upgrade may provide a greater quantity of cooling than the original factory unit, but the sensor is still measuring the temperature of the air after the intercooler so the effect is accounted for in normal torque request mapping.

By the same logic, your new hi-flo cone filter may possibly move more air than the factory air box but the air is measured by the air mass meter after the filter so it is accounted for. These cars have a remarkable amount of flexibility to protect your investment.

Disclaimer: There is no way that we can predict every kind of possible modification to your vehicle so we are just covering the basic concept here. There is no flux capacitor yet, but maybe there will be someday. Just ask yourself if the change you are making will change the air/fuel ratio to decide if tuning is required.

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