Performance Upgrades for the Chevrolet Suburbanby Dr. Samuel Helms
A number of performance upgrades exist for the Chevrolet Suburban; some improve both horsepower and fuel economy, while others sacrifice fuel economy in favor of increased horsepower. Depending on the type of performance you seek, upgrading the power control module, exhaust system and air intake can increase the power of the vehicle. You can also increase power in the Chevrolet Suburban by adding superchargers and turbos.
Cold-air intake upgrades improve the engine's ability to pull cold air into the engine. Extra-cool air means a greater compression in the engine's cylinders and a more complete, powerful ignition, which in turn boosts power and helps gas mileage. K&N makes a cold air intake performance filter (model 77-3070KP) for the Chevy suburban line. According to K&N, the improvement filter can add up to 9 horsepower. The model comes with a high-flow, cleanable air filter. Most cold air intakes are relatively easy to install but are illegal in some states (such as California).
Power Control Module
Power Control Modules (PCMs) are chips, sometimes programmable, that control how much fuel the vehicle injects into the cylinders of the engine. A PCM upgrade changes the signals to the engine so it receives more fuel, leading to increased horsepower but lower gas mileage. JET makes a PCM for the Chevy suburban models 20710 and 20710S that can increase power by 25 horsepower. The chips are legal in all 50 United States and are easy to install.
A supercharger, which runs using direct power from the engine, actively sucks in cold air and forcefully injects it into the engine. This action dramatically increases horsepower but reduces gas mileage, since some of the engine's power is going toward running the supercharger. Vortech makes a supercharger kit for Chevy trucks and suburbans.
A turbocharger, or turbo, is similar to a supercharger in that it forcefully injects air into the engine to boost horsepower. However, turbos increase gas mileage slightly since they do not run using direct power from the engine. Instead, turbos use the force of the exhaust to power the unit. Squires Turbo Systems (STS) makes several turbocharger kits, some of which fit any vehicle—including the Chevy suburban. Installing a turbo requires expertise but can increase horsepower up to 50 percent.
Headers and Exhaust
When the engine expels the exhaust gases, back pressure occurs when the exhaust requires energy to expel. This pressure reduces the energy the engine can deliver to power the vehicle. Headers mount to the top of the engine and increase the diameter of the exhaust pipes, making it easier for the Suburban's engine to remove exhaust, which increases horsepower and fuel economy. Performance exhaust systems increase the flow of exhaust from the vehicle. PaceSetter makes a series of headers for Chevy vehicles. Gibson makes a complete exhaust system with twin pipes (model 65572) that can, according to its site, increase fuel economy and add up to 20 horsepower.
- engine image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com