How to Add More Horsepower and Torque

Updated on Aug 28, 2023

Written by
 RealTruck Expert Team

Dissatisfied with the lackluster performance of your ride? You don’t have to settle for your vehicle’s out-of-the-box performance offerings. The automotive aftermarket is flooded with products engineered for one purpose—more power!

Programmers, exhaust systems, cold air intakes, and more help to significantly increase your truck’s horsepower and torque, translating to better acceleration, improved throttle response, and an overall more enjoyable and capable driving experience. But how?

In this article, our experts at RealTruck provide some clarity on your truck’s performance, including what exactly horsepower and torque measure, which modifications have the greatest impact on these variables, and why.

Before delving into which modifications best improve horsepower and torque, let’s first cover the basics; exactly, what are these measurements? And how do they translate to driveability?


Horsepower is a derivative of torque, meaning that the measurement can’t exist without the existence of torque in the first place. Confused? Well buckle up; it’ll get worse before it gets better.

Mathematically, the formula for measuring horsepower looks a little something like this: H = T x RPM/5252, where H = horsepower, T = torque in pound-feet, and 5252 is a little magic variable that grants us a final value in foot-pounds.

Taking a step back, what exactly is one horsepower equal to? Is it the power of one single horse?

Not precisely; a single horse can actually produce around 15 horsepower worth of energy; an adult person is closer to a single horsepower. One horsepower is defined as 33,000 ft/lbs. of work per minute, or the power necessary to lift a total mass of 33,000 pounds one foot in one minute.

So, at peak RPMs, your F-150’s 400 horsepower is equal to approximately 13,200,000 ft/lbs. of work per minute, or around 6,000 really strong horses. In layman’s terms, horsepower measures how fast an engine can accomplish work or apply the torque it produces over a set distance, which makes more horsepower a good thing.

More horsepower simply means that your truck can apply its energy faster and more efficiently, allowing you to reach and maintain higher top speeds.


Since we’ve already mentioned torque in the previous section, we won’t have to unpack it quite as much here.

Torque is a measurement of the rotating force applied by your engine’s crankshaft–measured in pound-feet–at a particular RPM. Traditionally, engines reach peak torque at lower RPMs than peak horsepower, meaning that torque is more effective lower in the RPM band while horsepower is more effective higher in the RPM band. As a result, torque plays a larger role in acceleration, while horsepower plays a larger role in top speed.

When it comes to driveability, torque helps with your truck’s ability to produce power; it’s what’s responsible for the low RPM “grunt” of an engine.

Typically, the more torque, the easier it is to get a heavy vehicle moving–like your pickup. Torque also helps when climbing grades, making it an essential factor for towing or hauling.

In the simplest terms, horsepower is suitable for racing, while torque is good for working.

How to Increase Horsepower and Torque

You can't have one without the other regarding increasing horsepower and torque with simple bolt-on modifications. While different, these two values are interconnected. 

So what modifications are best to increase your pickup’s horsepower and torque? Check out our top picks below!

One of the most popular and effective performance modifications is installing a programmer or tuner.

Rather than making physical changes to your pickup’s powertrain, programmers work by modifying specific parameters in your engine’s computer, such as ignition timing, fuel injector pulse, and fuel rail pressure.

Altogether, these alterations increase your engine’s efficiency, thus producing massive, dyno-proven performance gains across diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles; gains experienced by diesel-powered pickups are typically more substantial.

Several tuners and programmers offer additional benefits beyond performance, including digital gauge monitoring. This feature lets drivers keep an eye on crucial parameters such as RPM, boost (on forced-induction applications), fuel rail pressure, transmission temperature, and more!

Installation is also a breeze, in most cases taking only minutes to utilize your vehicle’s OBD2 port. From there, simply select your tune, wait for the tuner to apply the changes, and reap the performance benefits!

All internal combustion engines require three key ingredients to operate: fuel, air, and an ignition source. In gas-powered applications, these three components are gasoline, air, and spark, while diesel-powered applications require diesel, air, and compression; notice how one component didn’t change?

Airflow is arguably the most crucial component of combustion, which is precisely why cold air intakes exist. Cold air intakes replace your pickup’s restrictive factory airbox and filter, ditching the factory components for performance-engineered alternatives.

Parts such as oversized air boxes, larger diameter intake piping, and conical engine air filters funnel mass amounts of air into the engine, optimizing combustion and, thus, increasing horsepower and torque.

Just as important as the rate air enters an engine is the rate at which it evacuates through the exhaust; unfortunately, many OE manufacturers opt for small-diameter piping and restrictive resonators/mufflers. While limiting noise and droning, factory exhaust systems also drastically reduce efficiency.

As a result, one of the best ways to unlock horsepower and torque is by replacing your truck’s smothering factory exhaust with a performance-optimized system.

Most aftermarket exhausts focus on improving airflow, utilizing large-diameter piping and minimally restrictive resonators and mufflers. Since more air can evacuate the exhaust, the engine can inhale more, producing noticeable horsepower and torque gains.

While you can replace nearly the entire exhaust system on pre-emissions vehicles, post-emissions applications replace only the emissions-back. On gasoline-powered trucks, cat-back systems replace the exhaust from the catalytic converter to the exhaust tip. DPF-back systems replace the exhaust from the diesel particulate filter to the exhaust tip on diesel applications.

As always, check out RealTruck’s extensive catalog for all your performance needs. We offer top brands and products to unlock your ride’s true power potential.

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