Performance Aftermarket Parts: Tuners, Air Intakes, Exhaust Systems, and More

When it comes to enhancing your engine's performance, aftermarket is the way to go. And boy do we have some great parts to upgrade everything from your intake to your exhaust, your ECU / PCM to your air filter. Whether you're looking to add horsepower or increase fuel economy, these products can give you what you want and open up your truck or Jeep's performance.

What Kinds of Performance Parts Do We Recommend and Offer?

We carry a number of fine performance and intake / exhaust aftermarket parts for Jeep and truck owners. Whether you're looking for a programmer or a monitor, an intake or just a filter, we have something in stock for you. The most common Performance parts we sell are:

  • Air Filters
  • Air Intake Systems (including Cold Air Intakes)
  • Exhaust Systems (cat-back, axle-back, muffler back, etc.)
  • Performance Programmers (tuners, chips, modules, and throttle controllers)

Let's run through some of the various uses and reasons to upgrade these stock parts with aftermarket ones.

Air Filters: Dry and Oiled

One of the first aspects new truck or Jeep owners should consider upgrading is their stock air filter. No matter what kind of vehicle you have, what size engine, or what trim level, your stock filter factory system would benefit from a replacement air filter of the aftermarket variety. For sure. No if's, and's, or but's about it, my friend.

The reason is simple. Stock air intakes and filters are designed to meet the bare minimum standards of air restriction while meeting the standards for filtration. Any time you try to just meet bare minimums, chances are you're missing out on something.

When OEM's consider the question of whether they should increase the cost of stock parts or save money by meeting the minimum, they almost always go for the money. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's where we come in--the aftermarket community. And when it comes to air filters, there's a lot of room for improvement.

When stock systems cut costs on air intakes, they start at the filter. It costs more to make a filter that is both really good at filtering tiny particles out of the air and not very restrictive too. So most stock vehicles have filters that are cheap, good at filtering, but very restrictive on air flow. An aftermarket system will try to maximize filtration and minimize air restriction.

And that's where great companies like K&N come in. Their air filters are designed to capture particles that are even smaller than what OEM versions can, and they are less restrictive too. This comes from better manufacturing, engineering, design, and just better materials too all around.

And let's be honest here, while the intake and exhaust systems of your vehicle are at the heart of it all, your car manufacturer isn't focused just on that one aspect. K&N is.

K&N offers both dry and oiled filters, most of them are reusable. We highly recommend the Blackhawk series, reusable air filters which don't require any oil ever.

What's the difference between an oiled filter and a dry one?

Oiled filters need to be washed and have oil reapplied periodically. Typically they are better at keeping air flow up while still filtering out nearly all pollutants from the air. Most dry filters aren't reusable and are one use only. K&N however offers their Blackhawk series which is reusable without oil. Dry filters require less maintenance than oiled. Most dry filters aren't quite as good at filtering tiny particles and they end up being more restrictive over time. However, reusable dry filters with high micron ratings are just as good as oiled filters as long as you wash them regularly using recommended methods.

We tend to recommend you go with oiled or a high quality dry like the Blackhawk over one-use only dry filters. Not only are those throw aways bad for the environment and more costly over time to you, but they also don't do as good of a job at any of the tasks your air filter is supposed to do. They restrict air flow. They don't filter as well, especially over time. And you'll have to replace them over and over and over again.

Save yourself some time, money, and improve your engine's performance with an aftermarket air filter from K&N.

Cold Air Intake Systems and Aftermarket Air Intakes

Couple your new air filter with a full system and you've got a complete aftermarket air intake. Typically, an air intake kit will come with both a filter and some new hoses or tubing which will help reduce restriction and improve filtration over stock components.

Just as air filters are often not as efficient stock, the entire air intake system often could use an upgrade too. First, stock piping or tubes are often too small, restricting air flow. Making matters even worse, they are often bent using the crimping method, meaning they will have little ripples or bumps that will also reduce air flow at any curved location or bend. Put this all together and you've got a very restrictive system, indeed.

Aftermarket cold air intakes remove all this restriction by increasing pipe diameter and using mandrel bending techniques which prevent the friction at the corners. Since your engine needs oxygen to run, the more oxygen you can get into each cylinder, the more power you get out.

This makes the intake and exhaust system like the lungs of your vehicle. Air flows in through the intake and out through the exhaust. The more efficiently it does so, the better your engine functions.

This is where the power gains such as horsepower and torque at the wheels come from. Your mass air flow and oxygen sensors make adjustments to how much fuel is needed in each cylinder based upon how much is coming in and how much oxygen isn't getting burned off. If more oxygen is escaping out the exhaust system, your ECU or engine control unit or computer unit, increases the fuel to oxygen ratio. The goal is to reach an equilibrium. You don't want to waste fuel, and you don't want to waste oxygen. It needs to be just right.

And when this ratio is perfectly balanced, then you get maximum power out of your engine. And the more oxygen you get in, to a point, the more fuel you can put in, thus the max power output is achieved. Badaboom!

Cold air intakes are so important because the colder the air is, the more molecules you can cram into each cylinder. This increases the amount of oxygen in each as well. And all of this will help your engine work properly, with the least amount of resistance, making your vehicle last longer over time.

If the air flow is restricted, part of the power being generated from each combustion of fuel and oxygen has to be used to act like a vacuum to suck more air in. If the air flow is not restricted, this can happen more naturally, and less power is wasted. However, that doesn't mean you just want the biggest possible pipes ever either. We still want some scavenging, which brings us to the Exhaust system.

Aftermarket Exhaust Systems, Mufflers, and Muffler Tips

Just as important as getting air into the system, Exhaust systems get the fumes out. And stock systems suffer from the exact same issues as stock intakes. The pipes are often too restrictive and the mufflers almost always are too. And when the exhaust fumes can't flow out easily, this creates something known as backpressure.

What is backpressure?

Backpressure is when the exhaust system is so restrictive due to friction (often caused by small pipe diameter and restrictive air flow through mufflers, catalytic converters, and DPF) that the engine has to use some of the power produced from each combustion to force the exhaust fumes out through the entire exhaust system. In other words, this robs your engine of power.

You often hear aftermarket enthusiasts talking about backpressure. Many guides even suggest that the best way to make sure you've eliminated all this backpressure is to go with the biggest exhaust pipes you can find. But let me tell you that is complete


Those who suggest such a thing are missing another vital part of the exhaust system. While you don't want a lot of restriction, you also don't want the air flow to be completely wide open either. You need to hit a sweet spot right in the middle so that you will create scavenging.

What is scavenging?

Scavenging is when your exhaust fumes perfectly fill the exhaust pipe volume and create a vacuum behind them as they head out of the engine. This vacuum helps the engine pull fresh air into each cylinder. In this way it is similar to a turbocharger. Your exhaust helps your engine run more smoothly by preventing the loss of power, power being used to pull fresh air in.

All of these parts work in tandem, creating your intake and exhaust system. And if they are working right, it will be easy for air to get in, and as fumes leave, the fresh air gets sucked in behind it and you get the most possible horsepower and efficiency out of your engine.

What are the different kind of exhaust systems?

There are several different kinds of aftermarket exhaust systems, though some are more popular than others, and some cost a lot and involve replacing more parts than others:

  • Header Back Exhaust
  • Turbo Back Exhaust
  • Downpipe Back Exhaust
  • DPF / Cat Back Exhaust
  • Axle Back Exhaust
  • Muffler Only

The most ideal exhaust involves a full aftermarket replacement, or a header back exhaust system. For obvious reasons, this tends to be the most expensive and most detailed and lengthy to do or install.

As we move down the list, the cost decreases and the amount of parts you have to replace goes down too. Depending on the amount of horsepower your engine is putting off, you may not have to upgrade your downpipe to maximize engine efficiency. For instance, if you have a single exhaust system and are getting around 300 HP you really don't need to go bigger than a 3 inch diameter pipe. And if you have a dual exhaust, unless if you're getting over 500 horsepower, you probably don't need to go bigger than 2 and a half inch diameter. We've got a full chart plus links to calculators to help you figure this stuff out over in our research center. But for now, if you're thinking about upgrading, just take a look at that downpipe. If it is in those ranges, that might not be the most important exhaust upgrade for you to make.

Instead, you might focus on the parts that are almost always the big restrictive elements: the catalytic converter and the muffler.

Warning: we do not recommend that you remove your DPF (diesel only) or your catalytic converter and replace them with a straight pipe. Not only is this illegal (except for off-road and racing use), but it also is not good for the environment or you, cause you're gonna be breathing that exhaust. Also, if you ever have to do emissions testing on your vehicle, we recommend you avoid this too cause you won't pass if you remove either.

Upgrading to an aftermarket cat or muffler will certainly help you increase efficiency by limiting restriction. These two tend to be the most restrictive elements in a stock exhaust anyway. If you opt for a downpipe back or DPF back exhaust system, you'll be paying less than a full replacement and you'll still be getting darn close to maximum horsepower gain.

We recommend you check out mufflers too and find the one that sounds the best to you. Magnaflow even has videos to let you check out the sound before you buy.

And once you have your exhaust system in order, or even before really, you should take a good long look at performance programmers and tuners.

Performance Programmers: Tuning Your Engine

One of the most important performance boosters is getting a tuner for your truck or Jeep. Performance programmers and tuners let you tap directly into your ECU (engine computer unit or control unit) or PCM (Powertrain Control Module) and make adjusts that change the way your engine functions. If you're looking to add immediate horsepower and torque at the wheels, then installing an aftermarket performance programmer is the way to do it.

What kinds of Performance Programmers or Tuners on are there?

There are a number of great performance tuners / programmers on the market today. Here is a general run down of the different types you might see on for sale in the US:

  • Handheld Tuners
  • Gauge Monitors
  • Touchscreen Programmers
  • Handhelds / Full Screen Tuners with PCM Swap
  • Full Programmer with Custom Tunes Available
  • Throttle Sensitivity Boosters / Throttle Response Controllers

What can a Performance Programmer or Tuner do for your vehicle?

Any full tuner or programmer likely comes with a small number of pre-loaded tunes designed to change your vehicle's performance in a number of ways. The most common types of pre-loaded tunes benefit or alter your engine function to these ends:

  • Boost Horsepower (Power)
  • Increase Torque (Towing)
  • Improve Fuel Economy (Eco or MPG)

Some tuners also come with extreme modes designed to push power even farther. And others have settings designed for city driving and lots of stop and go traffic. At the end of the day, most customers find that one or another pre-loaded tune tends to do what you want it to do.

With that being said, if you want true complete control over your engine, if you really want to unlock everything she has and make it function exactly the way you want, you'll want a full programmer that can also do custom tunes.

What are custom tunes for performance programmers?

If a tuner has the ability to load custom tunes, this means that your mechanic, or even you if you know your way around an engine and have the software, can load a specific custom tune. You can then make minute adjustments as you see fit to tune your engine to perform exactly the way you want it to.

Most of the time, placed and mechanics who do custom tuning use dynos and sophisticated software like DiabloSports CMR software to do so. If this all sounds like way too much for you, start with a regular tuner and try out some canned or pre-loaded tunes. Then if you like that, maybe consider stepping up to full custom tuning later.

Many racing enthusiasts and competition truck pullers use custom tunes like these, but others just want complete control of their ECU, and to that we say, why not?

However, in some states (specifically, California) most custom tuning like this is illegal except for on closed race tracks. For this reason, some of the products we sell cannot be shipped to California. We apologize for this in advance, but there really isn't much we can do about specific State laws outlawing such products. Do know that this tends to have to do with air quality and CARB certification, specifically. It is not that the State has found these products faulty or dangerous per se. But that they do not know what their effect will be on emissions testing, and honestly, that it is possible to tune in such a way that you will probably not pass California state emissions tests. You have been warned.

Throttle Controllers / Boosters

If tuning doesn't sound like something you'd like, but you want to be able to accelerate from a stop faster or just alter the way your pedal feels, you should try out a throttle response controller or sensitivity booster. These products are designed to alter how quickly your throttle opens up, making your vehicle accelerate faster or slower as you'd like.

You might also think of them as adjusting pedal feel. If you've ever had a vehicle that accelerated exactly as you wanted, so you liked how hard you had to get on the pedal to make her get up and go, but you don't have that on your current truck or Jeep, then these kinds of products are great for you. A throttle response controller, like the Pedal Commander, could be the perfect solution for making your truck drive just like you want it to. And you get pedal response without doing any custom tuning or programming at all too.

Gauge Monitors

Monitors are often paired with full screen tuners in these categories, and sometimes this is confusing for customers. A tuner lets your alter your vehicle's on-board software or ECU / PCM. A gauge monitor may look like a touchscreen tuner, but it just lets you monitor various PIDs or parameters using a visual gauge.

Many monitors allow you to customize what's on the screen, giving you access to various gauges that may not be available in your stock HUD. As an example, let's imagine that you're driving a truck that doesn't have an RPM gauge or an engine temperature gauge. With a gauge monitor you can set up your touchscreen to show both. Many monitors also have both digital and analogy display options, so you can monitor parameters as a number or a faux gauge with a little needle cause you're old school like that.

An important thing to remember about gauge monitors though is that they do not tune. So if you are looking at a monitor only and wondering why it is perhaps listed cheaper than the tuner that looks the same as it does, that is why. So keep that in mind when browsing monitors and tuners.

Handheld Tuners

Here's a quick note on handheld tuners. These devices plug into your OBD-II port just like all the other tuner / monitor products. However, handheld tuners are typically designed to tune your engine and then be unplugged and stored away somewhere. In other words, these devices typically aren't used while your vehicle is in motion or as a second set of gauges. Rather most enthusiasts use these affordable tuners to program their engines and then store them in the glove compartment or leave them at home someplace safe.

This is in contrast to most touchscreen tuners or programmers, which many customers mount on their dash or leave in the cab of the vehicle since they can double as gauge monitors too. This makes touchscreen or full screen tuners useful even when your vehicle is in motion.

There are certainly hybrids out there between these two types as well, and some truck owners use handhelds to monitor gauges as well. So each their own, of course. We're just giving you a quick overview here and generalities abound.

Some quick examples here are the Bully Dog BDX vs the GTX. The BDX is more of a handheld, while the GTX is a full tuner and monitor. LIkewise, DiabloSports InTune i3 is handheld, while their Trinity T2 is a full screen programmer and monitor. Typically, both will have the same or similar preloaded tunes, but one is better for use as a monitor and one is designed to be unhooked or unplugged when your driving.

PCM Swap

Some vehicles these days come with locked PCM's or ECU's. This means that the manufacturer of that vehicle has locked the on-board computer down so that these performance programmers can't alter any of the stock settings.

When this is the case, you'll notice if you have your vehicle information put into our website that you have to buy a tuner with the PCM swap instead of just the tuner itself. This means that we will ship you out a PCM that you will install in the place of the stock one. You then ship the stock PCM back to us in a pre-paid box (typically). You get a credit for this most of the time because the tuner manufacturer will take your stock PCM and reprogram it and send it to the next customer.

While this may sound tedious, we offer a number of great guides and YouTube videos along with the manufacturer's installation instructions that help make the process smooth. Unfortunately, PCM swaps are becoming ever more common as OEM's try to lock down their software. But we'll always have this option so you can still custom tune your engine the way you want it to be and run.

The Pulsar for Dodge Ram

And if PCM swaps sound like too much for you, you should consider products like the Pedal Commander and Edge's Pulsar. The Pulsar for Dodge Ram trucks is designed to bypass your PCM completely. It mounts onto the OEM computer or PCM under your hood and allows you to make adjustments to your engine via your stock cruise control. More of these amazing innovations are coming to market all the time, so don't be discouraged. And if you need any help at all, our friendly US based customer service team is always a phone call away.

We hope you find all the great performance products you need for your truck or Jeep right here at Midwest Aftermarket. We'll ship it fast and free to the lower 48 States. Give us a call or place an order via our website today.


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