There are many ways to improve the sound of your car – but which ones are actually affordable? 🙂 All the ways I will show you are cheap and will greatly improve your car sound (some are even free).
How Is Car Sound Generated?
Before we get into it, we must first understand how car sound is generated in the first place. You see – to generate power, your car creates combustion by mixing air and fuel in the combustion chamber.
These combustions are small explosions that generate sound waves – which travel through your exhaust system and exit the car.
As the sound waves travel the exhaust system, they go through mufflers and resonators – whose job is to silence the sound waves. You see – engine sound is sexy for us car enthusiasts 🙂
For the vast majority, the quieter the car, the better. This is why car manufacturers try to silence the sound as much as possible.
If you want a more aggressive engine sound (especially for cheap), you must tweak the components that are silencing the sound. These are the mufflers, resonators and exhaust pipes.
With that being said, let’s go through the best and cheapest ways to improve car sound. I will also include the average price and why you should choose each of them 🙂
We go from the most expensive to least expensive.
1. Cold Air Intake ($200)
What is a cold air intake?
The idea behind a cold air intake is that if the car sucks in colder air, then car performance can improve. Cooler air is more dense and contains more oxygen – which helps in creating more powerful combustion.
Cold air intake re-routes how your car takes in air. Instead of taking hot air within the engine bay, a cold air intake takes cooler air below the engine bay, closer to the wheels. Furthermore, cold air intake is more open and less restrictive than stock air intake. This means much more air can flow into the engine when you drive.
Surprisingly, the increased air flow also impacts the sound of your car. Take a listen to this video from 3:59 onward to hear exactly what I am talking about. A cold air intake is personally my favorite performance mod because of the sound it produces.
Should you purchase a cold air intake?
You purchase a cold air intake if you enjoy the unique sound it produces and you want a slight performance boost. Here are the pros of a cold air intake:
- Unique engine sound produced when you accelerate
- Provides additional 20-30 horsepower
- Looks cool in the engine bay
Cold air intake is relatively expensive when you compare it with the list in this article. However, it’s cheap if compared with other performance mods like exhaust and turbos.
Choosing a cold air intake
For the best performance and quality, I recommend the K&N cold air intake. I go in more detail about that in this article. If all you look for is the sound, then you don’t need the K&N – any cheaper cold air intake can provide the same sound. However, I still recommend you to get the K&N cold air intake because I believe purchasing performance mods from a reputable brand is extremely important. It saves you tons of problems and headaches in the long run.
Average price : $200
2. Performance Muffler ($80)
What is a performance muffler?
Performance mufflers do not silence the sound waves as much and instead tweak them to sound more aggressive. If you cut open a regular muffler, you can see it has lots of metal plates and chambers. These are used to make sound waves bounce into each other and cancel out.
If you cut open a performance muffler, you will notice that it’s more hollow with lesser platings. This allows the sound waves to exit the car without being silenced as much – resulting in louder engine sound. Also, the hollow-ness of a performance muffler allows exhaust gases to exit easily. This helps in improving car performance and horsepower – only by a slight amount though.
Should you purchase a performance muffler?
You purchase a performance muffler when you want the safest option. Performance mufflers will improve your car sound without any negative impacts. Here are the pros of a performance muffler:
- Guaranteed to improve car sound
- Usually made of stainless steel – no rusting problem
- Usually has a long warranty. (> 5 years)
You should not purchase a performance muffler if you expect an improved performance. Installing a performance muffler alone will not cause a big enough difference to increase horsepower. Purchase it only for the sound improvement. Period.
Note: If you are driving on the street, make sure your performance muffler is legal in your state! Some are so loud that it’s illegal.
Here’s a before after video for you.
Choosing a performance muffler
My recommended performance muffler is the Flowmaster Super 40 – the reasons are covered in this article. To summarize – the most important aspect when choosing a performance muffler is the sound difference. Some are ridiculously loud, some are quiet, and some make your car sound like a tractor.
When looking for performance mufflers make sure to listen to any before-after recordings. Searching for customer feedback from forums is also a great idea. Also make sure the muffler is legal in your area. Some mufflers are ridiculously loud that they become illegal on the streets. Check out my recommendation article to know all the criteria in a performance muffler.
The price depends on your car model but a good quality performance muffler from a reputable brand costs around $80.
Average price : $80 (Without installation cost)
3. Resonator Exhaust Tip ($30)
What is a resonator exhaust tip?
Resonator exhaust tip works the opposite as a muffler. Earlier I mentioned that mufflers consist of plates and chambers that bounce sound waves against each other so they cancel out. Resonator exhaust tip causes the sound waves to vibrate in a way that makes them sound louder. Resonator exhaust tip is an easy install that you can just clip on your exhaust tail.
Should you purchase a resonator exhaust tip?
You purchase a resonator exhaust tip if you absolutely do not have the budget but still want a louder sound. Here are the pros of a resonator exhaust tip:
- Affordable at only $30
- Easy to install – just clip it on your exhaust pipe
- Visible on the outside – makes your car looks better
- Legal on all states
Don’t expect your car to sound super loud after installing a resonator exhaust tip. It will definitely change the sound – making it more aggressive with a deeper note.
But it won’t be light and day. For $30, I think it’s definitely worth the price. Here are resonator exhaust tips from Amazon. There are plenty – just make sure the size fits.
Here’s a before after sound video for you.
Here’s an installation video from YouTube.
Average price : $30
4. Muffler Delete ($15)
What is muffler delete?
Muffler delete is completely removing your muffler from the exhaust system. This means cutting off the muffler from the exhaust and then weld a pipe to the exhaust pipe to replace the missing muffler.
After a muffler delete, your car will sound significantly louder and more aggressive.
However, you need to ensure it’s legal in your state. Some states like California dictate that you should have at least one sound suppressing device in your vehicle.
Most cars come with a muffler and resonator in the exhaust – which means removing the muffler will still be technically legal. Ensure your car has a resonator before performing a muffler delete.
Should you muffler delete?
You should perform muffler delete if you want the most significant sound change with the least budget.
Muffler delete is free if you can perform it yourself. All you need to purchase is a pipe that you can weld in place of the missing muffler. This costs about $15 – $20.
Here’s an exhaust intermediate pipe from Amazon. I have personally used this without any issue.
Here’s a YouTube video showing you how to perform a muffler delete.
Average price : $30 (For the pipe replacement)
5. Drill Holes In Exhaust ($10)
How does drilling holes in exhaust improve sound?
This method works surprisingly well. The idea is to drill some holes in your exhaust pipe right before the muffler. By doing this, you allow some of the sound waves to exit the car before they are silenced by the muffler.
This results in a more aggressive sound but still not so loud because the majority of the sound waves would still go through the muffler. Though, you have to be careful where you drill the holes.
How and Where should I drill the holes in exhaust?
As I mentioned, you have to drill holes in the exhaust pipe right before the muffler. Ensure that these holes are not before the catalytic converter because you could release toxic gases into the air. Also ensure that the holes are not before the O2 sensor – this can cause a misreading by the sensor and makes your car waste fuel.
As for the drilling, all you need is a drill (duh) and ⅜ inch drill bit. Proceed to drill 3-6 holes around the exhaust pipe before the muffler. See the illustration below. I cover drilling holes in your exhaust in this article. Check it out before you do any drilling yourself!
Here’s a YouTube video showing you how to drill the holes.
Should you drill holes in exhaust?
You should do this if you absolutely do not have budget and have a drill laying around in your house. The process is straightforward and the impact is immediate. Though, if you have about $30, I recommend you to go for the resonator exhaust tip instead. Holes in your exhaust can cause rusting and damage your exhaust pipe.
Average price : $10 (For the ⅜ drill bit)