'96 Trans AM WS6 performance increase needed, any advice? - LS1LT1 Forum : LT1, LS1, Camaro, Firebird, Trans Am, Engine Tech Forums

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Old 04-26-2011, 10:28 AM   #1
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Smile '96 Trans AM WS6 performance increase needed, any advice?

I have a stock 96 WS6 with an LT1 engine, and am looking to somehow increase performance. I have a friend who mentioned installing headers on it, and I've heard of upgrading the chip in it too. I'm new to this whole thing and was hoping to get some advice on the easiest ways to improve my engine performance. What are the first few things that I need to do?
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Old 04-26-2011, 10:32 AM   #2
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Headers, Long Tubes if you don't have to worry about emission laws. You will probably also need a new y-pipe system and cat back so it can get pricey fairly quickly.

Final drive gear, improves acceleration in exchange for less gas mileage. Not an instal recommended for the amateur mechanic.

After that it may be wise to get a tune, unless you want to go further which can gain you 25 - 40 horse powers and turn off any emission codes you accumulated. A "chip" is a bad term with these OBD cars.

After that it's kind of in the air of what you want to do, I stuck with suspension mods.

Pics of said 96 WS6 TA?
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Old 04-26-2011, 10:52 AM   #3
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Wow I need to learn this language a little better. Past changing my own oil I don't know much. I'm definitely an amateur when it comes to engines but looking to improve! I'm not sure of the emission laws in MN, but which part of what you mentioned might not be in line with emission laws? What did you mean by OBD cars? How much would it help to upgrade to a K&M filter for the ram air? What did u mean by get a tune, just a tune up? I apologize for my ignorance
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Old 04-26-2011, 12:23 PM   #4
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Nice car! You really won't see anything from the K&N air filter except the ability to clean the filter instead of replacing it.
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:14 PM   #5
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Go for the cheap/free things first. You can bypass the coolant to the throttle body(free), change to a 160 t-stat, air foil in the throttle body, K&N. Also depends on mileage if you need to change spark plugs/wires.

Then you can worry about headers and exhaust.

First you need to know what are your goals with the car?

FWIW, I ran 13.18@104.9 with K&N, 160 t-stat, SLP air foil, 4.10 gears, and a HPP+ to correct the speedo. That was with the stock GSC's back in '97 at MIR. I think I had 6K miles on it at that time.
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Old 04-26-2011, 03:25 PM   #6
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I don't have any aspirations of racing it, just want to start with some quick, cheap and easy adjustments to get a little better performance and who knows, once I start learning I may become obsessed and want to do more Can you tell me a little more about the adjustments you mentioned and what they will accomplish?
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Old 04-26-2011, 03:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trans_am_WS6 View Post
I don't have any aspirations of racing it, just want to start with some quick, cheap and easy adjustments to get a little better performance and who knows, once I start learning I may become obsessed and want to do more Can you tell me a little more about the adjustments you mentioned and what they will accomplish?
you will like the headers, BUT its not something easy quick or cheap
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Old 04-26-2011, 04:05 PM   #8
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MN huh? Neat, they have no emission laws. I only know this because I'm moving there between Min and St Paul. Your car looks similar to mine, very nice. I would not recommend a throttle body bypass is it's more than often going to start in cold weather than warm. A 160* thermostat will do nothing in cooling or performance wise unless you get a tune afterwards, and anyways, a car running that cold is mostly for race purposes. The air foils are negotiable and are said to give you +2 rwhp for around $50, but meh, id rather have $50 in gas with todays prices. I assume since you have the WS6 LT1 you have the ram air box. In that case I my swing the $50 towards the K&N filter because those paper ones aren't exactly cheap. I've been running my K&n for 7 years now.

As for mods, if you have a garage and another car I would say save that for the cold winters. Your car is great looking and enjoy the warm weather you have coming!
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Old 04-26-2011, 04:56 PM   #9
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I gave what worked for me and backed it up with results. Bypassing the throttle body won't hurt, it has to get incredibly cold before it would ice over. Colder than you think. 160 t-stat will allow the coolant to stay cooler longer. Only excessive idling with negate the advantages because the fans aren't tuned for it. Air foils don't really show up on a dyno because you aren't moving.

Obviously, those couple of mods made my car perform very well.
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Old 04-26-2011, 07:25 PM   #10
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I'm not arguing that it doesn't work. In fact a TB by pass and 160 thermo stat tuned to the fans would be great in a track environment, however, not if it's driven on the road regularly. Living in MN I would believe it's a bad idea, it gets horribly cold over there. This is why I have never done those mods as my car is a DD.

Those times are indeed outstanding, however, the low miles and the 4.10 gears may have more to do with that. It has been proven that a 160 thermostat and TB Bypass saves two tenths in the quarter mile (I forget the thread but it's here on this forum). You're probably an outstanding driver as well. I know I couldn't do that!
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Old 04-26-2011, 10:21 PM   #11
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I'll answer this man's questions on terminology:

OBD- stands for "On Board Diagnostics". It's what General Motors came up with to help diagnose problems with modern day cars. (As in 1980's modern day). OBD I (one) came out in the 1980's and lasted through 1995 and parts of 1996. OBD II was the "next generation" of diagnostics beginning in 1995-1996 and beyond. Your 1996 Trans Am WS6 may have either OBD I or OBD II.

Getting a chip vs. having your computer "tuned"-
If you get a chip from a company like Hypertech; you get this pre-programmed chip that you stick into your Powertrain Control Module (PCM). Companies like that advertise a power increase (say 20 horsepower) if you buy their product. There is a stipulation though: you have to change your thermostat (usually from 180 degrees to 160 degrees) to a different temperature because the chip is programmed to work best with the 160 degree thermostat.
Getting a "tune" is different than getting a chip. When you get a tune; you actually send the chip that is in your PCM to a person who custom programs it according you what you have done to your vehicle. You can also get a tune by actually driving your Trans Am to a shop that specializes in tunes instead of sending it via mail or something. Getting a tune will almost always give you more power than a chip.

Air foil- is used to direct the air in a more uniform manner and is theoretically supposed to give you a couple horsepower. It's usually not worth the money.

Throttle body bypass- hot coolant runs through the throttle body and makes the air warmer as it enters the engine. The cooler the air is... the better. You can bypass it and thus have colder air going into the engine... thus you gain a couple more horsepower!

Like xDetroitMetalx said; a gear swap in the rear end of the car will allow for quicker acceleration... but at the sacrifice of gas mileage because you're revving at a higher RPM afterwards (say for example you're at 1500 RPMs at 50 MPH in 5th gear before the change versus 2300 RPMs at 50 MPH in 5th gear afterwards).

Exhaust terminology-
Exhaust manifolds- usually made of cast iron and is usually very restrictive from the factory.
Headers- aftermarket replacement for exhaust manifolds that are a lot less restrictive and "frees up" horsepower that you did not have before.
Cats- stands for CATalytic converter. Your Trans Am may have one or it may have two. It's mainly for emissions. It is also restrictive like the exhaust manifolds. So it stands to reason... if you can eliminate the catalytic convertors altogether (or get something called "high flow cats") then you gain even more horsepower!!
Y-pipe- This connects both sides of the exhaust manifolds (after the cats) into one larger pipe (hence the pipe is in the shape of a "Y"). A lot of exhaust systems require you to use an aftermarket y-pipe because of fitment issues with headers or something similar. Also the aftermarket ones are larger in diameter than the ones from the factory... hence once again; less restriction.
Cat-back system- is simply a term used when you get an exhaust system that includes everything you need from the catalytic converters all the way to the muffler (and sometimes tailpipes depending on who you go with). There are a bunch of different systems that all sound different... so pick your poison...

The thing to remember about an engine is this: it's essentially a massive air pump. The more air you can get in and get out of there as possible... the more horsepower you create. The beginning of this is the intake and the exhaust systems.
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Old 04-27-2011, 09:34 AM   #12
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Thank you all for your help! I have a couple more questions. First of all, this car never sees winter, so bypassing the throttle body with the coolant wouldn't be an issue. Is this something I could do myself or need to get done by someone? Is there an easy explanation of how to do it?

I've been reading posts of what people do to their cars and someone said they put in an msd 6A ignition box. Is that a good idea and what would it accomplish?

I purchased a k&m filter for my ram air box, but I've also seen people who say they put on a K&N fipk system. Is that something that replaces the ram air system and is it worth it?

Can you give me an idea of how much each of these would cost, and the added horsepower I would get?
Headers
y-pipe
cat-back system
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Old 04-27-2011, 09:50 AM   #13
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Your ram air box is a very rare item. They only made it for two years and people want them. I would keep it based off of just that fact. In addition you are receiving air from outside and absolutely none inside the engine bay because the box is sealed because of the hood. This is really the ultimate cold air intake, in my opinion. Also, there are no bends from the intake box to the intake manifold, therefore air flows easily and true. The only upgrade would be an LS1 LID system but I'm not sure if anyone has proven that one is better than the other. If the LS1 LID is indeed better, I wouldn't think by much. Keep the box and know that you're car is very rare for having one.

I wouldn't be to keen on MSD things quite yet. Your car is 100% stock and probably won't see a benefit to the box. I've also read some negative things about them, but I've never researched that item myself yet.

The bypass is extremely easy, however, you must proceed with extreme caution as the lines can poor coolant on your Optispark. Your Optispark is very important. It's a blessing and yet it's a nightmare. Many people hate them but they only hate them because they never took the time to understand them. If you don't know what it is I would highly recommend doing a google search and search here for other threads about it. Once you understand this unit and treat it with respect it will treat you with respect as well.

A great site to visit is shbox.com, this is an LT1 owners haven for pictures, diagrams and explanations. Shoebox also posts on here quite frequently. If you need to reference anything quickly this is the site to visit. For example, here is a quick explanation of a TB Bypass on that site: http://shbox.com/1/tb_bypass.jpg
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Old 04-27-2011, 10:52 AM   #14
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I just got off the phone with a guy from the muffler center, and he said he would go with a dynomax cat-back system and an upgraded cat to increase flow. It would run probably $800 total installed. He also said he wasn't a huge header guy because of the bottleneck you get at the cat and high quality headers are very expensive. He said for the money he would go with the upgraded cat and cat back system. Does that make sense and is the price right? Are dynomax exhaust systems good?
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Old 04-27-2011, 11:00 AM   #15
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doing any exhaust work and leaving the exhaust manifolds stock your really shooting yourself in the leg IMO... start with headers first... and move back from their. Its been pretty much proven throughout time that Headers are your best bang for ur buck HP... My car has Edelbrock headers... and i can't tell a lick of difference between those or PaceSetters... Or headmens... in performance. especially for a daily driver. you dont' need to do a full exhaust setup... whats stock pipe size on these? 2.5 or 3"... either way 3" pipe and duals isn't totally necessary until your really turning 6500 plus rpm's... even a 5.7 doesn't push that much air that 3" duals is required.... I would do this... Cat Deletes... cheaper than buying high flow cats if you don't have emmissions... however KEEP THOSE CATS... their pricey to buy later if you want to go back stock... have a muffler shop do this... usually the shady ones don't ask questions about it... get headers... and replace stock muffler... you will likely need a Y pipe however so MY opinion would be...

1: headers
2: y pipe (if necessary)
3: cat delete
4: new muffler (read reviews and listen to different ones for your preferance, mine is flowmaster 80 series, LOVE it....)
5: K/N air filter in your STOCK box... keep it its sexy!
6: Cam it... 280 or so for cam... bit more for lifters/springs...etc...
7: get a tune... that will definatly make that puppy a neck jerker...

regearing the rear will only amplify this... regearing is usually kinda pricey due to the labor... expect 3-500 for a set of gears... plus installation by a GOOD PROFESSIONAL.... exhaust work is always cheaper than actual engine parts... but their are a few freebies you can do... TB coolant bypass.... if your MAF has the goofy screen you can GENTLY remove it... a lot of the times... new plugs/wires can make a big difference too.... if they are older... 60K+ mileage on them and i'd replace

I've gotten to the point where all of this minus cam/tune has been done on my car... i have to start working inside the engine and its not cheap....
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