Budget Mods 101
Performance on Pennies


First off, get a factory service manual by Helms if you don’t already have one. That way, when you don’t know exactly how to do anything mentioned here, it can tell you. It will also help you troubleshoot and diagnose any problems that come up---worth its weight in gold. You can get aftermarket manuals but they are not as good, but something is better than nothing.
Do a basic tune up. The 60k mile tune up is pretty comprehensive if it’s been a while, this may provide some minor power improvements that have slowly degraded over time/ miles.
This would also be a good time to examine the health of your engine. Is it burning excessive oil? Does it have good compression?
If it doesn’t pass muster or is even borderline, you might want explore the option of swapping the engine for a relatively healthy one. This is especially true if you have a HF or DX model. These models make less horsepower than the Si and one could argue it’s not worth pouring $1000 into an engine that’s either headed south or will have minimal returns on your investment.

And before running off willy-nilly with a credit card or hacksaw, examine the benefits, associated cost, and any drawbacks. Research it, form a plan, and stick to it.

Modifying your car can get expensive in a hurry, the following tips will concentrate on extracting the greatest amount of horsepower/performance while giving you some options on cost.

The engine is nothing more than a glorified air pump. Get more air in and out and you get more power. Every 11 degrees you drop the incoming air temperature, you get a 1 % Hp gain. So the goal is more air, the colder the better. And since the temperature gets as hot 140-170 degrees under the hood, we’ll be looking elsewhere for our intake charge.

    Option 2…AEM Cold Air Intake DIY
    Cost: about $65-75

      Want one but can’t handle the $225 price tag? The AEM unit has been dyno proven on several different cars to produce up to 15hp improvements. It does this by sticking a big cone filter in the space formerly occupied by that useless resonator. This can be a bad location for the filter if you live in an area that rains/floods a lot. If that filter sucks in enough water (like being submerged)…bye bye engine. AEM has recently developed a bypass valve that would prevent this. It can be added to any AEM unit (or copy in our case) but costs an extra $40.
      Follow these directions. They’re from a del sol but can be applied here.

Exhaust System
Okay, we got the intake covered but we need to get rid of the exhaust gases. So from block to tip, you need to look at the header, catalytic converter, muffler/ tip. There’s a million different options for these so you may find things better priced or no longer available etc.

Muffler- I suggest only muffler/ axle back and not a full cat back system because Mugen (THE Honda perf authority) has found on several models that including a new B-pipe provides little or no improvements over the stock B pipe. Of course, this doesn’t stop just about every manufacturer of full exhaust systems from including the B pipe and passing on the accompanying expense.

    Option 1…Custom cheap
    Cost: about $90

      Pick up a Thrush or Cherry Bomb aftermarket, inexpensive, hi flo muffler and tip at Pep Boys/ Autozone/ O’ Reillys etc parts store and take it to a muffler shop and have them weld the appropriate pipes on and slap it on your car. It will flow better but the trade off is the noise. Like a lawnmower. Longevity is questionable.

    Option 2…bolt on rear section
    Cost: $250-300

      I particularly like the 5zigen Border model and Manchester Honda mail order has a nice no name bolt on section for the CRX. Very clean, easy install. Louder than stock but tastefully so.

    Option 3…If you still want a full catback exhaust.
    Cost: $435

      Thermal full Stainless steel exhaust systems…best quality to dollar ratio out there. Loud.

    Option 4…Full catback but quiet and stock like appearance.
    Cost: $550

      HKS with the dual tips

Catalytic Converter- Some people may be surprised that I would include this but this part eventually clogs up as the miles accumulate and can strangle a perfectly good exhaust system.

    High-Flow Cat
    Cost: $100

      From Summit Racing mail order. Direct fit, bolt on.

Header- unfortunately I haven’t found a cheap header that’s worth the time and money. Your best bet is used parts or groupbuys online. I like the Kamikazee and Chikara units because their cost is relatively low but I’ve seen them work well in real world conditions. Whatever you get must be stainless steel or ceramic coated. Painted mild steel is a no-no. I’ve heard consistently bad things about Brospeed and Pacesetter.


Short Shifter- A definite must. If you’ve ever laid your hands on a Miata shifter, that’s the ideal feel in my book.

    Option 1…Make your own
    Cost: $68

      Step 1…Get a new knob that’s shorter. I got a Momo short anatomic for $35 from Options Auto Salon. Its shorter than the stock knob by about an inch.
      Step 2…Take off your old knob. It just unscrews. Get out the hacksaw and take about 1.5” off the lever. Take care to keep the metal shavings from getting down in the boot. Use a piece of duct tape or something.
      Step 3…Attach new knob. It looks and feels way better than stock. But we’re not done yet.
      Step 4…Get an Energy Suspension Polyurethane shift stabilizer and install it. I got mine from Summit for about $11.
      Step 5…Refill your transmission with Redline MTL. This stuff feels great if your transmission has some wear, but if its good as new you won’t be amazed at the difference, but it’s still noticeable.

    Option 2…Buy one of the less expensive ones. I’ve seen Neuspeeds advertised for about $90. Hurst too. But you still have the old stock knob and old tranny fluid so I prefer Option 1.

Wheels and Tires- everybody wants wheels, and tires certainly help. Whatever you do here, its best to maintain the same diameter tire/wheel combo as stock.
IMPORTANT: lighter is better. The stock crx rim weighs about 17.x lbs. So whatever type wheel you get, if it’s any heavier, it will hinder acceleration. Just ask any science guy about rotating mass. And if you get a bigger wheel, it’s going to require a bigger (read:heavier) tire.

    Option 1…tires are THE best mod you can make. Not only in performance but safety too.
    Cost: varies

      1…You can replace your old tired rubber with something nice but remain stock sized. In 185-60-14, I recommend Dunlop D60A2 for variable weather all around good tires. For a more performance oriented tire, the Yokohama AVS Intermediates.
      2…Still on the stock rim, you can mount 195-55-14 tires. A little more of a rare size so it costs a little more but you get a wider patch of rubber for slightly more hold in corners.

    Option 2…wheels
    Cost: varies

      I’m more about performance than looks but still like a nice style or clean design. So I stick with 15”. Not to big to add unwanted, unsprung weight but big enough to improve contact patch, decrease sidewall and improve appearance. And since I’m all about quality, no cheap aftermarket wheels from China for me.
      So look for 94-00 Integra or 99-00 Civic Si wheels. Typically, they can be found for $300-450. At $450, you should get a set of tires in decent shape too. They can be found at www.thepartstrader.com, ebay, salvage yards, or local speed shops that have them left over after upgrading their customers to 16”, 17” and 18” monstrosities. There’s several styles to choose from, so find some you like and start hunting.

Springs and Shocks- a lot of people drop their ride with lower springs because they either like the way it looks or feel it is a performance improvement because it lowers the center of gravity. You can argue it either way. So when the car is lowered with stiffer springs, the ride becomes more firm, or is even called harsh by some. I would suggest taking a ride in a lowered car before shelling out for a set of springs and form your own conclusion. Whatever you chose, this is going to become the personality of the car and is not easily changed if you don’t like it…so be sure you get what is right for you.

Thanks daven, for another great articles for those new to community.