How to Add Horsepower to a GMC Sierra
How To

How to Add Horsepower to a GMC Sierra

As far as the best US-made pickup trucks go, GMC Sierra is one of the most reliable, dependable, and powerful nameplates out there. So, what kind of an upgrade should you invest in if you’re a long-time owner of this vehicle? Statistically, most drivers want to get more torque, throttle response, and, of course, horsepower. HP is what we’ll concentrate on today, as there’s more than enough aftermarket gear to provide a decent boost.

Cold air intake systems, tuners/programmers, and exhaust systems are my all-time favorites. The market is full of third-party parts specifically designed, manufactured, and tuned for the Sierra. That means you won’t have any problems with the installation process and the truck’s performance will be greatly improved. Without further ado, let us dive right in and talk about it all in more detail.

Improve Filtration Efficiency with an Air Kit

How to Add Horsepower to a GMC SierraI want to start our list of the best aftermarket upgrades for the Sierra with an intake system. Also known as a Cold Air Intake, it excels at two things. Most importantly, an air kit includes an intake tube that greatly improves the airflow in the engine (most brands guarantee up to 50% more airflow). That way, the motor stays cool and keeps the temperature low. As a result, the driver gets a decent boost in performance. I’m talking about HP and torque, of course.

On average, you’ll get 10-20HP with a premium-quality air kit (or up to 10%, depending on various factors). On top of that, modern-day intake systems include an advanced filter that, well, filters out pollen, dust, and debris. Over time, these contaminants can greatly reduce the engine’s efficiency, and, again, lead to overheating (which is the #1 reason for engine failure). That won’t be an issue anymore.

There are two types of filters available: dry filters don’t require maintenance, but they’re not reusable. Oiled filters, in turn, are washable + can be reused; they’re more expensive, though. I recommend buying a replacement cold air intake that’s protected by a warranty (like a two-year manufacturer’s guarantee). It would also be best to see “OEM-approved” in the specs (it means the installation process will be easy and straightforward).

Crank the Engine up with a Programmer

How to Add Horsepower to a GMC SierraThe average Tuner slash programmer looks more like a mix between a Smartphone and a laptop if anything else. It’s a rather small device, but with huge potential. By connecting to Sierra’s computer system, it recalibrates dozens of settings to ensure maximum efficiency. The best (and expensive) tuners come packed with built-in tunes that allow quick switching between different presets.

Some are best for conquering the wilderness, while others improve the MPG ratio on highways. You can also download third-party tunes and adjust them to your liking, but that could take some time (and money). With a tuner, the average boost is 20-30HP, and some advanced programmers can give you 40+ HP, which will have an immediate positive effect on performance. So, what should you look for in a device like that?

Apart from the HP/torque increase, I always check the feature set and connectivity. That’s right: some tuners can be controlled through a phone via Wi-Fi/Bluetooth. The screen also plays a key role, of course. The cheaper models have buttons in the lower half and a small (2-3 inches) display. With a premium tuner, you’ll get a really big touchscreen with lots of gauges to monitor the engine.

Maximize Performance with an Exhaust System

How to Add Horsepower to a GMC SierraDo you know what the Best Exhaust System looks like? Well, it should be easy to install, include the necessary hardware, and feature coating for anti-rust/corrosion protection. On top of that, a good exhaust sounds like a million bucks, comes at an affordable price, and, above all, does an excellent job of getting rid of exhaust fumes. By taking care of the toxic emissions, it keeps the engine “alive” for a lot longer than the factory setup.

Plus, it keeps air pollution to a minimum. But we’re here for an HP increase, right? Don’t worry: you’ll get plenty of that. In fact, an aftermarket exhaust will not only boost the powertrain but also improve fuel efficiency. With a high-quality system, the engine is under less pressure and is able to deliver its A-game. That’s pretty much everything you need to know about this gear. It’s reliable, serves for many years, and will be worth every single penny.


It’s safe to say that Sierra is a mighty, HP- and torque-rich truck. With it, you can choose between a 2.7-lit Turbo engine and a 5.3-lit V8 monster. With a max HP of up to 420HP and 460 lb.-ft. of torque, you won’t feel like there’s a lack of power. However, for off-roading, doing construction/industrial work, and other heavy-duty tasks, an increase in horsepower will, without a doubt, be worth the investment.

That can be achieved with aftermarket gear. I’m more than confident that you’ll be pleased with the performance boost provided by tuners, exhausts, and air intakes. Go through my post once again to make sure you’re going with the right product. Now, while a tuner is just an electronic device, an exhaust system and a fancy air kit can make Sierra look really dope.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment