New to the Racing Circuit? Should You Have Your Engine Dyno Tested?

If you've recently finished building your first racing engine, you may be anxious to get out on the circuit and begin earning back some of the funds you've invested. However, you may not want to pit your new vehicle against others before testing it to determine precisely how much horsepower is generated at various RPMs and to ensure there aren't any potential mechanical problems lurking within your new engine. Read on to learn more about when you'll want to pay to have your new engine dyno tested as well as some situations in which purchasing your own dynamometer may be a profitable investment.

When is dyno testing worthwhile for a racing engine?

Hooking your engine up to a dynamometer ("dyno") before installing it in your racing vehicle can often give you some specific insights into the RPMs you'll need to dominate the competition on the track. Dyno testing can also help troubleshoot any potential problems with your new engine before you put it through its paces. However, this testing can be pricey—from $400 to $700 or more—and it may take several days to perform each of the tests you'd like. 

In general, dyno testing is a good idea if

  • you're planning to race your vehicle semiprofessionally 
    • ​When you're going up against vehicles with high horsepower ratings, it's important to know exactly how many horses are racing below your own hood. Knowing your horsepower, acceleration rate, and maximum speeds before ever driving your vehicle can help you identify potential opponents you'll be able to easily best (as well as those you may want to avoid).
  • you have no previous experience in engine construction
    • ​Just as important as a dyno's data-generating abilities are its diagnostic ones. For the first-time engine builder, minor issues may go unnoticed until they turn into major problems. Discovering a malfunctioning spark plug or oxygen sensor before your engine is installed can prevent you from wasting valuable fuel or risking potential damage to your engine during your first race. You may be able to perform needed repairs while your engine is still hooked up to the dyno, ensuring these repairs have been properly made.

Contact a company like Power Test Inc. to get started.

Can you justify the purchase or construction of your own dynanometer? 

In some cases, obtaining a dynamometer and offering testing services for sale (or simply renting out your dyno for use by other racing enthusiasts) can be a valuable investment. However, paying the list price of up to $50,000 on a new dynamometer may be out of reach for all but established mechanics. Fortunately, there are some much less expensive ways to build your own dynamometer and test your engine (and your friends' engines) to your heart's content. By purchasing a truck axle, some steel tubing, and welding supplies, you can construct a "dummy" dyno that will help turn your engine's power into measurable data.

To those who plan to continue building racing engines or even turn this hobby into a full-time career, the construction of a homemade dynamometer can be an invaluable tool to help you become nearly an overnight expert in racing engine design. By being able to test your engine at various points in the design process, you'll quickly begin to determine what works and what doesn't when it comes to high horsepower engines. You can also help tune up your friend's engines in exchange for bartered parts or other favors. And for areas of the country in which few (or no) shops offer dyno testing services, a homemade dyno may be a moneymaker. As the sole proprietor offering dyno testing services in your area, you'll be able to set your own rates at whatever the local market can bear.