|Wheels||You will want a lightweight wheel. Most autocrossers will stick with 15" wheels. The stock Impulse aluminum wheels will work fairly well and weigh about 16 1/2 pounds each. If you have the money, the Kosei K1 Racing 15x7 wheels would probably be the best investment. They weigh only 13 1/2 pounds. It is best to get the lightest wheels possible. You might also consider the Flik/TDR 15x7's, Konig, or Rota wheels as well.|
|Tires||The tires are most important. There are primarily only two choices here, typically running the 205/50R15 size. I have seen the majority of the population use the Falken Azenis Sport tires in either the RT-215 or the new RT-615. One other option that comes close would be the Kumho Ecsta MX.|
|Tire Pressure||The consensus is that, in general, the front tire pressure is set about 4 pounds higher than the rear. Although, results may vary and need to be modified depending on conditions, a good place to start would be at 48 in front and 44 in the rear and adjust from there based upon conditions. Most recently I ended up running 44 in the front and 40 in the rear with Kumho Ecsta MX's.|
|Alignment||In general, you will want at least -2 degrees negative camber (or more, I run -2 1/2 degrees) up front. This can be done by
slotting the existing struts, or using a camber kit. I recommend a camber kit such as the Gold-Line
kits you can pick up from Modern Performance. In the rear,
there are differing opinions, but you will want to set it to at least 0 to -1 degrees negative camber.
I set mine to 0.
For toe, once again there is a consensus that you will want about +.25 degree (+1/16") positive toe on the front. For the rear toe, you will want to set it to somewhere between 0 and -1/8". I set mine to 0.
|Traction Control||If you have Traction Control on your car, turn it OFF for autocrossing. Although it can help control wheel spin, it will also slow you down. There have been reports that it can cost up to a few seconds on a single run.|
|Struts||Depending on the budget, you have a few choices. If you have an ACR, you can stick with the stock
Dynamic Suspensions struts. These are very good tuned struts. A lot depends on the course conditions,
but most agree that you will want to set the front struts to near full firm. After some dialing in with
someone well versed in setting up a car, I run my front full minus 12 turns. For the rear, there is varying
responses that mostly fall towards a middle-higher setting. I choose to run at full minus 7 (out of 24)
clicks (on an ACR). Obviously the combination of the two can be played with to help dial in enough
traction in front but still yielding the flexibility in the rear to dial in enough over/understeer for
your driving style.
The R/T struts are an upgrade over the struts that come on the base SXT models. These are higher quality and should provide adequate dampening. Some say that the R/T struts are good enough that you might want to invest in springs (see below) before upgrading the struts. But, you should consider eventually upgrading them to an adjustable strut such as Koni's, if not coilovers.
Finally, if you have the money, you might look at investing in coilovers such as the Mopar Stage 2 or Stage 3 setup.
|Springs||If you don't invest in coilovers, you will definitely want to get some lowering springs. The primary choices I have seen used are the Mopar springs and the Eibach Pro Kit springs with the Mopar springs being a little bit more popular. Either one will lower the car over one inch all the around and provide a more firm and controllable ride.|
|Harness||A harness is an inexpensive investment which helps hold the driver in the seat where they can focus on driving the car versus spending effort just trying to "hold on". There are many brands including Corbeau, Schroth, and Sparco.|
|Weight Savings||Before making a bunch of mods to gain horsepower, it is worth looking at where you can reduce overall weight in the car. One area to consider might be the battery. It might be a worthwhile investment on getting a smaller, more lightweight battery. You might look for other areas where weight can legally be reduced as well. Naturally, one other thing that you will want to do before every autocross is remove such things as the floormat, spare tire, jack, and lug wrench.|
|Strut Tower Braces||In order to provide extra stiffening to both the front and rear, you will want to invest in strut tower braces. There are many different brands including AF/X, Vibrant, DC Sports, and others. I prefer a solid, non-adjustable bar and use an AF/X up front with the DC Sports in the rear.|
|Cold Air Intake||A cold air intake (CAI) is one of the first performance modifications that should be made. There doesn't seem to be any winner between the different brands including AEM, Iceman, K&N, etc. This generally will provide power in the top end of maybe a 5 to 7 horsepower gain. As with any modification there are things to consider. With a CAI it is possible although not probable that you can get water in the intake. Precautions (and common sense) should be taken when using one - such as avoiding large puddles.|
|Underdrive Pulley||An underdrive pulley (UDP) can provide horsepower gain of 5 to 7 horsepower. They come in many brands such as AF/X, MPx, and Unorthodox. These will provide for better low and mid range throttle response. Some things to consider before installing one of these is that there is a good chance that you will get a "check engine light" (CEL) code due to the nature of these devices which cause the computer to think there is a problem.|
|Sway Bars||The jury is still out on the best setup for sway bars. At a minimum you should have the stock setup
with a 22mm front and 16mm rear (stock ACR). There has been some luck going to a 22mm in the rear. Other tests
include going even larger in the front such as a 26mm (use the front sway bar from a PT Cruiser convertible).
Some recent testing has been done using a 26mm up front and a 22mm in the rear. This setup helped the car rotate
quite nicely. If you purchase the PT sway bar, go to http://www.parts.com/
and get the following from one of the Chrysler parts dealers:
|Bushings and Mounts||In order to tighten up the shifter and suspension, the old bushings should be replaced with more firm ones. Booger bushings seem to be the bushings most people choose for the shifter. Prothane and Energy make kits which will help firm up the suspension. Along these lines, the engine mounts can also be firmed up by installing Rex Motor Mount Inserts.|
|Brakes||The Neon brakes are already quite good. If anything, it might help to put on a little more agressive pads at least up front. Most people tend towards using the Hawk HP+ pads.|
|Short Throw Shifter||A short throw shifter might be considered to help ease shifting.|
|Additional Weight Savings||Other areas where weight can be shaved might be in replacing the seats. In addition to reducing quite a few pounds, you will get a seat which hold you in better and are designed towards racing.|
|Additional Horsepower Modifications||Some minor horsepower increase and weight savings can be had by upgrading the already well flowing exhaust. The Thermal R&D exhaust seems to be the primary choice. Other options include a full cat-back system, muffler upgrade, and upgrading the header.|
|Spark Plugs||I have not found any information that indicates any plug provides you with any better performance than another. In fact, most people have said that the stock plug tends to work the best. Use the Champion Copper Plugs, RC9YC, gapped at 0.035. They are cheap and it doesn't hurt to replace them often. You should use an anti-sieze compound on the spark plug threads and don't over tighten.|
|Other Items||Some other considerations might be to upgrade the coil and spark plug wires.|