Car Mods: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
There are endless ways to modify a car. But just which car mods are really worth your while? And which are best avoided?
This post delves into some of the different ways to modify your car - including the good, the bad and the ugly.
The best car modifications are those that are cost-efficient and that have practical advantages. Below are just a few car mods that almost all drivers can benefit from investing in.
Upgrading to a set of high quality tires can make a big difference. Higher quality tires can improve the performance of your vehicle, improving acceleration and speed. They also provide better grip, making them potentially a lot safer. On top of this, higher quality tires can improve fuel economy and will wear much more gradually - so you could save money in the long run.
On top of general tires, it could be worth looking into specialist tires for certain types of driving. Winter tires for example are worth switching to if you live somewhere that gets a lot of ice and snow in the winter months. Off-road tires are also worthwhile if you’re likely to be venturing off tarmac road surfaces a lot.
Another modification that a lot of drivers can benefit from is a high quality brake system. This could make your car safer by making braking sharper. High quality brake pads also typically wear more gradually.
If you’re planning on doing a lot of racing, performance brakes as found at sites like TDot Performance could be worth looking into. They’ll drastically improve your braking speed, plus they’re relatively less expensive than many other performance modifications.
Seat covers can be a fun way of customizing the appearance of your seats. They also have practical benefits - they can make cleaning your seats easier (many are machine-washable) and they can protect your seats from damage (helping to preserve your car’s value for if you plan to sell). Compared to many modifications, seat covers are also relatively affordable. Fully-customizable seat covers will cost a little more of course.
Safety improvements are always worthwhile. There are many different ways in which you can improve car safety. One popular option is to add sensors to help with parking. An even better option could be to install a rear facing camera (ideal for removing blindspots - particularly if you drive a vehicle that otherwise requires you to rely solely on your mirrors).
Practical suspension upgrades
There are many different ways in which you can upgrade your car’s suspension. Some of these upgrades are more practical than others - a few examples of practical options include anti-roll bars, shock absorbers, performance bushings and an LSD (limited slip differential). Such improvements can help to provide better handling and can be particularly useful for bigger vehicles. An increased ride height could also be practical if you need to do a lot of off-road driving.
Some car modifications have little to no practical advantages. Worse still, they may reduce safety and may even be deemed illegal in many countries. Below are just a few examples of car modifications that are generally best avoided.
Some modern xenon and HID headlights are designed to be ultra-bright even when dipped. While this does provide better visibility for the driver, it has the risk of blinding other drivers on the road. As a result, you should think twice before fitting out your car with the brightest headlights you can find.
We’re not talking about loud speaker systems here (they’re a matter of personal preference). Some people like to modify their car so that the engine or exhaust sounds louder. This ranges from fake engine sounds to exhaust whistles. There is no practical reason to make your car sound louder - you’ll likely just upset your neighbors. Make your car too loud and you may even find that it breaks the legal noise limit.
Certain rim upgrades could be dangerous to other drivers and even illegal - and so are best avoided. Spinning rims are one example that can be distracting to other drivers, although they’re generally still legal. ‘Swangers’ are another example, which in many countries are illegal - these are rims that drastically protrude outwards.
Nitrous injection systems can be used to inject the engine with a burst of nitrous oxide, increasing fuel consumption temporarily and improving power. In many places around the world, nitrous injection systems are illegal when used on regular roads or highways. Unless you’re modifying a car to be used on a track (and the track allows use of nitrous), there’s no real benefit in installing a nitrous injection system.
Impractical suspension mods
As listed in the ‘good’ car mods section, there are a few suspension upgrades that can be practical in certain situations, and which can be worthwhile. However, some popular suspension mods are just plain impractical. The biggest culprit is lowering the ride height of a car - while this can add more aerodynamics and reduce drag, it often just makes everyday driving more difficult, making it impossible to park on a curb or even go over certain speed bumps.
Now we move onto the ugly car mods. By ‘ugly’, we’re not talking about appearance. These are simply the car mods that can neither be categorized as solely good or bad. It depends very much on your purpose and budget as to whether they are worthwhile. A few prime examples are listed below.
Turbochargers and superchargers are favored by many boy racers. This is because they are a reliable way to get more speed and power out of a small engine. They are relatively expensive to install though and negatively affect fuel economy. You could also find that your insurance rates increase a lot. Make sure you’re willing to put up with the added costs and that you’re actually going to make use of the added speed and power.
Other engine performance modifications
Things like performance chips and cold-air intakes are all effective at making a car faster and more powerful. However, like turbochargers and superchargers, it’s only sensible if you’re going to make use of it, and if you can afford it (such modifications aren’t cheap and will likely increase your insurance rates). This post at HowStuffWorks goes into more detail on engine performance mods.
Weight reduction mods
Removing weight from a vehicle can improve speed and handling. However, this often means removing items that are convenient for everyday driving. If you’re modifying a car for the track, then by all means, take out seats and the center console. If you still need to use the car for everyday use, consider whether it’s worth reducing the comfort.
A lot of people install spoilers, hoods and wings on cars to reduce drag and improve speed. However, the impact that they have is generally minimal. In most cases, something like a spoiler will just make it harder to open the trunk. They’re better off invested in as purely a cosmetic modification rather than anything that is going to have any practical impact.
Most cosmetic modifications
Cosmetic modifications like underbody lighting, tinted windows, shiny rims and custom paint jobs don’t have any practical advantages and may even negatively impact resale value and your insurance rates. However, if you’re simply looking for a way to turn heads, such modifications can be worthwhile. Just make sure that you can truly afford them - modifications like custom paint jobs can cost thousands of dollars in some cases. Consider budget options where possible such as vinyl wraps.