Useful Car Tips

Basic Car Modifications

September 30, 2020
Most consumers are content with keeping their vehicles in the same configuration they came from the factory or secondhand owner—that is, stock and unmodified. For enthusiasts however, the itch to modify may emerge, more quickly for some than others. Perhaps one feels that their stock exhaust is a little tinny, or the transmission doesn’t feel quite engaging enough, or the engine’s powerband could be improved. A plethora of gradual improvements can be made. Fortunately, many straightforward mods are available for installation on a wide variety of vehicles. Most are referred to as bolt-on modifications stemming from the fact they literally bolt on in place of stock vehicle components. Basic modifications are often easily reversible and nonpermanent, meaning they can be removed if one wishes to sell their vehicle while retaining the original resale value. This combination of factors naturally leads to the installation of basic modifications being commonplace among enthusiast circles. For a relatively small investment in terms of time and money, one can vastly improve their vehicle’s braking, handling, and holistic performance characteristics. As one would expect, more expensive components generally net even greater increases in performance, although this isn’t always the case.


This rings resoundly true in terms of new tires, although even a budget set of high quality tires will quickly net tangible performance benefits. The tires of most vehicles installed from the factory are optimized to provide a balanced combination of safety, grip, and longevity. Aftermarket tires work with this balance and generally improve grip by way of precise engineering of tread geometry. One may assume that other performance mods are far more valuable than the mere installation of new tires, but quality performance tires can instantly make a world of difference. Increased grip facilitates later braking upon corner entry and earlier acceleration upon corner exit as more power can safely be supplied to the driven wheels under these circumstances. Merely increasing engine power is a fruitless endeavor if it cannot be efficiently put down to the tires.


An increase in brake performance may be desirable in tandem with an increase in tire performance. While the stock brakes on most vehicles are entirely effective in safely stopping a vehicle’s momentum, upgraded brakes naturally contribute for better performance in this regard. Along with performance tires, upgraded brakes allow one to brake later for corners and have the secondary benefit of reducing stopping distance in emergency situations. Some aftermarket brakes will come in kits which include rotors, pads, and associated mounting hardware. Those purchasing standalone rotors may wish to install aftermarket pads and calipers as well, as this combination will deliver stable performance and increase brake feel. If available, carefully follow installation instructions per the manual. Otherwise, utilize guided tutorials provided by reputable publications online.


After new tires and brakes, suspension upgrades are a solid next step in the pursuit of still greater performance benefits. One of the most simple and cost effective comes in the form of an upgraded sway bar. A sway bar—also known as an anti-roll bar—is the component in a vehicle’s suspension which is responsible for reducing body roll when driving through high speed corners or over road irregularities. Aftermarket manufacturers offer sway bars with beefier diameters which thus contribute to greater stiffness in corners. Sway bars are relatively easy to install, even for beginners. In contrast, beginners may encounter difficulties while installing additional suspension components such as new shocks, springs, and coilovers. Such components affect existing suspension geometry and hence require proper adjustment.


Feeling a little unsatisfied? If you’re instead looking for horsepower gains, a cold air intake, upgraded exhaust system, and even forced induction are all potential avenues to explore. Keep in mind that headers and any major increase in power will necessitate an engine tune which overrides the stock ECU, adding extra money to a build. Regardless, these upgrades—and forced induction in particular—can net serious horsepower gains. However, the most important modification which fundamentally transforms one’s driving experience is no mod at all: it’s the “driver mod”! As the name suggests, the driver mod entails the skill of the driver: their experience, knowledge, and competency behind the wheel. Driver mods won’t develop from experience alone; instead, events such as autocross and HPDE (high performance driving events) are key to the development of driving skills. Looking to install some modifications of your own (or have already done so)? Let us know what you have planned!
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