We all know that a car is a depreciating asset. As soon as you’ve driven it off the lot, it’s worth a lot less than what you just paid for it. Having said that, many people are still willing to invest time and money into modifying their new car to make it faster, louder, or better to them in some other way. They may have purchased the car to use for something quite specialized like drag racing. They may equally want to just personalize the car to better reflect their personality.
Whatever the reason, car modification, or car tuning, is a big market, with some mods being more popular and beneficial than others. In today’s post, we’ll be exploring 8 of those mods and sharing their secrets with you.
1. Fitting a Turbocharger or Supercharger
Everyone loves more horsepower and more speed. A big part of the thrill of driving is being able to feel that pull as you accelerate into the road ahead. A horsepower boost certainly helps with your car’s overall performance, making it a must if you want to use it for any sort of competitive sport. This is one boost, however, that you might consider regardless.
The main thing to watch out for when adding or changing your turbocharger (or supercharger) is how it impacts your car’s emissions level. The lack of a national standard means that it depends where you live, but if you live in, say, California, then you need to think carefully about your turbocharger and whether it would take you beyond the state’s strict emissions requirements. Residents of Alabama, on the other hand, have less to worry about given their state’s lack of compulsory emissions testing.
Adding a turbocharger is fairly technical work. If you’re an absolute beginner, you might not want to try doing it all yourself. The exhaust system is a critical one for the car, and you can’t really afford to make mistakes when tampering with it.
2. Custom Car Paint Jobs
These are not exactly to everyone’s taste, but they are a simple and popular method of modifying your vehicle. Those with a bigger budget can have a professional do the work, which will typically yield quick and pleasing results. There are myriad ways to use paint to personalize or alter your car, such as:
- Two-tone color scheme – make the roof/mirrors or other panels one color, and the rest another color
- Metallic paint – upgrade the paint to stunning metallic finish that will turn heads
- Add racing stripes or hot-rod flames – these details add personality and flare to a car
If your budget is somewhat more limited, however, then you might consider doing the job yourself. If you’re not cash-rich, you’ll need to be time-rich and knowledge-rich to do a paint job properly and well. It’s a painstaking process, but obviously the rewards and savings are great when you invest the time and effort properly. The basic process is as follows:
Step 1 – Create a spacious work area, perhaps your shed or garage.
Step 2 – Next, you’ll have to strip the paint down to the bare metal of the car’s frame.
Step 3 – It’s time to prime! Use tape to mask off all areas that you are not painting. Mix primers and thinners and apply, working from the higher areas down to the lower ones. You’ll need 2 or 3 coats, waiting about 10 minutes between each one
Step 4 – Now we get to the painting stage, which you can do much in the same way you did the priming stage, only this time with the real paint you want. Any excess paint can be sanded away.
Step 5 – Apply the clear-coat lacquer on top in the same fashion, applying about 2 or 3 coats to get the perfect finish.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to it, but you get the idea. Paint jobs are a great way to make your car stand out. Better yet, it’s something that you can update in future should you wish to change the style further. As long as you’re willing to do the work, you can make the paint however you like it.
3. Car Wrapping
If a paint job does appeal, then how about an exterior wrap? The miracle material that makes car wrapping possible is vinyl (a type of PVC). Vinyl wraps come in many forms, and are an increasingly popular choice among car modders as a more appealing alternative than the custom paint job. The two choices actually come out fairly similar in cost, but vinyl wrapping brings additional protective benefits.
The type of wrap you might choose depends on the overall look you’re going for. You’ve likely seen cars before that have undergone the vinyl car wrapping procedure. You might have spotted, for example, a BMW 7 series with a mysterious black matte finish. A matte finish is one common type, but others include:
- And other custom prints and styles
The best thing about a vinyl car wrap is that they are removable. While they’re on your car, they are covering the original paint, thus protecting it. Should you wish to return the car to its original color, you can do that fairly easily. Changing the original paint job, on the other hand, is not such a flexible deal.
4. High-quality Race Seats
When you’re driving on the road, have you ever paid attention to how much you strain your body to keep it in place when taking a tight corner? If it’s a lot of effort, then your car seats are not supporting your properly. You might not feel it so much in your everyday driving, but on the racetrack, it makes a huge difference.
For a few hundred dollars, you can perform a simple act of car tuning to make your vehicle ready for heavy-duty driving like on the racetrack — installing high-quality supportive race seats. These seats are usually deeper with greater lateral support to help keep you in place as you take corners at higher speeds.
Even if you’re not heading to the track, these types of seats are generally more comfortable and better for you if you’re driving longer distances. They are a simple modification to make with a great return for your money. Remember that if you also install a racing harness to go with your new seats, then you car may no longer be “street legal” because they replace your seatbelts.
5. Car Engine Tuning: Spark Plugs
There are some relatively simple ways to safely (and legally) tune your engine, one of which is investing in better spark plugs to replace the factory-issued ones. You might have assumed spark plugs were essentially the same, but this isn’t the case.
Higher-quality spark plugs like the NGK 6619 Iridium plug or the Bosch 4417 Platinum+4 FGR7DQP spark plug will create a better, more efficient combustion than that of many factory-issued spark plugs.
6. Car Engine Tuning: Bushings
If you’re familiar with your engine’s many components, you’ll know bushings are typically made of rubber. At least, the ones that come from the factory are. They sit between the chassis, suspension and engine, and their job is to stop pesky vibrations from upsetting the harmony of your car.
While regular bushings may work for a time, their rubber material breaks down more easily than alternatives such as polyurethane (PU) bushings. PU is much more durable, and will therefore last longer, making them an attractive choice for replacement. They’re also more effective, which is important if you’re doing car tuning to improve overall performance.
7. Car Suspension Tuning
Nothing says performance like a well-tuned suspension. Suspension tuning is not something to enter into lightly. Similar to adding a turbocharger, you may run risk of falling foul of your state’s rules on car ride height. Get it right, though, and it’s a fantastic upgrade that will give your car’s performance a real boost.
The main benefit you get from car suspension tuning is enhanced handling. This typically happens by upgrading the shock absorbers and/or investing in lower, stiffer springs in the suspension system. Combine these two elements and you’ll be getting a car ride with much greater stability. This is beneficial whether you’re on a track or just doing your day-to-day driving.
8. Car Tires
No list on car improvements would be complete without at least one mention of improving the tires. There are a number of ways to modify the car with tires that will enhance performance depending on the driving conditions:
- To suit speed and performance – You need high-quality, durable rubber that can withstand the pressures and intense heat of the track.
- For winter driving – If you have a particularly cold winter, all-season tires (despite their name) are no good. You need proper winter tires with the right tread and material to hold up in the sub-zero climate.
- To suit tight corners and the need for grip – For this, you need a tire that is more rounded and has more grip from the sidewalls.
Given that the tire takes the brunt of all your driving activity while on the road, it’s a modification to invest money and time into.
Take Your Time – Weigh Your Options
In the end, car tuning is about understanding quality rather than quantity. Any modification you make, large or small, needs to be done with care and consideration. If you have even a shadow of a doubt with regard to your ability to do the mod yourself, then seek professional assistance.
Properly done tuning can seriously improve the performance of your car, whether it be for competition or everyday driving. Always be aware of the rules of the road, and whether or not any modification will void or otherwise impact your warranty. Stay safe and enjoy driving!