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car modding

I’ve seen it all before: You just got a new car, but it isn’t exactly the souped-up muscle machine of your dreams. Instead of waiting 40 years and saving up for that fantastic beast, you have decided to mod out the dinky model you can afford today. There’s just one problem: You don’t know anything about modding.

Modding can transform the car you have into some semblance of the car you want. It is a fun and informative method of getting under the hood and learning more about how cars work. Still, you should know a bit about modding before you start clipping wires and cutting holes. It is time for you to take a seat, my young apprentice, because you are about to learn the first five rules of modding cars.

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1. It Isn’t Always Cost Effective

A car is a necessity in most modern cities, but that doesn’t mean car buyers believe they are making profitable investments. Cars lose value over time — even just a minute off the lot, a car’s value plummets about 10 percent — and there is basically no way to make that drop in value back, even with modifications. Adding awesome and expensive mods to your car might increase its value slightly, but the extra income will not come close to the amount you paid for the parts. In fact, in some cases, mods actually make it more difficult to sell your car. Modding is an especially fun and productive way to spend your time (and improve clunkers into cars), but you should not expect to generate a profit from the endeavor.

2. You Have to Know Your Goal

It is easy to peruse websites with aftermarket performance parts, perusing the selection and purchasing mods to improve how your car runs and how it looks. But be careful while doing so, not all mods fit together to create a humming beast of a machine; in fact, with mismatched parts, your car might not run at all. Before you start making feel-good purchases, you should decide what you want out of your modifications: street performance, road racing, drag racing, autocross, or something else? Then, you can research the mods you need and ensure your machine fits together perfectly.

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3. These Mods Are Actually Advantageous

Some mods that can improve the driving experience of any car. If you aren’t ready to experiment with more specialized equipment, here are a few mods you definitely won’t regret: Tires. Upgrading your tires may not put you under the hood, but it will increase your car’s power and handling dramatically.

  • Cold air intake (CAI). One of the least expensive mods, replacing your standard airbox with a CAI boosts horsepower and fuel efficiency.
  • High-flow exhaust and headers. Pressure caused by the muffler and catalytic converter can reduce engine performance; a new exhaust manifold and straighter, larger pipes allows waste gases to exit quickly and easily.
  • Sway bars. If you don’t have the money for new shocks and springs, sway bars are a cheaper option to improve turning control.

4. You Definitely Need Help

Even veteran gearheads don’t hesitate to ask professionals, peers, and even friends when they start a new mod. As a beginner, you might not have any idea where to put your wrench when you start your first mod. While you are researching parts, it is a good idea to consult with any number of experienced car guys (online or off) to make sure you fully understand the procedure. It also helps to have old hats with you while you are elbow-deep in machinery: cars are big beasts, and you probably won’t be able to extract and replace all of your desired mods without a couple helping hands.

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5. Not All Mods Are Awesome

There are plenty of mods that don’t do a thing for your vehicle, but even worse, there are a handful of mods that incur unlimited ire both within and outside car culture. Here are the mods you want to avoid if you don’t want to incur road rage from other drivers.

  • Lift kit. Bringing your car up an additional nine inches is only appropriate if you are crawling over rocks. When you are driving around town, you should have a different vehicle.
  • Stance. Conversely, lowering your car so it sweeps the ground doesn’t look professional or clean — it looks like you messed up and broke your car by accident.
  • Muffler removal. Completely excising the exhaust system might increase horsepower, but the entire city will hear you whenever you come and go.