back to articles | May 23, 2022 | Katie Tejada
Categories:   Useful Automotive Information
Car Aftermarket Mods That You Should Splurge On (And a Few You Shouldn't)
Every car is unique. Some have much better horsepower, while others have better fuel economy. Not every car has the perfect specs or design features a car enthusiast would want. That's why car lovers seek to refine and modify their cars to get the most out of them.
Every car is unique. Some have much better horsepower, while others have better fuel economy. Not every car has the perfect specs or design features a car enthusiast would want. That's why car lovers seek to refine and modify their cars to get the most out of them. Whether you’re increasing your horsepower, replacing OEM parts, or making it more fuel-efficient, there are many ways to mod your vehicle.
With so many manufacturers and auto parts out there, it's often difficult to sift through the noise to see which aftermarket mods are worth splurging and which ones are simply a waste of money. While there are ways to ease the financial burden of upgrading, this post is all about maximizing bang-for-buck. So let’s take a look at some upgrades to get you started—and some you’ll want to avoid.
Splurge: Air Intake
It's simple; more air equals more horsepower. Many cars have clogged air filters that decrease air intake to the engine. Performance car air filters exist because they have an extremely high flow rate, which adds more power to the engine.
It's vital to also switch the restrictive factory air intake for a performance cold air intake. The engine is prone to overheating while driving, so a cold car air intake pulls cooler outside air into the engine. Aftermarket air intakes often expand the tube diameter while also straightening unnecessary bends. As a result, the car can receive a larger amount of denser air to fuel the engine. A simple installation of cold air intake or a universal air filter can easily add 5 to 10 horsepower in a single tune. You might also consider a performance car oil filter to protect and optimize your engine!
Although most people may not think of tires as an aftermarket mod, the right tires are sure to reduce wear and tear on the car and improve fuel mileage. Tires should also be customized based on the intended use (for example: all-weather tires, all-terrain tires, snow tires, road tires, or mud tires). Drivers should look for 300+ treadwear rating, an “A” temperature rating, and a “AA” traction rating on their tires to maximize performance and durability.
Your suspension system is designed to absorb sustained shock while driving. When a vehicle hits a bump, the system relies on shock absorbers, springs, and coils to keep the car from bouncing. When a car turns, the suspension keeps the vehicle on the road and distributes its weight evenly.
Standard OEM suspensions will inevitably fail and cause problems for your brakes and tires and wear on other parts. High-end suspension systems let drivers adjust the stiffness and ride height for better safety and performance. Drivers who enjoy taking their vehicles off-road should invest in high-quality suspensions to provide better clearance and improved shock absorption.
Splurge: LED Headlights
Safety should always be top priority—the yellowish halogen bulbs that come stock won't cut it. They don't offer enough light output to see well while driving in dark conditions. Additionally, the meek yellowish light can lead to drowsiness, making driving after nightfall even more difficult. High-intensity discharge LED headlights have a secondary electric amplifier and a bulb charged with a special gas to enhance brighter illumination. Compared to low-quality halogen bulbs, they can double the visibility of the roadway, which is imperative when driving in rural areas.
Avoid: Obnoxious Body Kits
Body kits have become increasingly popular among car enthusiasts. High-profile video games like Grand Theft Auto and films such as The Fast and the Furious have elevated the interest in body kits. Modding culture has promoted plenty of obnoxious, loud, and bright body kits. Body kits only enhance the appearance but do nothing for the actual performance of the car. They’re also risky—many aftermarket manufacturers have been notorious for selling cheap, low-quality body kits.
Avoid: Overly Loud Exhaust
Every car enthusiast loves a loud, obnoxious car. We dream about that deep thunderous growl and the feeling of a hungry engine ready to race ahead. Unfortunately, most states have a legal limit of how loud a vehicle's exhaust system can be. For example, Washington state specifies that the maximum volume levels can't exceed 95 decibels on highways—so it's important to check federal laws before swapping the exhaust. Furthermore, cops will pull over drivers at their own discretion if they feel the exhaust is too loud and the state can issue fines to drivers with overly loud exhaust systems.
Avoid: Spoilers on Front-Wheel-Drive Vehicles
What exactly are spoilers? These mods look like upside-down wings (similar to an airplane wing) that generate downward force on the vehicle. They’re well suited to rear-wheel-drive cars because they place more pressure on the drive wheels, reducing the loss of traction and risk of spin-out. However, on front-wheel-drive vehicles, they are simply a waste of money. Spoilers are designed for race cars, but streetcars typically don't get up to speeds where spoilers would be of any use.
It's no secret that auto parts are expensive. There can be steep and unexpected costs associated with buying a car, maintaining, and modifying it. Rather than splurge on trivial, ineffective upgrades, only invest in mods that produce meaningful upgrades and consider taking auto loans with low interest rates to help subsidize any hefty upfront costs.