Car modifications have been around almost as long as cars existed. They really rose up in the 1960s with the need to enhance the models of the time and make them stand out. The classic muscle car era of the 1970s helped mods take off further. Today, the reason they’re popular is thanks to how movies such as The Fast and the Furious make such modifications look easy and amazing. Likewise, scores of reality TV shows push car makeovers and how some mods are enough to make any car look like a million dollar machine.
The simplicity of finding parts and tutorials on the internet has led to a lot of folks trying out various modifications to improve their cars. It’s amazing how even a simple mod is enough to drastically improve how a car looks and performs. Some are expensive while others are surprisingly easy and obvious and can help a shine nicely.
Sadly, too many owners do mods that are a total mess. Instead of making a car look cool, they give it a horrible appearance that promotes laughter. The mods can also be downright dangerous to the car, hurting its performance and body. A few can be great and work out nicely while other mods should be avoided for how damaging they can be. Here are 10 car mods that any driver should be using and 10 that are a nightmare to live with.
20 LOVE: ECU TUNE
The Engine Control Unit can often be overlooked by car owners. It can be complex, especially with more advanced cars, and it’s recommended only an expert do any changes to it. It covers a large range of the exhaust issues and the fuel-to-air ratio. A smart owner can adjust the ECU so it squeezes out every bit of energy it can which can fit a car wonderfully. This is especially good for cars using turbo or superchargers as an ECU tune can ensure their intake is top-notch and seriously aid their torque output. Some companies offer free upgrades yet it’s worth the cost to ensure one gets the best performance out of their automobile.
19 NIGHTMARE: FIBERGLASS
Whenever lists of the absolute worst body car kits are done, fiberglass ranks among the biggest sins. It's a great showcase for how this has gotten completely out of control being used for mods. A single afternoon is enough to craft an entirely new car body that’s meant to make a simple model look like some elite racing machine. The reality is that there’s a reason fiberglass sells so cheaply: it’s an absolutely horrible material for a car. It offers very little protection on the road and can damage everything from engine to balance to performance. More importantly, it makes a car owner look silly for going to so much trouble for a cheap copy.
18 LOVE: Headlight Upgrades
A common mistake made by new car owners is thinking that the headlights on their car are as good as they get. The reality is that it’s pretty easy to upgrade headlights. True, there are some laws preventing them from being so bright that they blind other drivers on the road. It’s still recommended to have the lights themselves boosted for brighter wattage. Also, the covering of the lamps can be redone with better material to allow them to shine better. It’s a must for those who do a lot of night driving as better LED lights can allow a driver to see further and handle poor weather better. One doesn’t need to shine huge yet modded headlights are great.
17 NIGHTMARE: Wood Parts
This has become a growing trend which is one of the odder ones among car modifications. Sometimes, a wood plank is okay for a DIY hack until a part can be replaced. Some drivers are now taking the step of having entire sections of their cars removed and replaced with wood. It can be a door, a trunk, the front hood, or even a spoiler. It should go without saying that having wood near very hot engine parts is not a good combination. Wood is also far more likely to suffer from the elements on the road and it also makes the car heavier. This throws off its performance and makes further repair work tougher.
16 LOVE: Sway Bars
Shocks and springs are always a good idea for car upkeep. Ensuring that the car doesn’t rock too hard should be a no-brainer, even if you’re not a top-flight racer. Another major aid would be upgraded sway bars. By transferring cornering forces from side to side as a car rolls during turns, the sway bar ensures there's less stress on the shocks. Most have the bar in the front with the engine yet one at the rear can also be a great help. They maintain the car’s balance and are critical to prevent issues such as understeering. It means much better control in the long term and is pretty chepa, as well, making this a great mod.
15 NIGHTMARE: Loud Exhaust
The point of a car's exhaust is to make it quieter and cut down on the amount of fumes exiting from the car's combustion chambers. But it’s baffling that so many drivers want their exhausts to be as loud as possible. The idea has grown that if an engine can be heard roaring from down the block, that makes it more impressive. The reality is that it’s incredibly annoying to other drivers. Also, to enhance the noise means having to cut out a few of the safety measures that allow the exhaust system to run correctly. Dumping your muffler for the exhaust doesn't make a car any more powerful and just makes the owner look silly.
14 LOVE: Seat Upholstery
There’s a tendency to stick with the seats the car has when it’s first purchased. Over time, they will start to show wear and tear and need replacement. How one modifies them can be up to the driver. Some may want leather, others opting for simple covers while still others may prefer something flashy. The seats remain the same or can be redone to fit the car better and allow tricks like better reclining. It can make a car’s interior look much better but more importantly, allows the driver to be more comfortable and aid the driving experience. A bad seat can throw a good drive off so a mod to make it feel as easy as possible is a must.
13 NIGHTMARE: Unnecessary Raising And Lowering
Here’s another mod that’s been influenced majorly by the movies. Too many owners are going to the trouble of raising or lowering their cars. In the case of higher, it’s too much distance between the main body and the internals and can do everything from expose internals to lower the response time of braking and accelerating. Lowering too much can put unneeded pressure on the engine and expose the body to the road. In both cases, it throws a car’s balance off horribly and lowers speed while increasing numerous issues with the engine, exhaust, tires, and more. Owners may think it looks cool but these unnecessary changes can do serious damage to their rides.
12 LOVE: Floor Mats
This one seems so simple and yet it’s so overlooked. Most drivers brush it off as not a priority and something unimportant. However, changing your mats can make a car look much better. It’s not just a simple floor mat to catch the mud or dirt one brings in. The mats can go all over to the rear seat and be able to pick up spills, dirt, and other bits that fall in. The mats are also good for when the car is simply parked as it makes the interior look much better. It’s clear that a car’s interior vibe has an effect on the driver and changing up the mats makes it feel better. It’s a simple but amazingly effective mod that should be a must.
11 NIGHTMARE: Fake Air Intakes
This is one of the odder mod fads to hit in the last few years and just doesn't make much sense. A few mods do involve a car’s air and fuel intakes, which can sometimes help the car’s output. Other times, if done wrong, they can not only take away speed but also damage the internal engine and exhaust. The fake air intake involves putting stickers on a car to make it look like there are more vents than there are. That can be embarrassing if they peel off when driving. Some mods go further by drilling these “vents” into the hood, which is incredibly silly. It simply makes no sense to ruin a car by adding in unneeded intake vents.
10 LOVE: Rims
Some drivers might go a bit too far in terms of new rims. The rush of “collector” types combined with wanting to make your car look flashier leads to rims that are the wrong size, material, and color for the car. However, a simple upgrade can do wonders. It provides better choices for tires while also aiding in a car’s balance. The obvious attraction is how a fancy set of rims can make the entire car look much better. Even if someone doesn’t go for ultra-fancy rims with outlandish colors, getting a new set with new tires is a huge benefit. Whether a serious racer or just a commuter, new rims are a must-have modification for every driver.
9 NIGHTMARE: Light kits
Changing up your headlights is one thing. However, transforming your entire car into a mobile light display is something else. It’s impossible to go to some car meet these days and not see someone with a car decked out in more neon than a Vegas casino. Movies have helped influence the idea that this is awesome when the fact is that such lights cause major issues. The insistence on putting them on tires or the undercarriage can mess up a car’s performance. The obvious downside is how it drains the battery more and can lead to problems down the line. Unless someone is inside the world of Tron, there’s no reason to make their rides glow.
8 LOVE: Window Tint
This can be tricky to do but it’s a huge benefit for people used to long drives. By adding the right ingredients, a regular window can become tinted which is a boon for driving on sunny days. It also helps maintain a cooler interior by cutting down on sunlight. That’s not to mention it aids in privacy when you leave the car parked. It is important to look up the local laws as some areas have rules on how much tint is allowed. Also, it’s smart to use a reversible type that can be removed and not interfere with night driving. A good tint can really help maintain a car’s interior.
7 NIGHTMARE: Huge Spoilers
The spoiler has been a mainstay of classic muscle cars for decades. A nice small spoiler can highlight the car and give it a special feel like a fun racing machine. Just look at the Roadrunner or the Mustang and more to see how a good spoiler enhances a car. Sadly, too many owners think “bigger is better” and slap on spoilers with wing spans better suited for a plane. The more outrageous ones are spoilers nearly five feet higher than the hood and taking up half the trunk space. This actually slows the car down because of the weight which defeats the entire purpose of the ting. Going huge makes a spoiler live up to its name in a car’s performance.
6 LOVE: Brake Pads
Some may not care much about a brake mod at first. After all, the point of most mods is to make a car go faster, not slower. However, fixing the brakes so you can count on them stopping on a dime is a smart move. It’s actually a smart idea not to go for the ultra-fancy type of brakes, as those can actually jam up a bit worse with some cars. Instead, go for the simpler but effective ones while also change the rubber lines to stainless steel. It’s not enough to just change the fluid, a full new brake set can be all the difference for a car.
5 NIGHTMARE: Scissor Doors
Scissor doors do look cool on major high-end vehicles, like Lamborghinis. They don’t do nearly as well when put on your typical sedan or regular car. The issue is that those cars aren’t designed for these doors so they require a huge redo of the basic framework. It throws the car off and quite often, the doors just don’t properly close and lock as the normal swinging doors do. Also, it just doesn’t look right for a simple car to suddenly have these fancy doors as they make it look uglier, not cooler. It’s an unnecessary modification that does nothing in the long run and just cries out how badly a driver would rather own a Lambo.
4 LOVE: Tire Upgrade
The point of a lot of mods is to save money but one modification that’s always worth the cost are the tires. If someone buys a used car, it should be an instant modification to buy new tires for it. A good set of high-performance tires can be enough to change every aspect of a car’s performance. It’s astounding how the speed, braking, acceleration, and overall handling improve once the tires do. It’s even recommended to have two sets of tires, one for summer and the other for winter due to the changing conditions. Most drivers make the mistake of waiting for a flat to get new tires when this one modification alone improves your car drastically.
3 NIGHTMARE: Massive Attachments
If anyone wants to change the body of their car, that’s not a bad thing. They want to add a section and turn a regular sedan into a pickup or then alter a pickup into an SUV, that's fine. It’s a major hassle to have all that work done but it can work out. But there’s a major tendency of car owners nowadays to add what looks like an entire second car to their automobile. These can be ridiculous in their size and can make the car look horrible. It also adds obvious issues such as finding a parking space able to fit the car and being barely maneuverable on the road. They may be impressive sights but they also render a car nearly useless.
2 LOVE: Short Shift
This is a lesser-known but very effective mod to help your car. It’s a must for those with manual transmission, which includes a lot of classic muscle cars. A short shifter means less time and effort needed to change gears, which allows faster response time on the road. Plus, it feels faster. It can be tricky to master at first but it will work out in the long run and give the car a sportier feel. It’s amazing how just a second or two of less effort when shifting gears makes a drive in the country much better and more satisfying.
1 NIGHTMARE: Stanced Wheels
This has become a new fad among mods and it’s frankly pretty annoying. It’s one thing to have massive wheels for your car; it’s another to have wheels that are set at an angle so it looks like some sort of cartoon vehicle. Having your tires this lopsided throws off the handling of the car and how it takes to the road. It makes it even easier for a blowout to occur thanks to issues taking sharp curves. And that's not to mention how it’s a danger to other drivers if something happens. It can do damage to the car with long-term use and is just not worth all the hassle. Besides simply looking ugly, this is a terrible mod to try out.
Sources: Jalopnik, Thrillist, and Gear Patrol.