In the world of modifying cars, owners often take pride in the fact that they work on their cars as well, often responsible for a majority (if not all) of the modifications installed on their vehicle. When an enthusiast’s main goal is trying to make their car faster, it is often puzzling as to why they would add certain modifications to their car, as they can reduce a car's performance drastically.
In some instances, it could be that the owner was sacrificing power for a certain luxury or look they are going for, or they could simply just be misinformed. Some car enthusiasts will install something on their vehicles, not even knowing what it actually does due to the fact that they saw it in a movie or someone on social media had it installed on their vehicle, whether it is the same make or model or not.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there as to what can make a vehicle faster, and often times if executed properly, could increase the performance of some vehicles. On the opposite spectrum, if not installed properly, it could potentially decrease a car's performance, which is never a good end result.
There are many things that can be done to a vehicle to increase its actual power numbers and ways to increase performance, which will all make a car a car faster.
Here are 10 mods that will boost your car's performance, and 10 that are just pointless from the get-go.
Boost it: Adding A Cold Air Intake
There are many people that will argue that adding a cold air intake is both good and bad for a vehicle, and we discuss it on both spectrums. According to Cars Direct, adding a cold air intake is done with the intention to get more cold air to an engine, as colder air has more oxygen in it, which essentially means the engine will be running more efficiently. In addition to adding up to 5 extra horsepower to a vehicle, it can also contribute to better gas mileage, it seems like a no-brainer, but there is a downfall to a cold air intake that we will discuss again on this list.
19 Boost it: Tuning Your Car
The world of car tuning has really improved in the past decade as companies finally figured out a way to essentially hack a vehicles computer system and change certain parameters, something that only dealerships used to have access to. According to Hot Rod, a handheld tuner can in some cases adjust rev limits, fan settings and load custom-made tunes which can all result in increasing a vehicle's power. In addition to adjusting parameters, hand tuners usually have the ability to read troubleshooting codes in addition to doing live data logging, which can all be beneficial when tuning a vehicle.
18 Boost it: Cambered Wheels
Having negative cambered wheels is a huge trend that is often seen in the tuner scene, in some extreme cases a vehicle may be riding on just a few inches of rubber on their tires. It was actually adopted from the Japanese culture, and is sometimes referred to as “hella flush,” but adjusting the camber in your wheels is actually a racing technique used on the track. According to Hot Rod, camber is adjusted to reduce the footprint of the tire when cornering. When racing on a course, they will be turning both left and right, therefore a negative camber on all wheels would be the best way of achieving this.
17 Boost it: Weight Reduction
When you see the inside of a real race car, it is literally stripped down the bare minimum, only possessing what is necessary for the vehicle and what is needed to keep the driver safe. This is referred to as weight reduction and is used to shave time off of timeslips. According to Super Street Online, by simply reducing a vehicle's weight you are increasing the horsepower to weight ratio, which translates to making the vehicle faster. They go on to mention that every 10 percent reduction in weight will yield a 10 percent increase in the speed of the vehicle.
16 Boost it: Performance Exhaust
Performance exhausts have gotten a bit of a bad reputation over the years, as they are generally installed with the intentions of enhancing the cars sound, and are often modified in order to make them louder, which is not the intention of a performance exhaust. According to Car Throttle, “Ultimately the goal is to have the fastest exhaust velocity with the least amount of restriction.” Performance exhausts are designed to do just that, by using a combination of both low and high pressure in order to create the most efficient exit strategy for the exhaust gases by using vacuum pressure, which is also known as exhaust scavenging.
15 Boost it: Performance Tires
Believe it or not, something as simple as changing the tires on your vehicle could increase your vehicle's performance. According to Goodyear, performance tires will improve the way your vehicle to grip the road and improve the way a vehicle handles which both translates to being faster. Performance tires have been designed with very specific modifications done to certain components to the tires, like its belts, apex and tread pattern. Depending on the type of driving conditions that a vehicle experiences, there are many different performance tires that can be used to enhance your driving, with adjustments made specifically to a vehicle.
14 Boost it: High Flow Catalytic Converter
The oil crisis back in the 70s lead to the introduction of the catalytic converter, and the end of the muscle car era, temporarily that is. According to American Muscle, a catalytic converter is used to help clean up the emissions that your engine produce . It is illegal to remove a vehicle's catalytic converter or tamper with in any way shape or form. A high flow catalytic converter is designed to create the least amount of resistance and is an easy way to get some extra power out of a vehicle.
13 Boost it: Racing Seats And Harnesses
In some cases, it isn’t about making the car faster but making the driver feel faster, or stronger, or cooler, which is common in a lot of sports. Most production vehicles come with a standard three-point seatbelt, which is designed to keep people safe in an accident. According to Super Street Online, a race seat and harness are also designed to do just that, but to also keep the driver secured in their seat to help speed up their reaction time rather than trying to keep themselves from being tossed all over the vehicle. In addition to being better secured, race seats tend to be much lighter, which contribute to weight reduction.
12 Boost it: Short Throw Shifter
Next on the list is a common modification that some people could have installed on their car simply for vanity purpose and may not even know that they are reaping any benefit because of it. According to Car Throttle, a short throw shift kit simply changes the angle of the shaft of the shifter. A short throw shifter can increase a car's performance in a few different ways. For starters, a short throw does just that, it shortens the distance needed to shift between gears, which will allow for faster shifts and better performance, but will take a little getting used to.
11 Boost it: Cooler Thermostat
When you see a car's list of modifications, you will often see that they have a low-temperature thermostat. There is a lot of people that argue that using a cooler thermostat is a waste of money, and in most cases, they would be right. According to Super Street Online, the way a thermostat works is as a valve that controls how much coolant will go to the engine or to the radiator. A low-temperature thermostat can be highly beneficial to a high-performance engine that tends to run on the hotter side, as it could potentially prevent the engine from overheating.
10 Lose it: Bigger Tires
As discussed earlier on the list, the right tires can increase a vehicle's performance, but there are some instances in which tires can actually slow a vehicle down as well. In most cases, adding larger diameter tires does not increase performance, unless you’re off-road. According to Popular Mechanics, there are many reasons why adding bigger tires can decrease performance. For starters, by adding bigger tires you're messing with the vehicle's gear ratio, which translates to it will slow down the vehicle, unless you upgrade to the appropriate gears. This is why lifted Jeeps often have to re-gear after adding a lift and upgrading to bigger wheels.
9 Lose it: Octane Booster
Octane boosters are often added to a cars fuel tank during fill-ups, but what do they
do? Could there possibly be a way to bottle up horsepower and sell it in a store ready
to go? We can all wish. An octane booster simply improves the quality of gas by
increasing the potential of fuel efficiently burned. Gas has to be at least 91 percent iso-octane in order to be considered premium. According to Car and Driver, premium fuel does not simply translate to more power, but in regards to a high-performance engine, it can extract more power from each gallon of gas.
8 Lose it: Bigger Rims
One of the most common modifications on a vehicle is to upgrade its wheels, but what a lot of people may not realize is how much it could be slowing their cars down. Adding bigger rims to a vehicle can slow it down for many reasons. The main one being the obviously added weight, which we have already discussed how it can affect a car's performance. Another reason, according to Popular Mechanics, “the extra mass concentrated in the rim and tire would require a disproportionate amount of power to accelerate.” Which in plain terms means the vehicle will be slower.
7 Lose it: Adding Lights And A Sound System
It seems every car in the Fast and The Furious had extensive sound systems in their cars, along with a whole lot of extras. One character was playing video games inside his car right before the race and they all had extensive lights installed. It’s hard to believe that street racers that are putting big money on races would pack that much extra weight into their race cars. According to Super Street Online, and mentioned earlier on the list by reducing a vehicle's weight you are increasing the horsepower to weight ratio, which means by adding weight to the vehicle you are decreasing it.
6 Lose it: Bad Exhausts
We learned earlier on in this list how a performance exhaust can increase a vehicle's performance. So, it only makes sense that when not done properly, an inefficient exhaust can decrease a cars performance. According to Cars Direct, an exhaust is built to create a vacuum pressure to help push the exhaust out of the system, also known as exhaust scavenging. Just like a regular vacuum that someone may use to vacuum their house with, it would lose efficiency if there was a hole in its hose, just like a vehicle would if there were a hole in its exhaust system.
5 Lose it: Body Kits
Body kits are usually made of up of several different components, like side skirts and diffusers that can found in both the front and the rear or front air dams, for example. According to Super Street Online, all these components when placed strategically can increase the performance of your car, but chances are that they aren’t. Not to say there aren’t after-market parts out there improve airflow, but chances are they are marketing a product that makes the car look a lot cooler. In the end, a body kit's added weight most likely outweighs the benefit, if there were any.
4 Lose it(But Let Me Explain): Adding A Cold Air Intake
Adding a cold air intake when done properly can be beneficial and increase a vehicle's performance, as discussed earlier on the list. According to Cars Direct, there are some instances in which a cold air intake could slow your car down as well, and why it is important in investing in a quality intake that is built specifically for the vehicle. In creating a better flow to your engine, the engine is now more vulnerable to getting contaminants to the engine. Depending on how low the vehicle is the ground, it can also increase the risk of possibly introducing water to the engine, which is never a good thing.
3 Lose it: Straight Pipe Exhaust
There is no arguing that swapping out a vehicle's exhaust to straight pipes will make it a whole lot louder, but not necessarily faster, and most likely result in getting a ticket. Since a straight pipe has no restrictions whatsoever, one may think this may be the fastest exit route. According to Car Throttle, performance exhausts are to designed to use scavenging to make the fastest exit route for the fumes, while using the least amount of energy from the engine. A straight pipe exhaust could be beneficial in some vehicles, but the vehicle would most likely have to be re-tuned to reap those benefits.
2 Lose it: Lowered Suspensions
Another popular modification amongst car enthusiasts is modifying a vehicle's suspension, which can be beneficial to a vehicle’s performance. According to Super Street Online, a lot of thought must go to into a performance suspension that will actually be beneficial to a vehicle, and that simply having a stiffer suspension does not mean it will perform better. Factors like vehicle wheel rate, and what frequency you would like it to yield are needed in order to figure out a proper spring rate and assuming most people don’t do this, their lowered suspension is not benefiting the vehicle.
1 Lose it: Big Wings(Spoiler Alert)
It’s hard not to miss them, and in most cases, they can almost seem comical. Tuner cars will often be spotted with a giant wing mounted on the back on the car, with the intention to make the car faster. According to Forbes, wings are used to improve a vehicle's stability, but in return will reduce a vehicle's top speed and high-end acceleration, if the aerodynamics are right that is. In most cases, a wing is just mounted on the back of a car for vanity purpose, without any sort of aerodynamics calculated, and essentially just adds more weight to the car.
Sources: Americanmuscle.com, Forbes.com, Caranddriver.com, Bridgestone.com, Popularmechanics.com, Carsdirect.com, Superstreetonline.com,