Since the early days of cars, people have been looking for ways to get a little more performance. There are hundreds of different ways to go about it, and tens of thousands of products to choose from. Here are 10 mods that may not be worth the money for you though.
Cold Air Intakes
Cold Air and Short Ram Intakes are common first-mods for most cars. What people aren’t telling you is that they don’t really do anything beneficial other than sounding cool. The factory intakes on most modern (last 20 years) cars flow more than enough air for heavily modded cars. The oiled gauze filters with these kits also tend to clog faster than paper filters, and the oil can ruin Mass Air Flow sensors. Don’t waste your m
Drilled and Slotted brake rotors look really cool, and their roots come from race cars. The slots and drilled holes allow race brake pads to dissipate gasses and heat on a track. The problem is that rotors and brake pads for street cars are made very differently, rendering the slots and holes useless. In most cases, the brakes perform better with standard rotors, and cheaper drilled rotors are weaker and more prone to failure. Stick with the original style for the street.
Programmers and tuners are a popular add-on to tweak the way the computer controls the engine and unlock a little extra horsepower. The problem is that programmers use “off the shelf” tunes and aren’t tuned to perform perfectly with your particular vehicle. That means less performance than a custom tune, and could potentially damage the car. If you adjust settings without knowing exactly how to do it properly, you can cause extreme damage to the car. Save your money and invest in a custom dyno tune from a reputable tuning shop.
Test Pipe/Catalytic Converter Delete
When emissions systems were new technology, big engines suddenly dropped to lawnmower levels of power, and part of that was because catalytic converters were in their infancy and didn’t flow well. For the last 25 years, we have had catalytic converters that don’t hurt performance like the 70s and 80s cars. Removing them is illegal, can cause check engine lights, and won’t add any power. In fact, the computer could cut horsepower when the check engine light comes on. Leave it there and save the atmosphere.
Big Lift Kits/Big Drop Lowering Kits
Stock suspensions are always a compromise between comfort and performance. A lift kit on a truck can improve off-road performance, and lowering a car can make it corner better. There are limitations, however. When you lift or lower a car more than an inch or two, you change the geometry of the suspension to the point it no longer functions properly. When that happens, the vehicle actually performs worse than stock. Keep it mild, and don’t lose performance.
Big Wheels/Low Profile Tires
Over the last 15 years or so, we have seen car wheels jump from a range of 13-16” to a range of 16-22” on modern cars. These bigger wheels look cool, and modern cars use the space for bigger brakes. Lower profile tires can help the car handle more accurately too. Like lifting and lowering, too much of a good thing is bad. Rubber band tires make the car ride rough, can reduce handling, and are more prone to breakage when hitting bumps or potholes. Not to mention, bigger, heavier wheels add weight which affects steering, braking, and acceleration.
Again, wings and aerodynamics modifications come from racecars. If Formula One cars have wings, and Time Attack cars have splitters, they must be a great mod, right? Not exactly. These race cars are developed by scientists using computer modeling and wind-tunnel testing to dial in every component for maximum performance. An angle difference of 0.1 degree can drastically affect it. Slapping parts on your car can do nothing at best, and at worst, can create dangerous effects on the car while driving. We recommend you skip the aero and go for something more effective.
Ground Effects/Body Kits
Ground Effects and Body Kits are another modification based on adapting racecar looks to your daily driver. Sometimes these are used to make a car look lower, or to make room for wider wheels. Most of these kits add no performance at all, and are typically made from inferior materials that are prone to falling apart. On top of that, most body kits require a lot of time and labor by a body shop in order to fit correctly and be painted to look good. Spend your money on go fast goodies and the looks won’t matter.
“Fuel Saving” Devices on the Internet/TV
You’ve seen the infomercials. Buy this turbine and stuff it in your intake to save 20 miles per gallon. The hydrogen injection kits in the back of science magazines are intriguing. Ebay is full of magnets and plug-in chips, and all sorts of devices guaranteeing you Prius-level fuel economy out of your Dodge Ram. They are all snake oil. If you want to save fuel, keep your tires aired up, your car well maintained, and your foot out of the pedal. Beyond that, opt for a more fuel efficient vehicle. None of these gadgets do anything but make your wallet lighter.
“Horsepower Adding” Devices on the Internet
Just like the fuel saving devices, there is no magic way to “add 50 horsepower for $9.99 plus shipping!” There are hundreds and thousands of devices claiming to do things like “unlock your engine computer” or offer “self learning performance chips” and magic oil filters that make your car 90% more powerful. If it sounds too good to be true, odds are it is. Most of these devices do nothing, but others have the potential to severely damage your car. There are no shortcuts to going fast. Do it right, or don’t do it.