The 7 Worst Ways to Mod Your Car

August 28, 2008

Since the advent of the automobile, there have always been those among us who feel the need to take the design of a vehicle and go a step further. Some do it for speed, some for handling, and some simply for style.

For many auto enthusiasts, their ride is an extension of their own personality – a window into their soul. And that’s where things can get a bit dodgy. Some people, well… their souls just weren’t that well thought-out.

The result? Neon underglows, rhinestone’d mud flaps, and spinners, to name a few. So think of this as a public service are the 7 worst ways to modify your car.

7. Truck Nutz


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case, I think that’s severely underrated. Beyond serving no purpose other than to announce your maverick defiance against anything which could be even remotely considered good taste, these fake ball sacks are actually illegal in some states now.

Even though it probably has more do to with a collective freak-out by the morality police, I like to think the law is something more along the lines of a situation where the government felt they had to intervene to save a moronic populace from themselves.  Git’er done!

6. Fake Chrome


Ok, I like chrome. I really do. To gaze upon a 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Ville is to understand the meaning of beauty.

But, just because a 59 Caddy has a metric ass-ton of chrome (which suits it quite well), it does not mean your 1998 Chevy Tahoe is going to look sharp with stick-on strips of fake chrome accentuating every gap between the body panels. How is this aesthetically pleasing to anyone?  Or is this a clever trick – are we supposed to think your car is swank because you bought some fake chrome pieces at Pep Boys? Kid, I’m insulted.

Maybe it’s an addiction. Maybe you start out simple, something like this. Before you know it, your car is covered roof to wheels in faux shiny bits. Maybe you know it looks god awful at this point, but you’ve invested so much time and money into the project, your brain refuses to accept such a result. That’s ok, because I have no problem reminding you. Your fake chrome looks whack.

5. Blow-off Valves


Ok, so you saw one particular movie about a particular street racing trend in the late 90s and bought your turbo Sentra a blow off valve. Initially, you thought to yourself, “Sweet, my econobox sounds like a jet fighter!.” Couple of days later, while rowing through the gears in stop and go traffic, you realized that maybe the loud hiss created by releasing compressed air isn’t the most pleasant sound to hear 5000 times during rush hour. Well, at least it’s giving you some help in the performance department, right? Wrong.

4. Putting a Race Clutch in Your 200hp Daily Driver


Ok, so you bought a bone-stock ’89 Mustang. You went straight to work on it - bought a pair of Flowmasters, and a K&N CAI. Where do you go from here? Well, if you’re anything like the previous owners of the two Mustangs I’ve had, you apparently go straight for the heaviest, least practical clutch you can find.

Take, for instance, the King Cobra clutch. Rated for drivetrains making in excess of 450hp, you’ve just put one on a car that makes 220. Did it make the car faster? No. Did it make your left leg cramp up in traffic and make driving your car a physically taxing endeavor every time you got behind the wheel? Yes.

Next time, avoid trying to fool yourself into thinking you’re driving a McLaren F1 and use a clutch that doesn’t require both feet to fully engage. You’ll just end up wearing this clutch out prematurely from lazy shifts anyway.

3. Cheap Exhaust Systems


Along with cold air intakes, an aftermarket exhaust system is one of the first modifications any self-respecting hot rodder will undertake. Not only does a less restrictive exhaust system free up some horsepower and torque (sometimes) it also lets more of the engine’s natural tone resonate throughout the land.

Sometimes, however, this isn’t a good thing. Sometimes, it makes your car sound like a swarm of drugged bees being shot out of the ass of an elephant.

The bottom line here is, if you buy a cheap exhaust system, your car is going to sound like ass. Doesn’t matter if it’s an '85 Yugo GV or a Ferrari F430. Save a little longer and spend those hard-earned duckets on a decent muffler. Everyone will thank you. 

2. Wings


Amongst all the negative hallmarks of the tuner trend that defined a “rice rocket”, this might be the most immediately recognizable. The idea behind a wing or a spoiler is that it creates downforce, which keeps the back end of the car from losing grip at (very) high speeds.

The concept of a wing is not an entirely bad one by any means. For instance, if you look at a Porsche 911, you’ll notice that a small spoiler comes up from the body of the car at speeds above around 60mph or so. Porsche considers this adequate downforce for a car which can reach speeds in excess of 190mph.

However, a Toyota Tercel does not reach speeds in excess of 110mph. Because of that sad fact, it really needs no wing at all, much less a large one, or two large ones. All you're really doing is adding weight, and in turn slowing your car down.

This is the automotive equivalent of having “I’m an asshat” tattooed on your forehead.

1. DIY Suspension Lowering


The “slammed” look has been the hot ticket for a while now. It’s a simple way to take your otherwise stock car and add a healthy dose of sex appeal and sportiness. Lowering a car puts the center of gravity, well…, lower, allowing the car to handle better and (assuming it’s done properly) experience less body roll through the curves.

However, far more often than not, this is not the case. Many modders will simply buy a set of the most aggressive springs they can find and slap them on, figuring the job is done. Unfortunately, you have just introduced a vast array of problems to your car.

We'll start with bump steer. Since you’ve lowered the springs, but left the rest of the suspension alone, all the other parts are still configured to be used with springs taller than the ones on there now. So, when you hit a bump in the road now, you better be holding the wheel pretty tight, because you’re about to experience bump steer. When the wheel hits a large bump, pothole, or even a groove in the road, your car will now steer in the direction of that road surface, hence steering your car without your consent. It's really fun on a freeway off ramp, let me tell you. Bump steer sucks, and it’s totally dangerous. But let’s assume you don’t mind that.

Let’s say instead, you didn’t even buy any springs. Couldn’t afford ‘em! Instead, you heard about cutting the existing springs to lower your car. Hey, great idea – doesn’t cost you a dime! But here’s what you didn’t expect – those springs are no longer springs now. They’re solid pieces of metal shaped like springs. What’s that mean, you say? It means you no longer have a functioning suspension system. You hit a bump and nothing absorbs it whatsoever.

This is why you see those cars on the freeway constantly bouncing up and down. As bad as it looks from the outside, it’s far, far worse inside the car. Trust me, they’ve learned their lesson. Hopefully, you have too.

Now, go buy a bone-stock Evo and learn how to drive it.