Upgrade Your Ride

The 10 Best Car Mods You Can Do Yourself


September 28, 2019 Cars By
Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

It’s easy to think that you need a mechanical engineering degree — or, perhaps, to be Dominic Torretto from The Fast and the Furious — to work on your own car. That’s hardly true, however. You should have some mechanical know-how before you unbolt any engine covers and start removing things, but there are still plenty of tweaks that are well within the grasp of most of us.

And in fact, there are a handful of upgrades almost anyone can do that can make a big difference to your daily driver. From new tires and spark plugs to installing backup cameras and data monitoring systems, here are a few easy upgrades that’ll breathe life into your old ride.

Performance

Tires

If you want your car to handle better, start with a good set of tires. Power is great, but if you don’t have quality rubber to provide grip and translate it to the road, oomph is all for nothing.

Good: Falken Azenis $95+
Better: Bridgestone Potenza $136+
Best: Michelin Pilot Super Sport $292+

Spark Plugs

Better spark plugs are an easy, affordable swap that can make all the difference. The better the quality of the spark, the better the combustion — translating to more power and better fuel economy. (Here’s a complete rundown on how to check yours.)

Good: Bosch Double Iridium Spark Plugs $7+
Better: NGK Iridium IX $9+
Best: Denso Iridium Long Life $9+

Engine Control Unit (ECU) Flash

The ECU in your car is set up from the factory to control the fuel-air mixture in the engine, which maximizes efficiency and power. Problem is, manufacturers program the ECU’s parameters well below the engine’s true capability, mostly as a safety net. A quick reprogramming can unlock all sorts of engine performance — and in some instances, even return better gas mileage.

Good: SCT Performance BDX Programmer $400+
Better: AEM EMS-4 Universal Engine Management System $608+

Bushings

Replacing bushings is a bit more involved than swapping spark plugs, but you’ll be glad you did it. Sitting between the suspension and frame and the chassis and engine, factory rubber bushings help prevent vibrations throughout your car.

The problem with rubber bushings is that they wear out and crack over time. Polyurethane bushings not only last longer than their standard rubber counterparts, but also do a better job of quelling vibrations and minimizing weight transfer.

Good: Daystar $137
Better: Prothane $184

Cold-Air Intake

The better your car breathes, the better it runs. A cold-air intake not only frees up the air flow to your engine, it also feeds it cooler, denser air, which engines love.

Good: Spectre Performance $177
Better: K&N $298

Technology

Infotainment

The age of infotainment systems is relatively new, so it’s understandable if you feel behind with an older car. A new, modern interface and speaker system is an easy way to re-energize your daily commute or weekend drive.

Good: Soundstream VRN-65HB $180
Better: Kenwood DDX24BT $249
Best: Pioneer AVIC-5200NEX $669

Back-Up Camera

Backup cameras only recently became standard across the industry. But, once you use a backup camera, going back to parallel parking and reversing in tight spaces without one feels like serious work.

Good: Metra License Plate Back-Up Camera $100
Better: Garmin BC 30 Wireless Backup Camera $150
Best: Boyo VTC700R $182

Data Monitoring

Even if you consider yourself handy under the hood of your car, diagnosing a single specific problem based on the all-encompassing check engine light can be near-impossible. Data monitoring systems keep you in-the-know, revealing problems in plain English.

Good: Fixd Active Car Health Monitor $60
Better: ScanTool $80
Best: VyncsPro $100

Remote Start

Warming up or cooling down your car before even getting in it is a true luxury. But you don’t need a personal driver on the payroll — all you need is a simple remote starter.

Good: Compustar RF-2WR3-FM Prime R3 $85
Better: Directed Electronics Viper $130
Best: Viper 5906V $366

Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Whether you’re going on a long road trip or making your way through the daily commute, few things can ruin a drive like a flat or slow leak. Keeping the correct PSI in all four corners isn’t just safe; you’ll also extract better handling and performance from your tires when they’re properly inflated.

Good: Favoto TPMS $38
Better: Cacagoo Wireless TPMS $69

The Best Gifts For At-Home Mechanics

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Bryan Campbell

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