Upgrade Your Ride
The 10 Best Car Mods You Can Do Yourself
It’s easy to think that you need either a mechanical engineering degree or to be Dominic Torretto from The Fast and the Furious to work on your own car. That’s hardly true — though you should have slightly-higher-than-basic mechanical know-how before you unbolt any engine covers and start removing things.
Aside from extensive repairs and large-scale modifications, there are a handful of upgrades most anyone can do that will 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.
If you want your car to handle better, start with a good set of tires. More 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.
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 $5+
Better: NGK Iridium IX $6+
Best: Denso Iridium Racing $31+
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 X4 Power Flash Programmer $399+
Better: AEM EMS-4 Universal Engine Management System $598+
Best: APR ECU Flash $600+
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.
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.
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.
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 $80
Better: Garmin BC 30 Wireless Backup Camera $146
Best: Boyo VTC700R $257
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.
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 CS800-S $48
Better: Directed Electronics Inc 4806P Python $157
Best: Viper 5906V $400
Tire Pressure Monitoring
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.
Anything that makes life and work easier in the garage is a surefire gift win. Read the Story