The Illawarra’s Automotive Specialists

Need For Speed – Car Modding Essentials

This one’s for the true car enthusiasts with a need for speed – and just a splash of flash. If you want to take your driving experience to another level and turn some heads in the process – buckle up and let’s dive in.

Car modding has taken many a man. It can be a never-ending process. After all, there’s always that one more super-necessary adjustment, tweak, part or change you need to transform your car into a real beast. 

And no wonder. Car performance, aesthetics, functionality – whatever you’re looking to improve, there are thousands of different solutions available out there.

So, how to not get lost in the world of endless possibilities and completely drain your budget? Where to start?

Before we try to find an answer to that question, let’s address another one – why?

Why We Modify Our Cars

Discovering your why, will help you determine the plan. Car modding and tuning enthusiasts typically pursue their passion for three main reasons: performance, aesthetics, and functionality.

Find out which one you care about the most, or maybe they’re all equally important to you – that’s fine. Regardless of what your answer is, this is the perfect starting point. Now, let’s take a look and discover what are some of the best-known modifications in each of the three areas.

What mods should I do to my car, you ask? There are three main groups – performance, aesthetics and functionality. The specifics are entirely up to you. Some people value looks and flashy bits more than performance – and there’s nothing wrong with that. These things should bring you joy, so who’s to say what’s better. In terms of value for money, of course, improved handling, breaks or anything related to better efficiency is your best bet.

Performance Upgrades

Performance is definitely one of the most common – and logical – reasons for modding. If you’re looking to boost horsepower, torque, and acceleration, there are several key components you can consider:

  • Engine: Upgrades like turbochargers, superchargers, and engine management systems can significantly increase your car’s power and responsiveness. Even something like engine reconditioning can make a big difference.
  • Limited Slip Differential: Instead of spending thousands of dollars on engine modifications for that extra bit of horsepower, one of these bad boys can help you make good use of the power you already have.
  • Transmission: Upgraded clutches, shift kits, torque converters, and short-throw shifters improve gear changes and overall performance.
  • Suspensions: Coilovers, sway and strut bars and polyurethane bushings help improve handling and cornering.
  • Brakes: Upgraded brake pads, rotors, specialized brake lines, and high-performance brake fluid enhance stopping power and safety.

Aesthetics Enhancements

Let’s be honest – sometimes, it’s all about the looks. You just want your ride to turn some heads when you’re driving around your neighbourhood. Maybe an audible gasp.

Thankfully, you’re not alone. So many enthusiasts keep chasing the very same dream that the market really comes through, offering a wide range of interesting and eye-catching options for both interior and exterior modding.

  • Exterior Parts: Body kits, aerodynamic components (side and hood vents, diffusers, splitters, spoilers) and custom paint jobs can completely transform your car’s appearance and give it that distinct sporty look.
  • Interior Parts: Custom seats, upholstery, steering wheels, shift knobs, and audio systems add a personal touch to your ride.
  • Accessories: Spoilers, splitters, diffusers, window tinting, under glow kits, and custom wheels and rims are popular choices for those who want that street-racing car look.

Functionality Improvements

Functional modifications are all about making your car more efficient and user-friendly:

  • Exhaust Systems: Upgrading headers and downpipes can improve performance and functionality. The satisfying roar is just an added bonus.
  • Air Intake System: A cold air intake enhances airflow and at the same time, engine efficiency. Something worth considering.
  • Lights: LED or HID headlights improve visibility during night drives, which guarantees more safety.
  • Tires: A good set of tires can be the best and most affordable investment you can make in terms of performance. Crucial for functionality and safety. That’s a corner you don’t want to cut.
  • Race Seats & Harness: There was a little debate on whether to put them here or in the Aesthetics section, but ultimately – they’re a functional piece that simply happens to look good. Very important to keep your body in place while breaking or accelerating – and it’s hard to find a better option for that.

Plan Things Out

This cannot be said enough. Any project should be well-thought-out in advance – before you even touch anything. Doesn’t matter if it’s building a house, sculpting or – car modding. But what does it mean in the context of that last example? As we mentioned, that means deciding what matters the most for you – aesthetics, performance or functionality. Finding the reason you’re even doing it in the first place.

Then, it’s time to start researching specific parts in terms of their roles and prices. Sometimes you can find a great deal online, sometimes a “quick” visit to a scrapyard can be the best decision you’ve ever made. Once you know what scratches that itch for you, you need to set the budget based on your finances and the data you’ve gathered. And don’t make any compromises.

How much to mod a car? For a full-on performance upgrade, you can expect anywhere between $1,000 to $10,000. That’s just a ballpark – the sky’s the limit here. We can honestly say you can spend as much or (pretty much) as little as you want. It all depends on the extent and type of the intended modifications.

Car modding is a marathon, not a sprint, so even if you came up with some new additions  just take your time, unless you find an unbelievable bargain. Don’t do everything all at once. Start with essentials (whatever that means for you) and then gradually and methodically expand your mods. Takes a little discipline, but it’s worth it.

You need to do one more thing – set your expectations. Car modding is essentially the art of compromise. Adding power here affects a different aspect or part. Something to keep in mind. But don’t let that discourage you – that’s where the whole fun is.

Best Mod-Friendly Cars

Let’s imagine another scenario. You’re actually considering getting a new car specifically to mod it to your liking. That’s not a bad idea if you have a budget for it. Let’s take a look at some of the cars the biggest enthusiasts typically go for at different price points.

Toyota Supra MK4 in metallic grey

Toyota Supra MK4

This is a true definition of a fan favourite. In fact, so much so that it’s really hard to find a standard pre-modded model. You take one look at it and you immediately understand why. Sleek lines, beautiful design, and sporty look that suggest a much higher price point. The aesthetics of a luxury car without the hefty cost. Unattainable becomes attainable. Many companies make special parts and body kits to modify Supras, so availability and demand (as well as supply) are all there.

Volkswagen Golf

The good ol’ reliable Golf. We’re not even talking about any specific generation. No – all of them have a faithful following with some truly creative modifications and ideas. Seemingly unexciting, it gives you a chance to build something unique. In terms of performance – it does well, especially the GTI model if you want a bit more kick to it.

Light blue Mazda MX5

Mazda MX-5

A great, cheap tuner. Sporty look, and stunning design - makes you think of a cool Alfa Romeo Spider without the price tag. Parts are readily available, there are a lot of interesting choices out there and much like the car – they tend to be quite affordable as well. A fantastic choice, but perhaps not for every climate.

Red & black Subaru BRZ

Subaru BRZ

This model was simply made to be modded. As an affordable sports car, for a car enthusiast – it’s like a blank canvas, with plenty of options to customise it whichever way you see fit. Turning your vision into a reality is easy with the Subaru BRZ.

These are our top picks, but the list obviously doesn’t end here. Do your own research, always look for good opportunities and – prioritise your own preferences.

Safety First

Yes, that’s not what you want to hear as a real speed demon and adrenaline junkie. Nevertheless, it’s time to move on to the boring part. Incidentally, it’s also the most important one. Modding is fun, sure. But if you go overboard, you might compromise handling and cause an accident down the road. It’s just not worth it. So, make sure you put safety first.

Another aspect is quite important. We can summarize it in one, fundamental question. Are car modifications illegal? Some of them are and some of them can get you in trouble. It’s crucial to get some information about local regulations from a reliable source or professional before you start your modding journey. You don’t want your hard work to go to waste. There’s no point in enumerating all of the intricacies of legal requirements (and there are quite a few). Modded and custom cars have to play by different rules, so it’s important to use trusted sources.

Unfortunately, modifications may not be covered by the insurance. There’s no rule here really, apart from the fact it’s mostly about performance enhancements, which means you do need to discuss this with your service provider beforehand.


But there’s one more question – does modding a car void warranty? It might. Unfortunately, the answer is once again not so simple. Simply having an aftermarket part should not affect the warranty, but more complex modifications, with ECU tunes or anything racing-related most likely do.

Buckle Up!

With all this newly gained knowledge, you’re ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.

At times, it’ll make you happier than anything in the world and some other times – it’ll make you want to jump off the closest bridge, especially if you’re determined to do most of the work yourself.

Find your reasons, plan things out, set your budget and expectations and buckle up – you’ve got an exciting journey ahead of you indeed!

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