Yes, there are a ton of lists out there that detail car mods to avoid. However, they mostly only touch base on “dumb” or “annoying” appearance modifications. While we agree with many of them, we’re not here to talk about looks. (Unless you have truck nuts. That trend needs to die.) We’re more interested in helping newcomers understand the real performance values of popularly misunderstood car mods. Because not only will understanding these modifications keep you from looking like a fool, but reconsidering one just might save you some money.
Wings vs Spoilers
Wings and spoilers can be great personal touches on a vehicle. Sure, some people find them gaudy, but we believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The misunderstanding of this mod, however, comes when people confuse the two terms. If you look at the designs of spoilers and wings, there are some big differences between them. Wings are designed to apply downforce, while spoilers are meant to reduce drag. In the world of racing, wings are an essential part of keeping those tires glued to the track. But since any noticeable gains in downforce occur at relatively high speeds, for street cars, spoilers really are a better choice. They offer just enough “spoiling” of the air flow to counteract lift. And this can offer the little bit more control and stability you may be looking for. Or you know, screw the math and just mount a giant wing on your Honda Civic. You do you…
Muscle cars have great big engines that are sometimes paired with great big carburetors. Unfortunately, there is a longtime trend of people throwing massive carbs on engines that just don’t need something that big. Unless the engine can use a ton of fuel, a giant carburetor can be a nightmare. You see, friends, bigger isn’t always better. Too much fuel can cause tuning issues and though you might get the car running alright, it won’t be 100%. Sure, having too small of a carburetor can cause issues as well, but it’s better to be conservative than to overestimate when looking for a carb.
Lifted trucks are one of the most popular car mods, and every day the number of them on the road grows. It’s easy to think that lifting a truck increases clearance. It does—in a way, but it’s not giving ground clearance. Lift kits give more room for bigger tires, and bigger tires are what increase ground clearance. This is because it’s the tires that actually increase the distance between the axles and the ground. Understanding this can save you some money if you’re considering something like a 6-inch lift kit, when you really only need clearance from smaller tires that a 3- or 4-inch lift can accommodate.
Cold Air Intakes
While this is a popular and relatively inexpensive upgrade, it’s also one of the more contentious car mods. Suppliers get a lot of flak about cold air intakes being a waste of money. Many people feel that since a car’s filter system has already been calibrated by engineers, tweaking the intake without proper dyno tuning won’t guarantee you any gains in horsepower. Ultimately, however, aftermarket intakes do increase air flow, and a true cold air intake draws air from outside the engine compartment where there is less heat. Typically any gains come from the tubing of the intake itself and the type of filter. But like most things in life: you get what you pay for. A well-designed aftermarket intake, combined with other appropriate mods will most likely give you the faster throttle response and growly engine sounds you’re looking for. A cheap kit? Well, prepare to be disappointed.
Bigger Wheels (Cars)
It seems like bigger wheels are becoming more and more of a trend on cars these days. Looks are one thing, but there are performance aspects to larger wheels. The most noticeable change will be the way the car handles. Bigger wheels will be paired with low profile tires. These tires will roll less while turning, making for a stiffer ride that corners better. But go too big and you begin to see losses in ride comfort, acceleration, and fuel efficiency, as well as more strain on your wallet. Unless you’re driving a donk, the rule of thumb is to keep your new wheels in the same ballpark diameter as the old ones.
What do you think? What are some of the top misunderstood car mods you’ve seen?