Many people would like to modify their cars in some way, but they are put off by the potential expense of it. That said, many cheap car mods are available as options for those who want to boost their car's appearance or performance without breaking the bank.
Let's look at some of the best cheap car mods available.
1. Headlight Covers
This is one of the more practical steps to changing the car's exterior. This cheap car mod involves removing the OEM covers around the headlamps and replacing them with a different style that may alter the shape or look. It's a straightforward step that can also apply to the rear lights (see below).
2. Racing Stripes
Getting a vinyl wrap or a custom paint job is an expensive way to enhance a vehicle's exterior. A more affordable alternative is adding stripes to the front end, the hood, or the sides. It's a simple approach that doesn't involve paint or body modifications. Choose lines that accentuate your car's exterior flow for maximum effect.
And while a full-body vinyl wrap isn't cheap either, consider covering just the hood or roof to add contrast that won't empty the wallet. If you're a DIY'er, you can even look into wrapping the vehicle yourself.
3. Custom Emblem or Hood Ornament
Most OEM emblems are bland chrome badges or the like, but it's easy to add some bling by choosing a custom version. Another way to personalize your ride is by adding a hood ornament. Come up with something totally unique, or incorporate a design that reflects a personal passion or cultural phenomenon.
4. Underside Lights
While underside lights were more popular in the 1990s, there's no reason you can't invoke some nostalgia. This special glow will make your car look like it's floating, and best of all, this is an inexpensive upgrade.
5. Custom Turn Signals and Rear Lights
You can transform those plain-Jane turn signals into something more dynamic, and the same can be said for the taillights. Start by seeing if there's an option to change the light bulbs to something that animates. Red LED strips are also an additional way to quickly and affordably modify the rear lights.
6. Wheel Lights
Like those funky lights on the car's underside, wheel lights can change the entire look of the vehicle (at least at night). Add LED accents to allow a splash of color to shine through the open spaces in alloy wheels. Or, install lighting strips inside the wheel wells for a more unique appearance.
7. Tire and Wheel Color
Tires don't always have to be black. Try a tire color spray that's easy to apply with a DIY sponge applicator. Options include a glittery platinum look that adds bling to these frequently ignored surfaces.
8. Vehicle Chip Tuning
Chip tuning is a process of upgrading the engine control unit (ECU) in a vehicle to improve its performance. The ECU, also known as the engine control module, is responsible for controlling various functions in the vehicle's engine, such as fuel injection, ignition timing, and turbocharger boost. By reprogramming the ECU, you can unlock more horsepower and torque, improve acceleration, and increase fuel efficiency.
The process typically involves removing the vehicle's ECU and sending it to a specialist tuner, who will then reflash the software with a custom performance tune. Some chip tuning companies offer the option to perform the tuning remotely, by accessing the vehicle's ECU through the OBD-II diagnostic port.
While it can provide noticeable performance gains, it is important to note that it can sometimes void the vehicle's warranty and potentially harm the engine and other components if not done properly. It is important to only use reputable and experienced tuners and to thoroughly research the chip tuning options for a specific make and model of vehicle before making a decision. Additionally, some countries have regulations on chip tuning and it may be illegal to perform the process in those regions.
9. Cold Air Intakes & Performance Air Filters
Cold air intakes are aftermarket engine modifications that are designed to increase the performance of a vehicle's engine by providing it with a larger volume of cooler, denser air. The idea behind this modification is that cold air is denser and contains more oxygen molecules than warm air, which allows the engine to produce more power.
A typical system consists of an air filter, a air duct, and a heat shield. The air filter is positioned away from the engine's hot components, typically in a location such as the fender well or inside the air box, where it can draw in cool air from outside the engine bay. The air duct connects the air filter to the throttle body, and the heat shield helps to prevent engine heat from being transferred to the incoming air stream.
Installing one can improve the performance of a vehicle in several ways. The most notable benefit is the increase in horsepower and torque, as the engine is able to produce more power by combining the increased oxygen supply with fuel. This increased power can result in improved acceleration and a more responsive throttle, which makes driving a more exhilarating experience.
It's important to note that not all intakes are created equal. The quality of the components and the design of the system can greatly affect its performance. A poorly designed cold air intake can actually reduce engine performance by allowing hot engine air to mix with the incoming cool air, resulting in a decrease in horsepower and torque.
10. Grille Inserts
Grille inserts are an extremely cheap way to augment a car's front end, especially if it has a prominent grille like a pickup truck or SUV. Think about a block-metal look or a gloss black treatment for a robust and rugged appearance. Above all, updating a grille can cost as little as $10.
11. Door Lights
If you've seen those cool projected light effects on high-end cars like Audi and Mercedes-Benz, you should know that creating this look is simpler than you think. It's as easy as installing a light projection unit into the door and wiring it into the electrical system. Do this, and the wow factor will kick in whenever the door is opened.
12. Wind Deflectors
Unlike the previous cheap car mods that focus on looks, adding wind deflectors above the door windows helps with performance. Improving your car's aerodynamics translates into less burden on the engine.
13. Throttle Cable Adjustment
One inexpensive modification often overlooked is adjusting the throttle cable to improve the response time while accelerating. However, it's a performance upgrade that's best left to a professional mechanic.
14. Colored Window Tinting
Color tinting is an easy way to impact a car's windows. In addition, this modification can keep prying eyes away and block the sun's UV rays. And color tinting takes this to the next level by matching or contrasting the paint. Just remember to check local regulations to ensure what you're thinking about doesn't run afoul of the law.
15. Custom Windshield Wipers
Another excellent option for a cheap car mod is swapping out the stock windshield wipers for custom ones. It's a simple DIY project that can transform a dull accessory into something more noticeable.
Conclusion: Always Be Clear on the Rules First
Some states and local jurisdictions prohibit certain modifications, even cosmetic ones. Tampering with exterior lights, for example, can be problematic, as can adding hood ornaments (some authorities think they are a danger to others). Be sure to confirm that your proposed modification is compliant with applicable regulations.