Johannesburg - You've had your ride for a while now and it’s out of motorplan.
You've been waiting for this moment because you can now tinker with your car without worrying about voiding the motorplan - but there are consequences to modifying your car that you should consider seriously first.
She’s got the look
Cosmetic modifications are generally acceptable and safe to do. A beefed up sound system and some paint or vinyl can really alter the way you perceive your vehicle. Whether you're just cruising along a highway with your music turned up or taking a slow drive along the beachfront with the thump to match your bump, sound, vinyl and paint can completely do the trick.
Keep the (turning) circle tight
A well-chosen set of aftermarket rims will also make your car visually appealing and can improve its handling - but this is where the consequences start coming into play. If you choose the wrong type of rims for your vehicle - either too big or too wide - the tyres may rub against bodywork and affect the car’s ability to turn adequately; it’s advisable to have your aftermarket rims fitted by a professional.
How low can you go?
You could lower your car with a proper sports suspension or a coil-over kit. This will give you more grip and improve handling significantly but the danger is that, if you lower your vehicle too far, you stand a strong chance of having your licence disc pulled by traffic officials and your car declared unroadworthy. There is also the added possible irritation of having your vehicle scraping on every speed bump or kerb that you encounter.
Stop, look and check your wallet
Brakes are always a good modification - there’s absolutely nothing wrong with shortening your car’s stopping distance, especially in an era when people seem to do peculiar and hazardous things on the roads. A good set of brakes or an uprated braking system can give you peace of mind when you really need to stop and is a vital modification if you ever intend trying to squeeze more power out of your engine.
But before considering uprating brakes, check your wallet first. Decide how much money you do not need. Now check again just to be sure because brake modifications are expensive. There are performance brake modifications that can be tailored to suit your budget but always remember never to compromise quality for price. Brakes are fundamental to safety on the road, so any brake modifications should be done by professionals.
Time to go
Powertrain modifications are generally the most exciting - but they can also cause the biggest chaos in your, once factory spec, car. The chaos unfolds like this:
Once you modify your car’s engine, it will make more power; that’s the idea, isn’t it? But, depending on the level of modification you carry out, from intake free-flow intake and exhaust systems to uprated ECU chips, high-pressure fuel injection, bolt-on nitrous oxide or water/methanol injection kits, turbocharging, high-compression pistons, stronger aftermarket con rods or even a lightened, re-balanced crankshaft and flywheel, thre will be a knock-on effect.
Small gains such as those from free-breathing inlet and/or exhaust plumbing won’t compromise your car’s reliability and you may not need any further modifications. But if you go 'Full Hot Rod' meaning that you pull out all the stops and squeeze as much power from the engine as possible, you’ll be faced with having to change almost everything that help transfer the power from the engine to the wheels.
The standard gearbox and drivetrain won’t be able handle the extra torque, which means either uprating or replacing the clutch and gearbox as well as the drive-shaft and half-shafts, better tyres to lay the extra power down without getting shredded, suspension modifications to keep your car planted on the road and (definitely) a brake upgrade to haul it down safely.
And after all that...
Properly done, performance modifications are great fun and amazing when you take your car to a track, but are not always easy to live with every day.
An aggressive racing clutch can be annoyingly jerky in stop-start traffic, your car may use a lot more fuel, maintenance intervals shorten and lubricants become much more expensive, parts wear out faster and become difficult to replace - and you still risk having the cops pull your licence disc and declare your car unroadworthy.
Check your wallet again
Maybe it’s safer and more affordable to stick with cosmetic, sound, and basic intake and exhaust modifications; think very carefully before you modify your daily driver to racing specification. Sometimes going 'Full Hot Rod' could mean that you break down before leaving your driveway.
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