Once you’ve found the car of your dreams and made it yours, it can be easy to start thinking about all the aftermarket modifications you want to make to it to truly call it your own. After all, your car is a small extension of who you are so why not add tweaks to reflect your personality more accurately? Not to mention modifications can be a fun and rewarding project.
But how will those changes affect the value of your car when you go to trade it in or sell it later? Well, it depends. While you may think the changes are fantastic and anyone who owns the car after you would be lucky to have them, the truth is, other people may not be big fans of your alterations.
They may not care for your ear-piercing exhaust or black aftermarket wheels and dealers know that. If you go to trade in or sell a used car that has too many modifications, it will significantly lower the resell value of the car.
No matter how much time you spend in your car, you’ll appreciate these useful car tech accessories. From dash cams to diagnostics, these handy gadgets will make your drive time safer and more fun. Long work commutes and road trips, we’re ready for you.
One of the most dramatic ways to instantly transform the look of your car is by installing a body kit. Body kits are made up of different exterior body panels that replace your factory ones.
Popular kits include front and rear bumpers, side skirts, spoilers, and wings. This allows you to give your ride a sporty, low-to-the-ground look. Kits are available molded from materials like polyurethane, ABS plastic, and carbon fiber.
Brands like Veilside, Bomex, and Duraflex make body kits for many car models. Prices range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
When installing a body kit, it’s best to have the professional installation done by a body shop. This ensures proper alignment and secure attachment. You’ll also need to have the car repainted in most cases to match the color scheme you want. This adds to the cost, but the transformation can be dramatic.
Another way to instantly change the look of your car is to swap out the factory wheels for custom aftermarket wheels. You have countless styles to choose from like chrome, bronze, black, anthracite, and even neon-colored rims.
Popular designs include multi-spoke, mesh, spoked, and concave wheels. Diameters typically range from 18″ to 26″. Big-diameter wheels with low-profile tires result in a slammed, performance look.
Some things to consider when shopping for new wheels are bolt pattern, wheel diameter, backspacing and offset. Make sure the new wheels match these specs on your stock wheels to ensure proper fitment.
The type of tire can also alter the look, so consider upgraded tire options as well. New wheels and tires together can set you back $1000 or more.
Accessing the OBD/BCM Ports
An important aspect of customizing modern computer-controlled vehicles is gaining access to the onboard diagnostics (OBD) ports. All vehicles of the 1996 model year and newer in the US have standardized OBD-II ports.
These special ports allow you to connect scan tools, telematics devices, racing gauges, diagnostic code readers, and reprogramming devices.
When tapping into your OBD ports, devices like the Z-Flash provide versatile functionality with minimal installation requirements. The Z-Flash simply plugs into your OBDII connector and gives you increased visibility over key aspects like throttle input, RPM, fuel trim, speed, and more.
With programmable outputs, it can control auxiliary lighting, cut power or ground, and has built-in warning alerts. You can even wire it to an external switch to trigger actions like 2-step rev limiters.
The Z-Flash is one of many clever devices that takes advantage of your OBD ports to unlock convenient and customizable features. With so much possibility from a simple plug-in, your OBD connectors truly are the gateways to enhancing your ride.
Through the OBD port, you can view sensor data, check error codes, monitor performance, recalibrate electronics, and enable special features. The port provides direct access to the engine control unit (ECU) and dozens of other vehicle computers and modules. It’s the gateway to the brains of the vehicle.
Many aftermarket accessories will interface through the OBD2 port. There are typically two ports located under the dash—one is the standard data link connector while the other is the bus communication module (BCM) interface.
Your car’s make and model will determine what systems can be accessed at each port location. Consult your owner’s manual to see what modules are tied to each port in your vehicle.
Knowing how to safely access the OBD2/BCM ports is crucial when installing aftermarket electronics or programming modules. Just be sure only to connect compatible devices designed for your specific vehicle.
Improper connections can cause malfunctions, electrical shorts, or system damage. As long as you exercise caution, the OBD ports provide an essential link to unlocking the full potential of your ride.
A lowered suspension gives your ride that slammed, rugged look. By equipping your car with lowering springs or coil overs, you can drop it 1-3 inches closer to the pavement. This enhances the style, appearance and handling all at once.
Lowering too much can affect drivability and wheel well clearance, however. Many late model cars have factory sport suspension packages available to lower it from the manufacturer safely.
Overall, lowering your ride is one of the most effective ways to make it look cool and perform better when done properly.
For a relatively affordable price, you can completely transform the exterior color scheme of your car with a custom wrap. Wraps are made from thin vinyl films that are adhered to your car’s factory paint.
This allows you to go from a boring stock color to something wild like matte purple or glossy chameleon without having to paint the car. Wraps protect the paint and can be removed later if desired.
The cost starts around $2000-$4000 and depends on the complexity of the design. This is much cheaper than a quality custom paint job. Wraps allow you unlimited creative freedom.
Cold Air Intakes
If you’re looking to add power under the hood, one easy upgrade is to install a cold air intake system. They work by drawing in colder air from outside the engine bay and funneling it into the engine.
This denser, colder air packs more oxygen, which allows more fuel to be burned, thus increasing horsepower. Intakes replace the factory airbox and are easy bolt-on mods. Leading brands include K&N, AEM and Injen.
Expect around 10-20 hp gains, which you’ll definitely feel in the seat of your pants. Prices range from $200-$500.
After a cold air intake, the next best power gain comes from installing an aftermarket exhaust system. These come in a few different configurations but generally eliminate the catalytic converter and replace the muffler with a high-flow version.
This reduces backpressure from the exhaust which lets the engine expend gases easier and thus create more power. Popular brands include Magnaflow, Borla, Flowmaster and MBRI. Expect gains of 15-30 hp depending on the car.
Exhaust install runs around $800-$1500. It also drastically alters the sound of the car, resulting in a deep throaty tone.
Short Throw Shifters
If your car comes with a manual transmission, consider installing an aftermarket short-throw shifter. As the name suggests, it shortens the throw between gears so your shifts are quicker, tighter and more precise.
This allows you to squeeze more performance out of your car, particularly at the track. Brands like B&M, Hurst and Barton make short throw kits for most popular import and domestic cars. Expect to pay around $250 for parts.
It takes about an hour or two to DIY install. Your car will feel much more race ready after this essential upgrade for stick-shift vehicles.
Strut Bars & Chassis Braces
Bolt-on chassis braces are the easiest way to instantly improve handling and reduce body flex in your car. Brands like Suspension Techniques, H&R and Megan Racing make bars that tie critical suspension and chassis mounting points together using rigid steel bars.
Popular options include front and rear strut bars, lower control arm bars and sway bar braces. Installing a set of these can transform the way your car corners and give you more confidence during aggressive driving.
Full kits cost $350-$600 and can be installed in an afternoon with basic tools. If you want to push your car’s handling farther, braces should be one of your first mods.
Custom gauges are a great way to monitor vital engine parameters like boost, air/fuel ratio, oil pressure, water temperature and more. Aftermarket gauges are available in stylish faces like carbon fiber, glow and neon.
This allows you to keep an eye on what’s happening under the hood to avoid any damage and to optimize performance. Some common options include auxiliary gauge pods, pillar gauge pods or integrated console gauges.
Brands like Autometer, Stack and glowshift have gauges for any budget. Basic water temperature and oil pressure gauges start around $40 each, with $300+ for integrated pillar or dash units. Some also come with advanced data logging.
Upgrading your car’s sound system is a popular mod that improves daily driving enjoyment. Start with component speakers up front powered by an external amp. Component systems use separate tweeters for crisp highs and dedicated mid-bass drivers for punchy lows.
Brands like Rockford Fosgate, Alpine and JBL make highly rated systems. Expect to pay $300-$600 for nice components and $150+ for a quality amp. Some other upgrades include replacing the head unit to add modern tech like Apple CarPlay, installing a powered subwoofer for booming bass and adding sound deadening materials to reduce rattles and vibrations from the improved audio.
Backup cameras are must-have safety and convenience upgrades in any car, especially larger vehicles. They activate automatically in reverse and show the area behind you, letting you spot obstacles and avoid accidents.
Add in parking sensors and you’ll be able to parallel park with ease. Brands like Pyle and eRapta make universal license plate, rearview mirror, hatch and tow hitch cams to fit any car. Expect to pay $100-$300 for the camera and wiring kit.
Some new head units have rear camera inputs to integrate it all stylishly. Given how affordable they’ve become, backup cameras should be standard equipment on any modern ride.
Radar detectors help you monitor for upcoming speed enforcement threats like police radar guns or red light cameras. They function by detecting radio signals and alerting you to the source.
Detectors from Cobra, Valentine and Escort can pick up radar sources over a mile away depending on conditions, giving you ample time to adjust your speed. The best detectors also have GPS and app connectivity to identify verified red light cams and speed traps.
While prices range from $50-$500 depending on features, a quality radar detector is a prudent investment for any driving enthusiast and can literally pay for itself over time by preventing speeding tickets. Just drive responsibly.
Swapping out dull factory incandescent bulbs for vibrant LEDs is a simple upgrade that looks great. LED interior lighting can create a stylish glow throughout the cockpit. Exterior LED lights shine brighter than stock halogens while using less power.
And LED underbody lighting takes things to the next level with customizable color-changing kits.
Brands like OPTRIX and Oracle make complete LED lighting packages for most cars including headlights, fog lights, turn signals, brake lights, reverse lights, dome lights, footwells, doors and more. With LEDs, the possibilities are endless for creating a unique ambiance.
Performance Chips & Programmers
For significant power gains, consider professional engine tuning using piggyback chips or flash programmers. Brands like Hypertech and Diablosport offer handheld programmers that plug into the OBD-II port.
Their pre-programmed tunes optimize parameters like ignition timing, fuel delivery, rev limit, shift points and more. Chips like the JET Performance Powr-Flo bypass the stock computer using vehicle-specific calibration to maximize power.
Tuning typically yields +30 hp to the wheels or more depending on modifications. Gains of 50+ hp are possible with supporting mods, ideally done in combination with the intake and exhaust upgrades mentioned earlier.
Pimping your ride with cool aftermarket add-ons allows you to personalize it into a custom showpiece. The possibilities for car customization are endless, limited only by your creativity and budget.
Start with easy bolt-on mods like air intakes, exhausts and LED lighting to unlock more performance and style. Lowering kits, big wheels and wraps take things to the next level.
And don’t neglect the interior with upgrades like audio, gauges and radar detectors. With these top mods, you’ll be cruising in style and envy of all who gaze upon your wicked ride.
Just take care to work with experienced professionals for more complex projects. Follow your automotive dreams. Before you know it, you’ll have the coolest car on the block!