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14 Inexpensive Ways to Customize Your Car (UPDATED)

Cars are meant to take us from point A to point B, but many people like to travel in something that expresses their personality. A person’s car reflects who they are and the kind of life they live.

A great way to make a car stand out is to upgrade its parts. Some of these upgrades can get pretty expensive, though. We’ve compiled a list of seven fourteen(!) upgrades that are cheap and noticeable.

Lights

dodge-challenger-headlight

For under $100, you can transform your boring stock lights into something truly dazzling. Pick up a lightbulb conversion kit, and you can make your headlights yellow, purple, blue or white.

You can also find marketplaces online that sell kits to light up your vehicle’s lettering. Want to light up the Ford logo on your front grille? How about putting a light behind the VW medallion? It’s possible and it looks great.

Suspension

suspension

To make your car look more sporty, change up the suspension so it sits lower. The least costly option is just to lower the springs instead of buying a full coilover kit. Even the cheaper option will improve your car’s handling and make the ride stiffer.

Exhaust

Pic of exhaust

Exchange your wimpy muffler for an upgraded exhaust kit. Axle-back and cat-back kits are a tad over $100, and provide an easy replacement. Exhaust systems turn heads, and besides adding a few horsepower, that’s all they’re really meant to do. It’s a given that you’ll be heard around the block.

Don’t just settle for a mediocre exhaust system, either. Choose one that has the sound and look you want. If you want to be loud and obnoxious, go for it! If you don’t want to draw as much attention, then don’t buy the loudest system available.

Rims and Wheel Bands

wheels

Want to make a statement right away? The wheels are one of the most important parts of your car, so you shouldn’t ignore them. Invest in some aftermarket rims. The wide range of colors and styles you can choose from can be overwhelming, but that also means that it’s easy to find something that fits your personality.

You don’t have to buy new rims, either. Many people sell them used in classified ads. If you already have great rims, make sure you keep them safe with a smart-looking set of wheel bands.

Window Tint

window tint

Tinting goes beyond just making your car look cool. It reduces sun glare when you’re driving and it cools down your interior. Plus, the interior will age slower, as the amount of UV rays passing through the windows will be lowered. Of course, tinting also offers greater privacy.

A good tint job costs around $250. Just remember your state’s tint laws!

Brakes

stangThere’s no reason why you shouldn’t upgrade your brakes. If your car has reliable brakes that will stop it faster, it only becomes more safe. Brakes are important if you tend to be a fast driver — both for safety and handling reasons.

An average brake upgrade will cost you about $500.

Stereo

car stereo

What good would your car be without a bumpin’ sound system? When you crank up the tunes on your stock stereo, things might sound a little messy. You might need more bass, more clarity or more volume.

You don’t have to break the bank to upgrade — but your first step should be the head unit. Replacing the speakers or adding more will make an awesome improvement in sound. For the ultimate sound experience, throw in a subwoofer. Your car will sound like a movie theater!

Ditch Extra Weight

7545591278_a4fe1a57b4_zThere’s no getting around it — cars are heavy, and unfortunately that weight often distributes poorly. This creates heavy spots, which negatively affect your car’s speed and maneuverability. There are quite a few inexpensive mods you can do without spending much time, effort or money to reduce your car’s weight, including:

  • Move the battery: Other than the engine itself, your battery is one of the heaviest pieces under the hood. Relocate it to your trunk to even out the weight.
  • Ditch the spare: If you’re not worried about getting stranded with a flat, remove your spare tire, jack and tools from the trunk.
  • Pull out the rear seats: If passengers aren’t a concern, take out those back seats!
  • Get rid of the soft stuff: Carpets, floor mats and sound deadening are all added weight, so if you don’t mind hearing all the sounds of the road, removing them is a great way to ditch some weight.

You could also remove things like the radio, speakers and air conditioning system, but that compromises the comfort of your car, so these are totally optional.

Transmission Tips

transmission cheap fix for your carYou can take advantage of several inexpensive tricks to improve your transmission, whether you’re cruising in an automatic or tearing down the road with a manual transmission.

For automatics, consider installing an automatic transmission cooler. Heavy paddle shifting heats up your transmission fluid, making it less effective. A cooler helps to counter that temperature climb, letting you get the most out of your automatic transmission.

For manual transmissions, consider upgrading your transmission fluid to a fully synthetic variety. It might be a bit more expensive, but it will stand up to even the hardest shifting.

Throttle Tweaks

This is one of the easiest ways to improve your car’s performance, especially for older cars. Throttle cables stretch out and become less effective over time and use. Adjusting that cable to restore the old tension can be as simple as a twist of a wrench.

If you’ve got a newer car, do a little research to learn how to map your throttle — it’s usually fairly simple, but can vary from car to car. It’s one of the best types of cheap car repair, and is a great way to keep your car cruising for years to come.

Brace Your Strut Towers                           

img_7579-copyYour car probably corners pretty well, right? The frame flexes and moves as you turn the steering wheel left or right, which leads to your turns feeling like they’re dragging. This is because when you turn, the struts fold inward, following the flex of the car. Adding a single piece of steel, known as a strut tower brace, is a quick, easy and inexpensive mod, which is the perfect way to improve how your car handles.

Bracing the strut towers keeps them parallel to each other, rather than moving independently when the car turns. Even if you can’t find one for your particular engine model, they’re easy enough to make out of a piece of steel.

Short Throw Shifters

btn-2011bm1_1683There’s nothing worse than trying to do a quick shift and slamming your hand into the console. You end up with bruised knuckles and grinding gears, and it’s just a bad situation overall.

Short throw shifters are designed to reduce the amount of movement you need to shift gears. They change the distance between the end of the shifter and the end of the lever. It’s a simple, cheap mod, and an easy tool to save you some bruised knuckles in the future!

Tire Pressure

5169702340_a94070cbaf_bIf you’re looking for a quick and easy way to improve your car’s performance, consider checking your tire pressure. Under or over inflated tires are detrimental to your car’s performance, and contribute to accelerated wear and tear of the tires themselves. Adding air to your tires is a cheap car repair that prevents you from causing other larger issues.

Properly inflating your tires is easy — pick up a tire gauge for $1 at your local auto parts store and check the pressure. If you’ve got stock tires, check your owner’s manual to see what the proper pressure is. If you’re using after market tires, you can find the information on the code printed on the sidewall of each tire.

Keep the Spark Alive

coilSpark plugs are the beating heart of your car, so upgrading them is an easy way to improve your car’s power, gas mileage and performance.

You can get some of the best spark plugs for the best spark plugs are $8-10 each. While they’re not the cheapest mod to improve your car, you can still usually upgrade your car’s plug and wires for around $100-150. The improvement that you’ll see in performance is definitely worth the investment!

Any upgrades that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Scott Huntington

Author Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington is an Automotive YouTuber and writer who loves cars, sports, and business. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington or email [email protected].

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