The Quick Report

Performance Car Mods That Are (and Aren’t) Worth It 

orange and black lamborghini aventador
Photo by sippakorn yamkasikorn

Let’s dispel the myths about popular modifications to improve your vehicle’s performance. Yes, some easy, inexpensive mods will increase your car’s speed but not all. Discover 10 mods that are worth it and 10 that aren’t.

20. Worth It: Cold Air Intake


Cold air is denser and will introduce more air into the motor. This will boost its torque and horsepower. Increased condensed air enables your engine to breathe better. Fuel also can be burnt efficiently. A cold air intake mod is one of the easiest to increase performance as air and fuel enable your vehicle to accelerate in the first place.

19. Not Worth It: Exhaust Tip


Not to be confused with true dual exhaust, which can boost a vehicle’s performance. An exhaust tip, however, only makes the vehicle louder. While an exhaust tip might make the vehicle sound faster, it won’t actually make it go faster. If speed is what you’re after, take the extra step and do an exhaust mod that will increase performance.

18. Worth It: Supercharger


A supercharger can generate extra power for your vehicle. A supercharger compresses air and forces it into the engine. The system is a major modification requiring a chain, belt, and crankshaft. Be forewarned that advanced reconstruction of your engine and a certain level of expertise may be needed for its installation.

17. Not Worth It: Fuel Additives


Fuel additives might make a difference in race cars. However, when fuel additives are used in regular vehicles, these are really not effective. Certainly not as effective as people have been made to believe. It is highly advisable to operate consumer-level cars in the way the manufacturer has specifically stated in the manual.

16. Worth It: Fuel System Upgrade


A fuel system upgrade can deliver more fuel to each cylinder. This is accomplished through high-flow injectors, high-flow filters, high-flow fuel pumps, and bigger gas lines. These modifications allow more fuel to be consumed by your engine. Keep in mind that increasing your engine’s cool air supply isn’t beneficial without pairing it with a proper fuel-to-air ratio to aid combustion.

15. Not Worth It: Higher-Grade Fuel


Manufacturers design vehicles to operate optimally using a certain grade of fuel. Therefore, using a higher-grade fuel than what your car has been designed to handle could cause engine knocking. Higher-grade fuel only matters with a car designed to handle it or a high-performance vehicle that can utilize the fuel and still run smoothly.

14. Worth It: Drivetrain


A drivetrain can make your car faster and better because it converts the power generated in the motor to energy your vehicle’s wheels can use. The drivetrain components you’ll need to upgrade include flywheels, clutches, differentials, gears, and driveshafts. To make the most of the drivetrain upgrade, invest in boosting your vehicle’s supply of cool air and fuel combustion.

13. Not Worth It: Performance Spark Plugs


There is a general belief that adding high-performance spark plugs can significantly provide more power to the engine. The theory is that because they ignite the air and fuel mixture, “better” plugs can make a performance difference. However, to make a true difference, performance plugs need to be coupled with the addition of increased air and fuel to be useful.

12. Worth It: Tires


To get maximum performance, vehicles need superior tires with proper inflation to handle turns. An upgrade to nitrogen tires is an easy and affordable way to increase the speed of your vehicle. Nitrogen tires are less susceptible to air and water vapor. The main benefits of nitrogen-filled tires are a slower loss of tire pressure and more fuel economy.

11. Not Worth It: Rear Wings


The purpose of rear wings was to help ensure your vehicle’s wheels are still on the road if it’s moving with a lot of power. If your vehicle is bouncing on and off the road, the rear wing can help stabilize your vehicle. Still, the difference isn’t enough to make your vehicle move faster in a significant way.

10. Worth It: Suspension and Chassis


Modifications to your vehicle’s suspension and chassis are upgrades to help your vehicle handle the increase in power your engine will be turning out. The upgrades you’ll want to make include tie rods, tower braces, sway bars, axels, h-brackets, and roll cages. These help improve vehicle performance through increased traction and handling, improving control when cornering, accelerating, and breaking.

9. Not Worth It: Body Kits

red sports car
Photo by Yuvraj Singh

The Fast and Furious movie franchise helped popularize body kits and led to widespread adoption. However, many of these kits are made with cheap materials and may not even fit the car perfectly. Without a good fit, not only will these fail to help the car move fast, but they could create wind resistance making the vehicle slower.

8. Worth It: Brakes

gray Ferrari 5-spoke wheel
Photo by Agatha

Better brakes can help your vehicle’s performance by providing more responsive and precise braking, allowing more aggressive driving. This allows you to drive faster because you can brake less, due to the ability to switch your foot from brake to throttle faster, and because you can stop more efficiently. Upgraded brakes improve heat dispersion, handling higher heat levels.

7. Not Worth It: Adding Stickers


As if it’s some Jedi Mind Trick or a manifestation of will, many people believe adding a horsepower sticker to their car will improve the actual horsepower. Ditto for Car Throttle stickers. If you truly want to improve BHP (brake horsepower), you’ll need to improve air and exhaust and consider turbochargers, cams, compression, and performance tuning.

6. Worth It: True Dual Exhaust


A true dual exhaust system splits into two tailpipes. The system facilitates the smooth flow of exhaust through the engine and optimizes its power. Dual exhaust will make your car faster and louder. This serves as an alternative to a catalytic converter. Therefore, research the street legalities in your state. You could have issues with smog tests, especially in California.

5. Not Worth It: Big Rims


Big rims can certainly improve your vehicle’s overall aesthetics, but how well it improves performance varies. When your rims are tailored specifically to your car, its engine, and gearing, they can make a difference and boost your vehicle’s speed. However, if your rims are not a perfect fit, they will do little to nothing to improve its speed.

4. Worth It: Performance Chipset


The latest models of some vehicles include a performance chipset. This controls the ratio of gas combustion, anti-lock brakes, timing, and other factors. In stock fuel injection systems, these chips limit the amount of air and fuel supplied to the engine. However, replacement performance chips can be installed to override these factory settings and improve performance and speed.

3. Not Worth It: Too Large of an Exhaust System


A larger exhaust will help your car’s engine breathe better and help performance. However, everything has limits. An overly large exhaust will draw too much attention to your street vehicle. Plus, it’s an overspend of money, since a smaller one can do the job just as well without being a nuisance.

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2. Worth It: NOS System


A NOS (Nitrous oxide) system can supply the oxygen needed in short bursts for combustion and generate more power in a vehicle’s engine. Further, you need to consider the amount of air in your motor to ensure the proper ratio between gas and fuel, otherwise, your efforts may be futile. Warning: NOS systems may be illegal in some states.

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1. Not Worth It: Short Ram Intakes


A short ram air intake along with the use of a short pipe will draw hot air around the motor. Cold air does a much better job of improving engine performance. Therefore, a cold air intake is a much better option. Plus, a cold air intake filter is typically as far from the hot engine as possible.

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