7 Budget-Friendly Vehicle Performance Upgrades That Actually Work
As much as our 12-year-old selves wanted to believe it was true, sticking flame decals on the side of your vehicle will not provide a noticeable performance boost. However, you can get more oomph out of your car for around the same amount of effort using these seven vehicle performance upgrades that won’t break the bank:
- Aftermarket Short-Throw Shifter
You don’t have to “break the bank” just to dramatically improve your ability to progress through your gear ratios. Switching to a quality short-throw shifter may seem like a small, superficial change, but it does actually matter. Some even compare the accompanying revelation to realizing you were trying to run with your shoelaces untied.
- ECU Reprogramming
All the decisions manufacturers make when programming a vehicle’s Electronic Control Unit equate to one thing: ensuring drivers have less fun. Get the maximum torque, acceleration and, potentially, fuel consumption out of your vehicle by plugging up a reprogramming module to your diagnostic port and convincing your car’s onboard CPU to let go a little.
- Fatter Tires
Wider wheels and tires offer better grip, which leads to improved cornering, handling and even braking. The trade-off is that the extra weight could affect factory spec shock damping and springs, so look into a full suspension package when researching wheels to buy if you want the best results.
- Sway Bars
Sway bars have a dramatic effect, especially for how easy they are to install. Stiffen your chassis and reduce body roll when cornering while still maintaining the road-going demeanor of an everyday driver. Remember that tubular steel models are always preferable to solid ones because they offer all the torsional benefits without any significant weight offset.
- Cold Air Intake (CAI)
One limiting factor on most factory-spec vehicles is how much oxygen they are able to pull into the engine. Simply put: the more air it pulls, then the cooler, more powerful and more fuel-efficient your engine will run. Avoid mounting the CAI in a spot too close to the road or front grill, though, since these intakes are more likely to pull in moisture that could kill your engine when improperly installed.
- High-Flow Headers and Exhaust
With more air coming into your engine, you will want more air coming back out to decrease back pressure. High-flow exhaust and header systems allow engines to run cooler, which decreases wear and improves performance. Combined with a cold air intake, this upgrade could dramatically overhaul the available horsepower and acceleration times your vehicle offers. Take care to research the best overall system for your model, though, since many high-end vehicles have very specific airflow needs to avoid powertrain damage.
- Get Some Track Time
Sometimes a driver is in more need of an upgrade than their vehicle. Professional instruction and real hands-on experience can help drivers learn how to strategize in certain situations and maximize the performance they get out of their car.
Anyone looking to add confidence or handle their car like a pro can come to tracks like Atlanta Motorsports Park and get instruction from true driving pros. Take a look at our Member Experience Test Drive or Street Smarts Driving School to get started.