Top end builds like the kind seen at SEMA can take years of work and cost thousands of dollars. However, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your car’s performance without needing a large sum of cash or a shop full of equipment.
1. Get Caught Up On Your Car’s Maintenance
Changing out a clogged air filter or a set of worn spark plugs can make a huge difference in how your car performs, while keeping your tires at the right pressure will keep your car driving and riding the way it should. Think you need an alignment or not sure about some previous collision repair? Bring it by Merton Auto Body for an inspection. We’re an I-Car Gold Class certified shop with ASE certified technicians, giving us the expertise to make sure your car’s frame and body is in perfect condition.
2. Remove Some Weight
Weight reduction doesn’t have to involve pricey carbon fiber parts. Chances are you have a few extra items rolling around in your car that you don’t need to carry with you. Anything from old insurance cards to extra tools can clutter and weigh down a car. Taking these items out means less weight to hold back acceleration, increase stopping distances, and reduce cornering ability.
3. Get Better Tires
Ask anyone who knows about cars what your first performance upgrade should be, and they’ll probably say tires. Grippier tires help your car accelerate, brake, and turn. Low rolling resistance tires are easier to spin, saving on gas, and modern designs don’t have the huge performance penalty that early LRR tires had. Want a quieter ride? Skip the high mileage touring tires for softer, faster-wearing rubber. When it’s time to replace your tires, do a little research to find the best set for your needs.
Winter tires aren’t just better at dealing with snow and ice-covered surfaces, they’re also made out of materials that stay pliable in cold temperatures. This helps them perform better than other tire types in the winter, even on dry surfaces. If you’ve been thinking about getting a set to deal with Wisconsin winters, now is the time.
4. Upgrade Your Sway Bar
Harder polyurethane bushings keep the suspension geometry where it needs to be, which improves handling. Unfortunately, replacing bushings requires special tools, aside from one area: the sway bar links. These are usually held on with a couple bolts, so swapping them out is a snap.
Want to decrease body roll? A set of thicker sway bars will keep your car flat in corners, and they aren’t much harder to install than the sway bar links.
5. Get Some Lighter Wheels
The real world effects of reducing the weight of your wheels is a lot more complicated than rules of thumb like “one pound of rotating weight is the same as four pounds of static weight.” However, with a quality alloy rim often weighing less than half as much as the equivalent steel wheel, there’s no denying the impact they have on acceleration and braking. Fitting some larger rims on an older car may also open up some new tire options, letting you fit better rubber.
6. Install a Short Shifter
If you have a manual transmission, the speed of your shifts are determined primarily by the distance you have to move the shifter and how easily you can find each gear. A short shifter improves both of these factors by moving its pivot point to decrease the shifter’s mechanical advantage. This reduces the length of the throws and increases the notchiness of each gear engagement so you can be confident you’re shifting correctly. It takes a few common hand tools to fit a short shifter, and with some shifter designs, everything can be accessed from inside the cabin.
7. Improve Your Brakes
Big brake kits can improve brake performance, but they’re difficult to install, and can be pretty pricey. Instead, work with what you have by upgrading the pads. Several companies offer street pad formulations that are more aggressive, but don’t have to be kept hot like racing pads. This decreases stopping distances, but this come at the expense of higher pad wear and more noise.