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Car Tuning - The Hub of Auto Culture

Updated on February 24, 2014

Many people are satisfied with the factory equipment their cars come with, and that's perfectly fine. However, people will modify certain autoparts of their cars for different needs. Generally, these modifications affect the appearance and/or performance of a car. This process is called car tuning, and there is an entire culture built around the process of modifying ones car.

While the factory settings on a car driven fresh off the lot will appeal to the general populace, you don't have to be stuck with what your car came with. Sure, you might adapt or lose a few of the original pieces with normal wear and tear and replacement, but car tuning works to personalize a car. Examples of car tuning range from adapting a car to receive better fuel economy, adding a speaker system, or recrafting the interior of the car. From engine tuning to swapping out tires to improving your cars horse power, there are many reasons people go into car tuning.

Car tuning is such a popular practice that cars are actually named for the adaptations made to them. Some well known examples of are low riders, hot rods, and drag racing cars. Entire shows have been dedicated to this practice, like Trick My Ride and Top Gear. Hot rods and low riders are household names, and drag racing was infamous long before the Fast and the Furious became a hit.

Now, drag racing isn't exactly legal, but what is the legality of car tuning? Some items you will have to check with your DMV, such as light colors that you are allowed to use and whether or not spinning rims are legal in your area, while other items need to be bought smog certified, such as anything for engine tuning.

So what are some examples of auto parts that you can do in auto tuning?

Some people like the corvette the way it is, some like to add a little to it's appeal.
Some people like the corvette the way it is, some like to add a little to it's appeal.

Aerodynamic and Body Styling:

From bumpers to skirts, air intakes to spoilers, any addition to the body of the car to enhance the aesthetics or performance of the car. You may see a lot of carbon fiber coming about - the latest craze in car modification - which not only looks desirable, but is a strong and light material that improves a cars performance.

Exhaust Tuning

Silencers, exhaust lips, manifolds - exhaust tuning is all done to improve efficiency of the combustion system of your car.

Electronics/ Auto Accessories

Modifying the electronics in a car is something most people are familiar with. Some car accessories come standard with some of these systems - central locking, alarm systems, parking assistance - but when in roam, they can always be added or improved upon.

Exterior Tuning

Antennae, window covers, and rims are all included under here - the smaller details that make all the difference.

Suspension Tuning

These modifications are meant to improve shock absorbers, swaybars, and springs in a car. The most noticable suspension tuning belongs to the low rider community, that can do tricks with their suspension system.

Paint Films/Decals

From tint films for your windows to colorful decals, these mods can be as simple as personalizing your car with your initials to creating some privacy from the outside world with a tinted window.

Interior Tuning

This type of modification covers anywhere from floor mats to the rear view mirror.

Air Filter Tuning

While an air filter under the right condition can improve the performance of your car, most people enjoy buying performance air filters to get that nice "revving" sound. It's a nice start for people who are new to tuning.

Auto lighting is a great way to improve both the look and performance of your car.
Auto lighting is a great way to improve both the look and performance of your car. | Source

Lighting Tuning

There are a lot of choices when it comes to choosing auto lighting to replace the factory lights that come with your car - incandescent, HID, neon tubes, LEDS, you name it, it's probably available for cars. Each has their good qualities and their bad qualities. Ideally, you'll want to avoid any auto lights part issues by reading up on the issues and getting someone knowledgeable to install them, but here is a quick overview of the subject.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CCFLs), for example, are more efficient than your normal incandescent lamps. They cost more when you initially buy them, but save you on energy costs. Because of this, they produce less heat than an incandescent bulb, and have a life of about 9000 hours. You do, however, need to practice safe disposal methods when throwing these out.

Light emitting Diodes (LEDS) are all the rage lately because they are even more energy efficient, produce more controlled light, and most environmentally friendly than other lights. They come in a range of colors, and as they become more popular, they are easier to find and cheaper to buy. They are, however, made up of individual little lights that some people might not find appealing for their cars.

That's where new light technology like plasma comes in. Made from an LED crystallized circuit board, plasma lights look smooth unlike LEDs, but are just as bright. They are starting to come in different colors, and are said to have a life of 100,000 hours.

How can this be used on your car?

Many car companies like BMW and Audi make customized head lamps to create a signature look to their cars using LED lights. Because of how versatile these lights are, they are not limited to the standard incandescent lights. You can also customize your car to have headlamps with your own personal twist.

So where can you use such a modification on your car?


Halo lights are also something that is popular - a circular bright light, much like the ones used on the factory lights that BMW comes with. With custom headlights halos are a nice option that are simple yet add an elegant touch to a car. These are light options that would not have been possible without technology like LEDS, plasma, and fluorescent lights.

Another popular kind of modification are projector headlights. This type of head lamp have a curved lens that will provide a more focused light. Whatever headlight you choose, the best thing to do is to find the right headlight bulb that will fit into your car.


Just like a custom headlight, you can buy taillight (or rear position lamp) modifications. Tail lamps need to be dimmed when in regular use and brighten when stopped, and for that reason there are laws as to how bright and how dim they must look when in operation.

Candela Range
North America
80 to 300
Outside North America
60 to 185
An example of organic light emitting diode (OLED).
An example of organic light emitting diode (OLED).

They also must be in multiples of two and symmetrical on the right and left edge. Red is the only accepted color of brake light. It is also mandatory to have a center high mount stop light, which is required to be higher and in the middle, so that motorists behind you can see that you are breaking even if they are blocked by other cars, say with changing lanes.

All in all, car tuning can be done by most people, if they have know how or can pay for someone to make their car look the way they want it.

Are you interested in car tuning?

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