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Choosing the right car mods for your budget build

Updated on November 22, 2012
Choosing the right parts can make our break your project.
Choosing the right parts can make our break your project.

When you're looking to make performance upgrades on your vehicle it can sometimes be quite difficult to decide on the right course of action. For the new found automotive enthusiast the aftermarket performance market can be an intimidating place. There are literally millions of parts to sift through on thousands of different websites. Some from reputable brands and some you may not be familiar with. Focusing on your primary goals will certainty save you money, time, and headaches. It will even improve your automotive culture experience and get you closer to becoming a gear headed weekend warrior.

Where to begin...

There is no secret formula to building or modifying a performance car. What may work for one individual may not be the best option for your specific need or even your vehicle application. Even if you do share the same vehicle platform with another enthusiast, keep in mind that the goals for their build may not align with your needs. If your intent is to build a drag strip monster, then referencing an autocross car's suspension modifications is not going to render the answers or results that you're after. Simply stated, identifying what you intend on doing with your car should be the first step in the modification process. As simple as this first step is, it's often overlooked or ignored for one reason or another. This will establish a guideline that will help you decide whether or not a potential performance upgrade is necessary. Perhaps you can opt to NOT upgrade a part and save money for a component more applicable to your goals. Knowing what you want to accomplish with your vehicle and having an established plan of action for your build will only help you in the grand scheme of things. We're not made of time and money, after all.

How much ya got?

If you've gotten this far, then you've decided on what you want to do with your car and are making significant progress! Before you begin to relax though, you should take some time to carefully develop a budget for your project. Chances are that tinkering around the garage and modifying your automobile is a hobby of yours, or perhaps a new found interest that you're just now getting involved with. Either way, it's very easy to waste your hard earned dollars while you're attempting to improve your car. As mentioned before, establishing the true intentions behind your build is a great way to get started. Coincidentally, it's also a great way of staying on budget. Potential upgrades should be evaluated according to how well they will actually apply to your overall goal. Being objective is the key here, and it may take some experience under the hood of your car before you begin to realize what you truly should be spending money on.

When budgeting, it's also important to consider the quality of the product you plan on purchasing and eventually installing onto your vehicle. A product of poor quality can appear to be the better option; with the promise of potentially equal power output, reliability and usually at the fraction of the cost of a comparable name brand product. This can be a tantalizing, yet costly mistake. When making performance upgrades to your car, cutting corners in the quality department will inevitably lead to costly repairs and your just going to replace the parts you recently purchased. Do yourself a favor and save up and budget for products that have the R & D to back up the potential benefits for your car. Always keep in mind, “That if it’s cheap, then it has been tried.” This little mental note has the potential to save you what could play out to be thousands of dollars in costly repairs that otherwise, would’ve simply cost you an extra $100, $200 or $300 in upfront costs.

If it’s worth doing, then do it right.

If you're unfamiliar with a particular product, and whether or not it's of good quality, a good place to find information is on car forums. Particularly, joining a car forum for your specific vehicle is probably the best route, but its not the only way to approach researching products you're planning on purchasing. In the automotive industry it has become a common occurrence for car manufacturers to share platforms and simply re-badge them as their own in an effort to cut down on costs that may or may not trickle down to you. That being said, although someone may have a different vehicle than you, mechanically there may be no difference. The benefit to this is you’re able to compare different approaches to the same goal and ultimately, make a decision on what’s the best way for you to get the job done. For example, Honda has used its K series engine in numerous vehicles over the years. (I’ll be referencing to the K20A3 engine found in the ‘02-’04 Base model RSX and EP3 Civic hatchback) Joining or referencing an RSX forum in an effort to see what bolt-on modifications are the greatest bang for your buck is a great approach to a project, but seeing what others have done to their EP3 wouldn’t hurt you any, so why not? In this case, the K series engine is a well accepted power mill in the tuner community and there are even entire sites and forums dedicated to the engine itself. This too may be the case for you, so be vigil on the web for these awesome fountains of experience and knowledge. If somebody has yielded particularly good results...they will be sure to let you know about it. On the same token, if someone has made a mistake during the modification process...they will also let that be known.

Car forums are also an abundant source of general car advice. Chances are that the project that you’re planning to embark on has been approached before by another enthusiast, such as yourself. While you want your car to be unique, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. If this happens to be your first rodeo...then developing the previously mentioned plan of action may be difficult. It also may be difficult to come up with a nominal dollar figure for you to see your project to fruition. Car forums and general motorsport enthusiast websites are an excellent place to look towards when this is the scenario you’re in. You will find that the car community is more than willing to help you out. Nobody has all the answers, and that’s the basic idea behind these forums. To collect and share information or experiences with other enthusiasts, so go ahead and use them.

So, if you’re looking to modify your vehicle, but find yourself stuck, simply having trouble on figuring out where to get started or aren’t sure on how much money you should set aside then keeping these three simple suggestions will do you a great benefit. A well balanced marriage between these fundamental principles will undoubtedly go a long way.


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