Skip to main content

These are the car modifications you should avoid

These car mods are silly, useless, or illegal

A heavily modded Lexus
F. Muhammad / Pixabay

Modding is a great way to truly make a car your own, and some people even buy a vehicle just to modify it as much as possible. Mods can make a vehicle look unique, overcome the stock vehicle’s shortcomings, and drastically increase performance. However, some car modifications come with major downsides.

Improperly installed mods, or mods that go a bit too far, can make your custom car a lot worse or may even break it completely. Then there are mods that fall foul of the law and can land you a ticket, void your warranty, or cause your car to fail its annual inspection.

Here are four relatively common vehicle mods that we don’t believe are worth the effort. You’re better off swerving the things on this list, and splashing out on a bit of trim if you’re aesthetically minded, or something like an engine remap if you’re all about performance.

A tire technician changing worn tires.
Ivan Radic/Flickr / Ivan Radic/Flickr

Oversized wheels

Big rims stand out, and it’s easy to understand why people get them on their vehicles. However, if you go too big you’re going to have problems. Many vehicles come with a range of options when it comes to wheels. Usually, you can opt to go a couple of sizes up if you pay a little extra — but the sizes stay within reason. Say a vehicle has 18” wheels as standard; there may be a 21” option available.

Going beyond the options the manufacturer makes available is usually a bad idea. For a start, any change in wheels will make the speedometer inaccurate, so you’ll have to have it recalibrated. Bigger wheels also put more strain on parts like the powertrain and brakes — which means you’ll be in for an expensive repair bill sooner or later. They also effectively gear the car up, so acceleration might be noticeably impacted. Yes, they look good, but the negatives may outweigh the aesthetics after a certain point.

Audi with tinted windows
F. Muhammad / Pixabay

A heavy window tint

A heavy window tint is actually pretty practical. It can reduce the chances of the sun impacting a driver’s sight, and can keep passengers who don’t want to be seen out of view. Unfortunately, it’s also a legal minefield in the United States.

Various tint-related laws are on the books, and these vary from state to state. Some relate to the darkness of tint allowed, while others outline exactly what windows can and can’t be tinted. Tints are also very easy to spot, so if you do break or come close to breaking the law, you’re an easy target for any cops you drive past. Even if your tint is legal in your home state, it may mean you can’t drive through the state next door without problems. As a result, we can only recommend you swerve this kind of mod altogether.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk exhaust
Photo by Miles Branman/The Manual / The Manual

A modified exhaust

Exhaust mods are pretty common, and they’re also illegal in several states. While you’re unlikely to get pulled over for an illegal exhaust, your vehicle will fail inspection in states like New York and California if it has an aftermarket exhaust.

You’re facing two issues if you opt to swap out your exhaust system or muffler. The first is related to emissions. In an attempt to limit the damage our vehicles do to the planet, various laws are in force limiting what can come out of your car’s tailpipe. If your new exhaust doesn’t meet those standards, your car can’t legally be on the road.

Then there’s noise. Several states have passed laws limiting the amount of noise an exhaust system can produce. As you may have noticed, many exhaust mods only exist to make a vehicle as loud as possible. If your new exhaust’s decibel level creeps over the state limit, then your car suddenly becomes illegal.

Even if aftermarket exhausts are legal in your state, they’re unlikely to be consequence free. Exhaust mods are often one of the things that can void a manufacturer’s warranty, and you may be left on the hook for repair bills you could have otherwise avoided.

Coil spring car suspension
Marcin / Pixabay

Messing with the suspension

This is more common with trucks and SUVs, but many car owners opt to lift or lower their vehicles for various reasons. Some people like the aesthetics, some lower the vehicle for improved stability in the corners, and others lift the vehicle in an attempt to boost offroad performance.

Unfortunately, unless you really know what you’re doing, this is a great way to absolutely ruin your vehicle. Even raising the vehicle by a couple of inches can drastically affect its handling and stability. Plus, it’s a car, so any benefits when it comes to road hazards and offroading aren’t likely to outweigh the catastrophic impact it has on the vehicle’s general usage.

Lowering your car can increase your risk of damaging your vehicle when traveling up and down a ramp, hitting a pothole, or climbing a kerb. You could easily damage your car’s trim, exhaust, or oil pan due with this unnecessary mod.

Modifying your vehicle’s ride height can also lead to wheel alignment issues. Wheel alignment is one of those things you can’t really fix yourself as getting it spot on requires tens of thousands of dollars worth of specialist equipment. Wheel alignment problems can lead to uneven tire wear, tracking issues, and the vehicle seemingly attempting to shake itself apart if you drive faster than 50 mph.

Editors' Recommendations

Dave McQuilling
Dave has spent pretty much his entire career as a journalist; this has included jobs at newspapers, TV stations, on the…
Subaru previews flying car concept that basically looks like a giant drone
Will that Jetsons life ever be a reailty?
Flying subaru air mobility concept rear

The futuristic concept of flying cars has just inched another step closer to reality. Following on from Alef Aviation’s “Model A” gaining an airworthiness certificate earlier in 2023, a more well-known manufacturer has debuted its own flying vehicle concept. However, unlike the “Model A,” Subaru has eschewed traditional styling on its Air Mobility concept and instead opted for something that could best be described as looking like a large drone.

The flying vehicle was unveiled at the Japan Mobility Show in October and is apparently designed to help customers bypass gridlock traffic. It appears the vehicle will use six downward-facing propellers to take to the skies and maneuver itself.

Read more
Want to buy an EV? Don’t – this is why you should lease an electric car instead
Wait to buy an EV because leasing might be the best option
ChargePoint Home Flex EV charging station charging a white Tesla in a garage.

One of the sad ironies of being a car lover is how much of a pain the actual act of buying a car can be. Pushy salespeople, contract terms that require a JD and a magnifying glass to comprehend, and enough miscellaneous fees to make a cell phone company blush. So, more often than not, many of us tend to lean towards buying a car rather than leasing because who would willingly volunteer to go through that kind of patience-pumping torture every three years? But, the EV movement has begun more than an energy revolution in the automotive universe, and leasing might just be the new buying.

While it used to be that purchasing a car was a net positive in the long term - eventually, the payments ended, and when they finished, the buyer actually had something tangible to show for it. But, with the relatively new landscape that the electric vehicle world has brought about, there are plenty of reasons that it makes much more sense to lease than buy a new EV.

Read more
2024 Kia EV9 starts at $54,900, but you might want to get the bigger battery upgrade
Will the Kia EV9 be one of the most affordable three-row electric SUV? Here is how much it costs
2024 Kia EV9 and EV9 GT Line parked in a forest

Earlier this year, Kia unveiled the all-electric Kia EV9. It’s a three-row midsize electric SUV with level 3 autonomous tech and up to 379 hp produced by dual motors. The Kia EV9 also comes with a 99.8 kWh battery that is estimated to deliver a range of up to 300 miles — that’s if you purchase the all-wheel drive or the rear-wheel drive long-range option. On the other hand, the standard model is available with a smaller 76.1 kWh battery, which can cover up to 223 miles of range.

Another cool thing about the 2024 Kia EV9 is that it looks like the Kia Telluride, except that it’s slightly longer and the bumper design is different. Because it’s a Kia EV with no engine, it offers more interior space than the Kia Telluride. Better yet, the all-wheel drive Kia EV9 is faster and more powerful than the Telluride X-Line with a V6 engine. However, the Kia EV9 has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, which is 500 pounds less than the Kia Telluride.

Read more