Nissan 200SX S14 Drift

13 Modifications That Will Actually Make Your Car Faster

Many people will tell you that modifying your car is a waste of money. Fair enough, chances are your car won’t be worth more if you sell it.

On the other hand, the right mods can make it much more fun to drive, and we’ll argue that some mods are a must if you intend to do some track days.

Before spending all your savings on a set of Rotiforms and an eBay turbo kit, ensure your car is in good condition and not a potential death trap. Let’s check out some mods that have been proven to make your car faster.

Fit Grippier Tires

NASCAR pit stop
Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

If you want to go faster, you need more grip. If you send more power to the wheels but run old, hard tires, you’ll end up with nothing but wheel spin. On the other hand, even a bone-stock car will be faster around corners if you fit stickier tires. 

While stickier tires will give you grip for days, they’ll also wear out much sooner, so some cost-to-benefit math must be done.

Upgrade The Brakes

Brake Upgrade
Image Credit: YouTube/FTspeed.

We recommend upgrading the brakes before adding more power, especially if you’re driving an older car. Like grippier tires help you get around corners, upgraded brakes help you slow down before you turn in.

A good brake setup will let you brake later, which means you can be on the throttle longer, which makes you faster. Brake upgrades range from new pads and discs to big-brake conversions and braided lines. Also, remember to change the brake fluid and eliminate any air in the system.

Suspension Upgrades

Work VS-XX
Image Credit: Work Wheels UK.

Improving handling is crucial if you want to go faster. Stiffer suspension reduces body roll, making the car handle and respond better to steering inputs.

The suspension consists of several components, and upgrading it can range from something simple, like a set of stiffer lowering springs, to changing multiple parts. A set of decent coilovers, polyurethane bushings, sway bars, and tower braces will give you race car-like handling, but you’ll lose a lot of comfort, so keep that in mind if it’s your daily driver.

Lighter Wheels

Work Meister S1
Image Credit: Work Wheels.

Wheels are unsprung weight, which means the car’s suspension does not support them. Reducing unsprung weight will have a much more significant impact than reducing sprung weight. In addition, this is rotating mass, and lowering it can result in better acceleration, braking, and turn-in.

All that considered, there’s no denying that one of the best things about a set of expensive aftermarket wheels is that they make your car look fantastic.

Get Rid Of Anything Unnecessary

E36 BMW M3 Lightweight
Image Credit: Mr.choppers/WikiCommons.

Imagine driving around with 4-5 adults and a trunk full of luggage. Chances are, your car would be noticeably more sluggish. Logically, if you kick out those people and their luggage, your car will be faster. If you remove even more stuff from your car, it’ll be even lighter and, hence, faster. Do you really need a spare wheel and a jack?

While weight-saving measurements can certainly affect acceleration, the car’s handling will see the most significant impact. This is why some car manufacturers go to extreme lengths to make their special edition models as light as possible. As an added bonus, a lighter car also uses less fuel.

Cold Air Intake

Cold Air Intake
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Finally, we move on to something that’s actually engine-related. A car’s engine needs a mixture of air and fuel to run, so if we can get more air in (along with more fuel), we can get more power.

A proper cold air intake, or CAI, will suck in cold air, which is denser than hot air. Warm air can cause the engine to lose power, so slapping on any open filter won’t do. Installing just a cold air intake on its own won’t add much power, but it’s a good start and gives a nice induction noise.

Performance Exhaust

Performance Exhaust
Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

When people think of performance exhaust systems, they tend to think of obnoxiously loud cars, but there’s more to the exhaust than that. Exhausts are available that will help free up some horses without being excessively loud.

Upgrading the exhaust will ease the flow of the exhaust gases, which can help improve performance. You’ll want a complete exhaust system and a high-flow cat for maximum power. A cat-back system is an absolute minimum if you want to see any gains, and fitting just the rear muffler doesn’t do anything but add noise.

ECU Tuning

Dyno run
Image Credit: IND Distribution / YouTube.

ECU tuning means giving your car a software update, as removing some factory restrictions can improve performance. Cars fitted with turbochargers or superchargers certainly see the most significant gains, but even naturally aspirated models can benefit from a tune.

Along with the extra power and torque, some owners report that even the fuel economy has improved after getting their cars tuned. Those doing extensive engine modifications should look into standalone fuel management systems instead and get it set up on a dyno.

Nitrous Oxide

Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

We’ll admit that nitrous is a bit of a gimmick, especially after the Fast & Furious movies. However, there’s no denying that it can add lots of power, and when used correctly, it can be safe.

If you’re on a budget, nitrous can be an excellent option to make your car more powerful, just be sensible and don’t go too big. Most production cars can handle a short nitrous burst of 25-50 horsepower. You can add more if you have a fully built engine with stronger internals.

Cams And Headwork

Toyota 4A-GE
Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

Changing the cams will release more horses, but you’ll want to do your homework before buying a set. Mild cams won’t provide much power, but your car can still be used as a daily driver without being annoying in traffic. More aggressive cams can make the idle lumpy, and the added power will be high in the rev range. Cams that offer a stronger mid-range are usually best for road-going cars.

Head porting and polishing means removing any minor restrictions and rough patches in the cylinder head from when it was cast, as these imperfections can hinder airflow. Areas such as the inlet and exhaust ports, valve throat pocket, valve seat, and combustion chamber can be improved

Forced Induction Or Throttle Bodies

Turbo Install
Image Credit: YouTube/Devin Niemela.

If you want to go down the forced induction route, there are two ways to do so: turbochargers or superchargers. Vehicles with standard turbochargers can get more power by fitting hybrid or larger turbos. If it has a supercharger, you can change the pulley size. Intercoolers will also add a few extra ponies. It’s possible to convert a naturally aspirated engine; forced induction is usually the quickest way to make more power.

Individual throttle bodies are another option to consider. Each cylinder will be fed by its own throttle body rather than having one TB feed them all. One of the best things about all three options is the incredible noises. Unfortunately, they also cost a small fortune.

Increased Displacement

Ford Windsor V8
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Increasing the engine’s displacement is usually expensive, but it’s an excellent way to increase power and torque. 

On some engines, it’s as simple as swapping certain parts with those from another unit, in other cases, you can buy aftermarket stroker kits, but there are certain engines that require fully custom-made parts.

Engine Transplant

Toyota 2JZ-GTE
Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

Some cars can benefit from a partial engine transplant, where you can take the head or block from another car (from the same manufacturer) and fit it to the engine in your car. Doing this often increases displacement (as mentioned above), and sometimes the compression ratio as well, which means more power.

If that’s not an option, there’s also a complete engine transplant, which means you can go with whatever floats your boat. Flyin’ Miata has built LS V8-powered Miatas, and StanceWorks made a Honda K24-powered Ferrari 308.

Andre Nalin

Author: Andre Nalin

Title: Writer


Andre has worked as a writer and editor for multiple car and motorcycle publications over the last decade, but he has reverted to freelancing these days. He has accumulated a ton of seat time during his ridiculous road trips in highly unsuitable vehicles, and he’s built magazine-featured cars. He prefers it when his bikes and cars are fast and loud, but if he had to pick one, he’d go with loud.

Similar Posts