First 5 Car Performance Modifications You Should Do Before Anything Else

You can waste your money upgrading the wrong parts of your car, or you can make it faster and better with these aftermarket upgrades.

True car enthusiasts live for buying used cars, upgrading them, and turning them into real sports cars. The issues that can occur from this is, people saturate the internet with misinformation, or often times outdated information, and instead of building fast sleeper cars, people end up building race-looking cars that cannot turn a fast lap. There are a lot of modifications you can do to your car to increase horsepower, and a lot of the performance upgrades are actually quite easy. These upgrades come in the form of bolt-on mods, or they can be much more involved.

The biggest mistake car people make is in the order of upgrades. We've compiled a list of 5 different performance upgrades you should stop doing. Before thinking of raw horsepower, looks, or historically-proven upgrades, you should focus on the upgrades that will make your car faster, offer you the most value for the money, and most importantly, upgrades that will immediately make your car faster, better, and safer. Here are the first five upgrades you should do before addressing anything else on your vehicle...

1. Tyres: Traction Is The Most Important Performance Upgrade

It's incredibly important to note if you do not maintain traction, you will not be able to push to have full power. You shouldn't rush to purchase the slickest or stickiest tyres either. In order to achieve maintaining traction, a small amount of wheel slip is required to protect certain other driveline components, including transmission. The interesting thing with wheel slip, is it absorbs and releases some of the initial shock and energy, protecting your transmission, driveshaft, differential and other. This occurs due to energy being unable to be created neither destroyed. To help find the best tyre options for you, you need to recognise that tyres that may be of suit for drag racers, would not be suitable for off-roaders for example. It's important to acknowledge there are areas in which you will need to compromise. For example if you purchase wider tyres, these will wear out faster on the roads, yet they will supply you with faster lap times, better launches, and a result in greater traction. If you cannot maintain traction, your car will struggle to move fast. The best option is to enquire a consultant who will find you the best tyre compound for you and your driving needs. Here at Peter Cooper Modifications we can help you with that and provide you with the best experience.

2. ​ECU Tuning: Reflash Or Custom Tune​

Common upgrades like intake systems and exhaust systems used to work in the past, but modern cars are completely different. Engineers set up cars' ECUs to have set torque maps. These maps are there to give your ECU enough wiggle room to adapt to changes in octane level, oxygen density, and other mild changes. When you are at elevation and the oxygen is thinner, the ECU will automatically adapt timing to make sure your engine doesn't detonate. With these set torque maps, however, the ECU works against your traditional modifications. So when you try and improve air flow using an aftermarket exhaust, the ECU will force the car to produce the same power. This is why you can't get any performance merits without a proper tune. Companies like COBB sell their Accessport for specific cars. They have model-specific off-the-shelf maps that you can upload to your ECU, and you will immediately get a performance gain. These systems will also have options to support other upgrades, such as a cold air intake, exhaust, intercooler.

If you want to gain more noticeable power, investing in a tuner to create a custom tune for your car, which is especially important if you have other upgrades on your car, will yield the most power.

3. Flex Fuel Kit: E85 Fuel Will Tremendously Increase Performance

You can think of it as the monster of gasoline, E85 is 85-percent ethanol and 15-percent gasoline (mixture changes depends on gas station and location). E85 is far cheaper than pure gasoline, and depending on the vehicle you have, you can often get as much as 100whp gain with the proper tune. If your car doesn't have flex fuel, then you would need to install a flex fuel kit, which would allow you to use a wide range of octane levels. You would need to replace some of the fuel system components for some vehicles, but not all.

Finally, you must tune the car to accommodate the ethanol mixture. Once you do all of that, you will have fuel that's corn-based/more sustainable, has a higher knock resistance, and higher cooling effect. This could often allow you to increase your power without needing to address the intercooler and some of the other cooling parts. If there is any bolt-on modification after and with the tune that would yield the most horsepower and torque, it's switching to E85 fuel. Some cars would only benefit from 60-percent ethanol, often times even less, but in all cases, E85 will have tons of benefits that would outweigh any negatives.

4. ​Brakes: Good Brakes Will Allow You To Go Quicker On Track​

The first question that will come to mind is: how will the brakes make me go faster? Well, if you're on a circuit track, good brakes will allow you to keep your momentum much farther before you have to slam on the brakes and corner. If you have weak brakes, you will need to start slowing down more in advance, which will cost you more seconds. More importantly, you should never try to make your car faster without addressing the brake system. We all hate spending money on safety equipment because we don't get to see performance value in terms of horsepower or acceleration, but safety should always come first. In addition to increasing safety and improving lap times, as you increase your engine performance, you get to wear your brakes quicker. Your car simply goes faster, the brakes heat up quicker, and your pads fade right away. Replacing everything from the brake lines to improve pedal feel, to the pads that are more resistant to fade, to the rotors with ones that are slotted and drilled to stay cool under heavy use will be all you need to complement your other performance upgrades.

5. Suspension: Reduce Body Roll And Improve Handling

Upgrading your suspension is a great series of upgrades that you can do to support the increase in power and improve your track time. Often times, car DIYers think the stiffer the suspension, the better the car will handle as it stays planted during cornering. This could be a mistake more often than not. A great suspension system reduces slop and roll, but it doesn't eliminate it. The main role of a suspension system is to keep all four tyres in contact with the road at all times. Having some flexibility and give will allow your car to shift its weight around corners without one or more of your tires losing traction.

Talk to your favourite aftermarket suspension company about the type of racing you want to do, or the setup on your car, and they will help you choose the right parts, like coilovers and bushings, and more importantly, they will help you find the balance you need to improve your handling without compromising traction.