OZ Racing Wheels Australia

How to Modify Your Road Car

How to Modify Your Road Car

If you’re new to the world of car mods then you’re in for an exciting ride. There are many ways we can modify our cars to make them drive better, feel better, sound better, and maximise our enjoyment.

Some mods are really cheap and effective, and others will cost you $$$$s – but put your car in a different league.

In this article we’ll give you an overview of how to modify your road car.

Types of Road Car Mods

The types of modifications you want for your car depend on what you want to achieve.

This may be:

  • A cool looking ride.
  • A “sleeper” which looks like a regular car but drives like shit of a shovel.
  • A daily driver ready and willing to take part in local track days, and outperform your mates.
  • An all out beast which will get you from home to Coles in 60 seconds.

Let’s take a look at these a little further, but feel free to mix and match.

Modifications for a Cool Looking Ride


Wheels can change the look and feel of your car completely, and make it look totally individual.

Obviously I recommend OZ Racing wheels, but dig around on Google images for ideas on what style suits you. You may like chrome, black matte, or JDM style polished lips. This is a personal decision, and knowing what look you want is your first step to choosing the right wheels for you.

Many car enthusiasts opt for a wheel an inch or two larger than stock wheels. Keep in mind going too large may look cool but can negatively affect drivability. They will also cost you more in tyre rubber, especially if you need low profile tyres.


I’ll skirt over tyres briefly. Most people don’t realise the understated cool factor of a good set of tyres.

For JDM enthusiasts you’ll want to look at Yokohama, or Toyo as a cheaper option. Both offer some great spec tyres which will not only look good, but let you corner far quicker than cheap rubber.

For 4x4s, trucks, or utes, you may be tempted with a set of BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s which are badass in my opinion. I had a set on my Troopy and really put them through their paces driving (and living) around Australia – dunes, beaches, rivers, salt lakes, mountain passes, you name it – they dealt with it.

A good set of tyres is worth forking out for. After all, you don’t want to be stuck in Melbourne CBD with a flat tyre looking like a [what?].

Legal Body Modifications

Some body modifications, such as spoilers and diffusers, may enhance aerodynamics and performance if they comply with regulations. Expect these enhancements to be minimal on a road car, so the real reason you’ll modify your car in this way is to make it look good.

By look good I mean look good to you, which is what’s important.

From decades of modifying cars I can say with certainty what you like won’t be what others like. It’s just the way it is. Some people like apples, other people think apples suck balls.

Modifications for Your “Sleeper”

What I’ve loved most in the history of car ownership is having a regular looking retro car which people won’t look twice at until I put my foot down or nail it around a bend.

The mods below will suit any style of car, but these cover the basics to getting your car better than average.


I’m surprised how most people overlook coilovers or won’t consider them because they’re “expensive”, but this is the #1 car modification in my book. They change the feel of your car completely.

I fitted my Honda Civic with Oz Racing Coilovers, and I could out-corner Skylines and Imprezas on the road or track with ease. Imagine their jaws drop.

A good set of coilovers will get your car as stiff as you like, basically turning it into a road-legal go-kart. Money well spent.

I fitted my first set of coilovers at home, with basic car mechanic skills and a YouTube video. It’s worth having them professionally set up, but if you make sure they’re all pre-set to the same height and damper settings you’ll generally be fine with some tweaking of dampers to get the best ride for you.

Aftermarket suspension upgrades

Coilovers are the daddy, but if you simply can’t afford them it’s fine – there are much cheaper alternatives which will still change the feel of your car completely.

Whatever you choose to buy make sure you research the brand thoroughly on the Internet and enthusiast communities. The last thing you want are knocky squeaky springs as you drive through the burbs.

Cold air intakes (CAI)

Any brand of cold air intake will tell you performance will be marginally improved, usually up to a few percent, but truth is a good cold air intake will only provide real gains alongside other more expensive mods.

That said, they’re one of the cheapest and easiest mods for a beginner, and you shouldn’t have any trouble fitting one yourself.

The best benefit of a cold air intake, to me, is the change in noise. Most stock cars are designed to be quiet and boring, and a simple cold air intake can really bring out some beautiful engine sounds.

One of my first cars, back in the UK, was a Vauxhall Corsa (equivalent of a Holden Barina). I’d got a job at a big IT company and was lucky enough to get a company car of my choosing, and I found out there was a rare spec Corsa with a 1.8 engine. I doubt many were sold other than the one I bought, and it sounded boring until I fitted a CAI. After that it sounded like a true sleeper, even if it looked sh*t.

The company weren’t happy when I quit a year later and gave them the car back modified (slightly).

Brake upgrades

The cheapest and easiest brake upgrades are uprated discs and pads. These are well worth doing as driving fast makes braking power extremely important, and will help you get the most enjoyment prepping for corners.

If you want to go further you can install braided brake lines, or better yet bigger brakes and calipers. Growing up with Honda Civics and CRXs I had the option of swapping to bigger brakes from a Honda Integra, and a friend of mine even had a brake setup from a Honda NSX.

If you’re planning serious performance upgrades later on, start with a great break setup first.

Exhaust system

If you like noise then an exhaust upgrade will completely change the sound of your car. Your best options are cat back/manifold back, or including the manifold (header) straight from the engine.

An aftermarket manifold will cost you a fair bit, but this will give you the best performance gains combined with a good full exhaust system.

Just keep in mind an exhaust system must comply with noise and emission regulations which are more stringent in Australia than other countries, and vary from state to state.

Roll cages

Roll cages are generally for track use, but really increase the structural rigidity of your car. It has to be said if any of your mates get in your car and it has a roll cage, then they’ll likely form the opinion it’s a pretty serious piece of kit.

Roll cages aren’t the easiest modifications to fit, and often compromise interior space and usability. You should also check local regulations for on-road use.

Performance chips

Installing a performance chip or engine control unit (ECU) remapping may improve power, but ensure it complies with emissions laws.

For most cars you can buy off-the-shelf performance chips which should improve performance. A stock car will be tuned for efficiency as a priority (so you get more km for your money), but a performance chip will sacrifice efficiency for performance – which is what you want, isn’t it.

Keep in mind, if you’re planning serious performance upgrades such as a turbo charger, then a performance chip (or piggyback chip) will be redundant. For serious mods you’ll need a tunable chip or aftermarket ECU.

Serious & Professional Car Modifications

In this section we’ll look at modifications which will change your car completely, but be prepared to dig deep, take out a loan, or keep your girlfriend’s birthday present on hold.

Turbochargers and superchargers

Whether your car is naturally aspirated (NASP) or already has forced induction (such as a turbocharger) as stock, this is your way to ultimate power.

For most NASP cars you can get a basic turbocharger or supercharger kit which will turn your car into a different beast. The benefits of a kit are they should be everything you need for a basic setup, and may increase power 10% to 20%.

A custom made kit opens up whole new levels of performance, but likely at the cost of uprating many other components such as engine internals, fuel injectors, and adding an intercooler. This is where costs escalate quickly, as does the risk of blowing your engine, but boy can the performance be excillerating.

You probably know already, but when you hear a car hooning through town with intermittent “Tssssshhhh” sounds – that’s a blow off/dump valve releasing pressure on a turbocharged car. Regular people will hear that sound and think “hoon”, but to me that’s the sound of someone really enjoying their car.

Limited Slip Differential (LSD)

Some stock cars are lucky to come with LSD. Even back in the 1990s some Honda’s like the Integra and a handful of JDM Honda CRXs came with factory fitted LSD.

For others, an LSD may set up back a fair bit, but it’s one of the best upgrades for handling.

An LSD gearbox will control traction to individual wheels when you take a corner at high speed or go over a loose surface like gravel. In a nutshell, if one wheel starts losing traction, the power delivery will go to wheels which do. This helps the car keep traction at maximum speed.

Rally cars benefit greatly from LSD, and it’s one of the reasons Mitsubishi Evos and Subaru Impreza AWDs make great rally cars.

An LSD must meet safety standards, so this is something you must check based on regulations in your state.

Engine tuning

Engine tuning is a must if you’ve significantly changed performance with other upgrades, but tuning must comply with emission standards and noise regulations.

You may need an aftermarket ECU, and likely the help of a dyno and professional to tune your car properly, but if you want to maximise your performance (and prevent your engine blowing under forced induction) then this is an absolute must.

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