50 Car Performance Upgrades for Customizing Your Ride

Because stock is boring.

customize car performance upgrades

Skim the pages of Superstreet or Stanceworks, and you'll see a never-ending thread of cars that look nothing like they did when rolling off the showroom floor. If you're wanting to give your ride a little extra personality, there are plenty of options out there. This guide will give you some quick insight into the many things you can bolt, glue, or weld onto your pride and joy and let you know why you should upgrade your ride in the first place.

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Big Brake Kit

from $326 BUY NOW

People love the look of a big brake kit — especially when larger aftermarket wheels have been fitted — but regardless of visual appeal, improving your stopping capability is a great idea. Many tuners will agree that your best trajectory on a build is to improve handling and braking before you start looking at upping engine output. 

More: Get the Same Performance Tires You've Seen on Your Favorite Sports Cars

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Cold Air Intake Kit

from $30 BUY NOW

Air intakes can offer a very nominal bump in performance — much more so in conjunction with other upgrades to your car's intake and fuel systems. Performance gains aside, a cold-air intake setup is a nice visual upgrade for your engine, and it also adds a notable (and kinda cool) sound to the engine as it draws air in — especially at full-throttle. 

More: The Best Air Intake Kits for Your Car or Truck

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Carbon Body Parts

pricing varies BUY NOW

Swapping out heavy-metal body panels for lightweight carbon fiber is another great way to upgrade your ride. The less excess weight you're packing around, the quicker you'll be around the track, and in some cases, adding extra venting (like in the case of the carbon fiber hood seen here) can even help improve the overall efficiency of your cooling system.

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Coilovers

from $238 BUY NOW

You can sometimes get them for a song, but as we mentioned in a recent feature,  you really shouldn't go too cheap when it comes to a coilover suspension upgrade. Make your choice with caution, because it's quite easy to wind up with a suspension setup that's too firm or too soft for your intended use.

More: Best Dash Cams to Keep You New Ride Safe

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Performance Tires

from $47 per tire BUY NOW

Sticky tires can make a monumental difference in your car's performance, and there are plenty of great options out there to suit all budgets. Whether you're driving a 100-horsepower Honda or a 500+ horsepower supercar, having the right performance tire will make a world of difference.

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Body Kits

pricing varies BUY NOW

Though arguably an acquired taste, body kits are by far the most dramatic way to alter your car's appearance. Some will be quick to argue that body kits will turn your otherwise civilized transportation into something far too "boy racer" for most adults, but you'll see in our roundup that there are options out there that clearly improve a vehicle's exterior appearance rather than ruin it. Here are some of our favorite body kits for all shapes and sizes of vehicles.

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Performance Silicone Radiator Hoses

from $70 BUY NOW

Mostly an engine dress-up item, the other saving grace of silicone rad hoses is they tend to last longer than conventional rubber ones. You can either swap them in one by one as your conventional hoses fail, or spend a couple hundred bucks on a complete assortment and just bite it off all at once.

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Turbo Kits

from $545 BUY NOW

While certain auto enthusiasts like to argue that there's no replacement for displacement, turbocharging has long been a viable way to significantly increase engine performance. While it is technically possible to put together your own turbo kit from scratch, kits take the guesswork out of the equation.

More: Complete and Comprehensive Turbo Kits for Your Car or Truck

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Racing Pedals

from $5 BUY NOW

A pedal kit is more of a visual upgrade than one that'll make you go any quicker. This particular pedal kit from Sparco ($78) is a quick and easy upgrade to get a little carbon fiber into your car's interior. Carbon fiber can be a bit slick, so small traction pads are added to ensure your foot doesn't accidentally slip off the pedals and cause a catastrophe.

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Aftermarket Wheels

from $73 BUY NOW

Shopping for wheels is just as challenging as shopping for new shoes — there are countless colors, styles, and price points to choose from. One thing to keep in mind is the more affordable the wheel, typically the heavier it will be (and adding weight is always a bad thing).

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Auxiliary Gauges

from $30 BUY NOW

The more modifications you add to your ride, the more important it is to have an accurate handle on your engine's vital stats, such as oil pressure and coolant temperature. Gauge packs, like this example built specifically for 2010 to 2014 Mustangs, are a great addition that will ensure you're always aware of what's going on under the hood.

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Subwoofer

from $21 BUY NOW

Much as new car audio systems continue to improve, there will always be a certain level of appeal to adding serious decibel output to your car or truck. Buying subwoofers individually and having an enclosure custom-built to fit your vehicle is often a costly endeavor. If quality sound is more important to you than the visual appeal of a custom-fit unit, then these subwoofers and enclosures are just what you need.

More: The Best Subwoofers for Your Car or Truck

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Spoilers

from $47 BUY NOW

Automotive aerodynamics are a tricky thing, and a lot of folks would like to tell you that their spoiler gives them improved rear grip during their daily commute. In truth, it actually takes a fair bit of speed before a spoiler goes from visual upgrade to performance booster. There are some fun finds via the link above, but if you're looking for something really big, then we've got plenty of other options for you right here.

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Performance Clutch Kit

from $96 BUY NOW

Once the target of high horsepower has been achieved, having a heavier clutch is essential. Any performance clutch will take a fair bit of getting used to — and you can expect your ride to be a little trickier to manage in any kind of traffic — but if you keep a stock clutch after adding a couple hundred extra horsepower, you'll be smoking your way through stock clutches left, right, and center.

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Air Suspension

from $1,750 BUY NOW

There's something special about being able to "hard park" your favorite ride, and with the ongoing rise in popularity of air suspension, manufacturers are getting better than they've ever been at building air suspension kits that perform as well — if not better than performance coilovers. Don't believe us? Just watch this on-track comparison video.

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Performance Exhaust/Mufflers

from $30 BUY NOW

Aside from visual mods, swapping your muffler to something a little more free-flowing is a quick and affordable way to give your ride a little more personality. There's a good chance it'll annoy your neighbors, but it's hard to not love a good growly engine note.

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Headers

from $119 BUY NOW

At the other end of your exhaust system, a good set of headers can also give your engine a nominal performance bump. Depending on how your engine is set up, these can be a real pain to install, but they'll be worth it in the end.

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Racing Seats

from $146 BUY NOW

There's nothing worse than sliding around on a less-than-supportive factory seat when out at your local track-day event. There's also little worse than peering into your car's interior and seeing those ratty old worn-out factory seats that are miles overdue for some TLC. A pair of racing seats will kill both birds with one stone.

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Engine Swap

from $1,299 BUY NOW

In certain cases, dropping a more potent engine into your car can actually be the smarter way to increase performance. Especially in the world of vintage domestics, engine swaps in cars like Mustangs and Camaros can be relatively straightforward, but even then you can expect to spend as much — and sometimes more — on the labor to complete the swap as you do on the engine itself.

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Radiator Upgrade

from $147 BUY NOW

If engine upgrades are in your future, or simply if your old radiator is on its way out, an upgraded Mishimoto aluminum radiator will improve your car's cooling capability under all conditions. Because it's built a little more heavy-duty, it will also outlast any regular replacement radiator you'll find out there.

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Aftermarket Sway Bars

from $75 BUY NOW

When modifications to any car is the task at hand, improving the car's handling is the best place to start. Replacing your sway bars (front and rear) with one of a larger diameter will help seriously improve any lateral roll that is typically seen from stock suspension setups.

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Performance Control Arms and Bushings

from $29 BUY NOW

This is a bit of a two-parts-in-one scenario, because aftermarket lightweight control arms aren't always available, but when they are, they usually include a stiff set of performance bushings already installed (as seen here). The lightweight aspect is a no-brainer, but performance bushings are another key step in tightening up your car's handling, as they're made of a much stiffer poly compound than your average OEM rubber bushing.

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Performance Intake Manifold

from $103 BUY NOW

The distance and direction that air needs to travel from the filter to the combustion chamber can significantly impact engine performance, as can the volume of air that that makes it through. Performance intakes are designed to alter the stock path (usually designed solely for efficiency), in order to optimize your engine's output.

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Supercharger Kit

from $2,516 BUY NOW

Superchargers are an effective way to add major horsepower to your ride, being the belt-driven alternative to turbocharging. Generally superchargers are easy to install — however, for the power they add, they take a small amount away at lower engine speeds, due to the forces needed to rotate its internal turbine.

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Tuning Modules

from $293 BUY NOW

Back in the old days, a performance chip used to be the thing you'd install in your car's ECU to automatically get a bit more power from your engine, but these days things are a little more plug-and-play. Units like this offering from AFE can provide a respectable bump in power — often 30+ horsepower and about 30 to 40 lb-ft of torque. The biggest gains are on engines that are turbocharged from the factory, but either way you can expect decent bang for your buck. Just make sure you do your homework on the brand you opt for.

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Performance Air Filters

from $41 BUY NOW

Just like full cold-air intake kits, the gains from a performance filter like this one from K&N will be nominal at best, but they do come with an added benefit. Unlike standard disposable air filters, these can be cleaned and reused, so even though they cost you more up front, you won't be tossing it in the bin and buying a new one after a couple years.

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Fog Lights

from $12 BUY NOW

When driving at night, having good lighting is crucial — especially in more remote areas. Most modern cars offer more than adequate lighting, however the addition of aftermarket fog lights can vastly improve your visibility in fog and heavy snow. Fog light kits come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, tailored to suit just about any make and model of car or truck on the road.

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Steering Wheel

from $36 BUY NOW

A steering wheel swap can be useful for a handful of reasons. A smaller-diameter wheel requires less input for the same change in direction than a larger-diameter one (it's physics, people!), and it'll also add a nice custom touch to your interior. We'd suggest opting for better-known brands like Grant or MOMO, but if cash is really tight, there are some tolerable options from no-names that might do the trick.

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Wheel Spacers

from $6 BUY NOW

These seem like such a minor detail, but they're often essential when it comes to adding wider wheels or a widebody kit to your pride and joy. They're available in increments, but whatever you do, make sure you have longer wheel bolts to account for the spacers in order to avoid a catastrophic failure.

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Short shift kit

from $18 BUY NOW

Shortening your shifter's travel distance and firming up its movement will give you a better opportunity to speed up your shifting abilities. Depending on the car, these can be a fairly straightforward DIY install, but do your homework, because others can be quite tricky without putting the car up on a lift.