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Hooniverse Asks- What’s the Best Modification You Can Make to a New Car?

Robert Emslie July 17, 2013 Hooniverse Asks 87 Comments


Let’s say you’re buying a new car. I’m talking brand spankin’ new, fresh off the lot. It’s so new that it’s got a full eighty thousand and eighty-five miles to go before you can chortle over the odometer reading saying BOOBS. Plus, it still has that new car smell, which is probably carcinogenic.

What would you immediately do to change or improve it? New cars  typically require so little that it’s hard to come up with a feature or protective cover that they don’t already have driving off the lot – including that gosh darn dandy undercoating, dontchaknow. But there must be something that you see as an addition to even the newest of cars, either to mark it as your territory, or just because your dad always did that. 

Maybe it’s a new set of wheels because the one place your favored car maker lets you down is in the designs of their corner fillers? Or perhaps it’s the addition of one of those fancy pants G-meters that will tell you how fast you went around the last corner, as if the double decaf latte now soaking into the passenger footwell carpet wasn’t indictor enough. What do you think is the best modification you can make to a brand new car?

Image source: car-freshener

  • http://www.automobile-catalog.com/ P161911

    I added ventvisors and a cargo liner to my wife's Trailblazer when new. Mainly because I had a friend who worked at the factory and they were free.

    Do dealer installed options count? I had a storage box installed under the rear seat and a bed extender (I really wanted a long bed) added to my Silverado. Had to get floormats too.

  • Josh_Howard

    Good tires and brake pads. Both tend to be skimped on a bit from the factory. Sure, you can lump wheels into that if you want, but that isn't necessary. In my opinion good tires and good brake pads make a world of difference on any car. They also don't cost a ton and are typical replacement/wear items that you can get away with doing under warranty.

  • http://hooniverse.com/ Tanshanomi

    Better floor mats, especially in a truck or SUV.

    <img src="http://www.weathertech.com/assets/1/22/GalleryMainDimensionId/453731_Civic_2012.jpg"&gt;

    • http://karakullake.blogspot.com Maxichamp

      I thought those mats came with a pretty middle-aged smiling lady.

    • DonFehlio

      I buy WeatherTech mats to support print media.

      • http://karakullake.blogspot.com Maxichamp

        Seriously, I'd love to sit in on their marketing department meetings.

        Hooniverse needs to dig deeper into this.

  • JayP2112

    Spend $300 learning how to drive it at a HPDE.

  • CalculatedRisk
    • Scandinavian Flick ★

      Your screen name seems perfect here.

  • http://PFMTechnology.net IronBallsMcG

    The very first thing I did was bolt locking gun storage under the front seat.
    So, yeah, there's that.
    <img src="http://www.wranglerforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=108872&thumb=1&d=1332955401"&gt;

    • Sjalabais

      Do you live in the Caucasus or something like that?

    • Kenwood

      Wrangler? 2dr or 4 dr? I just got a 2dr. Does it interfere with the seat tilt forward mechanism?

      • http://PFMTechnology.net IronBallsMcG

        This is in a 4 door. I'm pretty sure you can get them for your application. Mine is a Bestop.

  • http://www.orro.net windbuechse

    In SoCal, window tint and a custom windshield sun shade, clear car bra and some custom fitted rock mud/guards. Now you have a chance to extend that new car feeling.
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/o0140.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • http://www.google.com/search?q=stuart+schmitt Stu_Rock

      Interesting that you emphasize SoCal for the splash guards. I think they're very helpful in wintery climates to prevent scrapes and slush buildup on the rocker panels. It really reduces the rust in that area. Even though I don't live in wintery places anymore–and the outlook is that I won't ever again–I still put them on "just in case."

      • Kris_01

        I'm a Toyota mechanic, and every vehicle we PDI (except for Rav4s) comes with a set of these in the trunk as a dealer-installed part (Ravs have them installed from the factory, FYI).

        I'm located in Atlantic Canada, but curiously enough, vehicles from just over the border in Maine do not get the splashguards. Might be a CDM thing.

        • Sjalabais

          Interesting, any data on how Canadian cars and their equals from Maine do regarding rust in the rocker panels?

          • Kris_01

            Can't say, really. I don't see very many rusty Maine vehicles in my shop, but when I make cross-border shopping trips, the ratio of rustbuckets to decent looking vehicles is pretty much the same as here.

            • calzonegolem

              Mainer checking in. Without splash guards you will slowly sandblast off the paint with sand an salt. Best money you can spend to extend the life of a new car.

        • Maymar

          That's a pretty fair bet – significant numbers of Canadian market Toyotas have heated mirrors as well, while I suspect Toyota US would not be willing to spring for that cost.

      • http://www.orro.net windbuechse

        Here, the roads are constantly being patched. The mudguards reduce the tar buildup and rock chips on the body.
        <img src="http://img.nacode.com/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5hdXRvZ2Vla29ubGluZS5uZXQvbmljay9DYXJQcm8lMjBUYXIlMjBYL0JlZm9yZTEuSlBH&quot; width="600">

        • JayP2112

          Start up a Kickstarter and offer these as prints.

  • http://www.washington.edu/news/archive/52703 mdharrell

    I've always broken in a new car via a succession of other drivers, spread over a period of decades, before taking the wheel myself.

    • http://roadworkuk.com Rust-MyEnemy

      Or you could have just bought British Leyland, for that used-car feel from the factory…

      • http://www.washington.edu/news/archive/52703 mdharrell

        "Or" is a bit too restrictive here. "And" is better.

  • Irishzombieman☆

    Wheels and tires. Wheels are the single greatest visual impact you can have on a car, and most OEM designs suck. In the name of high durability at a reasonable cost, OEM wheels are generally very heavy as well, and lightening your wheels is probably one of the single greatest performance mods you can do to a vehicle. Since it's all unsprung and rotational weight, it improves ride, handling, acceleration, braking, wear, everything while improving the looks of the car. OEM tires kinda suck in general as well. Usually too narrow, usually boring all-seasons. So with basically any car, my first mod is a nice set of light wheels and some summer tires, so the OEM wheels can become winter wheels for the Blizzaks.

    • JayP2112

      OEM tires are almost always hard as rocks to get that last MPG out, and some lame tread pattern for NVH.
      For the most part, OEM wheels hand have come around. They used to be ugly bricks but now they're pretty light, not bad looking and if you're lucky, fit over big brakes.

      But I hope people take your advice… I'm looking for a set of OEM Brembos/Pirelli option wheels on the CL.


        The OEMs are starting to come around on the lightweight wheel thing finally. One of the few really great things about CAFE is it's making them look into things like that. But for instance, most OEM wheels in the 18×9 range are still in the 26-30 lb range, unless you're looking at sports cars, where they are getting into the 23-27 lb range. For instance, the 18×9.5 Corvette Grand Sport wheels I'm running on my Jag are about 24 lbs a piece, and one of the lighter OEM wheels in that size. But it's not hard at all to find affordable aftermarket wheels around the 20 lb mark in that size. And the OEMs are starting to come around in the looks department. More and more stock wheels look pretty damn good. But there are very few I don't think can't be improved upon, even supercars. Have you seen a 458 on some ADV1s? Heaven.

        • Bruno Balestra

          Let´s see a picture of that Jag on GS wheels!

    • Scandinavian Flick ★

      This was going to be my answer as well. A new car, even if it's leased or financed, can be personalized greatly without damage by a nice looking set of wheels. Plus, like you said, performance gains can be very noticeable. On my GTO, I saved 11lbs per corner over the stock boat anchors. Steering feel was much lighter, and the butt dyno indicated a notable gain in acceleration and braking.

      Added power gains you performance in a straight line. Added lightness gains you performance everywhere.

    • Caveat Emptor

      Attention Benz owners and other low information voters : If you're considering stepping up to bigger wheels for your over-priced tristar product, Avoid, repeat, Avoid any and all AMG wheels for your Yupmobile ! These are the heaviest, most expensive rims you can put on your Swabecar. They seem to be made from depleted uranium sabot rounds leftover from the Gulf War and will bend out of round with the slightest impact from a parking block or road divot. Having been through the tedious experience of mounting and dismounting innumerable Michelins from the offending rims, I'd rather have root canal work than deal with one more set of these back breaking, hernia-inducing rollers. Their unsprung weight will beat to death any suspension known to man. You have been warned.


        This times a lot. I was helping a friend in college decide on some wheels for his 300SE, so of course we looked at the AMG monoblocks. I figured they weren't light, but I figured they'd be around 25 lbs for a 17×9. THEY'RE 33 LBS A CORNER FOR A 17×9. That is INCREDIBLY heavy. With most AMG wheels, you can literally drop 10-15 lbs a corner with a lighter weight aftermarket wheel, which is an insanely large drop. AMG wheels may look awesome, but they are ridiculously heavy for their size.

  • Sjalabais

    If the undercoating is fresh and floor mats are good enough, I would only fill it up with all the stuff I carry around in a car anyway:

    Icescraps, brush, spade, strappers, tools, maps, torch, door-oil, silicon for the seals.

    And I'd probably linger between that happy-new-toy-smile and that depreciation-is-going-to-kill-me-depression.

  • Maymar

    For those of us in certain climes, picking up a set of snow tires. I will never, ever again own a car that I drive in winter that doesn't have a proper set of tires.

    If I owned a pickup, I'm not sure there's any reason I wouldn't get Line-X, although I'm mostly going off my father-in-law's truck and the odd unit I see for work.

    • http://www.automobile-catalog.com/ P161911

      I keep saying I'm going to add a spray in bed liner to my truck. I even have the kit to do it (free from my Dad, he sells them). The first step was to scuff up the paint on the bed. I think I've hauled enough scrap metal and other crap, now the bed is sufficiently scuffed.

      • Maymar

        Heh, up here, rust, any rust whatsoever, is to be avoided. Even trucks that are a year or two old around here, once the scuffing starts setting in, the rust follows very, very quickly.

        • http://www.automobile-catalog.com/ P161911

          Down here, they might rust sometime in the next 30 years or so.

  • BAMacPherson

    Why, a Hooniverse decal of course. Not that I've ever bought a new car…

  • jeepjeff

    Take out the arm rests to turn it into a Real Drag Strip Monster!

  • quattrovalvole

    Two things that I immediately buy for a newly acquired car:
    – Rubber floormats
    – Better headlight bulbs (those DOT-approved bulbs with extra light & spread, e.g. Philips Xtreme Power)

  • Pidgeonsplatz

    I installed a set of cheap seat covers in '03 when I got my car. They were so cheap that I figured they wouldn't last, so I bought an extra set. 10 years later, the drivers side is starting to need replacing (and of course the extra set got lost during moving), but the seats are in great shape, so it was money well spent.

    • Devin

      If it wasn't for the dates I would be convinced you were one of my parents, though they haven't put seat covers on their latest vehicles. Both of them would brag about how great the seats in mt dad's old truck were even 20 years later, because they bought seat covers right away.

      • Pidgeonsplatz

        Reading your reply makes me realize I AM becoming my parents.

  • http://roadworkuk.com Rust-MyEnemy

    Truck nutz.

    • http://www.washington.edu/news/archive/52703 mdharrell

      Inasmuch as that usually is dependent upon a trailer hitch, excellent choice!


    Oh, and any car with stock run-flat tires deserves an immediate trip to the tire shop. My friends new 335i came with run-flats. We hooned it around on the RFTs for a while the first day before throwing on the VMR wheels with the non-RFT Pilot Sport tires that he'd kept from his previous 335i. The difference was unbelievable. Ride, grip, transitional response, NVH, tramlining, all saw massive improvements. To top it all off, the RFTs are lots more expensive than even a seriously good non-RFT. Run flats are a great idea that kind of sucks in execution, and I can't recommend their immediate replacement on ANYTHING highly enough. If your car came with RFTs, do yourself a favor and gets some real tires and a fix-a-flat kit and sell the RFTs.

    • Scandinavian Flick ★

      I hated the RFTs on the loaner 328i I got. Part of the way those things work is by having an impossibly stiff sidewall, so the ride is absolute crap. It didn't help that they were a 45 profile anyway…

      And to top it off, they were $1200 PER TIRE!

    • marmer01

      I agree with everything you've said about run-flats, but I don't think I've ever had a flat tire in my whole driving life that could be fixed by fix-a-flat. On the Audi it's almost always from bending one of those tinfoil OEM Ronals on a pothole and messing up the bead seal.

  • http://www.proofnpudding.com muthalovin

    I know that it is unpopular on [redacted], but the first thing I would do is window tint. It gets fairly warm during central Texas summers.

  • Devin

    Apparently block heaters are dealer installed for a lot of companies. I haven't actually met a dealer in my area who will even let you buy something without one.

    I actually tried a bug deflector this time around, because if you drive at dusk you will drive into all the bugs, but so far the results have been inconclusive.

    • Kris_01

      Dependent on the manufacturer. GM vehicles sold here have a "Canadian climate package" which includes a heated rear window and block heater (possibly among other things), and it's been mandatory for something like 40 years. Chryslers have something similar. Toyota will sell you a block heater on your Corolla or Matrix as a dealer-installed option only.

  • http://www.google.com/search?q=stuart+schmitt Stu_Rock

    On a lot of cars and trucks these days, the dual-tone horn is an option. That means that most of those cars end up with weeny one-tone horns. I add the second tone.

    If GM didn't cancel the option for 2005, my Buick could have had a tritone horn from the factory. It has it now.

    • Kris_01

      Whenever I buy a used car, the first thing I do is head to a junkyard to get a set of horns off a Cadillac. The older the Caddy, the better the horns. My current '03 Focus ZTW wagon rocks a set of quad-tone horns off of a '73 Eldorado.

      • http://www.google.com/search?q=stuart+schmitt Stu_Rock

        The Delco "Penetone"! The Park Avenue has the "Super Low" D# (310 Hz) in addition to the regular F# (380 Hz) and A (450 Hz) tones. It would be fun to add that C# 560 Hz "Penetone" horn, but I'd have to wire in a relay to drive it.

        • Kris_01

          Yep, you got it. I had to do some creative wiring but the overall experience is worth it. When I sound the horn it sounds like the Queen Mary is coming through, and it's funny to see peoples' heads turn expecting something old and large, when it's just an innocent looking midnight blue Focus longroof.

  • http://www.salguod.net salguod

    If it's a Mazda, rust proofing with a lifetime guarantee.

  • MVEilenstein

    "Let’s say you’re buying a new car"

    Let's not . . .

    Honestly, the first thing I did when I bought our Focus (two years old at the time) was peel off the dealer sticker/logo thing on the hatch. I hate them.

    • Preludacris

      When I bought my '89 Accord in 2009, it still had the Sioux Falls dealer badge on it. I thought that was pretty cool so I left it. In most circumstances I'd remove it immediately, along with any license plate frames, door edge trim, and all possible evidence of the previous owner.

      • Kogashiwa

        My old Q45 that I imported from Texas had the dealer sticker still on it. Said dealer sticker, though, was actually a nicely made badge, just the name, and matched the rest of the Infiniti badging well enough to look factory, so I left it on just to confuse people.

        • Preludacris

          Very nice eh!

    • Kris_01

      Oh my god, +1 million. My dealer just gives you one little sicker with the name – that's it. You can even ask for it to be left off at prep time.

      My parents bought a Dodge Journey last year, and they included license plate frames front and rear, a large-ish sticker on the corner of the tailgate, a rear window decal across the top of the window that spelled out the name of the dealership, and a little engraved metal box in the glovebox that held a tire pressure guage, a mechanical pencil and a pen. The owner's manual had a dealer sticker on it, and inside the glovebox was a sticker that advised my folks to return to the dealer for servicing ("We know your Dodge best!") Lastly, this place uses the largest oil change reminder stickers I've ever seen – no joke, it's the size of a credit card.

      All in all, even at dealer cost, this still must be $50 worth of decoration that can totally be done without. What's worse is that my folks paid cash and actually got a pretty decent deal on it, so it's not like the dealer made up the cost of this junk in F&I.

      • Preludacris

        Those full-width window window decals are a really annoying trend. The last thing I would want to do right after buying a new vehicle is spend half an hour peeling vinyl.

        Coworker took her truck to a dealer for service. When she got it back, it had a new license plate frame. She marched back in and demanded that they pull her old one (from a different dealer) out of the garbage can and reinstall it. We get along pretty well.

        • http://www.google.com/search?q=stuart+schmitt Stu_Rock

          I'm willing to leave the dealer tag on if all three of the following conditions are met: (1) I liked the dealer, (2) it's not an annoying design, and (3) it's nearby where I live.

          I have rule 3 because I don't want my vehicles advertising where I'm from. That said, I live in the SF Bay area and one of my cars screams "not from around here" without any dealership tags–just because of what it is.

          • Preludacris

            I am curious what car screams "not from the Bay area?" I think of it as a pretty diverse place for cars.

            • http://www.google.com/search?q=stuart+schmitt Stu_Rock

              A 2005 Buick Park Avenue. California dealers stopped ordering them in '02 or so. Even '97-'01 examples are rare here. '03-'05 models are visibly different, and I see them about as often as I see Peugeots.

              I had mine shipped in from a dealer in Minnesota, who purchased it at an auction in Massachusetts, where it was originally sold.

              • Preludacris

                That's local knowledge right there. If I was visiting (which I do occasionally) and saw one, I wouldn't think anything of it.

        • Devin

          I don't think that my dealer had time to do their typical website logo on my car, which is nice, because I very much did not want their website on my car. It's a full width thing, pretty obnoxious.

          They did do a little black dealer sticker – which isn't obnoxious, it looks okay on a red car, I haven't gotten rid of it – and a license plate frame with the name of the guy who sold it. I'm thinking of getting rid of the license frame, but then again I did generally like that guy, so I don't feel bad giving him business, I just don't want people to think I'm Jeff. Sorry, Jeffs of the world.

    • Maymar

      I'm a little bit of the odd one out, but I don't mind dealer badging. Moreso, I like it 10 years or so down the line, when it becomes a weird time capsule of dealers gone defunct, moved, or changed to different badging designs.

  • http://hooniverse.com/ Batshitbox
    • JayP2112

      You have a British car?

      • http://hooniverse.com/ Batshitbox

        My very first car was British, a TR7. I guess first lessons stick with you.

        • JayP2112

          Need a half o' gallon gas jug for when you run out because the gauge is dead.
          Been there, done that brother.

  • name_too_long

    I'd say a way to connect an aux-in but I think that's pretty much standard now.

    Probably a higher flow drop-in air filter. I don't really know; it would depend on what I could get away with doing without voiding the warranty.

    Assuming I could get away with it, a dyno tune. Proven way to get more power *and* better fuel economy.

  • Dmitry

    Upgraded front brake rotors and calipers on my bmw x3. replaced from stock to the best option which is from big brother X6, 3,5.. Due to bigger size of new one not able to use 17'th wheels anymore 😉

  • sudden1

    Remove the rear head rests unless your carrying passengers…best? Nah, but makes a vehicle look better and, at least on my car, it really improves rear visibility and it cost nothing…

    • Bob

      The new Volvos have a button on the dash that flips the back seat headrests down for improved rear visibility. Or for disciplining the kids .

  • Felis_Concolor

    My recent modifications/enhancements on a new motor vehicle:

    1. A full complement of Weathertech mats for the interior.
    2. Replacing the Hankook Optimos with Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3s.
    3. A call to Zee Medical for their First Responder automobile kit.

  • marmer01

    I've mentioned it before, re: dealer stickers, but Gay Pontiac GMC Subaru in Dickinson, TX had a metal badge with the word "GAY" in big capital letters and the words "Dickinson, Tex" in much smaller letters under it. They'd been around for basically ever, since the word meant "cheerful," and weren't going to change it. So it was not uncommon to see rednecks in clapped out GMCs or Pontiacs with the little "Dickinson, Tex." letters remaining forlornly on the trunk or tailgate where the "GAY" had been removed with a screwdriver lest anyone get the wrong impression.

  • http://www.oleragtop.blogspot.com longrooffan

    A scratch, just so it's not new anymore.

  • Rollan

    BMWs don't need anything, leaving it stock is just fine. In the sport package, they're lower, come with bigger wheels, & better suspension.

  • John McMillin

    Hand down, my first mod is to cover the bright, distracting air bag warning labels required on every US car. Not that I want to see helpless tykes battered by air bags. I've simply gotten that message, thanks. My former baby-on-bard is now a student driver. Since every one of my lifetime wrecks have been caused by distraction, I know I'm ADD enough to not need the distraction in my field of vision. At the local hardware store, I select vinyl tape in the best matching beige or black, as appropriate, and cover it neatly. Why wouldn't everyone?


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