12 Car Modifications That Make You Look Like an Idiot

Do you know what goes into building a car? Literally thousands of highly skilled engineers, artists, model makers, clay workers, aerodynamicists, technicians, and testers. Monstrously large underground bunkers full of 3D printers cranking out next-generation design. Powerful wind tunnels that verify the computational fluid dynamics of the car’s shape. Expert designers that take all the work from the engineering team and pull their hair out trying to make the car look actually decent... like, something you want to buy. Out of all that, over a span of years, and literally hundreds of iterations, comes a single car.

But you know better, so you should definitely take this marvel of modern engineering and add your own spin to it. That makes sense. Here are 12 things you can try that'll make you look like a complete dumbass.

Flickr/Jason Hoang

1. Ridiculously large, useless wings

Yes, race cars use wings to help in the cornering department, but adding one to your fucking Volkswagen will not improve its performance, 99.9% of the time. In fact, it might have a detrimental effect on your car's balance. 

Flickr/Bill Stillwill

2. DIY wings

Do you do body work for a living? Are you a master fabricator that understands how to work with fiberglass? No, really? Could've fooled us.


3. Other fake "performance" parts

If you're looking at this photo, and you don't see what's so horribly, devastatingly wrong, consider this: would you walk into a bar with a 10in "marital aid" stuffed down your pants? Of course not, because even if you manage to convince someone that it's real, you're eventually going to be found out.

Flickr/Elaine Domingo

4. Pretty much all body kits

The theory: "My car looks like all the others, and it's not sporty or fast enough! I'll put a body kit on that makes it run like a race car."

The reality: On the vast majority of body kits, the functional benefit is somewhere between non-existent and very, very small. Instead, you've successfully shot yourself in the foot when you attempt to resell your car, which you'll inevitably do once you realize you've spent thousands of dollars in parts and labor making it go... exactly as fast as before.

Wikimedia Commons/Brian Snelson

5. Converting your car into another car

No one is going to take you seriously if you pull up to an event in a Faux-rarri, like the monstrosity shown here. You should just be yourself, man.


6. "Slamming" your ride

Lowering a car has all sorts of benefits in terms of cornering performance, but this isn't a "more is more" situation. Lowering a car too much messes up the suspension geometry, and after a certain point, you'll notice that the handling gets worse.

Flickr/Sonic Motorsports

7. Buying parts that are over your head

If you understand the relationship between bump steer and camber gain, and if you know how to recognize a change in shock rebound settings based on feel, then by all means go spend some money on go-fast goodies. If all of that reads like ελληνικά to you, you're writing checks you can't cash, my friend.

Flickr/Yomar Lopez

8. Going for "stance"

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so no one can judge a car like this except its owner. But also physics, which does not share the same subjectivity. Driving your car down the road on only the sidewalls of its tires, you might as well be flashing a sign that says, “I know absolutely nothing about how cars work!”


9. Spending thousands on big, beautiful brakes

Nothing screams "incredible performance" like a gorgeous set of brakes. It's true. Especially when they're huge and fancy-looking. With holes in them! However...

1) Your brake discs do not need holes in them. This is only a thing because race cars in the 1950s had them to relieve gas pressure caused by overheating brake pads. But modern pads don't outgas like they did 60 years ago, so those holes don't do squat.

2) More physics: slowing your car down involves converting forward momentum into heat energy and storing it in the rotor. Adding a larger rotor increases that storage capacity... but if you're not racing on a track for long periods of time, you don't need that extra capacity. Sorry.

Flickr/Ham Hock

10. Safety features designed for race cars

The list of problems caused by picking and choosing safety features, rather than just going with a cohesive system, is far too long to list here. Before you buy random safety items, do your research like if your life depends on it... because, wait, it really does.


11. Style bars

Style bars are a visual homage to roll bars, but without any of the structural benefits. They serve no function beyond appearance. They're the equivalent of a stupid, enormous, pointless wing for a convertible. And if you're in a convertible you've got enough problems.

Flickr/Jaron Brass

12. Changing your car's badges

Putting fake badges on a car is an emotionally fraudulent practice that should be banned in all 50 states. You're trying to pass your car off as something that it’s not, and the bullshit isn't always as obvious as the hilariously bad Ford Fusion aka Shelby Cobra Thunderbird GT-R shown above. And yet, for better or worse, this practice remains protected by the First Amendment.

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Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter. Of all the cars he's owned over the years, he's never once added a non-functional body part.