It’s easy to think that you need a mechanical engineering degree — or, perhaps, to be Dominic Torretto from The Fast and the Furious — to work on your own car. That’s hardly true, however. You should have some mechanical know-how before you unbolt any engine covers and start removing things, but there are still plenty of tweaks that are well within the grasp of most of us.
And in fact, there are a handful of upgrades almost anyone can do that can make a big difference to your daily driver. From new tires and spark plugs to installing backup cameras and data monitoring systems, here are a few easy upgrades that’ll breathe life into your old ride.
Upgrade Your Car's Performance
Better spark plugs are an easy, affordable swap that can make all the difference. The better the quality of the spark, the better the combustion — translating to more power and better fuel economy. (Here’s a complete rundown on how to check yours.)
Engine Control Unit (ECU) Flash
The ECU in your car is set up from the factory to control the fuel-air mixture in the engine, which maximizes efficiency and power. Problem is, manufacturers program the ECU’s parameters well below the engine’s true capability, mostly as a safety net. A quick reprogramming can unlock all sorts of engine performance — and in some instances, even return better gas mileage.
Replacing bushings is a bit more involved than swapping spark plugs, but you’ll be glad you did it. Sitting between the suspension and frame and the chassis and engine, factory rubber bushings help prevent vibrations throughout your car.
The problem with rubber bushings is that they wear out and crack over time. Polyurethane bushings not only last longer than their standard rubber counterparts, but also do a better job of quelling vibrations and minimizing weight transfer.
Cold Air Intake
The better your car breathes, the better it runs. A cold-air intake not only frees up the air flow to your engine, it also feeds it cooler, denser air, which engines love.
Upgrade Your Car's Tech
The age of infotainment systems is relatively new, so it’s understandable if you feel behind with an older car. A new, modern interface and speaker system is an easy way to re-energize your daily commute or weekend drive. Some of the better ones (like this one) even offer compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Backup cameras only recently became standard across the industry. Once you use a backup camera, parallel parking and reversing in tight spaces without one feels like serious work.
Even if you consider yourself handy under the hood of your car, diagnosing a single specific problem based on the all-encompassing check engine light can be near-impossible. Data monitoring systems keep you in-the-know, revealing problems in plain English.
Warming up or cooling down your car before even getting in it is a true luxury. But you don’t need a personal driver on the payroll — all you need is a simple remote starter.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Whether you’re going on a long road trip or making your way through the daily commute, few things can ruin a drive like a flat or slow leak. Keeping the correct PSI in all four corners isn’t just safe; you’ll also extract better handling and performance from your tires when they’re properly inflated.