Before you start splashing the cash, use this checklist to make sure you get your bang for your buck, rather than just pay for your mechanic’s next holiday.
Do you seriously want to improve vehicle performance or just make your car look fast?
Are your mods about improving your car’s aerodynamics or just making it look “fierce”? “Most people are enthusiastic about making their rides different from the rest, and are satisfied with the stock performance numbers,” says Lester Wong, founder of Garage R, one of Singapore’s biggest aftermarket and tuning houses. “There are the hardcore ones who are serious about making their cars go faster, but most just slap on a universal fitment spoiler to make their rides look sporty.”
How much cash do you have to splash?
Your budget will define your selection of modifications. “If the sky’s the limit, you’re free to pick exotic parts shipped from Japan or Europe. However, if your budget’s tight, you can choose those from Thailand and Taiwan. But these may be not as good. Otherwise, you can always browse car forums online for second-hand parts,” says Bernie Leung, a serious car enthusiast who spent $50,000 modifying his current Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. The amount you splurge will depend on what you intend to do with your vehicle. But try not to save by getting counterfeit parts, as this will endanger your safety. “Cars are expensive in Singapore, so a budget for upgrading is quite tight. Because of that, people go for counterfeit parts from China, which are cheaper- but may put you in danger,” says Lester. One way people try to save on their modifications is by getting replicas, which Lester warns against. Replica body kits, for example, are readily available on the market, but beware of the quality as they’re usually made from cheaper and less superior materials. They will come at a fraction of the cost of the original, says Bernie, but you may possibly pay a heavy price later. “Fitment issues rank at the top of the list of problems that come with replica body kits, wheels or parts. Very often, these kits do not fit well even for the cars they’re made for, leaving huge gaps between body and kit. Sometimes the workshops would even have to drill into the body in order to bolt them on,” Bernie explains. Replica kits are also known to have a “bubbling” effect on the surface caused by sun and heat exposure over time, due to air bubbles trapped in the material during the manufacturing process. Similarly, replica wheels are not subjected to the intense testing that reputable brands go through, causing warping or cracks, especially when a car goes over a pothole or curb.
Has your mechanic told you that feeling like a racecar driver comes at the expense of comfort?
Depending on the extent of the modification, the car that you use daily might have its usability compromised. “Before we go ahead with the modification, we’ll educate the customer on what to expect. For example, the ride may be uncomfortable and bumpy, or he’ll have to be careful over humps once the car is lowered, or he may not be able to hear himself in the cabin as the exhaust note may be too loud,” says Lester. “Most of the time, owners like such things because they make them feel like they’re driving a racecar. But we’ve trained our guys to inform people about these first. There are smaller outfits out there that do not have the means or resources to do so because they are so focused on sales.”
Which workshops are best?
Spend some time surfing online for both local and international car forums, to research on the types of parts you want to install and which workshops to go to. This is highly recommended by local endurance racing driver Gerald Tan. There are workshops that specialise in specific car brands, and may come with a premium price. But going to them saves you the hassle of running into a mechanic who’s new and who may install something wrongly. Or consider attending meet ups of relevant car clubs and speak to owners who have modified cars of the same model as your ride. Take the time to get to know them. They may allow you to test-drive their cars to feel the effects of the modifications and see if this is what you want, before you start putting in the money. For example, Bernie had a friend who spent $20,000 on parts and accessories for his Mazda RX-8 from his regular servicing workshop, which claimed it would help him to save fuel while increasing power. It was only later at a car meet-up, when he sat in another modified RX-8, that he realised his ride had no better fuel economy. In fact, it was actually down on power. He was then referred to a specialist workshop by the car club members and, in six hours, his vehicle’s power was immediately restored. What was done? “All the mechanic did was remove the $20,000 of crap that was previously installed on my car,” said Bernie’s pal.
By Cheryl Tay, Men’s Health, September 2014