Northern Exposure: Tuning Dos and Donts motorsports customization insights advice auto articles auto consumer info
Justin Pritchard, a professional you can trust. Click image to enlarge

Article by Justin Pritchard

There’s a right and wrong way to do almost everything – including tuning up your ride to add more power, sex appeal, handling or all-around awesomeness. Typically, doing it right involves being patient, doing your homework, spending money on quality parts and installation, and not rushing to half-ass some el-cheapo parts onto your ride in between other projects.

Here are some DOs and DON’Ts and a little advice if you’re planning to make some common upgrades to your ride in a few commonly upgraded areas. It is based on the experiences of your writer and his familiars—and if you’ve got something to add, be sure to leave a comment in the forum.

Wheel Upgrades

DO: Seek out a high-quality set from a reputable manufacturer – preferably through a local business or nearby parts store. High quality wheels will last longer, look better for longer, resist having their finish peel off the third time you wash them, and are typically built to high quality standards that contribute to a long and durable life.

Considering a set of those big, lustrous wheels you see on so many rides these days? You’ll want to ensure you get a decent set, from a place they can be returned to easily if there are any warranty-related issues. You might be able to save a few bucks going with a sketchy brand, but by time you handle shipping costs, duty, more shipping costs and weeks of being down a wheel or two if you have an issue that warrants a return, not to mention the likelihood of a shorter life from your new rims, it’s usually not worth it.

DON’T: Go onto eBay to buy a $145 set of 20-inch rims for your Avalanche or Mustang from a seller in a country you can’t pronounce, with an ad that’s similarly confusing to read. You’ll likely wait ages for your wheels to arrive, and ages more to get replacements if you need to return them. Are these wheels made of high-quality alloy, or melted-down dishwashers? What’s the warranty? Will they turn into an octagon the first time you hit a pothole? Usually, cheap out-of-country wheels aren’t worth the risk – especially if they fail catastrophically and cause your ride to be introduced to a piece of highway infrastructure.

Do your skimping on toilet paper, Christmas gifts, or the beer you bring out when your buddies show up – not things bolted to your car.

Northern Exposure: Tuning Dos and Donts motorsports customization insights advice auto articles auto consumer info Northern Exposure: Tuning Dos and Donts motorsports customization insights advice auto articles auto consumer info
Don’t: DIY welding. Click image to enlarge

Turbocharging

DO: Your homework. Visit owners forum(s) for the ride you’re planning to tune up, find the people there who know what they’re talking about and have made ‘upgrades’ similar to the one’s you’re considering. Talk to retailers. Talk to other owners. Talk to tuning shops. Know what to expect, what you’re getting into, and budget 10 or 15 percent more money for things you might not think of for the job – fluids, random bolts, extra wiring, pizza and beverages for the guys if they’re helping with the install. Going into engine modifications educated, and with a strong sense of what to expect, is key to maximum success and minimal crying in a corner surrounded by tools and busted parts and shame.

DON’T: Listen to a bunch of smack-talking teenagers on the internet for advice. Don’t cheap out on parts or accessories or tuning, either. Cheap turbo kits, for instance, are just that – cheap turbo kits. Do you want to bolt a low-quality knock-off kit onto the engine of your beloved ride? Probably not.

Did I mention not to skip the tuning? Adding forced induction without proper engine tuning is a good way to turn your engine into soup with little notice. Forcing more air into the cylinders is great – but without a very precisely controlled amount of fuel to match it, you risk blowing things up. Also, don’t fabricate, try to fabricate or have your buddies try to fabricate parts. Especially if they can’t weld. Do-it-yourself exhaust manifolds, turbocharger plumbing or housings typically look like garbage, develop leaks and rust quickly if not built by a reputable manufacturer.

Are you a welding expert? No? Then don’t build something that’s going to go on your car. You’ll thank me later.

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