How to modify your car - Stage 1
1. Upgrade tyres and alloy wheels:
Before adding more power to your car, it must have the adequate grip levels for current & future power delivery. Alloy wheels are not always necessary for a tyre upsize.
A stock replacement performance filter requires no modifications and is very simple to install since it fits exactly in place of your factory filter. The performance gains are marginal.
A Cold air intake (CAI) is the more serious of performance air-filters. With a CAI, proper installation is very important and it should not suck in hot air. The colder the air available to it, the better will be the gains in performance. A true CAI sucks in outside air, while short rams and most CAI applications take air from under the hood. Even if it's 35 degrees outside, that is still significantly cooler than the air under your hood. You can also opt for a good conical / universal filter without CAI. The plumbing needs to have minimum restrictions with most experts recommending mandrel bent aluminium pipes. The diameter of the pipe through its entire length should be uniform and greater than that of the throttle body. Do note that the sound levels with significantly increase with a CAI, and some precautions must be taken when driving in the monsoons.
3. Free-Flow Exhaust:
A well-designed free flow exhaust system improves the breathing abilities of your engine and can lead to good performance / fuel-efficiency gains. It is important to get a complete free-flow kit (including headers) and not a muffler / end-can kit only. A good header design is very important and you may specify to your installer a preference of low, mid or high-rpm gains. Very little time is actually spent at high-rpms so you might be better off asking for a low to mid-range power gain. The appropriate back pressure must be maintained else you will lose out on torque. An exhaust system is like a chain and only as strong as its weakest link. The most restrictive part is usually the cat-con or the mid-muffler. Some tuners will remove the cat-con, which will result in difficulty toward meeting the emission norms. Also, try and insulate the exposed part of the exhaust system within the hood with asbestos wire (cheap) or ceramic coating (expensive).
4. Spark Plugs:
Performance plugs are pointless on a stock / marginally modified car. Iridium plugs have hardly any benefits and you will never notice them anyway. In case you do install the same, ensure that you pick up plugs with the correct heat range for your engine.
5. Plug wires:
Same as above. After-market wires don’t add any performance to a stock or marginally modified engine. Only if your eventual modifications require an upgrade to a custom engine management system (or a high-performance ignition system) will your plug wires have some benefit. But at this stage, don’t opt for plug wires as you will only waste your money.
6. Temperature signal modifiers:
These devices are fairly simple to install and result in marginal (if any) performance gains. They modify some signals that are delivered to the ECU, which results in altered fuel / ignition maps.
7. Synthetic Oil:
Synthetic lubes are highly recommended for the superior protection and enhanced lubrication on offer.
8. Strut braces:
Strut braces / tower bars reduce flex, and help in increasing the grip levels / stability of the car through corners. However, it’s only under hard cornering that the difference is noticeable.
Short-shifters shorten the throw of your gear-lever, and result in quicker gear shifts. Be advised that there is an optimum length of the shifter depending on the throw, ergonomics and your preferences, and it will take some getting used to. Most drivers are better off with a stock-shifter!