A car isn’t just a metal box that takes us from one destination to another — it’s also a part of your life. It’s there with you through good and bad times. It’s an expression of your personality.

But what would life be like if we all drove stock, factory vehicles? Pretty boring, right? That’s why we modify cars! Some upgrades can be hard on the wallet, though. Here are seven upgrades to help you make a statement that won’t break the bank.

Tires

tires

So you’ve got some power under the hood. Great! But that means nothing until you have proper traction. Say hello to a new set of tires.

When the ice and snow melt away, slap a set of summertime performance tires on your car. You’ll get more power on the pavement and more power in the turns, too.

Suspension

susWant an easy way to make your car look more sporty? Swap out the shocks so your ride sits lower — 1.5 to 2 inches lower in the front and back, ideally. Instead of buying a full coilover kit, though, it’s best financially to just lower the shocks.

Regardless of what you choose, your car’s handling will be stiffer and improved all-around.

Exhaust

exhModern mufflers waste power because they’re designed to reduce noise and emissions. This creates back pressure and traps waste gases in the engine, which then has to work harder. In turn, this reduces your fuel economy. Instead, exchange your messy, wimpy muffler for an upgraded exhaust kit.

A new exhaust manifold that has equal, smooth pipes and an exhaust system with few bends and good pipe size are both ideal upgrades.

Dash Kit

dashSick of your car’s mismatched interior? Don’t you wish *something* on the inside of the car would show a bit of personality? That’s where dash kits come in handy!

You can choose from a wide selection of paneling. If you’re into wood trim, there’s a kit for that. Carbon fiber? There’s a kit for that. Camouflage? Yes, even that, too!

ECU Reprogramming

maxresdefault (8)Your car’s dash interface isn’t the only computer in your car. The ECU (Engine Control Unit) makes sure everything runs smoothly. Sensors keep the engine in check, measuring everything from ignition timing to idle speed.

Reprogramming your ECU (also called “chipping”) can improve both your car’s performance and its gas mileage. You can take it to a good tuning shop to be reprogrammed, or you can do it yourself. There are even customizable programs available for upload to the ECU. Whatever you choose, your car can be upgraded in a little over an hour thanks to this electronic sorcery.

Polyurethane Bushings

brushingBushings may seem like the last place you should look for an upgrade, since, aside from tried-and-true gearheads, most people probably don’t know much about them. Still, they play an important role in how your car drives and handles.

They’re in the suspension system, and they’re usually made of rubber. But the problem with rubber is that it wears down over time due to lubricants and temperature changes.

Polyurethane doesn’t have as much give and it will last way longer. This means you’ll have smoother handling and a better time driving overall.

Replacement Spark Plugs

maxresdefault (9)It may seem silly, but spark plugs are vital to your car, and upgrading them can only make it better. They ignite the fuel and air that are mixed into the cylinders, which creates power. And it’s all thanks to one little spark!

Leave them in for too long, though, and they can become too hot and corroded. That’s why it’s best to change them regularly. A clean and hot spark plug provides better ignition.

You want plugs that will last long and conduct well. Iridium plugs with wire centers are the best way to go. But if you don’t mind paying a little less and changing them more frequently, go with copper plugs.

Any upgrades that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington and is an automotive journalist who has written for dozens of auto sites, including Yahoo Autos, Hooniverse, GT Spirit, The Mustang Source, and more. Scott's website, www.OffTheThrottle.com, and YouTube channel are popular automotive destinations.

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