You’ve got a new car, and you want to soup it up somehow. Keeping it to the manufacturer specifications just doesn’t appeal to you.
Well, there are plenty of modifications to a car you can make that can make it look, sound and perform better.
But there are also plenty of modifications to your car that you should avoid, either because they’re illegal, or just plain terrible to hear or see.
Here are 9 of the worst car modifications you should look to avoid.
Radar Detectors & Jammers
Radar detectors are used by road users to check to see if their speed is currently being checked by law enforcement further ahead. If that’s the case, the detector will alert you to drop your speed.
If you’re a non-commercial driver, you can get away (in many states) with driving with a detector. Using a jammer – which prevents a police radar gun from working – is illegal, however, and could result in a fine or prison time.
The best advice we can give is to just follow the speed limit. If you must insist on having a radar detector, make sure it’s legal for you to use in your state by checking this list.
Another of the car mods to avoid is installing a loud aftermarket exhaust. Not only is it irritating to people around you, it can also prove to be illegal in some states, as it can take your vehicle above the legally approved noise limit.
The law varies from state to state, so check with your local DMV for confirmation. Loud tailpipes attract unwanted attention, especially from local law enforcement.
Take a look at our advice for buying and fitting more appropriate (and legal) aftermarket exhaust systems here.
Because of the potential confusion with law enforcement vehicles, some states heavy restrict lighting mods to your vehicle.
These usually mean no flashing red or blue lights or spotlighting to force drivers to pull over. However, any sort of aftermarket lighting to your vehicle is likely to draw the attention of highway patrols, and some states have a fairly ambiguous highway code to allow them to make their own calls.
We recommend avoiding neon lighting completely unless you want to increase the chance of being fined.
Changing out your halogen headlamps alternatives isn’t a bad idea, on paper. After all, LED headlamps, for instance, can be more efficient and last longer.
Unfortunately, on our list of illegal car mods is the use of high-intensity discharge (or HID) headlamps that are far too bright for road use, increasing the risk that you could dazzle or distract other road users and cause an accident.
More importantly, federal law prevents you from converting your existing halogen headlamps to HID systems, making them illegal for road use – and a mod to avoid.
Screen & Window Tints
There’s no clearcut standard for tinting nationwide, but we’re recommending them as another one on our list of car mods that will get you in trouble.
Sure, they can make your car stand out, but like many of our bad car mods, you’re attracting the wrong attention. You’ll struggle to argue the percentage of your tint with a highway patrol, who will cite you regardless.
As you can tell, we’re not a fan of screen tinting, but if you’re still keen, make sure you check out the legal limit for tints for your state. Check with local auto shops to see what their recommendations are, too.
Nitrous Injection Kit
You don’t need nitrous on the road, it’s illegal, and so it definitely makes our list of car mods to avoid. Given the inherent dangers, it’s also impractical to install, and one you should avoid.
The big problem with nitrous is the aftermath. If you’re in an accident, and your nitrous system is damaged, combined with any gasoline leaks or engine fires, you could end up with a very lethal mix for everyone concerned.
From a safety and legality point of view, installing a nitrous oxide injection kit for road use is dangerous and should be avoided.
Drivers who decide to modify their cars to make them ‘low riders’ make themselves easy targets for law enforcement. As car mods go, they tend to have a reputation that leads to unfortunate stereotypical association with criminality.
Some states will allow you to lower the suspension in your car, so it’s worth checking with the DMV, but it’s easier to avoid the modification in the first place.
If your suspension is too low and there’s a risk of vehicle damage, you could have your car seized and receive a fine.
Car Plate Framing
Easy to put on, and easy to draw attention. Car license plate frames are an easy way to get cited by traffic enforcement cops, so they’re on our list of mods to avoid.
The reason they aggravate law enforcement is down to the frame coverage. The flashier the plate frame, the more it tends to cover parts of the letter, number, and state of the vehicle license. This makes it harder for law enforcement to do their job on the road.
The easiest way to avoid this problem is to avoid a frame, but otherwise, ensure it doesn’t cover any of the critical parts of the plate.
Loud Sound Systems
A significantly loud aftermarket sound system can be a great way to deafen yourself, other vehicle drivers and local residents, and it’s another opportunity for you to draw attention to yourself.
Much like with exhaust noise limits, those same legal restrictions apply to other noise that your car generates. If you’ve got a loud car stereo, you may be in breach of state law, so check with the DMV.
A loud car is an easy ticket for local law enforcement, so if you do decide to enhance your stereo system, keep your volume levels sensible.
Avoid These Worst Car Modifications
You shouldn’t necessarily avoid car modifications. Juicing up your car can have benefits, for performance, longevity and for aesthetics.
But that doesn’t mean you should indulge in some of these worst car modifications. They’ll ruin your car, they can attract unwanted attention, and you could end up with a fine or a loss of your vehicle if it doesn’t meet legal requirements in your state.
If you’re looking to remove some bad car mods, see if you can undo some of the damage. Take a look at some of our auto repair help guides for further advice.