Everybody wants to drive a cool car. Back when I was a kid any fella who even had a car (no matter how rusty and old) automatically became the hottest kid on the block. Nowadays, thanks to the boom of the American economy, cars are a necessity and pretty much every working family owns one or two vehicles. Nobody’s looking cool for just driving a car anymore. In 2000+, when street-racing movies were making huge buzz – namely the Fast & Furious franchise – customizing and tuning were the most badass things for a guy to do.
Literally – all the dudes I knew growing up felt the same way: spending hours in your dad’s/uncle’s garage, messing around with some old parts and imagining yourself being a pro street-racer. Toyota cars, like the Supra, Celica, and MK2 are probably the most popular ones in the customization world, and we were all dreaming of driving one of those. Hey, we were just kids back then, what can I say? Let’s talk about some customizing tricks for Toyota or any other vehicle.
Back To Basics – The Return Of Cool
With the car-racing phenomena cooling down over the course of time, customized rides became something of a lost art. Fortunately, these last couple of years managed to bring back folks’ love for tuning and customizing.
To be honest, I was a bit surprised by this sudden flash-back from the past, and so, I just had to tell you guys about my personal 5 customizing tricks for turning your basic Toyota (or any other) vehicle into a swaged out ride.
There are a lot of ways to tune, and I’ll mention all of the relevant ones at the end, but these 5 are the classics – the 101 of customizing, if you will, the Jackson 5 of tuning.
Customization 101 – Everything You Need To Know
So, what do you do if your ride looks mediocre at best but you want it to turn heads? Well, your first thought might be to let professionals do that for ya – I’m talking about customizing shops and what-not. Or, you could fight your deepest fears and wake up your inner customizing genius to pimp your ride out to the fullest.
Toyota Tundra customized trucks photo
The problem with folks trying to tune their cars these days is they simply don’t know what they’re doing and usually end up screwing it all up. They wanna express themselves, create something of their own, but – again – can’t really tell the difference between the head and the tail. That’s where I come in.
Put your trust in me, and I’ll show you how to do this the best way – hassle-free and with a smile on your face. These “procedures” are easily done and, as my buddy likes to say, you won’t even have to break the bank or break a sweat. As long as cars are more to you than just transportation, we’ll be fine.
1 – Wheels And Rims – The Power Of Motion
Hands down, one of the most effective (and easiest) ways to “pimp out” your car externally is to swap the basic factory wheels with something bigger, bolder, and grimier from the aftermarket.
Now, a “Rim” is technically the outer “lip” part of your car’s wheels, but in customization jargon it’s also slang for third-party wheels. If you’re new to this, then you’ll be amazed by the enormous opportunities out there: you’ve got rims with different design, style, color, offset – that’s right, the possibilities are literally infinite, they allow to either create something unique and monumental, or something totally ridiculous and out of style. In this line of work you gotta have not only the necessary skillz (that’s right, with a “Z”), but also a very special bond and bias towards customizing.
The first thing to think about when choosing aftermarket wheels is to get the “measurements” right: the wheel size, offset and bolt pattern gotta match exactly. As for the expenses, don’t worry – you won’t have to invest your monthly budget into a set of wheels – only the half of it :). No, seriously, the cost is not too much: you can get some pretty awesome “rims” for as little as $100, or, if you’re ready to cash in, check out the elite stuff worth 1K dollars and more.
Remember: wheels alone can make your car look super cool, so, don’t be greedy; on the other hand, don’t let the fancy brands fool ya – buy only what’s close to your heart and not very disastrous for your wallet.
Check out well-respected web-sites like www.carid.com, www.wheelpros.com, www.pepboys.com, www.elementwheels.com and such to learn about different brands and price tags. And make sure to visit www.eclipsewheels.com.
It’s probably the best place to shop for amazing aftermarket wheels.
Oh, right, I almost forgot – if you’re a bit tight on the budget, consider purchasing used wheels; try Ebay, for example.
2 – Suspension/Stance – How Low Can You Go?
Once you’re done with your shiny new rims, it’s time to really get down to it. If you bought low-profile tires, it might be a good idea to lower the entire body of your car to achieve a cooler sporty-type look. You’ve got two options here: the first way to do this is to lower the springs. This may be done with the OEM shocks, and it’s the low-budget approach.
The second (and more expensive) option is to get (buy, that is) a coil over kit which will allow you to further “drop” your car. Both methods will give you sport-like handling and improved exterior looks. The key here is to minimize the wheel gap.
Note: depending on how low you go, you might need to adjust the control arms in order to re-balance the wheel camber so that your tires wear evenly. Keep in mind that if you drop the body significantly, you’ll need to spend some bucks on aftermarket adjustable control arms. If you’re not sure you’re up for the task, I recommend talking to an experienced customizer you know to learn the ins and outs; or, better, yet, have a pro mechanic do the “heavy lifting” for ya. There’s no shame in that at all – trust me.
By the way, you can go the opposite direction and try lifting your vehicle. Ever seen a lifted SUV or heard about “Low-riding”? That’s gangsta, man!
Check out my “Toyota 4Runner Lifted” post and learn about the art of proper lifting.
The good thing about Toyota models is that they’re all pretty versatile and – if you want – you can even turn a Prius into a pimped out ride. The most popular Toyota “middle-class” cars for tuning are Camry, Corolla, 4Runner, Tacoma and Tundra. Customized Toyota 4Runner and Tundra look really awesome.
3 – Tinting The Windows
Tinting the car’s windows is probably the cheapest of the top-5 customizing tricks, and it has a lot of benefits – besides the good looks. First of all, a tinted window will reduce sun glare and provide better visibility; plus, the interior will look a lot cooler.
Most folks like to tint their vehicles for privacy reasons as well as for security – nobody can see what’s inside through blacked out windows. Keep in mind, though, that you might run into unwanted trouble with the authorities if you tint those windows too much.
That’s right, some states have this law stating that a police officer can charge you in case your front window (the driver’s window) is too dark and there’s no way to see what’s going on in the interior. Usually, a 35 percent tint is a safe enough choice.
Surprisingly enough, on the back windows you can go as dark as the night – nobody will charge you for that. For me, 20% tint looks pretty great. 5% is a bit too much – it’s the “limo black”, and you can’t see anything from the outside. As for the price, a solid tinting job will cost you about 250 dollars and last a lifetime.
4 – Pimping Out The Exhaust
If you have been a fan of the Fast And Furious movies, or video-games like Need For Speed, then you know that no customized car will be complete without a fancy exhaust. This one is definitely a crowd pleaser and a necessary thing to get if you want the complete picture. The procedure is pretty easily done if you’ve got a cat-back or axle-back bolt-on kit. The majority of top-class exhaust systems will cost you +/- 200-300 dollars. And it’s totally worth it! This new addition to your ride will look (and sound!) so much better than the basic “tail pipe” and will get your car a lot of attention.
By the way, a good aftermarket exhaust tends to add in a few HPs as a performance bonus. There is a lot to pick from when it comes to exhaust systems, and you should pay attention only to looks and sound – nothing else. As I said, it will be WAY louder than your standard set-up, and that can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your taste. You can even ask a mechanic to design a custom exhaust for you – a unique one. Just don’t make it too loud for the neighbors and police to come looking for you 🙂
5 – The Final Stroke – A Big Stereo System
Tell me you don’t have respect for fellas who cruise down the block with the windows open and the music bangin’? I know I do! Unfortunately, you can’t really do that unless you’ve got a proper stereo system installed. The standard stereo won’t cut it at all – you’ll crave for more clarity, bass, and, of course, volume. Custom stereos may cost you thousands of bucks, but you don’t have to necessarily pay that much to get a good deal.
If you’re customizing an SUV, then you can install a big-ass subwoofer and a couple of huge speakers in the back. If it’s a sedan you’re driving, then consider adding in a couple of extra speakers to the standard 4 and buying an amplifier. If you’re ready to spend a bit more, get that subwoofer (consider buying a pre-owned one). As I said, custom stereo can cost you a fortune, but with a starting budget of about 500 dollars you can flip your sound situation 180 degrees and start rolling down the hood with the music blazin’.
Customization Never Ends
Alright, that’s Customization 101 for you guys.
If you get these 5 steps right, you’ll turn your ride into a true beauty. Obviously, there are A LOT MORE ways to customize your car, including replacing the seats with some aftermarket talent, engine swaping (pretty great if you’re a pro racer; if not – totally stupid and unnecessary), installing a winch (good for a truck/SUV), as well as a bunch of dumb stuff like aftermarket shift knobs, steering wheels, Data Loggers, pin stripping (don’t EVER do that to a Camry or a Corolla), and custom painting (this one is actually a very popular customization move).
That’s not all! Folks add all kinds of crazy stuff like roll cages, aero upgrades (definitely not cool for a family sedan), pink-colored interiors (not gangsta at all), and so on.
Gotta warn you: customization/tuning can quickly turn into an obsession and eat up your entire budget. Set up a “threshold” for monthly spending and join various forums to see what drivers all around the globe have to say about it. And remember: you still want the car to be able to take you front point A to point B without any trouble on the road, so, try to keep your tuning activities under “Crazy”. Got some pointers for the amateurs? Share your wisdom in the comments – the new kids will appreciate it!