The Origination of Car Tuning

Modifying cars to meet performance and personal needs are commonly referred to as car tuning. The individual doing the modifying may have different reasons for wanting to customize their stock vehicle.

Usually car tuners modify their cars or trucks to be fast, nimble and good looking. Their cars may even be a statement of their own personal tastes.

There are several styles of tuning to pick from, a quick look at this article will familiarize yourself with these various styles.

Now that we’ve discovered the various ways a car enthusiast can customize their vehicle, let’s take a look at where car tuning originated and why.

Cars may be customized to improve a specific trait of the vehicle such as fuel economy, more horsepower, and even better handling in tight situations such as corners.

Modifying cars are almost always related to auto racing, but most customized cars may never touch a drag strip or enter a single race during the vehicle’s entire lifetime. Tuned cars are specifically built for the owner’s pleasure of showing off and driving.

Car enthusiasts who are just getting started with tuning may start with small alterations on the interior of the vehicle.

Customizations range from, replacing the pedals with something aftermarket ones. They may even decide to cover their bland looking seats with seat covers of their favorite sports team! Once car enthusiasts get their first taste of customization, they usually start looking for more dramatic tuning options.

The exterior of the vehicle is the first thing people will see, and can tell the public a lot about your particular personality.

Exterior modifications range from lowering the vehicle several inches till the car is just skimming the ground, to adding aggressive looking body kits and spoilers, and even opting for a custom paint job.

Of course, many of the changes that are desired by the owner are rarely offered by the dealership or auto manufacturer. As a result, aftermarket parts have made it possible for the auto enthusiast to design the car of their dreams.

Car tuning first originated between the 1970’s and the 1980’s. American youth were bored with the large and un-impressive vehicles of the time, so they started looking for alternative vehicles that they could customize to display their personal tastes.

In the beginning, Japanese performance cars were prohibited from being exported outside of Japan. In the 1980’s and the beginning of the 1990’s, performance cars from Japan started to slowly make their way over to North America’s soils.

The Nissan Skyline was one of the first vehicles that the American youth would first get their creative hands on.

In North America, this importation and modifying of these performance cars were a direct contrast to the muscle cars that were produced on USA soil.

The Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, and a few other muscle cars were limited by tuning only because of the lack of aftermarket parts.

As you can imagine, very few youths were able to get their hands onto these exotic imports from Japan and even fewer were lucky enough to have a classical muscle car at their disposal. Instead, the compact economy cars that frequented the streets would have to do until then.

The small size of these economy cars made it possible to achieve great performance and handling with little investment and tuning required.

As the interest for vehicle sports and racing increased, so did the amount of tuned vehicles. Anyone was capable of tuning a car regardless of their lack of or years of experience. The results achieved would be mixed.

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Styles of Car Tuning

Ever since the first vehicles left the assembly line many years ago, car enthusiasts have been tuning and modifying the engines and bodies of their vehicles.

These enthusiasts have gone out of their way to take a bland vehicle and redesign it to suit their taste. This modifying is commonly referred to as car tuning.

Car tuning is popular all over the world wherever vehicles are available. Whether the tuning is done out of interest for the appearances, performance or both; understanding the various styles of car tuning and what’s involved with each style. This list isn’t complete by any means, but it gives a brief summary of the most popular styles.

What is Car Tuning?

Car tuning is the modification or alteration of a vehicle to improve the appearance or performance of a particular vehicle. Whenever tuning is done to enhance performance purposes, the engine will be custom tuned to suit the enthusiasts desire for maximum power output.

There are various ways one can go about tuning an engine. The enthusiast may wish to increase the horsepower, improve the fuel economy, etc.

However, performance tuning doesn’t just stop with the engine. Other focus areas will include the handling abilities, the braking power, and the maximum torque produced.

When modification is done for appearances, the tuning may involve installing an aggressive body kit to improve aerodynamics, or to add emphasis to a particular part of the vehicle. Most of the time, the vehicle will be tuned with performance and aesthetic purposes.

The Different Types of Styling

The amount of procedures any one style requires is too numerous, below are a few different styles that have withstood the test of time.

The Rat Rod

This is one of the easiest styles to recognize. This style’s origin dates back to the 1940’s all the way up through the 60’s. The rat rod is a vehicle that is tuned to the best of abilities, but looking at the exterior you would never know.

The rat rod frequently projects the image of an unfinished project. The engine is often exposed and the various parts of the body may look like they came from various other vehicles. The rat rod is the Frankenstein of the car world.

The reason why this style often appears unfinished, is because all the elements that have been considered to be unnecessary have been removed. These parts often add additional weight or are un-appealing.

Fenders, hoods, and bumpers may be removed to support this style. This vehicle may be lowered to for an aggressive stance and the engine is larger to produce maximum power.

The types of vehicle used for these projects don’t have to be just cars. In fact, they can be anything from smaller cars, to pickup trucks. The main distinguishing point is the unfinished look and a larger engine.


Usually models of this build are from European manufactured vehicles such as Audi, Porsche, BMW, etc. The paint job is usually one defined color throughout the body of the vehicle. The vehicle is lowered and the features are usually sleek.

In essence, the car should project the image of sleek, fast and luxurious appearance. The tires can be smaller but most will be larger sport tires that are designed to grip the road better.

The Low-rider

This vehicle gives the impression of having an aggressive appearance because of how low the vehicle sits low to the ground. The appearance is refined and includes flashy looking wheels, a premium paint job with or without a graphic design, and a customized interior that is more luxurious than practical.

The appearance of being a low rider can be achieved by installing a hydraulic suspension and switching out large tires for smaller ones. Tuning the vehicles like this will affect the gravity and change the aerodynamic elements of the vehicle. These upgrades are frequently done for just looks instead of performance.

The Hot Rod

The base vehicles for this particular style may be older and classic cars that frequented the streets during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The rat rod style and hot rod style may seem similar, but they’re different in the fact that hot rods frequently use older style vehicles. They may not be as heavily modified as other styles, in fact, this style is a little more hands off.

Show Cars or Trailer Queens

These cars are often picked up as antiques and restored to their complete originality. Often times, these vehicles will not be daily drivers, instead they stay in a garage until its contest time.

The purpose of these vehicles is to attract as much attention in the showroom as possible. These cars may or may not be operational and may be illegal to drive on the roads or highways.

Rice Burner

This term is often used in an offensive term that is aimed at vehicles that originated in Japan or Asia. They often appear to be high performance influenced, but most will not meet the expectations of a performance vehicle. Nissan vehicles are a very popular foundation for this style of tuning.

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A Brief Intro To Suspension Tuning

With so many modifications that are possible for vehicle tuning, modifying the height of a specific vehicle’s ride height is probably one of the most common modifications that are performed today.

Whether it be for aesthetic purposes or even more aggressive handling, many auto enthusiasts are convinced that by dropping a vehicle’s height by a few inches may be the edge it takes to win a race.

The years since performance modification was first introduced has seen the development of a variety of suspension tuning parts that are suited for meeting a particular person’s height preference.

The aid of short case dampers, higher spring rates, and skid plates are designed for the purpose of helping to keep the vehicle’s suspension working in harmony with the rest of the vehicle.

Suspension modification is a fairly common practice today, unfortunately this has led to the development of various accidents that have occurred because people don’t quite understand the important dynamics the suspension performs for the vehicle.

Clipping the springs that support the suspension is one of the most common practices that should be avoided by a newbie.

The suspension is not to be taken lightly. It is almost an art form to be able to determine how to modify the suspension to meet particular needs, without damaging the vehicle un-intentionally.

Every vehicle that leaves auto manufacturers, factories will be tuned to the engineer’s specifications so, the vehicle’s systems will work together in harmony. Altering this harmony can result in unintended consequences that can pose as a safety and health hazard.

Aside from the safety concern, it should be understood that modifying the suspension in any form may affect other systems of the vehicle.

Modifying this basic framework may occur whenever the driver or owner of the vehicle may decide to replace the springs, shock absorbers, and sway bars with aftermarket options.

The smaller the shock absorbers, the more stiff and uncomfortable the ride will result in. However, this may be beneficial if the driver is looking for better handling in corners and racing events.

This effect would be undesirable for say a person who is looking for a luxurious ride where they wish to avoid the unpleasantness of a bumpy road.

Restrictive sway bars will drastically reduce the body roll associated with driving a vehicle through corners at high speeds. This will also improve the grip of the tires, giving you an edge over your racing competition.

However, one of the dangerous aspects of replacing or adding sway bars to an existing vehicle is the possibility of the bars being too stiff for the ride.

If the sway bars are fitted too tightly, the inner wheel may lift which will result in a lack of traction for the wheels.

Strut bars may be added to help maintain the body stiffness that are required for demanding cornering at high speeds.

Surprisingly, some car models have the ability to be fitted with specialized braces or even anti roll bars from foundational sport models.

On the opposite end of the performance spectrum, off road enthusiasts may consider re-engineering their suspension for a smoother ride on the trails or for a vehicle that is capable of scaling nearly impossible trails and conditions.

Rather than focusing on dropping the weight of the vehicle, most off road enthusiasts will opt to lengthen the suspension by replacing the stock tires with larger tires built for trail conditions.

These larger tires will instantly give the vehicle more ground clearance, which makes overcoming short obstacles a breeze. These larger tires will result in a better ride when encountering potholes and large bumps in the road.

An extreme contrast of this alternative viewpoint is the Low-riders with their hydraulic or pneumatic suspensions.

The Low-rider vehicle usually has a complicated system installed that makes it possible to adjust each of the wheels height individually.

The operator of these controls also has the ability to raise the wheels completely off the ground in a hop.

In some areas, specialized contests for this particular feat can be witnessed during the summer time. These hop and bounce contests challenge the contestants to compete against one another by seeing whose vehicle can hop the highest, or even make their vehicle perform a list of moves (a dance of sorts).

Learn more about cars in this video:

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Tuning Basics: Engine Tuning

Car tuning is a word that describes the customization of any vehicle to improve the appearance and or performance of the car or truck. Just about any car enthusiast looks forward to transforming their stock car into something amazing by upgrading specific parts of the vehicle.

These enthusiasts are often willing to invest lots of money to personalize their vehicles to suit their specific taste and to better enjoy their rides.

If you ask a car enthusiast why they go through the trouble of customizing their vehicle, most will reply that the hard work is well worth it to be able to enjoy a vehicle that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Their cars are more appealing, handle better than stock vehicles, and are more fun to drive.

Just about any car or vehicle has the possibility of being tuned. Some popular vehicles that tend to attract large groups of enthusiasts range from the Subaru Impreza, Honda Civic, Toyota Supra, and Mitsubishi Lancer.

These are commonly referred to as tuner cars because of their popularity for customization. This doesn’t limit the selection, however, just about any good and working vehicle can be used to modify. It’s all a matter of your personal taste.

There are various ways you can tune the car and tailor it to your own specific needs. Car tuning may be as simple as modifying the exterior of the vehicle, to as elaborate as tuning the suspension, the engine, or even various parts of the interior. Modifications can start in the low hundreds all the way to many thousands of dollars.

Usually, once a car enthusiast gets their first taste in customizing their ride, they don’t stop there. Before making any changes, it’s best to sit down and determine your wants and needs to get a better picture of what you’re trying to achieve.

For example, if you’re just interested in increasing the horsepower under the hood, you should also consider some suspension upgrades and premium tires.

The most obvious form of tuning, is customizing of the exterior through paint/graphics, body kits, and spoilers. A body kit can be as simple as a bumper kit to a complete kit that includes the front and rear bumpers, a spoiler, some side skirts, and a vented hood.

Most but not all body kits focus on increasing the aerodynamics of a specific vehicle. The use of a body kit that caters to your specific needs in addition to other modifications may increase the down force, which enables the car to handle better on the road even during high speeds.

Body styling is always changing depending on the different trends and fashions. Some of the more professional enthusiasts recommend to sticking to minimal body styling these days.

Installing new lighting, and even adding a bigger spoiler may be all you need to attract attention.

At the minimum, the vehicle’s owner should ensure the body kit will work with the car in harmony and not against it. Try and keep everything uniform.

Most people avoid mixing Japanese tuning with European tuning for a reason; they’re both very different.

Upgrading the suspension is often one of the first things an enthusiast will first modify. This is because depending on how well the upgrades have been completed, your car will almost always handle better than a stock car would. However, this is no small feat.

The upgrade includes changing out springs, shock absorbers, and adding sway and strut bars if you don’t already have them. Adjusting of this system is critical.

The wrong setup will impact the steering and handling of the vehicle in a negative manner. This is the complete opposite of what you want.

Tuning an engine can be simple or complicated depending on the owner’s desires. A simple modification may increase the engine power and improve the operation.

Upgrading the factory installed parts with specifically designed performance parts will give the engine just what it needs to be able to “breathe” and perform its best.

The most common way of modifying an engine involves switching out the ECU or the engine control unit. In the tuning circles, this is commonly referred to as remapping or chip tuning.

The procedure involves replacing the factory settings with customized settings in order to improve engine power and increase the torque.

This procedure is simple to perform and is the fastest way to obtain better raw power under the hood. Even a simple engine remap will enable you to experience a better drive and handling quality.

Remapping an engine will increase the engine power output from 15% to 30%.

Just about every country imposes certain regulations and limitations on certain modifications, so be sure to do your research to make sure your tuning will be legal. Your insurance company should also know about any new changes you make.

Failing to let the insurance company know may render your insurance invalid.

Also, some modifications may seem simple on paper, but should only be performed by professionals or with the supervision of a professional.

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