Are car mods getting out of hand?

Wanting your car to look cool is understandable, but have you thought about the possible dangers and consequences of some of modifications?


Riley Slick-track

Photos of jurrasic park themed cars.

Adam Graf

Car modifications (such as exhaust-deletes, engine swaps, under-glow, or spoilers) have been a part of the automobile culture for decades, with enthusiasts seeking to personalize and enhance their vehicles’ performance and appearance. However, in recent years, some car modifications have become more extreme, with some auto alterations pushing the boundaries of safety, legality, and environmental concerns. The question rises: are car modifications making our roads unsafe and dramatically affecting the environment as a whole?

Bosozoku-style car – Ben Hsu

The history of car mods goes back to the early days of the automobile. Hot rods (old American cars modified for performance) were the first popular modifications, with people customizing their vehicles to enhance their speed and performance. In Japan, the Bosozoku movement emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, where young motorcyclists curated their bikes with flashy paint, oversized exhausts, and other accessories. More recently, tuning companies like Rocket Bunny and Liberty Walk have taken the movement to the next level, creating bespoke body kits that completely transform the appearance of a car.

In the case of car modifications, adherence to local laws and regulations is often ignored. Modifications to a car’s exhaust system, for example, can be illegal in some areas if they exceed noise or emissions limits. Similarly, performance modifications that increase horsepower or torque beyond legal limits can be dangerous and pose a risk to both the driver and other road users. Too much power can lead to unintentional wheel spin which can lead to cars spinning out.

Some argue that car modifications are harmless and that they allow owners to express their creativity and individuality. Car meets, like the popular Cars and Coffee event at UTC, provide a space for car enthusiasts to showcase their modified vehicles and connect with like-minded individuals. However, it’s important to remember that these modifications can have negative real-world consequences.

John Mikulas, a local car enthusiast who attended the Cars and Coffee event, notes that, “Overly modified cars can make a car accelerate so fast that even an experienced driver can lose control at any time.” 

A counter-argument is that visual modifications, such as body kits and paint jobs, do not affect a car’s performance or safety. However, this argument overlooks the fact that modifications to a car’s appearance can still impact its safety if they obstruct the driver’s view or alter the car’s weight distribution. It also ignores the fact that these outrageous modifications are doing loads of harm to the environment especially with the rapidly growing culture nowadays aimed at the younger generation. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, modifications to a car’s exhaust system can be dangerous if they exceed noise limits as well.

The Environmental Protection Agency, tasked with protecting people and the environment from harmful emissions, conducted a study with diesel trucks before and after a catalytic converter delete. The research concluded that after a truck (explain here) , there results in a 120x increase of carbon monoxide, a 1,140x increase of non-methane hydrocarbons, and a 310x increase of oxides of nitrogen emissions.

A lot of car modifications nowadays contribute to increased CO2 emissions and harm the environment. While it’s true that some modifications, such as engine tuning, can improve a car’s fuel efficiency, many others can have the opposite effect. Body kits, oversized wheels, and other aesthetic modifications can increase a car’s weight and wind resistance, resulting in decreased fuel efficiency and increased CO2 emissions.

In conclusion, car modifications are not inherently good or bad, but they need to be approached with caution and responsibility. While it’s important to allow enthusiasts to express themselves and connect with others through car culture, we must also ensure that these modifications do not compromise safety, legality, or environmental sustainability. It’s time to strike a balance between creativity and responsibility in the world of car modifications.