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Mag wheels, smoked lights, performance kits; Here's what makes your car modded

2017-09-10 08:00

Arrive Alive

Cape Town - Most young people who acquire their first vehicle want to make it look better, go faster or enhance its features. And, more times than not, it's a carnut habit which is only outgrown when you're much older. This can lead to conflict with the law.  

Cape Town, Durban and Joburg are known for law officials coming down harshly on motorists who have vehicle modifications or alterations.

According to Arrive Alive, motor manufacturers deliver vehicles which cater for the average driver and have settings that will provide the best (erring on the conservative) in terms of longevity, economy, ride comfort, performance.

READ: Car modifications - What the law says in SA

Most drivers will create their own "performance models" as they can't afford the sportier models from automakers. Although, those who do drive performance cars are always looking to make it even more powerful by upgrading the exhaust system or tuning the engine.

"They change and alter the vehicle dynamics not only to be visually appealing in their own eyes but also for what they deem to be improvements in performance," says the organisation.

Arrive Alive, together with vehicle experts Stan Bezuidenhout from IBF Investigations, MasterDrive SA's Eugene Herbert and FleetMax Africa's Ashraf Ismail answered some common questions about vehicle modifications.

Read the original article here.

A good example is when Wheels24 reported on a new Ford Mustang owner who had his brand new vehicle driven from the showroom floor to an exhaust workshop to alter the car's already sporty performance. This action immediately made the warranty on his vehicle null and void.

WATCH: How a new Ford Mustang SA owner made his V8 car roar even louder

1. How would we best describe Modifications and Alterations? Do we look at the nature as well as the intended purpose of such modifications?

Modifications and alterations are essentially the same things when it comes to motor vehicles. As far as the practical descriptions go, alterations would not affect performance while modifications typically would.

Simply put alterations and/or modifications can be described as bringing about changes to the original vehicle parameter standards with a view, largely of enhancing a vehicle’s performance in fuel consumption, load capacity, cosmetic trim, 0 – 100km/h or top speed runs. Where these modifications/alterations do not comply with the requirements of the Road Traffic Act, they will be deemed illegal.

These are the various types of modifications

1. Visual Modifications

This would include the likes of paint jobs, chrome and aftermarket grilles, darkened lights or so-called “Angel eyes,” etc. Changes that only affect aesthetics but none of the other categories.

This would typically have no direct impact on vehicle function, performance or safety. While this is a huge industry, it is largely harmless.

2 Functional Modifications or Enhancements

These include “lifted suspensions,” bigger wheels, tinted windows, HID Headlights and the like.

The driver would like the vehicle to look sportier and would change the wheels & tyres (bigger / wider) and lower the suspension so that it sits lower to the ground. In many instances, the driver is happy with the performance so doesn’t touch the engine by increasing power.

These modifications or alterations if you will, are designed to improve the driver experience or render the vehicle more capable in a particular environment.

A good example would include off-road tyres on a double-cab LDV, along with a so-called “suspension lift.”

This makes the LDV more capable of handling rough terrain and might include under-belly protection like “skid-plates” or winches to facilitate the novel application.

For road cars, this might involve a change in the wheel diameter, lower profile tyres, etc.

The enhancements affect the capabilities of a vehicle so they are more enhancements than mere alterations, but some are used only for aesthetic value.

                                     An extremely modified Toyota Quantum minibus. Image: Joe Klein

3 Performance Enhancements

This is where things get more relevant for road safety. The driver wants more power and better handling. To achieve this the engine may be upgraded with a Turbo charger on replaced altogether and to cope with the performance the suspension is changed and may include the replacement of shock absorbers (from mild to wild) and possibly even an upgrade of the brakes to improve stopping power.

It needs to be understood that Performance entails more than mere acceleration and straight-line speed.

As far as performance enhancements go, the outcome is likely to affect:

  • Engine power or torque (output).
  • Airflow or induction pressures (turbos and superchargers).
  • Chemical augmentation (fuel changes like running on AvGas or Aviation Fuel or even Nitrous Oxide or NOS).
  • This includes everything from engine software manipulation through plug-and-play exhaust systems, etc.

The enhancements are often done with pre-existing “kits” that manufactured, created or built for each brand or model individually.

The result is faster acceleration, better cornering or improved braking.

4. Design Modifications

This is where the engineering types get involved and might include any, a combination of or even all the following:

  • Engine/wheel transfer modifications, such as differential, gearbox or gear ratio changes.
  • Suspension enhancements to ensure better road holding around corners, etc.
  • Introduction of completely new vehicle systems (any or all the above).
  • When design modifications are selected, the vehicle is almost completely re-designed.

Typically reserved for track application, this is a new “trend” that is more a manifestation of the financial limitations of the owner than anything else.

What are the most commonly found Modifications and Alterations on vehicles?

The most common alternations include after-market lights, larger wheels and lower profile tyres and sound enhancements (audio installations). It may also include computer re-mapping, exhaust system improvements and induction improvements (turbo boost adjustments, etc).

Examples of Modifications/Alterations

 • Aftermarket mag wheels which have a lower profile and probably allow for wider tires.
 • Lowered suspension
 • Steering wheels – depending on whether the vehicle has airbags
 • Sound systems
 • Engine upgrades
 • In passenger transport vehicles such as the ubiquitous "mini-bus taxi", the most common alteration involves converting panel vans into passenger transport vehicles with additional seats and in minibusses, to fit additional seats to boost passenger carrying capacity.


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