10 things not to do to your car
Drivers love to customize and modify their cars to add a bit of personality to their rides. But here are 10 things you definitely shouldn't do.
Many motorists like to personalize their vehicle to give it that unique look. The practice of customizing cars has been around for a century. It started with manufacturers selling a rolling chassis to a customer who would then choose a coach builder to design and add a unique body to the chassis. In the 50s and 60s, customizing took off and soon became the billion dollar business it is today.
One of the more common reasons for customizing one’s ride is to make a statement about the driver — whether it’s to say, “I’m unique” or “I’m cool” or “I love racing.” But there are some modifications that should not be made to your vehicle for safety reasons. Here are 10 examples.
1. Raise the Ride Height or “Lifting”: This modification raises the centre of gravity of your vehicle and makes it more likely to roll over in a collision or during an avoidance manoeuvre. It also means the bumper heights are no longer within the industry standard. This can lead to serious harm to occupants of other vehicles struck by a raised vehicle. Bumpers may no longer align with door beams or bumpers of other vehicles. Many times this modification incorporates larger diameter wheels and tires. This too can be dangerous as the added mass of the wheels means longer stopping distances or the chance of rolling up on another vehicle.
2. Lowering or “Slamming”: Some auto enthusiasts will cut their springs or buy shorter springs to lower their ride and give it that race car look. This modification makes the car more difficult to drive and tougher to control at the limit. It also hinders winter driving when the ground clearance no longer allows the driver to pass over ice and snow.
3. Window Tinting: Eye contact is important to other drivers. I like to know the other driver has seen me when I approach them and they are stopped at a stop sign or red light. It is also important to be able to see traffic up ahead through other vehicles’ windows. This allows the following driver to see stopped traffic sooner. When police stop a vehicle they like to be able to see inside for their own protection. If they can see the occupants and what they are doing, it makes for a less stressful encounter. It is not a good idea to have a very nervous police officer approaching your vehicle.
4. HID Headlights: If your vehicle was not designed for this type of lighting system, do not try to update to HID (High Intensity Discharge) lighting as the vehicle’s lenses and reflectors may not provide the correct lighting pattern. Vehicles that come equipped with HID lights have lenses and reflectors designed specifically for this type of lighting. This modification could and does lead to blinding oncoming drivers. Blinding a driver that’s approaching you with super bright lights is never a smart idea. For this reason you should turn off your fog lights too.
5. Boom Boxes: Loud car stereos can cause serious driving problems. They can be so loud the driver will not hear emergency vehicles approaching or other vehicles around them. Mechanics have told me about drivers who had their vehicle towed in for major repairs because the driver could not hear warning sounds over the loud music. What would have been a minor fix ended up being a very costly overhaul because the driver didn’t hear the warning sounds of trouble. Loud music has been shown to slow a driver’s reflexes and judgment which can lead to crashes.
6. Window & Mirror Hangings: This decorating of the vehicle’s interior can lead to distraction and blind spots from dangling articles from the mirror. I have seen this in our driving schools as trinkets sway back and forth or block the driver’s vision. Keep your outward vision clear by leaving the mirror to do its specified job of showing you what is behind you.
7. Racing Equipment: Specifically, I refer to racing seat belts and performance equipment. These seat belts are designed to be used with a roll cage and must be installed by experts. Performance equipment will make a vehicle more difficult to drive. From the factory, every vehicle is designed so the average driver can have a good chance at remaining in or regaining control in emergency situations. When the suspension design is altered, that safety margin diminishes. The vehicle may have better handling capabilities, but without advanced driver training, the driver will not be able to use it correctly.
8. Super Low Profile Tires: This modification can improve the vehicle’s handling characteristics. Low profile tires have very stiff side walls for better steering response. However, on the street this very stiff side wall will likely lead to bent or damaged wheels at the first pothole the vehicle encounters. Wheel and tire stores love selling super low profile tires as they know the customer will be back with bent rims or suspension. It also gives the occupants a very stiff and uncomfortable ride.
9. Flashy distracting bling: This can also lead to driver distraction. Some owners will “pimp out” their vehicles with all the latest electronic gimmickry such as video screens and flashing lights. Anything that takes the driver’s attention away from processing driving information is dangerous.
10. Tail light or headlight tinted covers: I have seen vehicles in which the driver has covered the headlights or tail lights with tinted plastic to make it appear there are no lights or to match the vehicle’s colour. Since these lights are for safety (including brake lights and turn signals), the brighter the light the easier the vehicle will be seen. Dulling these lights by making them shine through dark plastic will make your vehicle less visible to all other drivers. This is not a good idea.
There is nothing wrong with customizing your ride to give it some personality. But make sure you keep the modifications smart and safe for yourself and other drivers.