Budget Friendly Performance Mods
December 18, 2021
It can be daunting and challenging to start modding your build if you are on a tight budget or just don't know where to start. These are some of the mods we recommend to get you started!
Upgraded Rotors or Pads
Maintenance will run up on you sooner or later. Brakes don't last forever, and with every enthusiast looking to better their builds, slotted or drilled rotors will improve your car's performance significantly.
I remember explicitly putting on drilled rotors and carbon pads on my 400whp Subaru STI; the amount of bite I got out of a quick mod blew my mind.
Whatever your power goals are, rotors and pads play a considerable role. After all, speed doesn't matter if you can't slow back down.
The prices of rotors and pads can get pretty high if you're going for a full track setup, but if you're just wanting a little more bite than stock, you can pick up a new brake setup for a only few hundred dollars
Braided Brake Lines
Brake lines are an easy mod to improve pedal feel following the rotor and pads. Braided brake lines will give you a much stiffer pedal and allow for quicker, more powerful braking. Traditional lines tend to expand when the brake pedal is pushed due to fluid building up within the lines. Braided lines are too stiff to allow the expansion, resulting in more pressure going to your brakes.
Brake lines can typically run you between $100 and $200.
Oil Pans | Pickup & Baffle
These might sound weird to put in a list like this BUT hear me out.
I have built many dedicated track cars, and I made this mistake in the first few builds. I passed up all pre-maintenance and ended up paying a more significant price for it in the end.
Oil starvation is a thing. While you may not be taking your car out on a track, your goal will still be making more power at some point. The more horsepower your car gains, the more your oil will steer away from the oil pickup as you launch the car, get into power, and during turns.
This setup will prevent oil starvation from happening, potentially saving your motor.
Some oil pans have smaller fins on the bottom of them to help cool the oil down. Some will also have baffles in the oil pan itself to help prevent oil slushing to the side to prevent the oil starvation we talked about.
These setups usually start between $400 to $700. But you can upgrade this slowly and still get great use out of the pickup and baffle with the stock oil pan. Plus, it'll save you in the long run!
Since you're looking to make those power gains, you will run out of fuel at some point and time. Let's talk about fuel pumps. These aren't too expensive and you can usually install an upgraded one without needing a retune in order for the car to run.
You won't see any increase in power without a tune, but you will know in the back of your head that you will be ready when you finally decided to tune.
The standard fuel pumps many enthusiasts typically run will be a 300 or 340 iph. If you want to run ethanol in the car during the build process, it's best to get a fuel pump that is E85 capable. You don't want to buy twice.
These are pretty easy to install and don't take very long. They will typically start you at around $130 but can range from there.
If you are trying to ball on a budget and want to get more performance out of your build, suspension bushings will do just that.
Your bushings at some point are going to give out either to being old or just under heavy track use. That's where upgraded bushings come in.
There are multiple options, such as hard and poly bushings, that will help increase stiffness and improve handling.
These suckers don't cost a whole lot, and brands offer complete suspension kits to revamp the crusty suspension your build may have. If you live in the Midwest like us, you know what we mean.
Price points vary as some start at $11 and go as high as $300, depending on the part.
While we're still on the topic of suspension, we might as well cover lowering springs. Lowering springs are the budget-friendly way to lower your car and slightly impact performance from it.
If you want to do it the right way, there are many great companies like Eibach, Tein, Megan Racing, KW Suspension, and ST Suspension.
Lowering springs aren't the worst, and they ride just as well as some coilovers do. They might not have a ton of adjustability, but they will do the job of lowing your car and improving handling slightly.
These suckers can start at $200 and go as high as any coilover would cost. Overall these aren't a pain to have a shop install them for you, or there are tools dedicated to this job to make it easier.
Strut Bar Braces
Chassis bracing can help anyone, whether the car is bone stock or has simple bolt-ons. You will see an increase in handling no matter the platform.
While tons of chassis bracing is not needed on a daily driver or stance build. Having a little bit is always helpful for driving and having a sturdy body.
Strut bars will help stiffen up the front end of your car. Doing this will reduce wear and tear between the struts and help keep the chassis flex down to a minimum.
These aren't difficult to install, look great, and don't cost a ton of money.
Strut bars will cost you about $80 to start but there are some larger and more complicated ones out there that do cost a lot more.
Radiator & Accessories
OEM radiators can be cheap and use plastic housings that often leak leaving you stranded or resulting in heat soak when you make more power than stock.
Aftermarket radiators are welded and made of metal which makes them a lot more durable and able to withstand more abuse.
These also have more rows for better cooling and are able to withstand a higher amount of pressure than a factory radiator.
While installing radiators isn't the most challenging upgrade, they sure are some of the messier jobs at hand. Remember to drain that coolant first, so you don't get a mouth full of tasty coolant. It's happened to the best of us.
Radiators like these will start you out at $200 and go from there.
Radiator accessories will be coolant hoses, radiator caps, and overflow tanks.
These might not feel like a performance upgrade, but keeping your motor to the highest working ability will help you push that power for as long as possible.
Often we pass up the chance of upgrading the cooling side of our build to get that big spooly boy. Trust me, I've been there and done that.
Silicone coolant hoses are great to upgrade. This will give you that peace of mind everything is new.
While overflow tanks can be overlooked, these can go bad without you knowing. They can often leak, so upgrading to a full metal tank will not only look great under the hood, but will increase the amount of pressure your cooling system can withstand.
Cold Air Intake
If you have a turbocharger and love that induction noise, intakes are the way to go.
I know you're looking for performance and significant power increases; you won't see much here, but you will need to upgrade your intake at some point down the road, so it's always best to start early.
It's best to get these in a box or keep them as far away from heat to prevent heat soak, which is never good.
As I stated, you won't see much of a power increase from these, but what you do get is a really good-looking air intake that makes a ton of cool noises, especially on boosted cars. They do decrease the temperature of the air entering your engine, which can result in more power, but most likely not enough to actually feel a difference.
These can be pretty cheap, starting anywhere from $50 and costing as much as $800.
There you have it! These are some of the easiest and cheapest mods for your build to help with performance!