Important considerations before tuning your car

If you ever looked at another car and thought ‘I wished my car can go that fast’, or if you entertained the idea of modifying your car to increase its performance, then worry not - it’s a normal thought for many car owners. Even my friends who are not petrolheads, have asked if there is anything they can do to make their 79 horsepower Mitsubishi Attrage faster (sorry buddy, there’s not much we can do to that car, legally of course)

For others, it’s a way to make the way their car looks match up to the performance of the engine. Nobody would want to drive a car that looks like a type-r, but is about as fast as a school bus. So before you go out and modify your car to make it faster, here are some important considerations you should think about :

1. Insurance

Of course, not all modifications have an insurance impact, especially cosmetic ones. However, if you are tuning the engine or adding a significant mod to make your car faster, there could be an insurance impact. This is because from an insurance company’s perspective, individuals driving modified cars tend to drive faster (the whole point of modifying your car was to make it faster anyway, right?), which can result in more severe injuries if an accident occurs.

Next, some modifications made to your car would contribute to its value. So in case your vehicle needs repairs, the repair cost will increase because of the parts/complexity, thus increasing the compensation rate that the insurance company would have to cover. In addition, a superbly modified car that looks sexy as hell is sure to attract more thieves as compared to a regular, stock car.

What does this mean for you? In a lot of cases, this means that your auto insurance premium may increase.

As such, it is important to consult your insurance company first before swiping your credit card for a modification. Best is to get a black and white note from your insurer that the modification you are intending to get will not affect your insurance. This way, you have proof of the approval in the event that your insurer goes back on their word. Further, it is always advisable to consult your insurer as auto insurance policies differ from company to company, and they may make your life harder by denying your claim if you modify your car without informing them. As a general rule of thumb, cosmetic changes typically do not require your insurer’s green light (e.g LED lights, bodykits, forged rims etc.)

For engine modifications, it is best to inform them as this will change the characteristics of the car.

2. Legal or not?

Be sure to talk to your mechanic, or get advice from other car owners and also the authorities (LTA) before making changes to your car, since not all modifications are legal. Here’s a page from LTA regarding car modifications.

For example, some rather trivial mods like tinting headlights, is actually illegal in Singapore. And we have all seen how some LTA officers check a car like a police dog sniffing a drug dealer. So it’s best to check with them on the mod you are planning to do.

3. How much ?

Modifications are not cheap. Well, it depends on what you’re doing actually. But - go in with the mindset that car modifications will cost you money, especially those that make your car faster. For mods dealing with the engine, it is best not to go for a low quality, cheap and shoddy part or tuning workshop as these questionable mods can affect your engine. In the worst case scenario, an engine overhaul is required and those do not come cheap.

It is always best to pay more to get a quality part, from a reputable brand and workshop so that you get a peace of mind. Opt for the best of the best.

4. How exactly will it affect my car?

Is the modification reversible? If it’s not, can I live with this ‘new’ car? Do understand fully what the tune will do and how it will affect your car and your day to day driving. Is fuel consumption affected? Are other parts of my car affected? Do I need to change any other part ? For example, if you are going for a stage 2 chip tune on your Volkswagen Golf GTI, can your current setup support the added power? Consider your brakes, tires, coilovers, fuel consumption etc.

At the end of the day, what’s most important is how happy you are with your newly modified car. As they say, cars are not measured in miles per gallon, but ‘smiles per gallon’. The best mods are those which are legal, approved by your insurer, and adds a huge smile to your face.