If you want to modify your car, here are some (legal) ideas
No, you cannot make your car look like this in Singapore. Sadly. Photo via AWS
So you’ve bought a new car (or even a nice, budget-friendly used car) and you want it to feel a little sportier, maybe even reflect your personality. That’s totally natural! But in Singapore, there are fairly strict regulations on car modifications. Making illegal modifications could land you a fine or even see you spending some time in prison. (No joke!)
In general, modifications either change the appearance of your car (inside/outside) and/or improve your car’s performance. In some cases, they might decrease the car’s performance––if for example you install a stupidly large and mostly non-functional spoiler––but we won’t dwell on that too long.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to make your car look like one of Japan’s super-tricked out Transformer Trucks, not least because decorative lights are out. Yes, even interior lights––so much for driving in a blue and red neon-lit car! (If you do find a loophole, please let us know!)
Furthermore, most performance-enhancing modifications are illegal (not to mention expensive) and will often void your warranty. For example, if you want to swap out the engine, the LTA is rather strict on the matter: you can only do so if the replacement engine is the same type of engine as the original, since you’re not allowed to increase engine capacity. Neither will dealerships allow you to do anything to the engine without voiding your warranty on the whole car.
On the bright side, the list of what you can do to your car is much longer than what you can’t, so let’s focus on the positive and check out a few popular options. Whatever you want to do, though, run it by your dealership or any LTA-authorised Inspection Centre (AIC) to make sure you won’t be breaking any laws, and don’t forget to update your motor insurance to reflect these changes.
A good braking system is key to fun yet safe driving. One relatively inexpensive modification you can make is to upgrade your braking pads (or just change them out when they’re getting a little worn): when done right, this should offer more consistent braking performance. Start out with the front pair of brakes, as they account for about 80% of your car’s braking abilities, and leave the rear ones to a later date.
Did you know you can swap out your steering wheels? If you’re not happy with the stock ones, you can replace it with something that allows you to steer more quickly and precisely. On the other hand, the downsides of doing so include losing the airbags and other features like cruise control or audio volume. Either way, you may want to consult the manufacturer or dealership before you make the decision.
Your steering wheel is also the part that comes into contact most often with your hands, and like it or not, sweat will eventually wear down the leather covering. To protect the covering, why not fit on a steering wheel cover? This is a fun and affordable way to jazz up your steering wheel and prolong the lifespan of the material. Who doesn’t love a pop of colour inside the car?
If you have the cash to spare, alloy wheels are a super sexy upgrade for your car. Once the purview of high-end sports cars and luxury vehicles, anyone can now fit them on their own cars. These wheels don’t have to be flashy––they can add a rather understated touch of class, and come in many different colours and covers.
However, alloy wheels are more than just an aesthetic mod: in addition to looking good, these wheels can help improve your car’s performance by providing better braking performance, handling, and steering. Alloy wheels are also lighter than OEM wheels, which helps with fuel efficiency. Plus, they’re less likely to corrode and rust since they’re often made from aluminium alloy.
Sure, alloy wheels are expensive to buy and replace, and perhaps not quite as strong as conventional steel wheels. Plus, if you’re very unlucky, some enterprising thief might decide to make your lovely new wheels their next target, so you may want to consider some precautionary measures. Overall, though, alloy wheels are a fantastic mod if you have the cash to spare.
A good set of tyres can make or break your driving experience––you won’t believe just how much of a difference they make. Besides, it’s the only part of the car that ever comes into contact with the road.
If you’re not satisfied with your current tyres, swap them out with a better pair that’s compatible with your car. You can even consider noise-efficient tyres for a quieter ride––that’ll make your ride smooth and silent, and help reduce noise pollution in Singapore. Win-win! After that, all you have to do is keep them properly inflated and check on the wear and tear from time to time.
(Need a recommendation? Drop by ST Auto and chat with us!)
Air filters prevent dust and dirt in the air from getting into your car. But did you know that most Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts restrict airflow into the engine to make this happen? This basically slows down your car because less air can actually get into the engine. So, swapping out your air filter with a good aftermarket product can actually increase the car’s horsepower. It’s probably one of the easiest performance-enhancing modifications you can make to your car.
Stickers and decals
If you want to help your car stand out without spending too much money, stickers and decals might be the way to go. They can be a little twee, but they can also be fun. If you’re set on standing out but you’re stuck for ideas, check out a few eye-catching cars spotted on the road right here in Singapore. We love the idea of driving The Mystery Machine around Ang Mo Kio. Just make sure you run it by the LTA to avoid any potential problems or fines. (You can’t, for example, have cigarette ads on your car.)
One downside to eye-catching decorations: it’ll be very easy for someone to identify you in town. Our tiny island means it’s kind of hard to really be anonymous, but if you value your privacy, maybe avoid something that’s too flashy.
Add a spoiler
Don’t worry, we’re not going to ruin whatever TV show you’re binging at the moment. The picture above is what we mean. Spoilers can help make your car more aerodynamic, and help you drive a little faster––up to a point. If the spoiler is too large relative to your car size, it’ll create drag and slow you down instead. Plus, it’s going to look kind of stupid. (Sorry not sorry.)
Be wary when installing spoilers: overly large ones will make you stand out on the roads, and an LTA officer might decide to pull you over to check that they’ve been legally installed. Y