Many people think of car upgrades as expensive and time-consuming. But there are a lot of easy and affordable ways to make your car more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

A simple swap like a new shift knob can make your vehicle feel more refined and offer a better grip. And a set of door handle covers can be a cheap and quick way to improve your look.

1. Short-Throw Shifter

One of the best upgrades a car enthusiast can make to their manual transmission vehicle is a short-throw shifter. Although this modification doesn’t sound as flashy as a new turbo system or exhaust, it can significantly improve how your vehicle drives.

A short-throw shifter is a kit that makes shifting your car’s gears more precise and responsive. It does so by decreasing the distance between where the gear lever connects to the transmission (the shift stick) and where your hand is when you’re shifting. This change may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference when you’re driving fast on a twisty road.

If you want to enjoy all the excitement of a manual transmission vehicle, you need to be able to engage your clutch pedal and shift gears at will. Unfortunately, many of today’s vehicles have shift throws that are too long to make driving them enjoyable — especially on a race track.

Fortunately, short-throw shifters are affordable and easy to install. They’re great for any manual transmission vehicle that needs to be a little more engaging for the driver.

The most popular short-throw shifters include a new knob with a shorter lever, but some even come with a replacement transmission shifter shaft. They’re ideal for cars that use a linkage-driven shifter, which is connected directly to the transmission (like an STI or BRZ/FR-S/86), or cable-driven shifters, which are hooked up from the shifter to a plate in the gearbox (like 15+ WRXs). In either case, the short-throw shifter will greatly enhance the feel and performance of your car’s manual transmission. Depending on the type of short-throw shifter you choose, it could also improve the synchronization between your engine and transmission for better acceleration.

2. Fender Flares

Fender flares, also called wheel arch flares or 4WD fender flares, are a functional and cool car upgrade. They add a rugged look to your truck or SUV while helping protect it from rocks and other debris during off-roading adventures. They are a must-have if you plan to put on larger tires. Flares can also help reduce the amount of dirt that gets thrown up around your car, thus saving you time and money cleaning it after an off-roading session in the mud or rain. There’s only one place to go – CSA Wheels, your destination for wheels for 4×4.

You can find various styles of fender flares, ranging from the OE style that matches the original factory look to bolt-on style with decorative stainless steel hardware. A popular option is pocket style flares that have the bolts recessed in the pockets for a more rugged look. Another type is cut-out fender flares that give you the ability to fit more aggressive tire and wheel combinations.

If you’re looking for a more subtle appearance, consider a smooth or vinyl wrap. These kits start at about $20. A hood ornament is another simple way to improve your vehicle’s aesthetic, with prices starting at about $30. You can also add a USB charger to your dashboard or cabin for convenient and stylish charging, with prices starting at about $40.

Another affordable upgrade is a steering rack bushing swap, which can make your steering more precise and responsive. It costs about $50 for a new set of polyurethane bushings, but you’ll notice the difference in how your car handles right away.

3. Hood Ornament

Decorative hood ornaments, known as mascots or ornamental figures in the US, once adorned luxury vehicles like Lincolns and Rolls-Royces. Designed by glass artists such as Rene Lalique, these molded-glass models were designed to enhance the car’s front end. The hood ornaments also became a status symbol, indicating the owner’s wealth and good taste. The upright hood ornaments were easy to see, allowing the driver to line up any protruding metal with the curb when parking — a huge advantage over modern cars that have electronic parking assist systems.

However, a combination of new car design aesthetics and pedestrian safety regulations led to the demise of the upright hood ornament. And although they were a favorite of unruly high school principals to rip off the hood of their cars, the classic hood ornaments are now used for jewelry and fashion accessories. Upright hood ornaments can be an easy way to give your vehicle a custom look without spending a fortune.

5. Exhaust Tips

Adding a custom exhaust tip is a fairly easy way to upgrade your car’s appearance. Exhaust tips are designed to add a unique look and may also alter the sound of your vehicle, depending on the type of tip that you choose. Exhaust tips are available in a wide range of styles and materials, including chrome and stainless steel. Some options also include acoustic resonators, which can create a different sound by vibrating the gases passing through the pipe.

The purpose of a vehicle’s original exhaust system is to remove reaction gasses from the engine and allow them to be released into the atmosphere. However, the original pipes do not have a very attractive appearance.

Aftermarket or branded exhaust tips are designed to allow the same function to be performed while giving your vehicle a more appealing aesthetic. Exhaust tips are available in varying sizes, shapes, and finishes, including chrome and matte black. There are even dual-forked and turndown exhaust tips that can give your car a more stylish and aggressive look.

In most cases, changing your exhaust tip will not significantly change the sound of your car. However, if you install a tip that is wider than the diameter of your existing tailpipe, it can cause the sound of your car to be louder and raspier.

Upgrading your vehicle with a new exhaust tip is an inexpensive and quick modification that can be made without affecting the performance or reliability of your car’s engine. In addition, if you combine this modification with an aftermarket air intake and an upgraded exhaust system, your car will likely have a louder and more aggressive engine sound than it did before.

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