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10 Car Performance Fads That Need to Disappear

POR: Alex Perrone

For as long as cars have been made available to the public, many owners have given in to trendy add-ons and gimmicky products meant to make cars *look* and *sound* “cooler” than they are. We here at Endurance have always been in the habit of warning against bad vehicle modifications. Still, even surface things are pretty bad, even if they won’t necessarily void your warranty immediately.

Today on ShopTalk, we’ve collected the worst, so-called “performance” fads ever. Buyer beware!

Gauge Your Interest


Every driver probably SHOULD keep tabs on what’s going on with their engine. Anyone of our Endurance Vehicle Protection agents can tell you that the engine is the heart of the car. Most of the gauges needed to monitor the general workings of the car come straight from the factory, so unless you just outfitted it with an aftermarket turbo system, there’s no reason to add a boost gauge. Personally, we find it silly that some car builders modify their machines with a ridiculous row of gauges mounted up on the car’s A-pillar or enormous dials posted on top of the dash. All filled with things they clearly don’t need. Not even professional racers use that many. Chances are you aren’t running much exotic under the hood, so don’t waste money or space on that exhaust gas temperature gauge, a fuel pressure gauge, or an air-fuel ratio meter. Basic is better.

Don’t Spoil The Fun

Custom Racing Spoiler

Ugly spoilers. Please just stop with the ugly oversized spoilers. Now we’ve already defined what exactly a spoiler is and does for your car, so if you just have a basic vehicle that isn’t a  performance vehicle, stop over-equipping it with gaudy spoilers and other ground effects kits. Believe us when we say that the manufacturers didn’t test most of these aftermarket additions in any wind tunnel. And worst of all, the added weight and designs tend to make the cars a little bit slower. The worst thing is that pieces get torn off easily since the car wasn’t designed with them in mind. That whole body kit you found on eBay? Avoid at all costs: spoilers, scoops, canards, mirror covers, and roll pans are unnecessary and really ugly.

Stop Faking Noises

The US has undergone some new regulations that are encouraging (or forcing) automakers to tone it down when it comes to engine and exhaust noise. Yet automotive enthusiasts like us tend to love our cars roaring with power. And now, to appease both schools of thought, automakers have taken to merely synthesizing sounds from the engine and playing them through the car’s audio system. That is right. Your car is faking it. Now the thing is that way an engine actually sounds is central to what we consider the car’s personality and many drivers’ degrees of enjoyment of the drive. Most true car lovers would prefer an honest, even if it’s if quieter, exhaust note over something “enhanced” and piped-in through stereo speakers.

Decals of LIES

Every automaker has a high-performance line. Mercedes-Benz has its AMG, BMW has its M, Toyota has TRD and Subaru has STI. With the upgrade comes a cost increase, but now some drivers have the galls just buy the “AMG” or “M” badge and slap it on the backs of their cars. Now we’ll give credit where credit is due…but who is that really supposed to impress? The only people paying attention to badges are dyed in the wool car enthusiasts—the very same people who are going to know right away that you have a Mercedes-Benz C350 wearing an AMG badge and not an actual C63 AMG. Don’t lie.

Your Car is Exhausting to Look At

One of the silliest performance fads is those gargantuan exhaust stacks pointing toward the sky that many truck owners insist on bolting to their trucks and yet we don’t mock them that much because we know they are indeed real fully functional exhaust pipes. We could even say the same thing about extra-loud oversized “sports tuned” mufflers, which may be ridiculous but again are connected to the real exhaust system of your car. We are talking about the fad when automakers themselves wrap their exhaust pipes in increasingly gauche elaborate “finishers” molded into a strange oblong oval or angular shape. These goofy tips make expensive performance cars look cheaper. It just adds another hole in the car that doesn’t expel anything from the engine.

You Should Adjust to your Car, Not the Other Way

These days many of a modern car’s systems (engine, transmission, steering, throttle and suspension) are electronically controlled, allowing engineers to sync them all together and create individual settings for “Comfort,” “Sport,” and even “Economy.” We definitely like that level of adjustability for a crossover or SUV. With a mere push of a button or the turn of a knob, any driver can crank up the performance to a level that wouldn’t be accepted as the default setting on such vehicles. However, we think that a sporty car should beat that responsive, engaging and athletic setting all the time and every time.

Shifting Awkwardly in Your Seat

close up of hand on manual gear shift knob

There have been lawsuits and a major tragedy concerning an unintuitive shifter redesign from FCA’s Jeep, so we’re not going to dig too deep. We’ll just say that there are things that just didn’t need to be “fixed.” A vehicle’s shifter should allow drivers to perform tasks in a simple, self-explanatory way that is never ever challenging or confusing. Modern transmissions don’t need a mechanical link to the shifter, and thus automakers exploited this by fussing with a wide variety of levers, knobs, and buttons to operate them. Then they got the harebrained scheme to save space by making shifters into a small rotary knob on the center console. While there is a practical reason for that, engineers usually just do it for style points and end up working counterintuitively.

Racing Accessories are for Track Day Only

souped up sports car isolated on white background

Professional or even hobbyist racers outfit their street cars with all manner of roll cages, deeply bolstered fixed position seats, and even racing harnesses instead of ordinary seat belts so their rides will be able to meet all those strict safety requirements for a track day session. Unfortunately, you’ve probably also seen wannabe Fast & Furious drivers’ cars outfitted with fancy racing equipment that have probably never been driven around a racetrack. We won’t mock the aesthetic choice…much, but you should know that there are severe drawbacks to outfitting a street car to look like a racer. Roll cages can seriously cut into a car’s interior space. At the same time, those special seats and belts and four or six-point belts aren’t comfortable or convenient on the commute to your office (trust me, I know, unfortunately). To top it all off, the equipment is all very expensive. While we at Endurance have a vested interest in saving you money, our advice really is as simple as this: if you’re going to make your ride look like a racecar, then routinely head to a track day and race for real.

The Hood Is Your Friend

We know that engines look cool, especially those modified with big superchargers, turbos, and other shiny let’s-go-fast parts that look amazing. You may want to show it off a lot…but you really should only do so when you aren’t driving. Driving around without a hood is a fad that needs to end permanently. It is not only illegal in most states, but it makes you a magnet of law enforcement, giving them rightful suspicion of any other mods on your car. Worst of all, foul weather and road debris could seriously damage all of your unprotected engine components.

Why did you Paint your brakes?

This is a rare fad that began in the 80s. It was a status symbol among yuppies to have exotic cars with the most advanced brakes and red Brembo calipers indicated them. The cars of the time had large-diameter wheels and those brakes were easy for all your co-workers and competitors for Julia Roberts’ affections to see. So again, with the faking it: if you don’t have those brake systems, there’s no reason you should pretend otherwise.

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