What aftermarket parts improve the looks of any car?

Colin
By Colin Wood
Jan 12, 2022 | wheels

Plenty of products in our world falsely claim to add horsepower or boost fuel economy, but what about making a car look better?

What aftermarket parts improve the look of virtually any car?

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Duke
Duke MegaDork
1/11/22 5:16 p.m.

Kosei K1s.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/11/22 5:19 p.m.

Lowering springs and wheel spacers.

Might screw up how the car actually works, but we're not talking about that.

Jesse Ransom
Jesse Ransom GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
1/11/22 5:23 p.m.

Tires.

90% of the time the wheels can be upgraded to look better.

99% of the time tires can be upgraded. Visually, it's a small thing. But you can't tell me GRMers don't notice it instantly.

 

EDIT: Yes, I'm being silly. 99.9999% of the times that the wheels can be improved, they make 10000% of the difference that tires would... cheeky

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
1/11/22 5:55 p.m.

Front chin spoilers 

Error404
Error404 HalfDork
1/11/22 6:10 p.m.

"Off-road" wheels, boggers, and a big ole honkin' LED light bar in the grill? Oh wait....

dps214
dps214 Dork
1/11/22 6:14 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Lowering springs and wheel spacers.

Might screw up how the car actually works, but we're not talking about that.

Wheel spacers maybe, but there's plenty of modern performance cars that leave the factory with the correct ride height. I wouldn't want my cayman to be any lower, from an aesthetic or functional standpoint. However, it does currently have aftermarket wheels that are .5" wider with 5-7mm lower offsets on top of that. So wheels and spacers are pretty accurate.

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
1/11/22 6:21 p.m.

Window tint.

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/11/22 6:27 p.m.

Cocomats?

#sponsormeplease

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/11/22 6:50 p.m.
dps214 said:
Keith Tanner said:

Lowering springs and wheel spacers.

Might screw up how the car actually works, but we're not talking about that.

Wheel spacers maybe, but there's plenty of modern performance cars that leave the factory with the correct ride height. I wouldn't want my cayman to be any lower, from an aesthetic or functional standpoint. However, it does currently have aftermarket wheels that are .5" wider with 5-7mm lower offsets on top of that. So wheels and spacers are pretty accurate.

I am assuming we're talking purely aesthetic, not functional. Porsche does a pretty good job of getting the ride height right, but most cars do benefit from a little moar low. In fact, I've spoken to some of the Mazda PR people and they admit to loading the cars with sandbags for publicity shots...

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
1/11/22 6:59 p.m.

Louvers.

Siri mute replies.

Mndsm
Mndsm MegaDork
1/11/22 7:02 p.m.

Cop livery and lights. Seriously, find me one car that doesn't look better as a cop car. 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
1/11/22 7:40 p.m.

A tasteful drop on quality suspension bits, wider wheels and tires. 

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
1/11/22 7:54 p.m.

Wheels.

 

I saw a Geo Metro on 15"Rotas. I spent an inordinate amount of time starring at it. A Metro.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
1/11/22 8:12 p.m.

Double wiper blades?

 

+2 on louvers.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
1/11/22 9:19 p.m.

Anything from JC Whitney. 

demnted
demnted New Reader
1/11/22 9:20 p.m.

stickers?

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
1/11/22 9:21 p.m.

Far, far less than what gets used.

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
1/11/22 11:15 p.m.

Gold Mesh Wheels

 

CAinCA
CAinCA GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
1/11/22 11:18 p.m.

Curb feelers? 

Duke
Duke MegaDork
1/12/22 7:56 a.m.

 Mr_Asa said:

Front chin spoilers 

Almost added that to my post.

APEowner said:

Window tint.

NO!  *Batman slap*

 

Saron81
Saron81 Dork
1/12/22 7:57 a.m.

BBS RS wheels.

Cooter
Cooter PowerDork
1/12/22 8:02 a.m.

Box Flares


[/]thread

02Pilot
02Pilot UberDork
1/12/22 9:16 a.m.

Yosemite Sam "Back off" or Playboy bunny logo mudflaps.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
1/12/22 9:22 a.m.
Duke said:

NO!  *Batman slap*

I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't care for window tint, at least on sporty cars. 

Although whatever I get next will definitely have the clear heat rejection tint to help with Oklahoma summers. 

Jerry
Jerry PowerDork
1/12/22 9:23 a.m.
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) said:

Anything from JC Whitney. 

Wait, are they still players?  I haven't seen a catalog since the late 80s.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
1/12/22 9:35 a.m.

I'll jump on the bandwagon and say lowered + wheels.

Sometimes, even just lowering without new wheels is enough.

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
1/12/22 9:48 a.m.

The funny thing is, with the possible exception of KS1's, one of the best mods to any car in my eyes is removing aftermarket wheels and putting stock ones back on.  Man are the majority of aftermarket wheels ugly.

I do agree with the comment on small wheel spacers helping most cars though.  OEM clearance standards have to take into account max tolerance stack up plus worst case conditions and still require clearance to other components which means at least a 5mm spacer can normally be added to any car with zero impact on clearance with no noticeable effect on scrub radius either.

birdmayne
birdmayne GRM+ Memberand Reader
1/12/22 10:05 a.m.

TE37s

Every car looks good with a properly sized and spaced set of TE37s

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
1/12/22 10:09 a.m.

Everyone knows flames make it 200% better looking. 

CAinCA
CAinCA GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
1/12/22 10:41 a.m.

A wink mirror!

ShawneeCreek
ShawneeCreek GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
1/12/22 11:24 a.m.

A respray/wrap of the paint in a color not found in the grayscale spectrum.

BenB
BenB HalfDork
1/12/22 11:40 a.m.
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) said:

Everyone knows flames make it 200% better looking. 

I've been seeing a lot of minivans with flames around the Raleigh area lately. Is this a local thing like the Carolina Squat or nation wide?

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
1/12/22 11:50 a.m.

I am going to have to disagree with wheels.  back in the day, yes, converting from the plain-jane steel original wheels that came on most cars was an improvement in appearance but today when most cars  come with alloy wheels from the  factory, the only ones that can be improved are the ones that look goofy with the stock wheels and that is a pretty limited percentage.

The wheels on my two modern sports cars are great - no change would improve the looks, IMHO.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
1/12/22 11:55 a.m.

I'm glad that I'm not the only person that doesn't automatically like aftermarket wheels, especially on trucks. 

rslifkin
rslifkin UberDork
1/12/22 11:59 a.m.

I wouldn't say all, but many cars can be improved with different wheels.  Plenty of stock wheels are decent looking, but it's less common for them to be really good looking.  That said, not all aftermarket wheels will look better.  Plenty of people choose downright ugly wheels, or ones that look nice on their own but just don't go with the car. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/12/22 12:18 p.m.

So, we have determined that across a given type of modification there are good choices and bad choices. You can still buy ugly aftermarket wheels and some stock wheels look good. 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
1/12/22 12:43 p.m.
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) said:

I'm glad that I'm not the only person that doesn't automatically like aftermarket wheels, especially on trucks. 

Well, yeah there are plenty of terrible looking aftermarket wheels.  

But you guys seem to fawn over K1s, so who knows. 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
1/12/22 12:46 p.m.

There is also the function aspect, for example, I don't particularly LOVE Enkei RPF1s. They aren't bad, but not my favorite. 

However, going from stock 17x7 to 18x9.5 RPFs actually saved me something like 3.5-4 lbs per corner and allowed dramatically larger tires, which of course ate up the weight savings. 

Some really nice BC Racing forged or similar would be close to $4k a set vs $1400/set. Although now Titan makes some nice forged wheels in the $500-600 wheel range, but no custom fitments, and limited platforms. 

gearheadE30
gearheadE30 Dork
1/12/22 1:05 p.m.

Wheels and tires with the caveat of taste. Seems like a lot of cars and trucks have tires that are too small, even if the wheel design looks good. Filling up the wheel well helps.

For some reason, mudflaps almost always look great to me (again, if they're good ones).

I'll second the chin spoiler comment.

Nice exhaust tip or tips is another. Subtle but makes a big difference.

Hard to come up with anything else universal, but in most cases color matching or blacking out chrome accents and trim seems to help a lot.

 

In reply to BenB :

Less minivans here's but like new gm and Ford crossovers driven by old guys. 

93EXCivic
93EXCivic MegaDork
1/12/22 1:51 p.m.

I have never seen a car that couldn't be improved with nice aftermarket wheels and lowering (expect for some very expensive/exotic stuff).

Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos)
Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/12/22 2:43 p.m.
BenB said:

I've been seeing a lot of minivans with flames around the Raleigh area lately. Is this a local thing like the Carolina Squat or nation wide?

The minivans with flames on them I've seen driving around Raleigh seem to be the new "work truck" choice because of the insane used car/truck market these days.

Granted, I've only seen the same two driving around so far.

Here are my bad choices:
Really big wing
Stretched tires
excessive camber
crackle tune (No, really, it makes EVERYONE look bad)

 

Chris_V
Chris_V UberDork
1/12/22 4:44 p.m.

 

1" drop and more attractive wheels made a bunch of difference as did a subtle change to the previously black lower panels. I"m a big fan of using whels and tires to change the look of a car, as it's easily reversible if you want to sell.

My Mustang was the same way:

mtn
mtn MegaDork
1/12/22 4:57 p.m.

Debadging.

In reply to mtn :

I'll play along. Debadgeing looks like the vehicle got hit and not repaired correctly. 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
1/12/22 5:57 p.m.
Jerry said:
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) said:

Anything from JC Whitney. 

Wait, are they still players?  I haven't seen a catalog since the late 80s.

My Subaru had a pair of 15" subwoofers from JC Whitney in 1997.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
1/12/22 5:58 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

So, we have determined that across a given type of modification there are good choices and bad choices. You can still buy ugly aftermarket wheels and some stock wheels look good. 

Lowering, however, always looks crappy.  Makes the proportions all wrong unless you cut and roll the wheelwells higher to even up the wheel gap.

Berck
Berck New Reader
1/12/22 6:19 p.m.

It used to be that 1-inch increase in wheel diameter was an improvement in looks.  With most cars, I think they look better.  Now it seems like a reduction by at *least* 2 inches improves looks.  And ride quality.  And probably performance too.  If only brake rotors also hadn't gotten so unnecessarily large.  I hate everything about the 19" wheels on the wife's Focus RS: I think they look dumb, they ride terribly, the tires are delicate and expensive, and your average semi truck has a better turning radius because Ford limited the steering angle to keep the 19's from hitting the wheel wells.  The winter wheels are 18", which provides only a barely-noticeable improvement in appearance.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
1/12/22 8:25 p.m.

In reply to Berck :

Going from 18s to 17s dramatically increased the visual appeal of my Volvo.  The 18s look Conestoga-ey.  The 17s, on the other hand..

 

The stock 235/40-18s limit the steering to two turns, and Volvo put metal grind pads on the fender liners for the tires to rub on.  Which they did.  A lot.  The 235/45-17s do not rub, and I could probably use thinner steering stops on the control arms to allow more steering.

I don't know how much genetics is shared between the 3rd gen Focus and the Volvo P2R, but P2R 18" wheels fit the FoRS and vice versa (330mm rotors allow 17s to fit the Volvo) and the steering is similarly limited.  The next generation S60 looks a lot like a Focus underneath...

Feedyurhed
Feedyurhed UltraDork
1/12/22 8:49 p.m.

I think a stock vehicle kept in really nice, like new condition is just about the best after market thing you can do. My favorite type of vehicle is unrestored, unmolested and like new. Having said that, I do like older vehicles that have a nice "patina" also.

AClockworkGarage
AClockworkGarage Dork
1/13/22 2:05 a.m.

Smoked taillight covers.

 

Not like limo tint black, but just enough to dampen the brightness when they're off.

rslifkin
rslifkin UberDork
1/13/22 8:15 a.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

Lowering, however, always looks crappy.  Makes the proportions all wrong unless you cut and roll the wheelwells higher to even up the wheel gap.

Depends on the car.  Some have well proportioned wheel wells that look wrong after lowering, others look weird until they're lowered a bit.  Look at a Ford EcoSport for a really bad example.  The wheel wells are a good 2 inches too tall for where the tires sit in them (and their front/back length), so a good drop would fix the "skipped leg day" look those come with. 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
1/13/22 9:02 a.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

In reply to Berck :

Going from 18s to 17s dramatically increased the visual appeal of my Volvo.  The 18s look Conestoga-ey.  The 17s, on the other hand..

 

The stock 235/40-18s limit the steering to two turns, and Volvo put metal grind pads on the fender liners for the tires to rub on.  Which they did.  A lot.  The 235/45-17s do not rub, and I could probably use thinner steering stops on the control arms to allow more steering.

I don't know how much genetics is shared between the 3rd gen Focus and the Volvo P2R, but P2R 18" wheels fit the FoRS and vice versa (330mm rotors allow 17s to fit the Volvo) and the steering is similarly limited.  The next generation S60 looks a lot like a Focus underneath...

That's interesting that a 0.3% difference, with taller sidewalls on the 17s made such a big difference. Sounds like there is an offset difference between the 18s and 17s.

Pushrod
Pushrod Reader
1/13/22 10:18 a.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

This.

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
1/13/22 10:29 a.m.

The only "upgrade" I can think of that makes every car look better to me is a good looking blonde.  No disrespect intended for any of our female readers.

Mr. Peabody
Mr. Peabody UltimaDork
1/13/22 10:34 a.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:
Keith Tanner said:

So, we have determined that across a given type of modification there are good choices and bad choices. You can still buy ugly aftermarket wheels and some stock wheels look good. 

Lowering, however, always looks crappy.  Makes the proportions all wrong unless you cut and roll the wheelwells higher to even up the wheel gap.

I've never seen a car that didn't look better tastefully* lowered

* My kids and I disagree on the extent of lowering that is tasteful. I'm a Pro-kit kind of guy and they're all about the Sportline

93EXCivic
93EXCivic MegaDork
1/13/22 11:17 a.m.

Aftermarket steering wheels also always make a car look better (not always a good idea but they always look better).

petemc53555
petemc53555 New Reader
1/14/22 10:46 a.m.
z31maniac said:
Duke said:

NO!  *Batman slap*

I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't care for window tint, at least on sporty cars. 

Although whatever I get next will definitely have the clear heat rejection tint to help with Oklahoma summers. 

Sorry you are both WRONG.

Tint (not blacked out) for the win! 

Except convertibles, that's just dumb. 

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