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8 essential car upgrades you need if you have the budget

Got a stock car and looking to scratch that itch?

Maintenance, tweaking, upgrading, or even personalizing your car is part of the overall ownership experience. Of course, we know cars are engineered to a cost, so there’s always a bit more leeway to improve at least the car’s safety and security.

We look at some of these cost-effective modifications and upgrades that should immensely impact your vehicle’s safety and security. And ultimately, these things will make your motoring life more pleasant and more enjoyable.

Window tint is arguably the best modification one can do to any new car. PHOTO BY HANS BOSSHARD

Window tint. This is an essential addition because it helps reduce energy consumption from the AC going at full blast, especially in the midday summer heat. It also gives privacy to the driver and his passengers in traffic, or when the car is left alone in the parking lot. In some cases, tint provides an added layer of defense against smash-and-grab incidents.

The new line of ceramic tint gives the best of both worlds: an almost blacked-out tint with excellent heat rejection when viewed from the outside, but surprisingly good visibility from the inside looking out. And they last longer, too.

Your car's dinky stock horn isn't enough to get you noticed on the road. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Car horn. This is such an affordable and easy upgrade that one wonders why not all cars have a better car horn. A horn allows your presence to be heard, felt, seen, and detected better on the road, alerting other motorists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists of your presence.

While its use should be minimized so as not to cause excessive noise pollution, it’s important especially in high-density traffic areas and busy streets—as well as on deserted roads—to have a powerful horn so others can be made aware that you are there. Handy when so many absent-minded people ply our roads.

We cannot stress enough how important it is to have a dashcam rolling at all times. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Dashboard cameras. These are becoming increasingly important these days because minor accidents are becoming equally common and rampant with the increased number of motorists, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Dashcams offer a form of insurance that indemnifies or proves innocent in the event of vehicular accidents.

Dashcams are also becoming important pieces of data-gathering for investigations, as seen in many K-dramas. Seriously though, dashcams can also protect you and your rights from erring, or stop corrupt law enforcement officers from looking to make a quick buck off you. Make it dual-facing and double your protection from tailgating crashes, too.

Older cars with halogen bulbs will greatly benefit from newer bulbs. PHOTO BY HANS BOSSHARD

Lights. This is a tricky subject, but I encourage car owners, especially those who travel out of town frequently or regularly, to install better lights. These can be simple halogen headlight upgrades, or the more popular LED drop-ins or better-than-OEM projector retrofits, which give a brighter, wider, longer and farther illumination at night.

If your car never came with factory-installed fog lights such as those on lower-trim variants, best to install these as well. If there is a rear fog lamp option for your car available from a foreign-market variant, order it as well. It won’t help you see better, but it will help you be seen better. Which can also be said of better, brighter headlights.

A reverse camera is the best way to keep the back end of your precious car dent-free. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

Reverse cameras (or reverse parking sensors). Typically, most modern cars, including mass-market cars, come equipped with a multimedia system that has auxiliary input for a camera.

And believe me, having a reverse camera for parallel-parking in tight spaces in Metro Manila is a huge benefit, and gives you so much confidence slotting your car into seemingly tight spaces without the need for assistance.

If your car doesn’t have a multimedia system with camera input, a sonar-based reverse parking sensor is the next best thing. The ideal solution would be to have both accessories fitted on your car.

While not needed on newer cars, this will benefit older vehicles more. PHOTO FROM VIPER SECURITY SYSTEMS

Alarm with immobilizer. Well, almost all modern cars already come equipped with an alarm and immobilizer. If you own an older vehicle, this is definitely a worthwhile necessity.

Deep-dish mats will save you a lot of time and money when a big spill happens. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Custom-fit deep-dish all-weather rubber matting. The custom fit ensures the mats don’t slide around and get wedged between the brakes and the floor. It also traps fluid, dirt, and mud, and makes cleaning easier. Plus, the deep-dish design ensures that the dirt stays within the matting. And because it is made of rubber, a quick rinse cleans it off easily.

Air purifiers will make your cabin a slightly safer and nicer place to be in. PHOTO FROM BLAUPUNKT

Air purifiers and ionizers. The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all much more conscious about health, wellness, and cleanliness. Having a USB or 12V plug-powered air purifier or ionizer helps keep the small cabin space cleaner and odor-free.

All these add-ons don’t cost a lot. They enhance safety and security, and make car ownership more enjoyable and confidence-inspiring. Happy motoring!

Botchi Santos

Botchi is your friendly, walking car encyclopedia. He loves helping people choose the right vehicle for themselves as much as he enjoys picking the right one for himself. Expect him to write about car culture, test drives and car-shopping advice. His regular column is called ‘Car Life’.