8 Affordable Ways to Improve Your Car’s Performance

Many car owners might assume that any work done to their car is expensive, complicated, and time-consuming. However, there are easy, quick, and inexpensive ways to improve your car’s performance, comfort, and longevity.

When you perform simple DIY car repair projects, you can save yourself time, money, and the hassle of dealing with a repair shop. Even if your car is already in great condition, the following upgrades can improve your vehicle’s safety, fuel economy, and horsepower.

1. Declutter Your Car to Reduce Weight

If you’ve owned your car for a while, you may have accumulated an abundance of items that you keep in the trunk, glove compartment, and back seat. While everyone keeps some essential items in their vehicle, clearing out some of this clutter can actually improve its performance and put less stress on the engine. Depending on the size of your vehicle, the payload limits could be surprisingly light.

If you have heavy or big items in your car, consider decluttering the things you don’t need to lighten the weight your vehicle carries. Keep your emergency items, such as your flat tire kit, but ditch non-essentials, such as your golf clubs. No matter what type of vehicle you have, removing excess weight allows you to feel an improvement in your vehicle’s performance and may positively affect gas mileage. The best part about this improvement is that it’s free and easy to do.

2. Invest in Premium Oil

Premium motor oil that’s fully synthetic costs generally $10 to $15 more than conventional motor oil. If you take your car in to get the oil changed at an auto shop instead of completing the vehicle repair at home, you’re likely to spend $50 to $75 on a synthetic motor oil change service.

This investment may be worth it if you have a vehicle that’s been racking up the miles. Synthetic premium motor oils contain additives that help lubricate the vehicle’s engine, improving your vehicle’s longevity, and helping high mileage cars to perform better. 

Synthetic oil is generally slicker, allowing it to flow more freely through your vehicle’s engine components. This ensures the oil doesn’t get thick and cause a buildup of sludge, which can exacerbate other problems. Premium motor oil is also often associated with better gas mileage, which saves you money in the long-run.

3. Get Polyurethane Bushings

Most vehicles come standard with rubber bushings, which absorb shock from bumps in the road. These bushings also absorb vibration and noise so the cabin remains quiet and passengers experience a smooth ride. 

Older cars may have rubber bushings that aren’t as absorbent as newer models or that simply may be worn out. When you upgrade your rubber bushings to polyurethane bushings, you may find your vehicle is more agile and comfortable to ride in. Polyurethane bushings are also more resistant to wear and tear, such as road salts and motor chemicals. This upgrade requires you to torch off the rubber bushings before installing the new ones, so it may be best to take your vehicle to a shop to complete the process. 

The price of new bushings depends on the type you choose and can average between $12 and $50. You’ll also be responsible for labor and installation charges if you choose to have your polyurethane bushings professionally installed.

4. Replace Spark Plugs and Air Filter

A clean air filter helps your car get the airflow it needs to run efficiently. When your spark plugs get worn out, your engine also has to work overtime to perform. Making sure these components are functioning properly or even upgrading these parts can lead to better performance, a healthier engine, and higher gas mileage.

If you’re not sure whether these parts need to be replaced, use a diagnostic tool to check on them first. You don’t have to be an expert to take advantage of a diagnostic tool — just search for your car to find the OBD port, then use the code library to look up any diagnostic readings you get. This way, you can see what you need and avoid costly or unnecessary replacements.

If you need help deciding on which OBD2 scanner to buy, try reading our in-depth OBD2 scanner recommendations for 2024.

Your investment in new spark plugs depends on the type you need for your vehicle but may average $10 to $40 for each component. You’ll need to look up the right size and type of air filter for your vehicle before replacing it, which could cost between $8 and $20.

5. Invest in a New Stereo Faceplate

A new stereo faceplate won’t improve the performance of your car or your gas mileage, but it may allow you and your passengers to enjoy the ride a bit more. If you have a new car, your radio and stereo system may already have the latest upgrades so you might want to skip this improvement. 

However, if you have an older vehicle, upgrading your system may allow you to gain access to an auxiliary port, allowing you to connect your portable music device directly to your car’s stereo. Depending on the model you choose, this could be a costly upgrade. New stereo faceplates can cost between $30 and $600, based on the features included.

6. Get a Reliable Set of Tires

A reliable and reputable set of tires allows your vehicle to grip the road more closely, even in rainy or snowy conditions. It’s worth investing in a good set of tires to ensure your car can safely operate in all road conditions. When you keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendations, you may also get better gas mileage and it’s less likely you’ll get a flat tire. 

The price for high-quality tires depends on your vehicle’s needs and the installation costs in your area. Winter or snow tires generally cost $60 to $550 while all-season tires are usually $50 to $200. 

7. Maintain Your Car as Needed

It’s easy to skip an oil change, forget to have your tires rotated, or opt out of an air filter replacement. However, these small maintenance tasks are what keep your car running at its best. In the long run, prioritizing basic maintenance can save you money as well as keep your car’s performance in good shape. Keep a maintenance schedule so you can stay on track with proper vehicle maintenance, especially if you have an older or high-mileage vehicle.

8. Buy from Reputable Dealers

It’s tempting to shop around online for the best deal on the parts you need for your vehicle. However, spending a little extra to ensure you're buying from a reputable dealer is important for the safety and longevity of your vehicle. 

If you buy parts that aren’t high-quality, you could waste time and money installing them, only to have to replace them again in a few months. It may cost you more money upfront to buy your parts from a reputable dealer but these quality products are better for your car and bound to last longer.

If you’re looking for simple and inexpensive ways to improve your vehicle’s performance, any one of these upgrades will help you toward a better functioning car. When you invest a little money and time into your car, you could get a smoother ride, higher gas mileage, and an engine that performs better.