Ever since the mass production of cars started in the early 20th century, the industry of aftermarket parts and accessories has flourished. There is always something car fans can add, modify or change in looks or performance of a vehicle. So, there have always been small companies to produce these parts. Over the years, the aftermarket segment in the car industry grew to a massive size. In fact, as of 2016, the aftermarket parts market is worth over $100 billion.
So, what is an aftermarket item? Everything you put on your car after you buy it is aftermarket. Although car makers have made or homologated many OEM parts and accessories, most owners install components from aftermarket companies. These companies don’t have any official connection with the car manufacturer. If you want to tune the performance significantly or change the looks of your ride, aftermarket suppliers are your only choice.
In such a big market, drivers can find practically everything they can think of for their car. They include engine replacements and components for performance modifications. You can also buy subtle aesthetics mods and over the top accessories. There are also outlandish details, useless parts and crazy stickers. Truth be told, there are so many car accessories on the market, it is hard to distinguish the useful aftermarket parts from the useless ones’
More importantly, people need to be able to discern between quality parts from poorly made components to be safe on the roads. If you would like to learn more about aftermarket car parts and accessories, here is a list of dumbest car accessories and mods in the car industry. Most of the items on this list are useless and will help you avoid wasting your money or even compromising your safety. Read on to learn lots more.
1. Fake European License Plates
If you are a regular attendee at car shows, you might notice cars with two sets of license plates on them. One is a regular set of U.S. plates, and one is a European or German plate behind it. As you may know, it is rare to see foreign license plates on U.S. roads. It is also rare to spot a car with a Europe registration. However, most pretentious owners of European cars, mostly BMWs, like to obtain pairs of faux-German license plates.
They mount them on their cars to confuse the car show crowd. These plates make people think their car is an EU spec model imported to the U.S. They can also make people think the owner is Germans who just happened to drive their cars in America. Either way, this is a useless, tacky mod that makes you look silly since everybody can see you are driving a regular U.S. spec model with a pair of German plates.
2. Fake Performance Chips
Ever since car engines included computer units to monitor and control their proper functioning, performance chips have become some of the most popular modifications. However, there is a big difference between the products on the market and their applications. First, you have to know where the performance chip goes and where it will make a notable difference.
Turbocharged engines will benefit from this modification the most since the performance chip changes the settings in the main engine ECU. This helps it deliver more fuel and boost, which will result in more power. Naturally aspirated engines will not get anything from a performance chip. It is likely you will have problems with the warranty and the engine check light will stay on constantly.
There’s an enormous number of aftermarket companies that sell fake performance chips. They claim you will get more power and better mileage from them. But in most cases, you will only have more problems when messing with a highly advanced ECU unit. If you want to tune your engine the right way, use a bolt-on kit for a naturally aspirated engine. You can also get a proper custom built chip from a renowned company if you have a turbocharged engine.
3. Fast Food Tray
This is one of the most absurd accessories in recent years. It is an expandable small plastic tray that mounts to your cup holder space in the central console. This makes it a place where you can put your fast food meal. In theory, it sounds practical but in real life, it is a proper mess.
First, they made this food tray out of poor quality plastic, so it is all wobbly and not stable. Second, the fitting doesn’t always work since different car manufacturers have different sizes of cup holders. Third, it is impractical in real life conditions. If you use it while driving, it will make a mess. Food could slide off it when you take a turn, or hit bumps or potholes.
Imagine how your interior would look when a burger with ketchup mixes with a large soda and greasy French fries inside. The advice is simple: do not buy this fast food tray to eat your food. You can also eat at a restaurant or dine while stationary.
4. Fuel Line Magnets
With the steady spike in fuel prices and a constant quest for cleaner emissions, some aftermarket companies have presented fuel magnets. These devices supposedly help your car’s fuel economy. They also claim to deliver smoother running and cleaner emissions. It sounds too good to be true and it is.
Many car magazines and websites had proven fuel line magnets are a hoax. The idea behind the fuel magnets is straightforward. These magnets help fuel molecules line up while running through the fuel lines. This lining up process is supposed to improve combustion and deliver more power. The result is better performance and lower air emissions.
However, none of this will happen since magnets don’t affect fuel molecules. Mounting this accessory on your engine will do nothing but leave you with less money in your pocket. So, the next time you see those ads for fuel magnets, remember it is a total rip off.
5. Engine Sound Simulators
Engine sound simulators are as ridiculous as they sound. They are a small device you mount on your car stereo. It plays engine sounds through your speakers. So, if you drive a slow economy four-cylinder compact car, you can imagine operating a loud performance machine.
With this device, you can mimic that, but only inside your car. Imagine playing the sounds of a mighty V8 rumble or a screaming V12 engine. You could consider buying an engine sound simulator just for giggles. However, people have reported the sound device is rubbish because of sounds lags. This makes it rather useless and silly.
6. Oversized Spoilers
The sole purpose of spoilers is to create the downforce necessary to press the car to the ground. This helps stability at high speeds. In theory, the bigger the surface of the spoiler, the more effective it is at producing downforce. However, most overenthusiastic owners thought having an oversized spoiler on their cars would help them be faster and handle better.
But since they don’t drive a Formula One car, these big spoilers are unnecessary. For starters, they do nothing since regular street cars are never fast enough. So, the spoiler wouldn’t make a difference. And if the driver operated their car so fast on the streets, they would end up in jail.
On the other hand, those big spoilers affect visibility. They are also heavy, so you have to mount special brackets and drill holes in your trunk. All in all, this is an unnecessary and often tacky modification you can do without.
7. Bogus Vents and Hood Scoops
Vents and hood scoops are important parts of engine cooling system. They deliver fresh air to the intake manifold. They also release the extensive heat that performance cars generate. That is why all fast and powerful cars have big scoops for additional cooling and heat release. All of this is functional and avoids overheating.
For those who want to make their car appear faster and more powerful, there are numerous fake hood scoops and vents on the market. This is a simple and quite frankly a terrible mod. Plastic scoops and vents are inexpensive and easy to install. All you have to do is glue them to your hood, fenders or roof.
From a distance, it may look like you did a good job, but poor-quality items will soon start to fall off. They can also leave glue marks on your paint. If you want to avoid facing disrespect from your fellow car lovers, don’t bother with plastic knockoffs. You can recognize a fake scoop from a mile away.
8. Fake Model Decals
Fake model decals are one of the most affordable and useless modifications you can do to your car. These decals will do nothing for the looks or the performance of your vehicle. However, these fake model stickers can kill any respect from your fellow car fans. One of the first unwritten rules of car hobbyists is to never present your car as something it isn’t.
Although you can buy any badge or model decal straight from the manufacturer, you should only put what is appropriate on your car. For example, if you drive an economy spec four-cylinder BMW, you should never put a M3 badge on your car since it will ruin your reputation amongst the other car fans. Also, if you have a V8 Mustang, please never put Shelby or Boss 302 badges.
9. Neon Lights
The early 2000’s brought us a whole new tuning scene with those Fast and Furious movies. They included some crazy looking vinyl wraps and neon lights underneath cars. Most people admit that they looked cool for a while. The sight of a car running through the night with a green glow underneath it was something interesting for a couple of years.
The modification itself was nothing special. It didn’t help you go faster or be more stable. In fact, you just looked like a part of the parking lot. As the years have passed and the car tuning scene has moved on, neon lights under cars are outdated and not cool.
10. Oversized Wheels
Since the 90’s, the car industry trend was to introduce bigger wheels with each new generation. Bigger wheels with wider rubber provide better stability and look better. However, if you go to the extreme, big wheels will not fit your wheel arches and will rub the inside. Big wheels also require thin tires.
Thin wheels make hitting potholes and bumps especially painful. They can even cause expensive damage to your wheels, rubber and suspension setup. Most manufacturers stopped at 19 or 20” rims. This is the maximum size for normal driving in real life conditions. However, aftermarket wheel companies produce wheels up to 34-inches in size, which is ridiculous.
SEMA show cars and concepts have up to 24-inch wheels. This is still somewhat usable on the street. But, anything over that is hard to mount on a normal car. It often requires thorough modifications to the suspension, brakes and axles. Although oversized wheels look astonishing, for real-life driving, stick to the normal sizes.
11. Lambo Style Doors
Lambo style doors are an obnoxious, pretentious modification that became popular in the early 2000’s. You can still can see these doors on various tuning cars. Lamborghini and similar high-priced exotics all had scissor-type doors. In the early 2000’s, several small companies offered DIY kits for turning ordinary doors into Lambo-style ones.
The aftermarket crowd went crazy for the new Lambo modification. Interestingly, racers and JDM fans installed these kits on their four-cylinder Hondas and Mazdas. Then Lamborghini abandoned the Lambo style door idea. They introduced regular style doors for their Gallardo model. Most car fans agree that Lambo doors look out of place on anything other than the Aventador, and that is the way it should be.
12. Fake Chrome Spinning Hubcaps
You might remember those shiny chrome rims with rotating inserts that were all the craze a few years back. Almost every rap video had at least one big SUV with spinners. All the aftermarket companies did their best to present as many styles and shapes as they could. Fortunately, the trend is now over and the only people with spinning rims are stuck somewhere in 2008.
However, occasionally you may see cars with plastic hubcaps and spinners. This is the poor man’s way of having chrome spinning rims. For just a few dollars, you can be the proud owner of one of the most useless car mods. Fake plastic chrome hubcaps and spinners are the personification of automotive kitsch.
13. Fake Bullet Holes Stickers
Do you think those real gangsters drove around in bullet-ridden cars? Of course not, but for some reason, stickers imitating bullet holes became popular. In fact, people tend to put them on their fenders, doors and trunk. Why would anybody want to have a car that looks like it has been in the war zone? They are not funny and not cool so most people don’t buy them.
14. Car Bras
Among useless modifications, car bras did work to protect your front end from damage caused by chips, road debris and dust. Back in the day when they invented this, the paint was much more sensitive. There weren’t chemicals like protection clear coat that could cover your paint and make it more durable.
The main design feature of every car is its front end, so by using a car bra, you make it look ugly. It is far better to invest in professional paint protection chemicals and procedures than to stick an ugly piece of black plastic on your ride.
15. Whistle Tips
This is one of the most annoying things you can put on your car. Basically, it is a whistle you mount on the tip of your exhaust. It makes high screaming pitch while you drive. There is no practical function, no cool effect, and no sense whatsoever. Fortunately, some states have banned this irritating, useless mod.
16. Fake Hood Pins
Hood pins are a welcome addition if you are building a race car and are obsessed with weight savings. However, if you have a regular street car, there is no need for hood pins since the amount of weight you will save is insignificant.
You will just look silly. People will laugh at the sight of you opening your hood the old-fashioned way and then releasing the hood pins. Hood pins are double the work and no benefits for the streets.
17. Fake Carbon Fiber
Truth be told, carbon fiber is the material of the future. Incredibly light, durable and expensive, it is the basis for constructing many high-end sports and race cars. There is no doubt carbon fiber will have a positive effect on road cars. Car makers can use it as a material for bodywork panels or something structural. That is why top-notch tuner shops use carbon fiber for complex projects.
However, if you are a car enthusiast on a budget, you probably can’t afford those pricey carbon fiber hoods or roof panels. To save money, some people use plastic wrap with carbon pattern to cover various parts of the car body. The effect is similar to putting faux badges on your economy car. Just one look from other drivers will reveal the true nature of the material and you will lose all respect.
18. Vinyl Wraps
Vinyl wraps are popular since they perfectly mimic real paint jobs. They are also durable and the choices of designs and colors are endless. However, most people who wrap their cars do so in outlandish colors or patterns, often replicating famous brands from the fashion industry.
Other car fans don’t know what is the deal with that. They will notice that Gucci or Louis Vuitton didn’t paint your car. Also, there’s one thing you should know before starting the wrapping process. The wrap could affect the paint and the lacquer of your car. So, if somebody without much experience does your wrapping, they could ruin your paint job.
19. Bedazzled Car Accessories
You may have seen smartphones, handbags and clothing bedazzled with various shiny crystals and details. However, most car enthusiasts are against this trend in car interiors. Putting crystals on your steering wheel, center console or gear lever will not help you in any way, shape or form.
20. Bumper Stickers
For a long time, drivers thought bumper stickers were cool. They communicated the car owner’s hobbies, as well as their political and religious views. They even proclaimed the driver’s favorite band or sports team. But that was before social networks where you could do that to a bigger audience. Today, self-righteous stickers are totally out of fashion and annoying, but luckily easy to remove.
21. Oversized tailpipes and mufflers
In order to emphasize the performance aspect of their vehicle, owners often install oversized tailpipes and mufflers. Apart from being totally unnecessary, it is pretty dumb since it only creates loud noises and doesn’t make your car any faster or better accelerating.
22. Rolling Coal
In these environmental-cautious times when people try to protect the environment and turn to hybrids or electric cars, there are still some enthusiasts who take pride in polluting the environment. This is how the Rolling Coal movement was born. What is this exactly? Well, if you own a diesel truck you will notice that it produces a small amount of black smoke. People who wanted to show their disrespect for the nature modify their trucks to puff large amounts of black smoke by removing catalyzers or messing with the exhaust. The result is black smoke screen while revving and annoying the rest of the people on the stop lights and traffic jams.
23. Installing bits and pieces from other cars
Ever saw Ford Taurus with a Mustang front clip installed? Well, we did and it is hideous. Some people like to combine two cars and interchange grills, headlights or fenders. However, not only that this is dumb and will always get bad results but it could get you in trouble at the DMV.
24. Painting a mural
During the `70s, it was acceptable to drive lively colored vans with murals painted on the side, but those days are long gone. Today, painting a picture on the hood or on the side of your vehicle is extremely tacky and kitsch. Except if you own a low rider in which case it is a part of the decoration and unique style.
25. Turning it into convertible
If you own a closed top car, it is always a bad idea to turn it into a convertible using a grinder and a pair of friends. Chopping the top off will ruin your car since it will lose the structural rigidity and could fell apart. It is always better to save some more and buy real and properly engineered convertible than to destroy perfectly good coupe or sedan.
26. Installing a ridiculously loud sound system
You really don’t need several thousand watts amplifiers and speakers. Not only that it is unnecessary but it is also pretty expensive and heavy. The factory sound systems are good enough for most owners and if you are looking for perfect sound it is better to invest in quality speakers than in ludicrous sounds system in your trunk.
27. Homemade performance mods
Often, in a relentless quest to save money and still get performance, enthusiasts install homemade mods and parts to their cars. For example, air filter tubing made out of sewage tubes, custom designed ignition or exhaust systems. Although those components may be interesting in design, they are always lacking quality and fit of professionally built items. You should always avoid putting something like this on your car.
28. 5% Window Tints
The 5% window tint means that your window will let only 5% of the outside light inside. In some states tinting the windows this much is illegal. In order to look cool or protect their privacy some owners decide to fully tint side windows or even front windshield. This will work only if you live in a sunny area where every day is perfectly sunny and bright, but if you live in normal continental climate with gray winters and foggy autumns this will create serious problems with visibility.
29. Tinting rear lights
Yes, we know that blackout lights look cool but also it will be less visible for drivers behind you and yes, it can cause somebody to crash into your car. That is why this modification is illegal in some states as well as being pretty dumb everywhere else. The tinting rear lights were popular several years back but thankfully, people abandoned this mod.
30. Roll cage in your everyday car
Roll cage is an extremely important and mandatory item in any real racing car. It is a structural reinforcement of the cabin which gives the driver protection from the crash and keeps the body from collapsing in case of roll-overs or crashes. However, it is pointless to have it installed in your everyday car. Ok, we know you want to appear like a street racer and that your car is fast, but having a roll cage installed will just cripple your comfort and make everyday use much difficult.
These aftermarket mods and accessories may be inexpensive, but they are not worth any amount you may pay for them. You are better off to save your money and get a quality product that will be durable and attractive.