I bought a car.

I’m not a huge car guy. I can’t do engine or suspension work. I don’t know how to change my oil. But when I actually BOUGHT my first non-parental car three years ago, a 2008 Toyota Corolla, I started doing some research. I learned right away that there is a lot of stupid stuff people do to ruin their cars. They add fake plastic parts; they Walmart-tint their windows, leaving all kinds of bubbles; and they add more lights and sounds than a church carnival.

At the same time, however, there are always a few aftermarket things you can do to improve your car. The guys at the factory in Michigan did a good job, but there are smart decisions an owner can make to result in a better experience.

Here are five things I plan to do to my 2012 Dodge Charger R/T Road & Track Edition HEMI V8 5.7 (and three things I won’t do).

1. Professional, legal, aftermarket tints

It’s $200 well-spent to hire a reputable pro to tint your car. This was one of the first things I did to my Corolla. In the spring, I’ll return to Rick Maas, at Eastern Glass Tinting Co. and have him do the standard tint job.

In Massachusetts, aftermarket tinting must allow more than 35 percent of light in on the front and rear side windows. There are a lot of benefits to getting it done. It protects your seats, keeps the car cool, and is an added security measure, keeping prying eyes at bay.

2. Mopar Front Strut Tower Brace

It’s not vital, so at $295 I won’t be diving into this right away. But Mopar’s Front Strut Tower Brace is one of the best suspension upgrades you can make for under $1,000. I’m not taking the car on the track or doing any racing, so I don’t need coilovers or lowering springs — which are popular with my former Corolla brethren.

A Tower Brace connects the left and right suspension at the top in the engine compartment. I did it with my Corolla, though I’m shocked I never wrote about it. I loved the results — less body-roll in corners, more responsive handling. I do want to check with a Dodge dealer before doing this, though. My R/T has some suspension options already, and a button called “Sport Mode” that I’m not sure what it does yet. (Appreciate any helpful comments below.)

The front bar is about $300. There’s a rear bar too, for $411, but it’s trickier to install and takes up trunk room from the photos I’ve seen. Westbury Jeep Chrysler Dodge, otherwise known as Moper Performance Online is the best website to start at, and it’s where I learned about these parts.

3. Billet Technology Signature Series Catch Can

Billet is a well-respected company in the automotive world. They machine quality parts, and that’s really all they have to do to maintain that level of respect.

Car forums are full of debate — try asking about the benefits of a Cold Air Intake — but one thing car guys tend to agree on: a catch can is a good idea.

What does it do? Here, I stole this right from the Billet website:

Question: What does the Billet Tech Catch Can do besides look good?

Answer: The Billet Tech Catch Can slows down and filters oil that may end up in the intake and combustion chambers. Oil in the combustion chamber could lower octane ratings that may cause your automobiles computer to sense knock/KR. This may cause a decrease in performance. The Billet Technology Catch Can helps decrease the symptoms of the scenarios described. So as you can see, the Billet Tech Catch Can not only looks good as stated, but performs flawlessly.

4. Install a drop-in K&N Air Filter

This one will be controversial with the guys and girls on the forums. I’m not going to replace my air intake — at least not yet. There is scattered proof that a cold air intake gives real tangible benefits. That is compounded by the fact that most of the benefits people see with an aftermarket intake are seen after the car is tuned properly afterward with another aftermarket product like the DiabloSport inTune. Trouble is, the codes are still locked up tight for the 2011 and 2012 Chargers.

Once the companies like DiabloSport catch up, I might consider playing with the air intake. Until then, I’m going to stick with a K&N drop-in filter. I used it in the Corolla to great results. It allows slightly better airflow than stock, and it only has to be cleaned every 50,000 miles or so. And it’s only $50.

5. One little stripe

I bought a black car with a black interior on purpose, but I think a tiny-yet-tasteful splash of color is in order. It also gives the car something unique to “me.”

I think a stripe on the rocker panels would be good. RiderGraphix has a nice kit for sale for $125 that I might purchase. I haven’t decided on a color yet, but I’m thinking yellow. Everyone else does red and blue, and I am not alone in thinking black and yellow go great together!

I won’t: 1. Change the exhaust

Absolutely unnecessary. My car has a cat-back system with dual tips. I am not interested in changing the sound that comes out. My car has a HEMI. That’s the sound you should hear when I pass you.

It’s $1-2,000 wasted plus installation. I’m good. I’d love to hear the argument for this.

I won’t: 2. Do a damn thing to the wheels, except maybe buy snow tires

Yes it’s a RWD car. (I actually thought it was AWD, but that’s another story.) The only thing I may have to do next year is buy some snow tires.

I am not doing a thing to change my wheels. I have 20″ chromes, and I’m happy. I’ve literally seen people paint OVER THE CHROME before. Jesus.

I won’t: 3. Add any unnecessary lighting

This is not “Fast and Furious 6” here. I don’t need any glow underneath my car. I’m also not hot on those aftermarket halo lights that make the car look European. It’s Detroit muscle, and it comes with HID lights and fogs.

There are tons and tons and tons of lighting accessories available for the Charger. I may do an LED replacement kit inside the car (I rented an Avenger that had the LED kit once, and was very pleased) but not much else.

But that’s just me. What do you do/want to do/don’t want to do to your ride? Let’s get a conversation started below. I’ll even join in.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

4 Responses

  1. Corey

    ” and they add more lights and sounds than a church carnival.”

    Died laughing. Nice write up!


  2. whatever

    Catch can is not really needed with stock engine IMHO. You might want to check out petty’s garage or speedlogix for the strut tower brace as they are/maybe lighter and made from 4130 Chrome Moly (Mopar doesn’t list type of steel) and can be had in a range of colors including your own custom one

  3. hemi

    Several mistakes.A you bought a black sedan,extremely hot in the summer,B as a fellow hemisphere owner. The exhaust is weak.you can’t hear crap it’s not 1 to 2 grand to Install a nice exhaust system..you can get mufflers and custom resonators.will increase response make it actually sound nice and you will enjoy driving it.last mistake is wheels.if you won’t change them at least Plastidip them.protects them,temperary,and decent looking, also cai.with just cai and muffler swap with reso delete I gained 23 bhp and got an extra 3 mpg avg.

  4. Matt

    An engine is an air pump. The faster you can get air in and out the more power you can make. I installed a cold air intake and a mid muffler delete kit. It now has a nice sound and better throttle response. All under $350. Best bang for your buck. I also plastic dipped my chrome wheel’ for 60 bucks. Peels right off when I don’t want it anymore. I to have a black RT I went with brass monkey wheel dip and painted my calipers red. Sets it off nice.


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