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Auto Annoyances: 10 Things That Raise My Compression Ratio

Posted in Car Accessories, car modifications, Cars, FAIL, General by Kurt Ernst | March 13th, 2010 | 20 Responses |

At least it doesn't have gold emblems.

I’m a pretty easygoing guy, and I’m generally not one to lecture on wrong versus right, especially when it comes to issues of style. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and nothing says that louder than the car you drive, how you treat it and how you customize it. There are a few sins I can’t forgive, because everytime I see them it’s like nails across a chalkboard inside my head. Please, people, for the love of God, don’t do any of the following to your car.

Cheap Tires On High End Sports Cars

Nangkang tires on a Boxster? That'll end well.

Nothing says “I’m a poser who really wanted a Camry, but my wife insisted on this damn Corvette Z06” more than no-name tires on a late model sports car. If you’ve got the coin to drop on a ‘Vette, or a Porsche, or anything aimed at above average acceleration, braking and handling, don’t cheap out on tires. Buy name brand tires from a reputable manufacturer like Bridgestone, Yokohama, BF Goodrich, Goodyear, Pirelli, et cetera. Cheap tires not only limit the car’s performance; they positively identify you as someone who bought the car only to look cool. They’re a clear indication that you know nothing about driving and rarely exceed the speed limit.

Spinner Wheels

Spinners - just say no.

Here’s one automotive fashion statement that I was glad to see die an early death. Why would you possibly want to double the weight of a car’s wheels? Do you like increased stopping distances, slower acceleration and worse handling? Do you like driving a car whose wheels feel perpetually out of balance? Maybe if I was smoking chronic and sucking down a few 40s (or some gin & juice) I’d get it. Since I actually like driving, it just escapes me.

Regular Gas In ‘Premium Only’ Cars

RTFM and do what it tells you.

There’s a reason, and a good one, that your manufacturer tells you what level of gasoline to use. Yes, you CAN use regular gasoline in a car designed for premium, but why would you want to? It reduces performance (since engine timing must be retarded to compensate for reduced octane levels), reduces MPG and risks engine damage if your knock sensor isn’t working. I want all the performance I can get out of a motor, and you can’t get that by reducing octane below what the manufacturer recommends. Don’t buy the car unless you can afford the gasoline it’s supposed to use; we’re only talking about fifty cents more per tankful, people.

Ignoring Oil Changes

This is what going 65,000 between oil changes looks like. Really.

Regular oil changes (at 3,000 mile or six month intervals) are the best way to ensure your motor lasts a long, long time. I’ve seen motors in new cars put a connecting rod through the block, because the owner didn’t know they still had to change the oil. This is basic stuff, people – if you can turn a wrench, you can change your own oil in an hour or less. Not comfortable doing it yourself? Take your car to a reputable garage instead of a “quick lube” place. There’s a reason that those guys are the cheapest in town.

Portholes, Fake Badges, And Other Farkles

The horror. Firebombing this car would an act of mercy.

Portholes were cool on vintage Buicks, just like STi badges are cool on real STis, Type R badges are cool on real Integra Type Rs, and BMW M badges are cool on real M series cars. If your car didn’t come with it from the factory, don’t add it.

On the other hand, I’m all for shaving badges and making your Dinan supercharged and nitrous injected M3 look like a simple 328i. Q ships (Google it if you don’t know the meaning) are inherently cool; poseur cars are not.

Steering Wheel Covers

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Not to brag, but I’m a pretty confident guy. It takes quite a bit to get me rattled, and I’m pretty comfortable in my ability to deal with whatever fate has in store for me. Still, few things send chills up my spine and trigger my flight reflex quicker than a leopard skin or fleece steering wheel cover. Beware, folks, because it says the driver is unpredictable and is far more concerned with applying lip gloss, drinking their mochachino and eating their triple bacon cheeseburger than they are with driving. Like a springbok who spots a lion on the African plain, a steering wheel cover is your signal to get the hell out of Dodge, and do it quickly.

Rear Wings On FWD Cars

More weight, less speed, less traction? Sounds good to me.

Mike already covered this, so I’ll keep it short: don’t do it. Less traction over your drive wheels, at high speed, in a corner is never a good thing. Trust me on this.

Bad Body Kits

No, seriously. You paid money for that?

Well designed body kits cost good money. They’re made to fit specific years, makes and models and offer tangible benefits such as increased downforce. Generally speaking, you won’t find them on eBay for $100.

If you opt for a cheap body kit, chances are good it was designed to fit more than one make, model or year. Chances are even better that all the Bondo your local auto parts store has in stock still won’t make it fit properly, or look good. Or eliminate that annoying whistle you get at any speed above 30 mph.

Put the money you would have wasted on a body kit into something that increases your car’s performance, like tires and wheels, stiffer springs, thicker sway bars, better struts or intake / exhaust parts. None of these require Bondo, and all of them make your car go faster (something a cheap body kit won’t do).

Grapefruit Launcher Exhausts

Three inch exhaust, one inch feed. Yeah, that'll work.

I’m not slamming aftermarket exhausts, as long as they produce tangible benefits without creating too much noise. Somewhere along the line, however, low buck tuners got the idea that “bigger is always better” and started producing exhausts with ridiculous diameters and obnoxious, bleating tones. There is a science behind creating horsepower, and an unrestricted exhaust will create top end power at the expense of low end and midrange power. This is fine for use on a racetrack, but not so good for use on the street.

Also, ask yourself this: If the exhaust pipe diameter is an inch and a quarter from the manifold through the (stock) catalyst and into your new exhaust with a six inch diameter tip, how much of a gain are you really going to see?

Gold Emblems

You actually pay money for these?

I don’t know why this trend, like vinyl roofs, refuses to die a quiet death. Nothing says “cheesy” quite as loudly or effectively as a gold emblem on a car. It screams, “I want you to notice that I’m driving a Cadillac / Camry / Geo Metro that’s DIFFERENT. Just like everybody elses.”

One of these days I’m going to start a campaign to rid the world of gold emblems once and for all. Under cover of night, our shock troops will set out with rolls of dental floss (to shave the emblems), cans of silver spray paint and bottles of contact cement to re-affix the properly colored emblems. I’m counting on an army of volunteers, because we have so much tackiness and so little time.

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20 Responses

  1. inthebuff says:

    Awesome. Love the part about the tires. I actually saw a Porsche Cayenne with some generic tires on the rims. wtf,o?

  2. JohnK says:

    Yes, I agree 100% with these observations!

  3. Johnny Blaze22 says:

    Dead on !!! Especially the exhaust part, I had some friends bash me for putting a full exhaust ( headers to bumper) on my altima, they said I could have saved money by just buying one of those stupid ass mufflers that look like they belong on a tank, and I would get the same results !!! MORONS !!! They got the picture every time we rolled out of town and Im blowing thier doors off on the interstate !!!!! LMAO !!! They all spent thier money on kits, graphics and wings and I spent mine on engine,(non chrome) wheels& ZR rated goodriches, exhaust and intake. Im guessing they are still wondering why they keep getting pulled over in thier clown cars, while I blend in and still leave them far behind !

  4. Kurt says:

    Johnny, right on. I’d rather drive a fast car that looks slow than a poser car that looks fast. You’d be amazed at how many people I surprised in a “stock” Miata, especially in the twisties.

  5. Hlavco says:

    I don’t mind the gold emblems, particularly in the picture you used which I think looks quite nice. I will agree on everything else in the list.

    One other thing that bugs me, even though you seem not to have a problem with it, is the removal of badging from cars. Three reasons:

    1. When I see a no-name product, I think “dollar store”.

    2. On the off chance I don’t know what kind of car it is, not being able to find out is frustrating.

    3. It can lead to large, boring expanses of empty sheetmetal or grille space. The emblems are good for breaking that up.

  6. Andy says:

    Completely agree except for the tires. Who’s to say that the guy with the corvette does not have a set of track tires at home?

  7. Kurt says:

    Andy, tires are one of the key factors in a car’s handling. They determine how much traction a car has in a corner, how quickly it can stop and (to so degree) how quickly it can accelerate.

    If you track a car, I’m all for a second set of wheels with “track only” tires mounted. Still, on the street, there is no excuse to compromise with bargain basement tires. Stick to a reputable manufacturer (including Kumho, Hankook, Sumitomo, etc).

  8. Kevin says:

    I have to agree with all of your insights, but I would like to add to your tire comment with a wheel ammendment. I hate it when you see someone with really expensive, high polished 5 spoke wheels on their sports car (any one will do) and leave the stock, gray brake calipers and the tiny rotors. OK, it’s not going to hurt performance to leave the stocks, but if you’re gonna drop some pretty serious change on a set of wheels I think you should do the rest – just like the tires.

    Even worse, the car has the wheels and drilled out Brembo rotors, but they leave the stock, gray calipers. Why???

  9. Nephilim says:

    Spot on as usual. I will however argue in favor specifically of the ‘finger groove’ type cover made by Auto Expressions. I have one on my 5-speed Jeep Wrangler because when I’m out in the rough stuff I like the extra grip I get with one hand while the other is shifting (quite often).

  10. Kurt says:

    Nephilim, I’m good with that as long as it isn’t fleece or leopard skin…

  11. Nephilim says:

    Ah, ok. I agree completely!

  12. 68SportFury says:

    “Grapefruit Launcher Exhausts”–or, as I call them, “Fart Cans,” for how they sound and what they look like.

  13. Zack says:

    I CANNOT stand bras! I think they are way worse then gold emblems. Its called washing your car! they’re ugly and make your car look ugly!

  14. Kurt says:

    Zack, how do you feel about thongs?

  15. Bud Franklin says:

    I have a few Cars… Like my R/T 10 Viper ….. I got TA KDW 275 40 17 on the front a Z rated at 180 treadwear rating (that is how soft the tire is for those who don’t know) …. Ca is a 96 with 19,000 on it larger injecters biger throttle bodies (2) and full Borla exhaust headers back… My bitch for all you guys who don’t know is that I can not find a decent rear tire for it unless I want a P Zero 600 = s&h and Mount and Balance (tirerack) or a godyear F! 500 plus same cost so about 8-9 hundred each 335 35 17 are not made by all those Great tire Companiesyou mention…. Khumo is showing one I have ordered it .. tirerack wants me to cancel as they are a great tire at 240 ea… but they are and have been back ordered for several months now…I talked to the international distributor with no relief in site… buts me in a bad spot , my tire still have tread and are good just old… one brand not mentioned is my racing set TOYO Proxy RA-1 Great tire 40 treadwear 900 a set and I wear them out in one weekend . ps they don’t make a 335 either…. I couldn’t run the Mojave Mile because I didn’t get the tires yet. I will probally go to Perrili’s Ok but get it I am not rich..I love cars and have since I was 12 …going deaf because I pitted on a funny car . now I road racea race car not the Viper… But PLEASE research the PROWLER I Have 01 Black Tie edition ..these were handmade cars, only way 2780 the most aluminum any American car ever all hand welded… they Made 163 of them BLK Tie mine is # 87 reflashed computer now 300hp at 2780 with only 11,704 built in total including 2002 after Plymouth went out of Business..Don’t buy a 2002… Bought it in NC drove This is a super rare car that I drove on back roads all over the US 4 6 weeks…to home CA it is almost as fast as my Viper and is much easier and better handling car. Built like a F1 car underneth…. Last one sold at auction BLK TI was 2004 @ 66,600 mine is w/haggerty at $110,000 and I wouldn’t sell it for that even now that it has almost 10k miles…. don’t hate me I have busted my knuckles and ass and finally had an invention hit on a 1-800 ad ..I am 53 now I have 9 collector cars with a 67 Ram Air 400 Firebirdas my 20th Fbody… not bragging just telling my goals I had and lived ..you can to. But I wish I could get great tires in 335 35 17… all would be well….Bud

  16. Jake says:

    I agree for most of these except the gold emblems- they actually look pretty cool.

    But I’d like to bring up a few things.
    1. HUGE rims with low profile tires on SUVs. It just looks so stupid! It completely cancels out the whole purpose of the SUV. I mean, 30 inches of chrome, 1 inch of rubber. How do they even tell if they have a flat? Seems like it would handle the same either way.
    2. Primer-only paint jobs. That seems to be popular where I live. Tons of people slap some cheap primer on there and think they have the coolest ride in town. I went to choose some paint and primer, and I was asking the cashier about how the gloss red would look with the clear coat I had chosen. He said I should just put some of their red primer on it and be done. He said it would look sharp like that. I think that if you’re gonna paint a car, do it right or don’t do it at all.

  17. JR says:

    i dont get whats so wrong with the body kit on the accord? explanation?

  18. Kurt says:

    Aside from the fact that it’s hideous and actually makes the car slower, you mean?

  19. PENFOLD says:

    Gold Emblems & Gold Trim = DOUCHEBAG

  20. amped says:


    You are 100% spot on almost all of these issues. However there’s a two things I want to voice my opinion on.

    First of all while nankang isn’t a well established brand. It is definitely not a crappy tire. There are a lot of “new” to the North American market tire manufacturers that make excellent tires. Nankang is one of them especially their NS-02 tires. One of my closest friends runs 18″ Nankang NS-02 on his 650hp Z32 300ZX and they grip amazingly. While they are still not at par with Bridgestone Potenza’s, Advan Neova’s, etc…. they still do a pretty good job. So good in fact there are 2 professional drifters running Nankang tires in DMCC and they are not sponsored nor required to run those tires.

    Second is about the rear spoiler on FWD cars. First of all let me make it clear I do not drive a FWD car nor own one. I have 2 RWD coupes and 1 4WD coupe. Spoilers if applied properly with the proper supporting mods will aid any car greatly regardless of FWD, RWD, 4WD/AWD. If someone was just running a rear spoiler on his civic then yes you are correct about your point. However if someone was running a front lip spoiler, front under diffuser, rear under diffuser, and rear spoiler then the rear spoiler does help improve grip without negating front grip and help prevent oversteer(yes it does happen on FWD cars).