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05 2022 Rivian R1S 4x4 EV Charging

3 Easy Performance Parts Upgrades to Make from Your Driveway

Many truck and off-road upgrades are designed to be straightforward installations. Who wants to spend time wrenching when you could be cruising the streets or crawling over rocks? In some cases, it’s easier to have 4 Wheel Parts install your upgrades for you in one of their professionally staffed shops, but other projects can be done on your own easily enough, if you have the time and the tools.

Want the pride that comes with installing your own parts, or you just can’t get your vehicle to the shop without an expensive tow? Here are three things you can do to upgrade your performance from where it sits on your driveway.

03 4WP Factory Wheels Jeep Wrangler JL

Wheel Upgrades to Make from Your Driveway

You might be inclined to believe that upgrading your wheels is more of an aesthetic than for performance. That can be true, but some wheels can definitely improve how your truck of SUV performs. 

First, there’s the obvious traction improvement. Changing to a more street-focused tire can help you put your power to the ground more effectively so you hook up better. If the performance you’re looking for is offroad traction, then knobby mud terrain or all-terrain tires is guaranteed to be better than stock tires.

Wheels performance upgrades make a significant difference, too. Lighter rims will reduce the unsprung mass, making it easier to get past inertia if acceleration is your goal. For offroading, smaller rims and taller tires are the combo you want to make your pass without damaging them. You don’t increase horsepower with new wheels, but it helps to make the most of the power you already have.

14 2021 Ram 1500 Rebel TRX Beadlock Wheels

Installing Wheels at Home

You’ll need your rims and tires already mounted since balancing is a job you can’t easily do at home. Then, all it takes is a floor jack, jack stands, an impact wrench or lug nut wrench, torque wrench or torque stick, and some muscle.

It’s easiest to jack up one wheel at a time and swap it out for your upgrade. Break the lug nuts loose before lifting it, then remove them fully when the wheel’s in the air. Switch off the rim and tire, install and tighten your lug nuts, then lower the truck. Torque the lug nuts when it’s on the floor again.

2022 Ford F 150 Lightning 13b

Upgrading Your Exhaust on Your Own

It’s going to take a couple of hours or so if you want to make exhaust performance upgrades in your driveway. Access is the biggest inhibitor, but a bit of wiggling and maneuvering on your back will make it work. Depending on the kit you want to install, the performance increases could be 10% or more, which is pretty impressive for the cost of an exhaust system. 

And who doesn’t love it when your truck has that mean, aggressive growl with a bass note it didn’t have before? There are tons of exhaust upgrades available to achieve the sound, the performance improvement, or both, from brands like Borla, Magnaflow, Banks Power, ARB, and most others you’ve heard of. Replace just the muffler, an axle-back system, or a cat-back system without blowing your whole budget.

06 leveled toyota tundra

Installing a New Exhaust

If you have the ability to lift your whole truck, now’s the time to do it. But it’s not mandatory if you have stock ground clearance either—it just gives you a little less room to move. If your exhaust has been installed for a while, soak all your fasteners in penetrating fluid for a couple of hours. Then, use an impact wrench to break the bolts loose. 

Remove the exhaust in sections if you can, since the whole system is more complicated than a Rubik’s Cube to get out when it’s whole. Loosely fit all the parts for your new exhaust system to mock it up before tightening the clamps and bolts. 

20 2021 Ram 1500 Rebel TRX 8 speed ZF 8HP95 Auto Shifter

How to Know if Your Shifter Needs Upgrading

You might wonder why upgrading your shifter is important at all. First, there’s the appearance. Some upgraded shifters have better-looking knobs like those from DV8. Seriously, there’s some sweet grips available. But when performance is your motivator, then a new shifter can be clutch (pun intended) because of a longer or shorter throw, a more driver-centric angle, or because the shifter is easier to hold onto when you’re rocking side to side as you climb over boulders.

A shifter performance upgrade isn’t an option for every truck or SUV, especially if you have a column shifter. But if you have a 5-speed or 6-speed rower on the floor, there’s likely a performance shifter available, and it’s particularly common for the Jeep Wrangler.

Installing a Performance Shifter

Some shifters are a quick and easy job from inside the cab, only requiring a few common hand tools and, of course, trim sticks to get the plastic off without damaging it. With the trim out of the way and the shifter boot off, unbolt the shifter from the top of the transmission. 

Here’s where some work might be required. Linkage might need to be detached from the tranny from underneath. If yours can’t be accessed from the cab, crawl under the truck and get it done. It’s best to check the installation manual for your specific vehicle to determine what the process is. Then, button up the job afterward.

08 2022 Rivian R1T 4x4 EV Bed Storage Compartment

Other Performance Upgrades You Can Do at Home

Looking to ratchet up the performance without paying a tech for labor? A few other upgrades you can do on your own include: 

  • A cold air intake. It’s a relatively quick install and can add between 5 and 20 horsepower for a high-quality kit.

  • A tonneau cover. While it doesn’t add to your horsepower, it reduces drag from wind resistance that will make it feel like you have more power.

  • An ECU tuner. Map your fuel, throttle, shift points, and more with a tuner that literally plugs into the OBDII port and a power source.