One of the most important aspects of car modification is ensuring that your car can be used safely on public roads. Unfortunately, this is often one of the most overlooked aspects of modifying your car. A modified street car must be safe not only for you as the drivers, and your passengers, but it must also be safe for other road users, including pedestrians. In fact, once you decide to modify your car you need to take responsibility for the safety of other road users that you may come into contact with whether you're in the right or not. Remember a motor car can easily be used as a murder weapon and by modifying your car; you're turning it into a more lethal weapon. Therefore you need to use your car responsibly and take responsibility for the consequences of your actions, which begins with improving your car's safety.
There are four important aspects of car safety that you need to take into consideration when modifying your car:
- Car handling, which we cover in suspension tuning.
- Car grip, which is dependent on the condition of your tires and suspension.
- Car brakes.
- Car restraints, such as seat belts and roll cages.
Another important aspect of car safety is driver awareness and developing a responsible driving style, which boils down to being alert on the road and driving responsibly. You can also improve your driving by taking advanced driving classes, more so if you're intent on modifying your car, though an advanced driving class is not a license to drive recklessly on public roads.
On the car itself, the two most critical elements of car safety are undoubtedly the brake system and the tires. The car brakes can only be as effective as the car's grip allows it to be, and the tires are responsible to the car's grip. Furthermore, a large proportion of the forces responsible for accelerating and decelerating the car, as well as the forces and torques that provide the control and stability of the car act on the tires, and are dependent on the grip provided by the tires. For this reason we thought it best to discuss upgrading the tires and shock absorbers in this section on car safety, although we do discuss tires and shock absorbers in our section on suspension tuning. In this section, we will thus discuss improving car safety through upgrading your brakes and upgrading your tires.
However, there are two other areas of car safety that we need to consider: roll cages and seat belts. Roll cages are essential on race cars, for obvious reasons but they are not legal on road cars in some states. If they are legal in your state, fitting a roll cage would be a highly recommended safety mechanism for drivers and passengers but they do not protect other road users and do not absolve you from driving responsibly. If you are going to fit a roll cage, you should have it built and installed by a qualified professional.
Improving your seat belts, on the other hand, can be done yourself. A four- or five-point harness is more effective than the standard two-point harness that is used on standard cars. However, fitting a four- or five-point harness often requires fitting an aftermarket seat that makes provision for two shoulder straps, and requires secure multi-point mounting. Fitting aftermarket bucket seats is covered in our section on car styling so we won't repeat that here. Instead we'll start with upgrading your tires and shock absorbers ...