Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Top DIY Car Mods

Based on feedback from our readers, the car shows we have attended, and images and videos we've seen on the internet, we collaborated what we found to be the top car mods that can be installed yourself.
  1. Rims and Tires
  2. Lowering or Lifting
  3. Car Stereo - Deck/Subs
  4. Cold-Air Intake
  5. Exhaust
  6. Aftermarket Headlights/Tail-lights
  7. HID's
  8. Painting Interior
  9. Grilles
  10. Body Kits
Comment to add more to this list.

Lets make this the biggest DIY list on the web!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Caliper Paint

  • Got a simple one this week.  Your break calipers or drums are probably one of the first things to start to develop rust on your car.  The rust is ugly and noticeable, especially through certain types of alloy and aftermarket rims. 

  • So lets get rid of this problem, the solution is as easy as 3 steps.

Before we get started, 

Picking Your Paint:  First off, get yourself a high-heat engine paint, or designated caliper spray paint from a local auto parts or hardware store.  There are multiple brands available, select colour, and consult application process and directions on the can before selecting which is best for you.  Another option we have used in the past is a regular, oil based rust paint.  It seems to hold up just fine.

Ideal Conditions:  Ideally you would like to completely remove your drum or caliper, and then paint them.  This allows for better accuracy, in painting only the parts you want, and eliminates over spray onto things like the disks, or your vehicle.

But, in the absence of time, as most of us need our vehicles, or just don’t want go through the effort of removing the parts, it can be done on the vehicle, just make sure to be meticulous when masking off the calipers and drums.  Also, make sure to cover your vehicle!

So let’s get started!

1.       Remove your wheel, and begin to remove all the surface rust and dirt from the drum or caliper you wish to paint.  We suggest using a wire brush for the surface rust, followed by sandpaper, the grit choice is up to you. Keep in mind, don’t rough it up, keep it as smooth as possible.  

 Remember, it’s not going to end up perfectly smooth but the paint will cover what rust or imperfections won’t come off.

(the bumper, bumper lip, and rims were at the body shop getting colour matched) 

2.     Proceed to cover the vehicle, masking off the areas to be painted and make sure everything else is covered. Spray paint travels further in the air than you think, and you will regret it when there’s over spray on your paint!  Also, make sure you cover your rotors, you don't want paint on your braking surface! We recommend removing them.

      We further covered the truck with a drop cloth, that met up with our newspaper, covering the entire vehicle. 

In the picture to the left, we were actually painting the outer edge of the dust cap as a red accent, but the process is the same.
You can see how the entire disk is wrapped with a garbage bag (very handy for this type of thing) and the remainder of the suspension covered with our newspaper drop cloth.



    3.  Make sure the surface is clean, and then paint!  Take your time and apply it in light coats, following the can directions appropriately. This will ensure proper bonding, and drying.  You don’t want your paint flaking do you?  Let it dry, and remount your wheel.   


After painting our dust caps as an accent, we painted the calipers black to clean it up.

     Guaranteed, your brakes don’t stand out for the wrong reasons anymore!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Strut Tower Bars

A strut tower bar (brace) (STB) is an aftermarket accessory for the suspension on a uni-body vehicle. The strut tower itself on these vehicles is basically a reinforced portion of the inner wheel well which contains the vehicle’s strut suspension system consisting of the spring and shock absorber. The vertical suspension’s load is transferred to the top of the vehicle’s strut tower; and because it isn’t directly connected to the main chassis rails of the vehicle, there is flex within the strut towers when cornering.

The strut bar is designed to reduce the flexing of the strut towers by attaching the towers together and reinforcing the structure between the two. This transmits the load from each strut tower through tension and compression of the strut bar, and helps to reduce the flexing of the chassis. Installing a strut tower bar on a unibody vehicle can make a noticeable difference when cornering.

  • Wrench(es)

This is an extremely easy do-it-yourself, bolt-on modification to perform on your vehicle.

First, purchase a strut tower bar specifically designed for your make, model, and year of vehicle. These can be ordered from most custom automotive shops, Canadian Tire, or online. The model vehicle shown here is a ’95 Mitsubishi Eclipse, and we chose to install a front and rear strut tower bar. 

Test-fit your strut tower bar by placing it over top of the strut towers to ensure the bolts line up, and that you indeed have the correct bar.

Unscrew and remove the bolts on top of the strut tower bar (usually three), mount the strut bar into place, and replace the bolts.

It is that simple!

For our rear suspension, there were covers over top of the strut towers. If you don’t want to drill holes in the plastics of your interior, then you can leave the covers off. Or, make new covers using fiberglass (which we’ll teach you how to fiberglass in a future blog). We decided to take the easy route, and drilled holes of the right size and angle so the bar will fit through. 

Installation was just as straight-forward as the front. Unscrew bolts, mount, and screw bolts back on.

Now go for a ride, and feel the difference of your reinforced suspension.

photos done by Steve - DIY Car Modifications

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Custom Mount Billet Grille

People love the aggressive look, and clean lines of a billet grille.  You can get these billet grilles in many designs and applications to fit most vehicles, and some come in both bolt over and cut out format.  You can pick them up online, or I'm sure your local auto shop would be glad to order you in one.  Easy enough to comprehend, the bolt over grilles mount with long hardware through your existing grill and fasten tight against it.  The cut out grilles involve a little more work, as you must first cut and remove your stock grill, and then install the billet grille with new hardware that includes brackets.   
Our blog post today falls somewhere right in the middle.  We managed to obtain a bolt over style grille for our Chevy Colorado, used for about $60.  Personally, we too enjoy the lines of a billet grille, but wanted the cleanliness of the cut out style for that real custom look.  The only think standing in our way... Brackets!  So we decided to make our own.  Easy enough right?

This post works well for leading you through the steps of installation for a cut out grill even if you have the proper mounting hardware, just eliminate some of our fabrication steps and use the hardware and instructions given to you by the manufacturer.

Things you will need:

  • ½” by 1/8” aluminum flat bar ( ours was an 8 foot length)
  • Drill, or drill press
  • Dremel style rotary tool, or a small grinding wheel
  • Tape measure!
  • Pliers
  • Vice
  • An afternoon, and a beverage of choice
  • Hacksaw blade
  • Hacksaw
  • Assorted hand tools (files, screw drivers, wrenches), so have your toolbox ready

We started by removing the grill assembly or grille shell from the front of the truck. Each is to there own on this one, they are all different.  For us, it was a matter of 5 clips and 2 light harnesses.

Make sure to take a second and look it up or ask someone who may know, because there is nothing more frustrating then starting a mod only to break something else.  


From there we took our grille to a clean workspace and started the surgery.  We cut neatly along the top of the grille with a hacksaw blade.  This seemed to work the best, providing us with a clean cut that we could later smooth with a grinding wheel and file.

Once the top of the grille was cut loose, we flipped the grille assembly over to expose the plastic “welds” that held the black mesh into the  grill shell.   

With the rotary tool and grinding drum attachment, quick work was made of the “welds” as they were buzzed off flat allowing the black mesh to literally just “pop” out!

The grille of the Colorado is now hollow, with the one cut edge along the top, that we wanted to smooth out a little.   

 Again using the rotary tool with the sanding drum, and a small hand file we smoothed this edge up and rid of any small bumps or plastic imperfections left behind from the cut. 

Now the tricky part!  Once we had our empty grill shell we began to lay out the brackets with our ½” aluminum flat bar.

 Please take your time with the fabrication of the brackets.  The brackets are a crucial step that will ensure your grille sits flush on the outside, stays centered in the grill shell, and these brackets will also provide rigidity to the entire grill shell once the billet grilles are mounted.

We stared by laying the grille in the shell face down and began setting up our lower brackets.  We place them across the grill to get a visual interpretation, then took the appropriate measurements and marked the length of the hardware and location of the mounting holes.  Finally we cut the bar and pre-drilled our top and bottom mounting holes as well as the bolt holes for where the grill will mount. The lower hardware is good to go. 

Our Colorado was a little tricky, and since these brackets are all original and we do not have the store bought kit, we made a custom cross brace that aloud us to tie all the brackets together and insure the grille won’t shake all over the place.  We did this because we had nothing to mount our brackets to on the bottom of the grill without it being visible.  *Remember, the cleaner the better* we took the extra time to make this install nice and clean. 

Therefore, after making the 2 vertical brackets, straight and simple with 4 pre-drilled holes, we moved on to the custom cross brace.  We drilled a ½” hole through the middle lower grille shell mount, and twisted the aluminum flat bar in the vice in order to get the brace shaped the way we needed it.  We then pre-drilled the ends of the brace, where it would meet up with the horizontal brackets we just completed as well as the upper screw hole, where it will mount to the grille shell mount.  Now we have successfully completed all of the lower hardware which definitely was the more difficult part.

The upper grille was a little easier.  We measured and cut 2 pieces of flat bar and bent the ends to about 50 or 60 degrees.  This modified “L” bracket design was then pre-drilled for the grille bolts and upper mounting screws.  The “laid back L” shape let the brackets rest nicely under the upper black plastic of the grille shell, while keeping the front of the billet grille flush in the shell.  The Last 2 brackets were by far the most simple, and involved no more than a couple straight pieces of flat bar, again pre-drilled for the grille bolts and 4 mounting screws. 

Once all our hardware was done we mounted it all up and test fit the grille and hardware, to position it right where we wanted it, before marking and pre-drilling the mounting holes in the grille shell.  After, the hardware got a quick coat of paint to black them out, and we were ready to mount the grille!

When mounting the grille we made sure to take our time to avoid scratching the grille shell, as well as our freshly painted hardware.   Mounting this two piece upper grille was done one section at a time. 

We started with the bottom section first because it is the most rigid section of the grill shell.  This is important because we can better guarantee that the grille will mount straight, and without stressing the shell.  Once this lower grill is in place, its presence in the opening and the hardware will strengthen the upper portion of the shell from flexing when installing the upper grille.  This is just our recommendation.

Back to the install,

We secured the hardware snug, but not tight, to the lower grille and were able to place it into position from the back of the shell.  We then centered it, and place two ½” screws into the shell through the upper holes in the hardware.  

All of the holes were first pre-drilled to make sure our screws didn’t crack the plastic, but instead tap through it. 

Yes! Our hardware is long, it was later cut.  Recycle:)
We then placed our lower cross brace through it’s hole in the lower shell mount, and secured it to the two pieces of hardware with two ½” screws.  This stopped the grille from moving from side to side and up and down once we mounted the brace with its ½” screw through the shell mount.  Finally we tightened down the grill bolts and moved on to the upper grille.

We started by placing the upper grill gently in place.  Then we positioned the hardware and secured it to the grille.  Next, we lined up our pre-drilled holes and placed four ½” screws through the lower mounting hardware and into the grille shell.


The next step was to flush the upper black plastic to the top crossbar of our upper grille, and just secure the two ½” self-tapping screws from the top, trough the black plastic and into the upper mounting hardware.

  Now turn it around and take a look.  If you’re as lucky as we were the first time, it came out beautifully and sat nicely in the grille shell.  It is not irregular for some installs to need a little tweaking though, so don’t get disappointed too quickly. Plus, there’s no saying you can’t go back and fiddle with it later, if you want to, just pop off the grill and adjust your hardware as needed.  The slotted openings in the actual grille, where the hardware mounts, provide adequate adjust ability and should allow you to center the grille perfectly or very close to it, and you are done!  Just re-install your grille shell the same way you removed it and drive on.

Yup, there's the look we had in mind.  Sleek, clean and aggressive.  Perfect! Enjoy guys.

photos done by Justin - DIY Car Modifications

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to Install an Aftermarket Car Stereo

Many new aftermarket stereos that are available now have iPod cables, or even a USB hub built right into them. You can now bring your digital music into your car without having to worry about a stack of CDs. These digital devices can store thousands of songs and can enhance your driving experience by finding songs quickly at the touch of a button, rather than searching through CD books to find the music you want to listen to.

For this reason, one of the first things most people are tempted to replace in their car is the factory stereo (deck); it is also one of the easiest items to install yourself, and with the following knowledge, you can save money on the shop-labour install time.  We will walk you through the entire process.

Before Starting:

a.       The first thing you need to do is also purchase a wiring harness that is designed specifically for your make, model, and year of car. They can range in price from $7 - $14, and can be purchased at almost any place that sells car decks.
b.      The other item you might need is a filler plate. This depends on your vehicle and the size of the new deck. Most older Honda factory stereos are the same size as most standard new decks and you will probably not need a filler plate. You can tell if you need one by comparing the sizes of the stereo currently installed in your vehicle to your new deck. For the install we are demonstrating here, we needed a filler plate.

Tools needed:
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • Electrical tape
  • Butt-end connectors (not necessary, but preferred)
  • Zip ties
  • Screw drivers (probably a Philips # 2(star) – depending on what your car requires, and a flathead)
  • Bolts or screws to install trim plate (if necessary, see step 8)
The Install:

1.       First off, we’ll wire up the harnesses. You can do this at a table and not in your car if you want. The extra wiring harness you picked up is clearly labeled with writing on the wires themselves, and is colour coded to make the process as simple as possible. The wiring harness that came with the deck is usually colour coded with the exact same colouring. If not, the installation guide that came with your deck will give detailed information on what each wire is, and then you would just match up the wire function name on each harness. From here, it is just matching up the wires and connecting them. Most wiring harnesses are pre-cut for easy stripping. We recommend twisting the rubber coating while removing it from the wire to keep each wire from making a frayed mess. Use the butt-end connectors to ensure a solid connection of the wires. If you do not have butt-end connectors, use electrical tape. If you use the tape method, step number 2 is critical. Check your manual for any additional instructions. The wiring harness for our project was very complex; we needed to add a tab connector for the ground wire. Your wiring will probably be much simpler. 

2.       Next, you want to tidy up those wires by using zip-ties or electrical tape. This helps to clean up the wires and to ensure they do not come in contact with any metal inside the dashboard of your car. Leave the blue wire (remote) easily accessible for future installs of amplifiers for either subwoofers or speakers. (we’ll do that in a later post) We do recommend putting a piece of tape on the end of this wire to make sure it doesn’t come in contact with any metal in the dashboard. We added a connector to the end of our remote wire to make for a simple connection in the future. Our deck also came with a separate harness with RCA jacks for subwoofer control; because we are not installing subwoofers, we’ll leave out this harness.

3.       Now to your car. Remove any trim or pieces of the console that cover the factory deck. Check for screws that keep the console in place. On many newer cars, the trim just snaps into place. We recommend doing an internet search for “how to remove the factory stereo out of your make, model, and year of car”.

4.       Once the trim is out of the way, remove the factory stereo by unscrewing any bolts that attach it to your car, and disconnect the stereo from the wiring harness. If your vehicle does not require a trim plate, the factory deck is probably attached to its own built-in cage; unbolt the cage from the car, and remove the deck from the cage.

5.       For our particular deck, we have an iPod cable. So we removed the liner of the glove compartment, and drilled a hole just big enough to get the cable through (not the iPod connection side). Once drilled, we mounted the iPod converter box into place using zip ties inside the dashboard and installed the cable.

6.       Now is a good time to check your wiring job. Plug the harness into the back of the deck, and the other side into the harness of your car (the one that the factory stereo was plugged into). Plug in the antennae cable if you want to test the radio, and any other accessories that you want to test out (in our case, the iPod cable). If everything works, turn off the deck, and disconnect the harness from both the car and the back of the deck (you’ll understand why later).  
If it isn’t working, (1) make sure your car is turned on, (2) check your connections, making sure the wires are securely attached to each other and wired properly (you can check continuity by disconnecting the wiring harness from the vehicle and deck, and using a multi-meter set at the Ohm (Ω) or diode (triangle with a line through it) setting, and touching the respective pins on each side of the harness, (3) check your installation manual that came with the deck for troubleshooting, (4) check online for your make, model, and year of car to see if there are any “hidden” tricks to installing a deck in your particular vehicle, (5) or email us, and we can try to troubleshoot with you.

7.       If your vehicle does not require a trim plate, move onto step 9. If you need a trim plate for your vehicle, you will need to install the cage that your aftermarket deck came with. Simply slide the cage into the opening on the trim plate and fold the tabs of the cage over to secure the two pieces together.

8.       Trim plates are designed to bolt right into your vehicle. Bolt the trim plate into place using the existing bolts and where the pre-drilled holes are. If the holes do not line up with anywhere that has a bolt or screw, then you may need to purchase some screws to firmly mount the trim plate. 

Usually they don't look crooked, and this is not our error. It is the design of this particular trim plate.

9.       If your vehicle does not need a trim plate, then you use the existing screws that mounted the factory stereo into the cage, to mount the aftermarket deck. Aftermarket decks have pre-drilled and threaded holes on each side to attach the deck securely into place.

10.   Now you hook up the wiring harness to the harness in your car. We recommend doing this part before connecting the harness to the back of your new deck to make the installation much easier.

11.   Now is when you get to plug in your deck. Plug the harness into the back of the deck, and plug in your antennae cable. 

12.   You may need to play with the positioning of the wiring harnesses for this next step in order to get the deck to mount into place properly.
With Filler Plate: slide the deck into the cage and push it in all of the way. You will hear a “click” sound when the deck is securely in place.
Without Filler Plate: mount the cage with the deck back into place.

13.   If your deck came with a trim piece, put it on (usually just snaps into place)

14.   Here is a good time to double-check that your new deck is properly working before continuing on. Then, re-assemble the dashboard/console/trim pieces in the reverse order you removed them.

15.   If your deck has a removable face-plate, snap it into place.

16.   Installation is that easy, and you now just saved yourself some money! Enjoy your new stereo!

photos done by Steve - DIY Car Modifications

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


    One of the first things you see when a vehicle is heading your way is the headlights. This being said they're also the brightest part of your car, and have the ability to make the biggest impression. So why cruise around with dull headlights, poor visibility, and that stock look? Grab a set of HIDs and we’ll show you the rest.

   Let’s talk a little history about HIDs, for those of you who don’t know. HIDs or High Intensity Discharge are a replacement bulb and ballast system for your stock headlight bulb, that come in all the needed bulb designs (H11, 9006, or H3 for example) and a variety of “colours” or light spectrum, measured in thousands of Kelvin or K. These bulbs create this ultra bright light by converting your vehicles low voltage DC current, through a ballast, into high voltage AC current. Keeping it simple, the high voltage arc ionizes the gas in the bulb and creates a conducting medium between the electrodes bringing the bulb up to temperature, vaporising the metallic salts and giving the bulb its particular Kelvin or colour temperature.

As a basic guide 3000K= Yellow-ish, 6000K= White-ish, and 10000K= Blue-ish. 

Now to the mod!
   Once you grab yourself a set of HIDs from a local auto shop, e-bay or however else you may come upon them, work your way through the following steps:

1.  Open your hood and check for room to work behind your headlights. Depending on the model of vehicle you own, you may or not be able to access your headlight bulbs without removing your headlights, or other parts of your vehicle for that matter.

   In our case, our Chevy Colorado had ample room, since we were working behind the taillights. Yup here's a teaser of the custom mounted HID reverse lights. It's necessary with double limo tints.But we will continue on with the mod as if we are dealing with our headlights.

2.  Next, use a multi-meter to check the voltage at the bulb, to insure you have a full 12 Volts.  If you do not your ballast’s may not turn on, or stay on, and could just flicker.
Multi-Meter Tips

  • Use DCV setting at 20V, this will make sure the voltage appear with the decimal in the right place
  • Place the positive and negative ends of the meter in the respective prongs of the wiring harness to get your reading.
  • If your meter shows 12Volts, go ahead and continue with your modification.
  • If you do not have a constant 12 Volts you might get lucky but, more than likely u will need a relay, but that’s a topic for another day.

3.  From here on in, it’s plug and play. Disconnect you factory bulb by removing the factory harness.

4.  Now, remove your factory bulbs and replace them (careful not to touch the actual bulb) with your new HID bulbs. You may want to keep these in a safe place just in case you ever swap them back to stock.

HID's up front as well.  Fogs and low beams
5.  Connect your HID bulb to the ballast, and from there the ballast to your factory bulb harness. Now try them out!
Yah, it’s that simple, the connectors only work one way, and are of course colour coordinated, so you really can’t do any wrong. If the particular kit you are using is not colour coordinated, or universal clips, be sure to take your time to read the directions and make good use of that multi-meter!

Remember, this is our taillight install.

   Now take the time to neatly mount your ballasts, zip tie your loose wires, and grab some of your left over wire loom from last weeks post and tidy it up even more.

   So, your HIDs are successfully installed, take a minute, take a step back, and enjoy that new impression and added sense of style your vehicle just gained.

Oh, and we promise you will never drive with ordinary bulbs ever again!

photos done by Justin - DIY Car Modifications

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Have a suggestion for a simple do-it-yourself modification? Or, have a problem with your mod that you need a hand with?
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