Let’s be honest, when it comes to car tuning it’s a minefield out there. But we’re here to help…
Car tuning companies and parts manufacturers are our lifeline. Even the most skilled members of the Fast Car world could do with a helping hand, be it with parts, fabrication, mechanical work, or electrical trickery, from time to time.
The trouble is, this is real life rather than a fairy story. While there are great guys out there, there’s just as much opportunity to get stung by someone in the car scene as in any other part of the world. So it’s time for us to give you some advice.
We could sum it up by simply saying, do your research. But while that’s true, there’s more to it than that. So here’s our top 10 ways to not end up getting your pants pulled down by a dodgy tuner…
1. GET ANY AGREED WORK IT IN WRITING
While there’s no harm at all in speaking to companies in person, make sure you get everything you plan to have done in detailed writing; parts, costs, the lot. The reason for this is in case there’s something you’re not happy with. If you think something’s been done differently to what you agreed, you can go back on your emails and there you have the proof. If you just have a verbal agreement, you haven’t got a leg to stand on if things go downhill. It’s possible they forgot, didn’t hear you say it, didn’t understand what you said, or they might know damn well but can still deny it without any proof.
2. YOU DON’T ALWAYS ‘GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR’
When cars break you often hear people say “You get what you pay for”. But in the tuning scene, more than almost anywhere else, this just isn’t true in so many cases. While as a basic rule of thumb you could expect really expensive stuff to be good, there’s a hell of a lot of instances when much cheaper parts or companies are actually better value for money. Just like in most areas of life, you can sometimes be paying extra for a famous name on your parts for example. But that doesn’t always make it the top performer, no matter how cool it is. Do your research, look for proof of performance, and make your decisions from there.
3. IF IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS
While ‘You get what you pay for’ is simply not true, the other end of the scale, the wild, unsubstantiated claims of amazing performance for almost no money is usually just as big a lie. From eBay electric superchargers and other tat claiming to give you 30bhp for £30, to things that may well cost many thousands but also have suspiciously wild claims of performance. Unless you can do a little fact checking and find proof that what they say is indeed in the realms of reality, it’s probably one big rip off.
4. ANYONE CAN START A TUNING COMPANY
Don’t automatically assume that just because someone owns a tuning company, even the flashiest-looking one you’ve ever seen, that they have a flippin’ clue what they’re doing! Seriously, anyone, even your grandmother, can start a tuning company. There’s no exam to take, no inspections, no nothing. So owning a tuning company means literally zero when it comes to an indicator of knowledge or skill. While there are many tuners who are absolute geniuses, tuners are not all created equally. So do your research – ask around – about who these guys are and what they can do, before you open your wallet!
5. PROOF IS KEY
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, unless you’re doing something totally brand new or incredibly unusual, it’s highly likely what you’re planning to do has been done before. Because of this, rather than just flatly trusting a company that what they say is true, hit up Google and spend some time searching to find the results of others who’ve already been there and done it. This is particularly useful for things like turbos, where while you might not find the turbo on your exact car, it’s highly likely you’ll find it fitted to an engine similar enough to make a pretty damn good estimate of how it will perform on your own car.
6. WHAT’S THEIR HISTORY?
Some of the biggest tuning disasters we’ve ever heard of come from when a company bites off massively more than they can chew. Taking on a customer project they haven’t the ability to do properly. Even with the best intentions in the world, that doesn’t work out well. The easy way to avoid that is ignore their enthusiasm to do the job and use your detective skills to be sure these guys have a proven track record of being able to do similar things. Even if a tuner is world famous, have they a famous history of doing what you want? If not, you can’t be assured they’re the best guys for the job. And if a tuner is a complete unknown? Well then, beware of their big ideas.
7. POWER IS EASY, BUT POWER WITH RELIABILITY IS NOT SO EASY
It truly isn’t hard to make big power from an engine, but power and reliability is much trickier, and that’s something many places struggle with. This point is especially relevant when choosing your mapper, as while most people are impressed when they squeeze huge amounts of power from an engine, how long did it last? An engine that makes loads of power is one thing, but if it doesn’t last more than a few weeks before it melts a piston or blows the head gasket, then what’s the point?
8. SOME PEOPLE WILL SAY ALMOST ANYTHING TO GET YOUR BUSINESS
Business is business, and some people have far fewer morals than others when it comes to getting your money. Modified car fans in the UK are incredibly trusting of tuners, with most treating them like gods who can only have their best interests in mind. But while most are straight-up honest people, just like in every walk of life, there are also some dodgy people about. The biggest scams, the biggest tuning disaster stories, almost always come from people who had blind unending trust in a company. Ask questions, query everything, do your research. If they’ve got nothing to hide they should have no problem answering your questions.
9. IF SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT, DO YOUR RESEARCH AS TO WHY
No matter how hard you try to prevent it, occasionally things will go wrong. At this point, if you want it to work out as well as possible, you first need to seriously look in to the likely causes. When their car breaks a lot of people simply accept things break and it’s nobody’s fault. While that’s the case sometimes, so many times when people just accept it as ‘one of those things’, it is in fact due to massive errors by a bad tuner. This is such a big deal that certain cars, certain engines, have, at least for some point in their lives, gained a reputation for being weak and unreliable. In fact it was the bad tuners who made them look terrible.
10. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Even if you’re a total tuning newbie, it really pays dividends to do as much research as possible in to what you’re planning to do. If you’ve got a good idea of what’s going on you can be sure it’s right for you, and you can be sure you’re actually getting what you paid for. Simply throwing money at a car or parts with literally no idea of how they work or the process involved means it’s so much harder to realize when something isn’t quite right. There’s no end of people who, due to lack of an understanding of their highly tuned engine, have no idea when things, even quite simple things sometimes, are wildly wrong. Don’t be one of those guys!