Everything You Need to Know About Car Body Parts

Any car can be modified for more speed, better handling and looks that set your ride apart from the rest. The number of mods is countless, but if you’re looking to add a little style, improve road holding, and cut seconds off lap times, consider the benefits of various car body parts. These pair well with bigger wheels, louder exhausts and lowered suspension to transform a mundane machine into a track-ready beast.

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The Basics of Body Parts 

Front and rear spoilers, wings, splitters and diffusers are just some of the body parts that production cars got handed on a platter from one-off racing machines. Think along the lines of million-dollar F1 cars, equally capable rally cars, or V8 supercars. All are kitted out for the best road holding, improved aerodynamics, and more grip from the tyres. This is not just a styling statement, but a necessity, especially when going at speeds of 300+km/h. Each aftermarket car body part is designed with a particular purpose, and all parts combined need to provide better stability, enable high-speed turns, and prevent the cars from literally flying off the track. 
The experiments in varied racing competitions slowly trickled down to cars even the ordinary bloke could afford. Car shapes slowly evolved from boxy to curved, grew in length and got lower and wider while still keeping passengers comfy and safe. Much of this was down to the need for higher fuel efficiency, but the by-product was cars that were faster, safer and a hoot to drive. Some sportier machines (the Subaru WRX, the Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911) already have these in stock form, but you can add car body parts to any hatchback, unassuming sedan, or nan’s station wagon and still have passers-by turning heads. 

What They Do

Car body parts and packaged body kits do two things for your car – improve performance and change your car’s appearance. You’ll need to remove the stock front and rear bumpers in most cases and add parts separately or as part of a kit. The main purpose is to reduce the effects of oncoming air or the drag the car creates. Air is channelled above, around and under the car. This helps with downforce, the air pressure pressing the car against the road, and with lift or the accumulated air trying to get your vehicle airborne. The right exterior car parts balance overall aerodynamics to allow better handling, more stability at higher speeds, faster turning, and more feedback through the steering wheel. Your vehicle is faster, more controlled and more fun to drive. And to boot, it looks better. 

Other Pros Worth Their Salt 

If you’re after a particular look the customisation options with varied body parts are endless. Drivers can get their car to look bigger, wider, meaner and race-ready. The choice of different materials (especially carbon fibre) helps in this respect. Parts can additionally be optioned as plain and paint-ready to match existing colour schemes.
The material options also mean better choices can lower vehicle weight while increasing rigidity. This directly impacts performance but also reduces fuel use in everyday driving or when getting to the track. Combined with the aerodynamic benefits, cars will be sipping considerably less fuel, so the additions pay for themselves. 
Lastly, consider how body parts preserve the look of your ride. They prevent scuffs and scratches from road debris, speed bumps, rocks and other nasties. 

Parts to Consider 

Body parts are commonly packaged in kits to achieve the desired performance results. Parts can also be purchased separately, but rarely will they get the expected performance gains on their own. Each kit consists of one or several parts: 

  • Lip kits – these consist of front lip splitters or the lowered and widened parts that attach to the front bumpers. The parts split oncoming air by redirecting more of it over the car to generate downforce. Front splitters are often paired with rear diffusers to enable rear-axle stability, and with side skirts to prevent air from pooling under the car from the sides. 
  • Bumper kits – if looks are more important, consider bumper kits. They consist of wider and lower bumpers both front and back, and serve as the basis for other additions. Some can include reworked grilles, and air dams to scoop air over heated brakes and tyres or redirect more air towards radiators.
  • Aero kits – or ground effects car body part kits aim to improve aerodynamic performance. Most include bigger bumpers, widened wheel flares, side skirts, a full rear wing or spoiler, and a combination of rear spats and diffusers to reduce drag at the back. 
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Materials and Prices

Exterior car body parts are offered in different materials with varying durability, weight and price. The cheapest are fibreglass variants. These are good for raising the aesthetic appeal of your car but may suffer in the performance department. They lack rigidity and flexibility compared to other choices and damage easily on impact. It’s not all bad news though, since fibreglass gear is lightweight, easy to paint and repair, decently handles heat and won’t fade when in direct sunlight. 
Polyurethane is the entry-level for performance buffs. Though heavier, it is more durable than fibreglass and has good flexibility) so fewer chips or cracks), but can’t stand higher temperatures. For this, you’ll want to spend more on reinforced ABS plastic parts. These are regarded as refined takes of fibreglass, but better deal with chemicals, are even lighter and offer a neater surface finish. 
The best material, and the one still used in racing applications is carbon fibre. This scores points with the highest strength and impact resistance (tougher than steel), extremely low weight, and the best performance against heat or chemicals. You can find this saving quite a few kilos in roofs and bonnets, but also providing strength for stressed parts like splitters and spoilers. The only drawback is the high price. 
While you can go with parts and kit options sourced in one material, most tuners and enthusiasts recommend mixing and matching parts and materials for a balanced combination of performance, price, durability and weight. 

Aiden Jones

Aiden Jones is an Australian student and a freelance writer. When not studying, Aiden spends time reading about different industrial equipment, information technology (computers and networking) and sports. With his elegant writing, Aiden enriches readers with his personal perspective and never steers away from the hard truth.