5 useful, simple modifications you can do in your driveway

Factory stock condition is good enough for most people, but if the desire to make your car unique overtakes you, it’s best to start with simple modifications and leave the engine swaps and custom suspension for later. Here are five simple modifications that you can do in your driveway—no garage or special tools required.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/04/15/simple-modifications-you-can-do-in-your-driveway

Unless you have a lift in your driveway, exhaust is not a driveway job unless you want to invent new swear words and brush up on the ones you already know.

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I think we missed #6 Airflow - today’s market has many choices for improved airflow and filtration. A vehicle that breathes better, runs better.Fast and easy (a stand up job), most of the time a bolt on project!

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I was able to a cat-back on my G8 GT on stands. I was also required to do both those other things you described in the process!

The repetitive loud exhausts have been so overdone for so long that is nice (and rare) to hear nice quiet stock exhaust.


Funny that the picture under “Shifter” is actually of a 4x4 transfer case lever. Woulda been nice to see a vintage wood or t-style knob atop an actual transmission shift lever. Don’t think you’re throwing a short shift kit on your transfer case.

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All are capable and I have done them all along with some extensive “Shade Tree” ones; engine changes, transmission changes, extensive “body work” (hammer, rivet gun, sheet metal, sand paper, few quarts of BONO, dozen or so rattle cans) but in my advanced years, all my “Classics” are what I call the “Wash-N-Wax” collectibles. Don’t get me wrong; I still have a few (oh that one, I’m working on that) classics in the back that I periodically “wrench on”; but for my drivers; when I want something done that takes a tool, well I take it to my buddies garage, he puts it up on the rack and with a cup of coffee in one hand, I’m under it pointing and watching. One of the perks of getting older.

Have found out over the years that it is difficult to improve on original engineering and build quality. It can be done, in certain applications, but you frequently lose driveability and reliability. As a dumbass kid, many years ago, I learned this lesson.

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Speaking of brakes,

You neglected the swap out from single circuit brake to dual circuit brakes.

Usually, the newer models of the same vehicle have an existing bolt on master cylinder setup for this…

Also, disc brakes perform better than drums (not necessarily because they are better (2 stopping surfaces instead of 1) but moreso that drum brakes need to be adjusted to work most effectively.


Exhaust is a miserable job. Possible in the driveway, but not very enjoyable. Jackstands, a nut splitter, safety glasses for all the rust particles and lots of cursing. Still one of those jobs that’s much easier for a shop to do with a cutting torch, a welder and a lift.

I’m with Chip. Cold Air Intake/Performance Air Filter should be on this list.

Another upgrade that’s usually fairly easy to do is to install performance shocks. Depending on the vehicle this can make a noticeable difference in handling. If the vehicle has McPherson struts it’s more of a job, but I’ve done these in my driveway as well. Just takes a spring compressor and some patience.


Actually I put a complete Flowmaster dual system under my Chevelle without swearing too much. Put it on jackstands and slithered under it, it was pretty easy.

Yeah I’ve done a few McPherson strut jobs in my drive way but believe me it is much better to buy the strut /spring assembly already assembled than to have to compress the spring to install the new strut. Will cost you a little more but it’s a heck of a lot easier, plus you get a new spring too!

a great addition, would be to explain the bleeding process for brakes. My diy effort began and ended with what appeared to be an easy brake repair, and bleeding of the system, where I finally had to limp with unstable brakes to a regular garage.

I agree that most of the time it is miserable to do this without a lift. I hate getting dirt and rust in my eyes.
However there are exceptions. I have on multiple occasions replaced the exhaust systems on my 3/4 ton pickup trucks without even needing to jack the trucks up.
The best thing I ever purchased was a pneumatic cut-off saw for cutting clamps, bolts, and pipes.

At age 24 I thought nothing of replacing the entire exhaust system on my Oldsmobile Cutlass. One afternoon and it was done. No aches, no pain and no leaks. Fifty years later I discovered that I could pay to have someone else do this. That’s when I realized you had to have a lift and a larger vocabulary.


I replaced the exhaust on my F-150 in my driveway with very little effort. I simply placed the truck on 4 jack stands and went to work. Sure, it wasn’t the most comfortable work environment, but it only took about 2 hours of my tome and now the truck looks and sounds much better in my opinion.

Phil in TX

Agreed. I also applied this to my F-150 along with the exhaust.

Phil in TX

Depends on what parts of the vehicle you are referring to. Modifying the suspension of a vehicle can improve it’s handling and drivability or it can ruin it if not properly done. Same for the braking system. But as for the replacement of worn brake parts, that will definitely make a dramatic improvement. Vehicle modifications are the purview of the owners. If they choose to modify their vehicles that is their prerogative. If the modifications make the vehicle unsafe that is then their responsibility to correct the problem. If the vehicle is required by the state to pass an annual inspection, as is the case in Texas where I live, then the law comes into play. There are many things that will affect how vehicle mods are done, but in the end we must all be responsible owners and operators.

Phil in TX