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Old 30th October 2012, 15:33   #1
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Default Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Note: Mods, checked for a similar thread that talks about modifying your car specifically for highway runs. Couldnt find one- feel free to correct me.

I live and drive (like presumably most fellow TBhpians) in an urban setting. It made sense to me (and my pocket at the time) to get a small city hatchback for the daily commute. The hatchback is brilliant in traffic, stop and go situations, to park where no sedan or SUV would dare to park, to dodge the pesky autos, gives me fantastic mileage etc.

So what happens when I take it on the highway?

One word - bleh

So I thought of starting this thread to figure out what could be done to a city car to make it easier/ more enjoyable to drive on the highway. The idea is to take a regular car and modify These mods need not necessarily apply to hatchbacks only. Since some cars are born for the highway (read as most SUVs and mid to high end sedans) and are superb to drive on the highway, I'm guessing some of these mods would apply to low and midrange sedans as well.

For the record, I live and work in Gurgaon. I like highway driving and have been all over northern and eastern India in the present Alto and a previous Zen. I currently drive an 2007 Alto Lxi. It has not been modified except for
  1. Cosworth panel airfilter
  2. Alloy wheels upsized by 1 size over stock wheels
  3. Mobil1 instead of mineral engine oil

So how do you make your simple hatchback more highway friendly? These are just some thoughts that I had:

1. Comfort- this would involve better seats, an armrest perhaps? Maybe even softer foot mats (or foot mats backed with yoga mats).

2. Steering dynamics- I'm not sure about this, there dont seem to be too many options to improve handling dynamics other than to change your tyres. Also, would strut bars help?

3. Suspension- Plenty of options for stiffer suspensions for hard cornering et al (careful on the highway curves though). How about a softer suspension for those lesser used state highways and MDRs?

4. Endurance and reliability- The Alto will happily purr all day long at 110 kmph with the AC on. Anything beyond and it gets fairly angry. Most modern hatchbacks are fairly reliable. Maintaining them well would ensure that you have a lesser chance of breaking down in the middle of nowhere. Anything else one can do to increase the endurance limits of your car?

5. Safety- There's only so much you can do with what you have. While seatbelts would fall under driving etiquette, I dont think aftermarket airbag fitments are an option. Would better brakes and lighting (for those early morning starts and late night arrivals) be options?

6. Luxury- I'd like to have a fridge in the car - For the coke while on the road. While there are plenty of options on this, would there be anything else to make me feel more at home in the car?

Am not going into a few obvious issues here. Two are speed and navigation. There are enough and more threads on making your car go faster. And navigation is a no-brainer- your standard smartphone/ GPS/ friendly locals enroute should be good enough.

The other issue is of course to have good driving etiquette while on the Highway. This has been covered brilliantly here (Highway driving etiquette and rules).

Reactions/ suggestions welcome.

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Last edited by suhaas307 : 30th October 2012 at 18:38. Reason: see note in post
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Old 30th October 2012, 20:55   #2
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Nice thread, I can think of some mods to make a car more highway friendly. Lets keep this thread generic and not focussed on any particular model.

• Retain the OEM wheel size. Never upsize the wheels from stock (unlike what you've already done to your car). On Indian highways & in rural areas, you'll frequently encounter broken roads, unmarked speed breakers & the like. That additional sidewall height will definitely help your back & your car's suspension. In fact, for some stiffly sprung cars (e.g. SX4), downsizing the wheels from 16" to 15" is a fabulous idea.

• Tyres. High quality tyres in top shape can mean the difference between life & death. Also, if your car has tyres that are too thin, get an upsize (tyres only, not wheels).

• Comfortable seats : Supportive seats with a firmer compound are preferred over the really soft, unsupportive type. German cars have the best seats. It's easy to improve seat comfort from an after-market upholstery specialist.

• Center armrest for the driver is a must-have.

• Dead pedal. Best fitted at the factory level though.

• If you drive a car that handles poorly, look at after-market suspension options from reputable brands (of course, you need to own a car that has ready after-market support). However, you need something with balance, and not a solution that'll result in a bone-jarring ride.

• Similar to point no. 5, but for brakes.

• Some UVs have extremely short gearing that's a pain on the highway. When I changed the final drive of my Classic to 4.2, it resulted in a noticeable improvement on the open road.

• REMOVE loud free-flow exhaust & air intake.

• If you drive a car with mediocre power on tap, consider simple + reliable after-market options. Example : A power box for the Figo Diesel.

• Consider damping your car. Less exterior & mechanical noise will make the long drive stress free.

• Car specific updates due to design defects. E.g. coil spring adjusters for the Civic (sagging rear suspension), oil sump protection (Optra has a notorious rep for leaking sumps) etc.

• Powerful headlamps. Upgrade if necessary.

• Powerful horn. Fortunately or unfortunately, the horn remains a crucial safety device in India.

• Sunfilm that's effective (protection from the hot sun) and really light (so you don't get in trouble with the cops).

• 12v power socket & smartphone charger.

• Good ICE. I can't travel long-distance without good music.

Related Thread: Here's Samurai's excellent advice on Road Trip Preparations
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Old 31st October 2012, 10:55   #3
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Good thread.
1. First preference can be good pair of seats. Most seats are not supportive. We spend close to 2-3 hours in the car in the city. So Seats upgrade can help in city driving as well. To me this was the most useful upgrade from personal experience.

2. Get some rubber damping in wheel wells. I am planning on the underside of the roof also to get some noise isolation

3. Get good quality sun films. Pays off big time.

4. Better tires are a must for highway use.

5. I don't drive in the night so left out the head lamps upgrade.

6. Get some hydraulic jack. I cannot think of sweating on the highway using the screw jack. I still keep that screw jack as spare if in case the hydraulic oil leaks out.

8. Stiffer suspensions for non European cars.

9. Lastly for petrol cars, get a turbo for power upgrade(if feasible, ohc, baleno etc). Pays off big time for the loss of FE.
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Old 31st October 2012, 10:57   #4
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Thanks GTO, that was very helpful

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Lets keep this thread generic and not focussed on any particular model.
Agreed

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Comfortable seats : Supportive seats with a firmer compound are preferred over the really soft, unsupportive type. German cars have the best seats. It's easy to improve seat comfort from an after-market upholstery specialist.
Do you mean changing the seats entirely? Or is there a procedure by which after-market upholstery people can add on to the existing seats (over and above standard seat covers)

Dead pedal. Best fitted at the factory level though.

As opposed to a jugaad wooden block? Or something like this (*Installed* - Dead Pedal in my Mahindra Scorpio)

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
REMOVE loud free-flow exhaust & air intake.
Is this because of the generally dusty conditions? Or consideration for quiet villages? Because if you have a well tuned (read non-noise-polluting) vehicle, the additional performance might just be worth it. Provided of course you're putting on the FFE just mostly for performance and not just drilling holes in your endcan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Sunfilm that's effective (protection from the hot sun) and really light (so you don't get in trouble with the cops).
The absence of which could be mitigated though a clean cloth stuck between the window pane and the door frame.

Last edited by arjyamaj : 31st October 2012 at 11:00.
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Old 31st October 2012, 12:21   #5
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjyamaj View Post
Is this because of the generally dusty conditions? Or consideration for quiet villages? Because if you have a well tuned (read non-noise-polluting) vehicle, the additional performance might just be worth it. Provided of course you're putting on the FFE just mostly for performance and not just drilling holes in your endcan.
The exhaust drone is really irritating when you are on a long drive.
Most times, you would just prefer a silent cabin with good music.
A nice sporty exhaust does feel great when you give it short bursts but on a long stretch of highway, not sure.
Quote:
The absence of which could be mitigated though a clean cloth stuck between the window pane and the door frame.
But this cloth is at the cost of visibility. I would prefer sun-films any day.
Cheers,
Deepak
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Old 31st October 2012, 15:45   #6
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Nice thread. Some pointers that I can think of

a) Spare tyre which is in top shape.
b) Puncture repair kit. You dont want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere
c) Damped doors & wheel wells to filter out noise.
d) Anti glare IRVM's. Hate it when the reflections from high beams hurts eyes
e) After market horns
f) Ship-shape brakes
g) After market Engine guard
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Old 1st November 2012, 13:34   #7
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Nice thread, I can think of some mods to make a car more highway friendly. Lets keep this thread generic and not focussed on any particular model.


• Consider damping your car. Less exterior & mechanical noise will make the long drive stress free.


Related Thread: Here's Samurai's excellent advice on Road Trip Preparations
What would your recommend for Damping?
My swift DDis seems to be missing some insulation between the the engine and passenger compartment. It is markedly noisier than other swifts I have driven. MASS engineers disagree with my observation.Other than their is no other defect.

Thanks & Regards
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Old 1st November 2012, 14:05   #8
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Quote:
Originally Posted by SR71A View Post
What would your recommend for Damping?
Plenty of information on damping materials and procedure here. I believe Dynamat (for sheet damping) and Wurth (for hard to reach areas) are most popular.

However, they're not really cheap and there are alternatives. See here.

I personally use yoga mats as a cheap DIY alternative. Cut a yoga mat to the size of your floor mats and place the yoga mat pieces under the floor mat. Wont be as effective as Dynamat, but there will be a difference. The floor will feel softer too. I've also used cotton waste and regular foam in the boot to minimise rattles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SR71A View Post
My swift DDis seems to be missing some insulation between the the engine and passenger compartment. It is markedly noisier than other swifts I have driven.
You could try getting the firewall insulated- either on the bonnet side or on the cabin side with either of the above materials. I recall reading somewhere that a lot of noise and vibration from the engine bay is transferred through the bonnet. You might also consider cutting out pieces of damping sheets and sticking them under the roof of your bonnet. Although, if you're using yoga mats, I'd recommend spraying them with a fire-retardant spray (available at decent hardware stores) first.

If all else fails, crank up the music
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Old 1st November 2012, 14:29   #9
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Quote:
Originally Posted by arup.misra View Post
After market Engine guard
Arup, what would this be? I thought these were applied only on motorcycles?
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Old 1st November 2012, 14:39   #10
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

I would suggest a couple of reflective stickers on the bumper or any place visible to the vehicles behind you . These are quite useful especially if your car is dark coloured and you drive in the night quite often.
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Old 1st November 2012, 15:03   #11
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Quote:
Originally Posted by arjyamaj View Post

So I thought of starting this thread to figure out what could be done to a city car to make it easier/ more enjoyable to drive on the highway. The idea is to take a regular car and modify These mods need not necessarily apply to hatchbacks only. Since some cars are born for the highway (read as most SUVs and mid to high end sedans) and are superb to drive on the highway, I'm guessing some of these mods would apply to low and midrange sedans as well.
]
Nice thread and this is something that is rarely discussed.
The points listed by GTO do cover most of the things that can be done to a car to make it more highway friendly, but then there are actually two types of highways that we encounter:
1) 4 lane, almost straight, green on both sides, proper divider, no dust
2) 2 lane, through villages, dusty, no divider

Now, what matters more is what kind of highways does someone frequent as things like the hi-flow air filter would work really well on one and get choked up on the other.
Also, armrests are a boon on expressways but not usable at all on smaller highways.
To each his own.

One thing that I feel adds to the comfort though is a steering knob placed near the bottom right of the steering wheel. One can really rest his arms on long drives with one of these.
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Old 1st November 2012, 16:28   #12
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Road noise to me is the most significant part, filtering it will make the driving experience on highway better.


Quote:
Originally Posted by kutlee View Post
2. Get some rubber damping in wheel wells. I am planning on the underside of the roof also to get some noise isolation
Can you please explain this in detail? Are you referring to 3M coating, it did not quite help filter out the highway noise on my baleno
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Old 1st November 2012, 16:49   #13
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Reducing tyre pressure will also help for a more pliant ride. In addition it does improve the grip, cornering ability & aids better braking.

Remember dont under-inflate.

Eg- in Cruze Recommended is 33 psi , i fill 30 psi & its an entirely different car ( however < 30 would be not advisable )

Negative - Reduced FE

Last edited by karan561 : 1st November 2012 at 17:04.
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Old 1st November 2012, 16:51   #14
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Good topic.

Apart form preparing the Car, Even the driver should be well prepared.
Wear Cotton clothes, Use low profile footwear. Avoid Woodland like one which have thick sole etc. Carry a pair of goggles as it becomes difficult during noon to drive.

Ensure that A/C of the car is in Top condition. This becomes important while driving during rainy seasons.

Most of the stuff is covered here. The other important point missing is
Inflate the tires accordingly. in my case i would go for 3 psi more as i prefer to cruise rather than driving aggressively. Please note that, this would make the ride a bit bouncy. Over inflation would damage tyres too. But this gives better FE. Prefer nitrogen over normal air.
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Old 1st November 2012, 17:25   #15
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Default Re: Modifications to make a car "Highway-Friendly"

Installing a STRUT BRACE ?

Designed for providing more rigidity to the suspension for high speed driving ( on highway ) without actually stiffening the suspension setup.
Should inspire confidence for bad handling cars.

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But has any one used it here & found the difference ? Is it actually worth it or just a good show when the engine is popped up ?

Also what about SWAY BARS ? (to control the body roll)

^ the above mods are cheaper than suspension upgrades IMO
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