Full-size pickups have made up the single best selling vehicles in the United States for nearly four decades. That means there are a lot of trucks available to buy, new or used, and there are an absolute gargantuan amount of modifications available. Let’s cover some of the basics here, so you don’t end up on “Pimp My Truck.”
First of all, you’ll need a truck, obviously. Brand preference is hotly debated, so we’ll steer clear of that for now. Just know that what you plan to do with your truck will help you narrow down the available choices. For example, if you don’t plan on towing, but want a low rider, your options are wide open from a 30 year old Nissan Hardbody to a brand new Ford F-350. However, if you plan on doing any towing, you probably don’t want the Nissan, and if you want to do serious off-roading, it won’t work for that either.
Once you have a rig, decide on the path of modification. Having a plan will help eliminate costly mismatched or ineffective parts. You probably don’t want a low rider’s airbag suspension on your rock crawling XJ Cherokee, and you don’t want a lift kit when you’ll be heading to lowrider competitions. That is an oversimplified and obvious example, but you do have to carefully consider the parts you need and then see if they will work together. Diesel truck tuners love intake and exhaust upgrades, but some of them do not play well together.
Time to Modify
There’s a few schools of thought that apply to pretty much every truck modifying trend out there. We are going to start off with looks, as exterior appearance is the most visible sign of a modified truck. The most common, and among the easiest to accomplish, is a set of aftermarket wheels and tires. These can be found at your favorite tire/wheel store, big box retailers, and online. Look for something in your budget, designed to work with your truck’s bolt pattern and offset (make sure it fits the truck), and something with lines that complement your vehicle. For example: a rounded 10th generation Ford F-series should have wheels with a curved design to the spokes, whereas an edgy 13th gen should stick with mostly straight line spokes. Make it your own, but make it look good.
For performance there are also a lot of options, with truck owners able to pick up everything from a set of under-drive pulleys (~$100) to superchargers (~$6,500). It’s best to start off simple and affordable, with a cold air intake and/or aftermarket exhaust. The intake should run maybe $250, but will provide an increase in performance now and support heavier performance engine modifications down the road. The exhaust work will be more expensive, say $500, but will also increase performance while giving you that great sounding truck rumble. Of course, if you have a diesel, your first step is a computer reprogrammer, as you can gain over $100 horsepower for just a few hundred dollars there.
For suspension, the options are endless. Many people raise their trucks for off-road service (and fun) and lift kits these days are easy enough for anyone to install in an afternoon. For a few hundred dollars, you can safely raise your truck’s ride height a few inches. For more than about four inches expect to pay more money, as you start getting into safety issues associated with a high center of gravity. For low riders you guys generally have it cheaper, as lowering springs tend to be cheaper than lift kits. Again, like the lifted guys, you can only go down a few inches before getting into clearance issues. Then you will start needing relocation brackets and possibly even an airbag system.
In short, the truck modifying world is every bit as wide as the car modifying world and, in some ways, even more so. With such a wide variety of aftermarket parts, you could buy several things from an online catalog and have a ride like none other. And that’s the real point of modifying a truck: making it yours.